US Sanctions Chinese, Russian Firms Over Iran Dealings

The U.S. announced economic sanctions Friday on Chinese and Russian companies that Washington said had supported the development of Iran’s missile program.The four firms, accused of “transferring sensitive technology and items to Iran’s missile program,” will be subject to restrictions on U.S. government aid and on their exports for two years, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.The sanctions, imposed Wednesday, were against two China-based companies, Chengdu Best New Materials and Zibo Elim Trade, as well as Russia-based Nilco Group and Joint Stock Company Elecon.”We will continue to work to impede Iran’s missile development efforts and use our sanctions authorities to spotlight the foreign suppliers, such as these entities in the PRC (China) and Russia, that provide missile-related materials and technology to Iran,” Pompeo added.President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal established three years earlier under then-President Barack Obama.Trump has since reimposed crippling sanctions on the Islamic republic in what he calls a campaign of “maximum pressure.”The Trump administration has also since shown its determination to sanction any foreign country or company that does not comply with its Iran policies.

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Trump Administration Moves Ahead on Removing Bird Protections

The Trump administration moved forward Friday on removing long-standing federal protection for the nation’s birds, over objections from former federal officials and many scientists that billions more birds will likely perish as a result.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its take on the proposed rollback in the Federal Register. It’s a final step that means the change — greatly limiting federal authority to prosecute industries for practices that kill migratory birds — could be made official within 30 days.The wildlife service acknowledged in its findings that the rollback would have a negative effect on the many bird species covered by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which range from hawks and eagles to seabirds, storks, songbirds and sparrows.The move scales back federal prosecution authority for the deadly threats migratory birds face from industry — from electrocution on power lines, to wind turbines that knock them from the air, to oil field waste pits where landing birds perish in toxic water.Industry operations kill an estimated 450 million to 1.1 billion birds annually, out of roughly 7 billion birds in North America, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and recent studies.The Trump administration maintains that the act should apply only to birds killed or harmed intentionally and is putting that change into regulation. The change would “improve consistency and efficiency in enforcement,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said.Judge’s rejectionThe administration has continued to push the migratory bird regulation even after a federal judge in New York in August rejected the administration’s legal rationale.Two days after news organizations announced President Donald Trump’s defeat by Democrat Joe Biden, federal officials advanced the bird treaty changes to the White House, one of the final steps before adoption.Trump was “in a frenzy to finalize his bird-killer policy,” David Yarnold, president of the National Audubon Society, said in a statement Friday. “Reinstating this 100-year-old bedrock law must be a top conservation priority for the Biden-Harris administration” and Congress.Steve Holmer with the American Bird Conservancy said the change would accelerate bird population declines that have swept North America since the 1970s.How the 1918 treaty gets enforced has sweeping ramifications for the construction of commercial buildings, electric transmission systems and other infrastructure, said Rachel Jones, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers.Jones said the changes under Trump would be needed to make sure the bird law wasn’t used in an “abusive way.” That’s a long-standing complaint from industry lawyers despite federal officials’ contention that they bring criminal charges only rarely.It’s part of a flurry of last-minute changes under the outgoing administration benefiting industry. Others would expand Arctic drilling, favor development over habitat protections for imperiled species and potentially hamstring future regulation of environmental and public health threats, among other rollbacks.

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US Appeals Court Rejects Trump Appeal Over Pennsylvania Race 

President Donald Trump’s legal team suffered yet another defeat in court Friday as a federal appeals court in Philadelphia roundly rejected its latest effort to challenge the state’s election results.Trump’s lawyers vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court despite the judge’s assessment that the “campaign’s claims have no merit.”“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” Judge Stephanos Bibas wrote for the three-judge panel.The case had been argued last week in a lower court by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who insisted during five hours of oral arguments that the 2020 presidential election had been marred by widespread fraud in Pennsylvania. However, Giuliani failed to offer any tangible proof of that in court.U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann had said the campaign’s error-filled complaint, “like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together” and denied Giuliani the right to amend it for a second time.The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called that decision justified. The three judges on the panel were all appointed by Republican presidents. including Bibas, a former University of Pennsylvania law professor appointed by Trump. Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, sat on the court for 20 years, retiring in 2019.Friday’s ruling comes four days after Pennsylvania officials certified their vote count for President-elect Joe Biden, who defeated Trump by more than 80,000 votes in the state. Nationally, Biden and running mate Kamala Harris garnered nearly 80 million votes, a record in U.S. presidential elections.Trump has said he hopes the Supreme Court will intervene in the race as it did in 2000, when its decision to stop the recount in Florida gave the election to Republican George W. Bush. On Nov. 5, as the vote count continued, Trump posted a tweet saying the “U.S. Supreme Court should decide!”Ever since, Trump and his surrogates have attacked the election as flawed and filed a flurry of lawsuits to try to block the results in six battleground states. But they’ve found little sympathy from judges, nearly all of whom dismissed their complaints about the security of mail-in ballots, which millions of people used to vote from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.Trump perhaps hopes a Supreme Court he helped steer toward a conservative 6-3 majority would be more open to his pleas, especially since the high court upheld Pennsylvania’s decision to accept mail-in ballots through Nov. 6 by only a 4-4 vote last month. Since then, Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett has joined the court.“The activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania continues to cover up the allegations of massive fraud,” Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis tweeted after Friday’s ruling. “On to SCOTUS!”In the case before Brann, the Trump campaign asked to disenfranchise the state’s 6.8 million voters, or at least the 700,000 who voted by mail in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and other Democratic-leaning areas.“One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption,” Brann wrote in his scathing ruling on Nov. 21. “That has not happened.”A separate Republican challenge that reached the Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week seeks to stop the state from further certifying any races on the ballot. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is fighting that effort, saying it would prevent the state’s legislature and congressional delegation from being seated in the coming weeks.On Thursday, Trump said the Nov. 3 election was still far from over. Yet he offered the clearest signal to date that he would leave the White House peaceably on Jan. 20 if the Electoral College formalizes Biden’s win.“Certainly I will. But you know that,” Trump said at the White House, taking questions from reporters for the first time since Election Day.Yet on Friday, he continued to baselessly attack Detroit, Atlanta and other Democratic cities with large Black populations as the source of “massive voter fraud.” And he claimed, without evidence, that a Pennsylvania poll watcher had uncovered computer memory drives that “gave Biden 50,000 votes” apiece.All 50 states must certify their results before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14, and any challenge to the results must be resolved by Dec. 8. Biden won both the Electoral College and popular vote by wide margins.

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Північна Корея закрила Пхеньян та заборонила риболовлю через COVID-19 – розвідка

Розвідка Південної Корея повідомила, що Північна Корея закрила Пхеньян та заборонила риболовлю на морі через COVID-19.

Північна Корея стверджує, що не виявила випадків зараження коронавірусом на своїй території, проте експерти ставлять під сумнів заяви КНДР.

За словами південнокорейського депутата Ха Те-кена, який отримав доступ до закритого брифінгу розвідки,  Кім Чен Ин вдається до «ірраціональних заходів» через «параною» щодо COVID-19.

Розвідники заявляють, що Північна Корея стратила чільного посадовця в серпні через порушення обмежень на закупівлю товарів з-за кордону. У жовтні стратили міняльника грошей.

Північна Корея також зупинила риболовлю та виробництво солі, щоб запобігти зараженню морської води вірусом. У межах іншого профілактичного заходу країна залишила близько 110 000 тонн рису з Китаю в північно-східному китайському порту Далянь.

За словами законодавця, розвідка переконана, що Північна Корея закрила Пхеньян та північну провінцію Джангганг. Перед цим локдаун був запроваджений в інших районах, куди нібито завозили несанкціоновані товари.

За даними Сеула, Північна Корея також безуспішно намагалася викрасти дані південнокорейських компаній, що розробляють вакцину проти коронавірусу.


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During the Pandemic, Santa Makes Video House Calls

This holiday season, the traditional visit with Santa Claus is going digital. Virtual visits with Santa Claus are being offered as a safer way for children to interact with Santa during the pandemic, as Tina Trinh reports.

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Іран звинувачує Ізраїль у «терористичному» нападі, що призвів до смерті науковця-ядерника

Іран звинувачує Ізраїль у «терористичному» нападі, що призвів до смерті науковця-ядерника.

Мохсен Фахрізадех помер у лікарні 27 листопада від поранень, завданих йому під час нападу «озброєних терористів», заявило Міністерство оборони Ірану.

У відомстві додали, що медики не змогли допомогти Фахрізадеху, який очолював науково-дослідний та інноваційний підрозділ Міністерства оборони.

«На жаль, медичній команді не вдалося його врятувати, і кілька хвилин тому менеджер та науковець досяг високого статусу мучеництва після багаторічних зусиль і боротьби», – йдеться у заяві міністерства, переданій державними ЗМІ.

Міністр закордонних справ Ірану Мохаммад Джавад Заріф заявив, що є «серйозні ознаки ролі Ізраїлю» в нападі на Фахрізадеха.

«Терористи вбили видатного іранського науковця сьогодні. Це боягузтво – із серйозними ознаками ролі Ізраїлю – свідчить про відчайдушне підбурювання до війни з боку винуватців», – написав Заріф у твітері.

Він закликав міжнародну спільноту «покінчити з їхніми ганебними подвійними стандартами й засудити цей акт державного терору».

Ізраїль та Пентагон наразі не коментували вбивство Фахрізадеха.

Напівофіційне іранське інформаційне агентство «Фарс» заявило, що напад стався в Абсарді, невеликому місті на схід від Тегерана. Журналісти пишуть, що свідки почули звук вибуху, а потім кулеметного вогню. Напад був націлений на машину, в якій перебував Фахрізадех.

Науковець очолював іранську програму «Амад» («Надія»). Ізраїль та Захід заявляють, що програма була військовою операцією для оцінки можливості розробки ядерної зброї в Ірані.

Міжнародне агентство з атомної енергії заявляє, що програма «Амад» закінчилася на початку 2000-х.

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Iranian Diplomat on Trial in Belgium, Charged with Plotting Attack

An Iranian diplomat and three other Iranian citizens went on trial in Belgium Friday for allegedly plotting to bomb a 2018 rally of the Paris-based National Council Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an opposition group in exile.Belgian prosecutors charged Vienna-based diplomat Assadolah Assadi and the other Iranians for the alleged plot against the gathering, where the keynote speaker was U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.Assadi was arrested in Germany while on holiday and handed over to Belgium.He refused to appear in court the first day of the trial in Antwerp, claiming diplomatic immunity through his lawyer.”My client asked me to represent him today, he let me know he has the fullest respect for these judges but as he considers that he should benefit from immunity, they are not allowed to judge him,” his lawyer, Dimitri de Beco, told reporters outside the court.Assadi was the third-highest ranking official at Iran’s embassy in Vienna and, according to French officials, he was in charge of intelligence in southern Europe.Tehran has repeatedly denied the charges, saying the allegations are a “false flag” stunt by the NCRI, which Iran considers a terrorist group.This is the first time a European Union country is adjudicating a case on terrorism charges involving an Iranian government official.

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Україна приєдналася до санкцій ЄС проти «Ісламської держави» та «Аль-Каїди»

Україна стала однією з країн, яка приєдналася до санкцій Європейського союзу проти екстремістських угруповань «Ісламська держава» та «Аль-Каїда». Про це 26 листопада повідомила пресслужба Європейської ради.

Зазначається, що рішення щодо санкційних заходів було ухвалено 19 жовтня. Ним вже існуючі обмеження продовжено до 31 жовтня 2021.

До санкцій приєдналися країни-кандидати на вступ до ЄС: Північна Македонія, Чорногорія, Сербія та Албанія, а також потенційний кандидат Боснія і Герцеговина. Рішення ЄС підтримали Ісландія та Ліхтенштей, що входять до Європейського економічного простору, а також Україна, Молдова, Вірменія та Грузія.

«Вони будуть забезпечувати відповідність своєї національної політики цим рішенням Ради»,  мовиться у повідомленні.

У ЄС взяли до відома та привітали таке рішення країн.

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Philippines Looking to Reverse Course on Scrapping US Military Pact

The Philippines, an old American ally in Asia, is changing its view on whether to scrap a key U.S. military pact, as it explores new ways of benefiting from U.S. defense aid without isolating its newer superpower friend, China, analysts and officials say.Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte this month announced that cancelling the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) would be suspended for another six months, which lets U.S. troops access Philippine soil for military exercises aimed at regional security as well as local humanitarian work. Philippine presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Thursday that in six more months “we will know” the president’s decision.The first suspension was announced in June, four months after Manila said it would fully withdraw from the 21-year-old pact.Duterte hopes the suspensions will prompt the United States – which wants to keep the agreement so its military personnel can easily reach Asia – renegotiate the two-way defense relationship with a focus not just on warding off China but also on quelling armed rebels at home, analysts believe.FILE – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during his address to a Filipino business sector in suburban Pasay city south of Manila, Philippines, Oct. 13, 2016.Shortly after taking office in 2016, the leader surprised his citizens by seeking a friendship with China despite a maritime sovereignty dispute that shook the two sides from 2012 to 2016. That year, a world court said Chinese claims in the contested waterway, the South China Sea, were illegal.The Philippines president has expressed anti-American views while in office, but domestic opinion polls show that much of the public still favors close ties with Washington. Duterte’s government has acknowledged this year that China remains a threat at sea despite Chinese economic aid offered since 2016.“For the Duterte government’s perspective, there’s too much focus from the United States on U.S.-China great power competition and arming the Philippines to deal with China, rather than arming the Philippines so that the Philippines can do other missions as well,” said Derek Grossman, senior analyst with the U.S.-based Rand Corp. research institution.“By delaying the VFA further, they are keeping the agreement intact but also putting some pressure on negotiators to come up with a better deal,” he said.Philippines Breaks Major Security Agreement with USAgreement that allows US forces to be stationed on Philippine soil has long been a target of President Rodrigo DuterteForeign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. sent in February a “notice of termination” of the Visiting Forces Agreement to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, following through on an order from Duterte. He hinted later that the president was having a rethink.“Why did he change his mind? A man who does not change his mind cannot change anything,” Locsin tweeted June 3 in announcing the first suspension. “And he ran on the slogan: Change is coming.”Washington and Manila separately signed a Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951. The Visiting Forces Agreement is seen as a way to execute the 1951 deal through arms sales, exchanges of intelligence and new discussions on military cooperation.Duterte probably hopes the government of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will renegotiate military ties so the Philippines can tone down maritime defenses against China and instead focus on anti-terrorism campaigns around the restive southern Philippine island Mindanao, experts say. Expect more suspensions of the VFA cancellation, they add.China or US ? Philippines Foreign Policy Plays Both SidesForeign secretary says Asia needs more US presence“It’s going to be like this until the two sides really find an agreement to better the alliance based on mutually acceptable terms,” said Aaron Rabena, research fellow at the Asia-Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation in Metro Manila.About 20 Muslim rebel groups operate in Mindanao and the adjacent Sulu Sea. Mindanao is a stronghold too for the Philippine communist party’s armed front.Duterte ultimately wants a superpower-neutral foreign policy like those crafted by Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, some experts say.The United States had governed the Philippines for more than five decades before granting it independence after World War II. For Washington today, the Philippines represents one in a Western Pacific chain of political allies that work together as needed to stop Chinese maritime expansion.Beijing resents U.S. military activity near the resource-laden, 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea. China, better armed than any other country in East Asia, calls 90% of the sea its own despite protests from the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.“The Philippines will be friends with both sides, but it will not be taken for a ride and I think the six-month, short-term leash is also seen in the context that the Philippines and the U.S. [are] still discussing revisions of the Mutual Defense Treaty,” said Eduardo Araral, associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s public policy school.Duterte’s government values its U.S. ties as well as others, Jose Manuel Romualdez, Philippines ambassador to the United States, said November 18 in a videoconference with the Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall.“It’s not fair to say Duterte is really just cozying up to China and it’s a zero-sum game,” the ambassador said. “We would like to have relations with all countries. We feel that our interests will be best protected by reaching out to major countries like China and even Russia to do what is best for our country.”

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Reuters: хакери з КНДР атакували розробника вакцин від COVID-19

Імовірні хакери з Північної Кореї спробували зламати системи британського виробника ліків та розробника вакцини від COVID-19 AstraZeneca. Про це повідомляє Reuters з посиланням на власні джерела.

Співрозмовники агентства розповіли, що зловмисники видавали себе за рекрутерів і зверталися через сайт LinkedIn і месенджер WhatsApp до співробітників AstraZeneca з неіснуючими пропозиціями про роботу. Потім хакери відправляли документи, які нібито описують посадові обов’язки. Ці файли містили шкідливий код для отримання доступу до комп’ютера жертви.

За словами одного з джерел, зловмисники намагалися атакувати зокрема й комп’ютери розробників вакцини. Спроба була невдалою, стверджують співрозмовники Reuters. Деякі з облікових записів, використаних в атаках на AstraZeneca, були зареєстровані на російські електронні адреси, що, можливо, було спробою ввести слідчих в оману, кажуть співрозмовники агентства.


Місія КНДР при ООН в Женеві не відповіла на прохання агентства про коментар. Раніше Пхеньян всі звинувачення в кібератаках відкидав. AstraZeneca від коментарів відмовилася.

Кількість кібератак на органи охорони здоров’я, виробників ліків збільшилася з початком пандемії. У листопаді компанія Microsoft заявила, що виявила дві хакерські групи, націлені на розробників вакцин. Корпорація не розкрила назв угруповань.

Агентство Reuters раніше повідомляло про спроби хакерів із Росії, Ірану і Китаю атакувати системи провідних світових виробників ліків і сервери Всесвітньої організації охорони здоров’я. Москва, Тегеран та Пекін звинувачення відкинули.

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