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Biden, Macron to Meet to Ease Rift Over Submarine Sales to Australia

U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron have agreed to meet in person next month in Europe after a Wednesday phone call in which they sought to ease tensions over a high-profile submarine deal. 

A White House statement after the phone call suggested regret over the handling of the deal, in which the United States and Britain will sell at least eight nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. That prompted Canberra to abandon a $66 billion, 2016 contract to purchase 12 conventional diesel-electric subs from French majority state-owned Naval Group. 

“The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners,” the White House statement said. 

“President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard,” it said. 

The two presidents will meet at the end of October, with both scheduled to attend the Group of 20 summit in Rome at that time. 

“The two leaders have decided to open a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating the conditions for ensuring confidence and proposing concrete measures toward common objectives,” the White House said. The statement did not elaborate. 

Macron called France’s ambassador to Washington, Philippe Etienne, back to Paris after the Australian submarine deal was announced. But the White House said Macron has decided that Etienne would return next week and “then start intensive work with senior U.S. officials.” 

France was upset by the loss of the Australian submarine deal, but French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian expressed deeper concern over what he characterized as “deceit” by one of its oldest allies. 

Le Drian told reporters at the United Nations this week that the United States went behind France’s back and hid the new deal for months. 

Australia has sought to augment its naval weaponry to counter China’s military buildup in the Indo-Pacific region. 

“President Biden reaffirms the strategic importance of French and European engagement in the Indo-Pacific region,” the White House statement said. “The United States also recognizes the importance of a stronger and more capable European defense, that contributes positively to transatlantic and global security and is complementary to NATO.” 

 

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US Panel to Vote on Eligibility Criteria for Pfizer Booster Shots

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it may vote as soon as Thursday on which group of Americans will be eligible to receive Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots.

 

A CDC panel met Wednesday to discuss who should be first in line to receive booster shots — a controversial decision that comes over a month after President Joe Biden first announced plans to administer booster shots eight months after the second dose.

 

Last week, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel overwhelmingly voted to reject the White House plan to give boosters to most Americans.

The panel cited a lack of data on the safety of boosters, as well as a lack of evidence of their value. But it did endorse booster shots for those 65 and older and those at high risk of severe illness.

 

Scientists emphasized that the country’s main concern should still be vaccinating those who have not received any doses.

 

“I want to highlight that in September of 2021 in the United States, deaths from COVID-19 are largely vaccine preventable, with the primary series of any of the three vaccines available,” said Dr. Matthew Daley, a CDC adviser who opened Wednesday’s discussion.

 

Just over 55% of Americans have been fully vaccinated, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. As the highly transmissible delta variant continues to spread, the U.S. is recording its highest daily death tolls from the virus since March.

 

 

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Axios: Росія прагне провести переговори щодо Сирії зі США та Ізраїлем

Востаннє тристороння зустріч щодо Сирії за участю США, Ізраїлю та Росії відбувалася в Єрусалимі в 2019 році

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ISIS-K Could Be First Afghan Terror Group to Put US in Its Sights

The biggest danger to the United States and the West following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could well come from the Islamic State terror group’s Afghan affiliate, and not from al-Qaida, despite the latter’s long-standing relationship with the Taliban.

The top U.S. counterterrorism official told lawmakers Wednesday that while both terror groups have been more heavily focused on expanding their regional networks, there are indications that when it comes to the IS affiliate, known as IS-Khorasan or ISIS-K, that might be changing.

“My own concern is very specifically around ISIS-K and the degree to which ISIS-K [is] building off the notoriety it received after the attack on August 26,” National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid said during a hearing on threats to the United States.

“Will it become more focused on the West? Will it become more focused on the homeland than it was?” Abizaid asked.

The August 26 suicide bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, during the waning days of the U.S. evacuation, killed 13 American service members and more than 160 Afghans.

The attack, quickly claimed by IS-Khorasan, sparked a series of warnings about additional attacks targeting the airport.

The group also claimed a rocket attack targeting the airport four days later, and the effort to prevent another IS-Khorasan attack led the U.S. to launch an August 29 drone strike in Kabul, which instead killed as many as 10 civilians, including seven children.

U.S. military officials believe IS-Khorasan has at least 2,000 “hardcore” fighters in cells across Afghanistan, but some foreign intelligence services think the number may be higher.

U.S. and Western counterterrorism officials also warn that IS-Khorasan has maintained a steady operational tempo across the country, with an ability to strike in cities like Kabul.

Additionally, U.S. intelligence officials and independent experts have pointed to evidence that some IS supporters elsewhere in the world are trying to relocate to Afghanistan, which worries U.S. law enforcement officials.

“We’re concerned that ISIS-K can take advantage of a significantly weakened security environment,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers Wednesday, warning other groups may also start to see Afghanistan as a “safe haven” where they can operate freely.

U.S. officials, including the State Department’s former counterterrorism coordinator, have previously raised concerns about the ability of IS-Khorasan to carry out external operations, though those fears have waxed and waned with the fortunes of IS-Khorasan itself.

But even if IS-Khorasan and al-Qaida are unable to quickly pivot to launch new attacks against the U.S., officials like Wray warn there is still a danger.

“Events there could serve as a catalyst or an inspiration for terrorists, whether they be members of FTOs — foreign terrorist organizations — or homegrown,” the FBI director said, noting his agency currently has about 2,000 cases involving foreign terrorist plots.

 

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British PM Johnson Meets With US House Speaker Pelosi

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol as part of his brief stop in Washington. Johnson met earlier in the day with U.S. senators. 

 

Johson met Tuesday with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House as part of a brief stop in Washington on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York. 

 

During a photo opportunity with reporters, Pelosi remarked that she had met with Johnson last week when she was in London for the G-7 summit of parliamentary leaders. She credited the British leader for hosting the upcoming climate summit in Glasglow, Scotland, November 1-12 and said they intended to discuss joint efforts on fighting terrorism and ending the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Johnson told reporters it was very important for him to go to Pelosi’s office, because all his life, he felt the United States and Capitol Hill stood for all the ideals of democracy and “the principle that the people should choose their government, and the people alone should choose their government.” He told Pelosi the U.S. can count on his support and the support of Britain in upholding that principle. 

 

During her visit to London last week, Pelosi indicated that nullifying the Northern Ireland peace agreement — known as the Good Friday Accords — would likely undermine negotiations for a post-Brexit bilateral trade agreement with the United States.

 

Johnson’s government is seeking to at least renegotiate part of the agreement. The two leaders made no public mention of that potential disagreement. 

 

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.

 

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Мая Санду в ООН закликала вивести російські війська з Придністров’я

Близько 1400 російських військовослужбовців досі перебувають у Придністров’ї

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Футбол: «Шахтар» розгромив «Динамо» і здобув Суперкубок України

Поєдинок за Суперкубок України мав відбутися ще 24 липня, але через насичений календар грандів українського футболу матч був перенесений майже на два місяці

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US Ramps Up Haitian Deportation Flights, but Lets Other Migrants Stay in US

The United States is ramping up its Haitian migrant deportation flights from the state of Texas back to Haiti on Wednesday, even as thousands of other Haitians are being freed into the U.S. on the promise to appear at an immigration office within 60 days.

It was not immediately clear why U.S. officials were sending some of the estimated 14,000 Haitians, who had flocked from Mexico in recent days to the border city of Del Rio, Texas, back to the Caribbean nation, while others were registered and freed, at least for weeks, to stay on U.S. soil.

Thousands of the Haitian migrants have been released into the U.S. in recent days, according to an Associated Press report, expanding on a VOA account Tuesday that several hundred had been freed.

Many of the migrants had been living in Chile, Brazil and other South American countries after fleeing the rubble of a 2010 earthquake in Haiti. But they trekked to the U.S. border, based on erroneous social media accounts, that it was open at Del Rio, even though U.S. officials repeatedly urged migrants to stay where they were living.

The U.S. was planning as many as five deportation flights on Wednesday, with 135 migrants aboard each flight, to Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, and Haiti’s second biggest city, Cap-Haitien. Seven flights are set for Thursday.

Since Sunday, more than 1,000 migrants have been sent back to Haiti, a place where many of them have not lived for a decade.

The deportation policy has drawn criticism from immigration activists who say the migrants should be allowed to make asylum claims to stay in the U.S.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, normally an ally of President Joe Biden, on Tuesday urged the U.S. leader and Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas “to immediately put a stop to these expulsions,” contending the flights echoed “the hateful and xenophobic” policies of former president Donald Trump “that disregard our refugee laws.”

Mayorkas told a congressional hearing that government officials hope to clear out the migrant camp under the bridge at Del Rio within the next nine or 10 days.

“We expect to see dramatic results in the next 48 to 96 hours, and we’ll have a far better sense in the next two days,” he said.

Meanwhile, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a staunch critic of Biden’s administration and its handling of migrants at the border, ordered state workers to line up dozens of state-owned cars, in a side-to-side, kilometers-long “steel wall” to try to keep more migrants from surging past overwhelmed U.S. border agents into Texas.

Abbott estimated that 8,600 migrants remain at the Del Rio International Bridge, down from the estimated 14,000 encamped there last weekend.

The Texas governor blamed the Biden administration for the chaos at the border.

“When you have an administration that is not enforcing the law in this country, when you have an administration that has abandoned any pretense of securing the border and securing our sovereignty, you see the onrush of people like what we saw walking across this dam that is right behind me,” Abbott said at a news conference in Val Verde County.

Meanwhile, immigration authorities have launched an investigation into scenes at the border last Sunday of U.S. horseback-mounted border agents corralling some of the Haitians and forcing them back into Mexico.

Top U.S. officials, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Mayorkas, condemned the actions of the agents as captured on video and in photographs.

Mayorkas told lawmakers on Wednesday that the scenes of the border agents’ treatment of the migrants “correctly and necessarily were met with our nation’s horror.”

“They do not reflect who we are as a country,” he said, nor the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.