Greece, Jordan assist in tackling Cyprus wildfire

Greece, Jordan assist in tackling Cyprus wildfire
A firefighting helicopter carries a bucket while putting out a fire that broke out in Psathi in western Cyprus on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 12 June 2024
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Greece, Jordan assist in tackling Cyprus wildfire

Greece, Jordan assist in tackling Cyprus wildfire

NICOSIA: Aircraft from Greece and Jordan were helping Cypriot authorities battle a large wildfire in the southwestern Paphos region believed to have been started by an illegal landfill, officials said Wednesday.
The fire broke out Tuesday east of the village of Giolou, triggering a national emergency plan that saw civil defense evacuate five mountain villages at risk.
Officials said two air tractors from the Royal Jordanian Air Force and two planes from Greece were deployed Wednesday to tackle the blaze in the rugged terrain.
Nicosia activated the European Union fire assistance protocol to seek help in containing the fire.
Fire service chief Nicos Logginos told state radio Wednesday that seven aircraft, including two Canadair planes from Greece, are operating over the active fronts.
He said that due to harsh terrain, ground forces are unable to reach the area.
Over 300 people, including fire crews, supported by bulldozers, are working to secure the perimeter of the fire.
Logginos said police have evidence the fire started from an illegal landfill site.
Around 48 people evacuated from the fire zone were taken to hotels, said local daily Kathimerini Cyprus.
The scale of the fire prompted President Nikos Christodoulides to return early from a Gaza aid summit in Jordan on Tuesday to visit the crisis control center.
During a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, he requested additional aerial support to combat the fire in Paphos.
Fire service spokesman Andreas Kettis said a number of homes suffered extensive damage or were destroyed, but the scale of the destruction has yet to be determined.
Residents have complained that homes were destroyed because of the slow response to the fire’s outbreak.
The community leader in the village of Lemona, Kyriakos Charalambous, told the Cyprus News Agency it took “too long” for aerial firefighting units to arrive.
Wildfires often erupt in Cyprus during the sweltering summer months on the island which suffers from a severe lack of rainfall.
The Department of Meteorology issued a yellow alert for Wednesday for extreme heat, with maximum temperatures expected to reach 41 degrees Celsius.
Cyprus recorded its hottest-ever June day last Friday as temperatures soared to an unprecedented 44 degrees Celsius, the department said.


Russia downs 75 Ukraine-launched drones, some near Tuapse oil refinery

Russia downs 75 Ukraine-launched drones, some near Tuapse oil refinery
Updated 59 min 31 sec ago
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Russia downs 75 Ukraine-launched drones, some near Tuapse oil refinery

Russia downs 75 Ukraine-launched drones, some near Tuapse oil refinery
  • Russian defense ministry did not say whether its defense systems destroyed the drones, or whether the attack had caused any damage
  • Russian officials rarely disclose the full extent of damage inflicted by Ukrainian attacks

Russia’s air defense systems destroyed 75 drones launched by Ukraine overnight, including eight near the town of Tuapse on the Black Sea where Russia’s oil major Rosneft has a refinery, the Russian defense ministry said on Monday.
Forty-seven drones were downed over the Rostov region in Russia’s southwest, 17 over the waters of the Black and Azov seas, eight over the Krasnodar region, where Tuapse is located, and single drones over the Belgorod, Voronezh and Smolensk region, the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app.
The ministry did not say whether its defense systems destroyed the drones, or whether the attack had caused any damage.
Sergei Boiko, head of the Tuapse district in the Krasnodar region, said on Telegram infrastructure and residential buildings had not been damaged.
Russian officials rarely disclose the full extent of damage inflicted by Ukrainian attacks. The Tuapse refinery has been a target of several Ukrainian air attacks since the start of the war that Russia launched against its smaller neighbor in 2022.
Russia’s SHOT and Mash Telegram news channels reported that a series of blasts were heard near the refinery early Monday.
Reuters could not independently verify the Russian reports. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine. Kyiv has often said that the attacks on Russia’s military, energy and transport infrastructure are in response to Russia’s continuous attacks on Ukraine’s territory.


Fire-hit tanker enters Malaysia terminal area after being detained by coast guard

Fire-hit tanker enters Malaysia terminal area after being detained by coast guard
Updated 22 July 2024
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Fire-hit tanker enters Malaysia terminal area after being detained by coast guard

Fire-hit tanker enters Malaysia terminal area after being detained by coast guard
  • The supertanker Ceres I left the scene of a fiery collision with another tanker
  • Singapore is Asia’s biggest oil-trading hub and the world’s largest bunkering port

SINGAPORE: A tanker that was involved in a collision near Singapore last week entered the area of Malaysia’s Bertam floating oil terminal on Monday morning after it was intercepted by local authorities on Sunday, shipping data from LSEG and Kpler showed.
The Sao Tome and Principe-flagged supertanker Ceres I left the scene of a fiery collision with another tanker, the Singapore-flagged Hafnia Nile, on Friday.
The Ceres I was found in Malaysian waters with two tugboats towing it, the coast guard said in a statement on Sunday.
The Ceres I and the two tugboats have been detained by the coast guard for further investigation, it said.
The Bertam floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) terminal is located in the South China Sea off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
The Ceres I is a very large crude carrier (VLCC) supertanker capable of carrying around 2 million barrels of oil. AIS data on LSEG showed that Ceres I is empty.
Ceres I has loaded crude and fuel oil from Iran and Venezuela through ship-to-ship transfers between 2019 and March 2024, Kpler data showed.
Shanghai Prosperity Ship Management is the manager of the Ceres I, according to LSEG data. The company could not be immediately reached for comment.
Separately, Hafnia, the manager of Hafnia Nile, said over the weekend it was in discussions with Malaysian authorities to safely move the vessel.
The Hafnia Nile, a 74,000-deadweight-tons capacity Panamax tanker, was carrying about 300,000 barrels naphtha for Japan, according to ship-tracking data from Kpler and LSEG. Naphtha is a raw material for making petrochemicals.
Singapore is Asia’s biggest oil-trading hub and the world’s largest bunkering port. Its surrounding waters are among the busiest global sea lanes.
Malaysia’s coast guard said on Sunday that aerial surveys conducted by the coast guard found minor traces of an oil spill at the location of the collision between the Ceres I and the Hafnia Nile, which occurred in the waters about 55 km (35 miles) northeast of the Singaporean island of Pedra Branca.
“The environment department has been informed and will conduct further monitoring,” it said.


Trump campaign switches gears to confront a Harris challenge

Trump campaign switches gears to confront a Harris challenge
Updated 22 July 2024
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Trump campaign switches gears to confront a Harris challenge

Trump campaign switches gears to confront a Harris challenge
  • Trump campaign to cast Harris as ‘co-pilot’ of administration polices it says are sources of voter discontent
  • Donald Trump: ‘Harris will be easier to beat than Joe Biden would have been’

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will try to show swing voters that his likely new rival, Vice President Kamala Harris, has her fingerprints all over two issues he is counting on for victory in November: immigration and the cost of living.
Sources within the Trump campaign said it will cast Harris, the likely Democratic candidate after President Joe Biden quit the race on Sunday, as the “co-pilot” of administration polices it says are behind both sources of voter discontent.
Biden’s sudden exit and endorsement of Harris has upended the race, just eight days after Trump survived an assassination attempt at a campaign rally.
Sources told Reuters that Trump’s campaign had for weeks been preparing for Harris should Biden drop out and she win her party’s nomination.
“Harris will be easier to beat than Joe Biden would have been,” Trump told CNN shortly after Biden’s announcement on Sunday.
Trump’s campaign has signaled it will tie her as tightly as possible to Biden’s immigration policy, which Republicans say is to blame for a sharp increase in the numbers of people crossing the southern border with Mexico illegally.
The second line of attack will revolve around the economy. Public opinion polls consistently show Americans are unhappy with high food and fuel costs as well as interest rates that have made buying a home less affordable.
“She’s the co-pilot of the Biden vision,” said one Trump adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity during last week’s Republican National Convention, where a unified party anointed Trump as its nominee in the White House race.
“If they want to switch to Biden 2.0 and have ‘Cackling’ Kamala at the top of the ticket, we’re good either way,” the adviser said, repeating an insult the campaign has been trying out for weeks focused on how the vice president laughs.
Make America Great Again Inc, a super PAC backing Trump, said on Sunday it was pulling anti-Biden television ads that had been set to run in the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania and replacing them with an ad attacking Harris.
The 30-second ad accuses Harris of hiding Biden’s infirmity from the public, and it seeks to pin the administration’s record solely on her. “Kamala knew Joe couldn’t do the job, so she did it. Look what she got done: a border invasion, runaway inflation, the American Dream dead,” the narrator says.
Trump, known for using insulting and sometimes offensive language to attack his opponents, gave supporters at a rally in Michigan on Saturday a taste of the insults he is likely to fling at Harris in the coming days.
“I call her laughing Kamala. You ever watch a laugh? She’s crazy. You can tell a lot by a laugh. She’s crazy. She’s nuts,” he said.
ALTERED RACE
The Democratic Party has yet to determine how to move forward, and there is as yet no guarantee that Harris will emerge as the party’s nominee despite Biden’s endorsement.
Harris as the Democratic nominee would alter the race in perhaps unforeseen ways, political strategists said.
A 59-year-old woman who is Black and Asian-American would fashion an entirely new dynamic with Trump, 78, offering a vivid generational and cultural split-screen. The United States has yet to elect a woman president in its 248-year history.
Rodell Mollineau, a Democratic strategist and longtime congressional aide, said Harris would be able to mount “a more energetic campaign with excitement from younger voters and people of color” after Biden struggled to energize these important Democratic Party voting blocs.
A former prosecutor and California attorney general as well as a former US senator, Harris would be able to use “her years of litigation experience to effectively prosecute Trump in the court of public opinion,” Mollineau said.
Chip Felkel, a Republican strategist, cautioned that it would be a mistake for the Trump campaign to assume Harris could serve as a simple stand-in for Biden, because of her potential appeal to different parts of the electorate.
Recent polls have shown Harris to be competitive with Trump. In a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, Harris and Trump were tied with 44 percent support each in a July 15-16 Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Before Sunday, the Trump campaign had already begun discussions about how they would redeploy campaign resources should Biden drop out of the race, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
Jeanette Hoffman, a Republican political consultant, said despite the contrasts Harris would bring to the ticket, her close ties to Biden would be a drag on her candidacy.
Harris “doesn’t represent the change America is looking for,” Hoffman said.
MAGA Inc. CEO Taylor Budowich said his group has commissioned opposition research on several possible Democratic candidates. “MAGA Inc. is prepared for all outcomes of a Democrat Party who has only brought chaos and failure,” he said.


Homeland Security secretary names independent panel to review Trump assassination attempt

Homeland Security secretary names independent panel to review Trump assassination attempt
Updated 22 July 2024
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Homeland Security secretary names independent panel to review Trump assassination attempt

Homeland Security secretary names independent panel to review Trump assassination attempt
  • The panel will review the policies and procedures of the Secret Service before, during and after the rally on July 13 where a gunman fired at Trump in Butler, Pennsylvania
  • Among the first panel members are former Homeland Security chiefs under the administrations of former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush 

WASHINGTON: US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has appointed a bipartisan, independent panel to review this month’s assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump, officials said Sunday.
The panel members will have “extensive law enforcement and security experience to conduct a 45-day independent review of the planning for and actions taken by the US Secret Service and state and local authorities before, during, and after the rally, and the US Secret Service governing policies and procedures,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.
The first people named to the panel are former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Frances Townsend, former Homeland Security adviser to President George W. Bush; Mark Filip, a former federal judge and deputy attorney general to President George W. Bush; and David Mitchell, former Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security for the state of Delaware.

Additional experts could be asked to join the group in the coming days, the statement said.
The panel will have 45 days to review the policies and procedures of the Secret Service before, during and after the rally on July 13 where a gunman fired at Trump in Butler, Pennsylvania.
“We formed this bipartisan group to quickly identify improvements the US Secret Service can implement to enhance their work. We must all work together to ensure events like July 13 do not happen again,” members of the independent review panel said in a joint statement.
Secret Service Director Kim Cheatle said she welcomes the review.
“I look forward to the panel examining what happened and providing recommendations to help ensure it will never happen again,” Cheatle said in a statement Sunday. “The US Secret Service is continuing to take steps to review our actions internally and remain committed to working quickly and transparently with other investigations, including those by Congress, FBI and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General.”
Cheatle is set to testify Monday before the House Oversight Committee.

 

 

 


Tougher tone on Israel, steady on NATO: how a Harris foreign policy could look

Tougher tone on Israel, steady on NATO: how a Harris foreign policy could look
Updated 22 July 2024
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Tougher tone on Israel, steady on NATO: how a Harris foreign policy could look

Tougher tone on Israel, steady on NATO: how a Harris foreign policy could look
  • Harris would bring on-the-job experience, personal ties forged with world leaders, and sense of global affairs gained during Senate term
  • Harris has signaled she would not deviate from Biden’s staunch support for NATO alliance and would continue backing Ukraine

WASHINGTON: Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to stick largely to Joe Biden’s foreign policy playbook on key issues such as Ukraine, China and Iran but could strike a tougher tone with Israel over the Gaza war if she replaces the president at the top of the Democratic ticket and wins the US November election.
As the apparent frontrunner for the nomination after Biden dropped out of the race and endorsed her on Sunday, Harris would bring on-the-job experience, personal ties forged with world leaders, and a sense of global affairs gained during a Senate term and as Biden’s second-in-command.
But running against Republican candidate Donald Trump she would also have a major vulnerability — a troubled situation at the US-Mexico border that has bedeviled Biden and become a top campaign issue. Harris was tasked at the start of his term with addressing the root causes of high irregular migration, and Republicans have sought to make her the face of the problem.
On a range of global priorities, said analysts, a Harris presidency would resemble a second Biden administration.
“She may be a more energetic player but one thing you shouldn’t expect – any immediate big shifts in the substance of Biden’s foreign policy,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator for Democratic and Republican administrations.
Harris has signaled, for instance, that she would not deviate from Biden’s staunch support for NATO and would continue backing Ukraine in its fight against Russia. That stands in sharp contrast to a pledge by former president Trump to fundamentally alter the US relationship with the alliance and the doubts he has raised about future weapons supplies to Kyiv.

STAYING THE COURSE ON CHINA?
A lawyer by training and a former California attorney general, Harris struggled in the first half of Biden’s term to find her footing, not helped by being saddled early on with a major part of the intractable immigration portfolio amid record crossings at the US-Mexico border.
That followed a failed 2020 presidential campaign that was widely considered lackluster.
If she becomes the nominee, Democrats will be hoping Harris will be more effective at communicating her foreign policy goals.
In the second half of Biden’s presidency, Harris — the country’s first Black and Asian American vice president — has elevated her profile on issues ranging from China and Russia to Gaza and become a known quantity to many world leaders.
At this year’s Munich Security Conference she delivered a tough speech slamming Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and pledging “ironclad” US respect for NATO’s Article 5 requirement for mutual self-defense.
On China, Harris has long positioned herself within Washington’s bipartisan mainstream on the need for the US to counter China’s influence, especially in Asia. She would likely maintain Biden’s stance of confronting Beijing when necessary while also seeking areas of cooperation, analysts say.
Harris has made several trips aimed at boosting relations in the economically dynamic region, including one to Jakarta in September to fill in for Biden at a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). During the visit, Harris accused China of trying to coerce smaller neighbors with its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.
Biden also dispatched Harris on travels to shore up alliances with Japan and South Korea, key allies who have had reason to worry about Trump’s commitment to their security.
“She demonstrated to the region that she was enthusiastic to promote the Biden focus on the Indo-Pacific,” said Murray Hiebert, a senior associate of the Southeast Asia Program at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.
While she could not match the “diplomatic chops” Biden had developed over decades, “she did fine,” he added.
However, like her boss, Harris has been prone to the occasional verbal gaffe. On a tour of the Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea in September 2022 to reassert Washington’s support for Seoul, she mistakenly touted a US “alliance with the Republic of North Korea,” which aides later corrected.
If Harris becomes her party’s standard-bearer and can overcome Trump’s lead in pre-election opinion polls to win the White House, the Israel-Palestinian conflict would rank high on her agenda, especially if the Gaza war is still raging.
Although as vice president she has mostly echoed Biden in firmly backing Israel’s right to defend itself after Hamas militants carried out a deadly cross-border raid on Oct. 7, she has at times stepped out slightly ahead of the president in criticizing Israel’s military approach.
In March, she bluntly criticized Israel, saying it was not doing enough to ease a “humanitarian catastrophe” during its ground offensive in the Palestinian enclave. Later that month, she did not rule out “consequences” for Israel if it launched a full-scale invasion of refugee-packed Rafah in southern Gaza.
Such language has raised the possibility that Harris, as president, might take at least a stronger rhetorical line with Israel than Biden, analysts say.
While her 81-year-old boss has a long history with a succession of Israeli leaders and has even called himself a “Zionist,” Harris, 59, lacks his visceral personal connection to the country.
She maintains closer ties to Democratic progressives, some of whom have pressed Biden to attach conditions to US weapons shipments to Israel out of concern for high Palestinian civilian casualties in the Gaza conflict.
But analysts do not expect there would be a big shift in US policy toward Israel, Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East.
Halie Soifer, who served as national security adviser to Harris during the then-senator’s first two years in Congress, from 2017 to 2018, said Harris’ support of Israel has been just as strong as Biden’s. “There really has been no daylight to be found” between the two, she said.
IRAN NUCLEAR THREAT
Harris could also be expected to hold firm against Israel’s regional arch-foe, Iran, whose recent nuclear advances have drawn increased US condemnation.
Jonathan Panikoff, formerly the US government’s deputy national intelligence officer for the Middle East, said the growing threat of “weaponization” of Iran’s nuclear program could be an early major challenge for a Harris administration, especially if Tehran decides to test the new US leader.
After a series of failed attempts, Biden has shown little interest in returning to negotiations with Tehran over resuming the 2015 international nuclear agreement, which Trump abandoned during his presidency.
Harris, as president, would be unlikely to make any major overtures without serious signs that Iran is ready to make concessions.
Even so, Panikoff, now at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, said: “There’s every reason to believe the next president will have to deal with Iran. It’s bound to be one of the biggest problems.”