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International

British journalist produces excellent story on yesterday’s riot in DC

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Today we are all reacting to yesterday’s riots in Washington where Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building.  Here’s an excellent story from the UK’s ITV News. Reported by its Washington correspondent Robert Moore, much of the footage is shot inside as the violent mob stormed in through doors and broken windows.

It’s well done and a shining example of great reporting. Cudos to Mr. Moore and his crew who reported what they saw, asked questions, and put together an extraordinary piece while being in significant danger.

After excusing violence, Trump acknowledges Biden transition

President Todayville Inc., Honorary Colonel 41 Signal Regiment, Board Member Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award Foundation, Director Canadian Forces Liaison Council (Alberta) musician, photographer, former VP/GM CTV Edmonton.

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Crime

Civil rights group says Vancouver has at least one secret police station

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VANCOUVER — A Spanish civil rights group says Vancouver has at least one secret police station operated by Chinese authorities.

The group Safeguard Defenders said in a report in September that there were Chinese police operations around the world, including three in Toronto, and an updated report names another 48 locations.

Safeguard Defenders, a not-for-profit human rights group, said two of the new locations are in Canada: one in Vancouver and the second unknown.

The group’s previous investigation looked into the expansion of “long-arm policing” and transnational repression imposed by the Chinese government.

Its latest report, titled “Patrol and Persuade,” gathered more evidence on how these police station function and their “persuasions of return” strategies, the group said in its report.

“Patrol and Persuade also documents the silent complicity of a number of host countries, instilling a further sense of fear into targeted communities and severely undermining the international rules-based order,” Safeguard Defenders said in an online statement.

Its previous report alleged employees from the overseas police system use intimidation and threats to enforce the “involuntary” return of immigrants back to China for persecution.

The group claimed that between April 2021 and July 2022, Chinese police “persuaded” 230,000 claimed fugitives to return to China.

No one from the Chinese Embassy was immediately available for comment on the new information, but it has previously described the offices as volunteer-run service stations to process things like driver’s licences.

The report said the newly documented Vancouver-based police station is being operated by authorities from Wenzhou, a port and industrial city in China’s Zhejiang province.

It said most of the newly documented stations were set up starting in 2016, directly refuting the government of China’s previous statements that the operations were started in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“New information shows at least one illegal ‘persuasion to return’ operation run through the Wenzhou station in Paris, France; and at least 80 cases where the Nantong overseas police system assisted in the capture and/or persuasion to return operation,” the report said.

The group claimed their work prompted at least 12 countries, including Canada, to launch investigations into local police stations.

A series of recommendations have been listed by Safeguard Defenders for all governments to consider, such as educating local law enforcement on the methods used by the operators and imposing costs on entities and individuals involved in the repression efforts.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month he raised the issue of interference directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Indonesia.

Xi later berated him for informing the media about their conversation.

The RCMP said in early November that it is investigating the issue, and officials told MPs in early October that they were aware of the claims by the group.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Nono Shen, The Canadian Press

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Energy

Russian oil price cap, EU ban aim to limit Kremlin war chest

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By David Mchugh in Frankfurt

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Major Western measures to limit Russia’s oil profits over the war in Ukraine took effect Monday, bringing with them uncertainty about how much crude could be lost to the world and whether they will unleash the hoped-for hit to a Russian economy that has held up better than many expected under sanctions.

In the most far-reaching efforts so far to target one of Moscow’s main sources of income, the European Union is banning most Russian oil and the Group of Seven democracies has imposed a price cap of $60 per barrel on Russian exports to other countries.

The impact of both measures, however, may be blunted because the world’s No. 2 oil producer has so far been able reroute much of its European seaborne shipments to China, India and Turkey, although at steep discounts, and the price cap is near what Russian oil already cost.

As it stands, Russia will likely have enough money to not only fund its military but support key industries and social programs, said Chris Weafer, CEO and Russian economy analyst at consulting firm Macro-Advisory.

“At this price level, that outlook really doesn’t change much. But what is key is how much volume Russia would be able to sell,” he said. “And that depends not only on the willingness of Asian buyers to continue buying Russian oil, but also what is the physical ability of Russia to shift that oil.”

Western leaders are walking a fine line between trying to cut Russia’s oil income and preventing an oil shortage that would cause a price spike and worsen the inflation plaguing economiesand hurting consumers worldwide. They could later agree to lower the price cap to increase pressure on Russia, which says it will not sell to countries that observe the limit.

That could take oil off global markets and raise energy costs, including for gasoline at the pump. International benchmark Brent crude rose before falling 2.5% to $83.40 a barrel Monday.

To seriously cut Russian revenue, the cap must be lowered “quickly and progressively,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Finland-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

Even the $60 cap, if enforced, would already push Russia to lower per-barrel tax, he said, calling it “by far the biggest step to date to cut off the fossil fuel export revenue that is funding and enabling Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine.”

Russia has been living off the huge windfall from higher oil pricesearlier this year and will be more vulnerable in the next several months when that money is spent, Myllyvirta said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked in a conference call how the oil price cap might affect the war, said, “The economy of the Russian Federation has the necessary potential to fully meet all needs and requirements within the framework of the special military operation, and such measures will not affect this.”

The U.S., EU and allied countries have hit Russia with a slew of sanctions aimed at bank and financial transactions, technology imports and regime-connected individuals. But until now, those sanctions have for the most part not directly gone after the Kremlin’s biggest moneymaker, oil and natural gas.

Europe was heavily dependent on Russian oil and natural gasbefore the war and has had to scramble to find new supplies. Previously, the EU banned imports of Russian coal, and the U.S. and the U.K. halted their limited imports of Russian oil, but those steps had a much smaller economic impact.

Even as Western customers shunned Russian oil, the higher prices driven by fears of energy shortages helped offset lost oil sales, and Russian exporters have shipped more oil to Asian countries and Turkey in a major reshuffling of global oil flows. Russia’s economy has shrunk — but not by as much as many expected at the start of the war almost 10 months ago.

One unknown is how much of the oil formerly sold to Europe can be rerouted. Analysts think many, but not all, of the roughly 1 million barrels covered by the embargo will find new homes, tightening supply and raising prices in coming months.

The Biden administration doesn’t expect that Russia’s threats to cut off countries observing the cap and slow production would “have any impact long term on global oil prices,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

He said “this cap will lock in the discount on Russian oil” and countries like China and India would be able to bargain for steep price reductions.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar indicated Monday that the country would keep buying oil from Russia to prioritize its energy needs. India so far hasn’t committed to the price cap.

The cap has a grace period for oil that was loaded before Monday and arrives at its destination before Jan. 19 to minimize disruption on oil markets.

The measure bars insurers or ship owners — most of them located in the EU or U.K. — from helping move Russian oil to non-Western countries unless that oil was priced at or below the cap.

The idea is to keep Russian oil flowing while reducing the Kremlin’s income. The U.S. and Europe leaned more toward preventing a price spike than provoking financial distress in Russia.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the cap was “worth trying,” adding that “we will make an assessment of the efficiency of the old cap at the beginning of 2023.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had called for a price ceiling of around $30 per barrel. That would be near Russia’s cost of production, letting Russian oil companies earn enough only to avoid capping wells that can be hard to restart. Russia needs some $60 to $70 per barrel to balance its budget.

Russia could use methods to evade the sanctions such as those employed by Iran and Venezuela, including using “dark fleet” tankers with obscure ownership and ship-to-ship transfers of oil to tankers with oil of similar quality to hide its origin. Russia or China could also organize their own insurance. Sanctions experts say that those steps will impose higher costs on Russia.

The new EU sanctions led the Italian government to take temporary control of the Russian-owned ISAB refinery in Sicily last week. The government stopped short of nationalization but put the facility, where about 20% of Italy’s oil is refined, under receivership to protect 10,000 jobs linked to the refinery and its suppliers.

___

AP reporters Raf Casert in Brussels, Aamer Madhani in Washington, Sheikh Saaliq in New Delhi and Colleen Barry in Milan contributed

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