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US and Germany reach deal on controversial pipeline that Biden sees as a Russian ‘geopolitical project’

US and Germany reach deal on controversial Pipeline that Biden sees as a “malign influence project” that Russia could use to gain leverage over European allies.

“While we remain opposed to the pipeline, we reached the judgment that sanctions would not stop its construction and risked undermining a critical alliance with Germany, as well as with the EU and other European allies,” a senior State Department official.

The announcement is unlikely to end bitter divides over the pipeline, with US lawmakers condemning the agreement, Ukrainian officials immediately weighing in to say they are lodging diplomatic protests and even the US acknowledging their opposition to the project remains firm.

“I would just say emphatically that we still oppose Nord Stream 2, we still believe it’s a Russian geopolitical malign influence project, none of that has changed,” the senior official said.

In an attempt to prevent Russia from using the pipeline to increase European dependence on its energy supplies, Germany has agreed to take a series of measures meant to mitigate the risks to European energy security, to Ukraine, and to European Union and NATO countries close to Russian borders. In the past, Russia has cut off energy supplies to other countries, including Ukraine.

“Germany has really committed to taking swift action,” the senior official said in a call with reporters. “There are a number of tools that Germany and the EU have at their disposal to push back against Russian aggression or malign activities.”


“We may have differences over Nord Stream 2, but we are united in pushing back against Russian aggression,” the senior official said.

The pipeline, which was more than 90% complete when the Biden administration took office and would carry gas from Russian fields to Germany via the Baltic Sea, has generated bipartisan anger and opposition in Congress, where some lawmakers have charged that the US strong-armed Ukraine into accepting the arrangement.

“We don’t threaten our partners,” the senior State Department official said, adding that the administration engaged Ukraine on deliberations with Germany, and expects to work trilaterally with Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials immediately registered their disappointment and disapproval, with the country’s foreign minister taking to Twitter.

“Under art. 274 of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement, Ukraine is officially initiating consultations with EU Commission & Germany on NS2, which threatens Ukraine’s security, violates the diversification principle of the EU Energy Union,” Dmytro Kuleba wrote. “Notes to Brussels & Berlin already sent.”

Lawmakers made their unhappiness clear as well. The leading Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Jim Risch, said in a statement that “not a single member of Congress supports the completion of this pipeline.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the New Hampshire Democrat who has co-authored legislation to halt construction of Nord Stream 2, said the pipeline would empower Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.

“Germany is a critical U.S. ally and I welcome steps by the administration to try to negotiate a diplomatic path forward and consult with our European allies to mitigate the impact of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project,” Shaheen said in a statement. “However, I am not yet convinced that this agreement — or any bilateral agreement — can sufficiently provide assurances to our European allies and minimize the considerable economic impact and security implications of this pipeline’s completion.

I’ve long contended that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline should not be completed because it empowers the Kremlin to spread its malign influence throughout Eastern Europe, threatens the economic security of our European partners and puts our global stability at risk. I continue to believe that.”

The senior official said that the pipeline is at this point more about 95% complete, but would not say when it may become operational, whether the Biden administration would lift existing sanctions or its threat to drop the sanctions waiver it issued in May for the company building the pipeline and its German CEO.

The senior State Department official repeatedly pointed out that the Trump administration chose to levy only two sanctions against the pipeline, and that it waited until its very last day in office to do so. The Biden administration has applied 19 sanctions to entities and vessels related to the pipeline.

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Brazil’s scandal-plagued President may face a reckoning as lawmakers consider impeachment

Bolsonaro’s government has been implicated in corruption allegations, resulting in a parliamentary inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Corruption inquiries, a spreading Covid-19 crisis, plunging popularity and persistent bouts of hiccups. Brazil’s scandal-plagued President Jair Bolsonaro just can’t seem to catch a break.

The President said he’s now feeling “100% well” after his recent health scare, a consequence he says of a failed assassination attempt in 2018, telling TV Brasil, “If God wishes, I’ll fulfill this mission until the last day.”

But that last day may come sooner than expected, with a majority of Brazilians for the first time in favor of lawmakers launching impeachment proceedings against their controversial leader, according to recent polling.

While impeachment is far from certain, a poll by Datafolha found 54% of Brazilians support a proposed move by lawmakers to open impeachment proceedings against Bolsonaro. The July poll also found 51% of Brazilians considered the Bolsonaro presidency “bad” or “awful.”

Meanwhile, the country is struggling through the devastating impact of its haphazard response to Covid-19.

There have been nearly 20 million cases of the virus reported in Brazil, according to the Johns Hopkins University database, ranking it third in the world after the United States and India. The death toll has topped 544,000 and there continue to be more than a thousand deaths each day. Only around 16% of the population is vaccinated.

Bolsonaro has been at the center of the storm, having downplayed the gravity of the virus from the beginning. This week, the President criticized governors for taking restrictive measures to contain the spread.

“Many governors have closed everything. They have destroyed jobs, especially informal ones. We have around 38 million people in Brazil who live from day to day, who work in the morning to eat at night,” he said. “They have lost everything. If there wasn’t emergency aid by the federal government, these people would be condemned to starvation.”

The so-called “Trump of the tropics” has also targeted the media.

During an interview with public network TV Brasil on Tuesday, Bolsonaro criticized the Brazilian press and congratulated his government’s handling of the pandemic.

“I have a clear conscience,” Bolsonaro said. “Brazil is one of the countries that has best behaved during the pandemic, period. Congratulations to Brazil. I thank my team of 22 ministers.”

In July 2020, Bolsonaro announced he tested positive for Covid-19, following months of downplaying the virus. He and his government have resisted lockdown measures and mask-wearing. Angry citizens, political adversaries and overwhelmed local officials have pressed Bolsonaro for more federal action, even as he has publicly shrugged off those concerns.

Corruption investigations and inquiries

The Brazilian Senate inquiry into the government’s response may hobble Bolsonaro’s reelection bid if it leads to an impeachment proceeding or criminal charges.

While those outcomes are considered by political analysts to be unlikely, Bolsonaro’s future may depend on his ability to keep the peace with lawmakers responsible for such proceedings.

Senate opposition leader Randolfe Rodrigues said what started as an investigation into omissions and misconduct has now turned into a corruption inquiry.

The accusations include claims Bolsonaro and his government sabotaged isolation measures, threatened governors and mayors who applied restrictive measures, and refused to wear masks or encourage their use. Brazilians have taken to the streets in large numbers to demand a better response.

The inquiry has also uncovered explosive claims from a witness that Bolsonaro was warned a proposed vaccine deal was padded with extra cash for corrupt officials. The Parliamentary Inquiry Committee (CPI) has opened an investigation over the deal to purchase 20 million doses of the Indian-made Covaxin vaccines, for 1,000% more than the initial quoted price.

Congressman Luis Miranda, a former ally of Bolsonaro, and his brother Luis Ricardo Miranda, a Ministry of Health employee, said they warned the President of irregularities in the contract, but he did nothing to resolve the issue. Bolsonaro told Radio Gaucha, “I can’t just, when anything comes to me, take action. I meet with more than 100 people a month.”

Speaking Sunday as he was being discharged from the hospital, Bolsonaro complained the CPI is too often accusing him of being corrupt. “Do you want to oust me from the government?” he said. “Only God (can) get me out of that chair. Didn’t they understand that only God takes me out of that chair? If there is any corruption in the government, I will be the first to find out and leave it in the hands of justice.”

He has accused the CPI of ignoring other allegations of corruption across Brazil to focus on him and his government. “They want to accuse me of genocide. Now, tell me in what country people have not died? This CPI has no credibility,” Bolsonaro said. The President added he is “sorry about the dead, but people who were healthy had little chance of dying.”

Impeachment risk

Political analyst Marco A. Teixeira told reporters that while unlikely, Bolsonaro may be at risk of impeachment. The Getulio Vargas University (FGV-SP) professor said while it’s not yet clear where the inquiry will lead, Bolsonaro’s government is compromised.

“It is a different situation from the last election, because he is already being judged and has pending explanations to give to society. He lost the position of opposition. He can no longer say that he ‘will do it’ because he is already in government,” Teixeira said.

“Now his story is that he is not allowed to do anything by the Supreme Court and the Congress. … He has a narrative for each occasion,” Teixeira added.

Da Silva has hinted at a presidential run in 2022 after his convictions for corruption and money laundering were annulled in March, effectively restoring his right to run for office.

Da Silva has savaged the efforts of the administration to contain the outbreak, saying “there is no control in Brazil.” He described lockdowns as “necessary” — restrictions that Bolsonaro has frequently rejected.

“(Bolsonaro) prefers to wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning, tell his lies through his mobile phone, through the social media, and we have been producing fake news as we’ve never seen in the history of Brazil, and he’s not dealing seriously,” da Silva has said.

Vying for votes

Bolsonaro — much like Trump during his reelection campaign — has been seeding doubt about the electronic voting machines used in Brazil, the very same system by which he and his sons were elected. He’s been pushing for the country to use printed ballots only, touting unproven claims previous elections were rigged using electronic voting.

Teixeira explains Bolsonaro’s recent health scare may work in his favor in terms of his popularity. He suggests supporters will rally around the President as they did at the time of his failed 2018 assassination attempt. An injury from that attempt has led to his current medical issues.

Bolsonaro’s eldest son, Sen. Flávio Bolsonaro, tweeted about his father’s recent hospital stay, “President @jairbolsonaro evolved for the better, he woke up in a good mood and, if he continues like this, he won’t need to undergo surgery! Thank you all for your prayers! #WhoOrderedTheBolsonaroAssassination.”

“Bolsonaro’s health problem creates a smokescreen that gives his family a kind of ‘revival’ from the stab he suffered four years ago, showing an instrumentalization of something that had significant weight in the past elections and that can affect voting intention for next year,” Teixeira said.

Arriving at the hospital last week, Bolsonaro said Brazil is on “the path to prosperity” and thanked supporters for their prayers.

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Large explosion in Dubai after Container ship catches fire (photos/video)

A ship container anchored caught fire at Dubai’s huge Jebel Ali port late Wednesday, July 7, the Emirate’s media office has reported.

According to the report the fire caused an explosion that sent tremors across the commercial hub of the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai’s state-run media office said that a team of firefighters was working to control the blaze and there were no immediate reports of casualties. The extent of the damage caused by the explosion to the port and surrounding cargo as at press time is not clear.

Eyewitnesses in Dubai recording with their phones posted images on social media showing a fiery fire ball illuminating the night sky.

Witnesses also reported seeing shaking buildings across the city. Residents of neighborhoods as far away as 25 kilometers (15 miles) felt the blast around 11:45 p.m.

Journalists working with the Associated Press say they felt the blast rock the glass windows of their apartments.

The Jebel Ali port in Dubai is one of the largest sea ports in the world and the largest in the Middle East. It serves cargo from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Asia.

See the video below

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Groom with terminal cancer collapses and dies at the altar as his horrified bride walked down the aisle with their son.

Father-of-eleven Paul Wynn, from North Ayrshire, Scotland, collapsed at Saltcoats town hall last Friday just minutes before he was due to be wed to Alison Wynn, his partner of 21 years.

Mr Wynn was originally diagnosed with cancer in May but had only been told it had turned terminal eight days before – prompting him and his partner Alison, 36, to tie the knot before he died. 

He was given between six weeks and two months left to live by doctors, who told him his pancreatic cancer had spread to his liver and lungs. 

However, he collapsed just as Alison – who changed her surname by deed poll a few years ago – walked towards him during their wedding with first-aiders unable to revive him. 

Reacting to her partner’s death, Alison said: ‘It was hard. It’s taken me a wee while to get to where I am now and every day just seems to merge into one.

‘It feels like only yesterday that it happened. I’m having to get up and moving every day for the sake of my children but I can’t eat.

‘Paul and I lost a child in 2004 after I had a miscarriage so it give me a bit of comfort that he’s up there with our child. His mother passed away in 2020 so at least he’s with her now

Mr Wynn first contacted his GP in May this year after constantly bleeding from his navel and becoming alarmed at how much weight he was losing.

He was also struggling to eat and keep food down – eventually only consuming liquids.

An endoscopy showed he had three hernias and a CT scan the following day revealed his pancreatic cancer.

The diagnosis prompted the couple to bring forward their wedding, which had originally been set for July 16. 

The couple had met in 1999 through the Jehovah’s Witnesses, before having an on-and-off relationship.

They had five kids together, Sandy, 20; Tarquin, 15, Marcus, 13, Louise, eight, and Poppy, four. 

Alison said: ‘Paul loved going out and taking pictures of anything and everything.

‘We were his life, he would do anything for his kids. He would move heaven and earth for his kids and everyone loved him.

‘He would give you every last penny he had. He made sure that everyone got before him. He was there for everybody.

‘He really was a fantastic dad and his kids were his life.

‘Paul was never a man to go to the pub or anything like that and if he went anywhere he went with me or with the kids; he never went anywhere without us.’


Methodist Church votes to allow same-sex marriages

The Methodist Church has become the largest religious denomination in the UK to permit same-sex marriages.

The Church announced on Wednesday that same-sex couples will be allowed to get married on its premises. After debates on the topic at the Methodist Conference, the proposals to allow same-sex marriages were passed with 254 votes in favor and 46 against.

The Methodist Church said ministers who oppose the changes will not be forced to carry out same-sex marriages.

Dignity & Worth, a campaign group in the Methodist Church, said the vote was a “momentous step on the road to justice and inclusion” after many years of sometimes painful conversations.

Rev. Sam McBratney, who chairs the group, praised the “courageous step” taken by the church.

The Rev Sonia Hicks, elected as the Methodists’ first black female president at the weekend, said it was a “historic day for our church”. She urged people “to support each other respecting our differences”.

Jayne Ozanne, a campaigner for LGBT+ equality and a member of the C of E’s ruling body, the General Synod, said the vote reflected “the significant shift that there has been among Christian attitudes in England, and shows how so many people would echo the recent call of Bishop Paul Bayes to allow same-sex marriage in the C of E”.

The church has a membership of 164,000, making it the fourth-largest denomination of Christian churches in the U.K.