Iraq seeks exemption from U.S. sanctions on Iran, PM says

admin   •   December 12, 2018   •   1821

Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate Adel Abdul Mahdi | Iraqi Parliament Office/Handout via REUTERS

Iraq will send a delegation to the United States seeking an exemption from sanctions against Iran that would allow it to keep importing Iranian gas, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday (December 12).

Washington gave Iraq a 45-day waiver for imports of gas from Iran when it reimposed sanctions on Iran‘s oil sector on Nov. 5. Iraqi officials have said they need around two years to find an alternative source.

Washington is seeking to roll back Iranian influence in the Middle East, including in Iraq, where Iran holds broad sway over politics and trade.

Abdul Mahdi, who assumed office in October after six months of political uncertainty following an inconclusive election, on Tuesday met U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry in Baghdad.

Abdul Mahdi’s office said Perry was in Baghdad with a delegation of over 50 business people. — Reuters

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Brazilians scramble to board last U.S. flights ahead of travel ban

UNTV News   •   May 26, 2020

Brazilians scrambled Monday (May 25) to make last-minute arrangements to get to the United States ahead of new restrictions on travel from Brazil.

A handful of passengers were seen at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport preparing to board a United Flight to Houston Monday after the U.S. government brought the restrictions forward by two days as the number of deaths from the new coronavirus in the South American nation surpassed the U.S. daily toll.

A White House statement amended the timing of the start of the restrictions to 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, May 26 (0359 GMT on Wednesday, May 27) instead of May 28 as in the original announcement on Sunday (May 24).

Two days earlier, Brazil overtook Russia as the world’s No. 2 coronavirus hotspot after the United States. Washington’s ban applies to foreigners traveling to the United States if they had been in Brazil in the last two weeks.

Brazil’s coronavirus deaths reported in the last 24 hours were higher than fatalities in the United States for the first time on Monday, according to the health ministry. Brazil registered 807 deaths and 620 died in the United States.

Brazil has 374,898 cases, behind the U.S. with 1.637 million. Total deaths in the U.S. has reached 97,988, according to Reuters tally, compared with Brazil at 23,473.

The travel ban was a blow to right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has followed the example of U.S. President Donald Trump in addressing the pandemic, fighting calls for social distancing and touting unproven drugs. (Reuters)

(Production: Leonardo Benassatto)

U.S. COVID-19 cases top 1.25 million

UNTV News   •   May 8, 2020

The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States reached 1,254,750 as of late Thursday Eastern Daylight Time, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the disease in the country hit 75,649.

As a result of the pandemic which continues to sweep the nation, the number of initial jobless claims in the U.S. totaled 3.169 million last week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on Thursday.

That number has been above three million for seven consecutive weeks.

In the week ending May 2, the number of Americans filing for U.S. unemployment benefits decreased by 677,000 from the number of 3,846,000 in the prior week, the fifth weekly decline in a row.

So far, the seven-week total has surpassed a staggering 33.5 million, indicating the scope of COVID-19’s damage to the U.S. labor market.

As COVID-19 shutdowns rippled through the workforce, initial jobless claims spiked by three million to reach a record 3.3 million in the week ending March 21, then doubled to reach a record 6.87 million in the week ending March 28.

After that, figures have been declining, though still at historical highs.

Initial jobless claims totaled 6.62 million in the week ending April 4, fell to 5.2 million in the week ending April 11, dropped to 4.4 million in the week ending April 18, and then declined to 3.8 million in the week ending April 25.

The new BLS report also showed that the four-week moving average, a method to iron out data volatility, decreased by 861,500 to reach 4.2 million.

The newly released weekly jobless claim data came one day after payroll data company Automatic Data Processing, Inc. reported that private companies in the United States shed around 20.2 million jobs in April amid COVID-19 fallout. (Reuters)

US provides additional P298-M aid to PH COVID-19 fight

Robie de Guzman   •   May 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The United States (US) government has provided an additional P298 million ($5.9 million) to support the Philippines in the fight against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), its embassy in Manila announced on Thursday.

In a statement, the US Embassy said that the additional assistance brings the total amount of pandemic assistance to the Philippines to more than P768 million ($15.2 million).

As part of this assistance, the embassy said that the US Agency for International (USAID) will partner with 18 local governments to “promote effective crisis management and implement response plans.”

Funding will support local governments to rapidly disburse emergency funding and supplies, and strengthen the capacity of local crisis response centers to disseminate accurate and timely crisis response information, manage quarantine measures, set up public handwashing facilities, ensure food supply, and support local business recovery,” the embassy said.

Other activities funded through this new assistance tranche will provide supply chain analytics and promote a regulatory environment that facilitates logistics and transportation for food, medical products, and other essential goods.

To assist with small and micro-enterprise recovery, USAID will facilitate access to credit and provide grants and skills training to heavily affected sectors and communities.

“This latest assistance builds on our long-standing relationships with local government units across the Philippines, and represents our continued commitment to our Filipino friends, partners, and allies in this time of crisis,” U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said as he welcomed this new tranche of support to the Philippines.

The US Embassy said this new assistance also includes P44 million ($875,000) from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration for the International Committee of the Red Cross to support COVID-19 response in the Philippines, including increasing stocks of essential medical supplies and expanding hospital capacity, preventing the spread of disease in detention centers, and supporting resilience for vulnerable people and communities.

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