Dialogue Is Ongoing To Prevent War, Says Iran’s Rouhani

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency shows the Islamic republic’s President Hassan Rouhani chairing a cabinet meeting in Tehran on January 15, 2020. Iranian people “want diversity”, Rouhani said as he urged electoral authorities to refrain from disqualifying would-be candidates for a general election in February. “The people are our masters and we are its servants. The servant must address the master with modesty, precision, and honesty,” Rouhani said after a cabinet meeting.
IRANIAN PRESIDENCY / AFP

 

Iran’s president said Thursday dialogue with the world remained “possible” despite high tensions with the United States, and stressed that Tehran was working daily “to prevent military confrontation or war”.

Iran attacked US military targets in Iraq on January 8 to retaliate against Washington’s targeted killing of a key Iranian general five days earlier in Baghdad, at a time when both are also locked in a bitter dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.

“The government is working daily to prevent military confrontation or war,”

said in a televised speech, adding that dialogue with the international community was difficult but remained “possible”.

More to follow

AFP

Russia Extends Detention Of US Man In Spy Case

 

Bauchi Assembly Crisis: Court Orders Parties To Maintain Status Quo

 

A Russian court on Tuesday extended until late March the pre-trial detention of a US man already held in jail for a year despite Western requests for his release.

Paul Whelan, who also has Irish, Canadian and British citizenship, was arrested on December 28 last year for allegedly receiving state secrets.

On Christmas eve the Moscow City Court extended his detention by another three months, to March 29, a court spokesman told AFP.

He risks up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Whelan, 49, has denounced the case against him and said he is being held “hostage” for a possible prisoner exchange.

On Monday, US charge d’affaires Bart Gorman and diplomats from Canada, Ireland, and Britain visited Whelan in Moscow’s high-security Lefortovo prison, bringing him food and Christmas greetings from family and supporters.

“It’s two days before Christmas. A holiday Paul Whelan will spend alone in Lefortovo,” the US embassy quoted Gorman as saying.

“In the past 12 months, Paul has not heard his parents’ voices. Bring Paul some Christmas cheer and let him call home.”

Whelan, a former US marine, maintains he has been framed and that he took a USB drive from an acquaintance thinking it contained holiday photos.

His lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov has said the acquaintance that handed over the drive is the only witness against Whelan while the rest of his longtime acquaintances in Russia gave witness statements in his defence.

During a previous court hearing in October, Whelan insisted that he was not a spy.

“Russia thought they caught James Bond on a spy mission, in reality they abducted Mr Bean on holiday,” he has said.

Whelan and his supporters claim that the American has been mistreated in jail.

Moscow has rubbished the claims, saying foreign diplomats have regular access to Whelan and calling the complaints a “provocative line of defence”.

“Whelan’s complaints concerning the conditions of detention and actions of investigators have never once been confirmed,” the Russian foreign ministry has said.

AFP

FIFA’s Infantino Meets With Trump Ahead Of 2026 World Cup

President Donald Trump and FIFA President Gianni Infantino speak to members of the press following a meeting at the White House on September 09, 2019 in Washington, DC. The U.S. will help host the 2026 World Cup along with Canada and Mexico. Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP
WIN MCNAMEE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

FIFA Boss Gianni Infantino has met U.S. with President Donald Trump at the White House to discuss preparations for the 2026 World Cup as well as bringing equality to the women’s game.

At the meeting, President Trump joked with Infantino about possibly extending his term in office so he could preside over the 2026 games.

 

The meeting comes months after the U.S. women’s squad won the world cup in July amid calls for pay parity with the men’s side and improvement of conditions on a number of fronts including travel conditions and promotion.

Alleged $3.5m Fraud: Nine Nigerians Arrested In U.S.

Alleged $3.5m Fraud: Nine Nigerians Arrested In U.S.

 

Nine Nigerians have been arrested in three states of the United States over allegations of fraud.

Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and James Spero, Special Agent in Charge of the Tampa, Florida, Field Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), announced this in a statement.

The suspects were arrested for allegedly defrauding businesses and individuals of more than $3.5 million through business email compromises, a Russian oil scam, and a romance scam.

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Those arrested were identified as Oluwaseun Adelekan, Olalekan Daramola, Solomon Aburekhanlen, Gbenga Oyeneyin, Abiola Olajumoke, Temitope Omotayo, Bryan Eadie, Albert Lucas, and Ademola Adebogun.

“As alleged, these defendants deployed three different email schemes to defraud their victims,” Berman was quoted as saying in the statement.

He added, “The common denominator in all three schemes was the defendants’ alleged fleecing of their victims through fictitious online identities.

“The schemes allegedly earned the defendants $3.5 million – and also arrests on federal felony charges.”

Spero was also quoted as saying, “A transnational criminal organisation allegedly conducting illicit domestic and international wire fraud has been dismantled thanks to the hard work of HSI Tampa and Special Agents from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

“This case illustrates the unique investigative authority and international reach of HSI.”

The suspects were accused of participating in a scheme to defraud businesses and individuals through several categories of false and misleading representations.

These include sending victims email messages that appeared to be but were not, from legitimate business counterparties that included instructions to the victims to wire payment to those seemingly legitimate business counterparties into some bank accounts.

The accounts were said to be under the control of the defendants who were also accused of sending email messages and text messages to at least one victim, offering an opportunity to invest in oil stored in Russian oil tank farms.

They were alleged to have placed the victim on condition of wiring upfront payments into bank accounts purportedly affiliated with the purported oil investment but actually opened by and under the control of Aburekhanlen, Olajumoke, and Oyeneyin.

According to the statement, the victims, in reliance on the misleading representations, transferred in excess of $3.5 million into bank accounts opened in the names of oil companies but maintained by the defendants.

Aburekhanlen was arrested on Wednesday in the Bronx, New York, while Adelekan, Omotayo, Lucas, Eadie, and Adebogun were arrested on Thursday in New York.

Similarly, Olajumoke and Oyeneyin were arrested on Thursday in Florida and Daramola was arrested in Texas on the same day.

The defendants were each charged in the indictment with one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud and they face a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison.

Click here to read the allegations the defendants were accused of.

Oil Prices Rise On US-China Trade Hopes, Supply Cuts

 

Oil prices rose by more than 1.5 percent on Monday on hopes that talks in Beijing can resolve a trade war between the United States and China, while supply cuts by major producers also supported crude.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 were at $58.04 per barrel at 0751 GMT, up 98 cents, or 1.7 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures CLc1 were at $48.85 per barrel, up 89 cents, or 1.9 percent.

Financial markets were riding a relief rally on Monday on expectations that face-to-face trade negotiations between delegates from Washington and Beijing, starting on Monday, would lead to an easing in tensions between the two biggest economies in the world.

The United States and Beijing have been locked in an escalating trade spat since early 2018, raising import tariffs on each other’s goods. The dispute has weighed on economic growth.

Goldman Sachs said in a note on Monday that it had downgraded its average Brent crude oil forecast for 2019 to $62.50 a barrel from $70 due to “the strongest macro headwinds since 2015”.

French bank Societe Generale also lowered its oil price forecasts, cutting its 2019 average price expectation for Brent by $9 to $64 a barrel and reducing its WTI forecast to $57 a barrel, also a reduction of $9.

The bank said it had revised its global oil demand growth forecast to 1.27 million barrels per day (bpd), down from 1.43 million bpd previously.

U.S. Slams China For Corporate Cyber Espionage, Indicts Two Spies

 

U.S. prosecutors unsealed an indictment on Thursday that charged two Chinese nationals with computer hacking attacks on a wide range of American government agencies and corporations including the Navy and the space agency NASA, according to a court filing.

The two, identified as Zhu Hua and Zhang Jianguo, worked in China to hack into computers to steal intellectual property and confidential business and technological data, according to the indictment. U.S. authorities said the two worked in association with China’s Ministry of State Security.

The United States and about a dozen allies were set on Thursday to condemn China for efforts to steal other countries’ trade secrets and technologies and to compromise government computers, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden are expected to be involved in the U.S. effort, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. indictment said hacking targets included the U.S. Navy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and companies involved aviation, space and satellite technology.

“China’s goal, simply put, is to replace the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower and they’re using illegal methods to get there,” FBI Director Chris Wray said at a news conference.

The companies targeted by China were a “who’s who” of American businesses, Wray said.

The Justice Department accused China of breaking a 2015 pact to curb cyber espionage for corporate purposes. Britain also said it would hold the Chinese government responsible for the global hacking campaign targeting commercial secrets in Europe, Asia and the United States.

The hacking effort is considered a major cyber threat by private-sector cyber security researchers and government investigators because of the scale of the intrusions.

The hackers were charged with spying on some of the world’s largest companies by hacking into technology firms to which they outsource email, storage and other computing tasks.

U.S. Worried about Ebola Outbreak In Congo Conflict Zone – Official

 

 

The United States is worried about the outbreak of Ebola in conflict-hit eastern Congo where there are 312 confirmed and probable cases and 191 deaths, a USAID official said on Thursday.

“We are absolutely concerned about the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” the senior USAID official, who is working with response teams, told Reuters. “It is not comparable at this point to the outbreak that occurred in West Africa in 2014,” which spread to nine countries and involved more than 28,000 cases, she said.

But there is worry that the current outbreak was in an active conflict zone in North Kivu, making it hard for health workers to track down and isolate cases, the official said.

“It is occurring in an area of active conflict, so physical insecurity is a persistent challenge and complication to the ongoing response efforts,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“At this point, we are not seeing cases spread across any incredibly large geographic area,” the official said, adding that most cases were in the city of Beni and increasingly in nearby Butembo.

The rate of new cases has accelerated in recent weeks, and neighboring Uganda has said it will begin to vaccinate some of its health workers against Ebola in case the viral hemorrhagic fever spread from Congo.

The World Health Organization’s committee has said that the outbreak did not yet constitute a public health emergency of international concern.

The USAID official said the United States had deployed over two dozen technical experts to the country to work with Congo’s health ministry since the outbreak was first reported in August.

Since then, the United States had also deployed disaster and health experts from USAID and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The official declined to give specifics about responses and funding because of the security threat from armed groups.

Congo has suffered 10 Ebola outbreaks since the virus was discovered near its eponymous Ebola River in 1976.

[UPDATED] U.S. To ‘Terminate’ Nuclear Deal With Russia, Says Trump

BREAKING: US To Terminate Nuclear Deal With Russia, Trump Says
(File) US President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on August 16, 2018, in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

President Donald Trump confirmed Saturday that the United States plans to leave a landmark nuclear weapons treaty with Russia over claims Moscow has violated the deal.

The three-decade-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF, was signed in 1987 by president Ronald Reagan.

“We’re the ones who have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honoured the agreement, but Russia has not unfortunately honoured the agreement, so we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” Trump told reporters in Elko, Nevada.

“Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years. I don’t know why president (Barack) Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out. And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons (while) we’re not allowed to.”

Trump spoke as his National Security Advisor John Bolton was in Moscow to meet with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, ahead of what is expected to be a second summit between Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin this year.

US-Russia ties are under deep strain over accusations that Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election, as well as tension over Russian support for the Syrian government in the country’s civil war, and the conflict in Ukraine.

However, Washington is looking for support from Moscow in finding resolutions to the Syria war and putting pressure on both Iran and North Korea.

No new summit between Trump and Putin has been announced, but one is expected in the near future.

The two leaders will be in Paris on November 11 to attend commemorations marking the end of World War I.

A senior Trump administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said another potential date would be when the presidents both attend the Group of 20 meeting on November 30 to December 1.

AFP

U.S. Imposes Fresh Sanctions For Russian Cyber-Related Activity

 

The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on two Russians, one Russian company and one Slovakian firm for what it said were their actions to help another Russian company avoid sanctions targeting Russia’s malicious cyber-related activities.

The U.S. Treasury said in a statement that the sanctioned companies – Saint Petersburg-based Vela-Marine Ltd and Slovakia-based Lacno S.R.O. – and the two individuals helped Divetechnoservices evade previously imposed sanctions.

The United States had sanctioned Divetechnoservices in June for procuring underwater equipment and diving systems for Russian government agencies, including Russia’s FSB intelligence agency.

The Obama administration sanctioned the FSB in December 2016, citing the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In its statement, the U.S. Treasury said the two individuals sanctioned on Tuesday – Marina Igorevna Tsareva and Anton Aleksandrovich Nagibin – had both helped Divetechnoservices attempt to circumvent U.S. sanctions.

U.S. Moves To Avert Electoral Hacking

 

A majority of U.S. states has adopted technology that allows the federal government to see inside state computer systems managing voter data or voting devices in order to root out hackers.

Two years after Russian hackers breached voter registration databases in Illinois and Arizona, most states have begun using the government-approved equipment, according to three sources with knowledge of the deployment. Voter registration databases are used to verify the identity of voters when they visit polling stations.

The rapid adoption of the so-called Albert sensors, a $5,000 piece of hardware developed by the Center for Internet Security www.cisecurity.org, illustrates the broad concern shared by state government officials ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, government cybersecurity experts told Reuters.

CIS is a nonprofit organization based in East Greenbush, N.Y., that helps governments, businesses and organization fight computer intrusions.

“We’ve recently added Albert sensors to our system because I believe voting systems have tremendous vulnerabilities that we need to plug; but also the voter registration systems are a concern,” said Neal Kelley, chief of elections for Orange County, California.

“That’s one of the things I lose sleep about: It’s what can we do to protect voter registration systems?”

As of August 7, 36 of 50 states had installed Albert at the “elections infrastructure level,” according to a Department of Homeland Security official. The official said that 74 individual sensors across 38 counties and other local government offices have been installed. Only 14 such sensors were installed before the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

“We have more than quadrupled the number of sensors on state and county networks since 2016, giving the election community as a whole far greater visibility into potential threats than we’ve ever had in the past,” said Matthew Masterson, a senior adviser on election security for DHS.

The 14 states that do not have a sensor installed ahead of the 2018 midterm elections have either opted for another solution, are planning to do so shortly or have refused the offer because of concerns about federal government overreach. Those 14 states were not identified by officials.

But enough have installed them that cybersecurity experts can begin to track intrusions and share that information with all states. The technology directly feeds data about cyber incidents through a non-profit cyber intelligence data exchange and then to DHS.

“When you start to get dozens, hundreds of sensors, like we have now, you get real value,” said John Gilligan, the chief executive of CIS.

“As we move forward, there are new sensors that are being installed literally almost every day. Our collective objective is that all voter infrastructure in states has a sensor.”

Top U.S. intelligence officials have predicted that hackers working for foreign governments will target the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Maria Benson, a spokesperson for the National Association of Secretaries of States, said that in some cases installations have been delayed because of the time spent working out “technical and contractual arrangements.”

South Dakota and Wyoming are among the states without Albert fully deployed to protect election systems, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The South Dakota Secretary of State’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The Wyoming Secretary of State’s office said it is currently considering expanding that of the sensors.

U.S. Extends Stay For Somali Immigrants

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) headquarters in Washington.

 

The Trump administration said on Thursday it would allow some 500 Somalis to remain in the United States for at least another 18 months under protected status given violence in their home county.

Somalis in the United States with Temporary Protected Status will be able to re-register for an extension of their status through March 17, 2020, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security. The status grants beneficiaries the ability to legally work while they are in the United States.

“After carefully reviewing conditions in Somalia with interagency partners, (DHS) Secretary (Kirstjen) Nielsen determined the ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions that support Somalia’s current designation for TPS continue to exist,” the statement said.

The Trump administration has shown a deep skepticism toward the temporary protected status program, announcing its end for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Sudan since President Donald Trump took office last year.

Turkish Court Rules To Keep U.S. Pastor In Jail As Trial Continues

 

A Turkish court has ruled to keep in jail an American pastor being tried on terrorism and spying charges, a case which has deepened a rift between two NATO allies.

Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was indicted on charges of helping the group that Ankara blames for the failed 2016 coup against President Tayyip Erdogan, as well as supporting outlawed PKK Kurdish militants.

The next hearing for the trial is scheduled for October 12.