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Clinton: Trump campaign built on ‘prejudice and paranoia’

August 25, 2016

Clinton’s Alt-Right Speech Found the Perfect Frame for Trump’s Bigotry

August 25, 2016

By Isaac Chotiner


Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Reno, Nevada, on Thursday.

Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton issued an extremely effective attack on Donald Trump on Thursday aimed at refocusing the campaign towards Trump’s racism and away from the ongoing “pivot” that he is attempting to execute. With its mix of anecdotes about Trump’s bigotry, and surprising doses of humor, the speech succeeded largely because she appeared so sincere in the utter contempt she displayed for the man she is running against. But the speech also did one other, very important thing.

Clinton’s address was billed as a speech about Trump’s prejudice and his mainstreaming of the “alt-right” voices that support—and now manage—Trump’s campaign. And, indeed, she brought up many of Trump’s racist actions, and commented upon the Breitbart-reading trolls who now feel empowered because of Trump’s political success. But she also kept bringing up another aspect of Trumpism: namely, the things that are simply outrageous, bizarre, paranoid, and strange. She didn’t just mention Trump’s racist birtherism; no, she also mentioned other, random Trump attacks on Obama, such as the one that he founded ISIS. She noted the misogyny of the alt-right, but she also talked about Trump’s attacks on her health. She mentioned Trump’s kind words about Alex Jones, the conspiracist and weirdo whose conspiracy theories and weirdness are often unrelated to race.

More importantly, Clinton directly linked all these things to the temperament of the person who wants to be commander-in-chief. Clinton didn’t present Trump’s racism as merely despicable, although she did do that. She also portrayed it as being part of a larger personality that often appears borderline unstable, and is in no way equipped to be chosen for the most important job on earth. The crucial section of the speech thus came near the end, when she brought these points together:

I’ve stood by President Obama’s side as he made the toughest decisions a Commander-in-Chief ever has to make. In times of crisis, our country depends on steady leadership… clear thinking… and calm judgment… because one wrong move can mean the difference between life and death. The last thing we need in the Situation Room is a loose cannon who can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction, and who buys so easily into racially-tinged rumors. Someone detached from reality should never be in charge of making decisions that are as real as they come. It’s another reason why Donald Trump is simply temperamentally unfit to be President of the United States.

The Clinton campaign has long been faced with the question of whether to portray Trump as a bigot or a madman, a genuine authoritarian or an unstable and ever-changing entertainer. This speech suggested that there is a way to do all of the above.

Isaac Chotiner is a Slate contributor.


Hillary Clinton Says ‘Radical Fringe’ Is Taking Over G.O.P. Under Donald Trump

RENO, Nev. — Hillary Clinton on Thursday delivered a blistering denunciation of Donald J. Trump, saying he had embraced the “alt-right” political philosophy and presenting his choice as an especially ominous turn in a presidential election full of them.

In her most direct critique yet connecting the Trump campaign to white nationalists and the conservative fringe, Mrs. Clinton is framing Mr. Trump’s run as unprecedented in modern politics.


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China takes aggressive steps to fend off growing risks in its financial and banking system — China’s debt was $26.56 trillion, or 255 percent of gross domestic product at the end of 2015

August 25, 2016


Thu Aug 25, 2016 5:45am EDT

A branch office of Ezubao, once China’s biggest P2P lending platform is seen in Nantong, Jiangsu province, China, December 9, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

China took aggressive steps on Wednesday to head off signs of growing risks in its financial and banking system, unveiling detailed rules to curb an unruly peer-to-peer (P2P) lending sector and intervening in its money markets.

In the past year, Chinese policymakers have been moving levers to try to keep credit growing at a reasonable pace to underpin the economy, while addressing vulnerable aspects of the financial and banking system.

But sharply increasing debt levels have raised alarm bells, most lately from the International Monetary Fund, about the health of the financial system. The country’s stock market crash last year is still fresh in investors’ minds.

This year, officials have expressed concern about the unraveling of Chinese peer-to-peer (P2P) online lending platforms that they had once hoped would provide a new channel of funding to spur the economy’s growth.

On Wednesday, the banking regulator and other government entities issued measures to curb a sector that has produced a raft of scandals. Almost half of the 4,000-odd lending platforms are “problematic”, the China Banking Regulatory Commission warned.

The measures will probably leave about 200-300 P2P platforms by this time next year, said James Zheng, chief financial officer of Lufax, the top lending platform in China.

“That’s okay because they’re cracking down on all the bad guys,” he said at a conference in Hong Kong. “What doesn’t kill will make you stronger. That’s the case for us.”

The $93 billion P2P lending sector has been a source of funds for individuals and small businesses overlooked by the country’s traditional financial services that prefer big borrowers with better credit history and collateral and links to the government.

But Beijing’s hands-off approach to promote the sector as a form of financial innovation led to a rash of high-profile P2P scandals and frauds.

Ezubao, once China’s biggest P2P lending platform, folded earlier this year after it turned out to be a Ponzi scheme that solicited 50 billion yuan in less than two years from more than 900,000 retail investors through savvy marketing. Retail investors have been unable to get their money back.

Under the new rules, P2P firms cannot sell wealth management products or issue asset-backed securities. They must use third-party banks as custodians of investor funds and will not be permitted to take deposits.

The banking regulator also set a ceiling for borrowers on P2P platforms.

Outstanding loans issued on P2P platforms had reached 621.3 billion yuan ($93.6 billion), data from the regulator showed.


China’s overall debt has risen rapidly since the global financial crisis. Outstanding debt was $26.56 trillion, or 255 percent of gross domestic product at the end of 2015, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

While debt has played a key role in stimulating and shoring up economic growth, policymakers in China are not unaware of the risks.

The central bank is holding off on cutting bank reserve requirements or interest rates for fear such moves could fuel more cheaper credit, put downward pressure on the yuan and fuel outflows from its mountain of more than $3 trillion in foreign reserves.

That view was solidified in financial markets this week, prompting a sharp selloff in bond futures following a summer rally.

In turn, that appears to have worried the central bank that too many small banks had jumped on the bond rally using short-term borrowing to fund purchases, traders said.

So on Wednesday, it injected cash into money markets through 14-day reverse repurchases agreements for the first time in six months to show its concern about the rising leverage.

For most of 2016, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank, had used the lower interest seven-day rate, with cash injections nearly every day.

“The PBOC appears to be signalling to banks to move away from a reliance on short-term liquidity and head towards more longer-term liquidity,” Jonas Short, head of NSBO Policy Research in Beijing, said in a note.

He said if short-term interest rates continue to tighten, it could hurt China’s small banks.

“There may be potential for a liquidity squeeze for small banks on the horizon,” he said.

The central bank’s injection of money into the financial system using 14-day reverse repos was also taken as a signal by financial markets that further cuts to bank required reserve ratios were unlikely.

Chinese five- and 10-year treasury futures CTFc1 CFTc1 fell on Wednesday. The yuan CNY=CFXSand the benchmark CSI300 equities index .CSI300 both edged lower.

(Reporting by Nathaniel Taplin, Winni Zhou and the Shanghai Newsroom; Shu Zhang in BEIJING and the Beijing Newsroom; Additional reporting by Elzio Barreto in HONG KONG; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Neil Fullick)

Turkey shells Kurdish militia in northern Syria — in violation of an accord with the United States

August 25, 2016


© AFP/File | This picture taken around 5 kilometres west from the Turkish Syrian border city of Karkamis in the southern region of Gaziantep, on August 25, 2016 shows Turkish Army tanks driving to the Syrian Turkish border town of Jarabulus

ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkish artillery on Thursday shelled targets of the militia of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria after they advanced in violation of an accord with the United States, state media said.

Turkish forces opened fire on PYD “militants” from 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) after intelligence showed they were advancing despite a promise by the US that the Kurdish militia would retreat, the state-run Anadolu agency said.

Smoke rises over Jarablus, Syria, 24 August

Smoke billows after an air strike on Jarablus. AFP photo



Thu Aug 25, 2016 3:22pm EDT

By Humeyra Pamuk and Umit Bektas | KARKAMIS, TURKEY

Turkey sent more tanks into northern Syria on Thursday and demanded Kurdish militia fighters retreat within a week as it seeks to secure the border region and drive back Islamic State with its first major incursion into its neighbor.

Syrian rebels backed by Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes on Wednesday entered Jarablus, one of Islamic State’s last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border. Gunfire and explosions echoed around hills in the region on Thursday.

Some of the blasts were triggered as Turkish security forces cleared mines and booby traps left by retreating Islamic State militants, according to Nuh Kocaaslan, the mayor of Karkamis, which sits just across the border from Jarablus.

Three Syrian rebels were killed during the operation to take Jarablus, one of them when he opened the door of a house rigged with explosives, Kocaaslan told reporters. There were no casualties among the Turkish troops.

President Tayyip Erdogan and senior government officials have made clear the aim of “Operation Euphrates Shield” is as much about stopping the Kurdish YPG militia seizing territory and filling the void left by Islamic State as about eliminating the radical Islamist group itself.

Turkey, which has NATO’s second biggest armed forces, demanded that the YPG retreat to the east side of the Euphrates river within a week. The Kurdish militia had moved west of the river earlier this month as part of a U.S.-backed operation, now completed, to capture the city of Manbij from Islamic State.

Ankara views the YPG as a threat because of its close links to Kurdish militants waging a three-decade-old insurgency on its own soil. It has been alarmed by the YPG’s gains in northern Syria since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, fearing it could extend Kurdish control along Turkish borders and fuel the ambitions of Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.

Turkey’s stance has put it at odds with Washington, which sees the YPG as a rare reliable ally on the ground in Syria, where Washington is trying to defeat Islamic State while also opposing President Bashar al-Assad’s government in a complex, multi-sided five-year-old civil war.

The Syrian Kurdish force is one of the most powerful militias in Syria and regarded as the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed alliance formed last October to fight Islamic State.

Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik said preventing the Kurdish PYD party – the political arm of the YPG – from uniting Kurdish cantons east of Jarablus with those further west was a priority.

“Islamic State should be completely cleansed, this is an absolute must. But it’s not enough for us…. The PYD and the YPG militia should not replace Islamic State there,” Isik told Turkish broadcaster NTV.

“The PYD’s biggest dream is to unify the western and eastern cantons. We cannot let this happen,” he said.


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu by phone on Thursday that YPG fighters were retreating to the east side of the Euphrates, as Turkey has demanded, foreign ministry sources in Ankara said.

A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State also said the SDF had withdrawn across the Euphrates, doing so “to prepare for the eventual liberation” of Raqqa, the radical group’s stronghold in northern Syria, which is to the east.

Isik said the retreat was not yet complete and Washington had given assurances that this would happen in the next week.

“We are closely following this … If the PYD does not retreat to east of the Euphrates, we have the right to do everything about it,” he said.

Turkish army tanks and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters make their way in the Syrian border town of Jarablus as it is pictured from the Turkish town of Karkamis, in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey. REUTERS/Stringer

The offensive is Turkey’s first major military operation since a failed July 15 coup shook confidence in its ability to step up the fight against Islamic State. It came four days after a suicide bomber suspected of links to the group killed 54 people at a wedding in the southeastern city of Gaziantep.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who met Erdogan during a trip to Turkey on Wednesday, said Turkey was ready to stay in Syria for as long as it takes to destroy the radical Islamist group.

“I think there has been a gradual mind shift … in Turkey, with the realization that ISIL is an existential threat to Turkey,” he told reporters during a visit to Sweden, using an acronym for the militant group.

A Turkish official said the ground incursion had been in the works for more than two years but had been delayed by U.S. reservations, resistance from some Turkish commanders, and a stand-off with Russia which had made air cover impossible.

Turkey had made the case more strongly to Washington over the past few months, had patched up relations with Russia, and had removed some of the Turkish commanders from their posts after finding they were involved in the coup attempt, paving the way for the operation to go ahead, the official said.

The incursion comes at a testing time for Turkish-U.S. relations. Erdogan wants the United States to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania for 17 years and whose religious movement Turkey blames for staging last month’s failed coup.

Washington says it needs clear evidence of Gulen’s involvement and that it is a matter for the courts, a position that has sparked an outpouring of anti-Americanism from Turkey’s pro-government media. Gulen denies any role in the coup attempt.


The sound of gunfire, audible from a hill on the Turkish side of the border overlooking Jarablus, rang out early on Thursday and a plume of black smoke rose over the town. War planes flew overhead.

A senior Turkish official said there were now more than 20 Turkish tanks inside Syria and that additional tanks and construction machinery would be sent in as required. A Reuters witness saw at least nine tanks enter on Thursday, and 10 more were waiting outside a military outpost on the Turkish side.

“We need construction machinery to open up roads … and we may need more in the days ahead. We also have armored personnel carriers that could be used on the Syrian side. We may put them into service as needed,” the official said.

Erdogan said on Wednesday that Islamic State had been driven out of Jarablus and that it was now controlled by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, who are largely Arab and Turkmen.

“The myth that the YPG is the only effective force fighting Islamic State has collapsed,” Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter, reflecting Turkish frustration at how closely Washington has been working with the Kurdish militia.

Saleh Muslim, head of the Kurdish PYD, said on Wednesday that Turkey was entering a “quagmire” in Syria and faced defeat there like Islamic State. Redur Xelil, spokesman for the YPG, said the intervention was a “blatant aggression in Syrian internal affairs”.

After seizing Jarablus, the Turkish-backed rebels have advanced up to 10 km (6 miles) south of the border town, rebel sources and a group monitoring the war said.

But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said Kurdish-backed forces opposed by Ankara had gained up to 8 km of ground northwards, apparently seeking to pre-empt advances by the rebels.

(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun and Ece Toksabay in Ankara; Can Sezer, David Dolan, Cagan Uslu and Asli Kandemir in Istanbul, Tom Perry in Beirut, Jeff Mason in Stockholm; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Edmund Blair, Pravin Char and Peter Graff)



Hillary Clinton “has not fully grasped the severity of her reputational problem.”

August 25, 2016

This article was published August 24, 2016 at 2:57 a.m


There’s a big difference between the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Family Foundation, or at least we’re told. Who says words don’t mean anything? Like somebody, maybe Mark Twain, once said, a word can mean the difference between a lightning bug and lightning.

Cheers to the Clinton Family Foundation, which found its way to the front page of your statewide newspaper Sunday, once again. That outfit has given millions of dollars to benefit who knows how many people over the years. Including a bunch of charities raht cheer in Arkansas. As somebody said in the paper, from Jonesboro to Texarkana, from Bentonville to Eudora.

Then there’s something called the Clinton Foundation, without the “Family” part in the title. And the Washington Post reported last week that more than half of the big donors to that outfit–those who have given a million dollars or more–are corporations or foreign groups or governments. The Post tallied them up in a feat of investigative journalism the other day. Among the big givers were the governments of Saudi Arabia, Barclay’s Bank in Britain, and American companies like Coca-Cola and ExxonMobil. Not to mention the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Brunei and Algeria.

The Clinton presidential campaign now has announced some new, mainly cosmetic reforms to avoid the obvious impression that it would be prudent for both American and foreign donors to invest in the next president of the United States. And that president, it appears more and more likely, will be Hillary Clinton as her Republican opponent continues to self-destruct. How handy to have all those chits in their hands when it comes time to collect.

But why wait till now to announce these supposed reforms? Weren’t they just as much an ongoing conflict of interest when Hillary Rodham Clinton was “only” secretary of state? And why wait to announce that they won’t go into effect until just after election day? Which means donors could rush to give the Foundation big money just before November’s election, when it would matter most.

To quote Jonathan Chait, a columnist who leans heavily to port: This new policy is an “inadequate response to the conflicts of interest inherent in the Clinton Foundation,” and shows that Hillary Clinton “has not fully grasped the severity of her reputational problem.” Or maybe she has, but just doesn’t care. Those of us who watched her rise here in Arkansas will know she’s been getting away with ethical shortcuts for a long, long time and the lower she sinks, the higher she rises in the esteem of her fans–or just of those who have benefited from her largesse. “Ultimately,” Mr. Chait concludes, “there’s no way around this problem without closing down the Clinton Foundation altogether.” What, and lose all that money flowing into the foundation from all over the world? Fat chance.

Many of those donations come from more than suspect sources–like Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch whose family led a regime notorious for its corruption and repression. He was responsible for contributing between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation, lending his private plane to the Clintons and attending Bill Clinton’s big 65th birthday extravaganza in Los Angeles.

Douglas Schoen used to be one of Bill Clinton’s political consultants, and he set up about a dozen meetings with State Department officials with or on behalf of Mr. Pinchuk between September 2011 and November 2012.

Strange, or maybe not so strange, how the Clinton Foundation and American foreign policy kept intersecting when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. Or as a Ukrainian American named Melanne Verveer, who was working for the State Department at the time, emailed Secretary Clinton: “I had breakfast with Pinchuk. He will see you at the Brookings lunch.” It’s all coming out in the wash, or rather in a lawsuit filed by Citizens United to get a peek at her emails.

Among those emails was one from American ambassador John F. Tefft about a visit to Ukraine by Chelsea Clinton and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, “at the invitation of oligarch, Victor Pinchuk.” To which Secretary Clinton replied: “As you know, hearing nice things about your children is as good as it gets.” But for fanciers of Clinton scandals, which could fill volumes by now, it’s peeking at Hillary Clinton’s emails that’s as good as it gets.

Editorial on 08/24/2016

Print Headline: A pattern emerges

Clinton ad ties Trump to KKK, white supremacists — “Donald Trump is the candidate of racists”

August 25, 2016

By LOUIS NELSON 08/25/16 11:44 AM EDT

A video released Thursday by Hillary Clinton’s campaign makes the case that Donald Trump is the candidate of racists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

“The reason a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes, we believe in,” a robed man identified as the Imperial Wizard of the Rebel Brigade Knights of the Ku Klux Klan says at the top of the video, followed by images of a Confederate flag fluttering in the wind, Trump waving after a speech, and a man performing a Hitler salute at what appears to be a Trump rally.

The video’s release comes on the same day that Clinton is scheduled to deliver a speech on the so-called “alt-right” political movement, which has formed much of Trump’s base from the beginning of his campaign.

In the video, an unidentified voice labels the alt-right as “the sort of dressed-up-in-suits version of the neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements.”

The video specifically attacks newly hired Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon over his previous job running Breitbart News, widely considered to be the most prominent alt-right media outlet. An unnamed member of a CNN panel attacks Bannon as “a campaign chair that ran a website that has become a field day for the alt-right, which is racist and all sorts of other ‘ists.’”

Trump’s campaign quickly issued a statement in response to the video from Mark Burns, a pastor with close ties to the campaign who spoke at the Republican National Convention last month in Cleveland. Burns said the video represented a “disgusting new low” for Clinton and her campaign.

“Hillary Clinton and her campaign went to a disgusting new low today as they released a video tying the Trump Campaign with horrific racial images,” Burns said in the statement emailed out by the Trump campaign. “This type of rhetoric and repulsive advertising is revolting and completely beyond the pale. I call on Hillary Clinton to disavow this video and her campaign for this sickening act that has no place in our world.”

Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, whose endorsement Trump famously did not immediately refuse when asked about it during a CNN interview, as well as Jared Taylor, the editor and founder of the white-supremacist magazine “American Renaissance,” are also quoted praising Trump in the video. The same robed Klan member remarks, “Donald Trump would be best for the job.”

“Sending out all the illegals, building a wall, add a moratorium on Islamic immigration,” Taylor said in an interview pulled from CNN. “That’s very appealing to a lot of ordinary white people.”

After controversy exploded in the wake of his initial refusal to repudiate Duke, Trump told Bloomberg in an interview that “I don’t need his endorsement; I certainly wouldn’t want his endorsement.”

The video runs just over a minute and 10 seconds and wraps with a black and white image of the White House as audio from a Trump rally of attendees chanting the real estate mogul’s name plays. The Clinton campaign video closes with a warning that “If Trump wins, they could be running the country.”
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Iranian Oil Production Stalls Ahead of OPEC Talks

August 25, 2016

Iran’s production levels have taken on heightened significance in recent weeks as OPEC gets ready for talks next month on oil output

An oil production platform is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Gulf. Iran has previously refused to consider joining fellow OPEC members in action to lift crude prices by curbing output until its exports and production reach presanctions levels
An oil production platform is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Gulf. Iran has previously refused to consider joining fellow OPEC members in action to lift crude prices by curbing output until its exports and production reach presanctions levels PHOTO: REUTERS

Aug. 25, 2016 8:01 a.m. ET

Iran’s revival as a crude-oil exporter appears to have stalled, seven months after Western sanctions over its nuclear program were lifted, casting uncertainty over the country’s willingness to cooperate with other producers on limiting output.

Iran’s production has taken on heightened significance in recent weeks as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries gets ready for talks next month on oil output. Iran has previously refused to consider joining fellow OPEC members in action to lift crude prices by curbing output until its exports and production reach presanctions levels.

But the country’s ability to reach presanctions levels above four million barrels a day are now in question. Iran has been pumping 3.85 million barrels a day this month, the country’s oil minister Bijan Zanganeh said Saturday, little changed from above 3.8 million barrels a day he cited in June. That is up from less than three million barrels a day from before sanctions were lifted in January but short of the country’s stated goals.

The International Energy Agency says Iran’s crude production actually fell in July, to 3.6 million barrels a day.

Iran’s crude-oil exports have also plateaued after nearly doubling from January to May. Mohsen Ghamsari, the head of oil marketing at the National Iranian Oil Co, told state media last week that the country was still short of pre-sanctions exports by 200,000 barrels a day.
Iran has told OPEC that it plans to participate in next month’s talks, national delegates to the cartel said, but the country hasn’t said it would soften its conditions for actually joining in production limits. Mr. Zanganeh confirmed Thursday he would attend the informal gathering, according to Iran’s oil-ministry news agency Shana. Iran and fellow OPEC member Ecuador talked Wednesday about stabilizing oil prices, Ecuadorean official said.

Iran’s stalled production “will complicate the negotiations,” said John Hall, chairman at U.K. consultancy Alfa Energy and longtime observer of OPEC. “It’s going to be difficult. The Iranians are not going back down.”

On the other hand, some within OPEC said, Iran hitting a natural ceiling on its output might be enough to persuade rival Saudi Arabia to join an output agreement next month. Saudi Arabia has pumped its own production up to record levels this summer and may be more inclined to make a deal next month if Iran seems weak.

A government oil official at a Persian Gulf nation said the situation could make it easier for OPEC members to mend fences. “Iran’s production seems to be stuck at a certain level and not rising like before,” the official said.

Iran has faced two significant obstacles in its quest to return to pre-sanctions production levels: a lack of foreign investment and its own unwillingness to undercut rivals on pricing.

Lingering American sanctions on Iran over terrorism, human rights and weapons continue to make it difficult for Iran to do business with European crude-oil buyers, whom the Islamic Republic had been counting on to lift its exports. The American sanctions ban dollar transactions with Iran, requiring European companies with U.S. business to go to great legal lengths to do deals there.

“Other exporters took Iran’s place during the sanctions,” said Erfan Ghassempour, an adviser to foreign oil companies in Iran. “Now it will take time for Iran to take back its old friends.”

A case in point is Italy, which was Iran’s largest oil importer in the European Union before the bloc embargoed its crude in 2012. Italy didn’t buy any Iranian crude in the first five months of the year, according to statistics released by industry body Unione Petrolifera last month.

Sardinia-based refiner Saras SpA was forced to delay its first Iranian cargo to June “because of the difficulties of establishing financial and banking lines to operate effectively with Iran,” its general manager, Dario Scaffardi, told analysts on Aug. 1. An official at the company said most banks had initially refused to handle the transactions because they feared they could violate remaining Washington’s sanctions.

Obama administration officials have repeatedly told European banks they can deal with Tehran.

Despite the banking issues, Iran has refused to discount its oil against other producers, according to European refiners and Iranian officials. Saudi Arabia has aggressively cut the price of its oil, and Iran has matched those cuts—though they have never gone deeper to make up for the hassle of obtaining financing to buy its crude.

“In this context, Iran is just too expensive,” an Italian refinery official said.

An Iranian oil official said Tehran doesn’t want to sell its oil off on the cheap, seeing it as a precious and finite national resource. Iran also has a more diverse economy than many of its rivals, with petroleum revenue accounting for about 29% of its national budget.

Reaching presanctions levels is a key goal of moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhanias he tries to woo the opinion over the merits of the international deal that lifted restrictions on Tehran’s exports in January but also placed curbs on the country’s nuclear program.

That could prove challenging. Apart from competition from rivals, underinvestment in Iranian oil fields is also capping exports, said Hamid Hosseini, a board member of Iran’s oil exporters’ association.

Homayoun Falakshahi, an oil-industry analyst at consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said that oil production initially ramped up faster than expected because pressure was high in wells that had been shut for years. But Iran will struggle to pump more because the fields have high depletion rates and now need significant investment at a time when Iran remains cash-strapped, said Mr. Falakshahi, who visited key oil-producing facilities in Iran this spring.

Write to Benoit Faucon at

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin Says U.S., Russia Working To Get To The Bottom of Chemical Weapons Used in Syria

August 25, 2016

FILE- In this Wednesday, March 2, 2016 file photo, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin speaks

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia’s U.N. ambassador said Thursday there doesn’t have to be a confrontation with the United States over a report that blames the Syrian government and Islamic State militants for carrying out chemical attacks in the conflict-torn country.

Vitaly Churkin, whose country is a strong supporter of the Syrian government, responded to predictions of confrontation by stressing that the U.S. and Russia created the investigative body to determine those responsible for chemical attacks in Syria.

“It doesn’t have to be the case,” he told reporters. “We have a joint interest in discouraging such things from happening, in preventing such things from happening,” he told reporters.

Churkin called the 95-page document produced by the international team from the U.N. and the chemical weapons watchdog “a very complicated report which needs to be studied by experts.”

He said it was “very important” that the team said definitively that Islamic State extremists were responsible for an attack using mustard gas “because usually all talk we heard about any use of chemical weapons was an effort to ascribe things to the Syrian government.”

But Churkin repeatedly sidestepped questions about the team’s conclusion that the Syrian government used chlorine gas in two attacks, reiterating that the report is “very technical,” ”quite complicated” and needs study.

By contrast the United States, which backs Syria’s moderate opposition, made clear after the report was circulated among Security Council members Wednesday that the Syrian government has now been found responsible of using a chemical weapon in violation of a Security Council resolution and its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

“It is now impossible to deny that the Syrian regime has repeatedly used industrial chlorine as a weapon against its own people,” U.S. National Security Adviser Ned Price said in a statement.

Calling the use of chemical weapons “a barbaric tool, repugnant to the conscience of mankind,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power urged the Security Council to take “strong and swift action” against the perpetrators.

Churkin said he spoke to Power after the report’s release and they will meet when she returns from vacation “and see what can be done on the basis of this report.”

The Security Council is scheduled to discuss the report on Aug. 30.

Churkin was asked about the September 2013 resolution that orders the Security Council “to impose measures” under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter for “any use of chemical weapons by anyone in the Syrian Arab Republic.” Those measures usually mean sanctions, and Chapter 7 can be militarily enforced.

“Well, we need to see what can be done on the basis of what is said in the report,” the Russian ambassador replied.

The report was written by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism, known as the JIM, which was established by the Security Council a year ago.

The JIM investigated nine cases in seven towns where an OPCW fact-finding mission found that chemical weapons had likely been used. It determined responsibility in three cases, said three attacks pointed toward government responsibility but weren’t conclusive, and described three others as inconclusive.

According to the report, obtained by The Associated Press, the JIM found the Syrian government responsible for two chlorine attacks in Idlib governorate, one in Talmenes on April 21, 2014 and one in Sarmin on March 16, 2015.

It also said the Islamic State group was “the only entity with the ability, capability, motive and the means to use sulfur mustard” gas in Marea in Aleppo governorate near the Turkish border on Aug. 21, 2015. At the time, Islamic State fighters were attacking rebels.

Are these men war criminals?



Chemical weapons attacks in Syria may normalise war crimes, experts warn

Woman and two children killed in suspected chlorine attack in Aleppo – one of dozens of such attacks reported since Syria gave up its weapons stockpile

 A civilian breathes through an oxygen mask after an alleged chlorine gas attack in Aleppo. Photograph: Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

Philippines: Supreme Court Chief Justice Alarmed By Killing, Lawlessness By Police and Alleged Vigilante Groups in Association with President Duterte’s War on Drugs

August 25, 2016
Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno meets the press in Intramuros, Manila yesterday. MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno expressed concern yesterday over the climate of impunity hounding the nation amid a spate of killings related to the brutal war on drugs launched by President Duterte.

“I am alarmed by the situation of impunity in our country whereby our court processes are not effected by law enforcement agencies,” the Supreme Court chief said during the annual Meet the Press forum yesterday to mark her fourth year in office.

She did not directly cite the ongoing killings of drug suspects – both by police authorities and alleged vigilante groups – Sereno cited cases of killings of judges and journalists.

“I view the security of our judges very seriously. Since January 1999 to date, a total of 26 judges have been slain in the service,” she said.

The SC chief also cited the case involving the killing of journalist Marlene Esperat in 2005 and other criminal cases wherein arrest warrants issued by regional trial courts were not enforced by police.

It is difficult for the courts if, after issuing arrest warrants, the police will not effect them.

Sereno stressed that the judiciary has been doing its part to protect constitutional rights of the people and make sure due process is observed.

“We are very proactive – as proactive as we can be – in trying to ensure constitutional rights are to be respected, but you must remember that our role comes in when a justiciable controversy is before us,” she said.

She lamented that courts’ actions to address impunity are limited as these are dependent on cooperation of law enforcers, especially in cases of writs of habeas data, habeas corpus and amparo.

“You must remember that the judiciary does not have a single field investigation officer. It keeps on requesting help and issuing directives to the investigating agencies. And the hope of the people is that they will do their mandate.”

Sereno gave assurance that the judiciary is addressing the illegal drug menace within its power.

“How do courts provide justice in drug cases? Obviously, they expedite the resolution of all the drug cases. What it can provide is justice to the state and the victims if there is enough evidence of guilt, and to the accused if there is none,” she said.

The Chief Justice revealed that there are 138,368 pending drug cases in trial courts as of May 2016, which represent 29 percent of the total of 439,606 pending criminal cases.

She said the judiciary would work with the Philippine National Police and Department of Justice to ensure that justice is served.

They will also crack down on the “ineffective, delayed and corrupt execution of court judgments” and ensure that judges are secure, with the help of law enforcement agencies.

“Our people must have a reason to trust the government,” she said.

She suggested that more prosecutors and public attorneys be hired for this purpose.

Sereno lamented that many drug cases are delayed or dismissed due to the “absence of police witnesses, the dearth of prosecutors or public attorneys and the weak evidence of the prosecution.”

She cited the case of Marine Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino, who was cleared by the DOJ on drug charges.

“The judiciary should not be blamed when no case was ever filed against him by the prosecutors. Our judge had no choice but to release him as there was no legal basis to continue holding him in jail,” she said as she gave assurance that the “wheels of justice are hastening” in drug and other cases.

Philippines: Abu Sayyaf rebels behead an 18-year-old male captive

August 25, 2016

By Philippine Inquirer

Abu Sayyaf bandits beheaded an 18-year-old male captive in Indanan, Sulu province, on Tuesday after they failed to get ransom from the boy’s family, the military confirmed yesterday.

In a report to Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said the head of Patrick James Almodovar was found inside a plastic bag that was dumped by three motorcycle-riding men at Kilometer 2 in Barangay Kajatian, Indanan, around 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

 The report said local police recovered the bag and put the head through forensic examination.
Almodovar was kidnapped by the Ajang-Ajang faction of the Abu Sayyaf in Barangay Asturias in Jolo, Sulu, on July 16.

‘Barbaric murder’

Citing intelligence information, Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesperson for the Westmincom, said Almodovar was beheaded in Barangay Buanza about 3 p.m. on Tuesday, after the bandits failed to receive the ransom they had demanded from the boy’s family.

Tan did not say how much the Abu Sayyaf had demanded, but the family said the bandits wanted P1 million.

The military condemned the “barbaric murder perpetrated by this terror group,” the Westmincom said in a statement.

“The beheading of an innocent man done by the [Abu Sayyaf] is an absolute affront to the peace-loving Moros in the Philippines,” it said.

The victim’s mother, Aurora Almodovar, urged President Duterte to punish her son’s killers.

“They deserve the same punishment. President [Duterte], we ask you to finish them all,” Aurora, a court stenographer, said in an interview with the Inquirer yesterday.

She said she had talked with her son by phone before the bandits killed him. “My son pleaded with us to do everything to save him,” she said.

Now deceased Canadian hostage Robert Hall, right, and Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad are seen in this undated picture released to local media. (Erik de Castro/Reuters)

P1-M ransom

She said the bandits had demanded P1 million, but all the family could manage was P100,000, borrowed from friends and relatives.

She said she told her son to plead with his captors to reduce the amount, but apparently the bandits refused.

A niece of Aurora, who declined to be identified, said the family was praying the rosary when the Abu Sayyaf called to say they had beheaded Almodovar. Four hours later, his head was found in Kajatian.

“No one helped us, but now everyone is talking about my son,” Aurora said.

The Abu Sayyaf, a brutal group blamed for bombings, extortions, kidnappings and beheadings in the South, are believed to be holding at least 16 more captives, including foreigners.

The President has ordered the military to destroy the Abu Sayyaf.

The military said at least 8,000 soldiers were scouring the jungles of Sulu and Jolo, Basilan to destroy the bandits. With a report from Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao

Abu Sayyaf fighters with the flag of the Islamic State
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