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European Leaders Launch ‘Dispute Mechanism’ Over Iran Nuclear Agreement

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(BRUSSELS) — Britain, France and Germany have launched action under the Iran nuclear agreement paving the way for possible sanctions in response to Tehran’s attempts to roll back parts of the deal, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday.

The three countries, which signed the international agreement in 2015 along with the United States, Russia and China, informed Borrell, who supervises the pact, in a letter that they are triggering its “dispute mechanism,” ratcheting up pressure on the Islamic Republic.

The leaders of the three nations said in a statement that they’ve been “left with no choice, given Iran’s actions, but to register today our concerns that Iran is not meeting its commitments.” The powers said they are referring “this matter to the Joint Commission under the Dispute Resolution Mechanism, as set out” in the nuclear deal.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement that the three European countries “could no longer leave the growing Iranian violations of the nuclear agreement unanswered.”

“Our goal is clear: we want to preserve the accord and come to a diplomatic solution within the agreement,” he added. “We will tackle this together with all partners in the agreement. We call on Iran to participate constructively in the negotiation process that is now beginning.”

Borrell insisted that the move does not mean that sanctions will automatically be reimposed.

The mechanism allows two weeks for ministers to resolve any problems, although that period can be extended if all sides agree. If needed, an advisory board would have an extra 20 days to adjudicate.

The nuclear agreement is aimed at convincing Iran to stop developing atomic weapons in exchange for economic incentives. It’s been on life support since President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the United States out in 2018, triggering sanctions that have hurt Iran’s moribund economy. Since then, Tehran has gradually rolled back its commitment to the deal.

Read more: ‘The Americans Cannot Be Trusted.’ How Iran Is Reacting to Trump’s Decision to Quit Nuclear Deal

After its top general was killed in a U.S. drone attack earlier this month, Iran announced that it would no longer respect limits set on how many centrifuges it can use to enrich uranium. Tehran said the new move was a “remedial step” in line with the deal and that it could be reversed.





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Roger Stone has escaped punishment for his crimes. Trump is sending a signal

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By commuting Stone’s sentence, Trump is telling others who might commit crimes on his behalf that he’s got their back At America’s birth, when delegates in Virginia were debating whether to ratify the constitution, a politician called George Mason had an objection. Mason, who was influential over the development of the bill of rights, wondered whether the presidential pardon power was too broad. Might not the president encourage people who worked for him to commit crimes, and then pardon them? If he could, there would be essentially no check on a president’s power to break the law. Given that sort of leeway, an unscrupulous president could “establish a monarchy, and destroy the republic”.Mason’s objection ought to concern us still today. Late on Friday, Donald Trump commuted the prison sentence of his longtime associate Roger Stone, all but guaranteeing that Stone will never face justice for crimes he committed while obstructing an investigation into the Trump campaign’s links with WikiLeaks and the Russian intelligence agencies who attempted to tip the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. Backlash to the decision has been swift, with Trump’s fellow Republican Mitt Romney condemning the president’s “unprecedented, historic corruption”.It is not quite true to say that there is no precedent for Trump’s act. As Mason foresaw, executive clemency has been misused by presidents throughout American history. George HW Bush pardoned six officials who had been involved in the Iran-Contra scandal – an act which may have been intended to cover up his own wrongdoing. George W Bush commuted the prison sentence of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who obstructed a federal investigation into the illegal outing of a CIA operative who was critical of the Bush administration.This history doesn’t make Trump’s actions any less troubling. In fact, by revealing how little restraint there is on the use of executive clemency, it ought to make us worry how much further the president – whose disregard for political and constitutional norms truly is without precedent – might go in the future.Most presidents issue their most controversial pardons furtively, at the end of their terms in office. But Trump has reveled in his ability to toss aside the principle of the rule of law when it comes to his own allies. In 2017 he pardoned the former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had violated the constitutional rights of countless Arizonans. During the Mueller investigation – which exposed evidence that Trump himself may have committed obstruction of justice, a crime for which he could still be charged after leaving office – the president issued a full pardon to Libby, seemingly with the sole purpose of sending the message that he would forgive those – like Stone – who committed obstruction to protect himself.A president who is willing to use executive clemency to forgive violations of constitutional rights and protect himself from the rule of law could become, as Mason foresaw, a monarch. At the Virginia ratifying convention, James Madison replied to Mason that such a president would surely face impeachment. But today’s Republican party has made it clear that it will protect Trump from impeachment even in the face of overwhelming evidence of his abuses of power. Instead, by refusing to convict, they licensed Trump to double down.As America moves towards an election which Trump looks on course to lose, he is likely to become even less inhibited. The issuing of pardons and commutations for crimes already committed might pale in comparison with crimes yet to come. Trump could seek, once again, to sway the outcome of the election, promising pardons to his co-conspirators. He could order, as he did outside the White House, security forces to be used to disperse protesters who came into the streets in response, then issue pardons for any crimes tried by court martial or in Washington DC’s highest court.The fact that Trump has rarely shown the focus, intelligence or competence necessary to pull off such a conspiracy is little comfort. What he lacks in these qualities he makes up for in brazenness, in loyal subordinates equally willing to subvert the rule of law, and in the possession of a compliant conservative politico-media apparatus that will rationalize any action he takes. He could do incalculable damage to confidence in American democracy and the rule of law before he is finally wrested from the White House.In this sense, Roger Stone is the canary in the coal mine. Trump’s ability and willingness to commute his sentence is a reminder that for all its genius, the American founding left behind a structure which can be exploited and abused by an unscrupulous president. As we live through what are hopefully the dying days of the presidency of the most unscrupulous of them all, we have to remain on our guard. Partly because of his fears over the pardon power, George Mason ultimately became one of only three of the framers of the constitution to refuse to sign the final document, believing it created a blueprint for tyranny. Proving him wrong requires constant vigilance, now and in the future. * Andrew Gawthorpe is a historian of the United States at Leiden University



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Coronavirus Cases Spike in South Africa and India, Exposing Inequalities in Virus Treatment

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have doubled in just two weeks to a quarter-million, and India on Saturday saw its biggest daily spike as its infections passed 800,000. The surging cases are raising sharp concerns about unequal treatment in the pandemic, as the wealthy hoard medical equipment and use private hospitals and the poor crowd into overwhelmed public facilities.

Globally more than 12.5 million people have been infected by the virus and over 560,000 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the pandemic’s true toll is much higher due to testing shortages, poor data collection in some nations and other issues.

Some of the worst-affected countries are among the world’s most unequal. South Africa leads them all on that measure, with the pandemic exposing the gap in care.

In Johannesburg, the epicenter of South Africa’s outbreak, badly needed oxygen concentrators that help COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breathe are hard to find as private businesses and individuals are buying them up, a public health specialist volunteering at a field hospital, Lynne Wilkinson, told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s public hospitals are short on medical oxygen — and they are now seeing a higher proportion of deaths than private ones, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases says.

South Africa now has more than 250,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, including more than 3,800 deaths. To complicate matters, the country’s troubled power utility has announced new electricity cuts in the dead of winter as a cold front brings freezing weather. Many of the country’s urban poor live in shacks of scrap metal and wood.

And in Kenya, some have been outraged by a local newspaper report that says several governors have installed intensive care unit equipment in their homes. The country lost its first doctor to COVID-19 this week.

“The welfare, occupational safety & health of frontline workers is a non-negotiable minimum!!” the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union tweeted after her death. On Saturday, the union and other medical groups urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to implement a promised compensation package to ease the “anxiety and fear that has now gripped health care workers.”

More than 8,000 health workers across Africa have been infected, half of them in South Africa. The continent of 1.3 billion has the world’s lowest levels of health staffing and more than 560,000 cases, and the pandemic is reaching “full speed,” the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Many parts of the world are facing fresh waves of infections as they try to reopen their economies.

In India, which reported a new daily high of 27,114 cases on Saturday, nearly a dozen states have imposed a partial lockdown in high-risk areas. Cases jumped from 600,000 to more than 800,000 in nine days. People are packing India’s public hospitals as many are unable to afford private ones that generally uphold higher standards of care.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged top officials to improve infection testing and tracking, especially in states with high positivity rates.

Officials on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa said dozens of U.S. Marines have been infected at two bases there in what is feared to be a massive outbreak. The officials said the U.S. military asked that the exact figure not be released.

“We now have strong doubts that the U.S. military has taken adequate disease prevention measures,” Gov. Denny Tamaki told reporters.

In Australia, the beleaguered state of Victoria reported 216 new cases in the past 24 hours, down from the record 288 the previous day. It hopes a new six-week lockdown in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city with a population of 5 million, will curb the spread.

“We cannot pretend that doing anything other than following the rules will get us to the other side of this,” said Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews.

In Latin America, where inequality is sharp and Brazil and Peru are among the world’s top five most badly hit countries, the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping through the continent’s leadership, with two more presidents and powerful officials testing positive in the past week.

Yet developing countries are not the only ones overwhelmed. Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have hit 3 million, with over 130,000 deaths — the worst outbreak by far in the world. The surge has led to equipment shortages as well as long lines at testing sites.

Texas is among the U.S. states setting records for infections, virus hospitalizations and deaths almost daily after embarking on one of America’s fastest reopenings. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday extended a statewide disaster as the state surpassed 10,000 hospitalized patients for the first time.

“Things will get worse,” Abbott told Lubbock television station KLBK. “The worst is yet to come as we work our way through that massive increase in people testing positive.”

 





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Downing Street advertises for £135k data science 'skunkworks' chief in latest Cummings shake-up

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Downing Street has placed an advert for £135,000 job to head up "skunkworks" in Number 10, in what appears the latest in Dominic Cummings' shake-up of Whitehall. The new job will be responsible for a new data science unit in Number 10, aimed to “transform” decision-making in government. A skunkworks is a term originating in America during WWII for a project developed by a small and loosely structured group focusing on radical innovation. The civil service advert says the role will involve leading a new "analytical unit known as ‘10ds" – which stands for "10 Data Science". It says: "The vision of 10ds is a skunkworks type organisation that builds innovative software to allow the PM to make data driven decisions and thereby transform government". Mr Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief aide, is known for his disdain for traditional civil servants. He has said his focus after Brexit will be the establishment of a British version of the US’s Advanced Projects Research Agency (Arpa). He recently instructed government advisers to read a book on Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock, as well as High Output Management by Andrew Grove. While the salary for the new role is advertised as up to £135,000, "outstanding" candidates could get more. The advert says the “newly created role will be responsible for establishing No10's quantitative ability” as well as advising the Prime Minister. It says the job presents an opportunity to work "at the heart' of government. Applications close on July 27. Earlier this year Mr Cummings placed an advert for “data scientists, project managers, policy experts and assorted weirdos” to apply for Downing Street jobs. Mr Cummings used his personal blog to invite applications from “true wild cards, artists, people who never went to university and fought their way out of an appalling hell hole”. In a much-publicised post, he said: “If you want to figure out what characters around Putin might do, or how international criminal gangs might exploit holes in our border security, you don’t want more Oxbridge English graduates who chat about Lacan at dinner parties with TV producers and spread fake news about fake news.” Shortly after the blog advert was posted, a new Downing Street adviser Andrew Sabisky quit following reports of his controversial comments on pregnancies, eugenics and race.



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