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Trump and Macron Agree Russia Should Join G-8 in 2020 But Will It?

Will Russia join next year’s G-7 summit? The question is being considered after U.S. President Donald Trump raised the idea ahead of the group’s annual summit this week in France. The group voted to suspend Moscow’s membership in 2014 after it annexed Crimea, which Russia continues to hold. Trump says it’s time for them to rejoin. Anna Rice reports on whether that’s likely to happen.

France Threatens to Scrap Trade Deal With South America Over Amazon Fires

France said Friday that it would block efforts to reach a major trade deal between the European Union and Brazil in an escalation of tensions over fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest.Leading a growing wave of European anger, a French presidential statement said, “The decisions and statements from Brazil these recent weeks show clearly that President [Jair] Bolsonaro has decided to not respect his commitments on the climate, nor to involve himself on the issue of biodiversity.”As a result of Brazil’s actions, the statement said, France now opposes an EU trade deal “in its current state” with the Mercosur bloc of South American nations, which includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said they supported France’s stance, which came ahead of a Group of Seven (G-7) summit in France this weekend.Under increasing pressure about the wildfires, Brazil’s president said Friday that he might send the military to battle the massive blazes.Bolsonaro did not say when the armed forces would get involved but suggested that action could be soon.Thousands of wildfires burning in the Amazon rainforest threaten to wipe out large parts of a vital ecosystem.A woman holds up a banner saying ‘ Their life does not belong to us’ during a demonstration against the wildfires in the Amazon outside the Brazilian embassy in Paris, Aug. 23, 2019.On Thursday, Bolsonaro accused his French counterpart of having a “colonialist mentality” for saying the Amazon wildfires should be at the top of the G-7 summit agenda.”The French president’s suggestion that Amazon issues be discussed at the G-7 without participation by the countries in the region evoke a colonialist mentality that is out of place in the 21st century,” Bolsonaro tweeted Thursday.He said countries that send money to Brazil for the Amazon are not doing it out of charity but “with the aim of interfering with our sovereignty.”Images from U.S. satellites show smoke blanketing South America from the thousands of fires burning in the Amazon.”Our house is burning. Literally,” Macron tweeted Thursday. “The Amazon rainforest, the lungs which produce 20% of our planet’s oxygen, is on fire. It is an international crisis.”Bolsonaro has said his government lacks the resources to fight the fires in such a huge area.Environmentalists put much of the blame on Bolsonaro, saying he encourages farmers and others to burn land for development and pasture.Brazil’s neighbors, Bolivia and Paraguay, have also struggled to contain fires that have gotten out of control in high winds. On Friday, a U.S.-based super tanker aircraft arrived in Bolivia to help with the firefighting effort.The Amazon rainforest is the world’s biggest ecosystem. Environmentalists call it “the world’s lungs” because it creates 20% of the globe’s oxygen and is able to absorb carbon dioxide, the gas primarily responsible for global warming.The Amazon is also home to much of Brazil’s indigenous population and thousands of species of mammals, birds and reptiles.

Russian Doctor Has Trace of Radiation After Explosion

Over Russian 100 medical workers who helped treat victims of a recent mysterious explosion at a military testing range have undergone checks and one man has been found with a trace of radiation, officials said Friday.The Aug. 8 incident at the Russian navy’s range in Nyonoksa on the White Sea killed two servicemen and five nuclear engineers and injured six. It was followed by a brief rise in radiation levels in nearby Severodvinsk, but authorities insisted it didn’t pose any danger.The Arkhangelsk regional administration said Friday that 110 medical workers have undergone checks, and that one man was found with a low amount of radioactive cesium-137 in his muscle tissue. It said the man’s health isn’t in danger and argued that he could have got the radioactive isotope with food.The statement followed Russian media reports claiming that dozens of medical workers were exposed to radiation.FILE – This photo taken Oct. 7, 2018, shows a village of Nyonoksa, northwestern Russia.The reports claimed that medical teams at the Arkhangelsk city hospital hadn’t been warned that they would treat people exposed to radiation and lacked elementary protective gear. They said that Russia’s security agency forced the medical workers to sign non-disclosure papers.The workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing official reprisals, said many doctors and nurses felt angry about the authorities putting their lives at risk by concealing the vital information.Contradictory accounts Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov shrugged off the reports, questioning the veracity of anonymous sources. He also alleged that certain forces that he didn’t name could be interested in making false allegations about radioactive threats.Russian officials’ changing and contradictory accounts of the incident drew comparisons to Soviet attempts to cover up the 1986 explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the world’s worst nuclear disaster.The Russian Defense Ministry at first denied any radiation leak in the incident even as the authorities in nearby Severodvinsk reported a spike in radiation and advised people to stay indoors and close windows. Terrified residents rushed to buy iodine, which can help reduce risks from exposure to radiation.Radiation readingsRussia’s state weather and environmental monitoring agency said the peak radiation reading in Severodvinsk on Aug. 8 briefly reached 1.78 microsieverts per hour in just one neighborhood — about 16 times the average. Peak readings in other parts of Severodvinsk varied between 0.45 and 1.33 microsieverts for a couple of hours before returning to normal.The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization said earlier this week that several Russian radiation monitoring stations went silent shortly after the explosion. Observers saw that as part of an effort to conceal the radiation data, which could help determine the technology that was being tested at the time of the explosion.President Vladimir Putin has hailed the victims, saying they were doing “very important work for the nation’s security,” but kept mum on what type of weapon they were testing. Some, including U.S. President Donald Trump, said the explosion occurred during tests of Russia’s prospective Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile that was code-named “Skyfall” by NATO.  

West’s Divisions Empowering China and Russia, Analysts Warn

China and Russia believe they can behave as they want and have impunity to crush dissent because Western states are at odds with themselves and have lost confidence in their ability to shape the world around them, warn analysts. “There is a danger that we in the West are becoming bystanders to the great events swirling around the globe. Our inability to articulate a clear response that generates a change in behavior means a sense of impunity dominates,” argued Rafaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.Writing in Britain’s The Times newspaper, Pantucci said, “Our responses to the current protests going on in Hong Kong and Moscow are the clearest articulations of this problem. Beijing and Moscow have largely behaved as they would like.”Anti-G-7 activists march along a road near a tent camp near Hendaye, France, Aug. 23, 2019.Western diplomats and analysts fear this week’s three-day G-7 summit in the French resort town of Biarritz will demonstrate again the lack of unity among Western leaders over a series of issues, including climate change, relations with Russia, rising nationalism, and the trade war between the United States and China, whose fallout is hurting Europe far more than America. The G-7 comprises the world’s largest advanced democracies. In order to try to reduce a display of disunity, the summit host, French President Emmanuel Macron, is lobbying for the gathering not to issue a joint communique for the first time in the G-7’s history. He hopes to avoid a repeat of last year when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew his endorsement of the joint statement 10 minutes after it was released. Macron wants instead to replace the communique by delivering as G-7 chairman a summary of the main discussions.Divisions fearedWhether that papers over disputes remains in doubt. Some analysts say the summit risks becoming explosive. “There is huge scope for the Western world to look more divided by the end of the meeting than it did at the beginning,” said William Hague, a former British foreign secretary. He says the G-7 leaders are “desperately short of ideas around which they can coalesce,” ones they need in order “to address the main threats that will overcome them unless they look far enough ahead now.”French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech on environment and social equality to business leaders on the eve of the G-7 summit, in Paris, Aug. 23, 2019.On the eve of the meeting, Macron set out an ambitious plan to challenge fellow leaders to rethink their approach to global leadership. He will urge them to rescue democracy from nationalist populists, to temper capitalism, to lessen social inequality and to boost biodiversity, and to re-embrace multilateralism — all of which risks strong pushback from Trump. The U.S. leader is skeptical of multilateralism and frustrated with the lack of European support for his “maximum pressure” aggressive stance toward Iran. He is also pressing the Europeans to back his trade confrontation with China, arguing that short-term pain is necessary in order to “take on” Beijing, otherwise the West, in the long term, will be the losers.Blaming China, RussiaSome Western commentators blame Trump and other nationalist populists for Western disunity, but others see the fraying of Western-shaped global leadership as a consequence of a deeper, historical malaise amid the rise of an aggressive China, which uses commerce as a tool of statecraft and diplomacy, and an assertive Russia that increasingly voices disdain for the West and is eager to develop a partnership with China.Asked whether he would welcome Moscow being readmitted to the G-7, Russian President Vladmir Putin scoffed at the idea, saying, “The G-7 doesn’t exist. How can I come back to an organization that doesn’t exist?” Putin said he prefers the G-20 format because it includes countries like India and China. The G-20 refers to the group of 20 major economies.Investing heavily in the West and the developing world, Beijing isn’t shy about demanding a political quid pro quo and the Hong Kong protests have placed the Europeans, especially the British, in a dilemma. Should they champion the rights and freedoms the people of Hong Kong enshrined in a joint declaration signed with Beijing before the British handed the territory back to the Chinese in 1997, or muffle their complaints about Chinese heavy-handedness in order to ingratiate themselves with Beijing and reap commercial benefits? FILE – Hong Kong protesters gather outside the subway station in Sheung Wan district participate the “823 Road for Hong Kong” human chain rally (Photo: Iris Tong / VOA Cantonese)That dilemma is only going to become sharper as anti-government protests in Hong Kong continue, risking Chinese military intervention in the former British colony. Beijing has made it clear, with thinly-disguised threats, that British criticism needs to be tempered, otherwise London, which is desperate to boost its trade with China post-Brexit, will lose out financially.Hague argues that the G-7 “should be restating the case for freedom.” He says that the end of the Cold War “has deprived democratic nations of their automatic unity, and the global financial crisis has rocked their self-confidence.” The financial shock came amid a longer-term trend: the hollowing out of the West’s industrial base with manufacturing shifting eastward, prompting the anger of the working classes in the West, who resent losing out on the benefits of globalism, making them question the whole basis of multilateralism. According to Antonio Barroso, an analyst with the geostrategic risk consulting group Teneo, “We have passed from a world that was certainly much more multilateral than the one that we have now.”

Baltics Mark 30th Anniversary of Key Anti-Soviet Protest

The three Baltic countries on Friday marked the 30th anniversary of the 1989 “Baltic Way,” a historic anti-Soviet protest that involved nearly 2 million people forming a human chain more than 600 kilometers (370 miles) long.On Aug. 23, 1989, as the Soviet Union was weakening, the gesture was a powerful expression on the part of Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians that they were not giving up on their independence even after decades of Soviet occupation.“People holding hands can be stronger than people holding guns,” said Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas in a tweet.
The celebrations come as the inhabitants of the three nations _ and many beyond _ worry about Russia’s renewed ambitions to influence the region.“We must remember the courage and dreams of the participants. But let it also be a reminder that freedom and democracy can never be taken for granted,” Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement.The Baltic News Service recalled Friday that then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said Moscow “started realizing very clearly that the three Baltic nations were moving toward political independence.”The main commemorations are taking place in Vilnius, the capital of the southern-most Baltic country, and along the Lithuania-Latvia border, with a relay-race and an exhibition. In the evening, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda will host a concert in central Vilnius.In the Latvian capital of Riga, the three Baltic prime ministers will lay wreaths at the foot of a freedom monument.
The chain has inspired others, including a 2008 human chain in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, where a crowd of at least 100,000 people jammed Tbilisi’s main avenue.In Hong-Kong, protesters planned Friday to form a 40-kilometer (25-mile) human chain to demand more freedoms from China, saying it was inspired by the “Baltic Way.”The Baltic countries declared their independence from Russia in 1918 but were annexed to the Soviet Union in 1940. Friday’s events also marked the 80th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a secret agreement between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany that led to the occupation of the Baltic states and Poland.The Baltic nations remained part of the Soviet Union until 1991.

Putin Orders ‘Symetric’ Measures After US Missile Test

President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian military to find a quid pro quo response after the test of a new U.S. missile banned under a now-defunct arms treaty.
In Sunday’s test, a modified ground-launched version of a Navy Tomahawk cruise missile accurately struck its target more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) away. The test came after the U.S. and Russia withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
The U.S. has explained its withdrawal from the treaty by Russian violations, a claim Moscow has denied. Speaking Friday, Putin charged that the U.S. wanted to untie its hands to deploy the previously banned missiles in different parts of the world.''
He ordered the Defense Ministry and other agencies to
take the necessary measures to prepare a symmetrical answer.” 

App Helps African Farmers Detect Crop Disease

A team of Cameroonian entrepreneurs has created a mobile application that helps the farmers detect crop disease.  The app also proposes treatments and offers prevention measures. In Binguela, Cameroon, Anne Nzouankeu has this report narrated by Moki Edwin Kindzeka.

Navalny Released from Jail, Predicts Bigger Opposition Protests 

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Friday used his first statement after being released from jail to predict that opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin and protests against the authorities would only grow.Navalny, who tries to garner popular support by exposing what he says is appalling official corruption, was speaking minutes after being freed from prison where he had served 30 days for encouraging a protest calling for free elections.“Now we see that lies and fraud are not enough for them. It’s not enough for them to ban candidates from an election. They deliberately want to arrest dozens and to beat up hundreds. … This shows that there is no support for this regime. They feel this and they are afraid,” Navalny told reporters.“I have no doubt that despite genuine acts of intimidation and terror that are happening now as random people are being arrested that this wave (of protests) will increase, and this regime will seriously regret what it has done,” he said.Call for demonstrationsThe 43-year-old lawyer and activist was jailed last month after calling for people to demonstrate in central Moscow over the exclusion of opposition candidates from a local election in the Russian capital next month.The election, though local, is seen as a dry run for a national parliamentary election due in 2021.The authorities’ refusal to register a slew of opposition candidates, including some of Navalny’s allies, on technical grounds has triggered the biggest sustained protest movement in Russia since 2011-2013, when protesters took to the streets against perceived electoral fraud.Police have briefly detained more than 2,000 people, launched criminal cases against around a dozen people for mass disorder, handed short jail terms to almost Navalny’s entire entourage and used force to disperse what they said were illegal protests.No ‘yellow vests’Putin said this week that authorities were handling the situation in line with the law and that he didn’t want “yellow vest” protests of the kind that have sprung up in France.The ruling United Russia party’s popularity rating is at its lowest since 2011, and Putin’s own personal rating has also declined because of discontent over falling living standards.However, at well over 60%, it is still high compared to many other world leaders. Putin, who first came to power in 1999 and is now 66, won re-election last year on a landslide with a six-year term that ends in 2024.Navalny on Friday thanked people for taking to the streets and lauded what he said was the bravery of those opposition candidates excluded from the election.“They are doing their best. And in them we see real new opposition,” he said. “And I am very happy about it.”

Biarritz Prepares for G7, Leaders Brace for Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump and leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan will be in France this weekend for the annual Group of Seven, or G-7 summit. The summit host, French President Emmanuel Macron, has declared there will be no communique at the end of the summit because of disagreements between President Trump and the other leaders on key issues. White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has this report.

US, Russia Bicker Over Collapse of INF Treaty at UN  

The United States and Russia traded accusations Thursday at the U.N. Security Council over the recent collapse of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.“We are here today because the Russian Federation preferred a world in which the United States continued to fulfill its INF Treaty obligations, while the Russian Federation did not,” U.S. envoy Jonathan Cohen told council members. United Nations Acting U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen holds a press briefing after a closed meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the Mideast, June 13, 2019 at U.N. headquarters.The U.S. withdrew from the treaty on Aug. 2, in order to develop its own warheads after the Russians refused to destroy their new missiles, which NATO said violated the pact. “Indeed, the Russian Federation and China would still like a world where the United States exercises self-restraint while the Russian Federation and China continue their arms build-ups unabated and unabashed,” Cohen added. The United States says Russia and China are upgrading and diversifying their nuclear weapons capabilities and their arsenals are likely to grow significantly over the next decade. Russia, which called Thursday’s meeting along with ally China, accused Washington of wanting to “flex their muscles.”China’s new United Nations Ambassador Zhang Jun address a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the Mideast, Aug. 20, 2019 at U.N. headquarters.“It is unacceptable to use China as an excuse for leaving the treaty,” Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun responded. “China rejects the baseless accusations by the United States.”Zhang said China has a defensive military policy and its missiles are deployed within its territory. He urged Moscow and Washington to engage in dialogue to resolve their differences. China, as well as several other council members, expressed concern that another disarmament agreement between Russia and the U.S. — the nuclear arms reduction treaty known as New START — is due to expire in February 2021 and urged the parties to renew it. The European members of the Security Council, who are part of the NATO alliance, expressed support for the U.S. position, each blaming Moscow for bearing the “sole responsibility” for the INF’s demise.“Over a long period, Russia violated the INF Treaty by secretly developing and deploying non-compliant missiles; specifically a mobile-launch missile system, the 9M729,” said Britain’s political coordinator Stephen Hickey. “These missiles are hard to find, rapidly deployable and can target European cities with conventional or nuclear warheads.”He said Russia refused to acknowledge their existence until the U.S. identified the missile using its Russian designation. Council members from Africa, Latin America and the Middle East avoided finger pointing, but expressed fears the treaty’s collapse would trigger a new arms race. They said Russia and the U.S. have a special responsibility as nuclear powers and should cooperate. South Africa’s U.N. Ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila addresses the United Nations Security Council, at U.N. headquarters, Jan. 22, 2019.“The total elimination of nuclear weapons and the legally-binding assurance that they will never be produced again is the only guarantee that these weapons will never be used,” said South African Ambassador Jerry Matjila. The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the United States and Soviet Union eliminated missiles capable of traveling 500 to 5,500 kilometers. It was a key achievement of post-Cold War arms control in Europe.