Category Archives: United Nations

P.O. (CNBC) Boeing lead pilot warned about flight-control system tied to 737 Max crashes, then told regulators to delete it from manuals

As I have said time and time again, in my opinion, this plane will never fly again.
Full stop.


  • In 2016, a Boeing pilot warns a colleague about an “egregious” flight-control program on the 737 Max.
  • The system is later implicated in two fatal crashes that killed 346 people.
  • Emails show the pilot told regulators to delete the mention of the software from pilot manuals.

WATCH NOWVIDEO03:35FAA: Substance of Boeing documents is ‘concerning’

Boeing pilot warned about problems with the flight-control program on the 737 Max that was implicated in two fatal crashes, said he “unknowingly” lied to regulators, and told the Federal Aviation Administration not to include the system in pilot manuals before regulators deemed the plane safe for the public in 2017, according to messages released Friday.

The messages deepened the manufacturer’s crisis over the bestselling jets, which have been grounded worldwide since March in the wake of the crashes, sending the stock to an eight-week low.

The Boeing lead pilot complained in one of the messages that a flight-control system, known as MCAS, was difficult to control, according to the messages, which were obtained by NBC News.

That system and pilots’ ability to recover from its failure in flight are at the heart of investigations into the crashes. Investigators have implicated the system in both crashes — a Lion Air 737 Max that went down in Indonesia in October 2018 and an Ethiopian Airlines plane of the same model that crashed in March.

MCAS malfunctioned on both flights, repeatedly pushing the planes’ noses down until their final, fatal dives. All 346 people on both flights were killed.

“Oh shocker alerT! MCAS is now active down to M .2. It’s running rampant in the sim on me,” Mark Forkner, Boeing’s former chief technical pilot for the 737, said in 2016 to a colleague, Patrik Gustavsson, referring to the simulator, according to the transcript. “Granted, I suck at flying, but even this was egregious.”

His colleague replied that they would have to update the description of the system.

“So I basically lied to regulators (unknowingly),” read Forkner’s reply. Gustavsson responded: “It wasn’t a lie, no one told us that was the case.”

Forkner’s attorney, David Gerger, said in a statement, “If you read the whole chat, it is obvious that there was no ‘lie.’”

“The simulator was not reading right and had to be fixed to fly like the real plane,” he said. “Mark’s career — at Air Force, at FAA, and at Boeing — was about safety. He would never put anyone in an unsafe plane.”

‘Jedi mind-tricking regulators’

Forkner in January 2017 instructed an FAA employee to remove MCAS from pilot manuals and training, according to an email between the two that was obtained by NBC News.

“Delete MCAS, recall we decided we weren’t going to cover it in the FCOM or the CBT, since it’s way outside the normal operating envelope,” Forkner wrote.

He said in an earlier email to an FAA official that he was “jedi mind-tricking regulators into accepting training the training that I got accepted by FAA etc.”

The FAA on Friday said Boeing withheld these “concerning” messages for months from regulators.

The agency, which first certified the planes in 2017, said it is “disappointed that Boeing did not bring this document to our attention immediately upon its discovery,” adding it is “reviewing this information to determine what action is appropriate.”

Pilots at airlines, including American, complained after the crashes that they did not know about the MCAS system until after the first crash.

Boeing shares fell sharply Friday after the news broke, shedding nearly 7% and shaving about 170 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The stock ended at $344, the lowest close since Aug. 21.

CEO under fire

The messages add to pressure already piling up on Boeing and CEO Dennis Muilenburg. The company and the FAA are facing several investigations into the plane’s design and software.

The company’s board removed Muilenburg as chairman last week, saying the division of the two roles will help him focus on bringing the plane back to service. Muilenburg is set to testify at two congressional hearings for the first time since the crashes: a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Oct. 29 and a House Transportation Committee panel scheduled for Oct. 30.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, called the instant messages “shocking, but disturbingly consistent with what we’ve seen so far in our ongoing investigation of the 737 MAX, especially with regard to production pressures and a lack of candor with regulators and customers.”

He said the incident “is not about one employee; this is about a failure of a safety culture at Boeing in which undue pressure is placed on employees to meet deadlines and ensure profitability at the expense of safety. Boeing will have to answer for this and other questions at our hearing on October 30th.”

WATCH NOWVIDEO03:18If Boeing did mislead the FAA, CEO Dennis Muilenburg is done: Jim Lebenthal

The FAA turned over the instant messages to U.S. lawmakers and the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, the agency said.

“Over the past several months, Boeing has been voluntarily cooperating with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s investigation into the 737 MAX. As part of that cooperation, today we brought to the Committee’s attention a document containing statements by a former Boeing employee,” Boeing said in a statement.

Boeing has developed a fix for the software that misfired on the crashes but regulators haven’t yet signed off.

Airlines have missed out on hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue because of the grounding, which forced them to cancel flights and reduce their growth plans. Carriers repeatedly pulled the planes out of ischedules with no end in sight to the grounding. Southwest this week canceled 737 Max flights through Feb. 8, later than any U.S. carrier.

“We want to know more details and we stand with [FAA] administrator [Steve] Dickson in his demand for more information and an explanation on why this information were withheld,” said Dennis Tajer, spokesman for American Airlines pilots’ union.

Pilots at Southwest, the largest Max customer in the U.S., earlier this month sued Boeing for allegedly rushing the plane to market and said the grounding has meant its pilots have lost out on about $100 million in pay.

“The FAA’s announcement echoes the very serious concerns at the center of SWAPA’s lawsuit, and this is more evidence that Boeing misled pilots, government regulators and other aviation experts about the safety of the 737 MAX,” Southwest pilots’ union said in a statement. “It is clear that the company’s negligence and fraud put the flying public at risk.”

(DW) Venezuela é eleita para o Conselho de Direitos Humanos da ONU

(DW) País desbanca Costa Rica e conquista vaga no órgão em Genebra, apesar de protestos de nações e organizações de direitos humanos. Acusado de fazer vista grossa para a candidatura venezuelana, Brasil garante reeleição.

Sessão do Conselho de Diretos Humanos das Nações Unidas, em Genebra

Conselho de Direitos Humanos das Nações Unidas tem 47 vagas, distribuídas seguindo critério de divisão regional

A Venezuela conquistou um assento no Conselho de Direitos Humanos das Nações Unidas em votação realizada nesta quinta-feira (17/10) na Assembleia Geral da organização. O Brasil ficou com a outra vaga destinada a países da América Latina e do Caribe.

Com 105 votos a favor de sua candidatura, Caracas ficou à frente da Costa Rica, que entrou na corrida de última hora com o objetivo explícito de evitar que a Venezuela conquistasse uma vaga. O país da América Central obteve o apoio de 96 países-membros, apenas nove a menos que os obtidos pelo governo venezuelano.

O Brasil, por sua vez, foi reeleito com 153 votos para mais um mandato, com início em 2020. O apoio é um dos menores já recebidos pelo país em votações vitoriosas ao conselho: em 2006, na sua primeira eleição, o Brasil obteve 165 votos; em 2008, foi reeleito com 175 votos; em 2012, recebeu apoio de 184 países entre os 193 membros da ONU, uma marca inédita.

Em sua última eleição, em 2016, sob o governo de Michel Temer, o país obteve apenas 137 votos. Naquele mesmo ano, Cuba recebeu 160 apoios e também entrou para o conselho. 

A partir de 1º de janeiro, a Venezuela substituirá o governo cubano no órgão em Genebra. Os dois países eleitos neste ano se juntam a Argentina, Bahamas, Chile, México, Peru e Uruguai no grupo da América Latina e Caribe.

Em reação à eleição, o ministro das Relações Exteriores da Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza, disse que o país está “celebrando uma nova vitória da diplomacia de paz bolivariana”. Já o procurador-geral venezuelano, Tarek William Saab, descreveu a votação como “uma importante conquista”, ao mesmo tempo em que anunciava a libertação de 24 opositores detidos.

A candidatura venezuelana alcançou seu objetivo apesar da forte campanha por parte dos Estados Unidos, vários países da América Latina e organizações de direitos humanos, que instaram os Estados-membros a votarem contra o regime de Nicolás Maduro.

A ONG Human Rights Watch (HRW) chegou a acusar o governo do presidente Jair Bolsonaro de fazer vista grossa à candidatura da Venezuela a fim de garantir sua recondução para uma vaga no conselho, contrariando seu discurso oficial de repúdio a Maduro.

Na véspera da votação, o diretor executivo da HRW, Kenneth Roth, especulou que o governo brasileiro não teria “ficado feliz” com a candidatura de última hora da Costa Rica por receio de arriscar perder a sua própria vaga.

“Será que o governo brasileiro está amaciando sua posição com o conselho para que possa manter sua vaga? Espero que ele não tenha feito esse pacto com o diabo”, disse Roth na quarta-feira.

Nos últimos dias, a HRW e mais de 50 instituições não governamentais de direitos humanos haviam pedido para que as Nações Unidas rejeitassem a candidatura da Venezuela ao Conselho de Direitos Humanos, alegando que o país não cumpre os requisitos para ser membro do órgão.

“Um voto na Venezuela é um voto pela tortura, pelo assassinato e pela impunidade, que se tornaram marcas registradas do governo do presidente Nicolás Maduro”, disse Louis Charbonneau, diretor de Nações Unidas na HRW, antes da votação.

O regime de Maduro é acusado de graves abusos contra os direitos humanos e foi alvo de seguidas denúncias pelo Escritório do Alto Comissário das Nações Unidas para os Direitos Humanos.

Dezenas de países em todo o mundo, incluindo Brasil e Estados Unidos, deixaram de reconhecer o governo de Maduro como legítimo e passaram a apoiar o líder oposicionista Juan Guaidó como presidente interino do país.

Nesta quinta-feira, a ONU elegeu 14 novos ocupantes do Conselho de Direitos Humanos, um dos mais importantes da organização e formado por um total de 47 cadeiras.

Em outras disputas concorridas, o Iraque perdeu no grupo da Ásia, que elegeu Japão, Coreia do Sul, Indonésia e Ilhas Marshall. A Moldávia saiu derrotada na corrida pelos dois assentos do Leste Europeu, conquistados por Armênia e Polônia.

Na África, foram eleitos Líbia, Mauritânia, Sudão e Namíbia. Já a Alemanha – eleita para seu quarto mandato no órgão – e Holanda ficaram com as vagas da Europa Ocidental. A eleição dos dois países europeus foi apenas formalidade, já que eram os únicos concorrentes.

Todos os 193 países-membros da ONU têm direito a voto para eleger os membros do conselho. São necessários ao menos 97 votos favoráveis para que um país seja admitido. O pleito é secreto, e normalmente pesam fatores políticos e regionais que se sobrepõem ao histórico de direitos humanos de um país.

O Conselho de Direitos Humanos foi criado em 2006 para substituir a então Comissão de Direitos Humanos, extinta após 60 anos de trabalhos devido à crise de legitimidade, motivada por decisões vistas como parciais, politizadas e desequilibradas. Divididos em grupos regionais, seus 47 países-membros cumprem mandatos de três anos.

(GUA) UN hosts drive to suck back carbon and reverse climate change

(GUA) New York forum aims to ‘restore’ the climate by reducing atmospheric levels of carbon to those of a century ago

Equipment is used to capture carbon dioxide emissions at a coal-fired power plant in Thomspsons, Texas.
 Equipment is used to capture carbon dioxide emissions at a coal-fired power plant in Thomspsons, Texas. Photograph: Ernest Scheyder/Reuters

A new effort to rally governments and corporations behind technologies that suck greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to help stave off disastrous global heating will be launched at the United Nations on Tuesday.

The first annual Global Climate Restoration Forum, held in New York, aims to spur international support for emerging and sometimes controversial methods to claw back planet-warming gases after they have been emitted from power plants, cars, trucks and aircraft.

The Foundation for Climate Restoration, the group behind the forum, has released a manifesto for its goal to “restore” the climate by reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to those of a century ago. Atmospheric CO2 is rising sharply, peaking at 415 parts per million this year, far above the level during most of human history, around 300ppm.

The foundation aims to restore this historical norm by 2050, saying success would be on a par with the moon landing or the eradication of smallpox. It warns that the current climate is leading us “down a path toward the probable extinction of our species and thousands of others”.

“Mother Earth will survive without us but we’d like for humans to survive too,” said Rick Parnell, chief executive of the foundation, which was created last year. “This is the beginning of a 10-year strategy to get governments and companies to understand the need to restore our climate now. Humanity got us into this situation, it can get us out of it.”

Global average temperatures have increased by around 1C in the past century due to the buildup of planet-warming gases from human activity. World leaders have agreed to limit this rise to 2C, and ideally 1.5C, although global greenhouse gases are not declining and major emitters such as the US and Brazil have shown signs of going backwards.

Any realistic chance of avoiding highly dangerous levels of global heating will likely involve the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, either through mass reforestation or nascent technology that either eliminates it from industrial processes or sucks it directly from the air.

(EN) UNHCR official criticises ‘the radicalisation of migratory dreams’


UNHCR official criticises 'the radicalisation of migratory dreams'

An official from the UN’s refugee agency has sparked controversy by expressing concern over the alleged “radicalisation of migratory dreams”.

Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s special envoy for the Central Mediterranean, was commenting on the Open Arms migrant rescue ship.

The vessel had been stranded off the Italian island of Lampedusa for weeks with Rome refusing to allow it to dock.

Spain offered to let the migrants disembark in Mallorca but the NGO Open Arms rejected this saying it would exacerbate the already trying conditions on board.

This prompted Cochetel to tweet: “Open Arms rejects Spanish offer of safe haven… while I understand the difficulty of the situation on board, I am very concerned by the radicalisation of the migratory dreams & demands of some migrants & refugees in Libya & neighbouring countries.”

His comments came shortly before the Open Arms ship, which was stranded at sea for 19 days, was eventually allowed to disembark in Italy after an Italian prosecutor ordered the seizure of the ship.

People were quick to respond to Cochetel on social media.

“Radicalisation of migratory dreams? Just wow,” Doctors Without Borders (MSF) communications adviser Alessandro Siclari tweeted.

Siclari told Euronews he was surprised by the statements of the senior UNHCR official, but that ultimately the tweet reflected Cochetel’s personal opinion and does not represent the views of the UN agency.

Another social media user questioned the UNHCR’s mandate, stating, that they thought the agency was “concerned by the radicalisation of the EU Member States refusal to comply with asylum and SAR international laws and regulations. Did I misunderstand your mandate?”

Cochetel defended his comments in response to our article, tweeting: “There is no controversy, it is just abnormal that some refugees refuse to attend language & vocational training classes, job placement in some countries because they claim that they only want to go to EU & that UNHCR has an obligation to resettle them!”

Euronews reached out to Cochetel directly but he did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment.

Cochetel later said his tweets “may have been misunderstood”.

“Too many refugee lives are being lost/ruined on the dangerous routes to Europe via Libya. It cannot be the best/only solution. Most refugees don’t make this choice. Some protection solutions exist along the way & more legal pathways needed,” Cochetel wrote on Twitter.

The tweets prompted a debate on where asylum seekers may or may not apply for protection.

Seeking asylum in Europe

Charlie Yaxley, a UNHCR spokesperson for Africa, the Mediterranean and Libya explained there is a “rising trend” of “people who insist on only wanting to seek asylum in Europe.”

In a statement provided to Euronews, Yaxley said: “People fleeing from conflicts in East and West African countries typically apply for asylum in neighbouring countries. The asylum system in place since the 1951 Refugee Convention requires you to apply in the country you are in,” he explained. “Asylum seekers do not have the choice on where to ask [for] asylum.”

On Twitter, Yaxley further responded: “A person should apply for asylum in the territory they are in. You cannot withhold your asylum claim in the hopes of getting a better offer elsewhere.”

But many international lawyers state that this interpretation of international refugee law is contested.

“Based on what data is the UNHCR accusing their own clients — people in need of international protection — of wanting more [than] they are entitled to by law?” said Omer Shatz, an international law lecturer at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (SciencesPo).

“Under international law, no one is obliged to file [an] asylum claim in [their] first state of arrival or transit. Cochetel’s political statements contradict the fundamental principles on which UNHCR is founded and operating, they are more appropriate to Salvini and far-right politicians.”

Adel-Naim Reyhani who works on asylum and migration law at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights said that there is a dispute about the concept of “safe third country” or “first country of asylum”.

“International law does not contain any obligations of refugees as to where asylum should or must be claimed,” he said.
James Hathaway, who is the director of Michigan Law School’s Program in Refugee and Asylum Law wrote on Twitter that “individuals are free to travel to whatever state they wish to make a claim”.**

Shatz added that as a matter of policy, “you do not want all refugees to be stuck in neighbouring countries… as a matter of fact, today most of the world’s refugees are already located in neighbouring, African countries.”

Indeed, often those fleeing violence and conflict end up in refugee camps set up by the UNHCR.

Some ask for asylum in countries enduring violence and conflict such as Libya, which hosts over 40,000 refugees and asylum-seekers.

Global displacement is at a record high, according to the International Organisation for Migration with “current estimates” at around 244 million international migrants globally.

“The dream of arriving in Europe is not given in the Geneva Convention, but the comment on the aspirations of migrants could have been avoided by UNHCR, an organisation that was created to protect asylum seekers,” said Matteo Villa, an expert on migration issues at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies.

“The Open Arms issue has nothing to do with migrants’ dreams, who make no difference between arriving in Spain or Italy, but has to do with a problem created by European countries. Saying that migrants have unattainable dreams on the ship doesn’t reflect the complexity of the problem, no matter what international law says. It was not a good time to make that comment,” Villa said about the Cochetel tweet.

“In essence, the message was ‘stay where you are and be happy about what states offer you’,” Reyhani tweeted about the UNHCR response.

(CNBC) Trump says he ‘might’ put tariffs on French wine in response to digital tax


  • President Donald Trump threatens retaliatory action against France in response to the country’s tax on digital service, saying he “might” put tariffs on French wine.
  • The White House is determining whether the measure is discriminatory or targets U.S. companies.
  • Trump tweets that he has “always said American wine is better than French wine!”

President Donald Trump said Friday that he “might” slap tariffs on French wine in response to the country’s new tax affecting technology companies.

The president told French President Emmanuel Macron that he would put duties on French wine if France passed the digital services tax it approved earlier this month, Trump told reporters Friday. In a tweet earlier Friday, Trump also suggested he could target French wine — a move experts considered the most likely U.S. response to the French digital services tax.

“I’ve always said American wine is better than French wine!” Trump tweeted.

In the tweet, the president said his administration will unveil “a substantial reciprocal action” following what he called Macron’s “foolishness.”

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

France just put a digital tax on our great American technology companies. If anybody taxes them, it should be their home Country, the USA. We will announce a substantial reciprocal action on Macron’s foolishness shortly. I’ve always said American wine is better than French wine!186K5:32 PM – Jul 26, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy84.2K people are talking about this

Earlier this month, France passed a 3% tax that will affect firms such as Facebook and Google that draw about $28 million or more in revenue from digital services in France. The Trump administration then started an investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.WATCH NOWVIDEO00:45White House launches probe in response to France’s tax on US tech companies

If, after the probe, the U.S. determines the tax is discriminatory or unreasonably targets U.S. firms, Trump could respond with tariffs. Trade experts considered Trump’s most likely response a 100% tariff on French wine — one of the country’s signature, symbolic products.

In a statement Friday, White House spokesman Judd Deere criticized France’s tax but did not give any new details on what the U.S. could do to retaliate. He said the administration is “looking closely at all other policy tools” in addition to the already launched investigation as it determines how to respond to France.

“The Trump Administration has consistently stated that it will not sit idly by and tolerate discrimination against U.S.-based firms,” he said.

In a CNBC interview last month, Trump suggested he could put tariffs on French wine. He said California wine producers have complained to him about France putting higher tariffs on imports than the U.S. does. “And you know what, it’s not fair. We’ll do something about it,” he said.

France exported 3.2 billion euros (or about $3.6 billion) in wine to the U.S. last year, according to the Federation of French Wines and Spirits Exporters. The U.S. was France’s biggest wine export market.

Trump does not drink alcohol, but he is familiar with the wine industry. While in office, Trump has touted the Virginia-based Trump Winery operated by his son, Eric.

Tariffs on France would open up another conflict as Trump tries to navigate thorny trade relationships around the globe. Already in the coming months, the White House looks to push a skeptical Congress to approve Trump’s replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement and strike a trade deal with China.

(AJ) Iran seizes British oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz

(AJ) Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps says tanker was captured ‘for failing to respect international maritime rules’.

The vessel was seized by 'small crafts and a helicopter', the owner of the vessel said [Stena Bulk/Handout/via Reuters]
The vessel was seized by ‘small crafts and a helicopter’, the owner of the vessel said [Stena Bulk/Handout/via Reuters]

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said its forces have captured a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for allegedly violating international laws, amid rising tensions in the Gulf. 

The Stena Impero tanker “was confiscated by the Revolutionary Guards at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organisation when passing through the Strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules,” the IRGC’s official website Sepahnews announced.

The tanker “was led to the shore and handed over to the organisation to go through the legal procedure and required investigations,” it said.

The vessel was seized by “small crafts and a helicopter” at 7:30pm local time (15:00GMT), the owner of the vessel, Stena Bulk, and Northern Marine Management said, adding that they are “presently unable to contact the vessel”. 

Tanker tracking service Marine Traffic showed that the UK-flagged, Swedish-owned Stena Impero last signalled its location near the Island of Larak in the highly sensitive waterway at 9pm local time (16:30 GMT).

There are 23 crew members on board, the company’s statement added.

“We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf,” a spokesperson for Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.

Second vessel seized

The British Foreign Office confirmed a second naval vessel, a Liberian-flagged vessel, had been seized in the Strait of Hormuz by Iranian authorities.

Later on Friday, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported that the Liberian-flagged Mesdar tanker was briefly held and given a notice to comply with environmental regulations before being allowed to continue on its way.

“I’m extremely concerned by the seizure of two naval vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz,” said Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

“I will shortly attend a COBR (national security) meeting to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels.

“These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”

There was no immediate confirmation from Iran that its forces had seized a second vessel. 

Strait of Hormuz

‘Provocative moves’

The developments came a day after the IRGC said it had seized a foreign tanker accused of smuggling oil with a crew of 12 on Sunday.

The Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, the world’s most important waterways for the transport of oil, has become a hotspot for tensions with Iran amid a spate of incidents there.

Relations between Britain and Iran and the United States and Iran have soured in particular.

Earlier this month, British Royal Marines seized an Iranian oil tanker off the British overseas territory of Gibraltar for allegedly violating sanctions against Syria.

On Friday, Gibraltar’s Supreme Court extended for 30 days the detention of the seized Iranian supertanker, Panama-flagged Grace 1, which was intercepted off the southern tip of Spain on July 4.

Richard Weitz, a security analyst at Wikistrat, a global risk consultancy group, said Friday’s incident was a “reciprocal action” by Iran.

“This was anticipated,” he told Al Jazeera from Washington, DC. “This is just the latest in a series of these subconventional forms of provocative moves.” 

(NYT) Venezuela Forces Killed Thousands, Then Covered It Up, U.N. Says

(NYT) Venezuela’s Special Action Forces carrying out a security operation in Caracas in April.CreditYuri Cortez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Venezuela’s Special Action Forces carrying out a security operation in Caracas in April.
Venezuela’s Special Action Forces carrying out a security operation in Caracas in April.CreditCreditYuri Cortez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

GENEVA — Venezuelan special forces have carried out thousands of extrajudicial killings in the past 18 months and then manipulated crime scenes to make it look as if the victims had been resisting arrest, the United Nations said on Thursday in a report detailing wide-ranging government abuses targeting political opponents.

Special Action Forces described by witnesses as “death squads” killed 5,287 people in 2018 and another 1,569 by mid-May of this year, in what are officially termed by the Venezuelan government “Operations for the Liberation of the People,” United Nations investigators reported.

Laying out a detailed description of a lawless system of oppression, the report says the actual number of deaths could be much higher. It cites accounts by independent groups who report more than 9,000 killings for “resistance to authority” over the same period.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that many of these killings constitute extrajudicial executions committed by the security forces,” the investigators said.

The report, which the United Nation human rights chief Michelle Bachelet will present to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday, delivers a scathing critique of President Nicolás Maduro’s embattled government and its handling of Venezuela’s deepening political and economic crisis.

Since 2016, the report says, the government has pursued a strategy “aimed at neutralizing, repressing and criminalizing political opponents and people critical of the government.”

Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry rejected the findings on Thursday, saying the report offered a “distorted vision” that ignored most of the information presented by the government to United Nations researchers.The officers frisked a group of men during one operation in Caracas.CreditYuri Cortez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The officers frisked a group of men during one operation in Caracas.
The officers frisked a group of men during one operation in Caracas.CreditYuri Cortez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The analysis is not objective, nor impartial,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, listing what it said were numerous errors. “The negative points are privileged in the extreme and the advances or measures adapted in the area of human rights are ignored or minimized.”

The Special Action Forces, known locally by their Spanish acronym FAES, are nominally tasked with combating drug trafficking and crime, but United Nations human rights officials said they were concerned the government was using these and other security forces “as an instrument to instill fear in the population and to maintain social control.”

Families of 20 young men who were killed in the last year described a pattern of violence in which the FAES units arrived in pickup trucks without license plates, dressed in black and with their faces covered by balaclavas.

They broke into houses, seized belongings and molested women, forcing some to strip naked. Then “they would separate young men from other family members before shooting them,” the investigators reported.

In every case described to the investigators, attackers manipulated the crime scene. “They would plant arms and drugs and fire their weapons against the walls or in the air to suggest a confrontation and to show the victim had resisted authority,” the report says.

The investigators said they had also documented the execution of six young men carried out during one of the house raids, the killings done as a reprisal for their participation in anti-government demonstrations.

Five special forces members were convicted of attempted murder and other offenses in 2018, and another 388 members were under investigation for abuses, according to the report. But few victims, it says, have access to justice or any redress.

The report also describes routine abuse by security and intelligence services of people detained for political reasons. In most of the cases, men and women were subjected to one or more forms of torture, including electric shock, suffocation with plastic bags, water boarding, beating and sexual violence. Women were dragged by their hair and threatened with rape, the report says.

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The detentions often had no legal basis, according to the report, which says that more than 2,000 people were arrested for political reasons in the first five months of the year and more than 720 were still detained at the end of May.A member of the Special Action Forces taking part in a security operation.CreditYuri Cortez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A member of the Special Action Forces taking part in a security operation.
A member of the Special Action Forces taking part in a security operation.CreditYuri Cortez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Human rights activists welcomed the spotlight the report is turning onto government repression and abuses. “The government’s reaction shows it hits the right points,” said Tamara Taraciuk Broner, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch.

But Ms. Taraciuk expressed disappointment that the report stops short of urging the United Nations to set up a commission of inquiry. It calls instead for the government to set up an independent investigation, with some unspecified international participation.

“You cannot ask Venezuelan courts, which have no independence, to investigate the executive,” she said.

The report comes two weeks after Ms. Bachelet visited Venezuela. Its hard-hitting tone was especially eye-opening, given her political background. In her second term as Chile’s left-leaning president from 2014 to 2018, she was among the few South American leaders who refused to openly criticize Mr. Maduro’s growing authoritarianism.

The Venezuelan government had tried to use Ms. Bachelet’s visit to bolster Mr. Maduro’s international legitimacy. More than 50 nations, including the United States, have stopped recognizing himas Venezuela’s legitimate leader, calling his re-election last year fraudulent.


Ms. Bachelet’s team was given unusual access inside Venezuela, unlike that given to her predecessor or to other United Nations agencies. Mr. Maduro heavily publicized his meeting with Ms. Bachelet and promised to consider allowing her to open a full-time office in the country. The government also agreed to allow two United Nations human rights staff members to work in the country and said it would give them full access to detention centers.

But any hopes that her visit paved the way for a government change of course on human rights were quickly dampened by the news days later of the death in custody of a Navy captain, Rafael Acosta, who was detained the day Ms. Bachelet’s visit ended. His lawyer said he had been in good health at the time of his arrest, but he died in a military hospital a week later showing visible signs beatings.

Ms. Bachelet expressed her shock at Captain Acosta’s death and called for an investigation, but human rights groups said it showed the limited outcome from her visit.

“This case shows that the government of Venezuela is not taking her seriously,” Ms. Taraciuk said.

(VOX) In leaked memos, Britain’s ambassador to the US calls Trump “clumsy and inept”


The British government defended the memos, saying they met Downing Street’s expectations of “honest, unvarnished assessment[s].”By Anya van Wagtendonk  Jul 7, 2019, 12:44pm EDTSHARE

US and UK flags line London’s Mall during Donald Trump’s state visit.
US and UK flags line London’s Mall during Donald Trump’s state visit. 

Britain’s ambassador to the United States called President Donald Trump “uniquely dysfunctional” and expressed grave concerns about American economic and foreign policy in a series of cables that were leaked to the British tabloid the Daily Mail and published on Saturday.

The leaked cables, prepared by Sir Kim Darroch (who has served as ambassador from Britain to the US since January 2016), cover the entirety of the Trump presidency, even touching on an official state visit to the UK less than a month ago, when the Trump and his family attended a banquet at Buckingham Palace and afternoon tea with Prince Charles and Camilla, and laid a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.

Despite the widespread and colorful protests that took place during that visit, Darroch wrote afterwards that the UK might now be “flavour of the month” in Trump’s eyes. But these leaks may challenge whatever goodwill emerged from the US president’s visit.

In the documents, Darroch describes “vicious infighting and chaos” within the Trump administration, and said that collusion between Trump and “dodgy Russians” was possible.

He also warned that an “America First”-style foreign policy could undermine international trade agreements, and warned negotiations over Brexit could introduce further conflict into the two countries’ diplomatic relations.

Trump has endorsed Brexit in the past, and recommended the UK “walk away” from the EU without a deal ahead of his state visit. After it leaves the European Union, the UK will need to renegotiate a number of its trade agreements, and could look to strengthen its trade ties with the US. Darroch wrote doing so could be easier said than done due to the Trump administration’s stances on a variety of issues.

“As we advance our agenda of deepening and strengthening trading arrangements, divergences of approach on climate change, media freedoms, and the death penalty may come to the fore,” the ambassador wrote.

Darroch also criticized Trump’s foreign policy more generally, and cited the administration’s stance on Iran as being of concern.

He wrote of Trump’s last minute decision to call off a military strike against Iran, expressing frustration at the confusion that rippled across the diplomatic community during the incident. He also cautioned his government to be wary of believing Trump’s rationale for canceling the strike (the president said he decided against the attack after learning there would be civilian casualties).

“His claim, however, that he changed his mind because of 150 predicted casualties doesn’t stand up; he would certainly have heard this figure in his initial briefing,” Darroch wrote. “It’s more likely that he was never fully on board and that he was worried about how this apparent reversal of his 2016 campaign promises would look [during the 2020 election].”

Darroch also warned that the US president could still choose to strike Iran: “Just one more Iranian attack somewhere in the region could trigger yet another Trump U-turn.”

This is something Trump has made clear himself; during an interview with Meet the Press in late June, the president said, “If they do something else, it’ll be double.” During the same interview, Trump also said, “I’m not looking for war and if there is, it’ll be obliteration like you’ve never seen before.”

Overall, Darroch described the president as “clumsy and inept,” and wrote, “I don’t think this Administration will ever look competent.”

In spite of the concerns Darroch raised, he also assessed Trump as someone whom the UK can expect to complete his first term in full, writing that despite controversies, Trump will always “emerge from the flames, battered but intact, like [Arnold] Schwarzenegger in the final scenes of The Terminator.”

It is unclear who leaked the memos, and the White House has not yet commented on them, according to the New York Times.

This is not the first time that a communication from Darroch regarding the president has leaked. In a telegram sent shortly before Trump’s election, but published shortly afterwards, Darroch suggested to British Prime Minister Theresa May that the president-elect could be “open to outside influence” from Britain.

In a statement issued in response to these most recent leaks, Britain’s Foreign Office defended their diplomat.

“The British public would expect our ambassadors to provide ministers with an honest, unvarnished assessment of the politics in their country,” the statement read in part. “Their views are not necessarily the views of ministers or indeed the government. But we pay them to be candid. Just as the U.S. ambassador here will send back his reading of Westminster politics and personalities.”

Donald Trump has had a long, complicated relationship with the UK

Leaders from the United States and United Kingdom have long referred to a “special relationship” existing between the two nations. Winston Churchill famously upheld this idea during the years immediately following World War II, insisting that a similar war could only be avoided by maintaining close ties between Britain and the United States.

Theresa May described last month’s official state visit as a “significant week for the special relationship.”

But Donald Trump has repeatedly complicated that relationship by squabbling with various political figures in Britain and inserting himself into that country’s political process. En route to the state visit, for example, he responded to London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s criticism of his trip by tweeting Khan was “a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me.

The tweet came after years of the two men trading barbs, as Vox’s Alex Ward has described: Khan has called Trump “ill-informed” and his Muslim ban “ignorant;” Trump has accused Khan of being blasé about terrorism and crime.

The president also criticized Meghan Markle, the American actress who recently married into the royal family, in the lead up to his state visit. As Vox’s Gabriela Resto-Montero reported:

Although the royal family stays away from commenting on politics, particularly foreign politics, Markle was critical of Trump during the 2016 election, back when she was a private American citizen.

When asked about Markle saying she’d move to Canada if he was elected, Trump responded, “I didn’t know she was nasty.”

The president took to Twitter to claim he’d never made that statement; however, as NBC News reports, audio seems to suggest he did, in fact, say those words about the duchess.

Beyond insulting the country’s politicians and public figures, Trump has inserted himself into the UK’s political process in a manner US president typically avoid.

On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump came out strongly for Brexit, saying things like: “I know Great Britain very well. I know, you know, the country very well. I have a lot of investments there. I would say that they’re better off without it. But I want them to make their own decision.”

He has continued his advocacy for the UK’s divorce from the European Union as president, often without adding qualifiers such as “I want them to make their own decision.” He addressed the British people in an interview with the Sunday Times ahead of his state visit and said: “If you don’t get the deal you want, if you don’t get a fair deal, then you walk away.”

The president is also linked to right-wing politicians in Britain, and has seemingly endorsed two of them: Boris Johnson, a Brexit supporter and Theresa May’s former foreign secretary, and Brexiteer and current leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage.

In a 2018 interview with British tabloid The Sun, Trump heavily criticized May’s handling of Brexit, and said Johnson would make “a great prime minister.” The comments came as May was busy defending the decision to invite the president for a state visit. In recent weeks, Johnson has taken the lead in the race to replace May; while Trump has not officially endorsed Johnson’s candidacy, the British politician said Trump called him during the UK visit and “wished me well.”

Trump has advocated for putting Farage in charge of future Brexit negotiations, telling the Sunday Times, “I like Nigel a lot. He has a lot to offer, he is a very smart person. They won’t bring him in but think how well they would do if they did. They just haven’t figured that out yet.”

The president has also publicly lobbied for Farage to be given another job: Ambassador Darroch’s. Shortly after his election, he tweeted that Farage should become ambassador to the US. In response, Darroch’s predecessor, Peter Westmacott, told the Guardian: “Ambassadors need to be acceptable to host governments, not chosen by them.”

(Reuters) USTR proposes $4 bln in potential additional tariffs over EU aircraft subsidies


WASHINGTON, July 1 (Reuters) – The U.S. Trade Representative’s office on Monday released a $4 billion list of additional products that could be hit with tariffs in an ongoing dispute with the European Union over its subsidies on civil aircraft.

The list, which includes a range of European foods and liquor, adds to products valued at $21 billion that USTR had identified in April as facing possible tariffs.

USTR said it was adding to its initial list in response to public comments and following additional analysis, but gave no further explanation.

(ZH) It Begins: Former UN Under-Secretary-General Calls For One World Currency


Profile picture for user Tyler Durden

Authored by José Antonio Ocampo, formerly United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, via Project Syndicate,

This year, the world commemorates the anniversaries of two key events in the development of the global monetary system. The first is the creation of the International Monetary Fund at the Bretton Woods conference 75 years ago. The second is the advent, 50 years ago, of the Special Drawing Right (SDR), the IMF’s global reserve asset.

When it introduced the SDR, the Fund hoped to make it “the principal reserve asset in the international monetary system.” This remains an unfulfilled ambition; indeed, the SDR is one of the most underused instruments of international cooperation. Nonetheless, better late than never: turning the SDR into a true global currency would yield several benefits for the world’s economy and monetary system.

The idea of a global currency is not new. Prior to the Bretton Woods negotiations, John Maynard Keynes suggested the “bancor” as the unit of account of his proposed International Clearing Union. In the 1960s, under the leadership of the Belgian-American economist Robert Triffin, other proposals emerged to address the growing problems created by the dual dollar-gold system that had been established at Bretton Woods. The system finally collapsed in 1971. As a result of those discussions, the IMF approved the SDR in 1967, and included it in its Articles of Agreement two years later. 

Although the IMF’s issuance of SDRs resembles the creation of national money by central banks, the SDR fulfills only some of the functions of money. True, SDRs are a reserve asset, and thus a store of value. They are also the IMF’s unit of account. But only central banks – mainly in developing countries, though also in developed economies – and a few international institutions use SDRs as a means of exchange to pay each other.

The SDR has a number of basic advantages, not least that the IMF can use it as an instrument of international monetary policy in a global economic crisis. In 2009, for example, the IMF issued $250 billion in SDRs to help combat the downturn, following a proposal by the G20.

Most importantly, SDRs could also become the basic instrument to finance IMF programs. Until now, the Fund has relied mainly on quota (capital) increases and borrowing from member countries. But quotas have tended to lag behind global economic growth; the last increase was approved in 2010, but the US Congress agreed to it only in 2015. And loans from member countries, the IMF’s main source of new funds (particularly during crises), are not true multilateral instruments.

The best alternative would be to turn the IMF into an institution fully financed and managed in its own global currency – a proposal made several decades ago by Jacques Polak, then the Fund’s leading economist. One simple option would be to consider the SDRs that countries hold but have not used as “deposits” at the IMF, which the Fund can use to finance its lending to countries. This would require a change in the Articles of Agreement, because SDRs currently are not held in regular IMF accounts.

The Fund could then issue SDRs regularly or, better still, during crises, as in 2009. In the long term, the amount issued must be related to the demand for foreign-exchange reserves. Various economists and the IMF itself have estimated that the Fund could issue $200-300 billion in SDRs per year. Moreover, this would spread the financial benefits (seigniorage) of issuing the global currency across all countries. At present, these benefits accrue only to issuers of national or regional currencies that are used internationally – particularly the US dollar and the euro.

More active use of SDRs would also make the international monetary system more independent of US monetary policy. One of the major problems of the global monetary system is that the policy objectives of the US, as the issuer of the world’s main reserve currency, are not always consistent with overall stability in the system.

In any case, different national and regional currencies could continue to circulate alongside growing SDR reserves. And a new IMF “substitution account” would allow central banks to exchange their reserves for SDRs, as the US first proposed back in the 1970s.

SDRs could also potentially be used in private transactions and to denominate national bonds. But, as the IMF pointed out in its report to the Board in 2018, these “market SDRs,” which would turn the unit into fully-fledged money, are not essential for the reforms proposed here. Nor would SDRs need to be used as a unit of account outside the Fund.

The anniversaries of the IMF and the SDR in 2019 are causes for celebration. But they also represent an ideal opportunity to transform the SDR into a true global currency that would strengthen the international monetary system. Policymakers should seize it.

*  *  *

And just like that, the world is once again being primed and propagandized to desire this inevitability.  Coming just a day after the Saudis threatened to end the Petrodollar, Ocampo’s op-ed is well-timed to say the least.

As we noted previously, nothing lasts forever.


Business Finance

(EUobserver) France and Germany to co-chair UN security council


France and Germany are to share the rotating presidency of the UN security council (UNSC). Unlike France, Germany serves as a non-permanent member of the UNSC. German foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Monday the country planned on using its role to “strengthen long-term conflict prevention.” France previously rejected German appeals to convert its permanent UNSC seat into an EU one.

(AdelaideNow) Iran appointed for UN Women’s Rights Committee

(AdelaideNow) Iran has been appointed a seat on the UN Women’s Rights Committee in the same week an Iranian women’s rights lawyer was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. Sky News host James Morrow says it’s a ‘disgrace’ that Australians don’t fire up against dictatorships like Iran who abuse women using patriarchy and religion. Broadcaster Jane Marwick says the silence around these issues is ‘absolutely deafening’ and believes the United Nations should be fighting for the freedom of women.

(Axios) Scientists and experts allege anti-nuclear bias in UN climate report


Illustration of the UN climate report casting a shadow on a nuclear power symbol
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A group of roughly three dozen scientists and other energy experts are claiming a seminal United Nations report on climate change is biased against nuclear power.

Why it matters: A global entity like the UN climate panel can have a big impact on the acceptance of nuclear power, as calls to address climate change intensify and the challenges facing the nuclear industry grow around the world.

Show less

The big picture: Nuclear power, which provides 30% of the world’s zero-carbon electricity, is facing international skepticism over past accidents and public fear about its radioactive waste.

  • In the U.S., numerous plants are poised to shut down earlier than their licenses allow — and some already have — due primarily to market and policy hurdles.
  • Natural gas has largely made up the difference after these plants have shut down, so greenhouse gas emissions ticked up in some parts of the U.S.

The details: A letter being sent to leaders of G-20 nations claims the recent report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change includes “misinformation about nuclear energy, contrasts nuclear negatively to renewables, and in some cases suggests an equivalency with fossil fuels.”

  • “While IPCC authors note that public fears of nuclear are an obstacle to its diffusion, in several instances they reinforce unfounded fears,” the letter states.

The signatories include:

  • Tom Wigley, a climate scientist at the University of Adelaide in Australia
  • Kerry Emanuel, atmospheric science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • David Lea, professor of earth science at the University of California

What they’re saying: Emanuel told Axios the IPCC’s latest report contains a number of factual errors and displays a bias against nuclear power that many environmental groups struggle with.

“The IPCC says, correctly, that even 1.5 degrees of warming is dangerous, especially for the developing world. We agree with that, on the other hand it throws cold water on what empirically is the fastest way to mitigate emissions we know about today.”
— Kerry Emanuel

He cited a statement in Chapter 5 of the report that says replacing fossil fuel power plants with nuclear energy has mixed effects for human health — despite the millions of premature deaths that occur worldwide from coal-fired electricity, for example.

Jonathan Lynn, an IPCC spokesman, rejected the accusation that the panel has it in for nuclear power, telling Axios: “We completely reject the idea we are biased about nuclear power or anything else.”

  • Jim Skea, a climate researcher who worked on the IPCC study, said “most” low-carbon scenarios the organization laid out assume the share of nuclear power will increase worldwide.

Between the lines: Opposition to nuclear power from environmentalists, policy leaders and the general public likely hampers nuclear power’s growth, but it’s hard to really know how much would change if the opposition lessened or dissolved altogether.

This energy resource faces a lot of challenges independent of its criticism, including high upfront capital costs competing with increasingly cheap wind and solar energy, along with natural gas.

(EUobserver) World upside down as EU and Russia unite against US


  • Donald Trump’s policies betrayed ‘weakness of intellect’, Iran’s Hassan Rohani said (Photo:

The UN general assembly in New York, the world’s largest diplomatic event, turned into a show of EU solidarity with Russia and China against the US on Tuesday (25 September).

The development, which came about over Iran, symbolised a world-turned-upside-down by US leader Donald Trump’s unilateralism.

  • EU refused to be ‘pushed around by the unilateral decisions of our US allies’, France’s Emmanuel Macron said (Photo: Consilium)

It left Mike Pompeo, Trump’s foreign policy chief, “disturbed and indeed deeply disappointed”.

“This is one of the of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and global peace and security,” he told press, after seven decades in which the US and EU had stood together against common adversaries, such as Russia, in the so-called “transatlantic relationship”.

The measures Pompeo referred to were the creation of a “Special Purpose Vehicle [SPV]” to enable the EU and others to buy Iranian oil in a way that skirted Trump’s new sanctions on Iran.

“Everything that Ms Mogherini has said is extremely positive,” Vladimir Yermakov, a senior Russian diplomat, told press, referring to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

He spoke after Mogherini chaired a meeting with the foreign ministers of Russia, China, Iran, France, Germany, and the UK in New York earlier the same day.

“EU member states will set up a legal entity [the SPV] to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran and this will allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran in accordance with European Union law and could be open to other partners in the world,” she told press alongside Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif in the margins of the UN assembly.

EU technical experts would shortly meet to flesh out details, she said.

“Do you have any better alternative than talks in times of conflict and crisis in the world? Is there a better alternative than diplomacy and dialogue? Is war a better alternative?”, she told US broadcaster CNN in an interview on Tuesday.

The EU, Russia, and China “deeply regret” Trump’s decision, they added in a statement.

His sanctions went against “multilateral diplomacy endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council,” they added.

The EU-led group, called the “E3+2 and Iran”, had, together with the pre-Trump US administration in 2015, when it used to be called the “E3+3 and Iran”, agreed to lift sanctions on Tehran in return for its freeze of uranium enrichment.

But Trump, in May, tore up the accord on grounds it was not strong enough.

The threat of US sanctions has seen EU firms such as French and German car makers Daimler, Peugeot, and Renault, German engineering company Siemens, and French energy firm Total walk away from new ventures in Iran.

But “we [the EU] cannot accept that the US decided the regions with which European companies can or cannot do business,” Belgian prime minister Charles Michel said after meeting Iranian president Hassan Rohani in New York.

“We’re working hard on this [the SPV] with our European partners,” German foreign minister Heiko Maas said.

EU-US rift

The EU-US rift on Iran comes after Trump started a trade war with Europe and China, threatened to pull the US out of Nato, and pulled America out of a global deal on climate change – the Paris accord.

It comes after he also threatened to fine Austrian, Dutch, German, and French firms if they co-financed a new Russia-Germany gas pipeline called Nord Stream 2.

The French leader, Emmanuel Macron, attacked Trump for fomenting “nationalism” and “protectionism” in his UN speech on Tuesday.

“We’re being pushed around by the unilateral decisions of our US allies,” in an approach that led to “isolation and conflict … to the detriment of everyone”, Macron said.

“Even those who contest the reality” of climate change “are suffering its consequences like everyone else,” he added.

For his part, Trump, in his UN speech, threatened Iran with military force and redoubled his attack on Nord Stream 2.

“Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course,” he said.

He also praised Poland for “standing up for their independence, their security, and their sovereignty” one day after the European Commission, on Monday, took Poland to the EU’s highest court for political meddling in its judiciary in violation of EU values and laws.

Laughing at Trump

Trump’s speech prompted laughter in the UN chamber when he claimed he had achieved more in the past two years than any other US president in history.

“I didn’t expect that,” he said.

“Confronting multilateralism is not a sign of strength,” Iran’s Rohani told the UN in his speech.

“Rather, it’s a symptom of weakness of intellect. It betrays an inability in understanding a complex and interconnected world,” Rohani said.

(GUA) UN ‘running out of cash’ and facing urgent cuts, warns chief

(GUA) Letter sent to member states by António Guterres reveals $139m deficit in core budget.

António Guterres
 António Guterres, seen here on a visit to the UN school in San Jose, Costa Rica, says the UN has ‘never faced such a difficult cash flow situation this early in the calendar year’. Photograph: Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters

António Guterres, the UN secretary general, has warned that the organisation is facing an unprecedented shortage of funding for its core budget and will need to make urgent cuts unless member states pay up.

The alarm was raised in letters, seen by the Guardian and other news organisations, sent by Guterres to member states and staff.

Guterres told member states that the UN’s core budget was in the red more deeply and earlier in its financial year than it had ever previously experienced.

He added that, as of 30 June, core funding had a deficit of $139m (£106m), and said the UN had “never faced such a difficult cash flow situation this early in the calendar year”.

In a second letter sent to staff, seen by the Guardian, Guterres underlined the UN’s precarious finances.

“Caused primarily by the delayed contributions of member states to the regular budget, this new cash shortfall is unlike those we have experienced previously,” he wrote, warning the funding crisis posed a risk both to the organisation’s operations and “reputation”.

“Our cash flow has never been this low so early in the calendar year, and the broader trend is also concerning: we are running out of cash sooner and staying in the red longer,” wrote Guterres.

“An organisation such as ours should not have to suffer repeated brushes with bankruptcy. But surely, the greater pain is felt by those we serve when we cannot, for want of modest funds, answer their call for help. Guterres wrote.

The UN general assembly budget committee agreed in December on a $5.4bn core UN budget for 2018-19, which US ambassador Nikki Haley said was a cut of $285m from 2016-17. UN peacekeeping is funded separately.

According to the UN, 112 out of 193 member states have so far paid their share of the core budget. The US, which is responsible for 22% of the budget, traditionally pays later because of its budget year.

The countries that have so far failed to pay include the US, Argentina, Syria, Venezuela and Belarus.

By July last year, 116 countries had paid, compared with 98 in 2016. China, France, Russia and Britain – the permanent members of the UN security council along with the US – are all paid up for 2018.

Guterres told staff he was concerned with a broader trend. “We are running out of cash sooner and staying in the red longer,” he said, adding that the UN would take measures to reduce expenses with a focus on non-staff costs.

Haley came to the UN in January last year pushing for reform of the world body in a bid to cut costs.

“The inefficiency and overspending of the United Nations are well known. We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked,” she said in December, when the core budget was agreed.

Under UN rules, if a country is in arrears by an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for the previous two years, it can lose its general assembly vote unless able to show that its inability to pay is beyond its control.

Comoros, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia are significantly in arrears but have been allowed to retain their vote. Only Libya is unable to vote.

(Xinhua) Portugal’s Antonio Vitorino elected as new IOM Director General

(Xinhua) Member states of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Friday elected Portugal’s Antonio Manuel de Carvalho Ferreira Vitorino as the IOM’s next Director General.

IOM’s current Director General, William Lacy Swing, will be stepping down after completing the second of two five-year terms.

Vitorino, 61, is expected to begin his directorship on Oct. 1 of 2018.

He was elected to Portugal’s Parliament in 1980. In 1983 he became Secretary of State for Parliamentary Affairs. He subsequently served as Minister for National Defense and Deputy Prime Minister within the government of Antonio Guterres, now the United Nations’ Secretary General.

From 1999 to 2004, Vitorino served as the European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs. He has been President of the think tank Notre Europe since June 2011.

Antonio Vitorino earned a degree from the University of Lisbon’s School of Law in 1981, as well as a Master’s Degree in Legal and Political Science.

Established in 1951, International Organization for Migration has over 10,000 staff and over 400 offices in more than 150 countries.

IOM is the UN Migration Agency and is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration.

(BBG) UN Panel Blames Syrian Forces for Deadly Sarin Attack in April

(Bloomberg) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s
government was behind a deadly chemical attack that killed
scores of civilians in a rebel-held village last April, an
investigative panel said in a report to the United Nations
Security Council.
The April 4 attack on the village of Khan Sheikhoun killed
more than 80 people and injured almost 300 others, according to
a report Thursday by a panel of investigators known as the Joint
Investigative Mechanism. In June, investigators from the
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said the
attack probably involved the use of sarin, a lethal nerve agent,
or similar toxic weapons. But that agency isn’t authorized to
conclude who’s responsible for the use of banned chemicals.
After the attack, as images of dying children gasping for
air circulated in the media, the U.S. placed blame on the Syrian
military while also accusing Russia, which backs Assad’s
government, of pushing a “false narrative” that rebel forces
were behind the incident. In an early test of his
administration, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered dozens of
cruise missile strikes on the Shayrat airfield from which the
jet fighters had launched.
The attack on the town crossed “many, many lines, beyond
red lines,” Trump said at the time.
Assad’s government has repeatedly denied the charges.
“‎Time and again, we see independent confirmation of
chemical weapons use by the Assad regime,” U.S. Ambassador to
the UN Nikki Haley said in a statement after the report was
circulated. “The Security Council must send a clear message that
the use of chemical weapons by anyone will not be tolerated.”
The use of chemical weapons would also mean Syria violated
a deal to destroy such weapons, an accord brokered by the Obama
administration and Russia after an August 2013 sarin attack
killed more than 1,000 people in a Damascus suburb.

(BBC) Rohingya crisis: ‘Last chance’ for Aung San Suu Kyi

(BBCRohingya stretch their hands to get aid supplies in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: 16 September 2017Image captionMore than 400,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has “a last chance” to halt an army offensive that has forced hundreds of thousands of the mainly Muslim Rohingya to flee abroad, the UN head has said.

Antonio Guterres told the BBC unless she acted now, “the tragedy will be absolutely horrible”.

The UN has warned the offensive could amount to ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar says it is responding to deadly militant attacks in northern Rakhine state and denies targeting civilians.

The country’s army chief, General Min Aung Hlaing, on Sunday accused the Rohingya of trying to build a stronghold in the state.

In an interview with the BBC’s HARDtalk programme ahead of this week’s UN General Assembly, Mr Guterres said Aung San Suu Kyi had a last chance to stop the offensive during her address to the nation on Tuesday.

“If she does not reverse the situation now, then I think the tragedy will be absolutely horrible, and unfortunately then I don’t see how this can be reversed in the future.”

Media captionAntonio Guterres told the BBC he feared an ‘absolutely horrible’ tragedy

The secretary general reiterated that the Rohingya should be allowed to return home.

He also said it was clear that Myanmar’s military “still have the upper hand” in the country, putting pressure “to do what is being done on the ground” in Rakhine.

Aung San Suu Kyi – a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who spent many years under house arrest in the junta-run Myanmar (Burma) – is now facing growing criticism over the Rohingya issue.

She will not be attending the UN General Assembly in New York, and has claimed that the crisis is being distorted by a “huge iceberg of misinformation”.

She said tensions were being fanned by fake news promoting the interests of terrorists.

Mr Guterres’ warning comes after Bangladesh said it was now limiting the movementof more than 400,000 Rohingya who have fled from Myanmar.

Bangladeshi police said Rohingya would not be allowed to travel anywhere outside of their allocated homes, not even to live with family or friends.

Transport operators and drivers have also been urged not to carry refugees, with landlords told not to rent out any property to them.

Media captionThe BBC’s Jonathan Head went on a government-organised trip to Rakhine state last week

Bangladesh also announced plans to build shelters for up to 400,000 people near the city of Cox’s Bazar.

Analysts say the government wants to stop the Rohingya from disappearing into the general population and to keep them visible, in the hope of returning them to Myanmar – or even a third country.

On 25 August, Rohingya militants attacked police posts in northern Rakhine, killing 12 security personnel.

map of Myanmar showing Rakhine region and neighbouring Bangladesh
Image captionThe violence has been concentrated in Myanmar’s Rakhine area

Rohingya who have fled Myanmar since then say the military responded with a brutal campaign, burning villages and attacking civilians in a bid to drive them out.

The Rohingya, a stateless mostly Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Rakhine, have long experienced persecution in Myanmar, which says they are illegal immigrants.

Media captionWatch: Who are the Rohingya?

But army chief Gen Min Aung Hlaing said on Sunday that the Rohingya formed a Muslim group that has no roots in the country.

“They have demanded recognition as Rohingya, which has never been an ethnic group in Myanmar,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

Officials earlier suggested that not all who have fled to Bangladesh would be allowed to return.

Some who fled from Rakhine state told the BBC earlier this month about killings, rape and even massacres, while inside Rakhine, a BBC crew witnessed charred homes inside Rakhine.

Media captionThe BBC’s Fergal Keane spoke to Buddhists in Myanmar’s second city, Mandalay

A new Human Rights Watch report released on Friday accused the Myanmar military of an “ethnic cleansing campaign” and detailed scores of villages targeted with arson attacks.

The full interview with Antonio Guterres will be broadcast on BBC World News on Monday, 18 September at 03:30, 08:30; 14:30 and 19:30 (all times GMT)

+++ (BBG) Moon Seeks Putin Help, Warns of ‘Uncontrollable’ North Korea

(BBG) U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke again about how to resolve the North Korean crisis as the U.S. seeks support for more stringent UN sanctions at a Security Council meeting next week.

“We will not be putting up with what’s happening in North Korea,” Trump told reporters Wednesday after the conversation. The two leaders had a “very, very frank and very strong call,” he added. Asked about possible U.S. military action, the president said, “That’s not our first choice, but we’ll see what happens.”

Xi reiterated China’s commitment to a denuclearized Korean peninsula while Trump emphasized Beijing’s role in influencing Kim, according to a summary of the call published in Chinese state-run media. The report didn’t say any breakthrough was achieved ahead of a Security Council session the U.S. has requested for Sept. 11.

The call between the U.S. and Chinese leaders came after Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier in the day expressed concern that halting oil supplies to North Korea would hurt its people. Putin’s comments followed a request from South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he support more stringent United Nations sanctions.

“Stopping oil supply to North Korea is inevitable,” Moon’s spokesman Yoon Young-chan quoted him as saying. “I’m asking for Russia’s cooperation.”

Putin explained at length to Moon that sanctions won’t work on North Korea and that halting its oil supply would damage hospitals, his foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said after the meeting, echoing the Russian leader’s earlier remarks that such action would be “useless and ineffective.” On Tuesday, Putin told reporters that Russia’s trade with North Korea is “almost zero,” and that its quarterly exports of 40,000 tons of oil to the country are “as good as nothing” relative to its global sales.

Even so, Ushakov said the talks had led to more “elements of commonality.”

The two leaders’ interaction raises questions over how far the Security Council will go in punishing Kim Jong Un’s regime after it conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sunday. Russia and China both hold vetoes and have opposed doing anything that could lead to the collapse of Kim’s regime.

Trump has vowed to escalate sanctions also has warned North Korea of “fire and fury” if it continues threatening America. He has also threatened to cut off trade with all countries that do business with North Korea. China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner.

Markets React

Stocks fell in most Asian markets on Wednesday, and almost every sector of the Stoxx Europe 600 Index retreated, as nations grapple with how to deal with North Korea’s escalating provocations. The yen was near its strongest level for the year.

In a conversation with Putin on Monday, Moon had said it was time for the UN to seriously consider blocking North Korea’s foreign currency sources by cutting off crude oil supplies and banning its overseas labor.

‘Uncontrollable Situation’

“If we fail to stop North Korea’s provocations now, it could sink into an uncontrollable situation,” Moon said in remarks before the meeting with Putin. “I want to seek a fundamental solution to resolve the North Korea nuclear problem here.”

Putin called for all sides to calm down.

“There’s no point in giving into emotions and backing North Korea into a corner,” Putin said. “More than ever now we need to show restraint and avoid any steps that could escalate tensions.”

“They’ll eat grass, but they won’t abandon their program unless they feel secure,” Putin told reporters Tuesday at an emerging markets summit in Xiamen, China, which was hosted by Xi.

North Korea has reportedly been preparing another launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could come before it marks the anniversary of its founding on Sept. 9. Kim claimed on Sunday that he could fit a warhead onto an ICBM capable of striking the continental U.S.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also plans to visit Vladivostok for talks with Moon and Putin. He told reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday that he wants North Korea to understand it has “no bright future” if it continues on its current path. Putin’s foreign policy aide Ushakov expressed hope that progress could be made at the talks.

Border Post

China has been considering closing a customs post along its border with North Korea, according to the Daily NK, a Seoul-based website that says it gathers information from informants inside the isolated nation. The Quanhe customs house in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, near the Russian border, is the second-biggest of nine posts between China and North Korea.

South Korea is watching closely for any radiation leaks after North Korea detonated its nuclear device, Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said in a briefing Wednesday. The nation’s nuclear safety commission said it hadn’t detected any so far.

Additional launchers for the U.S. missile shield known as Thaad will be installed in South Korea on Thursday afternoon, Yonhap News reported, citing activists at the site. Moon had previously sought to delay its deployment.

The deployment of Thaad “does not help addressing the security concerns of relevant countries,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said at a briefing in Beijing on Wednesday. “It will only severely undermine the strategic balance in the region, jeopardize strategic and security interests of the regional countries, including China, aggravate the tension and confrontation, and further complicate the Peninsular issue.”

Weapons in Japan?

In Tokyo, ruling party heavyweight Shigeru Ishiba said Wednesday on a TV show that Japan should review its policy of not allowing the U.S. to bring atomic weapons into its territory, according to Kyodo News. This would strengthen the deterrence provided by the alliance with the U.S. in the face of the North Korean threat, the lawmaker said.

After Ishiba’s remarks, Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said that Japan would retain its nuclear weapons ban. He said earlier Japan was also gathering information on North Korea’s electromagnetic pulse attack development.

Hours after detonating the device, North Korea’s state-run news agency called it a “thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack according to strategic goals.”

Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said that the explosion on Sunday was 10 times more powerful than the bomb that devastated Hiroshima in the final days of World War II.