The World Today for June 22, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

RUSSIA

Tit for Tat


Relations between Washington and Moscow have been under pressure since President Obama introduced sanctions against Russia for its 2014 invasion of the Crimean peninsula.

Ties between the two powers have become more frayed since then, thanks to issues like divisions over Syria and accusations of Russian meddling in last year’s US presidential election.

Now, the US Senate has upped the ante by introducing new sanctions intended as punishment for Russia’s bad behavior.

“The legislation sends a very, very strong signal to Russia, the nefarious activities they’ve been involved in,” said Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

On Wednesday, Russia cancelled talks with US officials about the sanctions and other issues.

If the measures make it through Congress and President Donald Trump signs them into law, they will formalize sanctions that ex-President Barack Obama made as executive orders and impose new penalties on Russian industries like mining and metals, wrote Reuters.

The bill also targets individual Russians involved in cyber-attacks or in supplying the Syrian government with weapons.

Damage from the restrictions is uncertain.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview last week that the country would have to make some changes as a result of the sanctions.

On the other hand, Putin has also said the US relationship with Russia would “of course” get more complicated if the laws take effect.

Still, Putin conceded it was too early to talk about a response to the new measures, said the Hill.

German and Austrian leaders have criticized the sanctions for penalizing European firms involved in the construction of pipelines used to import Russian gas to Europe. The sanctions benefit American gas exporters.

Germany has already threatened retaliatory measures against the US if they harm the European economy, paving the way for a potential “breakdown of trans-Atlantic unity” against Russian aggression, noted the UK’s Telegraph.

As it stands, Russia is already taking a firmer stance against the US in Syria, warning Monday that it will treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates as a “potential target,” noted the Guardian.

There’s no direct connection between the sanctions and the threat of aerial conflict between the US and Russia in the Middle East.

But they suggest pressure is mounting between Washington and Moscow.

[siteshare]Tit for Tat[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

SAUDI ARABIA

Fresh Prince


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman made his 31-year-old son the crown prince Wednesday, replacing the king’s 57-year-old nephew as heir to the throne.

The formal ascension of Mohammed bin Salman effectively makes him the most important political figure in the country, as King Salman’s health is believed to be failing, the Washington Post reported.

Mohammed bin Salman’s supporters see him as a reformer well poised to guide the kingdom through its transition away from a purely oil-based economy. But critics say his recklessness could exacerbate tensions in the Middle East.

The prince shares US President Donald Trump’s hawkish stance on Iran, Reuters noted. But various experts said confronting Tehran more aggressively could worsen the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict playing out across the Middle East and possibly draw Washington into the quagmire.

The ouster of King Salman’s nephew was expected. But it comes at an awkward time for the kingdom. Even as it takes a more aggressive posture in the region through the war in Yemen and isolation of Qatar, it’s simultaneously facing resistance from Turkey, Pakistan and Oman, as well as Iran.

[siteshare]Fresh Prince[/siteshare]

HAITI

Channeling Capone


A US court sentenced the leader of the 2004 coup that ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to nine years in prison on charges related to drug trafficking.

A district court in Miami sentenced Guy Philippe, 49, to the prison term after he pled guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering in connection with his receipt of cash payments tied to narcotics sales in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Reuters reported.

Prosecutors said Philippe, a former high-ranking official in the Haitian National Police who has been in US custody since his arrest early this year, received more than $1.5 million in bribes to ensure the safe transit of drug shipments.

He was arrested in Haiti on Jan. 5, four days before he was scheduled to join Haiti’s parliament as a senator, and extradited to the US. A plea deal assured that he avoided a life sentence.

Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Aristide was ousted by two separate coups – one in 1991 that prompted US intervention and a second in 2004. He accused the US of orchestrating his second ouster, which Mother Jones reported was aided by the US-funded International Republican Institute (IRI).

[siteshare]Channeling Capone[/siteshare]

SOUTH SUDAN

From Bad to Worse


The South Sudan military shelled civilian areas, torched houses and killed civilians between January and May, forcing thousands of ethnic minority Shilluk residents to flee their homes, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

The mass displacement was shocking “even considering South Sudan’s history of ethnic hostility,” the Associated Press quoted the human rights agency as saying this week.

South Sudan is now in the fourth year of a bloody civil war in which both government and opposition forces stand accused of war crimes. But the plight of other ethnic groups like the Shilluk has largely been ignored due to the focus on the Dinka and Nuer groups that make up the warring factions, the AP noted.

Separately, a dozen South Sudanese soldiers facing criminal charges associated with an attack on foreign aid workers last year pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, the AP reported.

Nine soldiers are charged with murder, rape and looting in the assault on the Terrain hotel compound in the capital, Juba, in July. The other three face charges including looting, trespassing and theft.

[siteshare]From Bad to Worse[/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

Death by Fine Dining


As anyone who’s ever made a jaunt to Rome knows, food is an integral part of the Italian way of life.

But the culinary side of la dolce vita is more than just vino and pasta under the Roman sun. It’s also a serious matter for Italy’s highest court at times.

Last week, the Court of Cassation in Rome called to end subjecting lobsters to “unjustifiable suffering” by keeping them on ice before they meet their death by fine dining, wrote the Huffington Post.

Judges upheld a complaint from an animal rights’ group, which sued the owner of a restaurant near Florence that kept live crustaceans on ice while they awaited cooking.

While boiling these lobsters alive might be a legal practice, judges said that’s no excuse for mistreating them beforehand and handed down a $5,593 fine to the restaurant owner.

Instead, they said restaurateurs across the Italian peninsula should take a cue from some of the country’s poshest eateries, where lobsters and their fellow crustaceans are comfortably housed in oxygenated water tanks kept at room temperature rather than being chilled on ice.

[siteshare]Death by Fine Dining[/siteshare]

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