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US imposes sanctions on Russia over Venezuela

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March 9 : The tensions between between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump has increased after the United States has imposed sanctions on a Russian bank over its dealings with Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Russia’s state-controlled Rosneft of buying oil from the company.

The new cold war era has started between the two major powers over the diplomacy, increasing influence of Moscow in global affairs and policy changes in developing tactical nuclear weapons.

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is making increasingly strategic moves while Donald Trump’s US is on a backfoot with just gathering intelligence on Kremlin’s next approach. From the European perspective, Russia is the major threat and the Lithuanian government underlines the importance of technological capabilities of NATO to counter tactical nuclear weapons.

The Russian military on March 8, 2019, said that it scrambled Su-27 fighter jet for US RC-135 aircraft used for gathering intelligence over the Baltic Sea.

Major European governments are nervous after Russia deployed a new generation of nuclear-capable missiles, known as Iskander missiles to its Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea, neaar Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia; all members of Nato and are waiting for an assurance from the US to combat Russian aggression.

In this great Power Competition, Russia is emerging as a winner as it has expanded its political clout, military and economic footprint in the Middle East and North Africa. The recent move by both US and Russia of suspending their involvement in the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) has triggered fears of a new arms race between Washington and Moscow.

Having laid down his vision in 2005 for making Russia great again, Putin seized every opportunity by filing the void created by the decline of United States presence with diplomacy and arms exports.

NATO allies are gravely concerned after the demise of the Intermediate -Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Recently,both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French pressident Emmanuel Macron rebuffed US proposal of sending German ships through Kerch Strait,connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, separating the Kerch Peninsula of Crimea in the west from the Taman Peninsula of Russia’s Krasnodar Krai in the east, to provoke Vladimir Putin.

Kerch Strait is critical to Putin’s control over the Crimean peninsula and eastern Ukraine in defiance of sanctions from the European Union and the U.S.

As tensions with the west have escalated, Putin has laid more emphasis on Russia’s nuclear arsenal. In March this year, Putin unveiled a range of new nuclear weapon designs which he claimed could overcome any western defences. The high-precision Iskander missiles can be fitted with a conventional or nuclear warhead and have a range of up to 310 miles (500km).

Moscow’s re-entry into the Middle East began with the military intervention in Syria in 2015 and Eliminating Daesh with an aim to protect Russia’s own national interests, whether linked to setting the oil price or promoting arms sales.

Russian state TV then listed potential targets in the U.S. in the event of a nuclear strike and claimed that its new hypersonic missile technology could reach them in less than five minutes.

The tensions between Russia and US escalated after President Vladimir Putin warned the U.S. against deploying intermediate-range missiles in Europe and Russian TV listed potential nuclear strike targets in US included the Pentagon and Camp David.

Putin, who served in the Soviet-era spy agency the KGB,had expressed regret over the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 2005, he called it the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Over the years, Putin applied more assertive foreign policy to secure a position and status of global diplomacy.

However, Putin has not shied away from confronting both the US and its European allies, who imposed sanctions in response to the annexation of Eastern Ukraine.

The increasingly chaotic situation in the Middle East, coupled with the waning commitment of the US to stabilize the region, has opened the opportunity for alternative partnerships, and Russia emerged an appealing mediator for many regimes, thus strengthened friendly ties with Iran, Israel, the Gulf and Turkey.

Arti Bali

By Arti Bali, Senior Journalist

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India’s Q3 GDP expected to inch-up above 4.5%

India Ratings and Research gave a forecast of 4.7 per cent for Q3 GDP.

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slowdown in global economic growth

New Delhi, Feb 27 : India’s third quarter 2019-20 GDP growth rate is expected to inch up on the back of rising inflation, along with a modest uptick in the momentum of services and industry.

Several economists polled by IANS said that GDP growth rate is seen in the range of 4.6-4.8 per cent for the third quarter from 4.5 per cent reported for the second quarter of the current fiscal.

Various indicators like air passenger traffic, railways’ freight revenue and commercial vehicles’ sales have shown improvement in Q3FY20 against weak performance in Q2FY20.

The macro-economic data point of the national income and the GDP will be released on Friday.

“We expect the GDP Q3 number to be 4.8 per cent. Since no major improvement was observed among leading indicators, market expectations remain subdued,” said Karan Mehrishi, Lead Economist at Acuite Ratings and Research.

“Generally, Q3 is one of the strongest quarters in a financial year because the inclusion of festive seasons sales and kharif harvest-driven rural consumption, this time, however, nothing noteworthy is foreseen.”

Besides, he pointed out that capacity utilisation levels have also fallen.

“Fresh capex looks unlikely and investments will be moderate driven by the public sector. We are however mindful of the inflation trajectory moving forward,” Mehrishi said.

India Ratings and Research gave a forecast of 4.7 per cent for Q3 GDP.

Edelweiss Securities’ Economist Madhavi Arora said: “We expect a marginal shallow pick up in 3Q, amid still-sluggish corporate earnings and weak industrial sector.”

“While government spending has been a respite for the services sector, its’ contribution to growth will also decline marginally. We expect 3Q GDP to print around 4.6-4.7 per cent.”

Meanwhile, ICRA expects the GDP and the gross value added (GVA) growth at basic prices to rise mildly to 4.7 per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively, in Q3FY20, from 4.5 per cent and 4.3 per cent, respectively, in Q2FY20.

“Some industrial and service sectors displayed a pickup in YoY volume growth in Q3FY20 relative to the previous quarter, while the output of kharif crops displayed a mixed trend,” its principal economist Aditi Nayar said.

“Lower raw material costs, high growth of the government’s non-interest revenue expenditure and the stable profitability metrics revealed by the earnings of some banks would provide a cushion to the pace of economic growth,” she said.

However, the extent and duration of coronavirus outbreak would test the sustainability of the nascent upturn in growth in the ongoing quarter.

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Cannabis use rises among the elderly, finds study

Women, and individuals who were married, had a college degree, or had higher income also significantly increased their cannabis use.

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Cannabis

New Delhi, Feb 26 : Cannabis use continues to increase in popularity among adults of 65 years of age and older in the United States, according to a new study.

Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the study from NYU Grossman School of Medicine estimates that cannabis use in adults aged 65 and older increased from 2.4 percent to 4.2 percent in the United States — a significant increase of 75 percent — between 2015 and 2018.

With the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes in many states in the US, medical professionals are studying its use in treating a number of chronic health conditions. Since 1996, 31 states have legalized medical marijuana, while 11 states and Washington DC have legalized recreational use.

The survey categorized cannabis use by asking whether marijuana, hashish, pot, grass, or hash oil was either smoked or ingested.

Researchers observed trends in prevalence of past-year cannabis use, broken down by sociodemographic background, chronic disease, healthcare utilization, and other substance use among adults age 65 and older, in the United States, between 2015 and 2018.

Certain subsets of this population saw an even higher rise in prevalence. For example, researchers estimated that past-year use more than doubled by older adults with diabetes, among those who have received mental health treatment, and those reporting past-year alcohol use.

Women, and individuals who were married, had a college degree, or had higher income also significantly increased their cannabis use.

Researchers say they next plan to acquire more detailed information about how medical marijuana affects older populations, its risks and side effects.

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Ground Zero: A dangerous mix of politics and police inaction?

Eyewitness say when the pro and anti-CAA protesters clashed, the police remained a mute spectator.

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Maujpur anti CAA Violence

New Delhi, Feb 24 : After all, the sudden quiet at Shaheen Bagh, on the boil for over two months, was deeply deceptive, if you look at the way how the protest — for and against the new citizenship law — spilled out to north-east of Delhi, with the police yet again failing to read the situation.

Many locals say the violence at Maujpur-Jafrabad in north-east Delhi erupted soon after BJP leader Kapil Mishra took out a march on Sunday in support of the Controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as well as against the anti-CAA women protesters who had blocked the road at Jafrabad metro station.

The police stepped in when Kapil Mishra addressed the crowd, sources said. He was flanked by the Deputy Commissioner of Police clad in full riot gear. Some people cite a video clip that shows the BJP leader giving an “ultimatum” to the police, saying “he will come back after the visiting US President leaves India”.

“But the DCP did not act,” said a local resident.

Stone-pelting soon started on the crowd protesting against CAA at Jafrabad.

But how does Kapil Mishra get into the picture? The Karawal Nagar (another north-east Delhi locality) politician was in the AAm AAdmi Party and had switched to the BJP just days before the Delhi polls. He contested from Karawal Nagar, but lost.

A few days back, scores of Jafrabad residents had let it be known that on Saturday (February 22), they would start a march to Rajghat. They were responding to an appeal by Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad who had called for ‘Bharat bandh’ on Sunday. On saturday, the women protesters were stopped midway, but soon they were at Jafrabad Metro station, blocking the road and the metro station.

Eyewitness say when the pro and anti-CAA protesters clashed, the police remained a mute spectator.

The situation turned uglier: On Monday the violence reached the lanes and by-lanes of some localities where passers-by were beaten up if they did not tell their names to aggressive groups of men.

Many pictures and videos of violence have gone viral where unidentified people have been seen brandishing guns as policemen look on. A head constable, Ratan Lal, lost his life on Monday after being hit by rioters.

The violence has spread to Chand Bagh, Khureji in east Delhi and Hauz Rani in south Delhi and fear stalks the roads. Yet no one knows how it all started and when and how it will end.

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