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Ghost Dog

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Gender: Do not display
Hometown: Canary Islands Archipelago
Home country: Spain
Member since: Wed Apr 19, 2006, 01:59 PM
Number of posts: 16,678

About Me

A Brit many years in Spain, Catalunya, Baleares, Canarias. Cooperative member. Geography. Ecology. Cartography. Software. Sound Recording. Music Production. Languages & Literature. History.

Journal Archives

U.S. issues warning on airspace near Gulf as Iran tensions simmer

Source: Reuters

(Reuters) - The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an advisory to U.S. commercial airliners flying over the waters of the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to exercise caution as tensions between Washington and Tehran continue to simmer.

The advisory, issued by the FAA on Thursday and circulated late on Friday, said the warning came amidst “heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the region which present an increasing inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations due to the potential for miscalculation or mis-identification”...

Read more: https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-iran-airlines-gulf/u-s-issues-warning-on-airspace-near-gulf-as-iran-tensions-simmer-idUKKCN1SO06B

Alternative headline: "US warns strike force might shoot down commercial airliners"

Guardian Exclusive spins SIS 'intelligence' on Iran tension

Two senior intelligence sources said that Qassem Suleimani, leader of Iran’s powerful Quds force, summoned the militias under Tehran’s influence three weeks ago, amid a heightened state of tension in the region. The move to mobilise Iran’s regional allies is understood to have triggered fears in the US that Washington’s interests in the Middle East are facing a pressing threat. The UK raised its threat levels for British troops in Iraq on Thursday.

While Suleimani has met regularly with leaders of Iraq’s myriad Shia groups over the past five years, the nature and tone of this gathering was different. “It wasn’t quite a call to arms, but it wasn’t far off,” one source said.

The meeting has led to a frenzy of diplomatic activity between US, British and Iraqi officials who are trying to banish the spectre of clashes between Tehran and Washington and who now fear that Iraq could become an arena for conflict.

The gathering partly informed a US decision to evacuate non-essential diplomatic staff from the US embassy in Baghdad and Erbil and to raise the threat status at US bases in Iraq. It also coincided with a perceived separate risk to US interests and those of its allies in the Persian Gulf and led to a heightened threat that more than a decade of proxy conflicts may spill over into a direct clash between Washington and Tehran...


Well, first of all note the present tense used in head and sublines, when the meeting referred to was three weeks ago. Around three weeks ago, I recall, Iranian officials were saying that if attacked by the USA, they could retaliate against US assets in the region.

Oh, and select a sinister photo of Suleimani, naturally.

Then, the content nowhere emphasises that the US executive started this, by unilaterally withdrawing from the nuclear deal a year ago, imposing sanctions and ratcheting up the tension as acts of deliberate policy. Iran has until now been in full compliance with the deal and has been waiting for the EU to come up with a promised 'way round' the US sanctions, something that appears to be difficult. Iran now says it will cease to comply with some of the terms of the deal. The US continues to ratchet up tensions, and Iran's proxies are surely now on high alert, ready indeed to retaliate.

That the British in Iraq, Bahrein, Oman and elsewhere are also on higher alert, as will be the French, is one more ratchet wound on the wheel that rolls towards war, as Bolton has promised.

How does voting work in European elections? (BBC)

More than 400 million people are eligible to vote in this month's European Parliament elections, in one of the biggest democratic exercises in the world. So how do you hold a vote in 28 different countries under a whole host of different rules?

In the last election in 2014, 168,818,151 people took part, with a turnout of just over 40%, and five million ballots were spoiled. That makes it bigger than the US presidential vote, though not even close to the size of India's election, which is the largest.

This year's elections will take place on four days with three voting systems, but it will all come together thanks to a set of common principles- and the willingness of member states to tweak their national election rules to suit.

Here's how it all works... (see at link):


Tax authorities mount raids on 19 German banks and homes

Eleven banks and eight private homes and offices across Germany have been raided by police and tax investigators as part of a wide-ranging investigation into tax evasion. The raids, which began at dawn on Wednesday and went on into the afternoon, were part of the same investigation started last November over money laundering allegations linked to the so-called Panama Papers scandal, alleged to involve Deutsche Bank.

The eight individuals under investigation are alleged to have founded companies in offshore tax havens aided by a former British Virgin Islands branch of Deutsche Bank.

“With the help of a former subsidiary of a major German bank, they are each believed to have founded companies in tax havens on the British Virgin Islands to hide capital gains from the German tax authorities and evade tax that was due on them,” Frankfurt state prosecutors said in a statement...


Why here in UK Group? Because British Virgin Islands, a BOT (British Overseas Territory aka British Offshore Taxhaven). For some in UK who favour leaving the EU, it is precisely so as to be able to continue catering to wealthy tax evaders, domestic and foreign, or being the same themselves. This corrupts everything.

The hidden world of the doctors Cuba sends overseas

... In October 2011, the young doctor was posted to a clinic in the Venezuelan town of El Sombrero. The placement was part of the Barrio Adentro (Inside the Neighbourhood) scheme, which has distributed Cuban doctors around disadvantaged parts of the South American country since 2003 as a symbol of Cuban support for the regime of the late President Hugo Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro. Venezuela pays for this and other services by Cuban workers with oil.

Dayli says she found herself in a virtual war zone - one in which she became accustomed to having a gun pointed at her.

Venezuela was at that time in the midst of a crime rate spiral that has led to a murder rate of 92 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016, according to the NGO Venezuelan Observatory of Violence. World Bank figures put the 2016 figure at 56 per 100,000, topped only by El Salvador and Honduras.

"There were many criminal gangs," says Dayli. "When they fought, they brought their injured to us, because the local Venezuelan hospital had a police presence, and we didn't. These kids would bring in a patient with 12 or 15 bullets in his body, point their guns at you and say you had to save him. If he died, you would die. That kind of thing happened on a daily basis. It was routine."

The gang members she treated were often just teenagers of 15 and 16, she says...


Analysis: Persian Gulf tensions, unclear threats raise risks (AP)

... After pulling out of the deal last year, the U.S. began a maximalist pressure campaign against Iran. It re-imposed sanctions. It created new ones, for the first time naming a part of a country’s armed forces a terrorist organization and squeezing Iran by threatening sanctions on any nation importing its crude oil. For a year, Iran negotiated with European signatories to the deal to find a way to allow it to continue its trading. Those efforts have yet to bear fruit. Meanwhile, Trump’s national security John Bolton, who gave paid speeches to an Iranian exile group promising that Iran’s government would be overthrown, issued the statement announcing the aircraft carrier would be deployed... Iran announced May 8 it would back away from the nuclear deal. Four days later, on Sunday, everything suddenly changed.

A pro-Iran Lebanese satellite channel falsely claimed the Emirati port of Fujairah was ablaze after explosions, reports quickly carried by Iranian state media and semi-official outlets. Hours later, the United Arab Emirates issued a vague statement alleging four ships “were subjected to sabotage operations.” By Monday, it was clear something happened. One of the four oil tankers affected, a Norwegian-flagged ship, clearly had a hole punched through its hull. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the other three did as well. But Emirati and U.S. officials refused to speak on record to journalists. Satellite images obtained by The Associated Press later showed no visible major damage to the vessels, which included two Saudi tankers and an Emirati vessel.

On Tuesday, there still were no clear answers but many questions. Where did the Lebanese channel get its information about the explosions? What damaged the ships? And why won’t anyone identify suspects involved in the alleged sabotage? ... The UAE is developing Fujairah with an eye to possibly avoid having to send crude oil through the Strait of Hormuz. Now suddenly, Fujairah is a target... On Tuesday, a pipeline in Saudi Arabia that allows it to likewise avoid the strait became a target as well. Yemen’s Houthi rebels, with whom Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been fighting a bloody war since March 2015, launched a drone attack on the East-West pipeline, which carries nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil a day to the Red Sea. The kingdom shut down the pipeline in response, causing a spike in global oil prices...

... “Iran could actually view some of this as being a potential buildup for some type of offensive action,” said Becca Wasser, a Washington-based RAND Corp. analyst specializing in Gulf security. “It raises the risk of accidental escalation . Because the U.S. and Iran don’t have clear lines of communication at the moment, everything can be perceived in a very different light than one side is intending.” She added: “Something that would usually be a smaller issue could bloom into something much larger and much-more serious.”


Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh, Lord
I've been waiting for this moment all my life, oh, Lord
Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh, Lord, oh, Lord

Well, if you told me you were drowning
I would not lend a hand
I've seen your face before my friend
But I don't know if you know who I am
Well, I was there and I saw what you did
I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off the grin, I know where you've been
It's all been a pack of lies

And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh, Lord
I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh, Lord
I can feel it in the air tonight, oh, Lord, oh, Lord
And I've been waiting for this moment all my life, oh, Lord, oh, Lord

Well I remember, I remember don't worry
How could I ever forget, it's the first time, the last time we ever met
But I know the reason why you keep your silence up, no you don't fool me
The hurt doesn't show, but the pain still grows
It's no stranger to you or me

And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh, Lord
I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh, Lord
I can feel it in the air tonight, oh, Lord, oh, Lord
And I've been waiting for this moment all my life, oh, Lord, oh, Lord

And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh, Lord
I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh, Lord
I can feel it in the air tonight, oh, Lord, oh, Lord
And I've been waiting for this moment all my life, oh, Lord, oh, Lord

Spain withdraws frigate 'Mendez Nunez' from the US combat group in the Persian Gulf

Source: El Pais

Spain does not want to be involuntarily dragged into a conflict with Iran. The acting Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, has ordered the temporary withdrawal of the Spanish frigate Méndez Núñez (F-104), with 215 sailors on board, from the combat group headed by the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the face of the escalation of tension between Washington and Tehran. The fleet has already crossed the Strait of Bab el Mandeb, which links the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean, and is heading for the Strait of Hormuz to enter the Persian Gulf, but it will traverse the strait without the Spanish vessel... (my translation)

Read more: https://elpais.com/internacional/2019/05/13/actualidad/1557772789_530388.html

The acting Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, has justified this Tuesday in Brussels the withdrawal of the 'Méndez Núñez', which was scheduled to accompany the US aircraft carrier 'Abraham Lincoln', because the United States has changed the original mission. According to the minister, Spain had agreed two years ago with the United States the presence of the frigate in this mission, as a practical exercise and to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation].

"The mission to which the 'Abraham Lincoln' is destined was not planned at the time, we respect that decision and when we return to what was planned with the Spanish Navy we will continue with normality," said Robles... (my translation)


Edit, for those curious and perhaps educationally-challenged, as regards the Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation please see here, for a start: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Magellan%E2%80%93Elcano_circumnavigation

... And, since this site screws up text and html containing international ASCII, the link to the ship is here, ffs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_frigate_M%C3%A9ndez_N%C3%BA%C3%B1ez

Saudi Arabia says oil facilities outside Riyadh attacked

Source: Reuters

RIYADH/DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia said armed drones had struck two oil pumping stations in the kingdom on Tuesday in what it called a “cowardly” act of terrorism two days after Saudi oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. The energy minister of the world’s largest oil exporter said the attack caused a fire, now contained, and minor damage at one pump station, but did not disrupt oil production or exports of crude and petroleum products.

Oil prices spiked on news of the attack on the stations, more than 200 miles (320 km) west of the capital Riyadh. Brent crude futures rose 1.38% to trade at $71.20 (54.99 pounds) by 1114 GMT.

Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, in comments run by state media, said the drone attack and Sunday’s sabotage of four vessels, including two Saudi tankers, off Fujairah emirate, a major bunkering hub, threatened global oil supplies. “These attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran,” Falih said in an English-language statement issued by his ministry.

Houthi-run Masirah TV earlier said the group had launched drone attacks on “vital” Saudi installations in response to “continued aggression and blockade” on Yemen...

Read more: https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-saudi-oil-usa-iran/saudi-arabia-says-oil-facilities-outside-riyadh-attacked-idUKKCN1SK0YY?il=0

Pompeo to visit Brussels as Europe meets on Iran

Source: Agence France Presse

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Brussels on Monday to discuss "pressing matters" including the Iran nuclear deal, as the European signatories to the accord meet for talks on how to prevent its collapse. The EU reiterated its determination to save the 2015 agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief, as tensions between the US and Iran rack up...

... Few details of Pompeo's agenda in Brussels have been announced, beyond the State Department saying talks would be held with officials from France, the UK and Germany. Mogherini gave a chilly response to news of Pompeo's visit, which she said was only communicated to Brussels at the last minute. "We'll be here all day with a busy agenda so we'll see during the day how and if we manage to arrange a meeting," she told reporters...

... Pompeo's visit to Brussels means he is scrapping a stop expected on Monday in Moscow. But he will still head to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday to meet President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a State Department official added just before Pompeo left Washington. In recent days, Pompeo has already cancelled trips to Berlin and to Greenland to focus on the Iran issue.

Read more: https://www.afp.com/en/news/15/pompeo-visit-brussels-europe-meets-iran-doc-1ge4wb1

btw there is also this, top news story in Spain's El País this morning (my translation):

More spending on weapons, yes. But strategic independence, no. The United States has warned the European Union in writing that its current defense plans are endangering decades of integration of the transatlantic defense industry and military cooperation through NATO.

The letter, dated May 1 and which has been seen by EL PAÍS, comes loaded with more or less veiled threats of possible political and commercial reprisals if Brussels continues with its plans to develop European armaments projects without necessarily including third parties, not even the United States...


... This story is apparently yet to appear in English-language news feeds... But there is this from May 3:

... Brussels plans to spend around €13 billion on defense capabilities and research over its next long-term budget as it seeks to boost resilience and reduce Europe’s reliance on the U.S. for protection.

The defense portfolio is currently handled by Federica Mogherini, the E.U.’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and head of the European External Action Service, but she will leave office later this year when the current European Commission’s mandate ends. The sources said the incoming team could include a dedicated defense commissioner. “Reflections are under way within the institutions for the creation of a directorate general in charge of security and defense issues,” French defense minister Florence Parly said last month.

France has been at the forefront of the E.U. defense push. In August 2018, President Emmanuel Macron suggested that Europe should adopt a NATO-style collective defense to give the E.U. ‘strategic autonomy’, and a year earlier, Macron called for the formation of a European defense fund.


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