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Bolton Was Target of Murder Plot in US Iranian Guard Case

(Bloomberg) -- Former national security advisor John Bolton was the target of an Iranian murder-for-hire plot, according to charges filed by the US against a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The alleged scheme by Shahram Poursafi was likely meant to avenge the death of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s elite Quds force, according to a statement Wednesday by the Justice Department. The US claims Poursafi, who it says is abroad, tried to pay $300,000 to have Bolton murdered.
The charges come as Washington and Tehran remain deadlocked over the 2015 nuclear deal the Trump administration abandoned four years ago. That move triggered a crisis in relations that contributed to the US decision to kill Soleimani, the country’s most powerful military figure, in a January 2020 drone strike in Iraq. Like former president Donald Trump, Bolton is an adamant foe of the deal.
In a statement, he thanked the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Secret Service for their efforts.
“While much cannot be said publicly right now, one point is indisputable: Iran’s rulers are liars, terrorists and enemies of the United States,” he said. “Their radical, anti-American objectives are unchanged, their commitments are worthless and their global threat is growing.”
In an interview with Bloomberg, Bolton said he had been aware of the threat to his life since 2020, warned by the FBI, and that he has learned that it was “very, very, very specific.” But he said didn’t know many of the details until Wednesday’s Justice Department announcement and that the department hadn’t alerted him ahead of its statement.
Bolton said he has been attended by the Secret Service since Dec. 1. Trump cut off his Secret Service coverage the day he resigned in 2019 after they fell out.
Read More: US Charges Man With Plotting to Kill Bush as Iraq War Revenge
The plot allegedly started in October when Poursafi asked a US resident, who was serving as a confidential source for the US, to take pictures of Bolton, claiming they were for a book he was writing. A month later he offered to pay the source $250,000 — which was raised to $300,000 as they bargained — to “eliminate” Bolton, according to the US. That same month, Poursafi allegedly told the source his “group” would require video confirmation of Bolton’s death.
In January, Poursafi mentioned to the source that he reported to only one person, although there was ...

Rhine River Withers to Crisis Level as Europe Craves Energy

(Bloomberg) -- The Rhine River is set to become virtually impassable at a key waypoint in Germany, as shallow water chokes off shipments of energy products and other industrial commodities along one of Europe’s most important waterways.
The marker at Kaub, west of Frankfurt, is forecast to drop to the critical depth of 40 centimeters (just under 16 inches) early on Aug. 12, according to the German Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration. At that level, most barges that haul goods from diesel to coal are effectively unable to transit the river. It’s set to continue dropping, to 37 centimeters the following day.
Europe is facing its worst energy crisis in decades as Russia curbs natural gas flows, with regional tensions high over its invasion of Ukraine. That’s sent prices soaring and pushed companies to use more oil and coal instead. The energy crunch has spilled over into the broader economy, sending factory costs surging and threatening to push some of the continent’s largest economies into recession.
While some barges will still be able to navigate the Rhine at Kaub, the dwindling water level illustrates how a climate crisis is compounding the region’s energy woes. Benchmark German power prices jumped to a new record on Wednesday. European natural gas and coal futures also surged.
Read: Europe’s Rivers Run Dry, Disrupting $80 Billion in Trade Routes
Used by vessels to haul vital commodities, the Rhine snakes about 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) from its source high in the Swiss Alps through some of Europe’s most important industrial zones before emptying into the North Sea near Rotterdam. Companies including chemicals giant BASF SE and steelmaker Thyssenkrupp AG rely on the river to supply major industrial plants with fuels and raw materials.
“If levels at Kaub drop to 35-55 centimeters in the next two weeks, some barges won’t be able to cross the Rhine at all, while others would carry less cargo,” BASF said Wednesday.
A mix of glacial run-off and rain feeds the river, but contributions from glaciers have dwindled in recent years as summer melting outpaces winter ice formation due to climate change. Below-average snowfall last winter and continued glacial attrition mean the waterway is particularly likely to fall to crisis levels, according to Switzerland’s federal weather service.
When the marker at Kaub hits 40 centimeters or less, it becomes uneconomical for most barges to sail any further, according to Germany’s Federal Institute of Hydrology. That effectively halts the flow of ...

UK summons Chinese ambassador over ‘aggressive’ escalation on Taiwan

LONDON, Aug 10 (Reuters) - British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Wednesday summoned China's ambassador to Britain, Zheng Zeguang, to explain Beijing's actions towards Taiwan following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit.
A furious China has extended its largest-ever exercises around the self-ruled island it claims as its own following Pelosi’s visit – the highest-level trip to the island by an American official in decades.
“I instructed officials to summon the Chinese Ambassador to explain his country’s actions. We have seen increasingly aggressive behaviour and rhetoric from Beijing in recent months, which threaten peace and stability in the region,” Truss said in a statement.
“The United Kingdom urges China to resolve any differences by peaceful means, without the threat or use of force or coercion.”
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Kate Holton)

Beluga whale that strayed into River Seine euthanised during rescue

SAINT-PIERRE-LA-GARENNE, France, Aug 10 (Reuters) - An ailing beluga whale that strayed into the River Seine died on Wednesday during an attempt to return it to the sea off northern France, authorities said.
Rescue divers overnight guided the whale into a net before a crane lifted it from the river in an operation which lasted six hours. It was then transported in a refrigerated truck to the Channel port of Ouistreham.
During the road journey, the already-weak beluga suffered respiratory failure and it was euthanised by vets shortly after arriving in Ouistreham.
“Despite an unprecedented rescue operation, it is with sadness that we announce the cetacean’s death,” the local Calvados authorities said.
The plan had been to move the malnourished whale to a saltwater basin in the hope it might recover some strength before being transferred to the sea.
But it was a risky venture.
The four-metre male weighed 800 kilograms (1763 pounds), well below an adult beluga’s typical weight of 1,200 kg, and had not fed since it was first spotted in the Seine last week.
Rescuers believe it was sick before it wandered up the river to within 70 km (43 miles) of Paris.
The whale’s condition deteriorated during the road journey to the coast. It was still alive when it reached Ouistreham but was weak and struggling to breathe.
Marine conservation group Sea Shepherd France, which was involved in the rescue operation, said leaving the whale in the Seine would have condemned it to certain death. Beluga cannot survive prolonged periods in the warm, freshwater of rivers.
“(The operation) was risky, but essential to give a chance to an otherwise doomed animal,” the group added.
In late May, a gravely ill orca swam dozens of miles up the Seine and died of natural causes after attempts to guide it back to sea failed.
In September 2018, a beluga was spotted in the River Thames east of London, in what was then the most southerly sighting of a beluga on British shores.
Beluga whales typically live in pods in Arctic or sub-Arctic waters.
By Benoit Tessier
(Reporting by Benoit Tessier and Benoit Van Overstraeten; Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Richard Lough; Editing by Robert Birsel, Alexandra Hudson)

In hope or despair, Kenyans choose new president from familiar faces

NAIROBI, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Kenyans voted in national elections on Tuesday, but turnout was unusually low amid voter apathy and frustration over surging food prices, corruption and fears of violence in some areas.
Kenyans voting for new president, lawmakers, local govt
Rising food prices, corruption among voters’ concerns
Turnout is uneven, voter registration missed targets
By Duncan Miriri and Ayenat Mersie
Former political prisoner and veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga is competing with Deputy President William Ruto for the presidency. Kenyans will also vote for legislators and local officials.
Provisional results started streaming in on Tuesday night, but official announcements will take longer. Nic Cheeseman, professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham, said the race seemed to be much closer than opinion polls had predicted.
“This is the moment of truth – leaders on both sides will be seeing that they may lose. So the question now becomes are they willing to . undermine Kenyan democracy,” he said.
The electoral commission said turnout was around 60%, above the rate typical in many other democracies but still well short of the 80% seen in the last election.
“Kenyans are tired of waking up early and voting for a government that doesn’t care,” said Joshua Nyanjui at a polling station in the town of Naivasha, around 90 kms (56 miles) northeast of the capital Nairobi.
Many young people did not even register to vote, electoral commission figures showed. Some said they were fed up of widening inequality and do not trust either candidate.
The 2007 and 2017 polls were marred by violence after disputes over alleged rigging. In northern Eldas town, Tuesday’s election was postponed for a day after violent clashes between rival sides, election officials said.
Ruto, 55, has been President Uhuru Kenyatta’s deputy for nine years, though the two have fallen out. Instead, Kenyatta endorsed Odinga, 77.
Odinga’s chosen running mate is former justice minister Martha Karua. If elected, she would be the first female vice president in a nation where women candidates often face violence. Read full storyRead full story
Kenya is a stable nation in a volatile region, a close Western ally that hosts regional headquarters for Alphabet GOOGL.O, Visa V.N and other international groups. However, less than 0.1% of Kenyans own more wealth than the bottom 99.9% combined, according to Oxfam. Read full story
Some citizens queued for hours, joyous to support their candidates. But others were haunted by violence sparked by past election disputes.
Police were hunting the MP ...

UK Plans for Blackouts in January in Emergency Energy Plan

(Bloomberg) -- The UK is planning for several days over the winter when cold weather may combine with gas shortages, leading to organized blackouts for industry and even households.
Under the government’s latest “reasonable worst-case scenario,” Britain could face an electricity capacity shortfall totaling about a sixth of peak demand, even after emergency coal plants have been fired up, according to people familiar with the government’s planning.Â
Under that outlook, below-average temperatures and reduced electricity imports from Norway and France could expose four days in January when the UK may need to trigger emergency measures to conserve gas, they said. The government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
While the UK doesn’t envisage such shortfalls under its base case, the analysis lays bare the difficult winter potentially in store for Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak when they succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister next month. If they materialize, the power cuts would come even as Britons face up to average annual energy bills possibly rising above £4,200 ($5,086) in January from just under £2,000 currently, stoking already soaring inflation.
If the winter is particularly cold, Britain may have to rely increasingly on pipeline shipments of gas from mainland Europe — where supplies are already thin as Moscow curbs flows. That presents a dilemma for the UK, which has very little domestic storage capacity. The nation has been shipping record amounts of gas to the continent and will want the favour returned when temperatures plunge
The pound hit its weakest in two weeks against the euro following the report. It erased earlier gains against the US dollar to trade around $1.2080.
The UK’s main fall-back option was to restore Britain’s biggest natural gas storage site, Rough. Owner Centrica Plc says its initial return to service this winter would equate to 10 LNG cargoes, not really enough to make a significant difference. The nation will also face stiff international competition for cargoes of liquefied natural gas.
The first stage of the UK’s emergency plan involves the network operator directing flows of gas on the system, temporarily overriding commercial agreements, the person said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. The second stage involves halting supplies to gas-fired power stations, triggering planned power cuts for industry and domestic users.
Life could get more difficult for Britain if supply of electricity is curtailed along huge cables connecting to France, Norway, ...

GOP Casts Trump as Victim, Attacks FBI in Midterm Rallying Cry

(Bloomberg) -- A day after federal agents searched Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home as part of a widening investigation, there were few signs that Republicans were ready to distance themselves from the former president.
Instead, everyone from the Republican National Committee to potential 2024 presidential primary rivals like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis echoed Trump’s assertion that the Justice Department’s search was politically motivated, casting him as a political martyr.
The support is further evidence of Trump’s enduring grip on the GOP. In recent days, a poll of his most-fervent supporters showed that he remains the presumptive favorite for the 2024 Republican presidential primary. Trump has dropped numerous hints he intends to run again.
So the issue really is timing and how disruptive it will be to the midterm elections. With less than 100 days before those critical November races, Republicans need Trump’s enthusiastic base to have a shot at flipping control of Congress.
If the investigation doesn’t produce evidence of what the public perceives as serious wrongdoing, it could help Trump’s endorsed candidates in November and give him a boost in 2024.
“It’s a double-edge sword, and it’s all going to sway on whether or not this raid produces something of real substance,” said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy in Florida. “If it doesn’t, it’s going to look really, really bad to basically raid the house of a former president for something that might amount to a whole lot of nothing.”
Before the FBI search, Coker said he saw evidence from private polling in multiple states that Trump’s popularity had dropped after the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol showed an erratic president desperate to stay in power.
DeSantis 2024?
Those damaging televised hearings had stirred talk that Republicans would increasingly look elsewhere for a 2024 candidate. DeSantis, for example, began to climb in the polls. He’s a rising star and one-time acolyte of Trump, minus the toxic baggage.
This past weekend a presidential straw poll of attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas showed Trump as the clear choice with a 99% approval rating and the choice of 69% of attendees, followed by DeSantis at 24%.
Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville, who advised former President Bill Clinton, doubts the Justice Department would have acted unless it was clearly warranted.
“If I were a Republican, I wouldn’t speak very definitively about it,” Carville said. “My guess is this is serious. I can’t imagine ...

Ukraine’s nuclear chief warns of ‘very high’ risks at occupied power plant

KYIV, Aug 9 (Reuters) - The head of Ukraine's state nuclear power firm warned on Tuesday of the "very high" risks of shelling at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the Russian-occupied south and said it was vital Kyiv regains control over the facility in time for winter.
By Pavel Polityuk and Sergiy Karazy
Energoatom’s chief, Petro Kotin, told Reuters in an interview that last week’s Russian shelling had damaged three lines that connect the Zaporizhzhia plant to the Ukrainian grid and that Russia wanted to connect the facility to its grid.
Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling the site of the vast nuclear power station – Europe’s biggest – that lies in Russian-controlled territory, in recent days.
Some of the shelling landed near storage facilities for spent fuel, an area that has 174 containers of highly radioactive material, Kotin said, warning of the dangers of them being hit.
“This is . the most radioactive material in all the nuclear power plant. This would (mean) the distribution (of it) around this place and then we will have like a radiation cloud and then the weather will decide. which direction the cloud goes,” he said.
“The risk is very high,” he said.
Kotin said Russia wanted to connect the plant to its grid, a technically difficult process that requires the facility to be severed from the Ukrainian system before it can be gradually connected to the Russian one.
“Their plan is to damage all the lines from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. After that it will not be connected to the Ukrainian power system,” he said.
The nuclear plant has six reactors and produced 20-21% of Ukraine’s electricity needs before the war, he said. It urgently needs renovations carrying out at it, he added.
“. so for winter season we urgently need to remove these Russians from there, then to renovate infrastructure,” he said.
Around 500 Russian troops are currently at the facility with heavy vehicles, and the plant is being used as a base, he said.
Kotin said the best solution would be for Russian troops to withdraw and for the plant to be returned to Ukrainian control. Peacekeepers could be sent in to guard the facility, he said.
“The ultimate solution is to remove soldiers and all their weaponry from the site. And this completely solves the problem of safety at the Zaporizhzhia power plant,” he said.
He warned, however, there would be no safety guarantees for any inspectors from ...

Israel re-opens Gaza crossings as truce with Palestinians holds

GAZA/JERUSALEM, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Israel reopened border crossings into Gaza on Monday following an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with the militant Islamic Jihad group that ended the most serious outbreak of fighting around the volatile Palestinian enclave in more than a year.
At least 44 people, including 15 children, were killed in 56 hours of violence that began when Israeli airstrikes hit a senior Islamic Jihad commander. Israel said its action was a pre-emptive strike against an attack planned by the Iranian-backed group.
Hundreds more people were wounded and several houses destroyed in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian militants fired more than 1,000 rockets at Israel, sending residents of southern areas and major cities including Tel Aviv fleeing to shelters.
In a news conference broadcast on the pro-Iranian station Al Mayadeen following the ceasefire late on Sunday, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhala declared: “This is a victory.”
But Israel saw a significant degradation of Islamic Jihad capabilities.
“There’s no doubt Islamic Jihad was dealt a serious blow from which it will take time to recover,” an Israeli military official said, pointing to the loss of two senior commanders, which he said would severely disrupt its ability to plan and carry out operations.
“We did not annihilate Islamic Jihad nor was that our goal.”
As well as the two commanders, Israeli officials said around 20 fighters were killed by the strikes and large quantities of anti-tank weapons and rocket production and storage facilities were destroyed.
“I think they were surprised by our capabilities and by the level of our intelligence and operational abilities,” a senior Israeli diplomatic official told reporters.
A spokesman for Islamic Jihad in Gaza said the group may have suffered losses to its leadership and fighting strength but it had been able to impose conditions on Israel and maintain unity and cohesion.
“The enemy made ending the Islamic Jihad group its battle aim but such a dreaming, delusional goal failed,” he said. “We own the human element, the human miracle that can repair capabilities regardless of how humble they are.”
Aware of the danger of escalating the conflict, Israel was careful to focus on Islamic Jihad targets to avoid drawing Hamas, the much larger and more powerful militant group that rules Gaza, into the fighting.
Little more than a year after an 11-day war in May 2021 that killed 250 Gazans and wrecked the fragile economy of the zone, Hamas offered some verbal support to its smaller ally but took ...

China announces fresh military drills around Taiwan

TAIPEI, Aug 8 (Reuters) - China's military announced fresh military drills on Monday in the seas and airspace around Taiwan - a day after the scheduled end of its largest ever exercises to protest against last week's visit to Taipei by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
China’s Eastern Theatre Command said it would conduct joint drills focusing on anti-submarine and sea assault operations – confirming the fears of some security analysts and diplomats that Beijing would continue to maintain pressure on Taiwan’s defences.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry condemned the move, saying China was deliberately creating crises. It demanded Beijing stop its military actions and “pull back from the edge”.
“In the face of military intimidation created by China, Taiwan will not be afraid nor back down, and will more firmly defend its sovereignty, national security, and free and democratic way of life,” the ministry said in a statement.
Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week infuriated China, which regards the self-ruled island as its own and responded with test launches of ballistic missiles over Taipei for the first time, as well as ditching some lines of dialogue with Washington.
The duration and precise location of the latest drills is not yet known, but Taiwan has already eased flight restrictions near the six earlier Chinese exercise areas surrounding the island.
Shortly before the latest drills were announced, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen met visiting St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, telling him she was moved by his determination to visit despite China’s military pressure.
“Prime Minister Gonsalves has expressed in recent days that the Chinese military drills would not prevent him from visiting friends in Taiwan. These statements have deeply touched us,” Tsai said at a welcome ceremony for Gonsalves in Taipei.
It was unclear if Tsai had invited Gonsalves before or after Pelosi’s visit. “We don’t disclose internal planning or communications between governments,” the Taiwanese foreign ministry said when asked by Reuters.
Beyond the firing of 11 short-range ballistic missiles during the four earlier days of exercises, Chinese warships, fighter jets and drones manoeuvred extensively around the island.
Shortly before those drills ended on Sunday, about 10 warships each from China and Taiwan manoeuvred at close quarters around the unofficial median line of the Taiwan Strait, according to a person familiar with the situation who is involved with security planning.
A Chinese state television commentator said late on Sunday that the Chinese military would now conduct “regular” drills on the Taiwan ...

Ukraine calls for demilitarised zone around nuclear plant hit by shelling

KYIV, Aug 8 (Reuters) - International alarm over weekend artillery attacks on Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex grew on Monday with Kyiv warning of the risk of a Chornobyl-style catastrophe and appealing for the area to be made a demilitarised zone.
The United Nations chief called for access to the plant as Kyiv and Moscow traded blame for the shelling in a southern region captured by Russian invaders in March and now targeted by Kyiv for a counter-offensive.
“Any attack (on) a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres told a news conference on Monday in Japan, where he attended the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on Saturday to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing.
Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom, called for a team of peacekeepers to be deployed at the Zaporizhzhia site, which is still run by Ukrainian technicians.
“The decision that we demand from the world community and all our partners . is to withdraw the invaders from the territory of the station and create a demilitarised zone on the territory of the station,” Kotin said on television.
“The presence of peacekeepers in this zone and the transfer of control of it to them, and then also control of the station to the Ukrainian side would resolve this problem.”
Russia’s defence ministry said on Monday that Ukrainian shelling had damaged high-voltage power lines servicing the Soviet-era plant and forced it to reduce output by two of its six reactors to “prevent disruption”.
A Russian-installed official in the Zaporizhzhia region said earlier that the facility was operating normally.
Ukraine blamed Russia for renewed shelling in the area of the plant that it said damaged three radiation sensors, with two workers hospitalised for shrapnel injuries.
The Zaporizhzhia region’s Russian-installed authority said Ukrainian forces hit the site with a multiple rocket launcher, damaging administrative buildings and a storage area.
Reuters could not verify either side’s version of what happened.
In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the shelling was “extremely dangerous” and added: “We expect the countries that have absolute influence on the Ukrainian leadership to use this influence in order to rule out the continuation of such shelling.”
Ukraine’s Kotin flagged the danger of shells hitting spent containers of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel as especially dire. If two or more containers were broken, “it is impossible to assess the scale of this catastrophe”.
The world’s worst civil nuclear ...

Ukraine’s Zelenskiy rules out talks if Russia holds referendums

Aug 7 (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday that if Russia proceeded with referendums in occupied areas of his country on joining Russia, there could be no talks with Ukraine or its international allies.
Russian forces and their separatist allies now hold large swathes of territory in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and in southern areas after launching what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” into its neighbour’s territory. Officials in both areas have raised the possibility of holding referendums.
In his nightly video address, Zelenskiy said Kyiv was holding fast to its position of yielding no territory to Russia.
“Our country’s position remains what it always has been. We will give up nothing of what is ours,” Zelenskiy said.
“If the occupiers proceed along the path of pseudo-referendums they will close for themselves any chance of talks with Ukraine and the free world, which the Russian side will clearly need at some point.”
Russian and Ukrainian officials held several sessions of talks soon after Russian forces launched their invasion of Ukraine in February.
But little progress was made and no meetings have been held since late March, with each side blaming the other for the halt to contacts.
Russian forces hold most of Kherson region in southern Ukraine and officials in charge have suggested a referendum on joining Russia could be held within the coming weeks or months.
In Donbas, Russian proxies seized chunks of territory in 2014, held independence referendums and proclaimed “people’s republics” in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The Kremlin recognised the republics on the eve of the February invasion.
The governor of Luhansk region — almost entirely under Russian control for several weeks — suggested over the weekend that Russia was preparing for a new referendum in newly captured areas and was offering residents benefits for taking part.
(Reporting by Ronald Popeski; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker)
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