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Jonathan Saul, Matt Spetalnick

LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Several companies that certify vessels are seaworthy and ship insurers have withdrawn services to tankers involved in the Venezuelan oil trade as the United States targets the maritime industry to tighten sanctions on the Latin American country. U.S. sanctions have driven Venezuela’s oil exports to their lowest levels in nearly 80 years, starving President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government of its main source of revenue and leaving authorities short of cash for essential imports such as food and medicine. The sanctions are part of U.S. efforts to weaken Maduro’s grip on power after Washington and other Western democracies accused him of rigging a 2018 re-election vote. Despite the country’s economic collapse, Maduro has held on and frustrated the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. Maduro’s government says the United States is trying to seize Venezuela’s oil and calls the U.S. measures illegal persecution that heap suffering on the Venezuelan people. Washington has honed in on the maritime industry in recent months in efforts to better enforce sanctions on the oil trade and isolate Caracas, Washington’s special envoy on Venezuela Elliott Abrams told Reuters.

Saudi-led coalition says it intercepted and destroyed four missiles and six explosive drones fired towards kingdom.

Yemen's Houthi rebels say they have attacked a large oil facility in an industrial complex south of the Saudi Arabian city of Jizan as part of an overnight operation. The Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Houthis said on Monday it intercepted and destroyed four missiles and six bomb-laden drones launched by Houthi rebels towards the kingdom. The missiles and drones were launched from Yemen's capital Sanaa and directed at civilian targets, coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. The Houthi rebels claim they also killed and injured dozens of ranking military officers in Saudi Arabia.

By Frederik Pleitgen, Antonia Mortensen and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

Warsaw, Poland (CNN) Poland's incumbent President Andrzej Duda has been declared the winner of this weekend's tightly fought and divisive election.
Duda, backed by the nationalist ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, won with 51.21% of the vote, the country's election committee said Monday. The more liberal Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, of the center-right opposition Civic Platform party (PO), garnered 48.79%. His victory will be seen by PiS as a validation of the populist policies it has pursued since coming to power in 2015. Critics worry the win gives the government a blank check to continue its controversial reforms, including the reshaping of the judiciary. Voter turnout was more than 68%, according to the committee, the highest Poland has seen in 25 years for a presidential poll. Duda initially declared victory on Sunday, but the Warsaw mayor refused to accept defeat, saying exit polls showed the election was still too close to call. By Monday morning, more than 99% of the votes had been counted, and the election committee's chairman said any additional votes would not change the outcome.

By Jack Guy and Brent Swails, CNN

(CNN) Zindzi Mandela, South Africa's Ambassador to Denmark and daughter of anti-apartheid icons Nelson and Winnie Mandela, has died at the age of 59, the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation said Monday. "Zindzi will not only be remembered as a daughter of our struggle heroes, Tata Nelson and Mama Winnie Mandela, but as a struggle heroine in her own right. She served South Africa well," Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations, said in a short statement Monday morning.

by Hanna Ziady, CNN Business

London (CNN Business) UK finance minister Rishi Sunak has unveiled another £30 billion ($37.6 billion) coronavirus stimulus package aimed at stemming Britain's growing jobs crisis and lifting the economy out of its worst slump in centuries. Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, Sunak said that significant job losses are the most "urgent challenge" the UK economy faces, as he announced a package of tax breaks, restaurant discounts and jobs programs designed to bolster employment as the government prepares to withdraw wage subsidies in October. The coronavirus pandemic has plunged Britain into its worst recession in 300 years, with the economy on track to shrink by 14% this year, according to the Bank of England. It also has fewer than six months to sign a new trade deal with the European Union, its biggest export market. The spending announced Wednesday brings the government's stimulus layouts to roughly £166 billion ($208 billion), or 7.4% of 2019 GDP, according to Paul Dales, chief UK economist at Capital Economics.


SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean police said on Thursday they are searching for the mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, after his daughter reported him missing. The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said officers were searching for him around Sungbuk-dong, a district in northern Seoul, where his phone signal was last detected.

Asma Khalid

John Farner considers himself a lifelong Republican. He worked on George W. Bush's 2000 campaign and then took a job in the administration's Commerce Department. But Farner was skeptical when he saw Donald Trump step onto the GOP stage. And in 2016, he chose not to vote for any presidential candidate. This November is different, Farner said. The past 3 1/2 years have made it clear that he needs to pick a side, that it's no longer sufficient to simply abstain. "More than 130,000 Americans are dead, and over 30 million are unemployed. That's just unacceptable right now," Farner said. "We continue to look to the White House for leadership that we are not getting." Farner is an organizing committee member with a new group called 43 Alumni for Biden that launched earlier this month and has brought in hundreds of former Bush staffers. (Bush was the country's 43rd president.) In the past year, a number of anti-Trump initiatives have sprung up from conservative critics. These are outspoken Republicans and former Republicans who have decided they are not voting for the party's nominee this November. And, in some cases, they are defecting to the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden. In recent weeks, alumni of Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign began organizing an effort to support Biden. Last month a group called Right Side PAC formed to reach out to former Trump supporters. And in 2019, a group of never-Trump GOP strategists started the Lincoln Project, a super PAC that routinely trolls the president with ads.

Marja Novak

ROZNO, Slovenia (Reuters) - A wooden sculpture of U.S. first lady Melania Trump was torched near her hometown of Sevnica, Slovenia, on the night of July Fourth, as Americans celebrated U.S. Independence Day, said the artist who commissioned the sculpture. Brad Downey, a Berlin-based American artist, told Reuters he had the life-sized blackened, disfigured sculpture removed as soon as police informed him on July 5th of the incident. “I want to know why they did it,” said Downey, who had hoped the statue would foster a dialogue about the political situation in the United States, highlighting Melania Trump’s status as an immigrant married to a president sworn to reduce immigration. In Washington, the office of Melania Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lucian Kim at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

"Fake." "Nonsense." "Lies." The Kremlin reacted the same way the White House did to news reports that U.S. intelligence had allegedly found Russia offered bounties on American troops in Afghanistan. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the initial story in The New York Times demonstrated the "low intellectual abilities of U.S. intelligence propagandists." President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, called subsequent reports "hoaxes" that damage the reputation of the media that publish them. Russian officials spend a lot of time refuting allegations of malfeasance, from the poisoning of a former Russian spy in England to election interference in the United States. That Russian military intelligence may have paid bounties for killing U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan appears to be just the latest accusation Moscow has categorically denied. "Of course, they're going to deny. They're in the unfortunate position of having cried wolf so often that it becomes hard to know quite what to believe," said Mark Galeotti, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. "There is a sense of 'How stupid do you think we are?' " *** Russia also denied they interfered in the 2016 election; Russia did interfere in the 2016 election. ***

BBC News

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is to cut VAT on hospitality as part of a £30bn plan to prevent mass unemployment as the economy is hit by coronavirus. The government will also pay firms a £1,000 bonus for every staff member kept on for three months when the furlough scheme ends in October. And Mr Sunak announced a scheme to give 50% off to people dining out in August. The chancellor warned "hardship lies ahead", but vowed no-one will be left "without hope", in a statement to MPs. It came as the latest death toll for coronavirus, in all settings, increased by 126 to 44,517. Labour said the chancellor's plans did not go far enough and the job retention money should be better targeted to prevent it going to firms that were already planning to bring staff back.

'False hope'
"We were promised a 'New Deal', but what we got was a 'Meal Deal'," the party added. Mr Sunak rejected calls to extend the furlough scheme beyond October, saying it would give people "false hope" that they will have a job to return to, and "the longer people are on furlough, the more likely it is their skills could fade".

Colin Dwyer

Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for the coronavirus. The Brazilian president, who has consistently downplayed the dangers of the virus, revealed his positive test result during nationally televised remarks Tuesday. "It came back positive," he told reporters from behind a mask. He is just the second major world leader, after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to confirm he contracted the virus. With more than 1.6 million confirmed cases as of Tuesday, Brazil is in the throes of the world's second-largest outbreak, behind only the U.S. More than 65,000 people there have died of complications linked to COVID-19 — a towering death toll that again stands second only to that of the U.S. And because of a significant lag in testing, Brazilian researchers believe the real numbers are much, much higher than the official tallies. Yet Bolsonaro, 65, has repeatedly doubted the severity of the virus since it first found a foothold in Brazil, reportedly in late February. A key ally of President Trump, the right-wing Brazilian leader has called the coronavirus "a little flu," accused the media of hysteria and campaigned against the shutdowns implemented by local leaders. "I'm sorry," Bolsonaro said in April, after the country's death toll reached 5,000, "but what do you want me to do about it?" Tens of thousands of deaths later, Bolsonaro has remained firmly supportive of reopening and skeptical of social distancing, both for others and himself.

TikTok's move follows decision by US social media giants to suspend processing user data requests by Hong Kong gov't.

TikTok will exit the Hong Kong market within days, a spokesman told the Reuters news agency, as other technology companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter suspend processing government requests for user data in the region. The short-form video app owned by China-based ByteDance has made the decision to exit the region following China's establishment of a sweeping new national security law for the semi-autonomous city. "In light of recent events, we've decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong," a TikTok spokesman said late on Monday in response to a Reuters question about its commitment to the market. Last week, China's parliament passed sweeping new national security legislation for the semi-autonomous city, setting the stage for the most radical changes to the former British colony's way of life since it returned to Chinese rule 23 years ago. While TikTok's withdrawal may be viewed as support for the pro-free speech camp, the Chinese-owned service - which likes to portray itself as mainly a fun venue for self-made music videos - has come under fire repeatedly for censorship. TikTok has faced persistent allegations its decisions on content align with Beijing's priorities.


LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s first sanctions will target 25 Russian nationals it says were involved in the mistreatement and death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and 20 Saudi nationals held to be involved in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the foreign ministry said on Monday.


By Angus Watson and Nectar Gan, CNN

(CNN) Australia will isolate 6.6 million people in the state of Victoria from the rest of the nation at 11.59 p.m. on Tuesday, as authorities take drastic action to control a coronavirus outbreak in the city of Melbourne. The border between Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) -- Australia's two most-populous states -- will be closed for the first time since the pandemic began, Victorian State Premier Daniel Andrews announced Monday. Military personnel and police will line the border, allowing very few people to cross, according to CNN affiliate 7NEWS. Victoria has struggled to contain a second wave of coronavirus cases, leading to fears that the infection rate could soon rise across the country. Last week it emerged that some contracted workers in Melbourne were not following protocols at a hotel used to quarantine international arrivals to the state -- including reportedly having sex with people under lockdown.

By Kitty Donaldson

China refused to rule out blocking Hong Kong citizens from leaving to take up Boris Johnson’s offer of a new home in the U.K., criticizing the British government for “gross interference” in Beijing’s affairs. “We have to wait and see,” Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador in London, told reporters on a video conference call. “We have do decide our counter-measures in accordance with the actual actions taken by the British side.”

The U.K.’s promise of a new route to citizenship for almost 3 million people in Hong Kong has further soured relations with China, which last week enforced a sweeping security law on the former British colony. Johnson called the legislation a “clear and serious breach” of the 1984 handover treaty between London and Beijing. The British government has since stood by that offer despite the Chinese government’s threat it would have “consequences.”

Xu Zhangrun, who wrote articles critical of the government, taken from Beijing home by policemen, his friends say.

Chinese authorities have arrested a law professor who published essays strongly criticising President Xi Jinping over the coronavirus pandemic and accusing him of ruling "tyrannically", according to his friends and colleagues. Xu Zhangrun, a rare outspoken critic of the government in China's heavily censored academia, was taken from his home in suburban Beijing on Monday morning by more than 20 policemen, one of his friends said on condition of anonymity. According to a text message circulated among Xu's friends, police also searched his house and confiscated his computer. Xu published an essay, titled Viral Alarm - When Fury Overcomes Fear, in February blaming the culture of deception and censorship fostered by Xi for the spread of the coronavirus in China, where the outbreak was first reported in December last year before spreading globally. "The cause of all of these lies, ultimately, is the axle - a reference to Xi - and the cabal that surrounds him," Xu wrote in the essay that appeared on overseas websites, adding the chaos in the virus epicentre of Hubei province reflected systemic problems in the Chinese state. "It began with the imposition of stern bans on the reporting of accurate information about the virus, which served to embolden deception at every level of government," he said.

BORIS JOHNSON's plans to let Huawei play a role in the UK's 5G network have attracted fresh controversy as Tory rebels warn against the proposal - one of these MPs told Express.co.uk that the initial acceptance of the Chinese company was a grave error that could have fatal consequences for Brexit.
By Charlie Bradley

One of the major agreements reached between China and the UK in recent months was the Huawei deal. Prime Minister Boris Johnson allowed the Chinese technology company to play a part in building the UK's 5G network with a limited role. Under the plans, it will only be allowed to account for 35 percent of the kit in a network's periphery, which includes radio masts. Huawei will also be excluded from areas near military bases and nuclear sites amid security concerns. But, since then, trust in the Chinese government has evaporated as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in which Beijing was accused of secrecy in the early stages of the global crisis. And more fuel has been added to the fire by China’s actions in Hong Kong, as the UK has accused the communist power of breaking the 1997 treaty. Now, it appears Boris Johnson is going to cut Huawei out of the UK's network altogether. He is aiming to do this by 2029 according to reports, but Conservative Party rebels have claimed this is happening too slowly.

Lawyers for the prince consulted a lobbyist with connections in Trump foreign policy circles. No deal was struck.
By Kenneth P. Vogel

WASHINGTON — Prince Andrew’s lawyers had discussions with a Washington lobbyist with ties to the Trump administration about the possibility of assisting the prince with fallout from his relationship with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. Lawyers from the London-based firm Blackfords consulted the lobbyist, Robert Stryk, who represents international figures with sensitive legal or diplomatic issues, in recent weeks about Prince Andrew’s situation, according to a person familiar with the circumstances. Mr. Stryk has a history of taking on clients with unsavory reputations. But he expressed discomfort about the possibility of assisting Prince Andrew, and talks about the potential representation appear to have fizzled, according to the person familiar with the situation. It is not clear precisely what type of assistance Blackfords might have been seeking from Mr. Stryk, who is not a lawyer, or what he could do to help Prince Andrew. Nor is it clear whether Blackfords has reached out to other Washington lobbyists or consultants about the possibility of working on the issue.


Beijing — While China appears to have reduced coronavirus cases to near zero, other infectious threats remain, with local health authorities announcing a suspected bubonic plague case in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Authorities in the Bayannur district raised the plague warning on Sunday, ordered residents not to hunt wild animals such as marmots and to send for treatment anyone with fever or showing other possible signs of infection. Plague can be fatal in up to 90% of people infected if not treated, primarily with several types of antibiotics. Pneumonic plague can develop from bubonic plague and results in a severe lung infection causing shortness of breath, headache and coughing. China has largely eradicated plague, but occasional cases are still reported, especially among hunters coming into contact with fleas carrying the bacterium. The last major known outbreak was in 2009, when several people died in the town of Ziketan in Qinghai province on the Tibetan Plateau.

By James Crowley

North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui on Saturday indicated that the country will not resume denuclearization negotiations with the Trump Administration and warned that their nuclear policy is unlikely to change. In a statement shared on the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website, Hui wrote that the North Korean government doesn't "feel any need to sit face to face with the U.S.," citing issues with the U.S. government's negotiations being used as political tool. The U.S. "does not consider the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea]-U.S. dialogue as nothing more than a tool for grappling its political crisis," the statement continued.

Pubs and restaurants reopen in England after more than three months as government eases coronavirus lockdown measures.

UK police said on Sunday revellers who packed London's Soho district the night pubs finally reopened made it "crystal clear" drunk people cannot socially distance. England's hospitality sector sprung back to life after a three-month coronavirus hiatus on what the media dubbed as either "Super Saturday" or "Independence Day". Pubs and restaurants were allowed to start seating clients and barbers could get their clippers out for the first time since March. For the most part, people appeared to abide by the rules and rejoiced at the chance on Saturday to raise a glass in the company of their friends. But in some places, large crowds raised concerns the deadliest outbreak in Europe may find fresh legs.

Haacaaluu Hundeessaa was shot dead in Addis Ababa on Monday night, fuelling ethnic tensions
Agence France-Presse

At least 166 people have died during violent demonstrations that roiled Ethiopia in the days following the murder of popular singer Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, police said Saturday. The singer, a member of the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, was shot dead by unknown attackers in Addis Ababa on Monday night, fuelling ethnic tensions threatening the country’s democratic transition. “In the aftermath of Haacaaluu’s death, 145 civilians and 11 security forces have lost their lives in the unrest in the region,” said Girma Gelam, deputy police commissioner of Oromia region, in a statement on the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate.

Officers witnessed "happy drunks, angry drunks, fights, more angry drunks," said John Apter, chair of the Police Federation for England and Wales.
By Isobel van Hagen and Matteo Moschella

LONDON — Lockdown restrictions were eased, the pubs opened and crowds flocked onto the streets of English cities Saturday, many ignoring social distancing rules and prompting complaints from the police. A number of arrests were made. John Apter, chair of the Police Federation for England and Wales, warned that it was “crystal clear” that drunk people cannot social distance. Apter, who was on patrol in Southampton, a city on England’s south coast, wrote on Twitter that officers dealt with, “anti-social behavior, naked men, possession of class ‘A’ drugs, happy drunks, angry drunks, fights, more angry drunks.” Elsewhere, in Brentwood, a small town east of London, moments after he urged people to "enjoy yourself" but to "behave," Special Inspector Steve Weaver tweeted that four people had been arrested. "That didn't last long," he wrote. Dubbed “Super Saturday” and British "Independence Day" by some of the U.K's tabloid press, some bars were forced to close early after opening for the first time in three months after coronavirus lockdown.

"The In-Space team is absolutely gutted by this news."
Eric Berger

On Sunday morning, local time in New Zealand, Rocket Lab launched its 13th mission. The booster's first stage performed normally, but just as the second stage neared an altitude of 200km, something went wrong and the vehicle was lost. In the immediate aftermath of the failure, the company did not provide any additional information about the problem that occurred with the second stage. "We lost the flight late into the mission," said Peter Beck, the company's founder and chief executive, on Twitter. "I am incredibly sorry that we failed to deliver our customers satellites today. Rest assured we will find the issue, correct it and be back on the pad soon." The mission, dubbed "Pics Or It Didn't Happen," carried 5 SuperDove satellites for the imaging company Planet, as well as commercial payloads both for Canon Electronics and In-Space Missions.

BBC

Books by pro-democracy figures have been removed from public libraries in Hong Kong in the wake of a controversial new security law. The works will be reviewed to see if they violate the new law, the authority which runs the libraries said. The legislation targets secession, subversion and terrorism with punishments of up to life in prison. Opponents say it erodes the territory's freedoms as a semi-autonomous region of China. Beijing rejects this. Hong Kong's sovereignty was handed back to China by Britain in 1997 and certain rights were supposed to be guaranteed for at least 50 years under the "one country, two systems" agreement. Since the security law came into effect on Tuesday, several leading pro-democracy activists have stepped down from their roles. One of them - one-time student leader and local legislator Nathan Law - has fled the territory. At least nine books have become unavailable or marked as "under review", according to the South China Morning Post newspaper. They include books authored or co-authored by Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy activist, and pro-democracy politician Tanya Chan.

Pyongyang's statement comes after ex-US national security adviser signals new Kim-Trump summit before US polls.

North Korea has repeated that it has no immediate plans to resume nuclear negotiations with the United States unless Washington discards what it describes as "hostile" policies towards Pyongyang. Saturday's statement by North Korean First Vice-Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui came after US President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton, told reporters on Thursday that Trump might seek another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as an "October surprise" before the US presidential election. "Is it possible to hold dialogue or have any dealings with the US which persists in the hostile policy towards the DPRK in disregard of the agreements already made at the past summit?" Choe said, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Beijing says Ottawa is 'meddling' in Chinese affairs after PM Trudeau suspended extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

China has fired back at Canada for criticising Beijing's national security law for Hong Kong, the second rebuke in a week that has added to strains on their bilateral ties. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that Canada was suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong due to the law and Canada's foreign minister called the legislation "a significant step back" for liberty. China's embassy in Ottawa said in a statement on its website on Saturday that Canada had "grossly interfered" in Chinese affairs, adding that the new legislation would safeguard security in Hong Kong. "Some western countries including Canada have been meddling in Hong Kong affairs under the pretext of human rights, which seriously violates international law and basic norms of international relations," a spokesperson said in the statement. "Hong Kong affairs are entirely China's internal affairs and allow no foreign interference."


Experts and cave divers in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula have found ocher mines that are some of the oldest on the continent. Ancient skeletons were found in the narrow, twisting labyrinths of now-submerged sinkhole caves. Since skeletal remains like "Naia," a young woman who died 13,000 years ago, were found over the last 15 years, archaeologists have wondered how they wound up in the then-dry caves. About 8,000 years ago, rising sea levels flooded the caves, known as cenotes, around the Caribbean coast resort of Tulum. Had these early inhabitants fallen in, or did they go down intentionally seeking shelter, food or water? Nine sets of human skeletal remains have been found in the underwater caves, whose passages can be barely big enough to squeeze through.


DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran will retaliate against any country that carries out cyber attacks on its nuclear sites, the head of civilian defence said, after a fire at its Natanz plant which some Iranian officials said may have been caused by cyber sabotage. The Natanz uranium-enrichment site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Iran’s top security body said on Friday the cause of the “incident” at the nuclear site had been determined, but “due to security considerations” it would be announced at a convenient time. Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation initially reported an “incident” had occurred early on Thursday at Natanz, located in the desert in the central province of Isfahan. It later published a photo of a one-storey brick building with its roof and walls partly burned. A door hanging off its hinges suggested there had been an explosion inside the building. “Responding to cyber attacks is part of the country’s defence might. If it is proven that our country has been targeted by a cyber attack, we will respond,” civil defence chief Gholamreza Jalali told state TV late on Thursday.

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin on Friday mocked the U.S. embassy in Moscow for flying a rainbow flag to celebrate LGBT rights, suggesting it reflected the sexual orientation of its staff.

His comments followed a nationwide vote on constitutional reforms that included an amendment enshrining the definition of marriage specifically as a union between a man and a woman. Putin said the U.S. embassy’s move to raise the LGBT pride flag “revealed something about the people that work there”. “It’s no big deal though. We have spoken about this many times, and our position is clear,” said Putin, who has sought to distance Russia from liberal Western values and aligned himself with the Russian Orthodox Church. “Yes, we passed a law banning the propaganda of homosexuality among minors. So what? Let people grow up, become adults and then decide their own destinies.” The legislation has been used to stop gay pride marches and detain gay rights activists. Putin said during the campaign to change the constitution that he would not let the traditional notion of a mother and father be subverted by what he called “parent number 1” and “parent number 2”.

Thomas Colson and Adam Payne

Joe Biden's election as US president in November would restore UK-US relations, repair the diplomatic damage caused by the Trump administration, and boost the prospects of a transatlantic trade deal, according to European diplomats and trade experts. The transatlantic alliance between the US and its European allies has been under growing strain since Trump's election in 2016. The president's attacks on multilateral institutions such NATO, his attacks on Europe's rapprochement with Iran, and his decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord have all tested the long-standing "special relationship" with the UK and other European allies. The damage has been reflected among the European public, with recent polling showing a collapse in perceptions of America on the other side of the Atlantic. However, there is growing optimism in European diplomatic circles that much of the damage could be undone were the president to lose in this year's election. One senior UK diplomat, who asked not to be named, told Business Insider that a Biden presidency would bring a welcome end to the "venal corruption" of the Trump era. "A lot of stuff will change if Biden wins," the diplomat said.

By Ryan Browne, CNN

(CNN) The US Navy will send two aircraft carriers and several accompanying warships to the South China Sea in the coming days to participate in a military exercise. The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Groups are conducting dual carrier operations in the Philippine Sea and South China Sea," said Lt. Joe Jeiley, a spokesman for the Seventh Fleet. "Operating two carrier strike groups in the Philippine Sea and South China Sea provides advanced training opportunities for our forces and provides combatant commanders with significant operational flexibility should those forces be called upon in response to regional situations. "The presence of two carriers is not in response to any political or world events. This advanced capability is one of many ways the U.S. Navy promotes security, stability, and prosperity throughout the Indo-Pacific." The exercise is long planned but comes as China conducts military drills of its own in the area, near the contested Paracel Islands, exercises that have been criticized by the US and other countries. The Wall Street Journal first reported the carriers' participation in the coming exercise. "America agrees with our Southeast Asian friends: The PRC's (People's Republic of China) military exercise in disputed waters of the South China Sea is highly provocative. We oppose Beijing's unlawful claims. Period," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on Friday. The Pentagon said in a statement Thursday that China's "military exercises are the latest in a long string of PRC actions to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea." The Paracel Islands are claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, and the US has long said Beijing has militarized the islands in the South China Sea via the deployment of military hardware and construction of military facilities.

RCMP charged Canadian Armed Forces Reservist Corey Hurren with a slew of firearms charges Friday for allegedly ramming his truck through the gates at Rideau Hall, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lives.
by Mack Lamoureux

Less than an hour before Corey Hurren allegedly drove his pickup truck through the gates of Rideau Hall, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lives, a social media account for his business posted a meme that blames the global elite for COVID-19. At 6:05 AM, the Instagram account for Grindhouse Fine Foods, the company Hurren operates, posted a meme relating to Event 201—a pandemic training event put on in part by the Bill Gates Foundation. At 6:40 AM, RCMP said Hurren rammed his truck, which contained multiple firearms, through the gates hard enough to set his airbags off. He left the truck on foot with a rifle in his hand and was intercepted by RCMP officers who, after hours of negotiation, were able to take him into custody without incident just before 8:30 A.M. On Friday afternoon, RCMP announced a slew of firearms charges against Hurren, a member of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve. They include: four counts of careless use of a firearm, four counts of illegally transporting of a firearm, four counts of possession of a weapon for a dangerous reason, one count of possession of of a prohibited devices, four counts of possession of a restricted firearm with ammunition, and one count of uttering threats. Hurren attended a bail hearing Friday afternoon but it was pushed back until July 17. He will remain in police custody till then.

Adam Bienkov

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he won't be "bullied" into taking a knee in support of racial-equality protests because "I don't believe in gestures." The opposition Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, was pictured in June taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Speaking on LBC radio on Friday morning, Johnson said he wouldn't do the same because "I don't believe in gestures — I believe in substance." The UK prime minister added that he would not be "bullied" into taking part.

By Ipek Yezdani, Gul Tuysuz and Emma Reynolds, CNN

(CNN) Staff who worked at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul around the time of Jamal Khashoggi's murder told a court Friday that they were told to stay away from the residence on the day the dissident journalist went missing in 2018. A cleaning lady, two drivers, and a technical worker were all denied access or told not to show up to work on October 2, they said on the first day of the trial at a Turkish court. Consulate technical worker Zeki Demir said he was initially told that there would be renovations at Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi's home but was then asked to come in at 2 p.m. "There were five or six people there. They stopped me from coming through the three entrances. They asked me to light up the tandoor (oven). There was an atmosphere of panic," he said. "I lit up the tandoor and they spoke with each other. I joked saying that if you fall in the tandoor then you will become kebabs. Then I left." The Consul General's driver, Hakan Guven told the court that he took al-Otaibi and his family to the airport on October 8. Guven said al-Otaibi told him that he would return.

By Hadas Gold, CNN Business

London (CNN Business) Hong Kong insists its vibrant community of journalists has nothing to fear from the national security legislation China imposed on the city this week. But press freedom advocates worry about creeping self-censorship, and there are signs that the new law may already be having a chilling effect. In what was once seen as a safe haven of free speech for local and foreign news organizations operating in the region, journalists and their sources are growing increasingly wary that as China takes a firmer grip on Hong Kong, they could be prosecuted. The new law applies to any person in Hong Kong, both locals and foreign nationals. It criminalizes actions like calling for Hong Kong independence, or working with a foreign entity "to incite hatred" toward the Chinese government. A new enforcement committee will "strengthen the management" of NGOs and media working in Hong Kong. The police will also have new powers to search premises, wiretap suspects and order people to "delete information or provide assistance." Article 4 of the law says "the freedoms of speech, of the press, of publication, of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration" will be protected. But it also criminalizes the leaking of "state secrets," a vague term commonly used in China to cover a range of issues deemed to be in the national interest and which has been used in the past to imprison journalists like Gao Yu on the mainland. That could deter both journalists and sources from reporting or collaborating on stories relating to government affairs.

The Biden campaign says Trump’s favorite TV network is peddling the Kremlin’s lies.
Edward-Isaac Dovere

In what appears to be a signal of intensifying political warfare ahead of the November election, One America News Network, the Trump-supporting cable channel that has been promoting anti-Biden conspiracies for several months, says it has obtained several hours of secret recordings of then–Vice President Biden’s conversations with Ukrainian officials. If such recordings exist, they’re likely linked to pro-Russian interests in Ukraine and a Russian intelligence operation, two former U.S. ambassadors to Ukraine and a former ambassador to Russia told me. The OAN employee who claims to have the tapes would not say what was on them, other than suggesting that they will be revelatory. In the audio that has been released elsewhere so far, Biden is heard dangling the promise of financial aid to Ukraine if its government ousted a prosecutor who was seen as corrupt—which Biden has previously said publicly was his goal, as part of a push for widespread reforms. Conspiracists have alleged that this was intended to help his son Hunter escape charges of corruption, but an audit by Ukraine’s former top prosecutor released last week found no evidence of illegal activity by Hunter in his capacity as an energy-company board member.

Iran released a photograph showing evidence of what appeared to be a major explosion at the site. Early evidence suggests it was most likely an act of sabotage.
By David E. Sanger, William J. Broad, Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi

A fire ripped through a building at Iran’s main nuclear-fuel production site early Thursday, causing extensive damage to what appeared to be a factory where the country has boasted of producing a new generation of centrifuges. The United States has repeatedly warned that such machinery could speed Tehran’s path to building nuclear weapons. The Atomic Energy Agency of Iran acknowledged an “incident” at the desert site, but did not term it sabotage. It released a photograph showing what seemed to be destruction from a major explosion that ripped doors from their hinges and caused the roof to collapse. Parts of the building, which was recently inaugurated, were blackened by fire. But it was not clear how much damage was done underground, where video released by the Iranian government last year suggested most of the assembly work is conducted on next-generation centrifuges — the machines that purify uranium.


Canadians are horrified after a U.S.-born woman told two B.C. teenagers to "go back to where you came from" in a viral video that has been shared more than 2,500 times on Facebook. In the video taken on June 28, the unidentified woman is seen loudly shouting at two teenagers for picking a berry bush on a popular hiking trail in Coquitlam, B.C. "I pay for this park, and I don't like to see people wrecking it," she says. The woman calls the teenagers "complete twits" and curses at them before telling them to go back where they came from. When the teenagers respond by calling the woman a "colonzier" and ask where she's from, the unidentified hiker reveals that she's from the United States originally.

Mitch Prothero

Taliban commanders have confirmed that Russia has offered financial and material support to its members in exchange for attacking US forces in Afghanistan. The practice was first reported on Friday by The New York Times, which cited US intelligence officials. President Donald Trump has since strongly denied that he was told of this intelligence and attacked its credibility, characterizing the existence of Russian bounty payments as fake. But three separate Taliban sources told Insider they were aware of Russian bounty payments being made — though they said only the less-disciplined elements on the fringes of the group would take up such an offer. When reached through formal channels, officials with the Taliban — formally called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — declined to comment.

But the three sources all confirmed the practice takes place and that Russian intelligence officials are known to pay. Iran and Pakistan also fund these activities, the sources said. Two of the sources are actively involved with the Taliban, and one is now a refugee in Greece who entered the country in 2016. All said they personally had not undertaken Russian bounty operations and disparaged the practice in general.

A well-known way to get money
The refugee spoke on condition of anonymity to Insider for fear of retaliation, though his identity is known to Insider. He used to be a commander with the Taliban in the Logar province of Afghanistan. He said: "The Taliban is like my fist — the center of the fist is hard and disciplined; everyone gets salaries and weapons from the Quetta Shura and they obey orders." The Quetta Shura is the leadership council of the Taliban that is thought to be based in Pakistan.

Oromia protests broke out after fatal shooting of Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, regional spokesman says.

At least 50 people were killed in Ethiopia's Oromia region in protests following the fatal shooting of a popular singer, a regional spokesman said. Musician Haacaaluu Hundeessaa was shot dead on Monday night in what police said was a targeted killing. Protests following the killing, and a sense of political marginalisation, broke out the next morning in the capital and other towns and cities in the surrounding Oromia region. The dead included protesters and members of the security forces, spokesman Getachew Balcha said on Wednesday. Some businesses had also been set on fire.

By Nathan Hodge and Mary Ilyushina, CNN

Moscow (CNN) President Vladimir Putin has won a resounding victory in his bid to stay in power until the middle of the next decade, as Russians voted overwhelmingly to endorse the country's political status quo, according to preliminary results. Russians went to the polls Wednesday to cast ballots in a nationwide referendum on constitutional amendments. The vote paves the way for Putin, who has ruled for two decades, to remain president until 2036. Campaign literature made little mention of the real purpose of the referendum, framing it as a return to old-fashioned family values, designed to appeal to conservative voters. "Our country, our constitution, our decision" was the slogan on the information bulletin explaining the constitutional reform to voters. The brochure spelled out a range of amendments, including a provision that defines marriage strictly as a "union of a man and a woman."

David Lawder, Dave Graham, David Ljunggren

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY/OTTAWA (Reuters) - The revamped trade pact between the United States, Canada and Mexico taking effect on Wednesday was meant to create a kind of fortress North America, boosting the region’s competitiveness - but cracks are already starting to show in the foundation. As the deal kicks in, the Trump administration is threatening Canada with new aluminum tariffs, and a prominent Mexican labor activist has been jailed, underscoring concerns about crucial labor reforms in the replacement for the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. The risk of disputes among the three trading partners is growing, analysts say. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement includes tighter North American content rules for autos, new protections for intellectual property, prohibitions against currency manipulation and new rules on digital commerce that did not exist when NAFTA launched in 1994, an agreement U.S. President Donald Trump has lambasted as the “worst trade deal ever made.”

Uncertainty over when Israel will begin controversial process as Palestinians gather for renewed protests.

Israel's foreign minister has suggested an announcement on the planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank was not imminent on Wednesday, the date set by Israel's coalition government to start the widely criticised process. The statement by Gabi Ashkenazi came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government's discussions with the United States on the annexation plan would continue "in the coming days", indicating he would miss the self-imposed July 1 target date to begin debate on the controversial issue. "I reckon there will be nothing today," Ashkenazi, a member of the centrist Blue and White party that eventually partnered up with Netanyahu's right-wing Likud after three inconclusive elections, told Israel's Army Radio on Wednesday.

"I believe there's a need for North Korea and the United States to try dialogue one more time," South Korea's Moon said.
By Reuters

SEOUL — South Korean President Moon Jae-in said U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un should meet again before the U.S. presidential election in November, a Seoul official told reporters on Wednesday. Trump and Kim met for the first time in 2018 in Singapore, raising hopes of an agreement to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons programme. But their second summit, in 2019 in Vietnam, fell apart when Trump rejected Kim's offer to dismantle North Korea's main nuclear facility in return for lifting some economic sanctions. Moon made the remarks during a video conference with European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday, saying another summit between Trump and Kim would help resume the stalled nuclear negotiations, an official at Moon's office told reporters. "I believe there's a need for North Korea and the United States to try dialogue one more time before the U.S. presidential election," the official quoted Moon as saying.

By Jack Guy, Stephanie Halasz, Valentina DiDonato and Gul Tuysuz, CNN

(CNN) Police in Italy have confiscated a huge shipment of 14 metric tonnes (15.4 US tons) of amphetamines which they say was produced by ISIS in Syria. Officers tracked three suspect containers to the port of Salerno in southwest Italy and found 84 million pills with a market value of €1 billion ($1.12 billion) inside paper cylinders for industrial use, the Guardia di Finanza financial police said in a statement Wednesday. Investigators said the bust is the largest drug haul in the world in terms of both value and quantity. Commander Domenico Napolitano, head of the financial police for the city of Naples, told CNN that the drugs were well hidden and the scanners at the port didn't detect them.

Andrew Osborn, Anton Zverev

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia gave families financial windfalls on Wednesday on the final day of a vote on constitutional changes that could allow Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036, a prospect that prompted a small protest by Kremlin critics on Red Square. State exit polls have suggested more than two thirds of voters will back the changes. They have been encouraged to vote with prize draws offering flats and an ad campaign highlighting other amendments with popular appeal. One amendment guarantees inflation-linked pensions; another proposes a de facto ban on same-sex marriages. One-off payments of 10,000 roubles ($141) were transferred to those with children at Putin’s order as people headed to polling stations on the last day of the vote, held over seven days to try to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

Abigail Ng

Hong Kong police announced Wednesday their first arrests since China’s national security law came into force. The contentious legislation took effect hours after the Chinese parliament’s top decision-making body voted to pass the National Security Law on Tuesday. The law stipulates that a person who acts with a view to “undermining national unification” of Hong Kong with the mainland faces punishment of up to lifetime in prison, depending on the severity of the offense. Under the new regulation, many of Hong Kong’s protests that took place last year would be punishable by law. Still, protesters took to the streets on Wednesday, which marked the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover from the U.K. to China. Hong Kong is a British colony that returned to Chinese rule  on July 1, 1997.

Adam Payne and Adam Bienkov

Boris Johnson has offered three million Hong Kong citizens the chance to live and work in the UK after China defied global opposition to impose a new national security law on the region. The UK prime minister on Wednesday told the House of Commons that he will go ahead with the move after China imposed new security laws on the semiautonomous region on Tuesday. The laws, which are opposed by the UK, the European Union and the United States, are designed to curtail anti-government protests in the region. Hong Kong police carried out nearly 200 arrests on Wednesday. Johnson said the imposition of the law is in breach of the Sino-British joint declaration, signed by the UK and China in 1984.


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