Sunday, August 1, 2021

Picture Of The Day

An Israeli soldier pepper sprays a journalist during a protest against Israeli settlements, near Tubas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank July 27, 2021. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta  

WNU Editor: The above picture came from this photo-gallery .... Photos of the week (Reuters).

Saturday, July 31, 2021

U.S. Seizes Tanker Used To Evade North Korean Sanctions

This undated handout image obtained July 30, 2021, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice, shows oil tanker M/T Courageous docked in an undisclosed location.  

Reuters: U.S. says seizes tanker used to evade North Korea sanctions 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department (DoJ) on Friday announced the seizure of a 2,734-ton tanker it said was owned and operated by a Singaporean national and used to make shipments of petroleum products to North Korea in violation of international sanctions.

A DoJ statement said the M/T Courageous was seized by Cambodian authorities in March 2020 in accordance with a U.S. warrant, having been used to transfer oil products to North Korean vessels and to make direct shipments to the North Korean port of Nampo. 

"Criminal charges of conspiracy to evade economic sanctions on the DPRK and money laundering conspiracy are pending against the alleged owner and operator of the Courageous, Kwek Kee Seng, a Singaporean national who remains at large," it said, using the acronym of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Read more .... 

More News On The U.S. Seizing A Tanker Used To Evade North Korean Sanctions  

US Seizes Tanker Used to Deliver Oil to North Korea -- VOA/AFP  

US seizes Singaporean tanker for evading North Korea sanctions -- Nikkei Asia  

US seizes tanker shipping oil to North Korea in violation of sanctions -- Washington Examiner  

US seizes tanker used to evade North Korea sanctions -- Al Jazeera  

US Court Ordered to Confiscate Tanker That Was Illegally Supplying North Korea With Oil -- Sputnik

US B-52 Bombers Back Into Action Over Afghanistan

U.S. Air Force photo  

Arab News: US brings B-52 bombers back into action as Taliban sweep across Afghanistan 

* Washington’s strategy to deploy the heavily armed planes a ‘worrying sign’ 

KABUL: A US B-52 bomber has pounded Taliban positions in Afghanistan’s western Herat province after the group gained ground near the area amid intense clashes with government forces, officials and lawmakers said on Saturday. 

The strike took place on the outskirts of Herat city on Friday, with flights to and from the area suspended after increased violence near its airport. 

“Unfortunately, all flights to Herat have been canceled due to the fighting and the information we have received suggest that a B-52 was used in the fighting yesterday (Friday) in Herat,” provincial lawmaker Habib Ur Rahman Pedram told Arab News.

No further details were given, such as the number of casualties or the scale of the attack.  

Read more ....  

WNU Editor: This is definitely a worrying indication on how bad the situation in Afghanistan has become.

Battle For Control In Afghanistan Worsens. Three Major Cities Now Under Seige

 

 BBC: Afghanistan: Fighting rages as Taliban besiege three key cities 

Fighting is raging around three major cities in southern and western Afghanistan as Taliban militants seek to seize them from government forces. 

Taliban fighters have entered parts of Herat, Lashkar Gah and Kandahar. 

They have made rapid gains in rural areas since it was announced almost all foreign troops would go by September. 

But the fate of these key cities could be crucial amid fears of a humanitarian crisis and how long government forces will be able to hold out. 

The fundamentalist Islamist militia is already thought to have captured up to half of all Afghanistan's territory, including lucrative border crossings with Iran and Pakistan.  

Read more .... 

WNU Editor: The Taliban are now claiming that they have seized the city of Herat. 

More News On the Afghan War  

Fighting rages for key Afghan cities as Taliban blamed for attack on UN -- National Interest  

Afghanistan’s Herat under pressure amid ongoing Taliban assault -- Al Jazeera  

Key Afghan City in Danger of Falling to the Taliban -- NYT  

Taliban and Afghan forces clash again outside Herat city -- AFP  

Herat residents fear Taliban in their homes and workplaces as it masses outside city -- The Guardian 

Fighting rages in three Afghan cities as Taliban launches sustained assault -- The Independent  

Taliban fighters enter provincial capital, clash with Afghan forces -- Jerusalem Post/Reuters

Who Is Not Taking The Vaccine In The U.S.?

A KFF survey found young people, rural residents and black adults are among the groups most likely to refuse a vaccine, along with registered Republicans 

Daily Mail: Pelosi and White House blame Republicans for fueling spread of COVID but fewer than half of young people and 36% of black people have had shots while 92% of older Americans are jabbed 

* Nancy Pelosi has attempted to blame the spread of COVID-19 on unvaccinated Republicans 

* However, data that shows many key Democrat groups are also not signing up to be immunized 

* Young people aged 18-24 - who are reliable Democrat voting bloc - are among the most hesitant groups; almost a quarter say they'll never have the shot 

* Meanwhile, more than half of black and Hispanic Americans have not had a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine 

* One survey revealed that one-third of black Americans would not have the shot even if it was determined safe by scientists 

Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden's digs at Republicans for refusing to get vaccinated have been cast into doubt after figures showed key Democrat demographics are among the main groups who aren't being jabbed. 

Figures from both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) show key Democrat voting blocks - including blacks, Hispanics and people of all races between ages 18 and 24 - are also hesitant to have the shot. 

Earlier this week, Nancy Pelosi attempted to blame Republican leaders for failing to encourage their constituents to get vaccinated, but failed to mention why her own party hadn't been pushing millions of reluctant Democrat voters to also get the shots.  

Read more ....  

WNU Editor: This is not the message that the media is spreading.

President Biden Directs Pentagon To Plan For Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccines

 

Spokesman.com: Biden directs Pentagon to plan for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines 

President Joe Biden on Thursday said he was taking the first step toward making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for members of the military . 

“Since many vaccinations are required for active-duty military today, I’m asking the Defense Department to look into how and when they will add COVID-19 to the list of vaccinations our armed forces must get,” Biden said in an address from the White House. 

Service members already are required to get as many as 17 vaccines, depending on where they are based around the world. 

They include inoculations against measles, mumps, diphtheria, hepatitis, smallpox and the flu.  

Read more .... 

More News On President Biden Directing The Pentagon To Plan For Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccines  

Pentagon, reacting to Biden order, working on plan for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations -- Military Times  

Pentagon says it will start talks on making COVID-19 vaccine mandatory -- The Hill  

Pentagon grappling with new vaccine orders; timing uncertain -- AP 

Biden directs Pentagon to figure out ‘how and when’ to require COVID vaccine for the military -- Washington Examiner 

Pentagon calls COVID-19 a threat to national security, weighs making vaccinations a requirement -- FOX News

President Biden Says Americans Should Expect More COVID Restrictions

 

CNN: Biden says US will 'in all probability' see more guidelines and restrictions amid rising Covid cases 

(CNN)President Joe Biden said Friday the US will, "in all probability," see more guidelines and restrictions amid rising coronavirus cases and the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant. 

"And by the way, we had a good day yesterday," Biden told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing for Camp David, referring to what he said were encouraging numbers of people who got vaccinated Thursday. 

Pressed Friday on whether the US is headed for more lockdowns amid rising cases, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters, "The way we see this is that we have the tools in our tool belt to fight this, this, this variant," adding, "we are not going to head towards a lockdown."  

Read more ....  

WNU Editor: It looks like a national vaccine mandate has been shot down .... Chaos in the White House over COVID messaging: Biden advisor Jeff Zients insists they are NOT exploring national vaccine mandates 'at all' - after president said it is 'still a question' (Daily Mail). 

More News On President Biden Saying Americans Should Expect More COVID Restrictions  

Biden says Americans should expect more COVID restrictions -- FOX News  

Biden predicts more COVID restrictions as CDC head causes vax mandate confusion -- NYPost  

Biden says US to see new Covid restrictions 'in all probability' -- France 24  

Countdown To The Next Lockdown: Biden Says "In All Probability" US Will See More Restrictions -- Zero Hedge

America’s ‘Great Retreat’ Is Accelerating

Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island clear out of the way of a Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II in preparation for takeoff from the flight deck of the ship. Photo: US Marine Corps / Patrick Crosley  

Stephen Bryen, Asia Times: America’s ‘Great Retreat’ is well underway 

The US is rapidly lowering its military profile and backing away from commitments to allies in the Middle East and Asia 

Why would the US Department of Justice drop five cases against Chinese researchers including Dr Juan Tang, a cancer researcher who allegedly lied on her visa application after photos of her were found wearing a Chinese military uniform? 

Part of the answer is that Tang’s case was dropped to facilitate Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s high-level visit this week to China, where she was treated hostilely by her Chinese hosts. 

The five cases are just part of a bigger picture which can best be termed as “The Great Retreat.” In many areas, the US is lowering its profile and backing away from its commitments. 

For example, the US has pulled its only aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, from the Pacific ostensibly to cover the retreat from Afghanistan. But whether the Ronald Reagan carrier will return to Japan in the future isn’t altogether clear. 

 Read more ....  

WNU Editor: U.S. foreign policy is being dictated by its problems at home. It is a country that is politically divided coupled with racial tensions not seen in years. Massive deficits and liability obligations. Inflation and a major part of the workforce unemployed. Homelessness on the rise. An infrastructure that is crumbling even after multiple promises and disbursements over the years to repair it. A border crisis being ignored by Washington. Its reserve currency status being challenged. Bottom line. There is no longer any stomach among the U.S. electorate to save the world when real problems exist at home.

Is Iran And Saudi Arabia On The Verge Of Announcing A Rapprochement?

Iran and Saudi Arabia could be on the verge of a rapprochement. Photo: Facebook  

Asia Times: Iran, Saudi Arabia on the edge of rapprochement 

Backchannel talks that began in April are now an open secret and poised to produce a symbolic breakthrough in the coming days 

Iran and Saudi Arabia are inching towards a rapprochement that, if achieved, would profoundly shift the region’s dynamics, diplomacy and stability. Officials from both sides have recently hailed backchannel talks held first in Iraq and now in Oman as “constructive.” 

In May, Iraqi President Barham Salih confirmed his country had been hosting quiet talks between the two often bitter rivals. The talks, which started in April, have recently been attended by high-profile delegates, including Saudi chief of General Intelligence Directorate Khalid al-Humaidan and Iranian Deputy Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Saeed Iravani.  

Read more ....  

WNU Editor: There are still many differences between the two regional powers. The war in Yemen. Iran's nuclear ambitions. The Syrian war. Just to name a few.

Russian Money Is Keeping Belarus Afloat

Belarus' leader Alexander Lukashenko (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin enjoy a close relationship 

 DW: How Russian money keeps Belarus afloat 

Moscow does not financially support any other country as generously as it does Belarus. DW spoke with economic experts to learn about this lopsided relationship, and the strain it places on the Russian budget. 

Russia has supported its western neighbor Belarus for decades — long before the European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on Minsk and President Alexander Lukashenko. Earlier this summer, Moscow loaned its ally $500 million (€423 million) — six months prior, it had issued Lukashenko's regime a similar sum. 

Looking on from the outside, such figures appear to be a largish run-of-the-mill loan that one country grants another and for which interest is collected. But the situation with Belarus and Russia is different. According to observers: interest is mounting and debts carry on growing year in and year out, yet Minsk continues to receive new loans from Moscow. 

Russia has been subsidizing its neighbor for years. Between 2005 and 2015, Moscow pumped $106 billion into the Belarus economy, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  

Read more ....  

WNU Editor: The IMF report that Russia has subsidized Belarus to the tune of $106 billion between 2005 and 2015 is probably correct. And that support has even grown even more since 2015. 

But that is the history of the Kremlin when it comes to giving support to other countries. 

$6 billion a year to Cuba when the Soviet Union existed, and money that has since been written off.

$40 to $50 billion a year to Ukraine before that relationship imploded in 2014 (and is one of the reasons why the Ukraine economy is still floundering). 

Venezuela owes Russia approximately $60 billion for arms purchases and other aid. 

And then there is Russian support of the Assad regime in Syria. God only knows how much money that disaster is costing.  

Update: This would be a catastrophe .... Belarus leader ready to invite Russian troops ‘if necessary’ (AP). More here .... Belarus leader would 'not hesitate' to invite Russian troops if needed (Reuters).