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Infinite Menus, Copyright 2006, OpenCube Inc. All Rights Reserved. Saturday, December 10, 2016
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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  Two hundred additional American special operations troops are headed to Syria to help Syrian Kurdish and Arabic forces fighting ISIS, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Saturday at a security conference in Bahrain.

The troop increase will bring the total number of U.S. troops in Syria to 500.

A defense official said the additional troops will help train, advise and assist the growing number of Syrian rebel forces preparing to retake and hold Raqqa, ISIS' de facto capital city in Syria.

Carter, who made the announcement at the International Institute for Strategic Studies' Manama Dialogue, said the additional forces will help "to continue organizing, training, equipping, and otherwise enabling capable, motivated, local forces to take the fight to ISIL, and also bringing down to bear the full weight of U.S. forces around the theater of operations like the funnel of a giant tornado."

He added, "This latest commitment of additional forces within Syria is another important step in enabling our partners to deal ISIL a lasting defeat."

The additional 200 troops being deployed to Syria will include special operations forces, trainers, advisers, and explosive ordnance disposal teams.

The 300 American special operations forces already in Syria mainly advise and assist the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group of 45,000 Syrian Kurdish and Arab rebel forces that have been fighting ISIS. A small number of the American forces have also been advising and assisting Turkish forces fighting ISIS in northwestern Syria.

With support from American airstrikes, as well as advisers on the ground, SDF forces have pushed ISIS out of strongholds in northern and eastern Syria and are now pushing towards Raqqa.

Carter said Saturday that SDF forces have fought their way to 15 miles north of that city.

Plans call for the SDF to envelope Raqqa with Kurdish fighters remaining outside of the city so Arab fighters can retake it from ISIS.

A U.S. defense official said the troop increase "is tied to the growing number of local forces now willing to participate in this fight, and our efforts to enable them."

The SDF has been a mostly Kurdish force with a smaller component of Arab fighters. But as the SDF has grown to 45,000 in number, the number of Arab fighters has also grown to 13,000.

The recruitment of local Arab fighters from the area around Raqqa has helped boost those numbers.

The push towards Raqqa began in early November, coming on the heels of the Iraqi offensive on Mosul in Iraq. Two months into that offensive Iraqi forces have met stiff resistance as they have pushed into the city's eastern limits.

5,262 American troops are authorized to be in Iraq to train, advise and assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIS.

Carter restated during his remarks in Bahrain that after ISIS is defeated in Iraq and Syria, American troops will remain in that country to help with its training and advising mission to help Iraqi forces consolidate security over the rest of the country.

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iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL, South Korea) — South Korea's national assembly voted Friday to impeach President Park Geun-hye over her alleged links to a corruption scandal.

Backed by overwhelming public support — evident from the millions of South Koreans who have filled the streets in recent weeks demanding her impeachment — the opposition-controlled parliament passed the motion by 234 votes out of 300.

The Constitutional Court now has up to 180 days to determine whether to formally end Park's presidency. Until then, Park is suspended, not removed, while all duties will be temporarily relegated to Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn.

At a Cabinet meeting after the vote, Park apologized for her "negligence."

"I'd like to say that I'm deeply sorry to the people because the nation has to experience this turmoil because of my negligence and lack of virtue at a time when our security and economy both face difficulties," Park said, adding she's preparing for the court review of the impeachment.

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iStock/Thinkstock(BANJUL, Gambia) -- Africa's smallest country, Gambia, held a presidential election on December 1. The country's president, Yahya Jammeh, received 36.7 percent of the vote, while property developer Adama Burrow won more than 45 percent of the vote.

The day after the election, President Jammeh, who has ruled the tiny nation of two million people since 1994, went on state television to wish Barrow well, calling him "the elected president of the Gambia."

On Friday, however, Jammeh took to the airwaves to take back his earlier concession, according to BBC News.

"I lament serious and unacceptable abnormalities which have reportedly transpired during the electoral process," Jammeh said on state TV. "I recommend fresh and transparent elections which will be officiated by a God-fearing and independent electoral commission."

In a statement, U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner called the reversal "a reprehensible and unacceptable breach of faith with the people of the Gambia and an egregious attempt to undermine a credible election process and remain in power illegitimately."

The statement called upon all institutions in the country to reject violence and peacefully uphold the will of the people.

If the election results stand, Barrow is meant to take office in late January.

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iStock/Thinkstock(ACCRA, Ghana) -- Celebrations broke out in Ghana's capital Accra after Nana Akufo-Addo, from Ghana's opposition New Patriotic Party, was declared the winner of the country's presidential election, BBC News reports.

The election, held Wednesday, was Akufo-Addo's third run for the presidency. The 72-year-old human rights lawyer had previously served as both justice and foreign minister, and ran a campaign largely focused on economic issues, including a promise to build more factories throughout the country.

"I will make this solemn pledge to you tonight: I will not let you down," Akufo-Addo told a crowd in front of his home Friday.

"I will do all in my power to live up to your hopes and expectations," he added.

Ghana's Electoral Commission said Akufo-Addo had received 53.85 percent of the vote, compared to current President John Mahama's 44.40 percent.

Mahama called Akufo-Addo to concede the election, a spokesman said.

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VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- The Vatican's yearly Christmas Nativity scene included a number of unusual additions this year, shedding light on some of the major events that shaped life in the region over the past year.

In addition to the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Three Wise Men and farm animals inhabiting the traditional manger, a spire from one of the churches damaged in this year's central Italy earthquakes was prominently featured. The St. Benedict Basilica in Norcia lay next to the life-sized Nativity Scene, unveiled on Friday.

As a nod to the ongoing refugee crisis that has seen an unprecedented number of people attempt to cross the Mediterranean in unsafe vessels in hopes of reaching Europe, the Nativity Scene featured a Maltese fishing boat. 

Many migrants and refugees have attempted the crossing in similar boats, and the United Nations Refugee Agency said over 300,000 refugees had crossed the Mediterranean in 2016 as of September 20th.

The Vatican Christmas tree also featured ornaments made by sick Italian children throughout the country.

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ROYAL SASKATCHEWAN MUSEUM (RSM/ R.C. MCKELLAR)(BEIJING) -- A dinosaur tail preserved in amber has been discovered for the first time ever, researchers announced on Thursday in a paper published in the scientific journal Cell Biology.

The feather-covered tail is from a dinosaur that lived on Earth about 99 million years ago, according to a news release from Cell Press, which publishes Cell Biology.

Lida Xing, the paper's lead author and lecturer at the China University of Geosciences in Beijing, chanced upon the "remarkable specimen" while perusing an amber market in Myitkyina, Myanmar, in 2015, Cell Press said.

The dinosaur tail originally could have just ended up "a curiosity or piece of jewelry," Cell Press said, "but Xing recognized its potential scientific importance and suggested that the Dexu Institute of Palaeontology buy the specimen."

The finding has helped provide significant insight into dinosaurs' feather structure and evolution, which can't be determined from fossil evidence, according to Cell Press.

"Amber pieces preserve tiny snapshots of ancient ecosystems, but they record microscopic details, three-dimensional arrangements and labile tissues that are difficult to study in other settings," said Ryan McKellar, co-author of the paper and curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada.

Researchers have been using CT scanning and microscopic observations to get a closer look at the feathers, Cell Press said. The scientific journal publisher noted that hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen, was found in the amber.

Researchers said they are now "eager to see how additional finds from this region will reshape our understanding of plumage and soft tissues in dinosaurs and other vertebrates," Cell Press added.

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iStock/Thinkstock(GENEVA) --   Hundreds of men appear to have gone missing after fleeing the rebel-held part of Aleppo for government-held areas, the United Nations said on Friday, expressing concern that the men may have been detained and mistreated by the Syrian government.

“Given the terrible record of arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearances by the Syrian government, we are of course deeply concerned about the fate of these individuals,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said during a press briefing in Geneva.

The men who have reportedly gone missing are between the ages of 30 and 50, he said.

Syrian government forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad,have captured approximately 75 percent of east Aleppo and are continuing to bombard areas that remain under the control of opposition forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Several activists in Syria have said that men leaving east Aleppo for government-held areas risk being detained, killed or recruited to join the Syrian army. The U.N. said that some of the civilians who have been trying to flee are reportedly being blocked by armed opposition groups.

Wednesday night, nearly 150 civilians, most of them disabled or in urgent need of care, were evacuated from a hospital in the Old City of Aleppo. The hospital, Dar Al-Safaa, used to be an home for the elderly but it had lately been serving patients with mental health needs or physical disabilities. In addition, about three dozen civilians, a number of them injured, had also sought refuge there, said the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

 "These patients and civilians had been trapped in the area for days because of heavy clashes nearby and as the front line kept drawing closer," the Red Cross' head of delegation in Syria, Marianne Gasser, who is currently in Aleppo, said in a statement. "Many of them cannot move and need special attention and care. It must have been terrifying for them. Our partners from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent had been trying to reach and evacuate them since Tuesday."

Around 100,000 civilians may still be trapped in the shrinking amount of rebel-held areas in Aleppo, according to the U.N.

In Friday’s statement the U.N. voiced concern that the remaining civilians in east Aleppo have little access to health care, food, water and fuel for heating. In addition, approximately 500 people there are in need of urgent medical evacuation, the statement said.

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Shedd Aquarium (CHICAGO) --  A team from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago has traveled more than 8,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean on a mission to help save abandoned baby penguins on South Africa's coast.

Hundreds of endangered African penguin chicks are abandoned by their parents every year in South Africa, according to a news release this week from the Shedd Aquarium.

"The strandings are due to the species’ feather-changing process known as 'moulting,'" the aquarium said. "When moulting, the adult penguins are unable to go into the cold ocean to hunt for fish, so chicks that hatch late in the year are often left behind and face the risk of starvation."

Many abandoned baby penguins have been affected by "illness, oil spills, or injuries as a result of human activity," the aquarium added.

 Because the African penguin species is endangered, saving the baby penguins to help retain the species' population is "critical," the Shedd Aquarium said.

"Without organizations dedicated to assisting these animals," the aquarium added, "the population would continue to decline at a rapid and detrimental rate."

Throughout this month and January of next year, the Shedd Aquarium said it will be working with the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) to rescue, rehabilitate and eventually release the abandoned chicks.

 So far, nearly 500 abandoned African penguin chicks have been admitted to SANCCOB this year, according to the Shedd Aquarium.

The Shedd Aquarium team in SANCCOB's facility in Cape Town, South Africa, went live on Facebook this past Monday, Dec. 5, to show how they are caring for the penguin chicks that have been rescued so far.

The Shedd Aquarium said in a news release that rescued chicks "are first evaluated by experts and then placed in SANCCOB’s Chick Rearing Unit where they are kept in temperature controlled habitats and fed multiple times each day to ensure they are receiving proper nutrition."

 The babies then "continue to go through regular checkups with experts until they reach fledging age, which is approximately three months old," the aquarium added.

At that point, if the chicks are "deemed healthy enough, they are released back to the wild into an established penguin colony with a micro-chip to allow for continued health monitoring," Shedd said.

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NASA/Bill Ingalls(NEW YORK) — Buzz Aldrin, prepare for lift off.

After spending more than a week at a New Zealand hospital, Aldrin’s assistant tweeted a photo Friday morning showing the legendary NASA astronaut on an airplane with the caption, “Bye bye New Zealand! Hope to see you again! (But next time for vacation and not evacuation).”

Bye bye New Zealand! Hope to see you again! (But next time for vacation and not evacuation)

— Christina Korp (@Buzzs_xtina) December 9, 2016

Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon, had to be evacuated from the South Pole on Dec. 2 after a medical emergency. Aldrin later released a statement saying he “started to feel a bit short of breath” and, upon further evaluation, doctors discovered some congestion in his lungs.

The 86-year-old had been in Antarctica "to experience and study conditions akin to Mars," according to his website.

As @TheRealBuzz is recovering I did want to let people know that he did make it to the South Pole which was his objective. Thnx for prayers!

— Christina Korp (@Buzzs_xtina) December 2, 2016

Prior to his medical evacuation, Aldrin became the oldest person to reach the South Pole.

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Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images(LONDON) --  Duchess Kate stepped out Thursday night wearing the famous pearl-and-diamond-clad Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara, which was a favorite of Princess Diana, for the annual white tie diplomatic reception at Buckingham Palace.

The Duchess of Cambridge looked regal in red, recycling the same dress by designer Jenny Packham that she chose for her first state dinner with the Chinese President. She accessorized the look with diamond chandelier earrings.

The Duchess of Cambridge has only worn tiaras on four previous occasions. She first donned the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara last year at the same event. The jeweled headpiece was given as a wedding present to the late Princess Diana by Queen Elizabeth II in 1981.

Kate borrowed the Lotus Flower Tiara for her first State Banquet with the Chinese President and the Cartier Halo Tiara at her wedding.

 The Queen wore her sapphire and diamond tiara and a dress by Angela Kelly. Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, dressed in a white, beaded, Bruce Oldfield gown with a Boucheron tiara, a pearl choker and diamond earrings.

The reception held by the Queen is attended by the most senior members of the Royal Family including Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Philip and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. More than 1,000 guests from 130 nations attend the event, which is known as one of the most coveted social invitation of the year for the diplomatic community.

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Lance Cpl. Samantha K. Torres(TOKYO) -- A U.S. Marine pilot who ejected from an F/A-18 fighter jet off the eastern coast of Japan has been confirmed dead after being recovered earlier on Thursday by a Japanese naval vessel, military officials said.

The Marine Corps identified Captain Jake Frederick as the pilot who ejected from his F/A-18C fighter aircraft after it went down 120 miles off the coast of Iwakuni, Japan.

The Japanese Defense Ministry had announced earlier in the day that a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force ship had recovered Frederick.

"He is pronounced deceased," Marine Corps said in a statement today. "We will provide more releasable information after the 24-hour window. Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of the pilot. The cause of the crash is still unknown."

A timeline posted on the Japanese ministry's website indicated that the missing pilot was spotted at 1:05 a.m. ET by the 71st Air Division and rescued five minutes later.

Frederick was taken to the base at Iwakuni, Japan, officials said, but no details of the pilot's condition were provided.

Initial efforts to locate Frederick on Wednesday proved unsuccessful leading U.S. and Japanese officials to broaden the search radius and increase the number of search assets.

A search-and-rescue operation was launched on Wednesday after Frederick ejected from his F/A-18 aircraft during a scheduled training mission.

 Frederick had ejected at about 4:40 a.m. ET, 120 miles southeast of Iwakuni, Japan, according to Marine Corps Base Camp Butler in Okinawa. The F/A-18 was assigned to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinawa and was conducting "regularly scheduled training at the time of the mishap," Marine Corps Base Camp Butler said.

Another F/A-18 fighter that was flying alongside Frederick's aircraft remained in the area until it had to leave because it was running out of fuel, officials said.

Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Wednesday that a number of U.S. and Japanese air and surface vessels were involved in the search-and-rescue efforts.

The USS Montford Point, an expeditionary Transfer Dock, was searching the area and the guided missile destroyer USS Wilbur Curtis was moving to the search area, officials said at the time the search-and-rescue efforts were launched.

Three Japanese ships and multiple Japanese fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft also assisted in the search, officials said.

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Chesnot/Getty Images(PARIS) -- For years, placing "love locks" on a bridge in Paris had become a romantic ritual and a symbol of permanent love.

Couples walked on the famous Pont des Arts bridge to attach padlocks with their names on them and throw away the keys into the Seine River below.

But the mass of the locks damaged the bridge, since it wasn't engineered to hold the extra weight. The keys thrown into the Seine river can also pollute the water. So in summer of 2015, the city decided it was time to remove hundreds of thousands of locks that had built up and stop the ritual.

Now, the city of Paris has found a purpose for some of the locks that have been removed: an auction to raise money in support of refugees.

"Members of the public can buy five or 10 locks, or even clusters of them, all at an affordable price. All of the proceeds will be given to those who work in support and in solidarity of the refugees in Paris,” Bruno Julliard, first deputy mayor of Paris, told journalists last week.

No Love Locks, a group that was founded to advocate for a ban on the locks, supported the plan to sell them.

Paris closed the bridge and began removing locks from the Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge in June of 2015. The year before, people had to be evacuated from the bridge after part of the structure collapsed under the weight of the locks.

Out of 65 tons of metal removed from the bridge, 10 tons will be sold, a Paris City Hall spokesperson told ABC News. The city plans to hold the auction in the spring, but an exact date has not been set. The city of Paris is currently working with experts to assess the value of the potential auction value of the locks and estimate how much could be raised for refugees.

More than 80,000 refugees applied for asylum in France in 2015, a 23.6 percent increase compared to the year before, the French Interior Ministry said in July.

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iStock/Thinktsock(GLAND, Switzerland) — The world's tallest land mammal is now in danger of becoming extinct in the wild, a global authority on endangered species announced on Thursday.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature released its updated annual Red List of Threatened Species, which now labels the iconic giraffe as "vulnerable," after its global population was decimated by as much as 40 percent over the past three decades.

"These majestic animals are undergoing a silent extinction," said Julian Fennessy, co-chair of the IUCN SSC Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group.

Overall, giraffe numbers dipped to 97,562 in 2015 from between 151,000 and 163,000 in 1985.

The giraffe, the only mammal whose status changed in this year's list, is under "severe pressure" in some of its core ranges across East, Central and West Africa, the IUCN said.

"Illegal hunting, habitat loss and changes through expanding agriculture and mining, increasing human-wildlife conflict, and civil unrest are all pushing the species towards extinction," the group warned

Across the natural world, some 860 plant and animal species have already gone extinct. Another 68 are no longer found in the wild.

The IUCN lists nearly 13,000 species as endangered or critically endangered. Many more species, including giraffes, are labeled as vulnerable, considered to be facing a "high risk of extinction in the wild," the group says.

“Many species are slipping away before we can even describe them,” IUCN Director General Inger Andersen said. “This IUCN Red List update shows that the scale of the global extinction crisis may be even greater than we thought."

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Obtained by ABC News(NEW YORK) — ISIS released a new, hastily produced video today using one of its last known western hostages – British journalist John Cantlie, who hasn't been seen since a video appearance five months ago – making coerced statements from the rubble of besieged Mosul, Iraq at the site of an apparent coalition airstrike.

The appearance of one of the last western hostages known to be held by ISIS, who was taken captive four years ago with American fellow journalist James Foley, brought reassurance that he is still alive.

Until the video Wednesday it has been unknown to the U.K. and American governments for months whether the captive remained alive, informed sources on both sides of the Atlantic have told ABC News.

Despite appearing in a dozen ISIS videos since 2014, including in embattled Syrian cities Aleppo and Kobani as well as Mosul, authorities consider him a hostage forced to play video correspondent for the terror group – appearing as if he is a soldier of the self-declared caliphate rather than a man clearly held against his will.

At London's Frontline Club, Cantlie's portrait hangs as a reminder of his uncertain fate as he faces his fellow war correspondents belly to the bar at the opposite end of the wood counter from a display of a half-dozen combat journalists' portraits who've been killed in the Middle East in recent years.

Cantlie's physical appearance has declined considerably since he first showed up on video two years into his captivity wearing an orange jumpsuit at a wood desk and reading ISIS-written anti-western statements on a TelePrompTer screen.

In the two-camera video released Wednesday, he appeared gaunt and haggard with cropped hair and a beard, dressed in a fashionable black coat, standing beside what remains of a bridge that was reportedly bombed.

His ISIS-crafted speech alleges that only civilians are being harmed by airstrikes targeting bridges and water pipes in Mosul over the Tigris River.

"Now, can't see any mujahideen, can you?" Cantlie says, shrugging and looking over his shoulder at the last intact bridge busy with traffic, and referring to the Arabic word for a fighter engaged in holy war. "No, these are just the everyday normal people of Mosul. The mujahideen are out on the front lines, kilometers outside."

On Tuesday, the U.S.-led coalition known as Operation Inherent Resolve said three airstrikes the day before had indeed destroyed "a land bridge; damaged a bridge, a front-end loader, 47 roads; and suppressed a tactical unit” in the city of Mosul – Iraq’s second-largest city, which is currently under siege by coalition and Iraqi military forces.

Those forces are trying to dislodge the terrorist fighters – estimated to number between 5,000-6,000 – and the terror group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, from the city. Al-Baghdadi is suspected by senior U.S. military analysts to be hunkered down somewhere deep inside its teeming streets.

One top expert on hostage crises who once operated in the country said the video may be an effort to persuade the U.S. military that ISIS has left Mosul.

"What they're trying to say is ‘ISIS is gone, you're wasting your bullets and bombs. They're gone and the only people you're hurting is civilians.’” Chris Voss, former chief hostage negotiator for the FBI, including in Iraq, told ABC News. “The subtle messages are more effective."

Another message from ISIS seen by some government and private analysts in the nine-minute Cantlie video is that they still hold a few valuable hostages inside Mosul.

"It reminds me of how they used Cantlie in Kobani – a Western witness to the ruin rained down by Western fighter jets and an implicit threat that he and other hostages could be killed through indiscriminate bombing or ISIS reprisal," said William McCants, author of "The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State."

Aaron Zelin, an expert on ISIS at the Washington Institute for Near-East Policy, said the strategy of using Cantlie to telegraph messages to the West may no longer be effective since the group "doesn't have the same kind of mystique as they did two years ago, not only with how they used social media but also the towns and cities they were taking. It's one thing to say 'we're expanding' but it's another to complain about bridges and water pipes being destroyed."
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AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images(WASHINGTON) — Just four blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, diplomats from oil-rich Bahrain entertained guests in a lavish ballroom at the Trump International Hotel Wednesday, an event that critics said embodied growing concerns about foreign leaders booking Trump properties to try and curry favor with the next American president.

“I’m very concerned about it,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. “If folks want to win favor with the president, they go to his hotel. When they meet up with him, the first thing they will say is ‘we are staying at your hotel, we took out 30 rooms for a week.’”

It is not known what motivated Bahraini officials to move their annual “Bahrain Day” celebration from the Ritz Carlton to the Trump Hotel – embassy officials did not respond to phone and email messages. They were equally tight-lipped Wednesday, where the event went off behind heavy security.

It was just one of several events booked at the Trump property by Washington insiders and foreign leaders. Tuesday night, it was the conservative Heritage Foundation, introducing donors to Vice President Elect Mike Pence.

Next week, the embassy of Azerbaijan has booked the Trump Hotel’s “Presidential Ballroom,” at an estimated cost of $100,000, for a Hanukkah party with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Trump has disputed the notion that booking rooms in his Washington hotel will engender good feelings with him.

“They’ll say I have a conflict because we just opened a beautiful hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, so every time somebody stays at that hotel, if they stay because I’m president, I guess you could say it’s a conflict of interest,” he told the New York Times. “It’s a conflict of interest, but again, I’m not going to have anything to do with the hotel.”

But the Bahrain event clearly bothered human rights officials, who have tried to draw attention to the declining conditions in a country accused of condoning torture, even threats of rape, against political opponents.

Michael Posner, who served until recently as the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, called Bahrain an “increasingly intolerant government,” where “essentially the political opposition has been outlawed.” “The leader of the opposition is in jail and will be there for years,” he said.

Posner told ABC News he believes Bahrain and other countries are using misguided gestures, such as booking the Trump hotel ballroom, to try and build rapport with the next U.S. administration.

“I think a lot of governments around the world that depend on a strong relationship to the United States are trying to figure out in a Trump administration what is it going to take to curry favor?” Posner said.

The Trump hotel in Washington is further complicated because the historic building it occupies, the Old Post Office Pavilion, is owned by the federal government and leased to the Trump Organization for $250,000-a-month, plus additional costs based on the success of the hotel venture.

When President Elect Trump takes office, Cummings said the arrangement will essentially make him both landlord and tenant.

“I mean come on now,” Cummings told ABC News. “There's something wrong with that picture.”

Trump may solve that problem as early as next week. He has scheduled a news conference for Dec. 15 to announce his plans for stepping away from his vast global business, which operates the Washington hotel and numerous others.

That said, he also boasted in his interview with the Times that “occupancy at that hotel will be probably a more valuable asset now than it was before, O.K.?”

“The brand is certainly a hotter brand than it was before,” he said.

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