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Saturday, Aug 13th

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Iranian Operative Charged In Plot To Murder John Bolton

 Bolton and Pompeo targeted by Irani assassinU.S. authorities on Wednesday charged an Iranian operative with plotting to assassinate former national security adviser John Bolton as part of a revenge plot for the U.S. airstrike that killed top commander Qassem Soleimani in 2020.

The Justice Department announced the charges against Shahram Poursafi, a member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who prosecutors said tried to put someone else up to killing former President Donald Trump's top national security adviser.

Poursafi, 45, has not been captured and his whereabouts are not known.

The charges say Poursafi was working on behalf of the Iranian military when he tried to arrange Bolton's death in or around Washington, D.C. Prosecutors said Poursafi offered to pay $250,000 to anyone in the Washington area to carry out the assassination. The amount was later increased to $300,000 in cryptocurrency.

"The Justice Department has the solemn duty to defend our citizens from hostile governments who seek to hurt or kill them," Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said in a statement.

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U.S. announces $89 million to help Ukraine clear land mines

Mine detection workerThe Biden administration will provide $89 million to help Kyiv clear land mines that now litter huge swaths of Ukraine after Russia’s February invasion, according to a senior State Department official.

The money will fund 100 de-mining teams in Ukraine for the next year, the official told reporters on Tuesday. The U.S. will also help Kyiv identify the areas of greatest contamination, and help train and equip Ukrainian forces tasked with removing the mines, the official said.

Since invading Ukraine in February, Russian forces have littered the country with land mines and other explosive munitions “in an irresponsible and brutal manner,” the official told reporters. In particular, the official condemned Russia’s use of cluster munitions and butterfly mines, weapons that Moscow also deployed in Afghanistan in the early 1980s and which continue to kill civilians today.

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Israel bombs Gaza Strip for second day in ‘pre-emptive operation’

Israel bombs Gaza enclave

Residents of the Gaza Strip were bracing for the possibility of a new round of war on Saturday after two days of “pre-emptive” Israeli airstrikes against a Palestinian militant group.

Israeli warplanes hit several sites in the blockaded territory on Friday, part of a surprise operation named “Breaking Dawn” that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said thwarted alleged planned rocket attacks by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

After retaliatory fire from the militants, Israel warned on Saturday that its bombing campaign could last a week, in the worst escalation of violence since last May’s 11-day conflict.

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Strikes at Ukrainian nuclear plant ‘alarming’, says UN watchdog chief

Ukraine nuclear plant

The UN nuclear watchdog has called for an immediate end to all military action near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after it was hit by shelling, causing one of the reactors to shut down and creating a “very real risk of a nuclear disaster”.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he was “extremely concerned” by reports of damage at the plant and called for IAEA experts to be allowed to inspect the damage.

“I’m extremely concerned by the shelling yesterday at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond,” he said.

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Brittney Griner sentenced to nine years on drug charges in Russia.

Griner sentenced to nine yearsInside her metal courtroom cage, a solemn, stone-faced Brittney Griner learned how long she’ll be locked away in Russian prison if the Biden administration can’t broker a deal to secure her release.

A Russian judge handed down a harsh 9-year sentence on Thursday, rejecting the WNBA star’s emotional apology and plea for leniency for the “honest mistake” of bringing less than a gram of cannabis oil into the country last February.

Griner was found guilty of drug possession and drug smuggling with criminal intent. The judge fined her 1 million rubles, roughly $16,300 US dollars, in addition to sentencing Grine to just shy of the maximum 10 years that she was eligible to receive.

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A young officer hopes to turn the tide of war, as Ukraine fights to retake a key city

Young Ukranian battalion commanderIn a battered building surrounded by an iron fence and an overgrown garden, an aide offers tea while we wait to meet Col. Serhiy Shatalov. Just 29 years old, Shatalov leads the 98th Infantry Battalion, which is pushing south toward Russian-occupied Kherson, part of Ukraine's first major counteroffensive of the war.

His force is made up of roughly 600 men, many of them civilians just a few months ago. Shatalov, a stocky man with a couple days' growth beard and close-cropped black hair, is wearing simple combat fatigues.

"They are 11 kilometers away," he says, referring to the Russian soldiers — about 7 miles.

They'd been closer, threatening the outskirts of this half-abandoned industrial town. But Shatalov's men had steadily pushed them back over several weeks of hard fighting across a maze of farm fields, rivers, villages and old industrial sites.

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan, flouting Chinese threats and Biden's concerns

Nancy Pelosi lands in TaiwanHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan on Tuesday, a highly anticipated visit that came amid increasingly harsh warnings of Chinese retaliation and escalating Washington-Beijing tensions.

Pelosi, wearing a face mask, stepped off the plane around 10:50 p.m. local time and posed for photos with a contingent of Taiwan officials who greeted her on the tarmac.

Pelosi, who has a long record of tangling with Beijing over its human rights record, is the highest ranking American official to visit the self-governing island in 25 years.

The California Democrat's office would not confirm the travel in advance, citing security protocols, but her travel plans leaked amid rampant speculation about the fallout from such a visit.

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