‘Serious & credible’? Another sex abuse claim jeopardizes Kavanaugh nomination

By ethan / September 24, 2018

As the professor who accused the US Supreme Court nominee of sexual abuse is set to testify on her claims, Senate Democrats are investigating yet another “credible allegation” about Brett Kavanaugh’s misconduct while in college.

The new allegation was brought forth by Deborah Ramirez, who claimed that Kavanaugh exposed his gentiles in her face during the 1983-84 academic school year at Yale University. During the incident at the “drunken dormitory party,” which happened during their freshmen year, the future judge also allegedly forces her to touch his penis without her consent, the New Yorker revealed.

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According to the publication, the allegations are now being investigated by at least two Democrats in the Senate. Another two Democrats are aware of the issue. In addition, the New Yorker claims, some Republicans in the Senate were also informed about the new accusations.

Kavanaugh, who faced similar claims from California professor Christine Blasey Ford, vehemently denied the accusations. “The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so,” the judge said in a statement sent to AFP.

Meanwhile, the White House Spokesperson Kerri Kupec noted that the decades-old allegations brought up against the judge were timed and “designed to tear down a good man.”

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'We're going to win!' Pompeo vows China trade war will last until Americans get what they 'deserve'

By ethan / September 24, 2018

As the latest US and Chinese tit-for-tat tariffs are about to take effect, Mike Pompeo has reassured Americans that any inconveniences they might suffer in the trade war are temporary, before they emerge victorious and prosperous.

After a vast number of American businesses and multinationals expressed concern about the damage from the new tariffs and potential further escalation of the trade war, the chief US diplomat stressed that Washington strives to protect US workers and force China to play by its rules.

“We’re going to get an outcome which forces China to behave in a way that if you want to be a power – a global power transparency, rule of law, you don’t steal intellectual property – the fundamental principles of trade around the world: fairness, reciprocity,” Pompeo told Fox News on Sunday.

“Those are the things the American people are demanding and the American workers deserve,” he stressed, after the US Trade Representative (USTR) finalized a new round of tariff hikes on $ 200 billion in Chinese imports. Starting Monday night, a 10 percent tax on Chinese goods will be slapped on as they enter the country, before rising to 25 percent at the end of the year.

China tariffs hammer drops: Trump announces new duties on $ 200bn worth of Chinese goods

In a retaliatory response to the latest round of US protectionist measures, China said it would impose levies on $ 60 billion worth of US goods, effective September 24. Beijing also warned that foreign companies will bear the brunt of the trade conflict between the world’s two largest economies.

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© Thomas Peter

“According to preliminary data, the [US] tariffs will affect consumer industry goods, as well as textile, medical and electromechanical goods. Half of the companies [affected by US tariffs] will be with foreign capital,” China’s Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng noted Thursday, stressing that Beijing is looking into ways to protect Chinese and foreign companies during the crisis.

While the US tariffs so far have spared popular consumer products like phones and computers, other electronics, such as printed circuit boards, power assemblies and computer chips, will be impacted. Washington’s move will also affect everyday consumer goods such as air conditioners, shoes, fruit juice and kids’ goods, damaging US multinationals doing business in China.

Walmart, Sears, Petland, Dollar General and Target have already sent letters to US lawmakers strongly opposing the tariffs, stressing that import hikes will “penalize American families.” A coalition of roughly 300 retailers, including IKEA North American Services, Kohl’s, the Gap and Macy’s, have also noted that the looming trade war will impact their business. Over 6,000 letters against new tariffs were received by the US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer leading up to the new round of tit-for-tat actions.

Despite the fears being voiced, on Friday Donald Trump threatened to impose even more levies on Chinese goods until the trade imbalance is fixed and until Chinese corporations stop ‘stealing’ American technology and intellectual property. Previously, the White House expressed its readiness to slap additional tariffs on around $ 267 billion of Chinese exports if Beijing doesn’t back down.

Amid the escalating tensions, China has reportedly cancelled a mid-level delegation visit to Washington next week, that was supposed to pave the way for further trade negotiations with President Xi’s envoy Liu He. Despite the worsening trade relations, further exacerbated by recent sanctions against China’s leading arms acquisition body over the purchase of Russian weapons, Pompeo believes that Washington will win the trade war.

“The trade war by China against the United States has been going on for years,” Pompeo said. “Here’s what’s different in this administration. To the extent one wants to call this a trade war, we are determined to win it.”

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‘Why did they leave it unlocked?’ Woman steals ambulance from medics doing CPR, leads wild chase

By ethan / September 23, 2018

An Oregon woman hijacked an ambulance while the paramedics were performing CPR on a patient, then switched on the siren lights and went on a wild 30-mile joyride, chased by a host of police vehicles.

When the law enforcers finally stopped her by puncturing the tires of the ambulance with spike strips, Christy Lynn Woods refused to admit any wrongdoing – and bizarrely blamed the medics instead.

“Why did they leave it [the ambulance] unlocked?” she told the officers, according to the court papers seen by the Oregonian.

The 37-year-old, who previously had numerous run-ins with law, also insisted that she was “a good [expletive] driver” and “didn’t try to hurt anyone.”

However, understanding of the situation gradually came to Wood as she was later recorded saying: “Oh my God, I can’t believe I just did that.” The woman also added that she realized that the stunt would most likely see her put behind bars.

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A woman flees from Texas police with a baby in tow © Texas Department of Public Safety

Wood came across an unattended emergency vehicle in the street in downtown Roseburg last Sunday and made a swift decision to take it for a ride. When the paramedics came out of a nearby building with a patient, who needed to be urgently taken to hospital, they were shocked to find out that their ambulance was gone.

The hijacker initially drove around downtown, but when a state trooper attempted to pull her over, she took to the freeway and stepped on the gas. During the tense 30-mile chase, the runaway ambulance reached the speed of 85 miles per hour (around 137 km/h).

At some point, Wood rammed a police cruiser, which attempted to clear the traffic in front of her. The car spun out of control and hit the highway’s wire median, with the officer behind the wheel receiving minor injuries.

When the tires of the ambulance were punctured, Wood drove into a gas station, got out of the vehicle and dropped to the ground. “I gave up when I should,” she told the policeman, who was arresting her, according to the court papers.

The woman now faces 13 charges, including assault, interfering with paramedics, criminal mischief, reckless driving and driving while suspended.

READ MORE: Russian daredevil rams police cars in high-speed pursuit, escapes free (VIDEO)

Wood was known to the law enforcers as a troublemaker: she has been arrested 39 times by the Douglas County police since 2013, KOIN-TV reported. In February, she was convicted of second-degree disorderly conduct after trying to hit bar patrons with a bottle and resisting arrest.

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Does Trump admin want to topple him? Nikki Haley says ‘no one ever talked about the 25th amendment’

By ethan / September 23, 2018

No member of the White House administration ever questioned Donald Trump’s ability as the US president or discussed removing him from the office, the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley said when asked about the Rod Rosenstein leak.

“I’m there almost every other week and I can tell you never has anyone talked about the 25th amendment, never has anyone even questioned the president’s mental stability or anything,” Haley told ABC on Sunday when asked if the cabinet had any discussion about invoking the amendment that particularly allows a president to be removed from office due to his inability to serve.

Haley also said that she personally has “never been part of it” and has “never heard it.” The US ambassador to the UN added that she has no reasons to believe that it “is a reality at all among all of the cabinet members” and branded any such rumors “absurd.”

The latest White House scandal stems from a piece published by the New York Times, which claimed that the US Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, allegedly suggested secretly recording Trump so as to impeach him under the 25th amendment. The article also said that Rosenstein sought to enlist AG Jeff Sessions and the former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who is now the White House chief of staff, to help him remove Trump from office.

The Times cited memos by the Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe as one of its sources. Both McCabe and Rosenstein distanced themselves from this report. The deputy AG also called it “inaccurate and factually incorrect.”

However, Trump himself seemed to be unnerved by the explosive report as he vowed to rid the Justice Department of “lingering stench” following the publication.

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OPEC snubs Trump’s demand to up production at meeting of major oil producers

By ethan / September 23, 2018

A possible boost in oil production was not discussed at a recent meeting between OPEC and other major oil producing nations, following earlier demands by US President Donald Trump that oil output be increased to bring prices down.

Hosted in Algiers, Sunday’s meeting was a gathering of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) of members from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC oil producing countries, including Russia.

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FILE PHOTO. © Lucy Nicholson

When asked if they discussed the further boost in production, Oman’s Oil and Gas Minister Mohammed Rumhi abruptly told reporters “No” after the meeting.

Instead, the meeting agreed to stick to the previously agreed output, with Kuwait’s Oil Minister Bakheet Rashidi saying the JMMC will fully conform with the Vienna deal, at least until the next meeting in November and December.

“We agreed to target 100 percent conformity for the next coming two months until we meet again at the next JMMC,” Rashidi said.

Agreed in June of this year, the Vienna deal saw major oil producers agree to boost crude oil output by one million barrels-per-day, as part of a compromise deal to ease oil prices and tackle supply issues caused by a fall in output from Iran and Venezuela.

READ MORE: Russia’s energy minister slams Washington’s sanctions on Iran as ‘unproductive’ & ‘wrong’

Trump however, wants output increased by as much as two million barrels per day, as oil prices continue to rise in the US amid high consumer demand.

Iran is expected to lose some 1.4 million barrels-per-day of supply as US sanctions go into force November 5, while Venezuela and Libya also present supply risks, pushing up cost, according to market analytics firm S&P Global.

This week Trump labeled OPEC a “monopoly” on Twitter, accusing the organization of wanting to push oil prices “higher and higher.” He also took the opportunity to remind Middle East allies that they would “not be safe for very long” without US protection.  

READ MORE: Trump demands OPEC lower oil prices, claims US ‘protects’ Middle East countries

Rather than OPEC controlling prices, analysts have instead blamed Trump’s latest round of sanctions on OPEC-member Iran for driving up the price, as supply from Tehran decreased.

Ahead of Sunday’s meeting, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al Falih maintained, while speaking to reporters, that the “markets are adequately supplied,” insisting that OPEC does not control oil prices.

Falih added that, to justify an increase of two million barrels-per-day, demand would need to increase by 1.5 million per day, something he didn’t think was likely.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that no immediate output increase was necessary but that Russian production could be increased by several hundred thousand barrels per day, if needed.

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BRICS bank to finance new projects in Russia & India

By ethan / September 23, 2018

The board of directors of BRICS’ New Development Bank (NDB) has approved three infrastructure and sustainable development projects in India and Russia with loans aggregating $ 825 million.

NDB said in a statement that its board has approved “a non-sovereign loan of $ 300 million to Sibur Holding for environmentally sustainable infrastructure development related to ZapSibNefteKhim project.”

The bank added it will provide financing “including reimbursement of expenses for construction of utilities” such as “water treatment facilities, transport and logistics infrastructure.”

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© Busakorn Pongparnit

Two loans ($ 350 million and $ 175 million) will be provided to the government of India for rehabilitating major district roads with a total length of about 2,000 km. The financing aims improving connectivity of the rural interior with the national and state highway networks and to realize “the full benefits of upgrading the state highways and major districts roads, through constructing and upgrading about 350 bridges in the State of Madhya Pradesh.”

According to the bank’s Vice President Vladimir Kazbekov, some 23 projects have been approved earlier for all BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries with the total cost of $ 5.7 billion. “Next year, we plan to expand projects to somewhere around $ 7.5 billion,” he told TASS.

The Shanghai-headquartered NDB was established in 2014 and formally opened in July 2015. The goal of the bank, with an initial authorized capital of $ 100 billion, is to fund sustainable development infrastructure projects in emerging economies.

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Japanese refiners stop buying Iran oil ahead of sanctions

By ethan / September 23, 2018

Japanese refiners have stopped buying Iranian crude ahead of the November 4 deadline set by Washington to all countries doing business with Iran before economic sanctions return.

Reuters quoted the head of the Petroleum Association of Japan (PAJ) as saying, “It is my view that each firm is taking the same stance and temporarily suspending (the loading) and watching the situation carefully.”

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© Ahmad Halabisaz

Japan is one of Iran’s largest oil importers, but it is also the United States’ staunchest ally in Asia—and the combination of the two has not worked to Tokyo’s advantage. While the government has been trying to secure a waiver from the US State Department, the Japanese economy seems to be dependent enough on US lending to make local refiners extra-cautious.

Reuters confirmed the sentiment by noting many Japanese refiners had resigned themselves to the reality that they must stop importing Iranian crude and instead, look for feedstock elsewhere. Iran currently accounts for 5 percent of Japan’s crude oil intake, and as per PAJ’s chief, Takashi Tsukioka, Tokyo will try to maintain a good relationship with Tehran despite the sanctions. How realistic this is remains to be seen.

The last time Iran was the subject of sanctions, Japan curbed its imports of Iranian crude. It did not, however, shut them down completely. Now, it seems like it might have to, unless Washington grants Japanese refiners a waiver. So far, US officials have been guarded about the possibility of granting sanction waivers, although the possibility remains, on a case-by-case basis, as per an earlier statement from the State Department.

READ MORE: Volkswagen agrees pull-out from Iran to comply with US sanctions – reports

Although Japan, along with South Korea, is an important buyer of Iranian crude, which Tehran has done its best to keep on its books by deepening its sales discounts, China is the country that Tehran has pinned most its hopes on. “If China . . . buys Iran’s oil, we can resist the US,” one Iranian analyst told the Financial Times in July, amid reports of import cuts among Iran’s Asian clients. “China is the only country which can tell the US off.”

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

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Replacing Russian gas with American LNG would be ‘absolutely ridiculous’ – expert to RT

By ethan / September 23, 2018

Washington is fiercely fighting for Germany’s energy market, trying to sell more of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the country, and to wrestle one of the biggest energy consumers away from Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Germany currently gets around 60 of its natural gas imports from Russia. Berlin has been sharply criticized by US President Donald Trump for being a “captive to Russia.” In an attempt to push American LNG to German consumers, the White House threatened to sanction European companies for participating in the Gazprom-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

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© spooh

Earlier this week, US Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette announced ambitious plans to enter the German energy market in the near future. “US liquefied natural gas is coming to Germany,” he said, as quoted by German media. “The question is not if, but when.”

RT talked to energy experts to get to the bottom of the issue.

The current market conditions are not favorable for the US, as American LNG gets inevitably outplayed by cheaper Russian natural gas delivered via pipelines, according to Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas Assistant Professor Sergey Eremin.

The analyst stressed that Germany still doesn’t have the necessary facilities for receiving liquefied fuel, and is likely to avoid extra financial losses through paying fees for transits of LNG through other European countries.

Earlier this week, German Economy and Energy Minister Peter Altmaier pledged to decide by the end of the year where to locate the country’s first terminal for receiving liquefied natural gas (LNG). The minister called the step “a gesture to our American friends.”

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© Jonathan Ernst

“It’s hardly likely that Germany would stop importing gas from Russia, which is cheaper than US gas, which it’d have to import either by new LNG infrastructure which will come at the very high cost or use other LNG terminals in Europe, and then the other pipelines,”  Professor Gerhard Mangott of the University of Innsbruck told RT.

“So, from the business point of view, it would be absolutely ridiculous for Germany to buy US LNG and no longer buy Russian pipeline gas,” Professor Mangott said, stressing that Russian gas is delivered directly to Germany, with no need to pay other countries for transit of the fuel.

Moreover, LNG supplies are commonly temporal in comparison with the gas that is permanently delivered through pipelines, according to Eremin. He stressed that LNG is historically aimed at offsetting demand swings, while piped gas is preferable in the ordinary course.

“Russian gas has the advantage over the American LNG just because the huge pipeline system has already been created and successfully works,” the expert said.

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US considers restrictions on green cards for immigrants receiving public benefits

By ethan / September 23, 2018

The Trump administration may deny green cards to legal immigrants, both living in the US or just seeking to enter, if they have been dependent on certain public benefits, like housing vouchers, Medicaid or food stamps.

The possible new restriction on migration policy was proposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Saturday. The proposal could make it harder for immigrants to stay in the US if they are deemed likely to become a “public charge,” in other words, a new “burden” for American taxpayers and can potentially be dependent on government assistance.

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FILE PHOTO. People pose near a fake wall and an effigy of Donald Trump in Mexico. © Henry Romero

The regulation stipulates that immigrants can be denied visas or green cards if they used certain government aid, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or food stamps), public housing and Medicaid (with some “limited exceptions”). Availing of these public benefits above “certain thresholds” would be considered as “a heavily weighed negative factor.” 

If finalized, the measure would eventually force millions “to choose between government assistance and permanent settlement in the US,” Politico notes.

The document is to be issued in the Federal Register in the coming weeks, DHS says. The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal, which aims to further “define long-standing law.”

Since taking office, US President Donald Trump has cracked down on immigration, both legal and illegal. Earlier this week, Washington announced a sharp drop in refugee flows, capping the number of people admitted to the US in 2019 at 30,000. It is 15,000 lower than this year’s limit.

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‘We’ll overthrow them!’ Trump’s lawyer stirs up ‘Iran Uprising Summit’ after deadly terrorist attack

By ethan / September 23, 2018

The US will overthrow the Iranian government once socio-economic conditions there, shaped by sanctions, are ripe for a revolution, presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani told a cheering crowd on the day of the deadly attack in Ahvaz.

“I don’t know when we’re going to overthrow them. It could be in a few days, months, a couple of years, but it’s going to happen. They’re going to be overthrown, the people of Iran have obviously had enough,” said Giuliani at a so-called ‘Iran Uprising Summit’ held by the Organization of Iranian-American Communities in New York.

READ MORE: Iran blames ‘regional terror sponsors & their US masters’ after military parade attack

Speaking to members of Iranian expat and dissident communities in the US, who are seeking political change in Iran, the 74-year-old lawyer praised Donald Trump’s bullish approach towards Tehran, boasting that sanctions slapped on Iran, after the White House unilaterally withdrew from the internationally-backed nuclear deal in May, are stalling the country’s economy and damaging Iranians’ lives.

“The sanctions are working. The currency is going to nothing … These are the conditions that lead to successful revolution, and, God willing, non-violent revolution,” he said.

While the US administration has vowed to maintain economic pressure on the Islamic Republic with more sanctions to come into force on November 4 to target Iran’s energy sector, the State Department immediately distanced itself from Giuliani’s comments, stressing that Trump’s personal lawyer does not speak for the administration.

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© Morteza Jaberian / ISNA via AFP

The imposition of sanctions has impacted Iran’s economy and caused the country’s currency to drop in value. The worsening socio-economic conditions have also led to street demonstrations across the country. While Tehran has acknowledged the people’s right to demonstrate, it urged the public to do so in a civil and a peaceful manner. At the same time, the Iranian leadership pinned the blame for sporadic violence on the US and their allies, accusing them of pushing for a regime change in the country.

While Trump has never been shy of supporting the opposition in Iran, his National Security Advisor John Bolton recently noted that a straightforward “regime change” in the country is not being considered by the administration. “Just to be clear, regime change in Iran is not American policy. But what we want is massive change in the regime’s behavior,” Bolton told Reuters in August.

Giuliani’s anti-Tehran comments came immediately after the Iranian supreme leader accused the US and its regional “puppets” of instigating the deadly shooting attack at a military parade in the city of Ahvaz that killed at least 25 people on Saturday.

After staying silent for hours following the atrocity, the US State Department finally issued a statement saying that Americans “stand with the Iranian people against the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism.” At the same time, however, National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis added that the “regime in Tehran” should better focus on keeping its citizens “safe at home.”

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