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Iran defies US sanction, sends five fuel tankers to Venezuela!

he news breaking at this hour is that the Iranian regime sent five Oil tankers to deliver a much-needed fuel to Venezuela. The report has it that one of the vessels entered the Venezuelan waters, a moment ago.

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Hassan Rouhan

The news breaking at this hour is that the Iranian regime sent five Oil tankers to deliver much-needed gasoline to Venezuela. The report has it that one of the vessels entered the Venezuelan waters, a moment ago.

The oil tanker Fortune encountered no signs of US interference as it eased through Caribbean waters toward the Venezuelan coast late on Saturday. Venezuelan officials celebrated the arrival.

In a tweet, the Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Arreaza said, “Iran and Venezuela have always supported each other in times of difficulty,” “Today, the first ship with gasoline arrives for our people.”

Hassan Rouhan
Hassan Rouhan

 Hassan Rouhani, had earlier warned of retaliatory measures, should the Trump administration takes any action, that would impede the deliveries. The story is still developing. Please expect more updates.

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Fact Checks’: Medical journal refutes Trump’s claims about the WHO

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Trump and WhO

A British medical journal Tuesday rebutted claims by President Donald Trump that the World Health Organization had consistently ignored reports of the virus spreading in China in early December, including ones featured in its publication.

In a letter published Monday, Trump’s excoriated WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying the organization had “failed to independently investigate credible reports that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts.”

“This statement is factually incorrect,” The Lancet, a general medical journal, responded in a statement. “The Lancet published no report in December 2019, referring to a virus or outbreak in Wuhan or anywhere else in China.”

The journal said the first reports it published were on January 24, adding that the scientists and physicians who led one of the studies were all from Chinese institutions.

“They worked with us to quickly make information about this new epidemic outbreak and the disease it caused fully and freely available to an international audience,” the statement said.

A second Lancet paper, also published on January 24, described the first scientific evidence confirming person-to-person transmission of the new virus, according to the journal. This report included scientists and physicians from Hong Kong and mainland China, it added.

The Lancet said allegations leveled against WHO in Trump’s letter were “serious and damaging” to efforts to strengthen international cooperation to control this pandemic.

“It is essential that any review of the global response is based on a factually accurate account of what took place in December and January,” the publication added.

Trump’s letter came as tensions ran high at the WHO’s general assembly Monday, with calls for an independent inquiry of the health body’s handling of the crisis and further criticism from the U.S. delegation.

Some observers say the WHO was far too credulous in believing Beijing’s reassurances, which it then amplified uncritically to the wider world.

In his letter, Trump also accused WHO of “missteps” and threatened to make the freeze on U.S. funding for the organization permanent.

Trump’s letter, which was posted to his Twitter account and cane during the World Health Assembly, accused the organization of an “alarming lack of independence from the People’s Republic of China.”

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190,000 Africans may die of COVID-19 in 2020 – WHO

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On Thursday, the World Health Organisation warned that Africa could lose up to 190,000 lives to COVID-19 in 2020 if containment measures fail.

The UN health agency cited a new study by its regional office in Brazzaville which found that between 83,000 and 190,000 could die and 29 to 44 million be infected during the period.

The research is based on prediction modelling and covers 47 countries with a total population of one billion, the WHO said in a statement.

“The model predicts the observed slower rate of transmission, lower age of people with severe disease and lower mortality rates compared to what is seen in the most affected countries in the rest of the world,” the statement said.

“The lower rate of transmission, however, suggests a more prolonged outbreak over a few years.”

WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti said that “while COVID-19 likely won’t spread as exponentially in Africa as it has elsewhere in the world, it likely will smoulder in transmission hotspots”. 

“COVID-19 could become a fixture in our lives for the next several years unless a proactive approach is taken by many governments in the region,” he added. “We need to test, trace, isolate and treat.”

Smaller countries as well as Algeria, South Africa and Cameroon were at exceptionally high risk unless effective containment measures were in force, the WHO said.

Africa has so far recorded 53,334 cases and 2,065 fatalities – out of a global death toll of nearly 267,000 -according to an AFP tally.

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Uber Cuts 3,700 Jobs

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Uber cuts 3,700 jobs amid a massive slump in its ride-hailing operations during the pandemic.

The cuts amount to around 14 percent of Uber’s global workforce, which does not include its contract drivers.

The company announced a regulatory filing, which also said chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi would waive his base salary for the remainder of the year.

The move comes a day ahead of Uber’s earnings report and follows a 17 percent staff cut by its US rival Lyft.

“Today’s cost-cutting move ahead of tomorrow’s earnings is a painful, but unfortunately a necessary, move for Dara & co. to make in this unprecedented COVID-19 environment,” said Daniel Ives at Wedbush Securities.

“On the other side of this dark valley, the Uber business model will likely look a lot different for the next few years (at least), and the company must rationalize costs and a smaller operation to focus on attaining profitability in this ‘new normal’ backdrop.”

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Additional $319m Abacha loot in UK, France – US

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The United States says there is a separate $319m (N121bn) loot by the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, in the United Kingdom and France barely a week after helping to repatriate $311m (N118bn).

The US Embassy in Nigeria said in a statement on Wednesday that there is $167m in stolen assets in France while there is a separate $152m in the UK which is being challenged in court.

The statement read in part, “The funds returned last week are distinct and separate from an additional $167m in stolen assets also forfeited in the United Kingdom and France, as well as $152m still in active litigation in the United Kingdom.”

Bloomberg had reported that the repatriation of the $152m (now $155m due to interest) to Nigeria is being challenged by the UK and the US because of alleged plans by the Nigerian government to give $110m out of the money to Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, a known associate of the late Abacha.

Nigeria is seeking the approval of a UK court to take ownership of the assets before returning 70 percent of the proceeds to Bagudu under the terms of a 2018 deal, according to Bloomberg.

Nigeria’s Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has, however, denied ever entering a deal with Bagudu but court papers say otherwise.

The UK government’s National Crime Agency is also “opposing the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s application,” according to a motion filed by Bagudu’s brother, Ibrahim, to the District Court for the District of Columbia in the US capital on March 30.

The US Department of Justice said in February that its Nigerian counterpart is hindering its efforts to recover the allegedly laundered money from the UK.

Bagudu was part of a network controlled by Abacha that “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria,” according to the US Department of Justice.

While successive Nigerian governments have repatriated billions of dollars looted by Abacha, who died in office in 1998, the current regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), said it is prevented from assisting America’s ongoing forfeiture efforts by an agreement between Bagudu and a previous government in 2003.

Abacha is estimated to have stolen as much as $5bn during his five-year rule.

That 2003 settlement, which was approved by a UK court, allowed Bagudu to return $163m to Nigeria “without admitting to wrongdoing,” according to US court filings.

Bagudu was elected a senator in 2009 and the governor of Kebbi State six years later.

Meanwhile, the US has said the $311m that was repatriated to Nigeria last week must be used by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority for three infrastructure projects in strategic economic zones across Nigeria, as authorised by the Nigerian government.

The recovered funds will help finance the construction of the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and the Abuja-Kano road, the US said.

The agreement includes mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of these projects as well as external oversight.

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