Tuesday, December 07, 2021

June 15, 2021 President Joe Biden will seek to stave off another surge of civilian suffering in the devastating war in Syria when he meets President Vladimir Putin this week, appealing to Putin to drop a threat to close the last aid crossing into that country.

Russian forces have helped Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime survive the more than 10-year conflict and Putin hopes to be a broker for Assad in any international reconstruction effort for that country. Russia holds the key veto on July 10 when the U.N. Security Council decides whether to extend the authorization for the aid crossing from Turkey.

Putin meets with the American president in Geneva on Wednesday in their first face-to-face since Biden took office. The Russian leader already has pressed successfully for shutting down all other international humanitarian crossings into Syria, and argues that Assad should handle the distribution of any aid.

The aid crossing from Turkey into rebel-held northwest Syria serves up to 4 million people in Syria’s last remaining rebel stronghold. A decade of civil war in the Middle East country has killed a half-million people, displaced half of the population, drawn in foreign armies and extremist groups and left the economy in ruins.

Shutting down the international aid corridor and putting Assad’s government in charge of any humanitarian distribution would help position Assad as the winner in the war and Syria’s rightful ruler in the aftermath, and deepen the regional influence of Assad’s ally, Russia, in any rebuilding of Syria.

“Assistance should be given through the central government,” Putin told NBC News in an interview ahead of his meeting with Biden.

If there are fears that the assistance would be stolen, aid groups can post observers, the Russian leader said.

Opponents say Assad’s regime has not hesitated to use civilian starvation and siege as a weapon in the war, and fear a destabilizing surge of refugees into neighboring Turkey if the crossing shuts down.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, visited the threatened Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Turkey and rebel-held northwest Syria earlier this month to warn that closing it would bring “senseless cruelty.”

Turkey, which already holds close to 4 million Syrian refugees, joins the U.S. in opposing the closure of the crossing.

Mona Yacoubian, a senior adviser for the U.S. Institute of Peace think tank, said closing the Bab al Hawa aid crossing could “precipitate this humanitarian catastrophe” and a destabilizing surge of refugees.

Biden’s possible points of leverage with Putin, Yacoubian said, could include stressing the harm that a new round of civilian suffering in Syria could do to Russia’s image as it positions itself to oversee hoped-for Arab and other international aid to rebuild Syria.

There also could be consideration of granting humanitarian waivers on sanctions that the United States and others have levied on the Assad regime, Yacoubian said.

Russia argues that U.S. support for what started out as a peaceful uprising in Syria, and condemnation of Assad’s and other repressive governments during the Arab Spring, fostered instability and violence and boosted Islamic extremist groups.

Many in Biden’s administration were also in the Obama administration when it considered, but held back from, military intervention to stop Assad’s chemical attacks on civilians. They have since expressed regret that the United States’ overall handling of the conflict failed to stop the bloodshed.

SXM Radio Online

Entertainment

September 7, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — Actor Michael K. Williams, who as the rogue robber of drug dealers Omar Little on “The Wire” created one of the most beloved and enduring characters in a prime era of television, died Monday. Williams was found dead Monday afternoon by family members in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment, New York City police said. He was 54. His death was being investigated as a possible drug overdose, the NYPD said. The medical examiner was investigating the cause of death. Little, a “stick-up boy” based on real figures from Baltimore, was probably the most popular character among the devoted fans of “The Wire,” the HBO show that ran from 2002 to 2008 and is re-watched constantly in streaming.

September 8, 2021 LOS ANGELES (AP) — Britney Spears’ father filed Tuesday to end the court conservatorship that has controlled the singer’s life and money for 13 years. James Spears filed his petition to terminate the conservatorship in Los Angeles Superior Court. “As Mr. Spears has said, again and again, all he wants is what is best for his daughter,” the document says. “If Ms. Spears wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes that she can handle her own life, Mr. Spears believes that she should get that chance.” Judge Brenda Penny, who oversees the case, will need to approve the move. Britney Spears attorney Matthew Rosengart said in an email the filing “represents another legal victory for Britney Spears — a massive one — as well as vindication for Ms. Spears.”

September 8, 2021  NEW YORK (AP) — With Katie Holmes and Lil’ Kim on his front row and singer Marina on the mic high above his runway, Christian Siriano helped kicked off New York Fashion Week’s first big pandemic round of in-person shows Tuesday with a flurry of neon and lace-inspired in part by all the Italian women in his life. From ornate Gotham Hall, beneath a stained-glass skylight 70 feet up, Siriano’s commitment to size inclusivity was never stronger as he opened and closed the show with plus-size breakout model Precious Lee. She first walked in a stunning yellow trouser suit with wide loose pants and an asymmetrical jacket, a matching crossover bralette underneath.

September 7, 2021  VENICE, Italy (AP) — Paul Schrader knows he has a limited number of films left, so whatever he does from here on out is going to be for himself. At 75 years old, the writer of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” and director of “American Gigolo” and “Mishima” was even somewhat prepared to call it a day after his 2018 film “First Reformed,” for which he got his first Oscar nomination. He didn’t want to. He just knew it might be the reality. “I thought I would go back to this character again for about the fifth time,” Schrader said in a recent interview. By “this character” he means “the man in the room.” It’s Travis Bickle. It’s John LeTour. It’s Julian Kay. And it’s a formula he’s been working with for 45 years.

Business News

September 8, 2021  -Stocks were mostly lower in Asia on Wednesday after a lackluster session on Wall Street, where weak jobs data and pandemic concerns weighed on sentiment. Shares rose in Tokyo after economic growth for the April-June quarter was revised upward to an annualized 1.9% from an earlier estimate of 1.3%. “Any feel-good factor was ignored, though, given the climb was less than half of the 4.20% fall in Q1,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary. “Japan will be lucky to break even this year as the current Covid-19 wave will almost certainly have weighed on domestic consumption,” he said.

September 8, 2021 NEW YORK (AP) — There will be something missing at two Whole Foods stores opening next year: the rows of cashiers. Amazon, which owns the grocery chain, said Wednesday that it will bring its cashier-less technology to two Whole Foods stores for the first time, letting shoppers grab what they need and leave without having to open their wallets. Cameras and sensors track what’s taken off shelves. Items are charged to an Amazon account after customers leave the store with them. But there will be an option for those who want to shop the old-fashioned way: Self-checkout lanes will be available that take cash, gift cards and other types of payment. Amazon first unveiled the cashier-less technology in 2018 at an Amazon Go convenience store and has expanded it to larger Amazon supermarkets. But it will be the first time it has appeared at Whole Foods, a chain of more than 500 grocery stores Amazon bought four years ago.

September 8, 2021  BEIJING (AP) — An avalanche of changes launched by China’s ruling Communist Party has jolted everyone from tech billionaires to school kids. Behind them: President Xi Jinping’s vision of making a more powerful, prosperous country by reviving revolutionary ideals, with more economic equality and tighter party control over society and entrepreneurs. Since taking power in 2012, Xi has called for the party to return to its “original mission” as China’s economic, social and cultural leader and carry out the “ rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation.” The party has spent the decade since then silencing dissent and tightening political control. Now, after 40 years of growth that transformed China into the world’s factory but left a gulf between a wealthy elite and the poor majority, the party is promising to spread prosperity more evenly and is pressing private companies to pay for social welfare and back Beijing’s ambition to become a global technology competitor.

Fashion News

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