Українців, за попередніми даними, немає серед жертв вибуху в Кабулі – МЗС

У Міністерстві закордонних справ України перевіряють інформацію щодо можливої наявності українців серед жертв вибуху в Кабулі.

«За попередньою інформацією, українців немає серед жертв. Проте ця інформація потребує уточнення і зараз перевіряється», – заявив представник департаменту консульської служби МЗС України Василь Кирилич.

Крім того, у Twitter консульської служби вказано, що поки взагалі немає інформації про наявність іноземців серед жертв і потерпілих від вибуху.

За останніми даними, щонайменше 80 людей загинули і понад 350 були поранені в результаті потужного вибуху в центрі Кабула 31 травня. Серед жертв є багато жінок і дітей. Вибух біля президентського палацу та іноземних прогримів у годину-пік. Силовики повідомили, що вибухнула бомба, закладена в автомобілі.

Атака сталася у час так званого щорічного «весняного наступу» талібів.

«Терористи, навіть в священний місяць Рамадан, місяць добра, благословення і молитви, не припиняють вбивств наших невинних людей», – заявив президент Афганістану Ашраф Гані.

Відповідальності за атаку ніхто на себе не взяв.


Vietnam to Sign Deals for Up to $17B in US Goods, Services

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said Tuesday that he would sign deals for U.S. goods and services worth $15 billion to $17 billion during his visit to Washington, mainly for high-technology products and for services.

“Vietnam will increase the import of high technologies and services from the United States, and on the occasion of this visit, many important deals will be made,” Phuc told a U.S. Chamber of Commerce dinner.

Phuc, who is due to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday at the end of a three-day visit to the United States, did not provide further details of the transactions.

GE Power Chief Executive Officer Steve Bolze told the dinner that General Electric Co. would sign deals worth about $6 billion with Vietnam, but also offered no details.

Phuc’s comments came after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressed concern about the rapid growth of the U.S. trade deficit with Vietnam, saying this was a new challenge for the two countries and that he was looking to Phuc to help address it.

“Over the last decade, our bilateral trade deficit has risen from about $7 billion to nearly $32 billion,” Lighthizer said. “This concerning growth in our trade deficit presents new challenges and shows us that there is considerable potential to improve further our important trade relationship.”

Reducing deficits

Lighthizer and other Trump administration trade officials have pledged to work to reduce U.S. bilateral deficits with major trading partners. The $32 billion deficit with Vietnam last year — the sixth-largest U.S. trade deficit — reflects growing imports of Vietnamese semiconductors and other electronics products in addition to more traditional sectors such as footwear, apparel and furniture.

The trade issue has become a potential irritant in a relationship where Washington and Hanoi have stepped up security cooperation in recent years, given shared concerns about China’s increasingly assertive behavior in East Asia.

Phuc’s meeting with Trump makes him the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the White House under the new administration.

It reflected calls, letters, diplomatic contacts and lower-level visits that started long before Trump took office in Washington, where Vietnam retains a lobbyist at $30,000 a month.

Vietnam was disappointed when Trump ditched the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, in which Hanoi was expected to be one of the main beneficiaries, and focused U.S. trade policy on reducing deficits.


Burundi Paralyzed by Fuel Shortages as Leaders Blame Lack of Dollars

Fuel shortages have paralyzed the small central African nation of Burundi, threatening further damage to an economy already moribund after years of political violence and raising questions about the role of the country’s only oil importer.

The problem has damaged two big foreign investors, Kenya’s KenolKobil and South Africa’s Engen, a subsidiary of Malaysian parastatal Petronas.

The shortages, which forced the government to introduce rationing on May 16, have paralyzed commerce and caused food prices to jump by around a third, raising the prospect of a wave of economic migration. More than 400,000 people have already fled Burundi into the volatile central African region.

Anti-corruption campaigners said the fuel shortages became severe after Burundian company Interpetrol Trading Ltd. received the lions’ share of dollars that are allocated by the central bank to import fuel.

“The oil sector is undermined by favoritism and lack of transparency, because the rare hard currency available in the central bank reserves is given to one oil importer,” said Gabriel Rufyiri, head of anti-graft organization OLUCOME.

The central bank declined to answer Reuters’ questions.

Interpetrol’s lawyer, Sylvestre Banzubaze, said: “I am not associated with the day-to-day operations and only intervene on legal questions. You should address your questions directly to Interpetrol sources.”

He did not respond when asked for further contacts, and the company does not have a website.

Rufyiri said that government sources told him that the bulk of dollars for fuel purchasing had been allocated to Interpetrol since March this year.

Reuters confirmed with two other sources that Interpetrol received the bulk of dollar allocations. Other companies only received a small fraction of the dollars they needed, the sources said, severely damaging their businesses.

Earlier this month, South African petrol company Engen confirmed it had sold its assets in Burundi to Interpetrol.

Engen declined to comment further. KenolKobil also declined to comment, but Burundian citizens say most of their petrol stations have been closed for three months.

Sole importer

Interpetrol is now the sole oil importer and runs all the fuel storage tanks in the country, said an industry source.

Banzubaze said there was “no link” between Interpetrol’s shareholders and any member of the government.

But a 2011 U.S. State Department report described attempts by senior government officials to pressure judges into dropping a corruption case against the company, owned by brothers Munir and Tariq Bashir. Neither the government nor Interpetrol’s lawyer responded when asked about the status of the case.

Government officials blame dollar shortages on aid cuts that donors imposed after President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term in 2015, triggering a wave of political violence.

“These days, fuel importers don’t get enough dollars to bring petroleum products,” said Daniel Mpitabakana, the government’s director of fuel management.

Burundi’s economy shrank by 0.5 percent last year, and the International Monetary Fund expects no growth at all this year and 0.1 percent next year.

Black market prices for fuel range between 5,000 to 6,000 Burundi francs per liter, vendors said, double the official price of 2,200 francs.

The street exchange rate is 2,600 francs to the dollar, although it is just over 1,700 to the dollar at the central bank. Only the central bank can receive dollar deposits and allocate dollars to businesses.

In the capital, queues at empty petrol stations snaked around the block. One civil servant said he had taken the last three days off work to search for gas.

“I have no fuel for days and I don’t know if by chance will get it today,” he said, asking not to be named.

Burundi has also been battered by drought and almost two years of political instability. Hundreds of people were killed and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee abroad during the political violence, which still sometimes erupts in low-level clashes.

Almost 3 million of Burundi’s 11 million citizens are dependent on food aid, the U.N. says.


US Starts Providing Weapons to Syrian Kurds

The United States said Tuesday that it had begun distributing arms to Syrian Kurdish militia members battling to help retake Raqqa from Islamic State, moving ahead with a war plan that has angered NATO ally Turkey.

Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said the Kurdish fighters received small arms and vehicles from the U.S. military. He said he thought the arms were distributed earlier Tuesday.

Another U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the distribution of the arms had started in the past 24 hours, based on authority given by President Donald Trump earlier this month.

There was no immediate reaction from Turkey, which has warned the United States that its decision to arm Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State in Syria could end up hurting Washington.

Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and Europe.

U.S. partner

The United States regards the YPG as a valuable partner in the fight against Islamic State militants in northern Syria.

Washington says that arming the Kurdish forces is necessary to recapturing Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria and a hub for planning attacks against the West.

U.S. officials have told Reuters that the United States was also looking to boost intelligence cooperation with Turkey to support its fight against the PKK.

It was unclear whether the effort would be enough to soothe Turkey, however.

Ankara worries that advances by the YPG in northern Syria could inflame the PKK insurgency on Turkish soil. It has also voiced concern that weapons given to the YPG would end up in the hands of the PKK.


Poland Extradites Austrian Accused of Killing Civilians in Ukraine

Poland has extradited an Austrian accused of killing unarmed civilians and captured troops in Ukraine.

Austrian authorities will identify the suspect only as Benjamin F.

He was arrested last month on a European warrant while trying to cross into Ukraine from eastern Poland.

He is suspected of committing the killings last year while fighting against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine has been struggling to put down a three-year-old uprising that has killed more than 10,000 people.

Efforts to secure a lasting cease-fire have failed.


Hungary Seeks Talks with New York State on Soros School

The Hungarian government said Tuesday it was seeking to engage with New York state about the status of Budapest-based Central European University, founded by billionaire George Soros.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sent letters to Prime Minister Viktor Orban and President Janos Ader advocating for CEU, saying recent changes to Hungary’s higher education law “attempts to close the university for no legitimate reason.”

“CEU is an important collaboration between New York and Hungary,” Cuomo said in the letters obtained by The Associated Press. “I hope that this important partnership will be allowed to continue with the guarantee of CEU’s independence.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Tamas Menczer said the ministry was working with Cuomo’s office to schedule a meeting about the university.

CEU, founded in 1991, is accredited in New York state, but doesn’t have a campus there, one of the new rules in the amended law. CEU issues diplomas accepted in Hungary and the U.S.

The legal amendments adopted in April also call for bilateral agreements between Hungary and the home countries of foreign universities operating in the country. In the case of the United States, Hungary is also seeking agreements with the schools’ home states.

The changes could force CEU to move, although Rector Michael Ignatieff reiterated Tuesday that the school is determined to stay in Budapest.

“We hope that in the course of the next few months, this absurd effort by the government to shut us down will be taken away,” Ignatieff told reporters. “Budapest is our home, we’re staying here and it’s business as usual.”

The U.S State Department, however, has said the U.S. “has no authority or intention” to negotiate about CEU or other American universities with a presence in Hungary.

A Foreign Ministry official is expected to travel in about two weeks to Maryland to speak with officials there about McDaniel College, Menczer said. Established in 1867 as Western Maryland College, the college also has operated a campus in Hungary since 1993.

Cuomo’s office said a meeting with Hungarian officials also was tentatively scheduled for June.

The conflict over CEU is part of a wider dispute between Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Soros, whose idea of an “open society” is at odds with Orban’s desire to turn Hungary into an “illiberal state.”


Kenyans Forced Off Tea Highlands by British Colonialists Seek Justice

In a roadside cafe in Kenya’s majestic highlands, Elly Sigilai cradled a steaming mug of tea and recalled how 17 relatives died after British colonialists ousted them in 1934 to plant tea on their family land.

The 79-year-old is one of hundreds of elderly Kenyans seeking to sue the British government for alleged displacement and torture by its colonial predecessor, in a case that could encourage other former colonies to press similar claims.

“Those on this list died from malaria and sleeping sickness,” said Sigilai, a neatly folded piece of paper in his hand naming the dead in his family, including two brothers and a sister. “They were sent to a valley infested by tsetse flies to die.”

Survivors and their descendants hope to win “significant” compensation from Britain’s High Court and the return of swaths of land, largely owned by international tea companies, said George Tarus, a legal adviser to the government of Nandi County in Kenya’s North Rift region, which is financing the case.

“We became beggars in our own land,” Sigilai said, removing a faded baseball cap and putting it on the table by his tea.

“We love it,” he said of the commodity which is grown in and around Kericho, 260 kms (162 miles) northwest of Kenya’s capital. “But it has brought a lot of misery to my community.”

Around 200 people have already come forward with evidence to support the case, Tarus said.

“All land within Nandi belongs to the county and we want it all to be given back to us,” he said.

Kenya’s 47 counties manage leaseholds on their land.

A British foreign office spokeswoman declined to comment on the legal proceedings.

The case could be politically important for millions of voters ahead of Kenya’s elections in August, with some politicians already starting to stoke tensions over land.

More than 1,200 Kenyans were killed following a disputed 2007 poll, largely in the Rift Valley where resentment over the loss of land during the colonial era still festers.

Much of the land vacated when the British left Kenya in 1963 after 43 years was sold to the political elite who could afford to buy it, rather than returned to its original owners.

Atrocities

Kenya was one of Britain’s most important colonies with hundreds of settlers moving into the best agricultural land to grow tea, coffee and tobacco, forcing Africans into reserves and employing them as cooks, guards and gardeners.

The British displaced hundreds of Nandi and Kipsigis families — sub-tribes of Kenya’s third-largest ethnic group, the Kalenjin — from the Rift Valley highlands for tea plantations.

“They have to pay for what they did to us,” said Moses Mosonet, 83, a Nandi, his eyes coated with a milky veneer.

“They can take their tea and leave us with our land,” he said, seated outside his home, which overlooks lush, hilly tea estates in Nandi, some 70 km north of Kericho, not far from the African reserve where his parents were taken eight decades ago.

Kenya is the world’s largest exporter of black tea, an industry which employs more than 3.5 million Kenyans, directly and indirectly, the national trade union says.

London-based Finlays, one of the tea companies whose land is being targeted, declined to comment.

Dozens of villages were decimated, the potential plaintiffs say, and those who opposed the displacement tortured and exiled.

“Serious atrocities were committed,” said Philemon Koech of Lilan and Koech Associates, which won a tender from Nandi County government in March to pursue a civil case for reparations. “If such things like the torture of the people and their subsequent displacement were to happen in present day, we would be dealing with the International Criminal Court [ICC].”

More than 5,200 other elderly Kenyans won almost 14 million pounds ($18 million) in compensation from Britain in a 2013 out-of-court settlement for abuse by colonial forces during the 1950s Mau Mau insurgency.

Evidence

Gathering evidence will not be easy, particularly as the annexation of African land was legal under British colonial law, said Gitobu Imanyara, a Kenyan human rights lawyer.

“There can hardly be anyone alive to corroborate some of the claims,” he said.

Once the evidence is collected, British lawyer Karim Khan, who specializes in international criminal law and international human rights law, has agreed to assess its worth.

“I will advise on the merits or otherwise of a case under English law,” he told Reuters by phone. “I can’t possibly say that there will definitely be a case in the High Court until I have advised on the evidence.”

Khan is well-known in Kenya for successfully defending deputy president William Ruto against charges of crimes against humanity in the ICC from 2013 to 2016.

While the undulating manicured tea bushes, extending as far as the eye can see, evoke painful memories for the elderly, the younger generation are more skeptical about the case.

“If they tell the multinationals to leave who will employ us?” asked Justus Ngetich, 30, a taxi driver in Bomet, some 70 km south of Kericho. “It is all about power and politics, not about the well-being of the people. We shall just sit here and watch the tea estates change hands from the whites to blacks.”


Indie Bookstores Hold Steady in Tough US Retail Market

With retail stores shutting down at the fastest pace since the crash of 2008, the head of the American Booksellers Association is grateful to see business holding steady.

 

After seven straight years of growth, core membership in the independent sellers’ trade group has dropped slightly since May 2016, from 1,775 to 1,757. At the same time, the number of actual locations rose from 2,311 to 2,321, reflecting a trend of owners opening additional stores.

The association’s CEO, Oren Teicher, says sales from reporting outlets are up around 2 1/2 percent in the first four months of 2017 over the same time period last year. Sales increased 5 percent from 2015 to 2016.

 

“We’re pleased that the sales and presence of independent stores continues to grow at a time when thousands of other stores are closing,” he told The Associated Press during a recent interview.

 

Teicher said he was also encouraged by a bump in “provisional members,” those intending to open a store, from 103 to 141. During the association’s prolonged decline, when the rise of superstores and e-books helped cut membership from around 5,000 in the 1980s to just 1,401 in 2008, the market looked so dire that some profitable stores closed because the owner wanted to retire and no buyer could be found. In recent years, independent stores have been helped by a variety of factors, from the fall of Borders and the struggles of Barnes & Noble to the leveling off of e-book sales.

 

Concerns do remain for independent sellers as they prepare to join thousands of publishers, authors, agents and librarians at the industry’s annual national convention, BookExpo, which begins Wednesday at New York’s Jacob Javits Center.

Closed stores of any kind can reduce foot traffic in a shopping district and hurt booksellers among others. And one company expanding on the ground is the online giant Amazon.com, which has been cited as a factor in closings for everyone from J.C. Penney to American Apparel.

 

Amazon just opened its first bookstore in Manhattan and seventh overall. One outlet is within 1 1/2 miles of Third Place Books in Amazon’s hometown Seattle, where Third Place managing partner Robert Sindelar says sales initially dropped after the Amazon store opened in November 2015, but had bounced back by the end of last year.

 

“So it feels that their larger impact on us was short-lived,” said Sindelar, the booksellers association’s new president. “However, any bookstore — Amazon, indie or chain store — that close is going to impact our sales to some degree.”

 

BookExpo runs Wednesday to Friday and will be immediately followed by the fan-based BookCon, which ends Sunday. Profits have long been narrow or nonexistent in publishing and BookExpo/BookCon is one way to limit costs.

For much of its century-plus history, the convention rotated locations, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C., in the spirit of fairness and of spotlighting different parts of the country. But since 2008, New York publishers have preferred staying home. The 2016 show in Chicago, once a favorite setting for BookExpo, was notable for a drop in attendance and floor space and a lack of high-profile guests.

 

This year, the names have returned, although floor space continues to decline and side programs have been cut back. Hillary Clinton will speak at an hour-long event billed as “An Evening With Hillary Clinton” and is expected to promote a book of essays coming this September that will touch upon her loss to Donald Trump in 2016. Daughter Chelsea Clinton will be autographing her picture book “She Persisted” and Stephen King will make a joint appearance with son Owen King. Other featured speakers include Dan Brown, Kevin Hart and Sen. Al Franken, promoting his memoir “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.”

 

Events director Brien McDonald says that the convention will address issues within and beyond book publishing. A First Amendment “resistance” panel organized by PEN America, the literary and human rights organization, will include Scott Turow and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. A discussion sponsored by the grassroots organization We Need Diverse Books is called “Real Talk About Real Apologies.”

The panel’s moderator, Laura M. Jimenez, noted that Rick Riordan apologized for inappropriately using the term “spirit animal,” a sacred creature for some American Indians, in his novel “The Sword of Summer.” Little, Brown and Co., publisher of Lemony Snicket’s (aka Daniel Handler’s) picture book “The Bad Mood and the Stick,” promised to remove images of blacks by illustrator Matt Forsythe that were criticized as racist.

 

Jimenez said she wanted the panel to emphasize how “the overwhelming whiteness of publishing makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible for them to see the problematic representations.”

 

“It seems the insular world of children’s literature publishing creates a space where white people are unaware of their own privilege and, historically, have been unwilling to hear us,” said Jimenez, a lecturer at Boston University’s School of Education. “That is changing with Twitter and other social media outlets and blogs. … I think an all-out drive for diversity in publishing is needed.”


ВООЗ: понад 7 мільйонів людей щороку помирають від хвороб, викликаних курінням тютюну

У Всесвітній організації охорони здоров’я (ВООЗ) заявляють, що сім мільйонів людей вмирають щорічно в світі від хвороб, викликаних курінням тютюну. Про це йдеться у першій доповіді ВООЗ про шкоду тютюнової галузі під час виробництва тютюнових виробів і їхньої реалізації.

У доповіді також зауважують, що вирощування тютюну завдає «величезної шкоди» навколишньому середовищу, оскільки потребує застосування хімічних добрив, енергії і води. 

Екологічний слід тютюну – це не лише вплив сигаретного диму, зазначають у ВООЗ. 

«Вирощування тютюну, виробництво тютюнових виробів і їх доставка роздрібним торговцям – все це має серйозні наслідки для навколишнього середовища, в тому числі й скидання відходів виробництва в навколишнє середовище», – сказав помічник Генерального директора ВООЗ Олег Честнов у зв’язку з Всесвітнім днем боротьби з курінням 31 травня.

Тютюнові плантації вимагають застосування інсектицидів, гербіцидів та інших хімічних засобів для вирощування тютюну і запобігання його від шкідників, а у процесі сушіння спалюються великі обсяги деревини, що сприяє зникненню лісів.

За оцінками організації, понад 11 мільйонів тонн деревини спалюється щорічно для просушки тютюнового листя – це еквівалентно одному дереву на 300 сигарет. 

У Китаї, найбільшому світовому виробнику тютюну, зникнення лісів на 18 відсотків є наслідком розвитку тютюнової промисловості.

За даними ВООЗ, щорічно в світі скурюють понад 6 трильйонів сигарет, при їх курінні випускається від 3 до 5 мільйонів тонн парникового газу, а також тисячі тонн канцерогенних речовин.


У Львові сьогодні день жалоби за загиблими на Грибовицькому сміттєзвалищі

Днем жалоби оголошено 30-те травня у Львові в річницю загибелі чотирьох людей під шаром сміття на Грибовицькому сміттєзвалищі.

Як передає кореспондент Радіо Свобода, у вівторок у Львові, Жовкві та Рава-Руській (містах, де поховані рятувальники) приспущені прапори із жалобними стрічками. Заплановані поминальні служби, відвідини могил загиблих, а також вечір пам’яті.

28 травня 2016 року сталась пожежа на звалищі побутових відходів у селі Грибовичі на Львівщині. Рятувальники кілька днів гасили вогонь, але 30 травня стався зсув ґрунту і четверо людей – МНСівці Андрій Вненкевич, Юрій Рудий, Богдан Юнка і комунальник Олександр Бутін (його тіло не знайшли) – опинились під завалами сміття.

За фактом події було відкрито кримінальне провадження, матеріали якого налічують понад 300 томів. Втім винні у трагедії досі не названі. Згідно з висновками експертів, причиною пожежі на Грибовицькому сміттєзвалищі стало самозаймання неущільнених твердих побутових відходів. Водночас міський голова Львова Андрій Садовий заявляв, що це зумисний підпал.