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Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19

Source: OSCE

In Donetsk region the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations[1] than during the previous day.

The SMM camera in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) recorded 56 undetermined explosions at an unknown distance to the north-east on the night of 7 August.

Whilst in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), on the night of 7 August, the SMM heard 38 explosions assessed as impacts of rounds from undetermined weapons 4-7km south-east of its position.

While in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka, the SMM heard 12 undetermined explosions 10-12km north-north-west of its position on the evening of 7 August.

On 8 August, positioned at the “DPR”-controlled Donetsk central railway station (6km north-west of the city centre), the SMM heard 20 explosions assessed as artillery rounds: 11 assessed as outgoing artillery rounds 2-4km north-west, seven assessed as impacts of 152mm artillery rounds and two as airbursts of 152mm artillery rounds 2.5-3.5km north-east.

Read more: http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/258361

"The OSCE has a comprehensive approach to security that encompasses politico-military, economic and environmental, and human aspects. It therefore addresses a wide range of security-related concerns, including arms control, confidence- and security-building measures, human rights, national minorities, democratization, policing strategies, counter-terrorism and economic and environmental activities. All 57 participating States enjoy equal status, and decisions are taken by consensus on a politically, but not legally binding basis."

As usual, the actual events are more numerous and carried out by both sides of the conflict than reported in the press. Unfiltered reports are available daily from the OSCE for the conflict in the eastern Ukraine.

Russia's Putin, Britain's May agree to meet to try to thaw frosty ties

Source: Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke by phone on Tuesday and agreed to meet "in the near future" to try to improve poor relations between Moscow and London, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Both leaders are due to attend a G20 summit in China early next month, giving them an opportunity to meet for the first time since May became prime minister in July.

Relations between Russia and Britain are strained by differences over Ukraine and Syria as well as by what London says is a sharp increase in flights by long-range Russian bombers near British air space.

The Kremlin said Putin and May had agreed to try to work to ensure that the two countries' intelligence services communicated with one another properly and to improve air safety, a reference to Russian military flights.

Both leaders had expressed dissatisfaction about the current state of Russian-British relations, the Kremlin said, adding that the phone call had taken place at Britain's initiative.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-britain-idUSKCN10K285

China backs GMO soybeans in push for high-tech agriculture

Source: Reuters

China will push for the commercialization of genetically modified soybeans over the next five years as it seeks to raise the efficiency of its agriculture sector, potentially boosting output of the crop by the world's top soy importer and consumer.

China, which has spent billions of dollars researching GMO crops, has already embraced the technology for cotton but has not yet permitted the cultivation of any biotech food crops amid fears from some consumers over perceived health risks.

In its latest five-year plan for science and technology to 2020, China for the first time outlined specific GMO crops to be developed, including soybeans - used in food products such as tofu and soy sauce and for animal feed - and corn.

The blueprint, published on the government's website on Monday, recommended "pushing forward the commercialization of new pest-resistant cotton, pest-resistant corn and herbicide-resistant soybeans".

The use of the technology for corn was flagged in April when an agriculture official said that Beijing could greenlight GMO crops in the next five years. Corn is used mostly for animal feed and industrial products like starch and sweeteners and a move to biotech crops could be less contentious than with soybeans.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-gmo-idUSKCN10L0NX

EU making 'serious mistakes' over failed Turkish coup - Turkish minister

Source: Reuters

The European Union is making serious mistakes in its response to Turkey's failed coup and is losing support for EU membership from Turks as a result, Turkey's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

In an interview with the state-run Anadolu agency, Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey's rapprochement with Russia was not meant as a message to the West. However, he said if the West "loses" Turkey it will be because of its own mistakes, not Ankara's good ties with Russia, China or the Islamic world.

His comments reflect the deep frustration in Turkey over the perception that Europe and the United States have given lukewarm support to Ankara after the failed July 15 coup, when a faction of the military commandeered tanks and warplanes in an attempt to topple the government.

"Unfortunately the EU is making some serious mistakes. They have failed the test following the coup attempt," he said in the interview, which was broadcast live.

"Support for EU membership used to be around 50 percent of the population, I assume it is around 20 percent now," he said.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/uk-russia-turkey-europe-minister-idUSKCN10L0SD

Florida says four new locally transmitted Zika cases, Congress must act on funds

Source: Reuters

Florida has four new cases of people likely infected with Zika through mosquito bites in Miami, Governor Rick Scott said on Tuesday, as he urged Congress to reconvene and approve additional money to combat the virus.

The additional cases are all in a one-square mile area in Miami-Dade County that includes Miami's Wynwood district, Scott said, bringing the total of locally transmitted cases in the state to 21.

"Every day that passes that Congress and the president fail to come to an agreement hinders our national response to Zika," Scott said in a statement. "The federal government must stop playing politics and Congress needs to immediately come back to session to resolve this."

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-zika-florida-idUSKCN10K269

China to UK: 'golden' ties at crucial juncture over nuclear delay

Source: Reuters

China has cautioned Britain against closing the door to Chinese money and said relations were at a crucial juncture after Prime Minister Theresa May delayed signing off on a $24 billion nuclear power project.

In China's sternest warning to date over May's surprise decision to review the building of Britain's first nuclear plant in decades, Beijing's ambassador to London said that Britain could face power shortages unless May approved the Franco-Chinese deal.

"The China-UK relationship is at a crucial historical juncture. Mutual trust should be treasured even more," Liu Xiaoming wrote in the Financial Times.

"I hope the UK will keep its door open to China and that the British government will continue to support Hinkley Point — and come to a decision as soon as possible so that the project can proceed smoothly."

The comments signal deep frustration in Beijing at May's move to delay, her most striking corporate intervention since winning power in the political turmoil which followed Britain's June 23 referendum to leave the European Union.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-nuclear-china-idUSKCN10K15Y

Americans of both major parties say infrastructure has worsened; want more spending: poll

Source: Reuters

Nearly half of registered U.S. voters think American infrastructure has deteriorated in the last five years, a national poll released on Tuesday found, with Republicans taking the dimmer view.

While the poll showed that a bipartisan majority believes more infrastructure funding would positively affect the economy, those surveyed held different views on the nation's recent infrastructure changes.

Forty-one percent of Democrats said infrastructure has gotten worse over the last five years, while 53 percent of Republicans took that view.

Republican voters tend to be older and male, and Democratic voters younger and more diverse, said Kip Eideberg, vice president of public affairs and advocacy for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, which commissioned the poll.
"The older voters tend to be more pessimistic and they tend to have a view that it was a lot better in the past, whereas younger voters tend to be more optimistic," Eideberg told Reuters.

The poll surveyed 1,975 registered voters between June 17-20. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-infrastructure-poll-idUSKCN10K0YI

Iraq's Mosul residents feel relief, anxiety as 'liberation' nears

Source: Reuters

As Iraqi forces prepare to attack Islamic State in its de facto capital of Mosul, residents inside the city and others who have managed to escape expressed relief at the prospect their home could be liberated from the extremist group's harsh rule.

But they also warned that if the assault is successful, the city's Sunni-majority population would refuse to return to what they called the repressive yoke imposed by the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad in the past.

The Iraqi army and its elite units that will lead the offensive are gradually taking up positions around the city 400 km (248 miles) north of Baghdad, from whose Grand Mosque in 2014 Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate spanning regions of Iraq and Syria.

The offensive is slated for late September, said Hisham al-Hashimi, who works for the government as a consultant on IS affairs and is author of the book "The World of Daesh" (IS).

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-mosul-idUSKCN10J1CM

And what will be left of Mosul after liberation? The aftermath of the liberation of Ramadi is not encouraging:

"Iraq routed ISIS from Ramadi at a high cost: A city destroyed

RAMADI, Iraq — This is what victory looks like in the Iraqi city of Ramadi: In the once thriving Haji Ziad Square, not a single structure still stands. Turning in every direction yields a picture of devastation.

A building that housed a pool hall and ice cream shops — reduced to rubble. A row of money changers and motorcycle repair garages — obliterated, a giant bomb crater in its place. The square's Haji Ziad Restaurant, beloved for years by Ramadi residents for its grilled meats — flattened. The restaurant was so popular its owner built a larger, fancier branch across the street three years ago. That, too, is now a pile of concrete and twisted iron rods.

The destruction extends to nearly every part of Ramadi, once home to 1 million people and now virtually empty. A giant highway cloverleaf at the main entrance to the city is partially toppled. Apartment block after apartment block has been crushed . Along a residential street, the walls of homes have been shredded away, exposing furniture and bedding. Graffiti on the few homes still standing warn of explosives inside.

When Iraqi government forces backed by U.S.-led warplanes wrested this city from Islamic State militants after eight months of ISIS control, it was heralded as a major victory. But the cost of winning Ramadi has been the city itself."


New images suggest China has built reinforced hangars on disputed islands: think tank

Source: Reuters

Recent satellite photographs show China appears to have built reinforced aircraft hangars on its holdings in the disputed South China Sea, according to a Washington-based think tank.

Pictures taken in late July show the hangars constructed on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs in the Spratly islands, have room for any fighter jet in the Chinese air force, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

"Except for a brief visit by a military transport plane to Fiery Cross Reef earlier this year, there is no evidence that Beijing has deployed military aircraft to these outposts. But the rapid construction of reinforced hangars at all three features indicates that this is likely to change," CSIS said in a report.

The United States has urged China and other claimants not to militarize their holdings in the South China Sea.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southchinasea-china-images-idUSKCN10K08P

Yes, militarizing the South China Sea is bad. We all agree with that...

"Carrier Strike Group 5 conducts patrol in South China Sea

SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) -- Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5, including the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and USS Shiloh (CG 67); Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 and aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea.

Prior to their operations in the South China Sea, the ships and aircraft within the strike group have been operating in the Philippine Sea to maintain improve their readiness and develop their cohesion as a strike group.

CSG 5 partnered with the John C. Stennis Strike Group June 18-19, to conduct Dual Carrier operations, maintaining the interoperability between the ships and the embarked air wings.

"Our forward-deployed ships are operating here to maintain the seas open for all to use," said Rear Admiral John D. Alexander, commander, Task Force 70 (CTF 70). "The U.S. Navy has flown, sailed and operated throughout the Western Pacific in accordance with international law for over a century, and will continue to do so."

In recent months, many U.S. Navy ships have conducted similar events in the 7th Fleet area of operations including the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Decatur (DDG 73), USS Momsen (DDG 92) and USS Spruance (DDG 111) as part of 3rd Fleet's Pacific Surface Action Group."

Banned from working, asylum seekers are building Japan's roads and sewers

Source: Reuters

Even as authorities insist they leave, Kurdish migrants are working without permits on government projects. Japan’s strict immigration rules combined with a shrinking work population has spawned a black market in labor.

WARABI, Japan – Mazlum Balibay paves Japan’s roads, digs its sewers and lays its water pipes – all for a country that doesn’t want him.

Balibay, 24, is a Kurdish asylum seeker who fled to Japan more than eight years ago after he said his family was persecuted by Turkish security forces who tortured his father. He has since been on provisional release from immigration detention, which means he is barred from working while the immigration authorities consider his application for asylum and could be detained again at any time.

But the ban hasn’t stopped Balibay from providing the muscle on a slew of public works projects funded by a government that refers to people like him as “undesirable.”

“Japan bans us from working, but everyone knows that without foreigners this country’s in trouble,” said Balibay. “Construction jobs won’t get done. There aren’t enough workers and young Japanese can’t do these jobs. The government knows that better than anyone.”

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/japan-kurds/
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