US should end weapon supplies to Israel over Gaza war, says top Democrat senator

Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen is part of a group of seven senators who this week sent to a letter to Biden urging an end to US weapon deliveries to Tel Aviv. (Reuters/File Photo)
Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen is part of a group of seven senators who this week sent to a letter to Biden urging an end to US weapon deliveries to Tel Aviv. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 16 March 2024
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US should end weapon supplies to Israel over Gaza war, says top Democrat senator

US should end weapon supplies to Israel over Gaza war, says top Democrat senator
  • Chris Van Hollen and 6 other senators pen letter urging Biden to ‘use all levers’ to pressure Netanyahu
  • Restricting military aid could force Tel Aviv to change course and avoid Rafah attack, letter says

LONDON: A top Democrat senator in the US has called on President Joe Biden to “use all levers” at his disposal in pressuring Israel to change its war strategy, The Guardian reported.

Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen is part of a group of seven senators who this week sent to a letter to Biden urging an end to US weapon deliveries to Tel Aviv.

The US must stop providing military aid to Israel until it ends any restrictions on the flow of aid into Gaza, Van Hollen said.

In an interview on Friday, the senator urged Biden to “push harder and use all the levers of US policy to ensure people don’t die of starvation.”

Van Hollen’s co-signed letter to the president accused Israel of violating the Foreign Assistance Act, which prohibits the transfer of weapons to any power that restricts the supply of US humanitarian aid.

Israel had reportedly sent a written commitment, via Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, that it would operate in line with the US act in prosecuting its war on Hamas.

The senators’ letter follows mounting controversy over Washington’s “contradictory” role in the conflict, with the US arming Israel, while also attempting to address the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Anger over the US response to the Israel-Hamas war has opened rifts in the Democratic party, but also between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli leader is “openly defying” Biden’s repeated appeals to limit civilian casualties in Gaza and work toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, Van Hollen said.

He added: “Prime Minister Netanyahu has been an obstacle to the president’s efforts to at least create some light at the end of this very dark tunnel.”

Biden, over recent weeks, has escalated his rhetoric toward Netanyahu’s government, accusing the Israeli leader of damaging his country’s standing in the world.

However, he has also rebuffed appeals from within his own party to use essential military aid to Israel as a bargaining chip to control the consequences of the war.

The US administration has turned to air and sea deliveries of aid to address what the UN has called “catastrophic levels of deprivation and starvation” in Gaza.

But critics warn that truck deliveries by road into the enclave remain the only viable method of easing the humanitarian crisis.

Van Hollen said: “The very fact that the US is airlifting humanitarian supplies and is now going to be opening a temporary port is a symptom of the larger problem, which is (that) the Netanyahu government has restricted the amount of aid coming into Gaza and the safe distribution of aid.”

Israel has denied impeding the flow of aid by road into the enclave.

However, UN statistics show that about 500 trucks per day arrived into Gaza daily before the outbreak of the war, compared with an average of about 200 now.

The US senator said he had inspected the border situation himself during a visit to Rafah in January, describing the Israeli-led security checks as “cumbersome.”

Van Hollen added: “You witnessed these very, very long lines of trucks trying to get in through Rafah and through the Kerem Shalom crossing, and quite an inspection review, including arbitrary denials of humanitarian aid being delivered into Gaza.

“For example, we visited a warehouse in Rafah that was filled with goods that had been rejected at the inspection sites. The rejected goods included things like maternity kits, water purification systems.”

The senator also highlighted the killing of aid workers responsible for distributing aid.

Widespread famine in Gaza will be “almost inevitable” without action, the UN has warned.

In the senators’ letter to Biden, Van Hollen and his colleagues urged the president to “make it clear to the Netanyahu government that failure to immediately and dramatically expand humanitarian access, and facilitate safe aid deliveries throughout Gaza will lead to serious consequences, as specified under existing US law.”

The US leader has warned Israel would breach a “red line” if it moves ahead with plans to attack Rafah, where almost half Gaza’s population are gathered.

Biden’s comments have set up a potential face-off with Netanyahu, in what would present “one of those moments where the Biden administration is going to have to decide whether it’s going to back up the president’s strong words with the leverage that it has,” Van Hollen said.


Indonesia launches ‘Golden Visa’ to lure foreign investors, boost economy

Indonesia launches ‘Golden Visa’ to lure foreign investors, boost economy
Updated 4 sec ago
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Indonesia launches ‘Golden Visa’ to lure foreign investors, boost economy

Indonesia launches ‘Golden Visa’ to lure foreign investors, boost economy
  • Five-year ‘Golden Visa’ requires individual investors to set up a company worth $2.5 million, while a 10-year visa requires a $5 million investment
  • Individuals not looking to set up a company must place $350,000 and $700,000 to gain a 5-year and 10-year permit respectively
JAKARTA: Indonesia launched a long-term visa scheme on Thursday intended to attract foreign investors, President Joko Widodo said, with amounts of up to $10 million giving them a 10-year visa and access to Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
The five-year “Golden Visa” requires individual investors to set up a company worth $2.5 million, while a 10-year visa requires a $5 million investment.
Individuals not looking to set up a company must place $350,000 and $700,000 to gain a 5-year and 10-year permit respectively, and the money can be used to buy Indonesian government bonds, public company stocks, or place deposits.
Corporate investors are required to invest $25 million to get five-year visas for directors and commissioners. They need to invest $50 million to gain a 10-year visa.
If the investment is made in the new $32 billion capital city currently being built in the jungles of Borneo island, $5 million dollars will gain investors a 5-year visa and $10 million a 10-year visa, the immigration agency said.
Several countries offer similar investment visa schemes, but others, including Canada, Britain and Singapore, have scrapped such schemes as governments conclude they do not create jobs and could be a means to park speculative money.
Jokowi, as the president is commonly known, said the visa was intended to lure “good quality travelers.”
“We’re launching the golden visa to make it easier for foreign nationals to invest and contribute in Indonesia,” he said.
Silmy Karim, chief of the immigration agency, said Indonesia had granted golden visas to almost 300 applicants since it began testing the permits out last year, attracting $123 million.
Silmy also said the authorities are discussing ways to grant a special status for foreign nationals of Indonesian descent, modelled after the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI), which allows foreigners of Indian ancestry to visit, work and live in India indefinitely. That could be issued by October, he added.
Silmy said the plan was intended to respond to calls for Indonesia to allow its citizens to hold another passport.

Frankfurt airport temporarily halts flights as climate activists protest near runways

Frankfurt airport temporarily halts flights as climate activists protest near runways
Updated 47 min 19 sec ago
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Frankfurt airport temporarily halts flights as climate activists protest near runways

Frankfurt airport temporarily halts flights as climate activists protest near runways
  • Last Generation climate activists said in a statement that six protesters had cut through a fence and had reached various points around the Frankfurt airport runways

BERLIN: Frankfurt airport, Germany’s busiest, temporarily suspended sflights on Thursday morning after climate activists staged a demonstration near the airport runways.
“Passengers are asked not to go to the airport for the time being,” the airport said on social media platform X, asking them to check their flight status and allow for extra travel time.
Last Generation climate activists said in a statement that six protesters had cut through a fence and had reached various points around the Frankfurt airport runways with posters reading “Oil kills.”
The group, which wants the German government to pursue a global agreement to exit oil, gas and coal by 2030, has listed several countries across Europe and North America where similar disruptions are planned as part of a protest campaign that began on Wednesday.
Germany’s Cologne-Bonn airport, the country’s sixth-largest, suspended flights for several hours on Wednesday after climate activists glued themselves to a runway, while similar actions at other European airports had been foiled by authorities.


Philippine tanker carrying 1.4 million liters of oil capsizes off Manila

Philippine tanker carrying 1.4 million liters of oil capsizes off Manila
Updated 25 July 2024
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Philippine tanker carrying 1.4 million liters of oil capsizes off Manila

Philippine tanker carrying 1.4 million liters of oil capsizes off Manila
  • The MT Terra Nova was heading for the central city of Iloilo when it capsized in Manila Bay
  • An oil spill stretching several kilometers has been detected in the busy waterway

MANILA: A Philippine-flagged tanker carrying 1.4 million liters of industrial fuel oil capsized and sank off Manila on Thursday, authorities said, as they raced to contain a spill.
The MT Terra Nova was heading for the central city of Iloilo when it capsized in Manila Bay, nearly seven kilometers off Limay municipality in Bataan province, near the capital, in the early hours.
The vessel went down as heavy rains fueled by Typhoon Gaemi and the seasonal monsoon have lashed Manila and surrounding regions in recent days.
An oil spill stretching several kilometers has been detected in the busy waterway.
“We are racing against time and we will try to do our best to contain it immediately and stop the fuel from leaking,” Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Rear Admiral Armando Balilo said at a briefing.
He warned that if all the oil in the tanker were to leak, it would be the biggest spill in Philippine history.
“There is a big danger that Manila will be affected, even the shoreline of Manila, if the fuel will leak, because it is within Manila Bay,” Balilo said.
Thousands of fishermen and tour operators are dependent on the waters for their livelihoods.
Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista said 16 of the 17 crew members had been rescued from the stricken vessel.
A search was underway for the missing crew member, but Bautista said strong winds and high waves were hampering response efforts.
Four of the crew were receiving medical treatment.
A photo released by the coast guard showed the MT Terra Nova almost entirely submerged in rough seas.
An oil slick stretching about 3.7 kilometers was being carried by a “strong current” in an easterly, north-easterly direction, the coast guard said in a report.
Coast guard Commandant Admiral Ronnie Gavan said he ordered a probe into the incident.
Marine environmental protection personnel have been mobilized to help contain the slick.
“It will definitely affect the marine environment,” Balilo said, describing the amount of oil on the ship as “enormous.”
One of the worst oil spills in the Philippines was in February 2023, when a tanker carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil sank off the central island of Mindoro.
Diesel fuel and thick oil from that vessel contaminated the waters and beaches along the coast of Oriental Mindoro province, devastating the fishing and tourism industries.
The oil dispersed over hundreds of kilometers of waters famed for having some of the most diverse marine life in the world.
Thousands of fishermen were ordered to stay ashore, and swimming was banned.
In 2006, a tanker sank off the central island of Guimaras spilling tens of thousands of gallons of oil that destroyed a marine reserve, ruined local fishing grounds and covered stretches of coastline in black sludge.


US says air drills with South Korea will ‘sharpen’ capacity

US says air drills with South Korea will ‘sharpen’ capacity
Updated 25 July 2024
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US says air drills with South Korea will ‘sharpen’ capacity

US says air drills with South Korea will ‘sharpen’ capacity
  • Seoul and Washington’s air forces started around three weeks of joint drills Tuesday in Suwon, south of Seoul
  • Joint US-South Korea drills typically infuriate Pyongyang, which views them as rehearsals for invasion

SEOUL: Ongoing air drills with South Korea will “sharpen” their joint combat capabilities, the US military said Thursday, as the nuclear-armed North ramps up threats and a balloon blitz against Seoul.
Seoul and Washington’s air forces started around three weeks of joint drills Tuesday in Suwon, south of Seoul, involving US F/A-18 and F-35B combat aircraft.
The drills “will further sharpen our combat capabilities,” US Marine Lt. Col. Jarrod Allen said in a statement.
Joint US-South Korea drills typically infuriate Pyongyang, which views them as rehearsals for invasion, and the North is particularly sensitive to fighter jet exercises as experts say its air force is the weakest link in its military.
Relations between the two Koreas are at one of their lowest points in years, with the North sending thousands of trash-carrying balloons southwards and Seoul’s military blasting K-pop and anti-regime messages from border loudspeakers.
On Wednesday, the North said it was “fully ready for all-out confrontation with the US,” responding to comments by former President Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee for the November election, touting his ties to Kim Jong Un.
Trump said “I think he misses me” and it’s “nice to get along with somebody that has a lot of nuclear weapons.”
While in office Trump met with Kim three times, beginning with a landmark summit in Singapore in June 2018, but the pair failed to make much progress on efforts to denuclearise the North.
A few months after Singapore, Trump famously told a rally of his supporters that the two men had fallen “in love.”
But their second summit in Hanoi collapsed in 2019, over sanctions relief and what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in return.
In a commentary released on Wednesday, North Korea said while it was true Trump tried to reflect the “special personal relations” between the heads of states, the former US president “did not bring about any substantial positive change.”
“Even if any administration takes office in the US, the political climate, which is confused by the infighting of the two parties, does not change and, accordingly, we do not care about this,” it added.


US files details of Boeing’s plea deal related to plane crashes. It’s in the hands of a judge now

US files details of Boeing’s plea deal related to plane crashes. It’s in the hands of a judge now
Updated 25 July 2024
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US files details of Boeing’s plea deal related to plane crashes. It’s in the hands of a judge now

US files details of Boeing’s plea deal related to plane crashes. It’s in the hands of a judge now
  • Deal calls for the appointment of an independent compliance monitor, three years of probation and a fine of at least $243.6 million
  • Boeing was accused of misleading the aviation regulator FAA about aspects of the Max before the agency certified the plane for flight
  • A lawyer for families of victims of the 737 Max crashes, who wanted Boeing to face trial, criticized the agreement

The US Justice Department submitted an agreement with Boeing on Wednesday in which the aerospace giant will plead guilty to a fraud charge for misleading US regulators who approved the 737 Max jetliner before two of the planes crashed, killing 346 people.
The detailed plea agreement was filed in federal district court in Texas. The American company and the Justice Department reached a deal on the guilty plea and the agreement’s broad terms earlier this month.
The final version states Boeing admitted that through its employees, it made an agreement “by dishonest means” to defraud a Federal Aviation Administration group that evaluated the 737 Max. Because of Boeing’s deception, the FAA had “incomplete and inaccurate information” about the plane’s flight-control software and how much training pilots would need for it, the plea agreement says.
US District Judge Reed O’Connor can accept the agreement and the sentence worked out between Boeing and prosecutors, or he could reject it, which likely would lead to new negotiations between the company and the Justice Department.
The deal calls for the appointment of an independent compliance monitor, three years of probation and a fine of at least $243.6 million. It also requires Boeing to invest at least $455 million “in its compliance, quality, and safety programs.”

A Boeing 737 Max aircraft during a display at the Farnborough International Airshowin Farnborough, Britain. (REUTERS/File Photo)

Boeing issued a statement saying the company “will continue to work transparently with our regulators as we take significant actions across Boeing to further strengthen” those programs.
Paul Cassell, a lawyer for families of victims of the 737 Max crashes who wanted Boeing to face trial, criticized the agreement.
“The plea has all the problems in it that the families feared it would have. We will file a strong objection to the preferential and sweetheart treatment Boeing is receiving,” he said.
Boeing was accused of misleading the FAA about aspects of the Max before the agency certified the plane for flight. Boeing did not tell airlines and pilots about the new software system, called MCAS, that could turn the plane’s nose down without input from pilots if a sensor detected that the plane might go into an aerodynamic stall.
Max planes crashed in 2018 in Indonesia and 2019 in Ethiopia after a faulty reading from the sensor pushed the nose down and pilots were unable to regain control. After the second crash, Max jets were grounded worldwide until the company redesigned MCAS to make it less powerful and to use signals from two sensors, not just one.
Boeing avoided prosecution in 2021 by reaching a $2.5 billion settlement with the Justice Department that included a previous $243.6 million fine. It appeared that the fraud charge would be permanently dismissed until January, when a panel covering an unused exit blew off a 737 Max during an Alaska Airlines flight. That led to new scrutiny of the company’s safety.
In May of this year, prosecutors said Boeing violated terms of the 2021 agreement by failing to make promised changes to detect and prevent violations of federal anti-fraud laws. Boeing agreed this month to plead guilty to the felony fraud charge instead of enduring a potentially lengthy public trial.

Families and friends who lost loved ones in the March 10, 2019, Boeing 737 Max crash in Ethiopia, hold a memorial protest in front of the Boeing headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, on March 10, 2023 to mark the four-year anniversary of the event. (AFP)

The role and authority of the monitor is viewed as a key provision of the new plea deal, according to experts in corporate governance and white-collar crime. Cassell has said that families of the crash victims should have the right to propose a monitor for the judge to appoint. The agreement calls for the government to select the monitor “with feedback from Boeing.”
In Wednesday’s filing, the Justice Department said that Boeing “took considerable steps” to improve its anti-fraud compliance program since 2021, but the changes “have not been fully implemented or tested to demonstrate that they would prevent and detect similar misconduct in the future.”
That’s where the independent monitor will come in, “to reduce the risk of misconduct,” the plea deal states.
Boeing, which is based in Arlington, Virginia, is a major Pentagon and NASA contractor, and a guilty plea is not expected to change that. Government agencies have leeway to hire companies even after a criminal conviction. The plea agreement does not address the topic.
Some of the passengers’ relatives plan to ask the judge to reject the plea deal. They want a full trial, a harsher penalty for Boeing, and many of them want current and former Boeing executives to be charged.
If the judge approves the deal, it would apply to the criminal charge stemming from the 737 Max crashes. It would not resolve other matters, potentially including litigation related to the Alaska Airlines blowout.
Boeing could appeal any order the court imposes to pay restitution to victims’ families — the agreement leaves restitution up to the judge. The company could also appeal if the judge indirectly increases the fine beyond $243.6 million by failing to give Boeing credit for an identical amount it paid as part of the 2021 settlement.
O’Connor will give lawyers for the families seven days to file legal motions opposing the plea deal. Boeing and the Justice Department will have 14 days to respond, and the families will get five days to reply to the filings by the company and the government.