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U.S. sanctions target food subsidy scam in Venezuela



The U.S. on Thursday imposed sanctions on 10 people and 13 groups in a Venezuelan food subsidy scheme that lined the pockets of President Nicolas Maduro, his stepsons and others, the U.S. Treasury said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said this in a statement.

The department said Colombian national Alex Nain Saab orchestrated a vast corruption network for food imports and distribution in Venezuela.

He profited from overvalued contracts, including the government’s food subsidy programme.

“Alex Saab engaged with Maduro insiders to run a wide-scale corruption network they callously used to exploit Venezuela’s starving population,” Mnuchin said in a statement.

“Treasury is targeting those behind Maduro’s sophisticated corruption schemes, as well as the global network of shell companies that profit from” the country’s military-controlled food distribution programme, he said.

The department said Saab became involved with the food subsidy programme in 2016, when he set up a corporate structure to acquire food outside the country and ship it to Venezuela.

“Saab reaped profits and imported only a fraction of the food needed for the subsidy program.

“Treasury alleged the individuals hit by sanctions had enriched themselves through government contracts, including Maduro’s stepsons Walter, Yosser and Yoswal Gavidia.

“Saab also began in 2018 to help the Venezuelan government liquidate gold mined in Venezuela and convert it into foreign currency.

“The gold was then flown to destinations including Turkey and the United Arab Emirates,” Treasury said.

The U.S. imposed sanctions on the Venezuelan gold sector in 2018.



Top DPRK leader guides test-fire of new weapon again – KCNA




The report said the national defence scientists, whom Kim praised for having developed the weapon in a “shortest span of time,” showed “a perfect result” in the test-fire and helped boost confidence in this weapon system.

But it did not elaborate what kind of new weapon it was.

Kim stressed the need to keep channelling all-state efforts and render unreserved support to the sacred national defence building “so as to reliably guarantee the sovereignty and security of the country and the happy future of the people,’’ according to KCNA.

He also said the core plan of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea for defence building is to “possess such a powerful force, strong enough to discourage any forces from daring to provoke us’’.

The DPRK on Friday fired two unidentified short-range projectiles off its east coast into the sea, according to South Korea’s military.

It was the sixth round of launches in recent weeks and happened after the joint military exercises by South Korea and the United States kicked off on Aug. 5.


Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Pakistani PM welcomes UN meeting on Kashmir issue




The Security Council on Friday held an informal consultation on India-Pakistan question and listened to the briefings given by the UN Secretariat on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the work of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP).

The Council members said they are deeply concerned about the current situation and hope that the relevant parties will exercise restraint and not take unilateral action that will escalate tensions.

They called on both sides to properly resolve the issue through dialogue.

“It is for the first time in over 50 years that the world’s highest diplomatic forum has taken up this issue.

“There are 11 UNSC resolutions, reiterating the Kashmiris right to self-determination,’’ the Pakistani Prime Minister wrote on Twitter.

Pakistan had called for the UN meeting to discuss the situation in Kashmir following the Indian government’s decision on Aug. 5 to revoke the special status of Indian-controlled Kashmir.

After India’s decision, Pakistan in reaction downgraded its diplomatic ties and suspended trade relations and train service with India.

Pakistani Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, presided over a meeting of a special committee of political parties on Saturday to discuss a joint strategy in the prevailing situation following the Indian government’s decision, the foreign office said.


Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Hong Kong protesters disperse as police march on shopping district




Protesters have occupied streets and transport hubs in Hong Kong since early June when mass demonstrations began against legislation that put citizens at risk of extradition to China.

As of Sunday, the Asian financial hub will have seen protests for 11 consecutive weeks.

Protesters gathered at the Mong Kok police station in the early evening, but when riot police suddenly emerged, they began to move away and disappeared into crowds of shoppers and bystanders.

The riot police, wielding batons and shields, then marched through Mong Kok district, prompting cafes and restaurants to suddenly pull down their shutters, but clashes never came.

Bystanders, meanwhile, jeered at police from a pedestrian walkway and threw bags of ice onto police vehicles before an officer pointed what appeared to be fire nonlethal bean bag rounds at unarmed citizens.

Earlier, protesters threw eggs and shined laser pointers at a group of officers gathered in front of the building’s entrance – an increasingly common tactic to keep police cameras from filming protesters and identifying them later for arrest.

As protesters shouted obscenities, many police responded in turn.

The standoff followed a peaceful march through Kowloon on Saturday afternoon despite rainfall that saw many protesters express anger at police violence over weeks of demonstration.

“I think it is most important that we have to stop Hong Kong police from using violence.

“As we can see in the last few months, many protesters have gotten shot above their shoulders and this is illegal,’’ protester Yoyo Wong told dpa.

“Hong Kong police should be protecting Hong Kongers, not hurting them.

“That’s why we come out.’’

One older protester, who identified herself as Mrs Lai, said she was there to support young people.

“We fight for freedom,’’ she said.

“We fight for Hong Kong’s next generation.’’

Lai said she was angry police had arrested so many young people.

“I think the Hong Kong government totally ignores the voice of the Hong Kong people,’’ she said.

“If we don’t march, we will lose our freedom.’’

While most of the march was peaceful, as it came to an end, some protesters defaced a number of pro-Beijing symbols as they walked, including throwing eggs at the offices of a pro-China political party and defacing the walls of a major trade union that also has strong links.

The European Union on Saturday urged the Hong Kong police and protesters to use restraint as protests intensify.

“There has recently been a rising number of unacceptable violent incidents, with risks of further violence and instability,’’ EU Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini, said in a statement.

“It is crucial that restraint is exercised, violence rejected and urgent steps are taken to de-escalate the situation,’’ Mogherini said.

Protests began on June 9 against a now-suspended legislative bill that would have allowed for criminal extradition to mainland China.


Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Italy says six EU states will take in Open Arms migrants




The migrants have been stranded on the Spanish charity ship ‘Open Arms’ since it picked them up off Libya in early August, and Rome’s far-right Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, refused to allow them to disembark.

“The migrants will be shared out among France, Germany, Romania, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg,’’ Conte said in an open letter to Salvini, in which he accused the minister of disloyalty and being “obsessed” with closing Italy’s ports to migrants.

The Open Arms, operated by a Spanish charity of the same name, was in Italian territorial waters on Thursday, a day after a Rome administrative court gave it leave to enter them, countermanding Salvini’s ban.

Before Conte’s announcement, Spain said it was working with other EU states and the European Commission to find a “common… and orderly solution’’, and was willing to “participate in a balanced distribution of migrants on board the ship’’.

French and German officials confirmed talks were underway to resolve this latest in a series of flashpoints over immigration involving Italy and one that has fuelled infighting in a coalition government in Rome that is close to collapse.

Salvini, who heads the League party that forms part of the coalition, issued an emergency order to prevent Open Arms arriving at the Italian island of Lampedusa. But the Defence Minister, who is from the League’s partner party 5-Star, refused to countersign it.

Openly challenging the League leader, who has so far dictated Italy’s immigration policy, Elisabetta Trenta said defying the court was illegal and that “politics must not lose its humanity’’.

The League and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement were already in open conflict after Salvini said last week the alliance had become unworkable and called for elections.

The League has tabled a motion of no-confidence in the government, and the premier Conte, a former academic, who is not from either ruling party, vented his anger in his open letter to Salvini.

He accused the far-right leader of “disloyal collaboration” by misrepresenting Conte’s own position, and of exploiting the issue of immigration for electoral gain rather than seeking necessary solutions with Italy’s partners.

Hollywood star Richard Gere visited the Open Arms last week and urged the Italian government to stop “demonising people” and allow the boat to disembark.

The charity’s spokeswoman said the ship was anchored five miles (eight kilometres) off Lampedusa.

Spanish public broadcaster TVE, who are present on the Open Arms, interviewed a migrant, who said they would only really rejoice once they will have reached the shore.

“We need to touch the ground, life is over there, here it’s death,’’ said the woman, whom TVE did not name.


Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Arsenal open season with two straight wins after beating Burnley




Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored as the Gunners won their opening two matches for the first time in 10 years.

Lacazette and Ashley Barnes traded first-half goals before Aubameyang scored a 64th-minute winner.


Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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