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Brittney Griner Denied Appeal on 9-year Sentence in Russia



Brittney Griner

On Tuesday, a Russian court dismissed Brittney Griner’s appeal of her 9-year prison sentence for drug charges, bringing her closer to a high-stakes prisoner swap between Moscow and Washington.

The Olympic gold medalist and 8time all-star center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury was convicted on Aug. 4 after police said they seized vape canisters carrying cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

Griner, 32, appeared via video link from a correctional colony outside the capital where she is being kept.

Griner admitted to having the CBD vape canisters in her suitcase during her trial but claimed she packed them accidentally in her rush to catch her trip and had no illegal intent.

Her defence team provided written declarations in which she stated that she had been prescribed cannabis to relieve chronic pain.

The 9-year sentence came close to Russia’s maximum of ten years, and Brittney Griner’s defenders contended that the punishment was disproportionate after his conviction.

In similar cases, they noted, defendants received an average sentence of around five years, with about a third given parole. While upholding the sentence, the court stated that Griner’s prison time would be revised to reflect her time in pre-trial detention.

One day in pre-trial custody will be counted as one and a half days in prison. Thus, she will still be sentenced to about eight years.

 Brittney Griner

Griner’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov wrote in an email that they were “extremely dissatisfied” with the judgment since “the punishment is harsh and defies normal court practice.”

“Brittney Griner’s greatest concern is that she will not be swapped and will have to complete the remainder of her sentence in Russia,” they wrote. “She had hoped for today because every month, every day away from her family and friends is important to her.”

They said they needed to consult Brittney Griner about the following legal actions.

Griner’s detention in February happened at a moment when Moscow and Washington were at odds, just days before Russia sent soldiers into Ukraine. Griner returned to Russia to play for a Russian team during the summer of the WNBA.

Biden warns Russia that nuclear weapons would be a “bad mistake.”

President Joe Biden cautioned Russia on Tuesday that using a tactical nuclear weapon would be an “extremely grave error.” He also stated that the White House is in “continuous touch” with Russian authorities for Brittney Griner’s release. (Oct. 25)

According to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the decision is “another failure of justice, aggravating the unfairness of her confinement,” and “securing her release is our goal.”

 Brittney Griner

President Biden told reporters that the state department is in “continuous touch” with Russian authorities over Brittney Griner and the other Americans jailed in Russia.

While there has been no movement in getting her back to the United States, Biden stated, “We are not stopping.”

Before her conviction, the US State Department proclaimed Griner to have been “wrongfully held,” an accusation that Russia has categorically denied.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan states that Biden “is willing to go to tremendous lengths and make difficult judgments to bring Americans home.”

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert stated that the decision, “although regrettable, was not anticipated.” It’s time to put this case behind us and bring BG home.” According to the WNBA Players Association, the verdict “further validates that BG is not simply unfairly incarcerated — she is very certainly a hostage.”

Because the Biden administration is under increasing pressure to do more to bring Brittney Griner back home, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken revealed in July that the State Department had made a “substantial proposal” to bring Brittney Griner home, along with Paul Whelan, an American businessman serving a 16-years for espionage.

 Brittney Griner

Blinken did not clarify, but AP and other news outlets have reported that Washington has offered to swap Brittney Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, an arms dealer known as the “merchant of death,” captured in Thailand, serving a 25-year term in the United States.

The White House stated that it has yet to get a constructive response to the offer from Russia.

Russian officials have refused to comment on the US plan and asked Washington to debate the topic privately rather than publicly. However, some Russian officials have stated that a deal is more feasible when all appeals have been exhausted.

In September, Biden met with the wife of Brittney Griner, Cherelle Griner, and her agent, Lindsay Colas.

 Brittney Griner

Following the discussions, the White House stated that the president reiterated to the families of Brittney Griner and Paul his “continued commitment to working through all possible avenues to bring them home.

In April, the United States and Russia exchanged prisoners for the release of a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was convicted of a cocaine trafficking conspiracy; Moscow released US Marines veteran Trevor Reed.

Moscow has also advocated for releasing other Russians detained in the United States.

Alexander Vinnik, for example, has been accused of laundering billions through an illegal cryptocurrency exchange. Vinnik was apprehended in Greece in 2017 and extradited to the United States in August.

Last month, Vinnik’s French lawyer, Frederic Belot, informed the Russian publication Izvestia that his client wished to be involved in a future swap.

Another possible candidate, according to the publication, is Roman Seleznev, the son of a Russian legislator. In 2017, he was sentenced to 27 years in jail on charges related to a hacking and credit card fraud conspiracy.

Source: AP, VOR News


Vice President Harris’ Trip Aims To Deepen US Ties In Africa




WASHINGTON — The U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will strive to strengthen and reinterpret U.S. partnerships in Africa during a weeklong trip that marks the Biden administration’s latest and most visible outreach as it moves to offset China’s growing influence.

Harris intends to travel to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia, focusing on economic development, climate change, food security, and a growing young population. She is set to arrive in Ghana’s capital, Accra, on Sunday. Doug Emhoff, her husband, is accompanying her.

“For far too long, the United States’ foreign policy establishment has treated Africa as an after-school project rather than part of the core curriculum,” said Michelle Gavin, an Africa expert at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former United States ambassador to Botswana. “I see a concerted effort now to change that mindset.” However, it takes time.”

Harris will be widely followed across Africa as the first person of color and the first woman to serve as America’s vice president. Harris was reared in California even though her mother was born in India and her father was born in Jamaica.

“Everyone is excited about Kamala Harris,” said Idayat Hassan, director of Abuja, Nigeria’s Centre for Democracy and Development. “You can be whatever you want — that’s what she represents to many of us.”

A lecture in Accra and a visit to Cape Coast Castle, where enslaved Africans were once put onto ships bound for America, will highlight Harris’ trip. Harris also intends to meet with authorities in each country she visits and to lay a wreath in memory of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital.


Harris will be widely followed across Africa as the first person of color and the first woman to serve as America’s vice president.

Her schedule also includes a few non-traditional sites designed to emphasize the exciting future of a continent with a median age of only 19.

Harris intends to visit a recording studio in Accra, meet with female entrepreneurs, and visit a tech accelerator in Dar es Salaam. Harris is scheduled to meet with corporate and charity leaders in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, to discuss boosting access to digital and financial systems.

Emhoff’s events have a similar focus. During his visit to Ghana, he intends to hold a town hall meeting with performers from a local television show, attend a girls’ basketball clinic, and tour a women-run chocolate company.

According to administration sources, the goal is to promote Africa as a site for investment rather than just aid packages, a subject that Harris underlined in December during a U.S.-Africa meeting in Washington.

“Because of your energy, ambition, and ability to turn seemingly intractable problems into opportunities,” she remarked, “I am an optimist about what lies ahead for Africa and, by extension, for the world.” “Simply put, your ability to see what could be, unburdened by what has been.”

Harris will spend three nights in Ghana, two nights in Tanzania, and one in Zambia before returning to Washington on April 2.

“It’s trip to support reformers,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, co-director of the Brookings Institution’s Africa Security Initiative. “All three countries have faced significant challenges and changed dramatically.”


Tanzania’s first female president has loosened restrictions on opposition parties and rallies.

Ghana is facing a debt crisis and excessive inflation, dragging down an economy that was once among the best in the region. It is particularly concerned about instability caused by Islamist extremists and Russian mercenaries operating in countries north of Ghana.

Tanzania’s first female president has loosened restrictions on opposition parties and rallies. Zambia has implemented its reforms, such as decriminalizing presidential slander. However, democratic development in both areas is thought to be fragile.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and First Lady Jill Biden have traveled to Africa. President Joe Biden is set to leave office later this year.

Harris will visit Zambia for the first time since childhood when her maternal grandpa worked there. He was a civil servant from India who assisted with refugee relocation after Zambia gained independence from Britain.

“Grandpa was one of my favorite people in the world and one of the earliest and most lasting influences in my life,” Harris writes in her book.

The December U.S.-Africa meeting was the first since President Obama hosted one in 2014. Although Washington’s approach to Africa has had some historic successes, such as President George W. Bush’s HIV/AIDS effort, which has saved millions of lives, there have also been times of neglect.

“There’s a lot of skepticism and doubt about American staying power,” said Daniel Russel, a former State Department official who now works at the Asia Society Policy Institute. “They’re used to American promises that fizzle out and don’t amount to much.”

In stark contrast, China has led far-reaching infrastructure projects and increased telecom activities throughout the region.

According to John Kirby, a White House national security spokesman, African leaders are “beginning to realize that China is not their friend.”

“China’s interests in the region are purely selfish, in contrast to the U.S.,” he remarked. “We are truly committed to assisting our African friends in dealing with many challenges.”

Senior administration officials have been careful not to characterize Harris’ visit as another step in a geopolitical contest, which might alienate African leaders weary of choosing sides between global heavyweights.

They are now waiting to see what Harris and the U.S. have to give over the next week.

“Because of her profile, she has a very good reputation in Africa,” said Rama Yade, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. “However, beyond that, public opinion in the three countries will develop expectations very quickly.”



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UN Head Says Survival Depends On How People Manage Water In 2023




WATER The United Nations Humanity’s survival depends on how people manage water, said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday at the close of a three-day conference on global water resources, during which developing countries made urgent requests for assistance with cleaner drinking water and better sanitation.

In his final remarks, Guterres stated, “All of humanity’s hopes for the future depend, in some way, on charting a new course to sustainably manage and conserve water.”

He stated that water “needs to be at the center of the global political agenda” and that this implies more aggressive action against climate change.

According to the United Nations World Water Development Report, released on the eve of the conference, 26% of the world’s population—2 billion people — lacks access to safe drinking water, while 46% — 3.6 billion people — lack access to basic sanitation. According to UN studies, nearly half the world’s population will face acute water stress by 2030.

Many rhetorical pledges to enhance water supply were made at the conference, but there needed to be more precise commitments to translate aspirations into better daily lives for regular people.


Throughout the meeting, water-stressed states, particularly those in the developing world

“We have such lovely, ambitious initiatives,” said Lina Taing, senior researcher at the global think tank United Nations University.

“We know that we are completely off track,” she stated, regarding providing them with clean water and sanitation. Taing stated that the world’s actions must be increased “fourfold.”

Throughout the meeting, water-stressed states, particularly those in the developing world, told U.N. members of their need for international aid to provide their people with drinking water and sanitation facilities.

“Waging a war on two fronts at the same time to address water issues and climate change is no easy task, especially for a small island nation like Kiribati, which has very limited resources at its disposal,” said Teburoro Tito, the United Nations representative for the Pacific island nation of fewer than 200,000 people. He claimed that Kiribati was particularly unprepared to deal with natural calamities.


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2 Dead In Missouri Flash Flood; Tornado Threat In The South




DECATUR, Texas — Two persons were killed early Friday in Missouri after their automobile was carried away by torrential rains as part of a severe weather storm raging over the Midwest and South.

The crash occurred shortly after midnight in a sparsely inhabited area of southwest Missouri. According to authorities, six young adults were in the vehicle washed away while attempting to cross a bridge over a flooded creek in Grovespring.

Four of the six survived the water. Devon Holt, 20, of Grovespring, was discovered about 3:30 a.m., and Alexander Roman-Ranelli, 19, of Springfield, was discovered about six hours later, according to Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Thomas Young.

According to Young, the motorist told investigators that severe rains made it difficult to detect that water from a creek had submerged the bridge.

Meanwhile, the hunt for a lady who went missing after flash flooding from a tiny river drove her car off the road in another southwestern Missouri county. According to the Logan Rogersville Fire Protection District, the victim’s dog was recovered safely, but there was no sign of the woman. Two additional people in the car were saved.

Southern Missouri received about 3 inches of rain Thursday night and into Friday morning, and severe weather was also affecting neighboring areas. A possible tornado touched down in north Texas early Friday as a dynamic storm system threatened to produce tornadoes in numerous Southern states.


Flash flooding from a tiny river drove her car off the road in another southwestern Missouri county.

According to Matt Elliott, a warning coordination meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, Severe weather is forecast throughout many states.

“We’re talking about several tornadoes, some of which could be strong and intense,” Elliott warned.

The Storm Prediction Center warned that tornadoes would be most likely across Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee on Friday afternoon and evening. Storms with destructive winds and hail were predicted to move from eastern Texas and southeastern Oklahoma into southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois.

Heavy rain Thursday night and Friday morning prompted flash flooding in areas of Missouri, where a vehicle became stranded near the town of Fordham, according to authorities. Rescue teams were called to a low-water crossing on the Finley River late Thursday, according to Logan Rogersville Fire Protection District authorities on Facebook.


Southern Missouri has received 3 inches of rain since Thursday

Two persons were rescued, but a third was still missing as of Friday morning. The crews intended to deploy boats and have searchers stroll along the river’s edge.

According to the meteorological service, some sections of southern Missouri have received 3 inches of rain since Thursday, and rain is likely to continue until Saturday morning. Most of southern Missouri was under a flash flood watch or warning on Friday.

According to Cody Powell, the county’s emergency management coordinator, a probable tornado impacted the southwest portion of Wise County around 5 a.m., damaging homes and downing trees and electrical lines. Powell stated that he had received no reports of injuries.

Although the weather service has not confirmed a tornado, damage to residences has been recorded in neighboring Parker County, according to meteorologist Matt Stalley, and investigators will likely head to the region later Friday to make that conclusion.

The two areas are roughly 10 miles (16 km) apart on the western border of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, and the storm system is predicted to pass east of the region by early Friday afternoon, according to Stalley.


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