The Largest Parapan American Games In History Kicks Off With Opening Ceremony

With an electric opening ceremony that celebrated both the spirit and evolution of the Paralympic Movement, the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 officially began on Friday, August 23 at the Estadio Nacional in Lima, Peru.

The 2019 edition of the Parapan American Games is the largest in history, showcasing 17 sports and over 1,890 athletes from 33 nations in the Americas region.

“Change doesn’t happen overnight; these Games are no magic wand,” said Carlos Neuhaus, president of the Lima 2019 Organizing Committee. “But my hope is that Lima 2019 will be the spark that lights the fuse and ignites a long overdue process of building greater awareness, understanding and integration of people with a disability in our society, and across the Americas.”

The theme of the opening ceremony was “elevation”, portraying a story of two children who embark on a journey full of challenges and obstacles, but are able to overcome them and reach greater heights through their friendship and resilience.

Each country’s delegation entered the stadium, where they were met by cheers from the audience. The 257 members of Team USA were greeted warmly as they walked in, led by three-time Paralympian Katie Holloway of the U.S. women’s sitting volleyball team. Holloway was selected by her fellow athletes for the honor of the flag bearer at this year’s opening ceremony.

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“I just feel really honored that the U.S. delegation of athletes saw me as a person that would be representative of them,” Holloway said. “To hold the flag, with honor, for our whole entire U.S. Paralympic delegation, is really special.”

The Parapan American Flame was carried into the stadium by multiple athletes before reaching the top of a totem surrounded by dancers and acrobats. It was initially lit on August 20 in Pachamac, the largest archaeological complex in Lima, and was then carried to other locations throughout the city before making its way to the Estadio Nacional for the duration of the Games.

To close out the show, the Peruvian band Bareto provided an upbeat mix of rock, reggae, psychedelic and tropical music to the audience. The group’s cumbia song “Cariñito” has become the unofficial anthem of Lima 2019 as it has been the Peruvian team’s entrance song, and been played at all sports venues and volunteer rehearsals.

Two sports, table tennis and wheelchair rugby, began competition prior to the opening ceremony, with the former hosting matches as early as August 22.

For the rest of the athletes; however, the opening ceremony signaled the beginning of a tremendous event with plenty of opportunities to shine on the international stage over the next nine days.

  • Published in Sports

China Says Hopes US Stops Tariff Action, Vows To Retaliate Any New Levies

BEIJING: China said on Thursday it hopes the United States will stop its wrong tariff action, adding that any new tariffs would lead to escalation.

The United States said early this month it would slap duties on $300 billion of Chinese goods from Sept. 1, which would effectively extend its tariffs to all of China's exports to the United States.

But President Donald Trump later backed off part of the plan, delaying duties on some items such as cellphones, laptops and other consumer goods to mid-December, in the hopes of blunting their impact on U.S. holiday sales.

"Despite the U.S. decision to delay tariffs on some Chinese goods .... if the United States rides roughshod over China's opposition and impose any new tariffs, China will be forced to adopt retaliatory actions", Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng told a news briefing.

Gao said trade teams from both sides have been keeping in touch, when asked whether the Chinese vice Premier Liu He would travel to Washington for the next round of face-to-face talks.

When asked if Washington has raised the Hong Kong issue with China during the trade negotiations, Gao referred to Trump's previous remarks that Hong Kong is part of China and it is not necessary for the U.S. to intervene.

"I hope U.S. side can stick to its words," said Gao.

President Donald Trump over the weekend warned against a crackdown in Hong Kong like Beijing's suppression of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, which would make reaching a deal he has been seeking to end a trade war with China "very hard".

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‘One possible conclusion’: US banned-missile test apparently in works long before leaving INF

It took the US just 17 days after it was no longer officially bound by the INF Treaty to conduct a missile test that would have breached its rules. And it probably was breaching the treaty, given how long preparation takes.

On Sunday, the Pentagon fired a Tomahawk cruise missile from a truck-mounted Mark 41 Vertical Launching System to a distance of over 500km. The test was hardly unexpected. Both the missile and the launcher are time-tested, and their capabilities are publicly known. The only novelty was that the Mk41 was placed on a ground vehicle as opposed to a warship.

Also on rt.com US tests cruise missile BANNED by expired INF treaty...

If anything, the test was a demonstration of intent and attitude. It would have been legally impossible just a month ago, when the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty still forbade not only deploying but even developing weapon systems like the ground-based Tomahawk.

The INF kicked the bucket this year after years of bickering between the US and Russia over who was the worst at sticking to the spirit of the deal. Washington said the Russians had secretly developed a missile that was in violation. There was even secret intelligence to support the accusations – or at least to convince NATO allies not to question the US’ justification for withdrawal.

At the same time, the US developed and fired missiles banned by the treaty, saying it was OK since they were just target missiles and not actual missiles meant to kill and destroy. A similar explanation somehow didn’t work for North Korea with its satellite launch, which was instantly branded a clandestine ballistic missile test by the US. But when the US used one, Russia was expected to just go along.

Also on rt.com What’s INF & why does it matter?...

Washington also deployed the Mk41 VLS in Europe, claiming that they could only fire interceptor missiles to stop Iran from obliterating the Europeans, rather than directing Tomahawks at Russia. What a big surprise this new test must have been for every expert and defense official who said Moscow was overreacting to those missile defenses in Romania and Poland!

There is a notable pattern in Washington’s attitude to international relations, whereby it spots every speck on the record of others, while finding sensible-sounding solutions for any blemishes on its own. How is that work on destroying your chemical weapons going, by the way? For this test to come on such short notice is the latest example.

“In two weeks, one can prepare and get a green light for a test program, and even that would take extra effort,” RT’s defense expert Mikhail Khodarenok remarked. “The rest of it, including bringing the tested weapon system to the range, training the crew in its use, preparing the target, putting sensors in place – that cannot be done in two weeks.”

There is only one possible conclusion – the test was designed, organized, prepared and financed long before the US officially withdrew from the INF.

Now it turns out that all the while Washington was telling the world how the treaty could still be salvaged – if only Russia pled guilty and destroyed its stockpiles of missiles that supposedly violated the INF – it was also developing a weapon system that breached the very same treaty.

The work has been ongoing since at least February this year, according to a Department of Defense spokesperson quoted by RIA Novosti. This is right after the US announced its formal withdrawal and long before the expiration of the six-month grace period stipulated in the treaty. Who could have seen this one coming?

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Spending on illicit drugs in US nears $150 billion annually

Spending on cannabis, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine by Americans reached nearly $150 billion in 2016, with a large proportion of spending coming from the small share of people who use drugs on a daily or near-daily basis, according to a new RAND Corporation report.

Researchers estimate that from 2006 to 2016, the total amount of money spent by Americans on these four drugs fluctuated between $120 billion and $145 billion each year. By contrast, a different analysis finds that spending on alcohol in the U.S. was estimated to be $158 billion in 2017.

Total spending on cannabis, from both illegal and state-licensed sources, increased by approximately 50 percent from 2006 to 2016, from $34 billion to $52 billion. The market for cannabis is roughly the size of the cocaine and methamphetamine markets combined, and the size of the retail heroin market is now closer to the size of the marijuana market than it is to the other drugs, according to the analysis.

"To better understand changes in drug use outcomes and the effects of policies, policymakers need to know what is happening in markets for these substances," said Greg Midgette, the study's lead author, an assistant professor at University of Maryland and an adjunct policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "But it is challenging to generate these estimates, and given that critical data sources have been eliminated, it will likely be harder to generate these figures in the future."

In addition to estimating expenditures on cannabis, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, researchers from RAND used a variety of sources of information about drug use and drug prices to also estimate the number of people who use these substances and how much they consume.

The report shows that after falling precipitously from 2006 to 2010, consumption of cocaine continued to fall slowly through 2015, then increased in 2016. Results suggest there were 2.4 million individuals who used cocaine on four more or days in the past month in 2015 and 2016. Results also suggest that consumption grew in 2016 among a stable number of users as the price per pure gram declined.

Consumption of heroin increased approximately 10 percent per year between 2010 and 2016, according to the analysis. Whereas most heroin consumed in the United States comes from poppies grown in Mexico, the introduction of synthetic opioids like fentanyl into heroin markets has increased the risk of using heroin and complicated market analyses.

There was a steady increase in the amount of heroin seized within the United States and at the southwest border from 2007 through 2016. Changes in the composition of heroin users, potentially involving increased use among individuals without criminal histories, have increased the uncertainty underlying these estimates.

From 2010 to 2016, the number of individuals who used cannabis in the past month increased nearly 30 percent, from 25 million to 32 million. Changes in the potency of marijuana and the proliferation of nonflower products such as oils and waxes have made weight-based consumption estimates obsolete and forced a change in how researchers calculate expenditures.

Researchers say their estimates about methamphetamine use are subject to the greatest uncertainty because national data sets do a particularly poor job of capturing its use.

The federal government discontinued a critical data collection effort in 2003, the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring, or ADAM, right before methamphetamine use was believed to be at its first peak during 2004 to 2006.

ADAM not only collected detailed information about drug market transactions from arrestees, it also included a voluntary urine screen that could only be used for research purposes. A limited version of ADAM was brought back in 2007 and then eliminated after 2013, right when methamphetamine consumption was believed to be picking back up.

"While there is considerable uncertainty surrounding national methamphetamine estimates, multiple indicators suggest methamphetamine use has exceeded its previous peak around 2005," said Beau Kilmer, co-author of the report and director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center. "While there is much more we can do reduce opioid use disorders and poisonings involving synthetic opioids, we cannot ignore the growing problems associated with methamphetamine use."

The RAND researchers note that one important step to better address use of methamphetamine and understand all drug markets would be to fund again some version of the ADAM program that covers urban and rural areas.

Support for the study was provided by the Office of Research and Data Analysis within the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Story Source:

Materials provided by RAND Corporation. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Electromagnetic Attack Causes Blackout in Venezuela

Caracas, Jul 23 (Prensa Latina) Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez assured that the national power outage, which authorities are trying to solve as soon as possible, is the result of an ''electromagnetic attack''.

The power outage occurred in the hydroelectric system in Guayana, in southern Venezuela, from where the bulk of the country's electricity is generated and distributed.

The blackout has affected half of all 23 Venezuelan states, including the capital, Caracas, according to local media.

Since 'the aggressions in March and April this year, the Bolivarian Government has implemented protection and security protocols that allow us to guarantee that we are in the process of reconnection,' Rodriguez noted.

Last Friday, part of central and western Caracas was affected by another power outage, due to a failure in the Bocaya substation, in the parish of San Bernardino, in the north of the capital.

In March, Venezuela was affected by the worst blackout that kept most of the country in darkness for 11 days.

  • Published in World

‘Don’t play with fire’: Beijing warns US over Taiwan

China strongly warned Washington against shipping weapons to Taiwan, and urged the US to consider the “gravity” of the issue after the Pentagon authorized selling tanks to Taipei.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi blasted Washington for allowing arm sales to Taiwan during his trip to Hungary on Friday.

“We urge the US to fully recognize the gravity of the Taiwan question… [and] not to play with fire on the question of Taiwan,” he told reporters via an interpreter, cited by Reuters.

Beijing considers Taiwan its territory and opposes its recognition as an independent country. The US, which does not formally recognize Taiwan in accordance with the ‘one-China principle’, had made diplomatic overtures towards the island nation under President Donald Trump. In 2016, he became the first US leader in more than 30 years to speak over the phone with his Taiwanese counterpart, Tsai Ing-wen. The move prompted a protest by Beijing.

Also on rt.com China threatens sanctions against US companies selling weapons to Taiwan...

Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced that it had authorized the sale of M1A2T Abrams tanks and FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Taiwan. China heavily criticized this decision, saying it undermines the ‘one-China principle’, and demanded to “immediately cancel” the potential sale.

The row over Taiwan adds to the tensions between the US and China, sparked by the ongoing trade war.

  • Published in World

Tehran Condemns UK’s Abidance by US’ Anti-Iran Policies

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi one again denounced the UK’s seizure of an oil tanker of his country in the Strait of Gibraltar, adding that the move showed that London is following Washington’s policies of increasing tension against Tehran.

Mousavi said that the UK’s seizure of Iran-operated oil tanker in the strait of Gibraltar on July 4 was in line with the hostile policies of the US against the Islamic Republic.

“We have told the British authorities that their move would increase tensions and is in line with those hostile policies of the US,” he said.

“From the first day the oil tanker was seized, Iran started taking legal and diplomatic measures. We summoned the UK ambassador twice and he appeared at the Iranian foreign ministry for several other meetings to provide some explanations,” he added.

“We have given the case to a lawyer who is currently taking legal and judiciary procedures,” Mousavi informed.

“Signatories to the JCPOA as well as other countries have done their best to preserve the deal,” Mousavi said, regarding the Iran nuclear deal of 2015, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). “Iran’s next step, within the two-month deadline to Europe, is planned and will be implemented.”

On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the western officials' "worthless" claims that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy attempted to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.

Zarif said that the claims were aimed at creating tensions, adding that the British government’s claim is "worthless", and such claims were nothing new.

Zarif also pointed to the IRGC statement which dismissed the claim, saying that "they are seeking to cover up their weaknesses with such claims".

The IRGC Navy deployed in the Persian Gulf rejected Pentagon’s claims that its forces attempted to seize a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

The IRGC naval forces responsible for controlling the Fifth Naval Zone in the Persian Gulf rejected the Western media claims citing the US Department of Defense (Pentagon) that five Iranian fast boats attempted to capture a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf but they failed as the British Royal Navy frigate (HMS Montrose) interfered.

"Naval patrols of the Guards Corps in the Persian Gulf continue vigilantly, precisely and strongly based on regular procedures and missions, and during the last 24 hours, there have been no encounters with foreign vessels, including the British ones,” a statement by the IRGC Fifth Zone said on Thursday.

"If an order to seize foreign vessels is received, the IRGC naval forces controlling the Fifth Naval Zone in the Persian Gulf are able to carry out their mission in its geographical zone immediately, firmly and rapidly," it added.

Analysts believe that the US claims are aimed at counteracts criticism of Britain for the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Last Thursday morning, British Royal Marines in Gibraltar stormed an Iran-operated supertanker off the coast of Gibraltar, seizing the 300,000-tonne Grace 1 based on the accusation that it was carrying oil to Syria in possible violation of the European Union’s sanctions on the war-torn Arab country.

According to Gibraltar authorities, the 28 crewmembers, who are nationals of India, Pakistan and Ukraine, are currently staying aboard the tanker, along with local police and customs officers boarding the vessel for a period of a probe.

Iran has condemned the move as “maritime piracy” and summoned Britain’s ambassador in protest. It has vowed to employ all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel and uphold its rights.

Spain’s acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell stated on Friday that Madrid was planning to lodge a formal complaint against the UK and was studying the circumstances and looking at how the incident is affecting its sovereignty.

Spain, which challenges the British ownership of Gibraltar, has announced the seizure was prompted by a US request to Britain and appeared to have taken place in Spanish waters.

However, the British-claimed overseas territory rejected the claim, saying that Gibraltar had acted independently.

Gibraltar’s position comes as a British foreign office spokesman had welcomed the move on Thursday, describing it as a “firm action by the Gibraltarian authorities, acting to enforce the EU Syria Sanctions regime”.

The seizure of the Panama-registered Grace 1 came as the US pledged to cut Iran’s oil exports to “zero” as part of the sanctions that it has reinstated after leaving a landmark multilateral 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in May last year, and many analysts take London’s move as an indicator that the UK is not committed to the nuclear agreement and is much on the side of Washington in Trump anti-Iran maximum pressure campaign.

  • Published in World

Iran Crosses Uranium Enrichment Limit In First Major Nuclear Deal Breach

Iran has surpassed the cap on uranium enrichment set by a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, a spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said Monday, warning that Tehran would take further steps to reduce its commitments under the accord.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, speaking to local news agencies, said Iran has exceeded the 3.67% limit and is now enriching uranium at 4.5%, a rate far below the 90% needed to produce a nuclear weapon.

The move was designed to pressure Europe to reset the terms of the nuclear agreement following a U.S. withdrawal from the pact last year. The deal curbed Iran's atomic energy activities in exchange for widespread sanctions relief.

Iran says European nations have failed to compensate Tehran for economic losses now that the United States has reimposed trade and other restrictions lifted under the deal.

The International Atomic Energy Agency announced Monday that its inspectors have verified that Iran is enriching uranium above 3.67% uranium-235. IAEA spokesman Fredrik Dahl said in an email that the agency's director general, Yukiya Amano, has informed the IAEA Board of Governors of that development. The IAEA, a United Nations nuclear watchdog, monitors Iran's nuclear activities.

Before the 2015 nuclear agreement was signed, Iran at one point had more than 22,000 pounds of enriched uranium, a portion of it enriched to nearly 20%. Under the accord, Iran agreed to get rid of the vast bulk of its enriched-uranium stockpile.

Iran has said that it will scale back its obligations under the accord at 60-day intervals and gave Europe another deadline of Sept. 5 before taking a third step to breach the agreement.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said Monday that if European nations "do not fulfill their commitments seriously and do not do anything more than talk, Iran's third step will be harder, more steadfast and somehow stunning," the Associated Press reported.

Kamalvandi suggested Monday that his agency could raise Iran's enrichment level to 20% or reinstall advanced centrifuges deactivated under the deal.

"For now, we don't need 20%" enrichment, he said in an interview aired by Iran's state broadcaster, adding that the 4.5% rate was sufficient to supply fuel to Iran's power plants.

"But if we do, since we have already exceeded 3.67%, we have no limitations or obstacles to do so," he said.

Iran has said it needs uranium enriched to about 20% of U-235, a fissile isotope, for use in a 52-year-old, U.S.-supplied research reactor in Tehran to produce isotopes for medical and scientific purposes. The 2015 nuclear deal required Iran to fabricate an existing stockpile of 5% to 20% enriched uranium into fuel plates for the research reactor, transfer the material out of Iran in a commercial deal or dilute it to 3.67 percent or less - a level suitable for use as reactor fuel in Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant. Any additional fuel needed for the research reactor would be purchased by Iran at international market prices, according to the pact.

Mousavi said Iran has "no hope" that the deal's remaining signatories would salvage the agreement.

"But the door of diplomacy is open," he said. Vice President Mike Pence told a pro-Israel Christian group Monday that the Trump administration will sustain its maximum-pressure campaign against Iran, according to The Associated Press. Speaking in Washington, he said the U.S. "will never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon." He added: "Iran must choose between caring for its people and continuing to fund its proxies, who spread violence and terrorism throughout the region and breathe out murderous hatred against Israel."

In a phone call with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his "deep concern over the danger of further weakening" the nuclear agreement and "the consequences that would necessarily ensue."

The two leaders "agreed to explore, between now and July 15, the conditions for a resumption of dialogue involving all the parties," the French government said in a statement.

Wendy Sherman, a former State Department official who was the lead U.S. negotiator in the talks with Iran, said that Iran's steps so far are reversible but that each step "does move us down a more dangerous path."

"This could spiral out of control quite quickly, depending on U.S. actions," she said.

Robert Malley, an adviser in the Obama White House who also participated in the negotiations, said Iran's actions so far are not a threat, yet.

"For the time being, it's more political signaling than proliferation," he said. "But it will continue to get worse. Iran will move away from the (2015 nuclear deal) if things do not change. It is telling the United States, if it wants to engage in brinkmanship, two can play that game."

  • Published in World
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