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Iran announces arrests over shootdown of Ukrainian passenger plane that killed 176

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Iran announces arrests over shootdown of Ukrainian passenger plane that killed 176 originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

Iran’s judiciary spokesman on Tuesday announced the arrests of an unspecified number of suspects in connection with the accidental shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger jet that killed all 176 people on board shortly after takeoff from Tehran last week.

“Extensive investigations have taken place and some individuals are arrested,” the spokesman, Gholamhossein Esmaili, said in remarks carried by Iran’s official state-run news agency, IRNA.

Further information was not immediately available.

(MORE: Trump says accounts of intelligence that triggered killing of Iran’s top general ‘totally consistent’)

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed near Tehran last Wednesday, just hours after the Iranian military fired multiple ballistic missiles into neighboring Iraq, targeting military bases housing American troops, in retaliation for the U.S. airstrike that killed Iran’s most powerful general.

In a statement carried by state media on Saturday, Iran admitted that its military had “unintentionally hit” the jetliner with an anti-aircraft missile, adding that the plane was mistaken for a “hostile flight” after it turned toward a “sensitive military center.” Iran had initially claimed the plane crashed due to a technical fault.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday called for a special court to be set up to investigate the incident, which he called “a painful and unforgivable” mistake.

“The judiciary should form a special court with a ranking judge and dozens of experts,” Rouhani said in a televised speech. “This is not an ordinary case. The entire the world will be watching this court.”

(MORE: Iran protests over downed Ukrainian plane turn violent as Trump tweets support)

Rouhani vowed that his administration will pursue the case “by all means,” saying all those found responsible “should be punished.”

“The responsibility falls on more than just one person,” he said. “There are others, too, and I want that this issue is expressed honestly.”

Over the weekend, throngs of protesters took to the streets of Tehran to express anger over the plane shootdown, which claimed the lives of 130 Iranian nationals who were among those on board. The crowds chanted “down with the deceptive government” and called for the release of all political prisoners. There were reports that Iranian security forces fired live rounds and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators at Tehran’s central Azadi Square.

Iran’s judiciary spokesman said Tuesday that “around 30 people have been arrested for taking part in illegal gatherings,” according to the country’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency.

“We have tolerance towards legal rallies,” Esmaili added.

(MORE: US stands ‘ready’ as threat from Iran ‘continues to be very real,’ Pence says)

An airstrike, ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump, Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassam Soleimani near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq on Jan. 2. Soleimani had led the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in operations throughout the region over the past 20 years, backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and supporting Shiite militia groups in Iraq, including against U.S. troops during the Iraq War. The U.S. Department of State has said that Soleimani’s forces are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops because of the kind of explosive devices they helped bring to Iraq. The United States designated Soleimani a terrorist in 2011 under then-President Barack Obama.

(MORE: Iranian foreign minister says US ‘will pay’ for its ‘act of war’)

Iran called Soleimani’s killing an “act of war.” However, the Trump administration has argued that Soleimani’s death was critical to thwarting “imminent attacks” that the Iranian commander was helping to plot against U.S. personnel in the region. The administration has provided no evidence of those threats.



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Trump Removes Protections for Waterways, Aiding Developers – NBC Chicago

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration lifted federal protections Thursday for some of the nation’s millions of miles of streams, arroyos and wetlands, completing one of its most far-reaching environmental rollbacks.

The changes will scale back which waterways qualify for protection against pollution and development under the half-century-old Clean Water Act. President Donald Trump has made a priority of the rollback of clean-water protections from his first weeks in office. Trump says he is targeting federal rules and regulations that impose unnecessary burdens on businesses.

Chiefs of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed the new rule before appearing at a builders’ convention in Las Vegas.

“EPA and the Army are providing much needed regulatory certainty and predictability for American farmers, landowners and businesses to support the economy and accelerate critical infrastructure projects,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

The changes had been sought by industry, developers and farmers, but opposed by environmental advocates and public health officials. They say the changes would make it harder to maintain a clean water supply for the American public and would threaten habitat and wildlife.

The administration says the changes would allow farmers to plow their fields without fear of unintentionally straying over the banks of a federally protected dry creek, bog or ditch. But the government’s own figures show it is real estate developers and those in other nonfarm business sectors that take out the most permits for impinging on wetlands and waterways, and stand to reap the biggest regulatory and financial relief.

Wheeler specified the changes lift federal protections for so-called ephemeral waters — creeks and rivers which run only after rainfalls or snow melt. Such streams provide a majority of the water for some dry Western states, including New Mexico.

The final rule will be published in the Federal Register in the next few days and become effective 60 days after that.

The rollback is one of the most ambitious of the Trump administration”s wide-ranging cuts in federal protections on the environment and public health. While many rollback efforts have targeted regulations adopted under the Obama administration, the draft clean-water plan released earlier would lift federal protections for many waterways and wetlands that have stood for decades under the Clean Water Act.

That includes protections for creek and river beds that run only in wet seasons or after rain or snow melt. “That’’s a huge rollback from way before Obama, before Reagan,” said Blan Holman, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

State officials in New Mexico have particular concerns given that the Rio Grande, which provides drinking water and irrigation supplies for millions of people in the Southwest and Mexico, depends largely on the types of intermittent streams, creeks and wetlands that could lose protection under the rule draft released earlier. The Rio Grande is one of North America’s longest rivers.

Jen Pelz, the rivers program director with the New Mexico-based environmental group WildEarth Guardians, said the Rio Grande would be hard hit.

“It defies common sense to leave unprotected the arteries of life to the desert Southwest,” Pelz said.

Trump has portrayed farmers — a highly valued constituency of the Republican Party and one popular with the public — as the main beneficiaries of the rollback. He claimed farmers gathered around him wept with gratitude when he signed an order for the rollback in February 2017.

The federal protections keeping polluters and developers out of waterways and wetlands were “one of the most ridiculous” of all regulations, he told a farmer convention in 2019.

“It was a total kill on you and other businesses,” Trump said at that time.

Environmental groups, public health organizations and others say it’s impossible to keep downstream lakes, rivers and water supplies clean unless upstream waters are also regulated federally. The targeted regulations also protect wildlife and their habitats.

___

Associated Press writer Susan Montoya in Albuquerque, New Mexico, contributed to this report.





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China extended its Wuhan coronavirus quarantine to 2 more cities, cutting off 19 million people in an unprecedented effort to stop the outbreak : worldnews

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level 2

I’d be rather pissed if Toronto or Calgary had a massive outbreak of a confirmed deadly virus and my government didn’t act in this way.



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Schulz says he’s ‘confident’ that a US-EU trade deal will happen

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The German finance minister said he isn’t pessimistic over threats of tariffs on the car industry as he believes an agreement on free trade and digital taxes is possible.

Soon after calling for a fresh trade deal with the European Union, President Donald Trump raised the specter of car tariffs should European nations implement a digital tax on big U.S. tech firms.

Trump’s comments align with a similar warning from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said on CNBC panel in Davos this week that tariffs could come if EU members don’t back off from their digital tax plans.

“If people want to arbitrarily put taxes on our digital companies, we will consider putting taxes arbitrarily on car companies,” Mnuchin said Wednesday.

But speaking at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Thursday, Germany’s Olaf Scholz told CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore that he believes a free trade agreement with the United States will happen and he wasn’t gloomy about the threat of tariffs.

“No, not really. I think we know that there is a need for debating about trade,” said Scholz, adding that people “could be confident” that EU proposals currently on the table would lead to a deal.

“In the end, we know that trade is most successful if there are not too many barriers,” he added.

Schulz said the digital tax, which would impact companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook, should be agreed globally and he expected an international proposal to come from the OECD in early 2020.

Countries have argued that current rules do not fairly match where digital profits are taxed, to the region where the income is derived. The OECD is currently working on a plan to introduce a multilateral solution which would come into play, replacing any individual taxes by different nations.

German surplus

Germany ran its biggest ever surplus in 2019, according to the country’s finance ministry, hitting 13.5 billion euros ($15 billion) of income over expenditure, thanks to increased taxes and low interest rates.

The German economy grew at a paltry 0.6% in 2019, according to Destatis, the country’s federal statistics office, prompting criticism of the Bundestag for refusing to stimulate demand in its own country. Instead, Europe’s largest economy relies on other nations to import high-value goods from Germany’s powerhouse manufacturing sector.

Domestic pressure has been growing on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to start spending the cash on creaking infrastructure and end its commitment to its “black zero” policy of maintaining a balanced budget. In 15 years of leading the government, Merkel has never reduced taxes.

Scholz, who has said the surplus is down to “good economic management,” said Thursday that the government has been part of a global effort to trigger growth.

“My view is that with the expansionary financial policy we had in the last few years, we did our job,” said Scholz, who claimed that public investment in Germany was also at a record high.

The EU and International Monetary Fund have also called on Germany to spend more money to help stimulate Europe as a whole.

Scholz argued his government had taken the decision to support German industry in spending “many, many billions” in reforming both the energy and auto sectors.



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