Ukraine grain export deal extended for four months

Ukraine grain export deal extended for four months
The July deal has helped stave off a global food crisis by allowing the export of food and fertilizers from several of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports that had been blockaded by Russia. (File/AFP)
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Updated 17 November 2022

Ukraine grain export deal extended for four months

Ukraine grain export deal extended for four months
  • The deal had been due to expire on Saturday
  • Deal will be extended under existing conditions

KYIV: An agreement allowing Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea and aimed at relieving global food insecurity has been extended for 120 days, officials said on Thursday.
Ukraine is a top world exporter of grain, but Russia’s invasion in late February stopped shipments.
The deal between the two warring sides, brokered by Turkiye and the UN in July, has helped to transport more than 11 million tons of grain and other agricultural products from Ukrainian ports since the start of August. It had been due to expire on Saturday.
On Thursday Ukrainian and Turkish officials announced that the agreement would be extended by four months under existing conditions.
“#BlackSeaGrainInitiative will be prolonged for 120 days,” Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Twitter, while a senior Turkish official confirmed to AFP that the deal had been extended “under current terms.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted: “It has been clearly seen how important and beneficial this agreement is for the food supply and security of the world.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres hailed the extension and said the grain deal “continues to demonstrate the importance of discreet diplomacy in the context of finding multilateral solutions,” he said.
In recent weeks, Russia had repeatedly warned that it may not agree to extend the agreement because a separate deal that was also signed in July, exempting Russian fertilizers from sanctions, had not been implemented.
Guterres sought to allay those concerns, saying that “The United Nations is also fully committed to removing the remaining obstacles to exporting food and fertilizers from the Russian Federation.”
Both agreements were “essential to bring down the prices of food and fertilizer and avoid a global food crisis,” Guterres said in a statement released by the Istanbul-based Joint Coordination Center (JCC) that has been overseeing the agreement.
The flow of Ukrainian exports is essential to stabilising prices on international markets and to supplying the populations most vulnerable to the risk of hunger, particularly in Africa.
Some 40 percent of the grain exported under the agreement has gone to developing countries.
In the weeks of intense diplomacy leading up to Thursday’s announcement, much of the negotiations focused on the issue of fertilizers, a UN source said on condition of anonymity.
Agricultural products and fertilizers do not fall under the sanctions against Russia but because of the risks in the Black Sea linked to the Ukraine conflict, it has become difficult to insure the vessels transporting them.
According to the UN source, a policy framework has been established for the exceptions in insurance, access to ports, financial transactions, shipping and access for shipping, in compliance with the sanctions imposed on Russia.
“Only if we could clarify this policy framework, the private sector actors were willing to reengage in the trade” of Russian fertilizers.
The Black Sea agreement allows Ukrainian grain ships to sail along safe corridors that avoid mines in the Black Sea.
Last month, Russia temporarily pulled out from the agreement, accusing Ukraine of a “massive” drone attack on its Black Sea fleet in Crimea before rejoining it.
Russia’s invasion blocked 20 million tons of grain in Ukraine’s ports before the United Nations and Turkiye brokered the deal in July.

Lost radioactive capsule found in Australian Outback after huge search

Lost radioactive capsule found in Australian Outback after huge search
Updated 11 sec ago

Lost radioactive capsule found in Australian Outback after huge search

Lost radioactive capsule found in Australian Outback after huge search
  • Lost in transit over two weeks ago, the button-sized silver capsule was found on the roadside in the state of Western Australia
  • The radioactive capsule was part of a gauge used to measure the density of iron ore feed from a mine in the state’s remote Kimberley region

SYDNEY: Australian authorities on Wednesday found a radioactive capsule smaller than a coin that was lost in the vast Outback after nearly a week-long search involving around 100 people along a 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) stretch of highway, officials said.
The cesium-137 capsule lost in transit more than two weeks ago was discovered when a vehicle traveling at 70 km per hour (43 mph) equipped with specialist detection equipment picked up the radiation, according to officials from the state of Western Australia.
The search team then used portable detection equipment to find the capsule, which was located about 2 meters from the side of the road in a remote area far from any community, they added.
The radioactive capsule was part of a gauge used to measure the density of iron ore feed from Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri mine in the state’s remote Kimberley region. The gauge was being taken to a facility in the suburbs of state capital Perth — a distance further than the length of Great Britain.

Rio was willing to pay for the cost of the search if asked by the state government, iron ore division head Simon Trott told reporters.
“Of course the simple fact is this device should never have been lost,” he said. “We’re sorry that that has occurred and we’re sorry for the concern that that has caused within the Western Australian community.”
People had been told to stay at least five meters (16.5 feet) away if they spotted the capsule, because exposure could cause radiation burns or radiation sickness. However, driving past it was believed to be relatively low risk, akin to taking an X-ray.
’Needle in the haystack’
Western Australia’s Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson said the find was an “extraordinary result” after a search involving the state’s emergency response department, defense authorities and radiation specialists.
“When you consider the scope of the search area, locating this object was a monumental challenge, the search groups have quite literally found the needle in the haystack,” he said.
A 20-meter exclusion zone has been set up around the capsule while defense force members verify it via a serial number.
It will then be placed in a lead container and stored overnight at a secure location in Newman, a mining town roughly 1,200 km (745 miles) north-west of Perth, before being taken to the state capital on Thursday. The silver capsule, 6 mm in diameter and 8 mm long, contains cesium-137 which emits radiation equal to 10 X-rays per hour.

Illustration image showing the size of the silver capsule containing radioactive cesium-137 that went missing in Australia. (DFES photo via Reuters)

Officials said the capsule apparently fell off a truck during transport and landed on the side of the road, adding that it was unlikely there would be contamination in the area.
Seeking answers
Rio said in a statement that it would investigate whether the use of specialist contractors had been appropriate, having entrusted the gauge to SGS Australia and Centurion for packaging and transport respectively.
SGS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Centurion said in a statement it was seeking answers about how the capsule became dislodged during transport given the crate and pallet provided by SGS arrived in Perth in the same condition as at the start of the journey, and GPS data had shown no sudden changes in speed.
“From a freight and logistics perspective this indicates a routine journey, and the fact that the crate was not opened for a week until after delivery reinforces that view,” Centurion said.
Western Australia’s Chief Health Officer Andrew Robertson said there would be an investigation and prosecutions would be considered under state radiation safety laws from 1975.
The maximum penalty for failing to safely handle radioactive substances is A$1,000 and A$50 per day the offense continues, though the state government said on Wednesday it was considering a change to laws to allow for bigger penalties.
Officials said any change to penalties would not be retrospective.

Strong quake knocks out power, sends residents fleeing homes in southern Philippines

Strong quake knocks out power, sends residents fleeing homes in southern Philippines
Updated 56 min 28 sec ago

Strong quake knocks out power, sends residents fleeing homes in southern Philippines

Strong quake knocks out power, sends residents fleeing homes in southern Philippines
  • The quake was so strong in Montevista town of Davao de Oro province an and a witness said her house would collapse.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines: A 6.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the southern Philippines on Wednesday, the US Geological Survey said, with local authorities warning of aftershocks and possible damage.
The shallow quake struck at 6:44 p.m. (1044 GMT), near Monkayo municipality in Davao de Oro province on Mindanao island.
Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage than deeper ones, but there were no immediate reports of major damage in the remote and mountainous gold mining region.
Monkayo police Staff Sergeant Harvey Asayas told AFP the quake was strong in the beginning but gradually weakened and stopped after 40 seconds.
“The authorities are now conducting patrols around to assess damage including the fire personnel and disaster officers,” Asayas said.
Police Corporal Edwin Mangigo, who is stationed at an outpost near Mount Diwata in Monkayo, said there had been no reports of casualties at local mining sites.
“We thought there was a landslide because our roof was shaking, we thought it was going to break,” Mangigo said.

Police Corporal Lucita Ambrocio, who is based in the nearby municipality of New Bataan, described the quake as “quick.”
“After 10 minutes, our colleagues went back to the building,” said Ambrocio, who raced outside with her colleagues when the police station started shaking.
“I checked the premises and I saw a small crack in the barracks.”
But in nearby Montevista municipality, Maricar Melgar said the quake was so strong she feared the building she was in would collapse.
“This was probably the strongest earthquake I experienced. My body is still shaking,” the 51-year-old told AFP.

In Tagum city, in Davao del Norte province, about 40 kilometers south west of the epicenter, residents also fled their homes and power was knocked out by the force of the quake.
“We were eating when (the house) began to shake — it was strong,” said Grace Jao, 40.
“We ran outside — we had to take safety measures. We did not see any damage inside the house when we got back.”
Quakes are a daily occurrence in the Philippines, which sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of intense seismic as well as volcanic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.
Most are too weak to be felt by humans, but strong and destructive ones come at random with no technology available to predict when and where it will happen.
The nation’s civil defense office regularly holds drills simulating earthquake scenarios along active fault lines.
The last major quake was in October in the northern Philippines.
The 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit the mountain town of Dolores in Abra province, injuring several people, damaging buildings and cutting power to most of the region.
A 7.0-magnitude quake in mountainous Abra last July triggered landslides and ground fissures, killing 11 people and injuring several hundred.

Rejected Iranian asylum seeker who killed elderly British woman detained in secure hospital

Rejected Iranian asylum seeker who killed elderly British woman detained in secure hospital
Updated 01 February 2023

Rejected Iranian asylum seeker who killed elderly British woman detained in secure hospital

Rejected Iranian asylum seeker who killed elderly British woman detained in secure hospital
  • Shahin Darvish-Narenjbon had admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility
  • Given the situation in Iran, the 34-year-old will not currently be considered for deportation, a judge said

LONDON: A failed Iranian asylum seeker who killed an elderly British woman in North Yorkshire has been sentenced to indefinite detention in a secure hospital.

A court heard that Shahin Darvish-Narenjbon had befriended Brenda Blainey, 83, who offered him a room in her home in the village of Thornton-le-Dale. Sentencing him at Leeds Crown Court on Wednesday, Judge Rodney Jameson KC said that the victim had treated her killer like a “grandson,” the Independent reported.

Darvish-Narenjbon strangled Blainey, bashed her head on the floor, stabbed her in the chest and cut her throat on Jan. 5 last year. During a previous hearing, the 34-year-old Iranian national admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The court was told he was born in Tehran and had lived in the UK since he was 15, with the exception of a brief stay in the US where spent time in a psychiatric unit. He first arrived in Britain in 2005 and sought asylum there after his student visa expired in 2013. His application and subsequent appeals were denied. He filed another asylum claim in 2020, which was pending at the time he killed Blainey.

He could not be deported from the UK in the time between his applications because there was not a returns agreement in place with Iran, a government source told the Independent.

Judge Jameson said on Wednesday that three consultant forensic psychiatrists agreed Darvish-Narenjbon has schizophrenia and that his “retained responsibility” for the killing was “low.”

“You killed Brenda Blainey in her own home in circumstances of appalling brutality,” he said. “I want to make it clear both to you and to the family of Brenda Blainey that this is not to say that your responsibility is extinguished. It is not.

“You remain, albeit to a low degree, responsible for the dreadful death of Mrs Blainey and for the grief and suffering that this has caused to her friends and family.”

The judge added that Darvish-Narenjbon will not immediately face the prospect of being sent back to his home country.

“Given the situation in Iran, however, you will not presently be considered for deportation,” he said.

A Home Office spokesman told the Independent: “Foreign national offenders who exploit our system and commit crimes here in the UK will face the full force of the law, including deportation at the earliest opportunity for those eligible.

“The Government is committed to stopping abuse of the immigration system, taking decisive action against those who try to play the system.”


Two men jailed for life over $5.6m London property fraud killing

Two men jailed for life over $5.6m London property fraud killing
Updated 01 February 2023

Two men jailed for life over $5.6m London property fraud killing

Two men jailed for life over $5.6m London property fraud killing
  • Mohamed El-Abboud and Kusai Al-Jundi murdered woman, 71, after failed attempt to seize her life savings
  • El-Abboud sold victim’s BMW and posted TikTok video showing him dancing in driveway of her home

LONDON: Two men were each sentenced on Wednesday to a minimum of 35 years in jail for murdering a 71-year-old woman after attempting to take control of two properties she owned in the capital.

The court was told that Mohamed El-Abboud, 28, and Kusai Al-Jundi, 25, lured Louise Kam to her property in Barnet on July 26, where she was strangled with a hair dryer cord.

Her body was wrapped in a duvet, thrown in a bin and covered in garden waste, Sky News reported. 

Al-Jundi spent months attempting to dupe Kam into handing over control of two properties she owned in London by offering her millions of pounds. 

Judge Mark Lucraft said that Al-Jundi falsely claimed to be a “person of means” with support from a multimillionaire girlfriend. He also attempted to take control of Kam’s finances by convincing her to sign a lasting power of attorney document, Sky News reported. 

Kam, realizing the scam, refused to sign over the properties. 

Al-Jundi decided to murder Kam to obtain her £4.6 million ($5.6 million) assets and promised El-Abboud a share “as a reward for killing her,” the judge said.

Investigators said that Al-Jundi sent Kam’s family and friends messages pretending she was alive and on vacation. 

Meanwhile El-Abboud sold Kam’s BMW and used the proceeds to buy new clothes. 

El-Abboud also posted a TikTok video showing him dancing in the driveway of Kam’s home.

The two men were convicted on Jan. 19 based on police evidence linking them to the murder, Sky News reported. 

Sentencing both to life in prison, with a minimum term of 35 years, the judge said: “El-Abboud, it might be said that Al-Jundi played the lead role in the long-running defrauding of Louise, but I draw no distinction on the sentence to be passed on the two of you.

“The evidence clearly shows what you did and did willingly and that you, along with Al-Jundi, did what you did out of greed.”

Biden attorney: No classified documents found in search of Delaware beach house

Biden attorney: No classified documents found in search of Delaware beach house
Updated 52 min 4 sec ago

Biden attorney: No classified documents found in search of Delaware beach house

Biden attorney: No classified documents found in search of Delaware beach house
  • The search took place from 8:30 a.m. to noon in coordination and cooperation with Biden's legal advisors

WASHINGTON: The US Justice Department did not find documents with classified markings during a three-and-a-half hour search of President Joe Biden’s beach house in Rehoboth, Delaware, on Wednesday but did take some materials for further review, Biden’s attorney said.
The morning search by FBI agents appeared to represent an expansion of the probe into Biden’s handling of classified documents.
Materials were previously found at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, and at a Washington office he used during the time between his service as vice president under Barack Obama and his presidential election.
Biden’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer, said in a statement that Wednesday’s search took place from 8:30 a.m. to noon in “coordination and cooperation with the president’s attorneys” and had been planned.
“No documents with classified markings were found,” Bauer said. “Consistent with the process in Wilmington, the DOJ took for further review some materials and handwritten notes that appear to relate to his time as Vice President.”
The search was conducted by the FBI, which is part of the Justice Department.
The issue has created a political headache for Biden, who is expected to announce a re-election campaign in the coming weeks or months. It has stripped him and fellow Democrats of a political weapon to use against former President Donald Trump, who also had classified documents found at his home.
Trump has said on social media, without providing evidence, that he declassified the records, though his attorneys have declined to repeat that assertion in court filings. He has launched his own re-election campaign and could face Biden in the 2024 general election.
Bauer said earlier on Wednesday that the Department of Justice chose to do the search without advance notice to the public.
“Under DOJ’s standard procedures, in the interests of operational security and integrity, it sought to do this work without advance public notice, and we agreed to cooperate,” he said. “The search today is a further step in a thorough and timely DOJ process we will continue to fully support and facilitate.”
The White House counsel’s office did not have representatives present at the search, White House spokesperson Ian Sams told reporters.
“We’ve been following the Justice Department’s lead and coordinating these searches with them,” Sams said, adding the department was given access to “every single room” of Biden’s home in Rehoboth “as well as the one in Wilmington.”
Classified documents have also been found in the home of Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, giving some political cover to Biden.
Biden has vowed to cooperate with the searches and Pence had said he takes responsibility for the found documents. Trump resisted efforts to return materials in his possession, prompting a FBI search of his Florida home and resort last year.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed two separate special counsels to review Trump and Biden’s handling of such documents.
Meanwhile, the National Archives has reportedly asked all former US presidents and vice presidents to search their personal records for classified documents or other presidential material that should have been turned over when they left office.
It is unlawful to knowingly or willfully remove or retain classified material, although no current or former president or vice president has been charged with wrongdoing.