control

As former vice president Joe Biden prepares to launch his 2020 presidential campaign on Thursday, his long public record working for gun control has been consistently in line with the values of today’s Democratic Party, but potential political danger lurks for him even on this issue, NBC News reported on Wednesday.

As a Delaware senator and ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Biden voted in favor of the Firearm Owners Protection Act in 1986, which the NRA has called “the law that saved gun rights.”

Reflecting a vastly different era decades ago, when compromise was common in the Senate and guns were less of a partisan and emotional issue, the act passed by a wide margin.

It overturned six Supreme Court rulings and various regulations, leaving a legacy as one of the most important gun laws of the past century and a major political boost for the growing gun rights movement.

The act allowed dealers to sell rifles, shotguns and ammunition through the mail and limited federal inspections of firearms dealers while allowing them to sell at gun shows.

Biden praised it at the time as a “balanced piece of legislation that protects the rights of private gun owners while not infringing on law enforcement’s ability to deal with those who misuse guns or violate laws,” adding that “I have never believed that additional gun control or Federal registration of guns would reduce crime.”

Biden spokesman Bill Russo said “Cherry-picking an out of context quote from 1986 doesn’t even begin to address Joe Biden’s unparalleled record on gun safety. Let’s be clear on the facts: Joe Biden took on the NRA and won – twice.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

People hold banners during a rally to support a nationwide teachers' strike in central Warsaw
People hold banners during a rally to support a nationwide teachers’ strike in central Warsaw, Poland April 24, 2019. Banner reads “Nationwide demonstration for the school”. Agencja Gazeta/Jedrzej Nowicki via REUTERS

April 24, 2019

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s governing nationalists announced legislation on Wednesday to ensure final high school exams are held next month despite a teachers’ strike that has shut thousands of schools for more than two weeks.

Teacher demands for a pay rise of up to 1,000 zloty ($260)evoke the competing demands of various groups for a slice of the fast-growing prosperity of central Europe’s largest economy, at a time when the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) is expanding benefits for families and pensioners ahead of elections.

Critics say the government lacks incentive to find extra money for teachers as they broadly oppose the PiS over accusations that it is undermining Polish democracy by seeking to impose more political control over the judiciary, the state media and other public institutions. Meanwhile, the populist PiS has announced more payments for farmers who raise pigs and cows.

Teachers polled by the Rzeczpospolita daily say they earn 1,750-2,800 zloty a month after taxes. The average net salary in Polish enterprises amounts to around 3,700 zloty.

Students and parents are anxious to know whether final high school exams – allowing students to apply to university – will be held as planned at the beginning of May.

“The state must guarantee that in every school every exam candidate will be able to take their exam at the scheduled time, this is necessary for the peace of mind of students and parents and for the state to be seen as serious and responsible,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in a televised speech.

He announced pending legislation that would allow school directors to grant permission for exams to go ahead if the teachers’ committees at schools remained on strike.

The emergency bill is expected to be put to a vote on Thursday. Given the PiS’s majority of 237 seats in the 460-strong lower house of parliament, the announced legislation is likely to be passed.

Despite a majority of Polish schools not holding lessons for a third week, final exams for children finishing primary and middle schools were held without disruptions.

Thousands of teachers took to the streets of Warsaw on Wednesday as the strike stretched into its 17th day, brandishing placards with slogans such as “Without respect and money, education drowns in poverty”.

In recent months, some opinion polls conducted before the European Parliament election in May have raised the possibility that PiS might lose power after Poland’s national election due in October or November. It is the first such signal since the strongly conservative party took office in 2015.

($1 = 3.8296 zlotys)

(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

Afghan villagers who fled from the fighting sides arrive at the Behsud district of Nangarhar province
Afghan villagers who fled from the fighting sides arrive at the Behsud district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Parwiz

April 24, 2019

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan Taliban insurgents are battling fighters loyal to Islamic State over control of territory in eastern Afghanistan in some of the heaviest clashes over the past year between the rival militants, officials said on Wednesday.

The fighting erupted on Monday in two districts of the eastern Afghan border province of Nangarhar, when Islamic State fighters attacked villages under Taliban control.

“Islamic State fighters have captured six villages in Khogyani and Shirzad districts but the fighting has not stopped,” said Sohrab Qaderi, a member Nangarhar’s the provincial council.

About 500 families had fled from the fighting, he said.

Casualty figures were not available.

A spokesman for the Taliban, who control more territory than at any point since they were ousted from power nearly 18 years ago, was not available for comment.

Islamic State fighters first appeared in eastern Afghanistan in around 2014 and have battled the Taliban as well as government and foreign forces.

The Afghan affiliate of Islamic State, sometimes known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), after an old name for the region that includes Afghanistan, has made some inroads into other areas, in the north in particular.

It has also established a reputation for unusual cruelty, even by the standards of the Afghan conflict, and has been behind some of the deadliest attacks in urban centers.

While Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan, has been an Islamic State stronghold, some villages in Khogyani and Shirzad districts have been controlled by the Taliban.

Fleeing villagers said they had to run for their lives.

“I could only rescue my family. We had to leave everything,” said Shawkat, 36, a resident of Markikhel village in Shirzad district who sought safety in a neighboring village.

Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor said, authorities would help the displaced villagers with food and medicine.

In August, more than 150 Islamic State fighters surrendered to the Afghan security forces after they were defeated by the Taliban in the northwestern province of Jawzjan.

The U.S. military estimates there are about 2,000 Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.

Many are former Taliban. There is scant evidence of direct links with Islamic State in the Middle East, where the group has lost territory it once held in Syria and Iraq to Western-backed forces.

(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul and Ahmad Sultan in Nangarhar; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

The showdown between the White House and House Democrats is growing more bitter as new battles break out and ignite a total war, Politico is reporting.

Now, even modest compromises may be unobtainable as both sides ready for protracted fights in federal court.

Here are some of the key disputes.

  • House Democrats are warning they could hold an administration official in contempt. The official, who had overseen security clearances, was instructed by the White House not to cooperate with Congress.
  • The administration refused to turn over six years of President Donald Trump’s personal and business tax returns by a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline and asked for additional time to consult with the Department of Justice.
  • The White House is trying to block the House Judiciary Committee from bringing in former White House counsel Don McGahn for testimony, according to The Washington Post. McGahn was mentioned in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
  • Trump has filed suit to block a subpoena for his financial records from the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

“It’s a pretty extraordinary and outlandish situation right now,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the House Oversight panel. “It’s like a curtain has fallen down over the White House.”

And Politico noted that Trump’s attorneys, who are challenging a subpoena for his financial records, wrote in court papers: “The Democrat Party, with its newfound control of the U.S. House of Representatives, has declared all-out political war against President Donald J. Trump.”

 Related Stories:

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: View of cranes at the container terminal at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah
FILE PHOTO: A view of cranes at the container terminal at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen January 5, 2019. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad/File Photo

April 24, 2019

DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister on Wednesday blamed Yemen’s Houthi movement for a stalled peace deal in the main port of Hodeidah, saying the Iran-aligned group was ignoring the kingdom’s call for a political solution to the four-year war.

Saudi Arabia is leading a Western-backed Sunni Muslim military coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which was ousted from power in the capital Sanaa by the Houthis in late 2014.

“They are ignoring our calls for a political solution to this crisis,” Prince Khalid bin Salman said at a security conference in Moscow, in his first comments on Yemen since becoming deputy defense minister in February.

The warring parties reached a deal at U.N.-sponsored talks in Sweden in December for a ceasefire and troop withdrawal from the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions of people.

The Houthis say they are ready to implement the Hodeidah deal, but that the other side is obstructing it.

The truce has largely held but the redeployment of forces has stalled with each side blaming the other for impeding the pact, the first major breakthrough in peace efforts in over four years aimed at paving the way for political negotiations.

Prince Khalid, a son of King Salman and a full younger brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, accused regional rival Iran of trying “to seize the Yemeni state” by supporting the Houthis, who control Hodeidah and most urban centers in Yemen.

The Houthis deny being puppets of Iran and say their revolution is against corruption.

The conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed the poorest Arabian Peninsula nation to the brink of famine, is largely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its arch foe Shi’ite Muslim Iran.

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a database tracking violence in Yemen, last week said around 70,000 people have been reported killed since the start of 2016.

Western nations, some of which supply arms and intelligence to the alliance, have increased pressure on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to end the conflict following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October at the hands of Saudi agents at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.

(Writing by Lisa Barrington; Additional reporting by Tuqa Khalid; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

U.S. President Trump attends the 2019 White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump attends the 2019 White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

April 24, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump is expected to tout his fight against opioid abuse in remarks in Atlanta on Wednesday, a day after his administration brought its first related criminal charges against a major drug distributor and company executives.

America’s opioid epidemic, especially damaging in rural areas where Trump is popular, has been a focus for the Republican president.

Little has come of Trump’s calls for executing drug dealers, but on other fronts the administration has taken some action. Trump has worked to boost funding for treatment and raise awareness of the problem.

On Tuesday, the government charged Rochester Drug Co-operative Inc and executives of the major drug distributor. The company agreed to pay $20 million and enter a deferred prosecution agreement to resolve charges it turned a blind eye to thousands of suspicious orders for opioids.

Deaths from opioid overdose in the United States jumped 17 percent in 2017 from a year earlier to more than 49,000 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl surged 45 percent in that time, according to the CDC.

Hundreds of lawsuits by state and local governments accuse drugmakers such as Purdue Pharma of deceptively marketing opioids, and distributors such as AmerisourceBergen Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and McKesson Corp of ignoring that they were being diverted for improper uses.

Trump has said he convinced Chinese President Xi Jinping in a December meeting in Argentina to designate fentanyl as a controlled substance.

China last month listed all fentanyl-related substances as controlled narcotics after criticism from Trump, though its government blamed U.S. culture for abuse of the drug and said the amount of fentanyl going from China into the United States was “extremely limited.”

Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in October 2017. He plans to provide an update on his administration’s work on the issue at the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, a White House spokesman said.

Trump has used the crisis to support his call for building a wall on the border with Mexico, saying it would help keep out drugs and curb the crisis.

Heroin from Mexico accounted for 86 percent of the heroin found on U.S. streets, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s most recent annual narcotic report. Heroin, unlike fentanyl, is derived from the seeds of the opium poppy plant.

Last week, U.S. health officials said they will spend $350 million in four states to study ways to best deal with the opioid crisis on the local level, with a goal of reducing opioid-related overdose deaths by 40 percent over three years in selected communities in those states.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and David Gregorio)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian presidential candidate Zelenskiy reacts during a news conference in Kiev
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy reacts during a news conference at his campaign headquarters following a presidential election in Kiev, Ukraine April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

April 24, 2019

By Marc Jones and Tom Arnold

LONDON (Reuters) – Ukraine has entered uncharted political waters by choosing Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian with no previous political experience and few detailed policies, as its new president.

Zelenskiy is the latest anti-establishment figure to unseat an incumbent leader, both in Europe and further afield, but he has a lot to get to grips with. Below are five big questions investors and the international community have.

1/STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT?

Zelenskiy is expected to take office next month and his ability to work with Ukraine’s parliament, the Rada, will be crucial to meeting the expectations of his voters.

The president appoints the head of the state security service, the head of the military, the general prosecutor, the central bank governor and the foreign and defense ministers. But parliament must confirm each appointment — and there’s the rub.

While Zelenskiy beat incumbent Petro Poroshenko decisively in Sunday’s presidential vote, parliamentary elections are not due until October and opinion polls suggest he is unlikely to win an outright majority.

That means he would need to ally with at least one other party if he is to get many of his policies and appointments through. The other alternative is to try to bring the elections forward in order to capitalize on the momentum from his presidential victory.

2/TEAM BUILDING EXERCISE

With no political experience himself, investors want Zelenskiy to build a team with enough know-how to avoid any policy missteps.

He does not actually have a full slate of policies yet but he brought in two former ministers as advisers for his campaign: former finance minister Oleksandr Danylyuk and former economy minister Aivaras Abromavicius.

Danylyuk is rumored to be in line to become either foreign minister or the head of the presidential administration, which would give him a powerful gatekeeper role.

“Zelenskiy might be inexperienced in foreign affairs but I think he will have plenty of choice of experienced individuals to serve as foreign minister, and will receive plenty of support, advice from Western governments,” wrote Timothy Ash of BlueBay Asset Management.

3/IMF

International Monetary Fund aid has kept Ukraine’s economy above water so its ongoing support is seen as crucial, especially with around $3 billion (about 2 percent of GDP) of external debt obligations, including interest, coming due in the remainder of 2019. Another $5.5 billion (about 4 percent of GDP) must be repaid in 2020.

But Ukraine’s patchy reform efforts led to repeated delays in its previous IMF program that ended up disbursing only $8.7 billion of a planned $17.5 billion.

That was replaced by a new $3.9 billion Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) in December. While Kiev hopes for another tranche of that money as early as next month, investors will want to see a fuller program put back in place soon.

It could be an interesting negotiation. Zelenskiy already wants to talk the IMF about reversing some gas price rises the Fund saw as crucial to mending Kiev’s finances.

Ukraine’s economic backdrop has improved in recent years though, with much smaller twin deficits (2-3 percent of GDP), lower public sector debt (just over 60 percent) and a stable currency. It also has over $20 billion in FX reserves, which is over four months of import cover, according to S&P Global.

4/PRIVATBANK PROBLEMS

One concern is Zelenskiy’s ties to oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, the former owner of Ukraine’s biggest lender PrivatBank, which was nationalized in 2016.

With the international community already concerned about corruption and influence, some have raised questions about what their relationship might mean for the future of PrivatBank and other interests of Kolomoisky in Ukraine.

A court ruling last week could threaten to overturn the nationalization of PrivatBank.

The central bank has said it will appeal — in fact there could be many appeals as well as other legal manoeuvres — but any sign that Zelenskiy might be in Kolomoisky’s camp on this could do serious damage, not least to relations with the IMF.

5/RUSSIA RELATIONS

As world leaders clamored to offer their congratulations to Zelenskiy, one notable name was absent: Russian President Vladimir Putin. How the Russian-speaking Zelenskiy handles Ukraine’s relationship with Moscow will go a long way to determining the success of his term in office.

He has already suggested taking a fresh perspective to try to secure peace with Moscow, while pushing ahead with European Union-friendly moves. That could prove a difficult path to tread.

For its part, Russia has signaled it intends to respect the vote of the Ukraine people, although Putin is not planning talks with Zelenskiy.

Also rumbling in the background is a legal dispute between the two surrounding Ukraine’s $3 billion Eurobond, which Moscow wants repaid in full but which Kiev argues should have been written down along with most of its other debt in 2015.

Any repairing of ties could also bring rewards for Ukraine. Improved relations could help it regain control over the separatist-controlled east, as well as cheap gas and major investment, a Kremlin ally in Ukraine said last week.

(Additional reporting by Matthias Williams in Kiev, Graphics by Karin Strohecker, Editing by Catherine Evans)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A Scandinavian SAS airline passenger plane flies near the air traffic control tower at Roissy airport, near Paris
FILE PHOTO: A Scandinavian SAS airline passenger plane flies near the air traffic control tower after taking off from Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris, August 21, 2013. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

April 24, 2019

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Scandinavian airline SAS is offering travelers concerned about a possible strike by pilots the chance to reschedule flights for the April 26-29 period to another date free of charge.

The Swedish, Danish and Norwegian pilot unions’ joint SAS branch said this month they would go on strike on April 26 if there was no agreement on wages and terms by then, after an earlier talks round of talks broke down.

SAS said on its website the offer concerned flights operated by SAS but not those operated by its partners as they would not affected by the potential strike.

SAS employs around 1,500 pilots across its home markets of Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

National mediators in the three countries have since last week tried to broker a deal between delegations of the two parties but without success so far.

(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Edmund Blair)

Source: OANN

An artisanal gold miner holds a gold nugget at an unlicensed mine in Gaoua, Burkina Faso
An artisanal gold miner holds a gold nugget at an unlicensed mine in Gaoua, Burkina Faso, February 13, 2018. Picture taken February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

April 24, 2019

By Ryan McNeill and Zandi Shabalaba David Lewis

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Billions of dollars’ worth of gold is being smuggled out of Africa every year through the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East – a gateway to markets in Europe, the United States and beyond – a Reuters analysis has found.

Customs data shows that the UAE imported $15.1 billion worth of gold from Africa in 2016, more than any other country and up from $1.3 billion in 2006. The total weight was 446 tonnes, in varying degrees of purity – up from 67 tonnes in 2006.

Much of the gold was not recorded in the exports of African states. Five trade economists interviewed by Reuters said this indicates large amounts of gold are leaving Africa with no taxes being paid to the states that produce them.

Previous reports and studies have highlighted the black-market trade in gold mined by people, including children, who have no ties to big business, and dig or pan for it with little official oversight. No-one can put an exact figure on the total value that is leaving Africa. But the Reuters analysis gives an estimate of the scale.

Reuters assessed the volume of the illicit trade by comparing total imports into the UAE with the exports declared by African states. Industrial mining firms in Africa told Reuters they did not send their gold to the UAE – indicating that its gold imports from Africa come from other, informal sources.

Informal methods of gold production, known in the industry as “artisanal” or small-scale mining, are growing globally. They have provided a livelihood to millions of Africans and help some make more money than they could dream of from traditional trades. But the methods leak chemicals into rocks, soil and rivers. And African governments such as Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia complain that gold is now being illegally produced and smuggled out of their countries on a vast scale, sometimes by criminal operations, and often at a high human and environmental cost.

Artisanal mining began as small-time ventures. But the “romantic” era of individual mining has given way to “large-scale and dangerous” operations run by foreign-controlled criminal syndicates, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo told a mining conference in February. Ghana is Africa’s second-largest gold producer.

Not everyone in the chain is breaking the law. Miners, some of them working legally, typically sell the gold to middlemen. The middlemen either fly the gold out directly or trade it across Africa’s porous borders, obscuring its origins before couriers carry it out of the continent, often in hand luggage.

For example, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a major gold producer but one whose official exports amount to a fraction of its estimated production: Most is smuggled into neighboring Uganda and Rwanda. “It is of course worrisome for us but we have very little leverage to stop it,” said Thierry Boliki, director of the CEEC, the Congolese government body that is meant to register, value and tax high-value minerals like gold.

The customs data provided by governments to Comtrade, a United Nations database, shows the UAE has been a prime destination for gold from many African states for some years. In 2015, China – the world’s biggest gold consumer – imported more gold from Africa than the UAE. But during 2016, the latest year for which data is available, the UAE imported almost double the value taken by China. With African gold imports worth $8.5 billion that year, China came a distant second. Switzerland, the world’s gold refining hub, came third with $7.5 billion worth.

Most of the gold is traded in Dubai, home to the UAE’s gold industry.

The UAE reported gold imports from 46 African countries for 2016. Of those countries, 25 did not provide Comtrade with data on their gold exports to the UAE. But the UAE said it had imported a total of $7.4 billion worth of gold from them.

In addition, the UAE imported much more gold from most of the other 21 countries than those countries said they had exported. In all, it said it imported gold worth $3.9 billion – about 67 tonnes – more than those countries said they sent out.

“There is a lot of gold leaving Africa without being captured in our records,” said Frank Mugyenyi, a senior adviser on industrial development at the African Union who set up the organization’s minerals unit. “UAE is cashing in on the unregulated environment in Africa.”

The Dubai Customs Authority referred Reuters’ queries to the UAE foreign ministry, which did not respond. The UAE government media office referred Reuters to the UAE federal customs authority, which also did not respond.

Not all the discrepancies in the data analyzed by Reuters necessarily point to African-mined gold being smuggled out through the UAE. Small differences could result from shipping costs and taxes being declared differently, a time-lag between a cargo leaving and arriving, or simply mistakes. And gold analysts say some of the trade, especially from Egypt and Libya, could include gold that has been recycled.

But in 11 cases, the per-kilo value that the UAE declared importing is significantly higher than that recorded by the exporting country. This, said Leonce Ndikumana, an economist who has studied capital flows in Africa, is a “classic case of export under-invoicing” to reduce taxes.

Matthew Salomon, an American economist who has researched the use of trade statistics to identify illicit financial flows, said the issue deserves scrutiny. “Persistent discrepancies in the trade of particular goods and between particular countries … can identify significant risks of illicit activity,” he said.

POLLUTION, CONFLICT AND BANDITS

Over the past decade, high demand for gold has made it attractive for informal miners to use digging equipment and toxic chemicals to boost the yield. Contaminated water is returned to rivers, slowly poisoning the people who need the water to live.

Small-scale miners have long used mercury – easy to buy at around $10 for a thumb-sized vial – to extract flecks of gold from ore, before sluicing it away. Mercury’s toxic effects include damage to kidneys, heart, liver, spleen and lungs, and neurological disorders, such as tremors and muscle weakness. Cyanide and nitric acid are also being used in the process, according to researchers and miners in Ghana.

Industrial mining companies have also been responsible for pollution, ranging from cyanide spills to respiratory problems linked to dust produced by mining operations. But almost a dozen states including DRC, Uganda, Chad, Niger, Ghana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Mali and Sudan have complained in the past year about the harms of unauthorized mining.

Burkina Faso has banned small-scale mining in some areas where al Qaeda-linked Islamists are active, and earlier this month Nigeria’s government suspended mining in the restive northwestern state of Zamfara, saying intelligence reports established what it called “a strong and glaring nexus” between the activities of armed bandits and illicit miners.

Strong prices have fueled the boom. Today, gold trades at over $40,000 per kilo, which is below a peak from 2012 but still four times the level of two decades ago.

Western investors want gold so they can diversify their portfolios; India and China want it for jewelry. But most Western companies – and the banks that finance them – avoid handling non-industrial African gold directly. They are unwilling to risk using metal that may have been mined to fund conflict or that may have involved human rights abuses in, for instance, DRC or Sudan. Various Uganda-based traders have been sanctioned for handling gold smuggled out of DRC.

DESTINATION DUBAI

In other states, including the UAE, these concerns have been less of a problem. Over the last decade, gold from Africa has become increasingly important for Dubai. From 2006 to 2016, the share of African gold in UAE’s reported gold imports increased from 18 percent to nearly 50 percent, Comtrade data showed.

The UAE’s main commodity marketplace, the Dubai Multi-Commodities Centre (DMCC), calls itself on its website “your gateway to global trade.” Trading in gold accounts for nearly one-fifth of UAE’s GDP.

However, no big industrial companies reached by Reuters – including AngloGold Ashanti, Sibanye-Stillwater and Gold Fields – say they send gold there. Reuters contacted 23 mining companies with African operations, the smallest of which produced around 2.5 tonnes in 2018: 21 of them said they did not send metal to Dubai for refining, the other two did not respond.

While the big South African miners have local refining capacity, the main reason others gave is that no UAE refineries are accredited by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), the standard-setter for the industry in Western markets.

The LBMA is “not comfortable dealing with the region” because of concerns about weaknesses in customs, cash transactions and hand-carried gold, its chief technical officer Neil Harby told Reuters. Investigators and people in the gold industry say the ease with which smugglers can carry gold in their hand-luggage on planes leaving Africa helps gold flow out unrecorded. And limited regulation in UAE means informally mined gold can be legally imported, tax-free.

Gold can be imported to Dubai with little documentation, African traders told Reuters.

A DMCC spokesman said it has a robust regulatory framework that includes strict responsible sourcing rules. These are aligned with the international benchmark for responsible sourcing laid out by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Sanjeev Dutta, head of commodities at DMCC, said in January that the center is building strategic relationships with most gold-producing countries on the African continent, “and we are very confident of how that production is done and how responsible” it is. Over the past 12 months, he said, DMCC has firmed up a standard for refineries, called Dubai Good Delivery, which he said is very strict on responsible sourcing and sustainability. “We track right from responsible sourcing to sustainable development, things like human rights etc.,” he said. “We demand export certificates.”

A “very limited” number of refineries accept gold that has been imported as hand luggage, Dutta said, but gave no figures.

GOLD TO GO

Some African miners are swapping their pickaxes and shovels for diggers and crushers – increasing production volumes exponentially. Regulation remains scant, and accidents are frequent. In one week this February, three accidents at illegal mining operations in Zimbabwe, Guinea and Liberia claimed the lives of more than 100 people.

Often, miners must surrender a cut of their output, as commission, to the people who control a pit, let out the equipment, or buy and sell the gold. NGOs such as Global Witness and Human Rights Watch have documented child labor, corruption and links to conflict at some of these mines. At one mine in Zimbabwe visited by Reuters, people said they had to hand over some of their find before they would even be allowed out of the pit.

Reuters presented its analysis to 14 African governments. Of them, five said it reflected an existing concern about gold being smuggled out of their countries that they are trying to address. One said they did not think gold smuggling was a problem for them. The rest declined to comment or did not respond.

Governments across Africa are trying to work out how to manage a sector that, whatever its risks, provides a livelihood for many of their citizens, and which could be harnessed as a source of revenues.

Some, including Ivory Coast, are taking gradual steps to regulate their informal mining operations. Ghana and Zambia have sent security forces into mining areas to halt operations so miners can be registered and regulations put in place. Ghana, concerned that a rush of mainly Chinese-led ventures is harming the environment, has arrested hundreds of Chinese miners and expelled thousands in the past six years.

At the end of last month, Ghana temporarily banned the import of excavator equipment to try to stem a surge in illegal mining using heavy machinery.

In Sudan, one of the continent’s biggest producers, the government has unveiled a $3 billion plan for private banks to work with the central bank to buy gold from small-scale miners, offering prices that would make it less attractive to sell on the black market.

A Tanzanian parliamentary report estimated that 90 percent of annual production of informally mined gold is smuggled out of the country: The government wants the central bank to buy this up. In March, President John Magufuli launched a plan to establish hubs where the trade would be formalized by offering access to financing and regulated markets.

In Burkina Faso, Oumarou Idani, minister of mines, believes his country is leaking gold to UAE on a massive scale. Of the 9.5 tonnes of gold the government estimates informal miners dig up each year, just 200 to 400 kg are declared to the authorities, he said.

Much of the gold is smuggled from landlocked Burkina Faso to its Atlantic coast neighbor Togo, according to the minister. In Togo, virtually no taxes are imposed on gold.

Togo’s director of mining development and controls, Nestor Kossi Adjehoun, said informal mining is “an area that we have not properly figured out.” For now, he said, Togo saw no reason to suspect gold was being smuggled through the country.

“I understand that Dubai is the destination for this gold,” his Burkina Faso neighbor, Minister Idani, told Reuters in an interview last year. “But since (the trade) is fraudulent, I have no details.”

(Additional reporting by John Ndiso in Nairobi, Tim Cocks in Ouagadougou, Ed McAllister in Dakar, Chris Mfula in Lusaka, Giulia Paravicini in Kinshasa, MacDonald Dzirutwe in Battlefields, Zimbabwe, John Zodzi in Lome, Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala in Dodoma, Maha El Dahan in Dubai, and Peter Hobson in London; Edited by Sara Ledwith, Alexandra Zavis and Richard Woods)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: An abortion rights activist holds up a sign as marchers take part in the 46th annual March for Life in Washington
FILE PHOTO: An abortion rights activist holds up a sign as marchers take part in the 46th annual March for Life in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

April 24, 2019

(Reuters) – A federal judge in the U.S. state of Oregon will block a move by the Trump administration to cut off federal money to family planning clinics that offer abortion or refer women to abortion providers, activists and media reports said late on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump’s new Title X rule, set to take effect in May, would halt government funds for Planned Parenthood clinics that subsidize birth control for low-income women, and other clinics that provide abortions.

Critics say the plan is aimed at fulfilling Trump’s campaign pledge to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides abortions and other health services for women.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Medical Association, along with several other parties, sued in federal court in Oregon to halt the new rule.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said late on Tuesday that he will grant a preliminary injunction against the new federal restrictions, the Oregonian newspaper reported.

It was unclear when the ruling would be made formal and how wide-sweeping it would be.

The plaintiffs had sought a national injunction, but Judge McShane said he is reluctant to set national health care policy, the newspaper reported.

The U.S. Justice Department, which opposed the injunction in court, asked that it only apply to the plaintiffs in this case, the Oregonian said.

McShane said from the bench that the so-called “gag rule” would prevent doctors from doing their jobs, media reports said.

The U.S. Justice Department was not available for comment on Wednesday.

Congress provided $286 million in Title X grants in 2017 to Planned Parenthood and other health centers to provide birth control, screening for diseases and cancer, and other reproductive counseling to low-income women.

The funding cannot be used for abortions, but abortion opponents have long complained that the money subsidizes Planned Parenthood itself.

The American Medical Association applauded the proposed injunction.

“Judge McShane got it exactly right when he called the new Title X rule a ‘ham-fisted’ approach to health care,” AMA President Barbara McAneny said in a statement.

“The judge repeatedly asked how the new gag rule would improve health outcomes. The government was unable to answer,” she added.

Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called it a victory for patients and doctors.

But she added in a statement “this relief is preliminary and we will continue to fight the Trump-Pence administration in court and in Congress to ensure our patients’ health.”

Similar legal challenges are pending in other federal courts, including one brought by California, according to media reports.

(Reporting by Rich McKay; editing by Darren Schuettler)

Source: OANN


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