“Russia sanctions: EU vows to retaliate over US measures”
The European Union has expressed concern about US plans to impose fresh sanctions on Russia, amid concern they could hurt energy companies.
The EU Commission sounded the alarm after the US House of Representatives voted in favor of the measures, despite opposition from Donald Trump. The bill is likely to complicate the US president’s hopes of improving relations with Russia. It aims to punish Russia for alleged interference in the 2016 US election. In a statement, the Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: «The EU is fully committed to the Russia sanctions regime.» But he warned of «unintended unilateral effects that impact the EU’s energy security interests». Several European nations, including Germany, are angry because the new law could penalize companies working on pipelines from Russia, for example by limiting their access to US banks. The legislation, which also includes sanctions against Iran and North Korea over ballistic missile tests, still needs to be passed through the US Senate before it can be sent on to the president to be signed. It is unclear whether the president will veto it.
What concerns the White House is a measure that limits the president’s traditional right to waive the sanctions, instead forcing him to consult Congress first, says the BBC’s state department correspondent Barbara Plett-Usher. Russia’s relationship with the president has dogged his first six months in office, amid allegations Moscow interfered to help Mr. Trump get elected.
“Oil Climbs from Seven-Week High on Signs U.S. Stockpiles Plunged”
Oil extended gains from the highest close in seven weeks as industry data showed U.S. crude stockpiles plunged, easing a glut. Futures climbed as much as 1.5 percent in New York after rising 4.6 percent in the previous two sessions. Inventories tumbled by 10.2 million barrels last week, the American Petroleum Institute was said to report. If that decline is replicated in government data Wednesday, it would be the biggest since September. The United Arab Emirates reiterated its commitment to OPEC production cuts and said it would deepen its own curbs.
Oil has traded below $50 a barrel since May amid concern that rising global output will offset reduced flows from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies including Russia. While U.S. crude stockpiles continue to decline during a period of strong seasonal demand, they remain about 100 million barrels above the five-year average.
West Texas Intermediate for September delivery rose as much as 70 cents to $48.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and was at $48.36 as of 8:48 a.m. local time. Total volume traded was about 7 percent above the 100-day average. Prices gained $1.55 to $47.89 on Tuesday, the highest close since June 6.
U.S. gasoline stockpiles increased by 1.9 million barrels last week, the API said Tuesday, according to people familiar with the data. Analysts polled by Bloomberg gauged the decline in crude inventories at 3 million barrels, according to the median estimate. The Energy Information Administration will release its report later on Wednesday.
“Trump to reinstate US military ban on transgender people”
President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving «in any capacity» in the US armed forces.
The decision reversed a policy initially approved by the Defense Department under President Barack Obama, which was still under final review, that would allow transgender individuals to openly serve in the military. Defense Secretary James Mattis announced last month that he was delaying enactment of the plan to begin allowing transgender individuals to join the US military.
«After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,» Trump said in a series of tweets Wednesday morning. «Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.»
The study put the number of transgender people in the military between 1,320 and 6,630. Gender-change surgery is rare in the general population, and the RAND study estimated the possibility of 30 to 140 new hormone treatments a year in the military, with 25 to 130 gender transition-related surgeries among active service members. The cost could range from $2.4 million and $8.4 million, an amount that would represent an «exceedingly small proportion» of total health care expenditures, the study found.
“Declassified Memos Show Obama’s NSA Spied on Americans Way More Than You Thought”
Back in May the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) found that the National Security Agency (NSA), under former President Obama, routinely violated American privacy protections while scouring through overseas intercepts and failed to disclose the extent of the problems until the final days before Donald Trump was elected president last fall.
«The October 26, 2016 Notice disclosed that an NSA Inspector General (IG) review…indicated that, with greater frequency than previously disclosed to the Court, NSA analysts had used U.S.-person identifiers to query the result of Internet «upstream» collection, even though NSA’s section 702 minimization procedures prohibited such queries…this disclosure gave the Court substantial concern.»
The court order went on to reveal that NSA analysts had been conducting illegal queries targeting American citizens «with much greater frequency than had previously been disclosed to the Court», an issue which the court described as a «very serious Fourth Amendment issue.»
Now, new memos obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) via a FOIA request detail even more violations that occurred during the Obama administration which include everything from illegally survielling people on U.S. soil to sharing unredacted documents that included unmasked names of American citizens.