Pompeo Blames Iran For Taliban Attack As Administration ‘Itches For War,’ Says Expert Mary Papenfuss•As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo railed against Iran in the wake of the attack Thursday on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, he also blamed the nation for a recent assault in Kabul claimed by the Taliban.One expert characterized including that attack in the list of U.S. grievances against Iran as a sign of a Trump administration “itching for war,” The Washington Post reported.As the administration racheted up tension with Iran, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called on the international community Saturday to take a “decisive stand” against Iran.The Trump administration’s credibility is a key factor as Americans and nations weigh blame for the tanker attacks.U.S. Central Command said that the Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair and the Japanese Kokula Courageous were attacked by limpet mines, which are attached to ships below the water line. The military released a video that officials claimed showed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from the Courageous. The president of the company that owns the Courageous, however, said Friday there were reports of something that “flew towards the ship” before the blast. He discounted American reports of a sea mine. Iran has denied any involvement in the tanker attacks.Many experts say it’s too soon to say for certain who is responsible. Others suspect Iran launched the attack in response to the U.S. pulling out of the nuclear pact with Tehran, and following months of provocative criticism, sanctions and calls for regime change by the Trump administration.The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a U.S.convoy in Kabul May 31, killing four Afghan pedestrians and wounding four American servicemen and at least three civilians. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid boasted of the attack in a phone call with the Associated Press.But on Thursday, as Pompeo slammed Iran, he called the Kabul bombing one of “a series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests,” the Post reported.Pompeo said the attacks “present a clear threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran.”The characterization of the Kabul attack as one instigated by Iran surprised experts and a former U.S. diplomat, the Post reported. Besides the Taliban’s claim of responsibility, they said it would be unusual for Iran to launch an attack inside Kabul. “If there was clearly a belief that Iran had hit troops in Afghanistan, it would have been huge news right away,” Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Asia program, told the Post.“This administration is itching for a fight with Iran,” he said. “Unfortunately, that sometimes entails making some accusations against Iran that are somewhat questionable.”Pompeo has a “long list of grievances” against Iran, Alex Vatanka, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told the Post. He needs to “convince people that this isn’t just a long list of events happening to coincide with the maximum-pressure campaign on Tehran.”
(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump said Iran was responsible for attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf this week, and he vowed that the key shipping lane of the Strait of Hormuz won’t be closed.
“Iran did do it, and you know they did it,” Trump said Friday during a phone interview with Fox News. “You saw the boat at night,” he said.
The president’s comments follow American officials’ release of images they said show that Iran was involved in an attack on an oil tanker near the entrance to the Persian Gulf on Thursday, one of two incidents that have raised tensions between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic. Iranian officials have rejected the accusation, and others have questioned the evidence.
The prospects of a conflict have heightened since the administration tightened its sanctions on Iranian oil exports in early May, following Trump’s decision a year ago to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord.
Senior Trump administration officials have said the U.S. is considering a number of responses to the attacks, including the possibility of providing naval escorts to commercial ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz. An American military response hasn’t been ruled out, they said, and all options are on the table.
Asked whether the U.S. will send more forces to the region, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters Friday that “we obviously need to make contingency plans should the situation deteriorate.” He said the attacks on shipping will help “develop international consensus” on action to constrain Iran.
But Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, one of the leading contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination to run against Trump, said he was concerned the attacks would be used by the administration as grounds to go to war against Iran.
— Bloomberg (@business) June 14, 2019
“Attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman are unacceptable and must be fully investigated,” Sanders said. “But this incident must not be used as a pretext for a war with Iran, a war which would be an unmitigated disaster for the United States, Iran, the region and the world.”
Debate also continued about evidence that the U.S. says showed Iran was behind the tanker attacks.
U.S. Central Command released a time line of the incident along with video and photographs showing a boat alongside the hull of a larger vessel with a hole in its side. The military said the video showed Iranian forces removing an unexploded limpet mine from from the vessel. Limpet mines are usually attached to a target by magnet.
But in remarks to Japanese media, the president of the company that owns the ship said there’s “zero chance” the vessel was damaged by a mine or torpedo. “A mine doesn’t damage a ship above sea level,” said Yutaka Katada, president of Kokuka Sangyo, the owner and operator of the vessel. “We aren’t sure exactly what hit, but it was something flying toward the ship,” he said.
The video was the first evidence publicly put forward by the U.S. to support its claim — announced earlier on Thursday by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo — that Iran was culpable.
“The United States will defend its forces, interests and stand with our partners and allies to safeguard global commerce and regional stability,” Pompeo said, noting that Iran had previously threatened to curtail oil transport in the Strait of Hormuz.
“They’re not going to be closing it,” Trump said in the interview on Friday.
While officials in the Trump administration have said Iran continues to back terrorists and threaten U.S. interests throughout the Middle East, the president asserted in the interview that his hard line has forced Iran to modify its behavior. “They’ve changed a lot since I’ve been president,” he said, and “they haven’t screamed ‘Death to America’ lately.”
Iranian officials denied any involvement in the tanker attacks, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggesting that Iran’s enemies may have been behind them and reiterating calls for a regional dialogue. In a tweet on Friday he said, “Unilateral US actions—incl. its #EconomicTerrorism on Iran—are solely responsible for insecurity & renewed tension in our region.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Friday for an independent investigation of the tanker attacks, telling reporters, “It is very important to know the truth, and it is very important that responsibilities are clarified.” But the U.K.’s government said in a statement that it’s “almost certain” that Iran was behind the attacks because no other state or non-state actor could plausibly have carried them out.
Iranian forces were probably responsible for using anti-ship missiles, according to a report seen by Bloomberg News from DNK, the insurer of one of the ships. The Norwegian insurer has raised its assessment on the threat to tankers in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and North Western Gulf of Oman to high following the incident, it said in the report.
“There hasn’t been hard evidence provided by the U.S. administration but it fits into a pattern of Iranian behavior,” Ayham Kamel, head of Middle East and North Africa research at the Eurasia Group, said of the tanker attacks in an interview Friday.
With the U.S. sending warnings not to harms its interests and assets, he said, “We are getting a response from Iran where they are targeting interests of U.S. allies in the region with something that doesn’t directly point to them but it will be interpreted as them.”
The attacks occurred as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran meeting officials in what was seen as an effort to help ease tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Pompeo said the attack on a ship owned by a Japanese company was tantamount to Iran insulting Japan as Abe was trying to seek peace, although the ship’s owner said an attacker wouldn’t have known that because it was flying under a Panamanian flag.
Trump spoke with Abe on Friday, discussing issues including Abe’s “recent travel to Iran and the circumstances surrounding the attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman,” according to a White House statement. It said Trump thanked Abe “for his effort to facilitate communication with Iran.”
The episode in the Persian Gulf came a day after Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a missile at a Saudi airport, wounding 26 people.
(Updates with Shanahan, Senator Sanders starting in sixth paragraph.)
–With assistance from Josh Wingrove, Kathleen Hunter, Verity Ratcliffe, David Wainer and Tim Ross.
To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at email@example.com;Glen Carey in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;Laura Litvan in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bill Faries at firstname.lastname@example.org, ;Alex Wayne at email@example.com, Larry Liebert
For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders Issues Heartfelt Apology In Spoof Samantha Bee Briefing Lee Moran•
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is leaving her role by the end of the month.And “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” has one last (spoof) message from the controversial spokesperson, whose tenure was undoubtedly characterized by her staunch defense of President Donald Trump’s lies and for not holding a press briefing in almost 100 days.“I have acted more like a scripted robot than a press secretary and I apologize that I have disrespected and said insulting things about the press,” Sanders appears to say in the cleverly edited clip below:
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
Passengers on Delta Airlines’ Flight 500 from Indianapolis to Paris got an unexpected visit to Detroit on Thursday after an „unruly passenger” caused the plane to divert.
The disturbance happened just after 6 p.m. EDT, according to a federal criminal complaint. About 40 minutes after boarding the flight to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, authorities say Ian Robert James Morin began „yelling and acting erratically.”
According to the complaint, the flight crew tried to calm Morin but he continued to shout and refuse to comply with their demands.
Morin then allegedly hit a flight attendant in the throat with an open hand. The complaint said he tried to strike the attendant a second time, then threw up on the aircraft.
Fair Oaks videos: Ethical questions coming from all directions
Lisa Gass, a spokeswoman for Michigan’s Wayne County Airport Authority, confirmed the incident to USA TODAY via email, writing, “On Thursday evening, a Delta flight from Indianapolis to Paris was diverted to Detroit Metropolitan Airport due to a disruptive passenger.”
She added, „Security personnel on board were able to restrain the man until the aircraft landed. The man was taken into custody. The investigation was turned over to the FBI.”
Morin, who resides in the northern Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, appeared in Detroit federal court on Friday afternoon and was released on bond, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit told The Indianapolis Star.
Following the diversion and Morin’s removal and arrest, Delta put the flight’s other passengers up in hotels for the night and resumed the eight-hour flight to Paris Friday morning, Delta told The Indianapolis Star. The flight was scheduled to land at Charles de Gaulle about 14 hours later than originally planned.
The airline apologized to the passengers for the delay and inconvenience.
Become an IndyStar subscriber today to support stories like this one. Get unlimited digital access here!
Contributing: Adrienne Jordan, USA TODAY
Andrew Clark is Facebook editor for IndyStar. Call him at 317-444-6484 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Clarky_Tweets.
Contact IndyStar reporter Crystal Hill at 317-444-6094 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @crysnhill.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana man arrested for hitting Delta flight attendant on Paris flight, causing diversion
Saudi crown prince lashes out at arch-rival Iran over tanker attacks Anuj Chopra with Mohamad Ali Harissi in Dubai•Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he would protect his country’s vital interests (AFP Photo/BANDAR ALDANDANI)Riyadh (AFP) – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused arch-rival Iran of attacks on oil tankers in a vital Gulf shipping channel, adding he „won’t hesitate” to tackle any threats to the kingdom, according to an interview published on Sunday.Two tankers were struck by explosions on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman, the second attack in a month in the strategic shipping lane amid a tense US-Iran standoff, sparking fears of a regional conflagration and sending oil prices soaring.”We do not want a war in the region… But we won’t hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our vital interests,” Prince Mohammed told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, in his first public comments since the attacks.”The Iranian regime did not respect the presence of the Japanese prime minister as a guest in Tehran and responded to his (diplomatic) efforts by attacking two tankers, one of which was Japanese.”The prince also accused „Iran and its proxies” over May 12 attacks on four tankers anchored in the Gulf of Oman off the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah.Thursday’s attack on two tankers — the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous that was carrying highly flammable methanol when it was rocked by explosions and the Norwegian-operated Front Altair — came around the time Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting with Iranian leaders in Tehran.US President Donald Trump has said the twin attacks had Iran „written all over it”, rejecting Tehran’s vehement denial.Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, is a bitter regional rival of Iran.The US military on Friday released grainy footage it said showed an Iranian patrol boat removing an „unexploded limpet mine” from one of the tankers.The UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Saturday called on world powers „to secure international navigation and access to energy”, a plea echoed by regional ally Saudi Arabia after the incident sent crude prices soaring.Iran has repeatedly warned in the past that it could block the strategic Hormuz Strait in a relatively low-tech, high-impact countermeasure to any attack by the United States.Doing so would disrupt oil tankers travelling out of the Gulf region to the Indian Ocean and global export routes.The UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah, whose country is bitterly opposed to Iranian influence in the region, called for a deescalation of tensions.”We remain hopeful in attaining a broader framework for cooperation with Iran,” he said at a summit in Bulgaria.Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih called for a „swift and decisive” response to threats against energy supplies after Thursday’s „terrorist acts”.- Vessels head to port -The Japanese tanker’s Tokyo-based operator Kokuka confirmed Saturday the stricken vessel was heading to port in the UAE.”We still don’t know if the tanker goes to Khor Fakkan or Fujairah as they are very close,” said a spokesman, referring to two Emirati ports on the Gulf of Oman.Maritime experts would then seek to transfer the highly flammable cargo to shore, according to an unnamed official quoted by Japanese state media.”From a viewpoint of global energy security, it is necessary for the international community to jointly deal with the act,” said Japanese trade minister Hiroshige Seko at a G20 energy and environment meeting in Japan on Saturday.The other ship, the Front Altair, has left Iran’s territorial waters, multiple sources said Saturday.The ship is „heading toward the Fujairah-Khor Fakkan area in the United Arab Emirates”, head of ports for Iran’s southern province of Hormozgan told the semi-official news agency ISNA.The tanker „has left Iran’s territorial waters,” he said, adding that it was being towed and sprayed with water to cool the hull.A spokeswoman for Frontline Management, the Norwegian company which owns the ship, said „all 23 crew members of the tanker departed Iran” and flew to Dubai on Saturday.”All crew members are well and have been well looked after while in Iran,” she said.- ‘Allegations against Iran’ -Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the US had „immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran without a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence.”The United States has also accused Iran over May 12 sabotage attacks on four tankers anchored in the Gulf of Oman off Fujairah.
Iran denies responsibility of oil tanker attacks; US releases video, details evidenceWPVI – Philadelphia
US grants energy-hungry Iraq new Iran sanctions waiver: source •Despite its vast oil reserves, Iraq faces chronic power shortages and makes up for some of the shortfall with imports from Iran (AFP Photo/SABAH ARAR)Baghdad (AFP) – The United States has granted Iraq another 90-day waiver to continue with vital energy imports from neighbouring Iran despite re-imposed sanctions, a government source said Saturd .The extension came after „long discussions” with Washington ahead of a looming deadline on a previous extension granted in December, the official, close to the negotiations, told AFP on condition of anonymity.The talks came amid spiking tensions between Iraq’s two closest allies — the US and Iran — following a twin attack on tankers in the Gulf that US President Donald Trump has blamed on Tehran.Iranian energy imports are vital to Iraq, one of the world’s hottest countries, which faces chronic blackouts that often leave homes without power for up to 20 hours a day.Summer temperatures in Baghdad are already topping seasonal averages, boosting electricity consumption and raising fears of a repeat of last summer’s mass protests over power outages.To compensate, Iraq pipes in up to 28 million cubic metres of Iranian gas a day for power generation and also directly imports up to 1,300 megawatts of Iranian electricity.That dependence is uncomfortable for Washington, which sees Tehran as its top regional foe.Trump reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions on Iran’s energy and finance sectors in November following a decision to abandon a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Tehran.He gave Iraq an initial 45-day waiver to continue buying electricity and natural gas from Tehran, and in December Washington granted Baghdad an 90-day extension.
(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong’s leader suspended efforts to pass a bill allowing extraditions to China, in a dramatic reversal that she said was necessary to restore order in the Asian financial hub and avoid further violence and mass protests.Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, announced the legislative “pause” at a news conference Saturday, even as activists asked hundreds of thousands of residents who marched in protest last weekend to return to the streets and demand her resignation. Lam acknowledged that debate had shattered a period of relative calm in the former British colony, including clashes between demonstrators and police Wednesday that left more than 80 people hurt.“Polarizing views in relation to this bill in society have given rise to violence, very serious confrontations,” Lam told reporters in a briefing that lasted 75 minutes. “That’s why I have come to the view that I have to do something decisively to address the issue of how could I restore as fast as possible the calm in society, and how could I avoid any more law enforcement officers and ordinary citizens being injured.”Lam stopped short of withdrawing the proposal, which would let Hong Kong reach one-time agreements with mainland China and other jurisdictions, arguing that would contradict her belief that reform was necessary. She said, however, it was unlikely the government would seek its passage before the end of the year.Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, the Beijing-based agency that oversees the city, expressed “support, respect and understanding,” the official Xinhua News Agency said Saturday, citing an unnamed spokesman. The statement echoed Lam’s own remarks during her news conference, in which she repeatedly said the decision to suspend consideration was her own.Lam’s decision “will certainly ease tensions of the general public a lot,” Felix Chung, who represents the textile and garments industries as a pro-establishment member of Hong Kong’s legislature, said in a phone interview. “There’s no time limit,” he said. “She’ll go back through the traditional channels for consultation.”Chung said the Legislative Council might eventually ask Lam to form a committee to bring the law back for another reading.The move failed to satisfy organizers of a planned 3 p.m. protest Sunday, who urge the bill’s withdrawal, Lam’s resignation and the release of demonstrators arrested this week. “We are disappointed and angry after this press conference,” Jimmy Sham, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, said at a news briefing Saturday.It was stunning shift for Lam, who decided to press ahead with the proposal despite escalating protests including a June 9 march that drew hundreds of thousands of opponents into the streets. Her decision to move forward with debate led thousands more demonstrators to surround the legislative complex on June 12, resulting in scuffles when protesters tried to force their way into the building and police unleashed tear gas and rubber bullets.Opponents fear the legislation would blow up the legal wall separating the city’s justice system from the mainland. Business groups argued the city would lose its appeal as a financial center while critics of the ruling Communist Party worried they would be exposed to prosecution in Chinese courts.While Beijing expressed repeated support for the proposal, several Western governments raised concern that it undermines the “one country, two systems” framework that guaranteed free speech, capitalist markets and independent courts in Hong Kong after its 1997 return. U.S. lawmakers had threatened to reconsider the city’s special status that supported $38 billion in trade last year.A timeline of Hong Kong’s standoff over extradition The unrest in China’s most international city comes at a bad time for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who needs to convey domestic strength ahead a pivotal potential summit with Donald Trump on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meetings this month in Japan.“It was the combination of popular protests and the concerns raised within the establishment camp, which have led the government to suspend their proposals,” said Tim Summers, a Hong Kong-based senior consulting fellow with Chatham House. “To do otherwise would have risked further escalation, so I think both the business community and the pro-establishment, pro-Beijing camp will be relieved at today’s announcement.”Eroding Autonomy The legislation is part of a series of measures that pro-democracy advocates say has eroded Hong Kong’s autonomy. Lam, who was selected by a 1,200-member committee stacked with Beijing loyalists, has struggled to convince critics that the bill was her own initiative and not ordered up by Chinese authorities.Lam said she needed the legislation to close a gap that prevented the city from extraditing a local man to Taiwan to face murder charges and wanted to pass the bill before the current legislative session ends next month. During her news conference, she blamed a statement Thursday by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen — a frequent Beijing critic — that Taipei wouldn’t cooperate with the extradition bill for removing the urgency to pass it.Lam, who took office two years ago promising to heal divisions exposed by the mass Occupy protests in 2014 and the emergence of a small but assertive independence, expressed remorse that the proposal had become so controversial. She said the government should focus on improving people’s livelihoods while attempting to build support for the extradition bill.“People in Hong Kong want a relatively calm and peaceful environment,” Lam said. “So this is a time — after what you describe as this tension, conflicts, and so on — this is a time for a responsible government, having looked at the situation and the circumstances, to restore as quickly as possible that calmness in society.”–With assistance from April Ma, Matthew Campbell, David Tweed, Niu Shuping and Blake Schmidt.To contact the reporters on this story: Shawna Kwan in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org;Fion Li in Hong Kong at email@example.com To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org, ;Andrew Davis at email@example.com, Karen LeighFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Podgorica (Montenegro) (AFP) – Thousands of people joined an open-air council of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Podgorica on Saturday, accusing the Montenegrin government of trying to steal its church property through a draft law on religious freedom.
Last month the government introduced the draft law under which all religious facilities owned by Montenegro before 1918, when it lost its independence, would become state property.
Religious communities would only be able to retain ownership of their property if they could provide clear evidence of ownership prior to that date.
The draft law has sparked accusations from the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), the largest religious community in the Balkans nation, that the government wants to seize the Church’s property.
On Saturday, at the open-air council in front of the main Orthodox church in the capital Podgorica, Bishop Joanikije read a statement labelling the draft bill as „anti-religious” and „preparation for the looting of Church property”.
It is aimed „against the Orthodox Church, its priests, bishops, nuns and believers”, the statement said, urging the Montenegrin government to withdraw it and draft a new version.
The current bill „deepens divisions … and incites conflicts on religious and ethnic grounds”, the statement said.
Nearly 72 percent of Montenegro’s population of 620,000 are Orthodox faithful.
Ethnic Serbs make 29 percent of Montenegro’s population, according to 2011 census.
Earlier this month President Milo Djukanovic accused the SPC of trying to „maintain its religious monopoly” in the country and announced the „renewal” of an independent Montenegrin Orthodox Church.
This Montenegrin church is not recognised by the Serbian or other Orthodox churches.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has added his voice to the chorus calling on the Montenegrin authorities to withdraw the bill.
But the Montenegrin government replied it would not allow „anyone, Serbia included, to influence our decisions”.
Montenegro proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2006.
Manchester-born Lee White, a well-known conservationist, has been put in charge of Gabon’s forests
Libreville (AFP) – Here’s your new job: You have to protect the country’s precious tropical forests. You have to stop illegal logging and fight the entrenched corruption backed by powerful forces which goes with it. By the way, you are a committed environmentalist — and you are foreign-born.
This is the challenge facing Lee White, a green activist born in Britain, who this week was named minister of water and forests in Gabon.
White, who has lived in Gabon for three decades and is a citizen, takes over one of the most sensitive jobs in the central African country.
Long-running tensions between logging and conservation have been sharpened by corruption and falling revenues from oil, Gabon’s main money-earner.
„My appointment was a surprise for many people here,” White admitted in an interview with AFP after President Ali Bongo Odimba appointed him on Monday.
He said Bongo had asked him to „put an end to bad practices… (as well as) the corruption in the ministry”.
White acknowledged the scale of the tasks ahead.
„We have to sustainably manage the Gabonese forest to improve the living environment of the Gabonese people, to stabilise its natural treasures and to preserve our ecosystems,” he said.
Almost 80 percent of Gabon is covered by forests.
The forestry sector is a historic pillar of the economy, accounting for 17,000 jobs and 60 percent of output excluding oil.
About a quarter of Gabon’s population live in rural areas, and many people depend on the forests for food and livelihood.
At the same time the forests themselves are a treasure trove of biodiversity, much of it rare or endangered.
They are a haven for great apes, forest elephants and the black panther, as well as rare species of trees, some of them giants towering up to 60 metres (200 feet) high.
– Manchester-born –
White, 53, was born in the northwestern English city of Manchester but grew up in Uganda — in a biography he recalls fighting at school with the son of former dictator Idi Amin.
In 1989, he arrived in Gabon, where he studied for a doctorate in zoology.
He took up Gabonese nationality in 2008 and the following year took over as head of the National Parks Agency (ANPN), a massive conservation project of 13 wildlife zones set up by the late president Omar Bongo, the incumbent’s father.
He was decorated by Queen Elizabeth II in 2010 for his dedication to nature conservation in Central Africa.
Lee’s high-profile defence of the rainforest and wildlife — often with the verdant Raponda Walker Arboretum near Libreville as a backdrop — made him a familiar face in the national media, which dubbed him „Monsieur Vert” („Mister Green”).
Bongo turned to him for the job after firing the last forestry minister over a timber-smuggling scandal.
Analysts say the job will require remarkable skills, juggling tact and principles, as well as rock-solid support from the top.
„This appointment can only be good news for protectors of the environment in Gabon,” said Gaspard Abitsi, director of a US-based NGO, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), in Gabon.
„He is perfectly familiar with the challenges of conservation on a national and international level.”
– Graft –
Others are more cautious about the prospects of reform.
„There are enormous management problems at the ANPN, and this agency only accounts for 10 percent of the land,” said Marc Ona, president of an NGO called the Brainforest Association and a member of the opposition.
„From now on, Lee White will have to manage all of the forests in Gabon… If he hasn’t succeeded at the ANPN, why would he succeed with the whole expanse of the territory?”
„The problem,” said Ona, „is not which individual heads the ministry but the whole forestry system, which is corrupt.”
In a report issued in March, a British NGO, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) pointed the finger at a Chinese group, Dejia, which has widespreading logging interest in the Congo Basin.
It accused the firm of exceeding its logging quotas and spinning a web of patronage extending to ministers as well as the opposition.
The then forestry minister, Guy Bertrand Mapangou, initially lashed the report as biased and „inquisitorial” and seeking to „discredit” the country.
But within weeks, the government suspended Dejia’s licence at two logging sites.
On May 21, it fired Mapangou and Vice President Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou over the so-called „kevazingogate” scandal.
In February and March, authorities had seized nearly 5,000 cubic meters (176,000 cubic feet) of banned kevazingo wood — the equivalent of about 150 large container-loads, valued at around $8 million (seven million euros).
The contraband timber was found at storage sites belonging to Chinese companies at Libreville’s Owendo port — some of it disguised in containers bearing the stamp of the forestry ministry.
Kevazingo, also known as bubinga, takes many years to mature. Logging the wood is illegal in Gabon, but the temptation to flout the ban is huge. In Asia, kevazingo can fetch up to $2,000 per cubic metre.
How the AH-64 Apache Became the Ultimate Attack Helicopter
Early in the morning of January 17, 1991, eight sleek helicopters bristling with missiles swooped low over the sands of the An Nafud desert in as they soared towards the border separating Saudi Arabia from Iraq.
At 2:30 a.m., the choppers fanned out and set to work in teams of two. Rocket motors flashed as Hellfire missiles streaked towards two Iraqi radars powerful enough to potentially pick up the faint signature of a stealth plane.
Minutes after the radars had been reduced to rubble, Nighthawk stealth jetssoared through the twenty-mile-wide radar gap, headed for Baghdad. But the Army’s Apache attack helicopter aviators they had struck first to “kick down the door” for the Nighthawks.
Nearly three decades later, the Apache’s status as the world’s premier attack helicopter remains largely unchallenged, and the type continues to see extensive action in the Middle East and in demand in countries as diverse as the UK, Egypt, India and Taiwan. Undeniably, the threats faced by the $35 million armored attack helicopter, which can pack as many as sixteen tank-busting missiles under its stub wings.
Franco Zeffirelli, the stylish and sometimes controversial theater, opera and film director, has died. He was 96.
Zeffirelli, who was Oscar-nominated for his 1968 version of “Romeo and Juliet,” died at his home in Rome at noon on Saturday, his son Luciano told the Associated Press. “He had suffered for a while, but he left in a peaceful way,” Luciano said.
While Zeffirelli was fond of making films with literary antecedents such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” “Taming of the Shrew” and “Jane Eyre,” his legacy as director of extravagant opera and theater productions is probably more consistent and long-lasting.
He directed, co-wrote and co-produced the 1966 production of “Taming of the Shrew,” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, one of the twice-married celebrated pair’s most successful co-starring assignments. Spirited and amusing, it paved the way for a youthful and sexy “Romeo and Juliet,” which was a major box office success in the U.S. in 1968.
Zeffirelli rose through the ranks as an assistant to his mentor Luchino Visconti, and his stage designs and eventually direction brought him to the great houses of the world: La Scala, the Met, etc. He directed Callas in “La Traviata” and major productions of “La Boheme,” “Carmen” and “Othello” (which he later filmed). He also directed legendary stage productions of “Hamlet” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”
Zeffirelli’s film output was less consistent, from the spirited and sensual “Romeo and Juliet” and playful “Taming of the Shrew” to the rather misshapen “Endless Love” and the unreleasable “Young Toscanini.”
He was politically the opposite of Visconti, with whom he had a relationship of several years. The openly gay Zeffirelli was also known for his socio-political declamations, particularly his anti-abortion, pro-Church stances.
After meeting Visconti while painting scenery for his production of “Tobacco Road,” he became an actor and stage manager in Visconti’s Morelli-Stoppa Co. Zeffirelli soon gave up acting to concentrate on working behind the scenes as an assistant director.
Through Visconti he met all the major playwrights and film directors of the day.
Zeffirelli assisted Visconti on 1948 film classic “La terra trema” and also his 1951 “Belissima” and 1954’s “Senso.” But he eventually broke through being seen as just another Visconti protege, and the stage became Zeffirelli’s mainstay for most of the next 20 years. In 1948 he assisted Salvador Dali on the Morelli-Stoppa production of “As You Like It.” He next designed Visconti’s famed Italian production of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and his equally heralded “Troilus and Cressida,” staged in Florence’s Boboli Gardens. In 1951 he designed the Morelli-Stoppa “Three Sisters,” also to great acclaim.
Milan’s La Scala called on him in 1952 to design Rossini’s “L’Italiana in Algeri,” and the following year he designed and directed “La Cenerentola.” His first major hit at La Scala was Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore” in 1954.
He continued to work in many of Italy’s top opera houses over the next few years and traveled abroad to stage the 1956 Holland Festival production of “Falstaff.” In 1958 he staged the landmark Dallas Civic Opera production of “La Traviata” with Maria Callas in which the story was all told in flashback.
In 1959 he debuted at the Royal Opera House in England with fresh productions of “Lucia di Lammermoor” (launching diva Joan Sutherland), “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “I Pagliacci.”
A year later he scored his first theater success with a vivacious and youthful production of “Romeo and Juliet,” which he also designed at the Old Vic in London. “The Vic has done nothing better for a decade,” wrote critic Kenneth Tynan in the New York Herald Tribune.
In Dallas he continued to create one rich production after another, including Sutherland in “Alcina,” as well as “Don Giovanni” and “Daughter of the Regiment.” His production of “Othello” with John Gielgud in the lead was dubbed overproduced, but there was little complaint about his operatic “Falstaff” at Covent Garden.
Zeffirelli made his Broadway debut with a failed 1963 production of “The Lady of the Camellias” starring Susan Strasberg, but his “Aida” at La Scala with Leontyne Price and Carlo Bergonzi was praised and derided for its Cecil B. DeMille-like production. His “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” on the Italian stage was unanimously acclaimed, and his Old Vic “Hamlet” (in Italian starring Giorgio Albertazzi) was also an unqualified triumph. His 1977 “Filumena” with Joan Plowright was also well received.
Zeffirelli’s Metropolitan Opera debut with “Falstaff” in 1964 was highly praised, and he opened the new Met in Lincoln Center in 1966 with Samuel Barber’s “Antony and Cleopatra.” He continued to grace the Met and other opera stages of the world well into the 1990s with visually sumptuous (sometimes overly so) but vibrant operatic productions, claiming that his aim was always to take the boredom out of the art form.
In 1965, Zeffirelli made his film debut with a filmed version of “La Boheme,” the first of several operas on film he would direct, including “La Traviata” in 1983 and “Otello” in 1986.
He also directed the documentary about the disastrous floods of Florence called “Florence — Days of Destruction,” drawing attention and funding to the great Renaissance city’s plight.
After a near-fatal car accident in 1969, Zeffirelli became a devout Catholic, a staunch defender of the Vatican and a follower of the charismatic Padre Pio. He was inspired to make a 1973 biography of Saint Francis of Assisi called “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” which later developed a cult following, and the five-part, eight-hour miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth” (1977), which has since become something of a perennial, especially in Italy.
His remake of “The Champ,” starring Jon Voight and Faye Dunaway, in 1979 did not please critics but had some box office muscle, though his 1981 “Endless Love” was not a hit with reviewers or audiences.
Opera adaptations aside, he directed the disastrous “Young Toscanini” in 1988, though his “Hamlet” starring Mel Gibson and Glenn Close drew a mixed reception.
In 1996, he directed a moderately well-received adaptation of “Jane Eyre,” considered one of his more restrained filmic efforts.
His 1999 film “Tea With Mussolini,” a portrait of a group of American and English eccentrics in northern Italy before and during WWII, sported a fine cast (Cher, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith and Lily Tomlin) but was dramatically underwhelming. The film was semiautobiographical; after his mother’s death when he was 6, he subsequently grew up under the auspices of the British expat community.
In 2002 he spun a fictional tale about a middle-aged Callas (played by Fanny Ardant) in “Callas Forever.”
Franco Zeffirelli Corsi was born in Florence, the child of an extra-marital affair between businessman Ottorini Corsi and fashion designer Adelaide Garosi. Zeffirelli studied at Florence’s art school Liceo Artistico and then, with his father prodding him in the direction of an architectural career, he studied at the School of Architecture at the U. of Florence. While there, he became director of the university’s theater company and directed and staged amateur opera productions in Siena.
In 1943, with Italy under German occupation, Zeffirelli fought with the partisans and developed a hatred of both Fascism and Communism. He was reportedly captured by the Facists and nearly killed before a remarkable save when his interrogator turned out to be a half brother he didn’t know.
Despite his religious zeal, Zeffirelli was was criticized by Catholics for what they considered blasphemous depictions in his films while also drawing the ire of gay activists upset with his support for church positions. After running for political office and losing in the ’80s, Zeffirelli was elected to the Italian Senate from the Sicilian city of Catania in 1994 as a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing Forza Italia party and held the post until 2001.
He published a film journal, “My Life of Jesus,” to accompany his religious miniseries, which addressed his theological side. In his later years Zeffirelli’s often intemperate remarks to the press about his religious beliefs. He was no less outspoken about his fellow artists, fond of sparring matches in the press.
In 2018, he was accused of sexual assault by actor Johnathon Schaech, who starred in his 1993 film “Sparrow.”
Late in life, he adopted two adult men who became his caretakers and survive him.