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EPA: Trump Administration Proposes Plan to Increase US Biofuels Consumption

The Trump administration, in an effort to mend fences with the powerful corn lobby, proposed on Tuesday a deal to offset waivers granted to oil refiners that exempts them from the nation’s biofuel blending requirements, the Environmental Protection Agency said.The proposed plan would calculate the volume of biofuels refiners have to blend by using a three-year average of exempted gallons as recommended by the Department of Energy, the EPA said. This will potentially boost demand for biofuels, a response to farmers who were outraged by the EPA’s decision in August to exempt 31 oil refineries from their obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard. 

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Nigeria’s Land Borders  Closed to All Goods, Customs Chief Says

Nigeria has closed its land borders to all movement of goods and has no timeline for reopening them, the head of the nation’s customs agency said, as part of an effort to curb smuggling.”All goods for now are banned from being exported or imported through our land borders and that is to ensure we have total control over what comes in,” Hameed Ali, comptroller-general of the Nigerian Customs Service, told reporters in Abuja on Monday. Africa’s largest economy launched a partial border closure in August as part of an effort to thwart smuggling of rice and other goods, and there had been widespread local media reports of a broader closure.But Ali’s announcement was the first official confirmation of a total shutdown in trade across Nigeria’s land borders — including goods that had been moving legally.”We are strategizing on how best the goods can be handled when we eventually get to the point where this operation will relax for the influx of goods,” he said. He did not give a timeline for any relaxation of the controls.The closure has no impact on Nigeria’s economically crucial oil exports, which are shipped out almost entirely via the nation’s seaports and offshore oil platforms.Ali added that despite the land border closure, it would still be possible for goods to cross at points equipped with special scanners, but did not say where those locations were.Ali said reopening the borders would depend on the actions of neighboring states, and that as long as they and Nigeria were not in accord on what goods should be imported or exported overland, the frontier would remain shut.The move is likely to make a variety of food items, such as rice, tomatoes, poultry and sugar, more expensive for consumers.While it was illegal to bring these items into the country via land borders even before the border closure, they had been widely smuggled.”Already we are seeing effects on prices and inflation and I’m guessing we will see effects on Q3 GDP once that data comes out in November,” said Nonso Obikili, director at the Turgot Center for Economics and Policy Research in Abuja.Exports are also restricted, which will stop movements of cocoa and sesame seeds via land borders, Obikili said.Ali noted that legal exports could continue via seaports, but Nigeria’s congested terminals and dilapidated road and rail networks make it difficult to quickly change export routes.Deliveries of gasoline in Nigeria had also dropped by nearly 20 percent during the early stage of the border closure, according to the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency.Gasoline, whose prices is capped in Nigeria, is frequently smuggled across land borders and sold in neighboring countries.

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Erdogan Remains Defiant in Face of US Sanctions

U.S. sanctions on Turkey over its Syrian military offensive are being dismissed by the political leadership in Ankara, as financial markets shrug off the measures.Sanctions were announced against Turkish officials on Monday as negotiations on a $100 billion trade deal ended. While a tariff on Turkish steel was doubled to 50%, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said the measures would remain until Turkey declared a cease-fire with the Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG.Last week, Turkish forces launched a major military attack into Syria against the YPG, considered by Ankara to be linked to terrorism inside Turkey. The YPG has been a U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State terror group.With over 100,000 people displaced by the fighting, and fears mounting that the operation is opening the door to a resurgence of the Islamic State group, international condemnation continues to grow.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed the Trump administration’s measures.”We have seen all the threats from sanctions to embargoes, just because we fight against terrorism,” he said.Erdogan later pledged to continue with the operation until “all our objectives had been achieved.”FILE PHOTO: A merchant counts Turkish lira banknotes at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, March 29, 2019. Erdogan’s defiant stance comes as Turkish financial markets were mostly unaffected by the sanctions. Analysts say sanctions were widely seen in Turkey as symbolic and posed little threat to financial institutions or the broader economy.U.S. President Donald Trump’s previous increase of Turkish steel tariffs a year ago over the jailing of American pastor Andrew Brunson plunged the Turkish economy into crisis. Brunson subsequently was released; however, some analysts say the Turkish financial markets are more resilient.”The then-imposition of sanctions on an ally was pretty much uncharted territory,” said an international banking analyst, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “But since then, the markets are more prepared for assessing sanctions.”News of Trump’s sanctions saw the Turkish currency, the lira, increase in value, along with gains in the broader financial markets. The gains came after several days of losses fueled by growing fears of more draconian sanctions from the United States. Both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress are united in a rare bipartisan consensus in condemning Turkey’s military operation.FILE – Sen. Lindsey Graham, speaks to reporters after a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2019.Trump’s sanctions are seen as at least postponing, if not averting, more stringent measures against Turkey. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen are proposing legislation targeting Turkey’s energy and military sectors, along with other financial measures.Graham has indicated he is ready to wait to see if Trump’s measures will be effective. Analysts suggest, at least for now, that Turkey has had a narrow escape.”If Graham’s bill passes, Turkey will be in deep trouble,” said analyst Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners. “Last week, [Turkish] state banks sold a billion dollars to stabilize the currency. This threat of sanctions is a long-term affair.”The threat of significant damage to Turkey’s economy from sanctions remains.”If these sanctions don’t achieve the required results, and if Turkish involvement in Syria goes on and even deepens, then there might be further sanctions, as this path has been opened,” the anonymous analyst said.Local traffic follows as U.S. Army vehicles with flags drive down the street allegedly near the Syrian-Turkish border town Kobane, Syria, Oct. 12, 2019 in this still image taken from video. Deeper punishmentPence warned of further U.S. measures if Turkey continues with its military operation. He also gave a specific warning to Ankara not to attack the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobane on Turkey’s border. Erdogan has declared it a key objective in Turkey’s military offensive.The Turkish operation seeks to create what Erdogan calls “a “safe zone” in Syria about 400 kilometers (250 miles) long and 30 kilometers (19 miles) deep. The zone not only aims to secure the Turkish border from the threat of the Kurdish militia, but also to allow the return of up to 2 million refugees living in Turkey.”We will secure the area extending from Manbij [in Syria] to the Iraqi border, and then facilitate 1 million Syrian refugees’ return home in the first phase. And later on, the return of 2 million people,” Erdogan said Tuesday in a speech in Baku, Azerbaijan.Analysts say Erdogan faces increasing domestic pressure, with growing public discontent over the presence of 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.Pence said he plans to visit Turkey for high-level talks, which are expected this week. Analysts warn that Erdogan’s room for maneuver is likely to be limited.”I can’t imagine the repercussions at home of Turkish soldiers picking up and going back,” Yesilada said. “Erodgan will have to pay some price for staying there in some limited way.”

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German 5G Rules Avoid Huawei Ban; US Warns on Intel Sharing

Germany has released draft security guidelines for next generation wireless networks that stop short of banning Huawei, as the U.S. warned again it would reconsider intelligence sharing with allies that use the Chinese company’s equipment.The Federal Network Agency issued rules on Tuesday laying out conditions for suppliers for new 5G networks.They include certifying critical components and ensuring trustworthiness of manufacturers, without singling out Huawei for exclusion.The U.S. has been lobbying allies in Europe to shun Huawei over worries its equipment might aid Chinese electronic spying, claims the company has repeatedly denied.The top U.S. cybersecurity diplomat, Rob Strayer, told reporters the U.S. government would have to reassess how it shares intelligence with countries like Germany if they use untrusted technology in the new networks. 

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Families Fear French Jihadists Will Never Return From Syria Chaos

Relatives of French jihadists and their families held in Syria say the Turkish offensive and the ensuing advance of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have added to the urgency of bringing them home.Hundreds of radicalized French men and women traveled to Syria to join IS at the peak of the group’s dominance, sometimes taking their children with them.Most were captured when the extremist group was militarily defeated by Kurdish-led forces, backed by an international coalition.Around 12,000 IS fighters, including 2,500-3,000 foreigners, are being held in Kurdish prisons with a further 12,000 foreigners — 8,000 children and 4,000 women — detained in camps in northeast Syria, according to Kurdish sources.Turkey is now taking control of parts of the area as it presses its operation against Syrian Kurdish fighters. At the same time Assad’s forces are advancing from the south to contain the Turkish offensive.Referring to the fate of the jihadists, Asma, a French woman whose brother is being held in a Syrian Kurdish prison, asked: “If Bashar al-Assad retakes the prisons, what is going to be their future?””Either they will be tortured or they will be used for bargaining or they are going to escape,” said Asma, who like other sources interviewed by AFP for this story asked for her name to be changed.The worst scenario, she said, would see them end up back in the hands of Islamic State, allowing “a terrorist organization to be rebuilt.”The fate of the foreign fighters and their relatives has divided the Turks and their Syrian Kurdish foes, with both sides accusing each other of freeing prisoners in a bid to sow chaos.”I’m hoping for just one thing — that the state repatriates them,” said another woman Estelle, who believes a male relative is being held in Derik prison in Syria.”If Bashar al-Assad’s regime retakes the prisons I do not know if it will be possible to go and find him,” she said.

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Germany Responds to Youth Demands for Action on Climate Change

The German government recently unveiled a plan to tax carbon emissions from cars and buildings. It’s a big move in a country known for its fast cars, but whose young people are demanding climate friendly transportation. One way Germany hopes to reduce its carbon footprint – and appease the young climate activists – is by rolling out new and innovative trains.  Michael Scaturro has more from Berlin.

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Trump Set to Sanction Turkey Over Incursion to Northern Syria

The Trump administration is set to impose economic sanctions on Turkey, potentially as early as this week, for its military incursion into Syria. Ankara launched the offensive last week, after President Donald Trump abruptly pulled American forces from Northern Syria, where they had kept a fragile peace among competing forces. White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has this report.

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Kosovo War Rape Survivor Comes Forward, Demands Justice

A woman alleging she was raped by Serbian forces during the Kosovo War filed a criminal complaint Monday with the country’s Special Prosecution’s Office, asking that her attacker be prosecuted.Shyhrete Tahiri-Sylejmani became only the second among an estimated 20,000 raped during the 1998-1999 war to publicly recount her experience.”I am here with you to share with you the pain I have in my soul,” she said in front of reporters and TV cameras in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina. “I represent all mothers, brothers, sisters, daughters that suffer the same pain. I want to give them courage. It is never easy. Think of the kind of pain that shatters your heart and it can never be healed again. I am here to demand justice.”Feride Rushiti of the Kosovo Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims, who stood beside Tahiri-Sylejmani, expressed dismay that justice still eludes the victims and that those who committed rape and other war crimes are still at large.”These crimes remain unpunished. That is why we are here today to demand justice for the 20,000 women, men, girls and boys who have experienced this crime, horror, torture and mistreatment during the war,” she said.Public faces of survivorsIn October 2018, Vasfije Krasniqi Goodman became Kosovo’s first survivor of wartime rape to publicly accuse her alleged attackers and tell her story.In April of this year, she recounted her harrowing experiences in testimony before the 5,000 dresses and skirts hang inside a stadium, in an exhibition titled “Thinking of You” by Kosovo-born Alketa Xhafa-Mripa, in Pristina, June 2015. The artist hoped to draw attention to the stigma suffered by victims of wartime sexual violence.Shedding the stigmaMany survivors kept quiet for decades, fearing the shame and public humiliation that rape can bring to an extended family in a historically patriarchal society.As Kosovo struggled to rebuild and secure international recognition in the wake of its 2008 declaration of independence, the issue of sexual violence remained largely on the back burner.Last year, the government started to provide reparations for victims of sexual war crimes under a law that compensates veterans of the Kosovo War.Claimants welcome the lifetime monthly compensation of $275 for the physical and psychological trauma — about 90% of the average salary for Kosovar women.Even so, Tahiri-Sylejmani and Krasniqi Goodman insist the compensation is no substitute for justice.