US Talks Secretly to Venezuela Socialist Boss

The U.S. has opened up secret communications with Venezuela’s socialist party boss as members of President Nicolas Maduro’s inner circle seek guarantees they won’t face retribution if they cede to growing demands to remove him, a senior administration official has told The Associated Press.
 
Diosdado Cabello, who is considered the most-powerful man in Venezuela after Maduro, met last month in Caracas with someone who is in close contact with the Trump administration, said the official. A second meeting is in the works but has not yet taken place.
 
The AP is withholding the intermediary’s name and details of the encounter with Cabello out of concern the person could suffer reprisals. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to discuss the talks, which are still preliminary.
 

Cabello is a major power broker inside Venezuela, who has seen his influence in the government and security forces expand as Maduro’s grip on power has weakened. But he’s also been accused by U.S. officials of being behind massive corruption, drug trafficking and even death threats against a sitting U.S. senator.
 
The administration official said that under no circumstances is the U.S. looking to prop up Cabello or pave the way for him to substitute Maduro. Instead, the goal of the outreach is to ratchet up pressure on the regime by contributing to the knife fight the U.S. believes is taking place behind the scenes among competing circles of power within the ruling party.
 
Similar contacts exist with other top Venezuelan insiders, the official said, and the U.S. is in a listening mode to hear what it would take for them to betray Maduro and support a transition plan.
 
Cabello did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
 
But an aide said the U.S. has been increasingly knocking on his door, desperately looking to establish contact. The aide rejected the notion Cabello was somehow betraying Maduro, saying that Cabello would only meet with Americans with the president’s permission and if it contributes to lifting sanctions he blames for crippling the oil-dependent economy. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity because he isn’t authorized to discuss political affairs publicly.
 

A person familiar with the July encounter said Cabello appeared savvy and arrived to the meeting with the U.S.-backed envoy well prepared, with a clear understanding of Venezuela’s political problems. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to discuss the matter.
 
As Venezuela’s crisis grinds on, a predictable pattern has emerged where Juan Guaido, who the U.S. and dozens of other countries recognize as Venezuela’s rightful leader, has been unable to woo the military and take power but Maduro lacks enough strength to apprehend his rival or rescue the collapsed economy amid ever-tightening U.S. sanctions. This month, the U.S. slapped a new round of sanctions that seizes all of the Maduro government’s assets in the U.S. and threatens to punish companies from third countries that continue to do business with him.
 
Talks sponsored by Norway between the opposition and government have been slow-going and were suspended this month by Maduro, who accused Guaido of celebrating the U.S.’ “brutal blockade.” Neither Cabello, the Venezuelan military or U.S. government are a party to those talks.
 
To break the stalemate, some conspirators are looking to the U.S. to devise a plan to protect government insiders who turn against Maduro from future prosecution. The U.S. has repeatedly said it would offer top socialists relief from sanctions if they take “concrete and meaningful actions” to end Maduro’s rule. In May, it quickly lifted sanctions against Maduro’s former spy chief, Gen. Manuel Cristopher Figuera, after he defected during a failed military uprising.
 

As head of the constitutional assembly, Cabello has the power to remove Maduro, a position that could come in handy in any negotiated transition. But to date he’s run the institution, which the U.S. considers illegitimate, as a rubber-stamping foil to the opposition-controlled congress, showing no signs of possible deception.  
 
It’s not clear who initiated the contact with Cabello. But the U.S. official said Cabello was talking behind the back of the embattled socialist despite his almost daily displays of loyalty and frequent harangues against President Donald Trump.
 
An opposition politician briefed on the outreach said Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino and Interior Minister Nestor Reverol are among those in indirect contact with the Americans, underscoring the degree to which Maduro is surrounded by conspirators even after an opposition-led military uprising in April was easily quashed. The politician spoke on the condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to discuss the talks. The AP was unable to verify the opposition politician’s account.
 
Cabello, 56, has long been seen as a rival to Maduro, someone who has more pragmatic economic views and is less ideologically aligned with communist Cuba. He sat to the right of Hugo Chavez when the late socialist designated Maduro, to his left, to be his successor in his last public appearance before dying of cancer in 2013.
 
By all accounts Cabello was not among the high-placed officials who were in on a plot to remove Maduro in April, when Guaido and his mentor Leopoldo Lopez appeared on a bridge in eastern Caracas surrounded by a small contingent of armed troops. Since the uprising’s failure, the retired army lieutenant has seen his influence in the government and security forces expand, with the appointment of a cousin to head the army and the placement of another ally atop the feared SEBIN intelligence police.
 
He also remains popular with the Chavista base, having crisscrossed the country the past five years with a much-watched program on state TV that is a vehicle for pounding the opposition and U.S.
 
“A fraternal salute, brother President,” Cabello said in the most-recent program, where Maduro called in as a special guest. “We have no secrets, no lies here. Every time we do something we will inform the people, so that with a clear conscience they can take informed decisions and fix positions.”
 
The U.S. has tried to negotiate with Cabello before. In 2015, Thomas Shannon, who was then counsellor to Secretary of State John Kerry, met with Cabello in Haiti to pave the way for legislative elections that the opposition won by a landslide.
 
But until now, the Trump administration has shown deep scorn for Cabello, hitting him with sanctions last year for allegedly organizing drug shipments and running a major graft network that embezzled state funds and invested the stolen proceeds in Florida real estate. The U.S. also believes he discussed a plot to kill Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who has called him “Venezuela’s Pablo Escobar.”
 
“Cabello is one of the worst of the worst inside of Venezuela,” said Fernando Cutz, a former senior national security adviser on Latin America to both President Barack Obama and Trump. “If the strategy is to try to negotiate with the mafia boss, he’s your guy. But that’s a strategy that carries some heavy risks.”

Italy’s Salvini Tells Ship with 107 Migrants to Go to Spain

Seeking to end a humanitarian crisis, Spain says a Spanish rescue boat with 107 migrants in the southern Mediterranean can sail to Spain and disembark its passengers in Algeciras.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Sunday told the Open Arms ship to leave Italian waters and go to Spain. Salvini contends that Open Arms is anchored off the southern island of Lampedusa “just to provoke me and Italy.”

The boat’s crew says conditions on the ship are “miserable” 17 days since it rescued people off Libya. Six EU countries say they’ll take the migrants in, but Salvini hasn’t let the ship dock.

The Open Arms didn’t immediately say if would go to Spain, several days’ sailing away. The group says Salvini is using the 107 migrants for “xenophobic and racist propaganda.”

 

Rohingya Refugee Children Missing Out on Education and Viable Future

A study by the U.N. Children’s Fund finds more than half a million Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar are not learning the life skills they need to prepare them for the future or to protect them from present-day abuse and exploitation.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children have been languishing in squalid, overcrowded refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar for two years — ever since a mass exodus of 745,000 refugees fleeing persecution and violence in Myanmar began.  

The U.N. Children’s Fund reports more than a quarter million children up to age 14 are receiving a non-formal education, while more than 25,000 others are receiving none.  

Author of the UNICEF report, Simon Ingram, said adolescents are most disadvantaged.

He said 97 percent of children aged 15 to 18 years are not attending any type of educational facility, putting them at particular risk.

“When you meet teenagers in the camps, they speak readily of the dangers they face, especially at night, when drug dealers operate, and gang fights are reported to be a regular occurrence,” he said.  “Cases of trafficking are also being reported, although they are hard to quantify.  The camps can be especially hazardous for girls and women.”  

UNICEF and partners have provided learning to more than 190,000 Rohingya children in more than 2,000 centers.  These agencies are calling on the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to allow the use of their national educational resources to provide more structured learning for Rohingya children.

FILE – A Rohingya refugee girl sells vegetables in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, Aug. 28, 2018.

Ingram told VOA that UNICEF is appealing to Myanmar authorities to provide education to the children in the refugee camps.  Until now, he said, the children have been taught in the Burmese language by volunteer teachers from the refugee population.

“And, with the best will in the world, that is not the same as having a properly trained teacher, someone who has experience of delivering the Myanmar government’s own curriculum.  So, that is really what we are looking for and those are the conversations that are now ongoing with the government in Myanmar and we hope that we will receive a positive response to that,” said Ingram.

Ingram said it is critical for refugee children to be taught in Burmese as that is the language they will need if and when they return back to Myanmar.  Unfortunately, he notes Rohingya adolescents will continue to live in limbo until it is safe for them to go home.  He acknowledged that going home does not appear to be a realistic possibility for the foreseeable future.

 

Hong Kong Protesters Continue Weekend Demonstrations

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets Sunday in rain-drenched Hong Kong for another anti-government rally.

This is the eleventh weekend in a row that protesters have turned out to voice their dismay.

The demonstrations began as peaceful protests to stop an extradition bill that would allow criminal suspects to face trial in mainland China’s opaque legal system.  Since then the protests have evolved into a movement for democratic reforms.

The protests are generally peaceful, but activists have sometimes clashed with police.

“We hope that there will not  be any chaotic situations today,” organizer Bonnie Leung told the Associated Press.

The extradition bill has been suspended, but the protests continue as Hong Kong residents worry about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” mandate that has been in place since the territory’s return from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

China’s paramilitary troops have been training in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, causing concern that China is ready to send in the troops to suppress the protests. 

Hong Kong’s police have insisted they are able to handle the demonstrators.

Demonstrations last weekend at Hong Kong Airport spilled over into the work week, crippling one of the world’s busiest air hubs for several days and sparking clashes between demonstrators and riot police.
 

У Херсонесі російські археологи розкопали приміщення стародавнього храму

Московські й уральські археологи під час розкопок у заповіднику «Херсонес Таврійський» в анексованому Севастополі виявили одне з приміщень стародавнього храму. За словами керівника експедиції, завідувача відділу «Городище і некрополь» Станіслава Рижова, храм існував з IV століття до н.е. до IV століття н.е.

«У перебігу робіт ми виявили одне з приміщень, яке колись, найвірогідніше, належало храму. На північ від храму була площа, де проходили релігійні таїнства, а за цією площею – підсобні приміщення споруди», – пояснив Рижов.

За інформацією пресслужби музею-заповідника Херсонес Таврійський, наразі розкоп доступний для огляду відвідувачам музею. 

Після анексії Криму Росія взяла під свою юрисдикцію всі об’єкти культурного й історичного значення, розташовані на території півострова. Київ наполягає на приналежності пам’яток українському народу і просить взяти їх під захист ЮНЕСКО.

До списку Всесвітньої спадщини ЮНЕСКО входить заповідник «Херсонес Таврійський» у Севастополі. Також кандидатами на внесення до списку є Ханський палац у Бахчисараї, Генуезька фортеця в Судаку, Кримська астрофізична обсерваторія, Мангуп-Кале, Ескі-Кермен і Чуфут-Кале.

Intelligent Threat-Sensing Building on Horizon

Back-to-back mass shootings in the U.S. have re-ignited passionate debates about gun control in America. But there are other efforts underway to protect people from gun violence– like the creation of an intelligent building designed to handle an active shooter situation. Engineers and computer scientists at the University of Southern California are using virtual reality to help them design buildings that can protect its occupants.  Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles. But first a warning this story contains graphic video that some viewers may find disturbing.

Suicide Bombing of Wedding Party in Kabul Killed 63

Authorities in Afghanistan say the death toll has risen to more than 63 and injured to 183 in the overnight suicide bombing at a packed wedding hall in the capital, Kabul.

The victims were mostly members of the minority Shi’ite Hazara community. 

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi confirmed the casualty toll in a statement issued early Sunday, saying women and children were among the victims.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the carnage, one of the worst attacks against Afghan civilians in recent years.

The Taliban denied its involvement and condemned the bombing. A spokesman for the insurgent group said “such barbaric deliberate attacks against civilians including women and children are forbidden and unjustifiable.”

Afghan police men stand guard outside the wedding hall after an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug.18, 2019.

Almost all recent bombings in the city, particularly against the Hazara community, have been claimed by Islamic State’s Afghan branch, known as Khorasan Province. 

Rahimi in a statement he issued shortly after the attack said the blast occurred just before midnight on Saturday and police and ambulances quickly reached the site to transport victims to Kabul hospitals.

Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict in Afghanistan, where more than 1,500 were killed or wounded in July alone, according to the United Nations.

The latest Afghan violence comes as peace talks between the United States and the Taliban have come close to reaching an agreement to end the 18-year-old war.  

У лікарні лишаються 8 постраждалих під час пожежі в «Токіо-Стар» – ЗМІ

У лікарні залишаються восьмеро з десяти постраждалих внаслідок пожежі в готелі «Токіо-Стар», повідомляє одеське видання «Думская» з посиланням на міську адміністрацію.

«Із 10 постраждалих один відмовився від госпіталізації – це громадянин Литви Роман Чернявський, 1960 року народження. Ще один іноземець, громадянин Сьєрра-Леоне, також виявив бажання їхати додому, його стан оцінюють як задовільний. Таким чином, на лікарняних ліжках залишаються вісім осіб, які отримали, в основному опіки верхніх дихальних шляхів», – зазначають журналісти.

За даними видання, серед пацієнтів у важкому стані є діти.

За інформацією ДСНС, під час пожежі загинули 9 людей. 18 серпня Одеська ОДА проголосила днем жалоби. 

Державне бюро розслідувань заявило про початок розслідування дій представників ДСНС, які начебто мають ознаки службового недбальства та призвели до пожежі.

Вночі проти 17 серпня в готелі «Токіо Стар» в Одесі сталася пожежа.

Начальник поліції Одеської області Олег Бех 17 серпня повідомив, що поліція ще встановлює причини займання і розглядає три версії.

ОПУ заперечує інформацію про примусову участь бюджетників у заходах до Дня Незалежності

Офіс президента Володимира Зеленського оприлюднив заяву, у якій наголосив, що участь працівників бюджетної сфери у заходах 24 серпня буде виключно добровільною.

«Відповідне розпорядження Офісу президента щодо формування делегацій у регіонах має на меті надати допомогу тим, хто хоче приєднатися до урочистостей. Підкреслюємо, що йдеться не про глядачів, а саме про учасників заходів, які представлятимуть усі регіони країни. Значну частину запрошених буде відзначено нагородами. Водночас місцеві органи влади повинні зібрати інформацію щодо складу делегацій для того, щоб учасники не відчували проблем з тим, як дістатися до Києва», – йдеться у повідомленні на офіційній фейсбук-сторінці установи.

Раніше користувачі соцмереж поширили копію листа Офісу президента, в якому був заклик до обласних і Київської міської держадміністрацій сформувати для участі в заходах до Дня Незалежності делегації з «одного з представників медичної, освітньої галузей та представників громадськості (волонтерів, меценатів, благодійників)».

Указом від 11 липня президент України Володимир Зеленський доручив уряду «розробити, затвердити та забезпечити виконання плану заходів із відзначення 28-ї річниці незалежності України», що було зроблено 15 серпня. В Офісі президента повідомили, що військового параду 24 серпня не буде, а головним заходом натомість стануть удари дзвона на майдані Незалежності.

Цьогоріч День Незалежності припадає на суботу, тому вихідними будуть 24, 25 й 26 серпня.