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Trump trade war to become reality as China tariffs hit

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U.S. accuses Iran of ‘extortion’ after uranium enrichment boost

….Couple in UK exposed to same poison as ex-Russian spy***

After months of threats and dwindling hopes the two sides would pull back from the brink of all-out trade war, steep US tariffs on tens of billions in Chinese goods are due to take effect at midnight Thursday.

China already has announced it will respond in kind on the same schedule as the United States while President Donald Trump has countered with a threat to double down by progressively ratcheting US penalties up to a total of $450 billion in goods — which would represent the lion’s share of all of China’s exports to the United States.

Trump’s escalating global trade dispute has already affected the economy, with punitive duties now in place for steel and aluminum and the White House threatening slap duties on auto imports.

Prices are rising, especially for steel and aluminum, and companies are starting to feel reticent about investments or plan to shift production overseas to avoid retaliation against US exports.

Trump says the measures are aimed at leveling the playing field for American companies, which he says will become more competitive.

But for firms like Mid-Continent Nail Corporation in Missouri, the largest US nail manufacturer, rising steel prices have meant immediate job losses and threaten to force the company to shut down operations altogether.

Tariffs start Friday
Trump initially threatened to hit China with 25 percent tariffs on a list of goods worth $50 billion annually, over what Washington says is the rampant theft of US technical know-how.

But the list was pared down to 818 product categories worth more than $34 billion after US companies requested exemptions for key imports.

A second tranche of 284 goods valued at $16 billion — which would bring the total to $50 billion — will be targeted after they undergo an additional process of review and public comment, which could lead to a lower total.

The tariffs hit a broad spectrum of Chinese goods — like passenger vehicles, radio transmitters, aircraft parts and computer hard drives — from industries the Trump administration says have benefited from unfair trade practices.

Beijing will hit back with tariffs initially on nearly $30 billion in US goods, also taking effect Friday, including vehicles and many agricultural and food products, such as soybeans, which will hit US farmers hard.

The remaining $15 billion would be imposed in the second phase would target crude oil, propane and chemicals.

Added to the tariffs are the increased scrutiny on Chinese investments in the United States, which the government says are sensitive for economic or national security reasons, which already has reduced incoming investment.

Economic threat
Economists have for months warned of the potential damage to the US and global economies from aggressive trade policies that evolve into protectionism, which would raise prices and upend global supply chains.

The Trump team has paid little heed to those concerns and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross this week called the warnings “premature and probably quite inaccurate.”

Trump himself tweeted this week that the economy is doing “perhaps better than ever” even “prior to fixing some of the worst and most unfair Trade Deals ever made by any country.”

But American businesses increasingly are raising their voices in alarm about the potential for dire consequences.

The influential US Chamber of Commerce, with headquarters just steps from the White House, urged Trump this week to reconsider his actions, saying the counter-tariffs now affected $75 billion in American exports and endangered US jobs.

While Trump touts announcements of jobs created in steel plants due to the tariffs, manufacturing industries warn that many more jobs will be lost in companies producing autos, auto parts, appliances and other goods that depend on imported components.

One study said the losses could reach as high as 400,000 jobs.

Iconic American motorcycle brand Harley Davidson announced plans to move production overseas to evade the EU’s retaliatory tariffs, drawing a barrage of attacks on Twitter from Trump.

But a manufacturing survey from the Institute for Supply Management shows they are not alone, while other companies say uncertainty is delaying investment plans.

The trade war arrives with many companies already struggling to find workers and facing backlogs to receive supplies.

Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, warned the tit-for-tat cycle of retaliation would create “losers on both sides.”

In the meantime, two people in England have been confirmed to have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok, the same chemical weapon that was used against an ex-Russian spy earlier this year.

British police at Scotland Yard confirmed that the mysterious agent that appears to have caused a couple in their 40s to become critically ill was Novichuk.

The couple collapsed at a residence four days ago, The Associated Press reported. The couple were found collapsed eight miles from where the former Russian spy and his daughter were found after being exposed to the same agent four months ago, the AP reported.

Police first thought the couple, identified by friends to the AP as 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, 45, were suffering as a result of using contaminated heroin or crack cocaine.

Neil Basu, the assistant commissioner for specialist operations which handles counter terrorism operations in the U.K., said that the latest victims are both British nationals and are local to the area. An ambulance was called to a residence in Amesbury following the woman collapsed shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday morning, and another ambulance was called that afternoon in response to the collapse of the man.

The initial assessment by doctors suggested they had fallen ill from contaminated drugs but on Monday, “due to concerns over the symptoms the man and woman were displaying,” samples from the patients were sent to a different laboratory for further study, Basu said in a statement. That further analysis led to the conclusion that the couple had been contaminated with the same nerve agent that was used in the earlier attack.

The couple are in critical condition and are being treated in a hospital.

Investigators concluded that they were exposed to the same type of nerve agent as the former spy and his daughter, but they are unsure if it was from the same batch.

He said that there is no evidence that the latest individuals were targeted in any way, noting that there is nothing in their background to suggest that they would be targeted. The object that contaminated them has not yet been identified, Basu said.

Back in March, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were exposed to Novichuk.

Sergei Skripal was unconscious for a month after the attack and his daughter Yulia was unconscious for three weeks.

Basu said that there is no evidence that the new victims visited areas that had been decontaminated in the wake of the Skripal case. Several areas where the latest victims may have been leading up to their collapse have been cordoned off as a precaution.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Sally Davies said that the risk of contamination to the general public remains low but anyone who may have visited any area that is now cordoned off between now and Friday evening should take precautions to was their clothes and wipe down shoes and bags. She also warned the public to be careful picking up any unknown items.

Guardian NG with additional report from ABC

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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

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The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

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Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

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A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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