2019, June, Newsletter

World Newsletter June 14, 2019

World News June 14

TWO TANKERS ABANDONED AFTER ATTACKS IN GULF OF OMAN

Two tankers, Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous, have been abandoned in the
Gulf of Oman followed suspected torpedo attacks.
The Front Altair was reported to have loaded Napatha before being involved
in an incident about 60 miles northeast of Fujairah.
The Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) confirmed that the Marshall
Islands-flagged aframax Front Altair was attacked at 6.03 am in waters
between the UAE and Iran. “There were reportedly three detonations on board
the ship. The crew have been rescued by a passing ship and no injuries are
reported,” the authority said. “The ship is now on fire, and measures to
resolve the situation have been implemented.”
The crew of the Frontline tanker were reportedly rescued by the vessel
Hyundai Dubai.
Multiple reports have said the vessel was hit by a torpedo, although the
Norwegian authorities said the background to the attacks was not entirely
clear.
Maritime security firm Dryad Global said: “Both vessels appear to have
indicated that they believe the attack originated from the surface, however
further reports from the Front Altair indicate that the hull was breached on
the starboard side partially below the waterline.”
A statement from the US Navy 5th Fleet said: “We are aware of the reported
attack on shipping vessels in the Gulf of Oman. U.S. Naval Forces in the
region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 am local (Bahrain) time
and a second one at 7:00 am. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile
destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) is rendering assistance.”
The crew of product carrier the Kokuka Courageous, loaded with a cargo of
methanol abandoned ship “after the incident on board which resulted in
damage to the ship’s hull starboard side” according to a statement from
manager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM).
The manager said the 21 crew were rescued from a lifeboat by the car carrier
Coastal Ace which was nearby, and one seafarer was slightly injured and
receiving medical attention. “The Kokuka Courageous remains in the area and
is not in any danger of sinking. The cargo of methanol is intact,” BSM said.
Earlier there were reports that Front Altair had sunk but it firmly refuted
by the owners.

UK HOME SECRETARY SIGNS ASSANGE EXTRADITION ORDER TO US

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said here on Thursday that he had signed
an extradition request from the US for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“He’s rightly behind bars. There’s an extradition request from the US that
will be before the courts tomorrow (Friday), but yesterday (Wednesday) I
signed the extradition order and certified it. It will be going in front of
the courts tomorrow,” Javid told BBC Radio 4.
Assange, currently in custody in the UK, is wanted in the US on a score of
charges, including espionage.
The Australian national is due to appear before a London court on Friday for
an extradition hearing to the US, which has accused him of conspiring to
intercept Pentagon computers.

BORIS JOHNSON TOPS FIRST ROUND OF POLL FOR BRITISH PM

Boris Johnson on Thursday secured his position as the frontrunner in the
race to succeed Theresa May as British prime minister as he won the highest
number of votes in the first round of the leadership poll.
The former Cabinet minister received 114 votes in the first round of a
secret ballot of Tory MPs held in the House of Commons, followed by UK
foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt in second place with 43 and environment
secretary Michael Gove third with 37 votes. Three contenders – Mark Harper,
Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey – were knocked out of the race after failing
to secure the minimum requirement of 17 votes.
It leaves seven candidates in the fray for the second round of voting next
week, including former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab in fourth place with 27
votes, home secretary Sajid Javid fifth with 23, health secretary Matt
Hancock sixth with 20 and international development secretary Rory Stewart
in last place with 19.
The two most popular MPs from among the seven will be put to the wider Tory
party members in a final vote later this month, with the winner of the
contest to succeed May in Downing Street expected to be announced in the
week of July 22.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT PUTIN SAYS US-RUSSIA RELATIONS ARE GETTING “WORSE AND
WORSE”

President Vladimir Putin said relations between Moscow and Washington were
getting worse and worse, noting in an interview published on Thursday that
the current US administration had imposed dozens of sanctions on Russia.
Putin made his gloomy assessment ahead of a G20 summit in Japan later this
month at which he might meet US President Donald Trump.
US-Russia ties remain strained by everything from Syria to Ukraine as well
as allegations of Russian interference in US politics, which Moscow denies.
“They (our relations) are going downhill, they are getting worse and worse,”
Putin told the Mir TV channel, according to a Kremlin transcript.
“The current administration has approved, in my opinion, several dozen
decisions on sanctions against Russia in recent years.”
The Russian leader contrasted Moscow’s troubled relationship with Washington
with what he described as its blossoming ties with China, a deepening
strategic friendship that has alarmed some US policymakers.
Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he would meet Putin at the G20 in
Japan, but the Kremlin said a day earlier that the idea for the meeting was
“hanging in the air” and that there were no discussions on specifics yet.

ZAHRAN HASHIM CAMPAIGNED FOR SIRISENA, SAYS EX-GOVERNOR

Easter attacks mastermind Zahran Hashim campaigned for Maithripala Sirisena
ahead of the January 2015 presidential elections, according to former
Governor of the Eastern Province, M.L.A.M. Hizbullah.
Testifying before a parliamentary committee probing Easter bombings, the
politician, who is based in Hashim’s hometown Kattankudy in the Eastern
Province, said on Thursday: “I campaigned for Mahinda Rajapaksa at that
time, while Zahran supported and actively campaigned for Sirisena.”
Mr. Hizbullah resigned from office earlier this month, in the wake of a
Buddhist monk “fasting unto death” demanding the resignation of three Muslim
politicians, including him, over alleged links with Easter suspects.
Formerly a Member of Parliament, who has also served as Deputy Minister, Mr.
Hizbullah was appointed as the Governor of the Eastern Province in January
2019 by President Sirisena.
“Zahran Hashim is a terrorist now, but until 2017, he was considered a
religious leader, who was drawing many Muslim youth with his sharp debates
on religion. Sometime later, he seems to have come in contact with IS
[Islamic State] or some other group,” Mr. Hizbullah told the panel. While he
increasingly became a controversial figure challenging those practising
Islam differently, police continued giving him loud speaker permits to hold
public meetings, he said.
To PSC member Nalinda Jayatissa’s query on whether Mr. Hizbullah complained
about Zahran Hashim’s activities to security officials, as many other Muslim
political and religious leaders had, the former Governor said, he was not
aware of his “terrorist” activities and had not made any complaint.
PSC sessions are continuing in the wake of President Sirisena’s attempts to
scrap the probe, citing a clash with court proceedings and a potential
threat to national security when officials testify before the media.

AS IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL FLOUNDERS, FRANCE TURNS TO SAUDI ARABIA FOR OIL

Over the past year, France has led a European push to keep trade with Iran
alive after the United States tore up the nuclear deal with Tehran and
re-imposed sanctions. But over the same period, data shows France has cut
purchases of Iranian oil and sharply increased imports from Iran’s
arch-enemy Saudi Arabia.
In recent weeks, France has used its energy needs to justify a surge in arms
sales to the kingdom, even if there is no evidence the 50 percent increase
in Saudi purchases of French arms last year was conditional on France buying
Saudi oil.
The surge in France’s buying of Saudi oil shows Paris is doing less business
with Iran even as it publicly encourages European partners to find a way to
keep trade with Tehran flowing via the Franco-German-British Instex trade
system.
It also underscores how difficult it is for a global power and permanent UN
Security Council member like France to stand up against the United States
and its closest Arab-world ally when they are determined to put the squeeze
on Iran.
French finance ministry data shows France bought 2.2 billion euros ($2.49
billion) of Iranian light crude between April 2017 and March 2018, making it
France’s third largest supplier.
But over the following 12-months, that figure fell 57% to 936 million euros,
with imports from Iran stopping altogether from September 2018 onwards, as
sanctions bit.
In contrast, French purchases of Saudi oil jumped 50% to 3.7 billion euros
between March 2018 and April 2019.

KYRGYZSTAN AWARDS TOP MEDAL TO PRESIDENT XI JINPING

Chinese President Xi Jinping was on Thursday conferred with the highest
national award of Kyrgyzstan, which is hosting the 19th Shanghai Cooperation
Organisation (SCO) summit.
President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov awarded his Chinese counterpart
(Xi Jinping) the Manas Order of the First Degree, the country’s highest
national prize, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Xi, along with other leaders of the group, including Indian Prime Minister
Narendra Modi, is in the Kyrgyz capital to attend the two-day summit
beginning on Thursday.
Speaking at a ceremony to confer the national honour on Xi, Jeenbekov said
he appreciates Xi’s special contributions to the development of the
Kyrgyzstan-China comprehensive strategic partnership.
He said his country will never forget China’s long-running support and
assistance. He also said he believes that Xi’s visit this time will open up
a new chapter of bilateral ties between the two countries.
In response, Xi said the medal has fully demonstrated the Kyrgyz people’s
profound friendship towards the Chinese people, adding that he values it
very much.

ECUADOR’S HIGHEST COURT APPROVES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

QUITO, Ecuador – Ecuador’s highest court on Wednesday approved same-sex
marriage in a landmark ruling in the South American country.
The Constitutional Court said same-sex marriage had been approved in a
five-to-four vote of its nine judges in a closed hearing.
The conservative country joins a handful of other Latin American countries
to recognize gay marriage.
“It means that Ecuador is more egalitarian, it is more just than yesterday,
that it recognizes that human rights must be for all people without
discrimination,” said lawyer Christian Paula of the Patka Foundation, which
provides legal advice for around 10 same-sex couples seeking to marry in the
country.
The four dissenting judges argued that in order to recognize same-sex
marriage, constitutional reform would have to be debated in the National
Assembly.
Gustavo Medina, a former Supreme Court president, told AFP that Ecuadoran
authorities were obliged to abide by decisions of the Constitutional Court,
which were “binding and mandatory.”
Ecuador has recognized de-facto civil unions for same-sex couples since
2015.

WOMEN ARTISTS BRING #METOO RECKONING TO BASEL FAIR

Mannequins display inflatable, white airbag dresses created to protect women
from workplace harassment, while nearby details of the alleged sexual
misdeeds of 170 public figures cover four long walls, splashed in red.
The #MeToo movement that exploded on the global stage in late 2017 has
inspired several works exhibited at this year’s Art Basel, the world’s
biggest contemporary art fair, which opens to the public on Thursday.
Women artists have taken centre stage at the show’s 50th edition, with
in-your-face installations expressing disgust and exasperation at persisting
gender inequalities and culturally condoned abuse and harassment of women.
Spanish artist Alicia Framis has filled a room with delicate, white
mannequins wearing different styles of dresses made from airbag material,
which inflate to protect different parts of the female body.
The piece called “Life Dress” consists of dresses “to protect women in all
work situations where there is some kind of abuse,” Ms. Framis said. The
52-year-old artist said she had spoken with victims of harassment and abuse
and allowed their stories to inspire the dress designs, using “fashion to
demonstrate against violence.”
Disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose misconduct first sparked the
#MeToo movement, has two full panels dedicated to his long list of alleged
misdeeds.
U.S. President Donald Trump also figures in the piece, as do his
predecessors Bill Clinton and George Bush Senior, two Supreme Court
justices, as well as actors, journalists, musicians and other public
figures.

INSTAGRAM PRIEST LUIS SALAZAR BREAKS THE MOULD IN VENEZUELA

Venezuelan priest Luis Antonio Salazar has built a solid social media
following over the past two years preaching the Bible over Instagram,
breaking the mould of the country’s conservative Catholic church.
Now he has raised his profile further by showing his support for opposition
leader Juan Guaido and joining massive anti-government protests dressed in
his cassock, offering blessings one moment and running from tear gas the
next.
“If the people are on the street, you have to be with the people,” the
former male beauty pageant contestant said in his office in eastern Caracas,
decorated with a cross and pictures of the Virgin Mary. “Since January 23, I
started going into the streets to accompany the people.”
Mr. Salazar, a friar of the Capuchin order who was once a contestant in a
Venezuelan survival reality show, uses his iPhone to film a video series
called “Living the Gospels”, a modern take on theology broadcast on
Saturdays to 30,000 Instagram followers. The one-minute videos discuss
concepts such as inner peace through references to animated film Kung Fu
Panda and the 2000 action comedy Miss Congeniality.
His sermons often elaborate on the Instagram posts.
“I explain quickly and (explain) how people can use it in their lives,” he
said. “People tell me ‘if someone can explain it to me, I’ll understand it
use it in my life’.”
Mr. Salazar said he got involved in the protests against President Nicolas
Maduro because being political is part of being Venezuelan: “From the
peasant who harvests potatoes to Juan Guaido, the president in charge… we
all talk about politics. I cannot exempt myself.”

SWISS WOMEN STRIKE FOR MORE MONEY, TIME AND RESPECT

Women across Switzerland are preparing for a nationwide strike in protest
against what they say is the country’s unacceptably slow pace to equality.
Friday’s protest comes 28 years after similar action saw half a million
women take to the streets in 1991.
Swiss women have long campaigned to accelerate the pace of gender equality.
They joined millions of other women in Europe after World War One ended in
1918 in demanding the right to vote – but did not get it until 1971.
At the time of the 1991 strike there were no women in the Swiss government,
and there was no statutory maternity leave.
Appenzell, the last Swiss canton to refuse women the right to vote, had just
been ordered to change its policy by Switzerland’s Supreme Court.

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