Many From Africa, Haiti Seek Asylum at US Southern Border

While most migrants who arrive at America’s southern border are from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the U.S. Border Patrol in Texas’ Del Rio Sector reports apprehending people from more than 50 countries in the last year. VOA’s Ramon Taylor and Victoria Macchi spoke with asylum-seeking families who have journeyed across the Atlantic and through the Americas en route to the US-Mexico border, desperate for a new beginning.

Is Russia Using Patriotism as a Political Tool?

In Russia, countrywide celebrations have been held to mark the 350th anniversary of the national flag. Yet, only 50 percent of respondents polled in a recent survey could correctly name the sequence of the colors on the flag. Russia recently saw a surge of patriotic celebrations orchestrated by local and federal authorities. Yulia Savchenko has more from Moscow on the state-promoted events.

Teenage Climate Star Greta Thunberg Takes Her Friday School Strike to UN

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg took her Friday school strikes to the gates of the United Nations, surrounded by hundreds of other young activists, calling on adults to take action on climate change. Thunberg will speak at a climate change summit of world leaders next month at the U.N. General Assembly. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has more from Washington.

Візит місії МВФ в Україну очікується у період 10-24 вересня – прем’єр

Візит місії Міжнародного валютного фонду в Україну очікується з 10 до 24 вересня цього року, повідомив прем’єр-міністр Олексій Гончарук в інтерв’ю журналістам декількох ЗМІ.

«Вже за декілька тижнів у Києві буде місія МВФ, з якою ми будемо вести переговори щодо нової, на 3-4 роки, програми співпраці з Україною», – заявив Гончарук.

Відповідаючи на запитання про ціни на газ для населення, що тривалий час було спірним питанням у відносинах між попереднім Кабінетом Міністрів і фондом, Гончарук зазначив, що уряд не повинен втручатися адміністративними рішеннями в ціноутворення, навіть на енергоносії.

Згідно із базовим прогнозом Національного банку, за новою програмою співпраці з МВФ Україна може отримати два мільярди доларів від МВФ у цьому році та ще по два мільярди у 2020 й 2021 роках. Обсяг поточної програми – 3,9 мільярда доларів.

21 грудня 2018 року Україна отримала перший і наразі єдиний транш за програмою співпраці з Міжнародним валютним фондом обсягом близько 1,4 мільярда доларів.

Востаннє місія МВФ працювала в Україні в травні 2019 року.

Syrian Troops to Start Unilateral Cease-Fire in Idlib

The Russian military says Syrian government forces will begin a unilateral cease-fire in the northwestern province of Idlib in the coming hours.

The Russian military reconciliation center says the cease-fire will go into effect Saturday morning at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT).
 Friday’s report comes as government forces have intensified their offensive over the past weeks capturing rebel-held areas in Hama province and nearby Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold in the country.

 The Russian military called on the opposition to end “provocations” and engage in peaceful settlement.

Russia is a main backer of Syrian government forces.

The announcement came as hundreds of protesters in Idlib marched toward a border crossing with Turkey demanding that Ankara either open the border or demand an end to the government attack.

China Denies Visa, Expelling Wall Street Journal Reporter

Chinese authorities have declined to renew the press credentials of a Beijing-based Wall Street Journal reporter, effectively expelling a journalist who extensively covered President Xi Jinping and Communist Party politics.

The foreign ministry said Friday in response to a faxed question about Singaporean reporter Chun Han Wong’s visa that some foreign journalists with the “evil intention to smear and attack China” are “not welcome.”

The action comes one month after Wong co-wrote a story detailing an Australian investigation into alleged links between Xi’s cousin and money laundering and suspected organized crime.

A spokesperson for Dow Jones, the WSJ’s parent company, said in a statement that authorities declined to renew Wong’s press credentials. The spokesperson said the company is looking into the matter but did not elaborate.

Wong declined to comment.

Uganda: Traveling Girl from Congo Dies of Ebola

A 9-year-old Congolese girl who tested positive for Ebola in neighboring Uganda has died, officials said Friday, as the World Health Organization said that the outbreak has neared 3,000 cases.

The young girl’s body will be repatriated with her mother back to Congo for a funeral, according to Dr. Eddy Kasenda, Ebola representative in the Congolese border town of Kasindi.

“We are finalizing the administrative formalities so that the body is repatriated and buried here in Congo, her native country,” Kasenda said. “We are collaborating with the health services of neighboring Uganda and we will strengthen the sanitary measures here in Kasindi.”

A Ugandan official at the hospital where the girl had been in isolation confirmed her death overnight. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The girl, who was traveling with her mother, was identified at a border screening Wednesday as a possible Ebola patient and isolated.

Porous borders
Although cases of cross-border contamination have been rare, this case highlights the risk of Ebola spreading across the border into neighboring Uganda and Rwanda. Borders in the region are often porous, and many people traveling at night use bush paths to cross over.  

FILE – School-going pupils from the Democratic Republic of Congo cross the Mpondwe border point separating Uganda and the DRC, Aug. 14, 2019.

In June, a family of Congolese with some sick family members crossed into Uganda via a bush path. Two of them later died of Ebola, and the others were transferred back to Congo.

Uganda has had multiple outbreaks of Ebola and hemorrhagic fevers since 2000.

Because the 9-year-old Ebola victim passed through an official entry point this week, Ugandan health authorities believe she had no contact with any Ugandan.

Ebola has killed nearly 2,000 people in eastern Congo since August 2018. The disease is spread through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.

WHO said Friday that cases have reached 3,000 in Congo, with 1,893 confirmed deaths and some 900 survivors. An average of 80 people per week are sickened by the virus, which has infected most people in Congo’s North Kivu province. 
The Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo hasn’t shown signs of slowing down despite new treatments and vaccines given to more than 200,000 people in the region and the use of two therapeutic treatments being used as part of a clinical trial. 

Insecurity has been one factor in a region where rebel groups have fought for control of mineral-rich lands for decades. Ebola also has spread because of mistrust by communities who have also staged attacks against health workers. Many people in eastern Congo don’t trust doctors and other medics.

“Many people are afraid to seek treatment for illnesses, worried they will be sent to an Ebola Treatment Center where they fear they could contract the disease. As an actor within the response, we must assume our own responsibility,” said Bob Kitchen, Vice President of Emergencies at the International Rescue Committee. “One year into the response, the lack of community acceptance remains the single greatest obstacle to containing the outbreak. Building trust with the community doesn’t just mean dialogue with the affected population. It means working with the community to adapt the response and address the overall needs they are facing inside and outside of the Ebola outbreak.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will travel this weekend to Congo with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and senior officials, including Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

On Friday, he called on partners to increase their presence in the field. 
“Our commitment to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is that we will work alongside them to stop the Ebola outbreak,” Ghebreyesus said. “Our commitment also means strengthening the health systems to give them all the other things they need. Building strong systems is what will protect people, communities and the world.”

Гривня знову посилюється на міжбанку

Українська національна валюта знову наближається до річного максимуму в парі з доларом США. На українському міжбанківському валютному ринку в останню лютню сесію станом на 12:00 котирування становили 25 гривень 12–14 копійок за одиницю американської валюти, це на сім копійок менше, ніж на закритті торгів 29 серпня.

«Торги по долару на 12-ту годину на піку активності. Тривають операції по лотах до 1 мільйона доларів при невеликій перевазі пропозиції над попитом», – інформує сайт «Мінфін».

Національний банк України встановив опівдні довідкове значення на рівні 25 гривень 15 копійок за долар, це на вісім копійок менше за офіційний курс на 30 серпня.

На 1 серпня НБУ встановив найвищий за останні три з половиною роки курс гривні до долара – 25,02 за одиницю американської валюти.

Пов’язана з колишніми регіоналами фірма не управлятиме «Межигір’ям» – «Схеми»

Агентство з розшуку та управління арештованими активами (АРМА) розірвало договір з ТОВ «Скомпані», яку обрали переможцем конкурсу на управління колишньою резиденцією експрезидента України Віктора Януковича «Межигір’я». Про пов’язаність цієї компанії з колишніми регіоналами та невідповідність конкурсним критеріям журналісти програми «Схеми: корупція в деталях» (спільний проект Радіо Свобода і телеканалу «UA:Перший») розповідали у розслідуванні «АРМАгеддон для «Межигір’я». 

Про розірвання контракту від 7 серпня з ТОВ «Скомпані» йдеться в листі АРМА до управителя, який є у розпорядженні «Схем». Своє рішення в Агентстві аргументували тим, що «Скомпані» порушила низку обов’язкових умов у договорі, які мала виконати після його підписання. Зокрема, новий управитель не застрахувався від можливих проблем у випадку невиконання умов у договорі – протягом десяти днів «Скомпані» мала укласти договір зі страховою компанією на певну суму, яка б компенсувала пов’язані з цим збитки.

В АРМА також незадоволені й тим, що «Скомпані» не відкрила окремий рахунок для здійснення розрахунків, пов’язаних з управлінням «Межигір’ям».

Крім того, зазначається у листі АРМА, компанія не подала відомостей про прийняття «Межигір’я» та не прозвітувала про виконані за місяць в резиденції роботи, як того вимагає договір. Такі причини в Агентстві визнали достатніми, аби розірвати договір зі «Скомпані». 

У тому числі, як стало відомо «Схемам», «Скомпані» також не розрахувалася за оцінку корпоративних прав ТОВ «Танталіт» (пов’язаної з Януковичем компанії, якій належить майно «Межигір’я»), замовлену АРМА у червні 2019 року.

У самому Агентстві коментувати тему «Межигір’я» відмовились, натомість голова Громадської ради при АРМА Гліб Канєвський підтвердив розірвання договору зі «Скомпані». 

«Схеми» також зв’язалися з директором ТОВ «Скомпані» Олексієм Вороненком. Він заявив, що про розрив угоди дізнався від журналістів.

«Я поки що це не можу не підтвердити, не спростувати, тому що особисто я такої інформації не маю… Я звернуся до АРМА із запитанням, чи так це, чи ні», – повідомив Вороненко.

На питання, чи дійсно «Скомпані» не виконувала умови договору, Вороненко відповів, що «не володіє інформацією» та пообіцяв сконтактувати із фінансовим спеціалістом компанії. Однак, на подальші дзвінки журналістів він не відповів.

29 травня 2019 року компанія «Скомпані» перемогла у конкурсі на право управління арештованою резиденцією колишнього президента Віктора Януковича «Межигір’я».

Директором компанії є Олексій Вороненко – донедавна помічник депутата Євгена Мураєва – колишнього регіонала, згодом члена партії «Опозиційний блок» та власника телеканалу «Наш».

Обрання «Скомпані» переможцем тендеру АРМА на управління резиденцією «Межигір’я» викликало великий суспільний резонанс.

Громадська рада при АРМА закликала провести новий конкурс на управителя резиденцією.

Зокрема, через «вигаданий досвід» компанії-переможця, яка, як виявили журналісти «Схем», з часу заснування не здійснювала реальної господарської діяльності і не управляла до цього іншими об’єктами, як повідомляла в своїй презентації на конкурсі. Крім того, у ній «Скомпані» вказала партнерів, з якими планувала розвивати територію «Межигір’я», однак у коментарі «Схемам» вони заперечили таку співпрацю.

2018 року слідчі Генеральної прокуратури України передали «Межигір’я» АРМА для пошуку керуючого для колишньої резиденції Віктора Януковича. Згодом, у листопаді 2018 року, АРМА оголосило конкурс на управління активами резиденції, його кілька разів продовжували.

«Межигірʼя» раніше було резиденцією Віктора Януковича, але після його втечі з країни в лютому 2014 року територія стала національним парком і музеєм корупції, де щорічно бувають мільйони українців та іноземців. Нині в резиденції відбуваються екскурсії й громадські заходи, знімаються фільми. Будівлями і зоокуточком «Межигір’я» опікуються волонтери, які збирають на це кошти з відвідувачів.

No ‘Gay Gene,’ but Study Finds Genetic Links to Sexual Behavior   

A large scientific study into the biological basis of sexual behavior has confirmed there is no single “gay gene” but that a complex mix of genetics and environment affects whether a person has same-sex sexual partners. 

The research, which analyzed data on DNA and sexual experiences from almost half a million people, found there are thousands of genetic variants linked to same-sex sexual behavior, most with very small effects. 

Five of the genetic markers were “significantly” associated with same-sex behavior, the researchers said, but even these are far from being predictive of a person’s sexual preferences. 

“We scanned the entire human genome and found a handful — five, to be precise — of locations that are clearly associated with whether a person reports in engaging in same-sex sexual behavior,” said Andrea Ganna, a biologist at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Finland who co-led the research. 

He said these have “a very small effect” and, combined, explain “considerably less than 1% of the variance in the self-reported same-sex sexual behavior.” 

Other factors

This means that nongenetic factors — such as environment, upbringing, personality, nurture — are far more significant in influencing a person’s choice of sexual partner, just as with most other personality, behavioral and physical human traits, the researchers said. 

The study, which was the largest of its kind, analyzed survey responses and performed analyses known as genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on data from more than 470,000 people who had given DNA samples and lifestyle information to the UK Biobank and to the U.S. genetics testing company 23andMeInc. 

Asked why they had wanted to conduct such research, the team 
told reporters on a teleconference that previous studies on this topic had mostly been too small to offer robust conclusions. 

“Previous studies were small and underpowered,” Ganna said. “So we decided to form a large international consortium and collected data for [almost] 500,000 people, [which] is approximately 100 times bigger than previous studies on this topic.” 

FILE – Participants take part in a gay pride parade in Santiago, Chile, Nov. 17, 2018.

The results, published in the journal Science on Thursday, found no clear patterns among genetic variants that could be used to meaningfully predict or identify a person’s sexual behavior, the researchers said. 

‘A lot of diversity’

“We’ve clarified that there’s a lot of diversity out there,” said Benjamin Neale, a member at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard who worked with Ganna. “This moves our understanding [of same-sex sex] to a deeper and more nuanced place.” 

Sexual-rights campaigners welcomed the study, saying it “provides even more evidence that being gay or lesbian is a natural part of human life.” 

“This new research also reconfirms the long-established understanding that there is no conclusive degree to which nature or nurture influences how a gay or lesbian person behaves,” said Zeke Stokes of the U.S.-based LGBTQ rights group GLAAD. 

Outgoing Italian PM Accepts Fresh Mandate to Form New Government

Outgoing prime minister Giuseppe Conte has accepted a fresh mandate from Italy’s head of state to form a new coalition government backed by the populist Five Star Movement and the center-left Democrats party. Markets reacted positively the end to the 3-week political crisis, which could have triggered a snap election. But many in Italy are wondering how long such an alliance will last.

Conte appears determined and convinced he will be capable of establishing a government backed by a new coalition made up of the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Left party. Although the two political groups have been past enemies, they have agreed to unite and work together.

The political crisis was caused by the League leader, Matteo Salvini, who announced three weeks ago he was no longer prepared to work with the Five Star Movement. 

League leader Matteo Salvini gestures as he speaks to the media after consultations with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in Rome, Italy, Aug. 28, 2019.

The decision by the Left Democrats to work with the 5SM stems not only from the desire to enter parliament but also from wanting to avoid a snap general election, which at this time would likely be won by Salvini’s League party.

Coming out of his talks with the Italian president, Conte made clear the new government would not be one “against,” but “for the good of citizens.” 

He added that he would create a government that will represent a “novelty.”

Conte also said Italy is undergoing a very delicate phase and must emerge from this political crisis as quickly as possible.

He sais “we must get down to work immediately, to draw up a budget to avert the VAT hike that will protect savers and offer solid prospects for economic growth and social development.”

The prime minister already has began to hold meetings to reach an agreement on policies and about how to divide the ministerial positions between the two parties, which will make up the new coalition government.

Conte said he expects to go back to the Italian president with a full list in approximately a week. Once the new government is sworn in, it has 10 days to win a no-confidence vote in parliament.

The new alliance and Conte’s good intentions in the name of political stability seem to have averted snap elections, for the time being, and markets reacted positively to the news. But Italians in the streets and political observers see it as an unlikely alliance and fear it is unlikely to last.

For the time being, League leader Salvini’s plans for an early poll may have been thwarted and his move certainly backfired as he now will be relegated to the opposition. But it remains to be seen whether the move will, in fact, further increase his already soaring popularity.

Nigerian Trafficking Survivors Lack Support, Report Shows

Nigerian trafficking survivors who escape a life as sex workers or slaves are not getting enough support from their government, Human Rights Watch says.

A 90-page report shows that women and girls are being held in slavery-like conditions inside Nigeria, and reveals accounts of unlawful detentions in shelters. However, officials from Nigeria’s anti-human trafficking agency condemn the report. 

Six years ago, a Nigerian woman named Adaura was lured to Libya to work as a domestic servant when she was 18 years old. Once there, she says she was forced into prostitution, then abducted by Islamic State terrorists and held captive for three years. 

“They took us to an underground prison,” Adaura said. 

With the help of Libyan soldiers and the International Organization for Migration, she escaped and returned to Nigeria. 

But in Nigeria, she faced another set of problems. 

Human Rights Watch says Adaura was detained by Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, or NAPTIP. The federal government agency is tasked with helping trafficked victims, but Adaura says she was not allowed to leave one of its shelters, and she struggled to fend off thoughts of killing herself.

Report’s findings

Like Adaura, thousands of Nigerian women and girls have been trafficked within Nigeria and to other countries in the past three decades.

Nigeria is routinely listed as one of the countries with large numbers of trafficking victims overseas, particularly in Europe, with victims identified in more than 34 countries in 2018, according to the U.S. State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Adaura is one of the 76 trafficking survivors in Nigeria whom Human Rights Watch interviewed in a report released this week, called “‘You Pray for Death’: Trafficking of Women and Girls in Nigeria.” 

Girls as young as 8 years old are included. The report accuses Nigerian authorities of not doing enough to take care of repatriated women and girls, and claims they are kept in slavery-like conditions after they’ve escaped exploitation as sex workers or slaves. 

Human Rights Watch says the survivors struggle with issues like anxiety and depression, insomnia and flashbacks. 

Agnes Odhiambo, a senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, spoke at a press conference this week in Abuja.

“The national anti-trafficking agency is locking, detaining many of these survivors in its shelters,” she said, adding that the detained women were not allowed to communicate with their families for months on end.

Survivors’ interviews

A 24-year-old woman named Gladness, who is featured in the report, said she was kept in a NAPTIP shelter for about three weeks.

Gladness was quoted as saying she was not told when she would be going home.

Another woman, 18-year-old Ebunoluwa, said there were too many rules at the NAPTIP shelter and that her phone was confiscated.

“We are forced to wake up with a bell to pray. I have not been told when I will go home,” she said in the report.

Abdulganiyu Abubakar, director of the Save the Child Initiative in Nigeria, says NAPTIP should make sure that the shelters are comfortable and that people are not being held against their will. 

NAPTIP response

The director general of NAPTIP, Julie Okah-Donli, denied the accusations when speaking to journalists this week. 

“The entire report is a mere figment of the imagination of the writers, as the narratives fall below the standards of the operations of our shelters,” she said.

The shelters are supposed to be temporary spaces to help trafficking survivors with their basic and immediate needs like medical care, skills acquisition and financial assistance, all part of the NAPTIP’s victims’ support assistance program.

However, Human Rights Watch says NAPTIP relies too heavily on the shelters which, with their high walls and manned gates, trigger painful memories for some trafficking survivors. 

Today, Adaura is learning how to be a hairdresser, with NAPTIP paying for her training. The agency also helped her go to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with an ulcer. 

NAPTIP was set up in 2003 to address the scourge of human trafficking and help repatriated victims settle back in Nigeria.

Human Rights Watch is calling on Nigerian authorities to do more, like make it easier for survivors of trafficking to access community leaders, social workers, educators, health workers and religious leaders. It also encourages community-based rehabilitation and reintegration programs, as opposed to sub-standard shelters. 

Україна отримає природний газ зі США через Польщу – компанія ЕРУ

Природний газ зі Сполучених Штатів надійде в Україну через Польщу, повідомила 29 серпня компанія «Енергетичні ресурси України», яка є учасником угоди.

«Польська нафтогазова компанія (PGNiG) придбає зріджений природний газ у США, який буде продано компанії «Енергетичні Ресурси України» (ЕРУ) після регазифікації. Завдяки послідовному розширенню поставок зрідженого газу PGNiG здатна пропонувати природний газ більшій кількості споживачів», – ідеться в повідомленні.

За даними компанії ЕРУ, на початку листопада 2019 року зріджений газ прибуде до польського терміналу в Свіноуйсьці. Згодом газ надійде до польської системи передачі, звідки він потрапить до України через газове сполучення в Германовіце. Поставки для ЕРУ здійснюватимуться до кінця 2019 року.

Раніше 29 серпня Національна акціонерна компанія «Нафтогаз України» повідомила, що до початку опалювального сезону необхідно закачати у підземні сховища газу (ПСГ) ще близько двох мільярдів кубометрів палива.

Ризиком для України перед початком нового опалювального сезону є ймовірне припинення або суттєве скорочення російського транзиту газу через українську газотранспортну систему (ГТС) з січня 2020 року, коли завершується дія довгострокової угоди на транзит. Росія зможе вдатися до такого кроку, якщо запустить до кінця 2019 року газопровід «Північний потік-2». Переговори щодо нової угоди про транзит газу з використанням української ГТС нині тривають.

Долар незначно подорожчав на міжбанку

На українському міжбанківському валютному ринку торги 29 серпня відкрилися на тлі незначного зростання курсу долара порівняно з котируваннями під час закриття торгів 28 серпня. Перші години сесії відбулися з незначними коливаннями, котирування станом на 12:00 складали 25 гривень 23–26 копійок за долар.

«Попит частково знизився за рахунок виходу на торги великих продавців та закриття ними великих сум покупців. Спостерігається хитка рівновага», – інформує сайт «Мінфін», фахівці якого відстежують перебіг торгів.

Національний банк України опівдні встановив довідкове значення курсу на рівні 25 гривень 24 копійки, це на дві копійки більше за офіційний курс на 29 серпня.

На 1 серпня НБУ встановив найвищий за останні три з половиною роки курс гривні до долара – 25,02 за одиницю американської валюти.

До початку опалювального сезону необхідно ще 2 мільярди кубометрів газу – «Нафтогаз»

Національна акціонерна компанія «Нафтогаз України» повідомила, що до початку опалювального сезону необхідно закачати у підземні сховища газу (ПСГ) ще близько двох мільярдів кубометрів палива.

«Обсяги газу у підземних сховищах перевищили 18 мільярдів кубометрів. Щоб пройти опалювальний сезон без енергетичних ризиків, маємо до початку опалювального сезону накопичити в ПСГ близько 20 мільярдів кубометрів газу», – ідеться в повідомленні в твітері.

Ризиком для України перед початком нового опалювального сезону є ймовірне припинення або суттєве скорочення російського транзиту газу через українську газотранспортну систему (ГТС) з січня 2020 року, коли завершується дія довгострокової угоди на транзит. Росія зможе вдатися до такого кроку, якщо запустить до кінця 2019 року газопровід «Північний потік-2». Переговори щодо нової угоди про транзит газу з використанням української ГТС нині тривають.


CNN Apologizes for Misleading Hong Kong Headline  

CNN has apologized for a misleading headline that appeared on its website during its coverage Sunday of the Hong Kong riots.

At one point, a headline reading “Police Use Petrol Bombs and Water Cannons Against Hong Kong Protesters” flashed on the screen.

According to Hong Kong police, officers shot water cannons at barricades, not people, and it was the demonstrators who threw the gasoline bombs.

CNN’s Hong Kong bureau chief Roger Clark admitted in a letter to police that the headline was “erroneous.”

Clark said CNN is “working hard to ensure that reporting of the Hong Kong protests is fair and balanced at all times.”

Swedish Teen Climate Activist Sails Into New York for UN Summit 

Teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg arrived in New York on Wednesday after crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a zero-emissions sailboat to attend a conference on global warming. 
The 16-year-old Swede set sail from Plymouth, England, on Aug. 14. At 4 a.m., she tweeted:

Land!! The lights of Long Island and New York City ahead.

— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) August 28, 2019

Thunberg came to the U.S. for the U.N. climate summit and chose to sail rather than fly to avoid the greenhouse gas emissions that come with commercial jet travel. 
Thunberg said she first learned about climate change when she was 8 years old and became very concerned about the future of humanity.  
A few years later, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder and selective mutism.  “That basically means I only speak when I think it’s necessary,” she told the audience at a TED Talk last year. “Now is one of those moments.” 
In August 2018, Thunberg stopped attending school on Fridays and took to protesting alone outside the Swedish parliament. She called it a strike intended to draw attention to climate change.  
Thousands of students have since taken up her cause around the world, staying out of school on Fridays and demanding adults do something about climate change. 

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg sails into New York harbor aboard the Malizia II, a zero-emissions yacht, Aug. 28, 2019.

The boat carrying Thunberg, the Malizia II, has the hashtag #FridaysForFuture under “UNITE BEHIND THE SCIENCE” inscribed on the sails.  
The sailboat’s onboard electronics are powered by solar panels and underwater turbines. It has no toilet or fixed shower aboard, no windows below deck and only a small gas cooker to heat up freeze-dried food. 

Thunberg’s boat was greeted by a flotilla of 17 sailboats representing each of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals on their sails.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed Thunberg on Twitter: 

Welcome to New York, @gretathunberg!

The determination and perseverance shown during your journey should embolden all of us taking part in next month’s #ClimateAction Summit.

We must deliver on the demands of people around the world and address the global climate crisis.

— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) August 28, 2019

Thunberg will speak at the U.N. Climate Action Summit next month and then attend a climate summit in Chile in December. She is taking a year off from school to pursue her activism.  

O’Rourke Campaign Ejects Breitbart Reporter From Event

Beto O’Rourke’s campaign says it ejected a Breitbart News reporter from an event at a South Carolina college because it wanted to ensure that students felt “comfortable and safe.”

Joel Pollak, the conservative web site’s senior editor-at-large, said a Benedict College campus police officer asked him to leave the site of a speech Tuesday by the Democratic presidential candidate. Pollak wrote on Breitbart that a campaign staff member told him he was being ejected because he’d been disruptive at past events.

O’Rourke spokeswoman Aleigha Cavalier on Wednesday said Breitbart walks the line between being news and a perpetrator of hate speech.

She said given Pollak’s “previous hateful reporting” and the sensitivity of the topics being discussed with black students, the campaign asked him to leave.

В Україні почала роботу Державна податкова служба

В Україні 28 серпня офіційно почала роботу Державна податкова служба. Відповідне розпорядження уряду сьогодні опублікували на Урядовому порталі.

Окрім податкової політики ДПС адмініструватиме єдиний внесок на загальнообов’язкове державне соціальне страхування, повідомили у відомстві.

«Впевнений, що спільними зусиллями ми побудуємо сервісну податкову службу європейського зразка з високим рівнем довіри у суспільстві, якою будемо пишатися»,– заявив голова ДПС Сергій Верланов.

Наприкінці 2018 року Кабінет міністрів України розділив Державну фіскальну службу на податкову і митну служби.

New DRC Cabinet Prompts Accusations that Kabila’s Regime Still Holds Power

As the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s new president unveils his coalition government, opposition members are complaining about being left out. 

On Monday, President Felix Tshisekedi announced his cabinet, seven months after winning a contested election that landed him in the country’s highest office. The 65-member cabinet includes 23 appointees from Tshisekedi’s Direction for Change Party and 42 from former President Joseph Kabila’s Common Front for Congo coalition. But members of the DRC’s numerous other political parties are warning that the cabinet gives too much power to allies of the former president and not enough to opposition voices. 

Emery Kalwira, president of the opposition group Congolese Coalition, said that Tshisekedi’s predecessor, Kabila, maintains the majority of the seats in the government and doesn’t want to leave power. 

“He is [Kabila] still the main leader of the DRC and Tshisekedi isn’t the real president,” he told VOA’s Daybreak Africa radio program. “That is why we want to call all the people to get up and to put them out and to begin a good transition with our popular salvation authority.”


Daybreak Africa

Daybreak Africa audio player.

In January, Tshisekedi took office, despite critics saying the election he won was rigged. Now opposition voices are accusing the new president of being a puppet.

“You know that Kabila is controlling the two parliamentary senate and the parliament and the biggest majority from the government composition is from him. That shows that … Congolese people will still be suffering, and that’s why we say Mr. Kabila must go out. Because Tshisekedi is not the real president,” Kalwira added. 

But Abraham Lukabwanga, president of the press to Tshisekedi, told VOA that the 76% of the cabinet are new to the government in an interview with Africa News Tonight. “Those are people that have never been into politics. They never had the position, so this can lead to a really big change,” he said.


Africa News Tonight

Africa News Tonight audio player.

Lukabwanga stressed that the cabinet is diverse and includes representatives of all 26 of DRC’s provinces, including women and young people who previously did not have a voice in government. He said they are determined to address pressing issues in the country, including corruption and an ongoing Ebola outbreak. 

“What you’ve seen the last 48 hours since the government has been published is the joy of, the satisfaction of, I may say, the majority of people who are happy to say that now we do have a government. It’s time to work. We don’t have time to waste,” he said.

‘Now or Never’: Hong Kong Protesters Say They Have Nothing to Lose

Exasperated with the government’s unflinching attitude to escalating civil unrest, Jason Tse quit his job in Australia and jumped on a plane to join what he believes is a do-or-die fight for Hong Kong’s future.

The Chinese territory is grappling with its biggest crisis since its handover to Beijing 22 years ago as many residents fret over what they see as China’s tightening grip over the city and a relentless march toward mainland control.

The battle for Hong Kong’s soul has pitted protesters against the former British colony’s political masters in Beijing, with broad swathes of the Asian financial center determined to defend the territory’s freedoms at any cost.

Faced with a stick and no carrot – chief executive Carrie Lam reiterated on Tuesday protesters’ demands were unacceptable – the pro-democracy movement has intensified despite Beijing deploying paramilitary troops near the border in recent weeks.

“This is a now or never moment and it is the reason why I came back,” Tse, 32, said, adding that since joining the protests last month he had been a peaceful participant in rallies and an activist on the Telegram social media app. “If we don’t succeed now, our freedom of speech, our human rights, all will be gone. We need to persist.”

Since the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997, critics say Beijing has reneged on a commitment to maintain Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms under a “one country, two systems” formula.

Opposition to Beijing that had dwindled after 2014, when authorities faced down a pro-democracy movement that occupied streets for 79 days, has come back to haunt authorities who are now grappling with an escalating cycle of violence.

“We have to keep fighting. Our worst fear is the Chinese government,” said a 40-year-old teacher who declined to be identified for fear of repercussions. “For us, it’s a life or death situation.”

‘If we burn, you burn’

What started as protests against a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party, has evolved into demands for greater democracy.

“We lost the revolution in 2014 very badly. This time, if not for the protesters who insist on using violence, the bill would have been passed already,” said another protester, who asked to be identified as just Mike, 30, who works in media and lives with his parents.

He was referring to the 79 days of largely peaceful protests in 2014 that led to the jailing of activist leaders. “It’s proven that violence, to some degree, will be useful.”

Nearly 900 people have been arrested in the latest protests.

The prospect of lengthy jail terms seems to be deterring few activists, many of whom live in tiny apartments with their families.

“7K for a house like a cell and you really think we out here scared of jail,” reads graffiti scrawled near one protest site.

HK$7,000 ($893) is what the monthly rent for a tiny room in a shared apartment could cost.

The protests pose a direct challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, whose government has sent a clear warning that forceful intervention to quell violent demonstrations is possible.

Some critics question the protesters’ “now or never” rallying cry, saying a crackdown by Beijing could bring an end to the freedoms in Hong Kong that people on the mainland can only dream of.

The campaign reflects concerns over Hong Kong’s future at a time when protesters, many of whom were toddlers when Britain handed Hong Kong back to Beijing, feel they have been denied any political outlet and have no choice but to push for universal suffrage.

“You either stand up and pull this government down or you stay at the mercy of their hands. You have no choice,” said Cheng, 28, who works in the hospitality industry.

“Imagine if this fails. You can only imagine the dictatorship of the Communists will become even greater … If we burn, you burn with us,” he said, referring to authorities in Beijing.

“The clock is ticking,” Cheng added, referring to 2047 when a 50-year agreement enshrining Hong Kong’s separate governing system will lapse.

‘Not China’

As Beijing seeks to integrate Hong Kong closer to the mainland China, many residents are recoiling.

A poll in June by the University of Hong Kong found that 53% of 1,015 respondents identified as Hong Kongers, while 11% identified as Chinese, a record low since 1997.

With the prospect of owning a home in one of the world’s most expensive cities a dream, many disaffected youth say they have little to look forward to as Beijing’s grip tightens.

“We really have got nothing to lose,” said Scarlett, 23, a translator.

As the crisis simmers, China’s People’s Liberation Army has released footage of troops conducting anti-riot exercises.

But graffiti scrawled across the city signals the protesters’ defiance.

“Hong Kong is not China” and “If you want peace, prepare for war” are some of the messages.

Tse said he believes violence is necessary because the government rarely listens to peaceful protests.

“Tactically I think we should have a higher level of violence,” he said. “I actually told my wife that if we’ll ever need to form an army on the protester side I will join.”

Are Water Shortages Driving Migration? Researchers Dispel Myths

Water scarcity is one factor driving millions of people from their homes each year but is often not the only reason why they move, researchers told an international conference on Tuesday.

In most cases, other economic and social problems like conflict, corruption or a lack of jobs contribute to the decision to leave, they said.

They warned against over-simplifying the links between water and migration, and said many of those who do move – at least partly because of water-related pressures such as floods, droughts and pollution – may not travel far.

“International migration is very expensive and very risky and it lies beyond the reach of many of the poorest people who are most vulnerable to water security and drought,” said Guy Jobbins of the London-based Overseas Development Institute.

Those who suffer water-related shocks to their livelihoods – losing animals or crops – “are less likely to have the funds to start again in South Africa or France”, he told an audience at World Water Week in Stockholm.

Conversely, there was some evidence to suggest that people who have better access to secure, affordable water are more likely to have enough financial resources to migrate, he added.

Although much is made of international migration, most movement related to water is inside countries, often from one rural place to another, said Sasha Koo-Oshima, deputy director of land and water at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

FILE – Newly-arrived women who fled drought queue to receive food distributed by local volunteers at a camp for displaced persons in the Daynile neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu, in Somalia, May 18, 2019.

Three out of four of the world’s poor live in rural areas and rely heavily on agricultural production, with food insecurity, water contamination and drought forcing people from their homes – especially the young, she added.

Efforts should be stepped up to prevent water scarcity and make it profitable for young people to stay on rural land, she said.

But if people do leave, “it is not necessarily a negative phenomenon”, as humans have always moved in search of a better life, she added.

Refugee scapegoats

Researchers also called for a more sophisticated analysis of how mass migration impacts on water supplies.

In Jordan – the world’s second most water-scarce country, according to Hussam Hussein, a Middle East water researcher at Germany’s University of Kassel – a large influx of refugees from Syria, after civil war broke out there in 2011, led to tensions with their host communities, especially in cities.

Jordan hosts about 750,000 Syrians, the vast majority in urban areas, according to the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR). But contrary to public discourse, their presence is not the main cause of the country’s water shortages, said Hussein.

“When we look at the numbers, the impact of refugees is not as important as unsustainable use (of water) in the agricultural sector,” he said.

Mismanagement of water resources, leaks, illegal wells and intensive farming made up the majority of water losses in parched Jordan, he added.

In war-torn Syria, water scarcity and climate-related events such as drought had been a “trigger” for the conflict but not a primary cause, said Fatine Ezbakhe of the Mediterranean Youth for Water Network.

Instead a lack of water amplified political instability and poverty that fueled migration and unrest, she added.

Now improvements to water supplies could be used to persuade people to return home, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“If we actually invest in water, we could… try to make people go back and restart (in) the rural areas they left in the first place,” she said.

Syrian Activists: Insurgents Strike Back in Rebel Stronghold

Syrian insurgents launched counterattacks Tuesday in and near areas recently taken by government forces in the country’s last remaining rebel region, after a series of setbacks they suffered in recent weeks, opposition activists said.

The fierce fighting killed more than 50 fighters on both sides, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It also underscored that President Bashar Assad’s forces will face a long, hard fight as they try to chip away at the last rebel-held territory.

The counterattacks began early in the morning and government forces called in Syria’s air force to repel them, the Observatory said. It said 29 Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen were killed, as well as 23 insurgents.

The insurgents captured two villages, Salloumieh and Abu Omar, and pushed into the nearby village of Sham al-Hawa, it said.

The Ibaa media outlet of the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militant group said its fighters were attacking Syrian positions east of Khan Sheikhoun, a major town that was held by rebels until they lost it last week.

Pro-government activists said on social media that Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen are repelling the attack.

Syrian government forces captured wide areas from insurgents over the past weeks in an offensive that began on April 30. The areas taken include all rebel-held parts of Hama province as well as villages on the southern edge of Idlib, the last remaining rebel stronghold in Syria.

Tuesday’s clashes came after Syrian warplanes pounded the rebel-held town of Maaret al-Numan and nearby villages over the past two days — their likely next target for takeover.

Maaret al-Numan, like Khan Sheikhoun, sits on the highway linking Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest. Government forces are trying to eventually open that highway.

Taher al-Omar, a citizen journalist with the al-Qaida-linked militants, wrote on social media that they have carried out several suicide attacks so far.

The months of fighting have displaced more than half a million civilians toward northern parts of Idlib, already home to some 3 million people, according to U.N. humanitarian officials.

Elsewhere in northern Syria, a bomb exploded on a minibus, killing two people and wounding nine near the town of Azaz. The town is controlled by Turkish troops and Turkey-backed opposition fighters, according to pro-government media and the Azaz media center, an activist collective.

Thai Palace Shares Photos of king, Newly Named Royal Consort

Thailand’s royal palace has released photos of King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his recently anointed royal consort, though the official website hosting the images became inaccessible within a few hours.

The photos released Monday show the 67-year-old monarch and Sineenatra Wongvajirabhakdi in formal regalia as well as in casual settings. She was named Chao Khun Phra Sineenatra Bilasakalayani last month on the king’s birthday, becoming the first to receive the title of royal noble consort since 1921, during an era of absolute monarchy.

The king married longtime companion Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya in May a few days before his coronation and named her his queen. Like Sineenatra, she has been serving as a senior officer in palace security units.

Vajiralongkorn was married three times previously, fathering seven children.

Vajiralongkorn assumed the throne after the 2016 death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for 70 years. During his decades as crown prince, Vajiralongkorn’s personal life was often the subject of hushed gossip, though public discussion was hampered by the country’s harsh lese majeste law, which mandates prison terms of up to 15 years for those found guilty of insulting some members of the royal family.

Some of the new palace images show 34-year-old Sineenatra, who holds the army rank of major general, engaging in activities in uniform such as piloting a fighter jet, aiming a rifle on a firing range and preparing for what appears to be a night-time parachute jump.

Others show her and the king holding hands, unusually intimate photos for members of the royal family.

Unflattering unauthorized photos of the king and his consort taken by paparazzi in Germany, where the monarch maintains a residence, have circulated widely on social media. The most recent such pictures were published by the German tabloid Bild earlier this month.

Although there were no details accompanying Monday’s official photos, the palace also posted a biography of Sineenatra, who was born in the northern province of Nan.

It said that after serving as an army nurse from 2008-2012, she joined the Royal Household Bureau, working at the palace’s handicraft store. She later transferred to the offices of Vajiralongkorn, then the crown prince. Vajiralongkorn assumed the throne after the 2016 death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Sineenatra was said to have undergone rigorous military training as well as taking flying lessons, and holds several positions in the palace bureaucracy.

Iranian President: First Lift Sanctions, Then Let’s Talk

Iran’s president back-pedaled Tuesday on possible talks with Donald Trump, saying the U.S. president must first lift sanctions imposed on Tehran, otherwise a meeting between the two would be a mere photo op.

Hassan Rouhani’s change of heart came a day after Trump said Monday that there’s a “really good chance” the two could meet on their nuclear impasse after a surprise intervention by French President Emmanuel Macron during the G-7 summit to try to bring Washington and Tehran together after decades of conflict.

“Without the U.S.’s withdrawal from sanctions, we will not witness any positive development,” Rouhani said in a televised speech on Tuesday, adding that Washington “holds the key” as to what happens next.

“If someone intends to make it as just a photo op with Rouhani, that is not possible,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, Rouhani expressed readiness to negotiate a way out of the crisis following America’s pullout from the nuclear deal.

“If I knew that going to a meeting and visiting a person would help my country’s development and resolve the problems of the people, I would not miss it,” he had said. “Even if the odds of success are not 90% but are 20% or 10%, we must move ahead with it. We should not miss opportunities.”

Rouhani also shielded his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, against criticism from hard-liners over his surprise visit Sunday to France’s Biarritz, where leaders of the Group of Seven rich democracies were meeting.

Iran’s English-language Press TV issued a vague, anonymous statement later on Monday, rejecting Macron’s initiative.

Macron said he hoped Trump and Rouhani could meet within weeks in hopes of saving the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran struck with world powers, but which the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from last year. Under the deal, Iran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

On Tuesday, Macron acknowledged his efforts to bring Iran and the U.S. together are “fragile” but said he still sees a “possible path” to rapprochement between the two.

Inviting Zarif to the G-7 summit as a surprise guest was a risky diplomatic maneuver but it helped create “the possible conditions of a useful meeting,” Macron said.

It’s France’s responsibility to play the “role of a balancing power,” Macron said, adding that his efforts allowed hope for a “de-escalation” of tensions.

Since the U.S. pullout from the nuclear deal, Iran has lost billions of dollars in business deals allowed by the accord as the U.S. re-imposed and escalated sanctions largely blocking Tehran from selling crude abroad, a crucial source of hard currency for the Islamic Republic.

Rouhani’s U-turn can be seen as a result of pressure from hard-liners in the Iranian establishment who oppose taking a softer tone toward the West.

But it could also reflect that the paradigm of grand photo op summits in exotic locations — such as Trump’s meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — while stringent sanctions remain in place, does not necessarily appeal to Rouhani, whose signature accomplishment was the nuclear deal, which started unravelling with Trump’s pullout.

The hard-line Javan daily, which is close to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, warned Rouhani in large font on its Tuesday front page: “Mr. Rouhani, photo diplomacy will not develop the country.”

«Укравтодор»: у жовтні ми плануємо запустити перші шість пунктів для зважування вантажівок

Державне агентство автомобільних доріг («Укравтодор») планує запустити в жовтні перші шість пунктів для автоматичного зважування вантажівок під Києвом, повідомив виконувач голови «Укравтодору» Славомір Новак в інтерв’ю агентству «Інтерфакс-України».

«У жовтні ми плануємо запустити в роботу перші шість пунктів Weight-in-Motion на під’їздах до Києва. Це пілотний проєкт, який ми фінансуємо за рахунок коштів міжнародних фінансових організацій. На його реалізацію ми отримали близько семи мільйонів євро від Міжнародного банку реконструкції та розвитку», – заявив Новак.

Він додав, що його мета – до кінця року підготувати програму зі встановлення до 100 пунктів WiM, насамперед на щойно відремонтованих дорогах України.

Новак прогнозує, що водії перевантажених вантажівок намагатимуться об’їжджати комплекси.

«І це вже питання до Нацполіції та інших служб – як цього не допустити. І у нас є повне взаєморозуміння з Нацполіцією в цьому питанні», – зазначив в.о. голови компанії.

Водночас, за словами Новака, щоб система WiM змогла повноцінно запрацювати на українських дорогах, потрібно внести зміни до законодавства, які дозволять «Укравтодору» в автоматичному режимі штрафувати перевантажені вантажівки.

WiM – інтелектуальна система вагового контролю. Вона встановлюється над дорогою і передбачає цілодобовий контроль, автоматичну фіксацію, максимальну автономність і мінімальне втручання людини. WiM розраховує габарити кожного автомобіля, фіксує номерні знаки, що дозволяє ідентифікувати вантажний автомобіль і його власника в державній базі даних.

Одночасно система датчиків фіксує швидкість, розміри авто, загальну масу, навантаження на вісь і колеса. У разі виявлення будь-яких порушень система автоматично формує штраф і відправляє водієві вимогу зупинитися.

Водій перевантаженої фури матиме прямувати до спеціального пункту для розвантаження.

Спекулянти намагалися «розігріти ринок» у парі гривня-долар – «Мінфін»

На українському міжбанківському валютному ринку в першу торговельну сесію після триденних вихідних відбулася спроба гри на послаблення гривні, повідомляє сайт «Мінфін», який відстежує перебіг торгів.

«На торгах по долару після недовгої спроби спекулянтів розігріти ринок та підтягнути курс почали виходити основні продавці, що придавило котирування», – ідеться в повідомленні.

На старті торгів котирування сягали 25 гривень 18–22 копійки за долар, але вже станом на 12:00 вони становили 25 гривень 15–18 копійок за одиницю американської валюти.

Національний банк України встановив опівдні 27 серпня довідкове значення курсу на рівні 25 гривень 17 копійок за долар.

На 1 серпня НБУ встановив найвищий за останні три з половиною роки курс гривні до долара – 25,02 за одиницю американської валюти.

Britain’s Dilemma: US or Europe

It was music to the ears of Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

The British will be able to strike a “fantastic deal” with the United States once Britain has thrown off the “anchor” of the European Union, U.S. President Donald Trump told Johnson during a convivial bilateral meeting at the G-7 summit in the French resort of Biarritz, where they breakfasted Sunday on scrambled eggs and veal sausages.

“We’re going to do a very big trade deal, bigger than we’ve ever had with the U.K., and now at some point they won’t have the obstacle, they won’t have the anchor around their ankle, because that’s what they have,” Trump said. 

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets U.S. President Donald Trump for bilateral talks during the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France Aug. 25, 2019.

Later, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said the special relationship had “never been stronger.” 

“Enjoyed accompanying Donald Trump at his working breakfast with Boris Johnson where we collaborated on ways to further deepen our security and economic relationship with the UK,” Bolton tweeted. 

 The U.S. embrace was welcome news for Johnson, who has invested politically in a close relationship with Trump and presented a fast-tracked Anglo-American trade deal as a major ingredient in the “global Britain” future he and other Brexiters have advertised. 

Johnson has been buoyed by Trump’s praise of him since he succeeded Theresa May as prime minister. The U.S. leader has described him as “Britain Trump” and talked enthusiastically about the trans-Atlantic partnership the pair will forge.

Widening rifts

For a Britain struggling to work out its place in the world after it relinquishes its membership in the European Union, set for Oct. 31, the future challenge will be to balance relations between the U.S. and Europe, analysts say.

Johnson can’t afford to fall out with Britain’s European neighbors, especially if he wants to find a way out of the Brexit impasse and leave on good terms with the EU and a future trade deal.

Maintaining the balance won’t be easy amid widening rifts between Washington and Brussels on a host of key issues, including climate change, relations with Russia, rising nationalism, the role of multilateralism, and raging economic warfare between the U.S. and China. 

Analysts say it will be made trickier by having to deal with a U.S. president who sees diplomacy as a zero-sum game, and French President Emmanuel Macron, who appears eager to define dividing lines between Europe and the U.S.

On Sunday, Macron surprised fellow G-7 leaders by announcing that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would fly to Biarritz for unexpected talks on the summit’s sidelines — a bid to revive the 2015 nuclear accord from which the U.S. withdrew last year.

An Iranian government plane is seen on the tarmac at Biarritz airport in Anglet during the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Aug. 25, 2019.

Britain has long had to navigate between the U.S. and Europe, and since World War II has positioned itself as the diplomatic interface between Washington and the Europeans. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair used to talk about Britain being a trans-Atlantic bridge.  

That go-between role will likely be more difficult to pull off in the coming years, especially if Britain crashes out of the EU acrimoniously and without an exit deal, which analysts say could poison Britain’s relations with Europe.

‘Agonizing choices’ ahead

Brexit has coincided with an apparent inflection point in trans-Atlantic relations, with the U.S. and western Europe drifting further apart with unpredictable policy shifts.

“Agonizing choices face the United Kingdom this year, some of them immediate and obvious,” according to former Conservative lawmaker and columnist Matthew Parris. “But the biggest is less apparent, yet will shape our nation’s future in a way that no wrangles about EU deals ever can. Does Britain’s destiny lie with the States? As two global blocs, Europe and America, diverge, we shall be making that decision whether we know it or not.” 

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a joint press conference with U.S. President Donald Trump (not seen) at the end of the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Aug. 26, 2019.

Britain is as divided on that — whether its future lies with Europe or America  — as it is on the immediate issue of Brexit itself. Do its economic fortunes lie to the West or East? Is it more culturally and philosophically tied with the U.S. or Europe? The dilemma is further complicated by the likelihood that even after Brexit, Europe will remain its single largest trading partner. But Britain will need to compensate for the likely loss of post-Brexit trade with Europe and is eager for a trade deal with the U.S.

At his first G-7 summit as prime minister, Johnson trod a careful line — announcing Britain may be leaving the EU but maintaining that it isn’t leaving Europe. He maintained unity with the Europeans on Iran, climate change, international trade and Russia, pushing back, along with other EU leaders, on Trump’s idea for Russia to be readmitted to the G-7, from which it was ejected after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.

Despite that, Johnson appeared not to disrupt his relationship with Trump. Even British detractors of the new prime minister acknowledged Monday he managed to maintain poise on the geopolitical high wire he has to tread. 

Johnson may have been aided inadvertently by Macron’s decision as summit host not to issue a final communique, avoiding the kind of highly public dust-ups that derailed last year’s event in Canada. 

Trump: ‘Really Good Chance’ He Will Meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday “there’s a really good chance” he would meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the coming weeks to try to negotiate a new deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear weapons program to replace the 2015 international deal that Trump withdrew from last year.

Trump, speaking at the end of the G-7 summit of top world leaders in France, said, “I think Iran is going to want to meet.”

The U.S. leader said the economic sanctions he reimposed on Iran a year ago “are absolutely hurting them” as Trump has sought to sharply limit Iran’s international oil exports.

But Trump predicated any meeting with Rouhani on the condition that Iran not create more overseas tensions with military advances and attacks. He said a new deal would have to ban Iranian nuclear weapons and ballistic missile testing and cover a longer period than the 10-year time frame dictated by the 2015 accord.

Trump added, “I have good feelings about Iran…incredible people.” But he said it was too soon to meet over the weekend with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was a surprise visitor at the G-7 summit in the Atlantic coastal town of Biarritz, at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron.

The French leader has been trying to broker U.S.-Iran peace talks. Macron told a joint news conference with Trump that he has had conversations with Rouhani and that the Iranian leader is willing to meet with Trump.

Macron said he had reached the “very cautious” conclusion that Washington and Tehran could reach an agreement if Trump and Rouhani meet.

Macron said France “will play a role” in the U.S.-Iran talks if they occur, along with the other signatories to the 2015 accord Trump pulled out of — Britain, Germany, the European Union, China and Russia.

Trump said Zarif’s visit to Biarritz was not a surprise to him.

Trump said he was in contact with Macron and that, “I knew everything he was doing and approved whatever he was doing.”

Macron had met with Zarif on Friday in Paris before the G-7 summit opened, but Macron invited him back to the site of the summit after tense exchanges among the world leaders about Iran at their Saturday night dinner.

Iran and the United States have been in a state of heightened strained relations since Trump withdrew last year from the international agreement that restrained Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Trump then added more sanctions, particularly targeting Iran’s key oil sector, that have hobbled the country’s economy.

Trump said Monday he is not seeking “regime change” in Iran, but wants the country to “stop terrorism.”

“I think they’re going to change.  I really do.  I believe they have a chance to be a very special nation,” Trump said.

Macron had lunch with Trump Saturday, and, according to French sources, outlined his plan to ease the West’s tensions with Iran. The French leader is calling for allowing Iran to export its oil for a short time, fully implement the 2015 agreement, reduce conflict in the Gulf region and open new talks.

Macron on Monday said Iran would need new funding to help stabilize its economy. Trump said that would not include outright cash grants but rather letters of credit that “would be paid back very quickly.”


DOJ Moves to Add More Marijuana Growers for Research

The Justice Department is moving forward to expand the number of marijuana growers for federally-authorized cannabis research.
Uttam Dhillon, the acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, says Monday’s move would give researchers a wider variety of cannabis to study. He says the DEA supports additional marijuana research.
The DEA says the number of people registered to conduct research with marijuana and extracts has jumped more than 40 percent in the last two years. The agency is also planning to propose new regulations to govern the marijuana growers’ program.
Researchers at federally-funded entities have faced legal barriers in recent years because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, even as a growing number of states have legalized medical and so-called recreational marijuana.

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