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US warns Turkey on exports seen to boost Russia’s war effort

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US warns Turkey on exports seen to boost Russia's war effort

The United States warned Turkey in recent days about the export to Russia of chemicals, microchips and other products that can be used in Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine, and it could move to punish Turkish companies or banks contravening sanctions.

Brian Nelson, the U.S. Treasury Department’s top sanctions official, visited Turkish government and private sector officials on Thursday and Friday to urge more cooperation in disrupting the flow of such goods.

In a speech to bankers, Nelson said a marked year-long rise in exports to Russia leaves Turkish entities “particularly vulnerable to reputational and sanctions risks”, or lost access to G7 markets.

They should “take extra precaution to avoid transactions related to potential dual-use technology transfers that could be used by the Russian military-industrial complex,” he said in a copy of the speech issued by the Treasury.

In the meetings in Ankara and Istanbul, Nelson and a delegation highlighted tens of millions of dollars of exports to Russia that raised concerns, according to a senior U.S. official who requested anonymity.

“There is no surprise…that Russia is actively looking to leverage the historic economic ties it has in Turkey,” the official said. “The question is what is the Turkish response going to be.”

NATO member Ankara opposes the sweeping sanctions on Russia on principle but says they will not be circumvented in Turkey, urging the West to provide any evidence.

Western nations applied the export controls and sanctions after Moscow’s invasion nearly a year ago. Yet supply channels have remained open from Hong Kong, Turkey and other trading hubs.

Citing Russian customs records, Reuters reported in December that at least $2.6 billion of computer and other electronic components flowed into Russia in the seven months to Oct. 31. At least $777 million of these products were made by Western firms whose chips have been found in Russian weapons systems.

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Ankara has balanced its good ties with both Moscow and Kyiv throughout the war, held early talks between the sides and also helped broker a deal for grain shipments from Ukraine.

The trip by Nelson, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, is the latest to Turkey by senior U.S. officials aiming to ramp up pressure on Ankara to ensure enforcement of U.S. curbs on Russia.

The pressure has brought some changes.

Turkey’s largest ground-service provider, Havas, told Russian and Belarusian airlines it may stop providing parts, fuel and other services to their U.S.-origin aircraft, in line with Western bans, Reuters reported on Friday citing a Jan. 31 letter from the company.

In September, five Turkish banks suspended use of the Russian Mir payment system after the U.S. Treasury targeted the head of the system’s operator with new sanctions and warned those helping Moscow against skirting them.

Nelson urged the Turkish bankers to conduct enhanced due diligence on Russian-related transactions, and noted in the speech that Russian oligarchs continue to buy property and dock yachts in Turkey.

In separate talks with Turkish firms, Nelson “urgently” flagged the way Russia is believed to be dodging Western controls to re-supply plastics, rubber and semi-conductors found in exported goods and used by the military, the official said.

The person added that after taking steps last year to press Russia to end the war, the U.S. focus is now “on evasion and particularly evasion in third countries that we are seeing”.

Nelson delivered similar messages in the United Arab Emirates and Oman this week, the Treasury said.

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Argentina faces rising dengue epidemic risk as mosquitoes hatch early

Argentina faces rising dengue epidemic risk as mosquitoes hatch early

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Argentina faces rising dengue epidemic risk as mosquitoes hatch early

Mosquitoes are hatching earlier in Argentina and reaching cooler regions than before, as rising temperatures drive the country’s worst outbreak of dengue fever and raise the risk of more regular epidemics of the insect-borne virus, scientists said.

So far in the 2023-24 season, the South American nation has recorded 232,996 cases of the disease sometime known as “break-bone fever” for the severe muscle and joint pain it can cause, along with high fever, headache, vomiting, and skin rash.

That’s well above the previous all-time high of 130,000, recorded last season, and five times the figure at the same point a year ago, the latest official data showed. Cases usually spike in late summer around March-April, but began far earlier this season.

“The increase in the number of mosquitoes at the end of spring is getting earlier and earlier,” said Sylvia Fischer, a doctor in biological sciences and researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET).

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Scientists are seeing the disease more than before in cooler regions further to Argentina’s south, Fischer added.

“These are all places where a few years ago it could not be found,” she said, adding that it reflected a wider regional trend where the season for mosquitoes was being extended by warmer weather in part linked to climate change.

“If I had to extrapolate, I would say that we have the possibility of having dengue epidemics perhaps every year.”

In Argentina, the outbreak this year has strained hospitals and left shelves empty of insect repellent, with sellers hiking prices when they do have supply. The government has moved to ease imports of mosquito spray to meet demand.

“I have a lot of patients hospitalized for dengue,” said Leda Guzzi, an infectious disease doctor, who added that while most cases were not severe, the huge number of cases could lead to a more deadly outbreak next year as people get re-infected.

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“The disease has spread tremendously and we really think next year is going to be very difficult because there are going to be many second episodes of dengue.”

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Taiwan’s dogs search for quake victims: A success story

Taiwan’s dogs search for quake victims: A success story

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Taiwan's dogs search for quake victims: A success story

 A former drug-sniffing dog who lost his job for being too friendly has emerged as the unlikely MVP of the Taiwan rescue teams searching for survivors of the island’s strongest earthquake in 25 years.

At least 13 people were killed and more than 1,140 injured by the magnitude-7.4 quake that struck the island on Wednesday, with strict building codes and widespread disaster readiness credited with averting an even bigger catastrophe.

But landslides around epicentre Hualien still blocked tunnels and roads, making the mountainous terrain around the county difficult for rescuers to access survivors and victims.

Footage released by the county fire department on Saturday showed Roger, an eight-year-old labrador, mounting a boulder that had fallen across a hiking trail near Hualien’s Taroko National Park.

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“Have you found something? Let’s go over there,” said a rescuer to Roger, who did not budge.

“Roger must have found some clues, and his confused look made the handler feel something was up, and then they found the victim,” said Mayor Chen Chi-mai in a Facebook post titled “The Paw Paw Team’s feat”.

Handler Lee Hsin-hung said Roger located a victim “just five minutes after setting off”, and praised the dog’s confidence in an unfamiliar terrain.

Originally trained as a drug-sniffing dog as a pup, Roger was given his walking papers from that role because he was too friendly, which led to his switch to search-and-rescue missions.

“He’s very agile,” Lee told reporters. “Like this time when he went to Shakadang Trail, it’s not a rescue site we can simulate (in training) but he’s not scared.”

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The soon-to-retire dog has won hearts in Taiwan for his boisterous nature, lunging at reporters’ microphones during interviews and also destroying a chew toy given to him after his mission.

Another search dog, three-year-old Wilson, a Jack Russell terrier, is getting accolades as well after footage emerged in Taiwanese media of his persistent scramble through immovable boulders.

The quake’s aftermath was Wilson’s first mission, and he located two victims — a performance that handler Tseng Ching-lin said he was “surprised” about.

“He’s very smart, but he likes to play and he runs to other places,” Tseng said, as Wilson started to bite the microphone.

At least six people remain unaccounted for, while the number of people who can’t be accessed has steadily shrunk as authorities managed to fix roads and clear tunnels over the weekend. 

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Footage shows a lively Gaza turned to wasteland since war began

Footage shows a lively Gaza turned to wasteland since war began

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Footage shows a lively Gaza turned to wasteland since war began

Drone footage of Gaza over the six months of warfare between Israel and Hamas shows how the once vibrant Palestinian enclave has been transformed into a vast wasteland of rubble and twisted steel by Israeli bombardment.

During normal days, Palestinians used to be able to stand on their buildings’ balconies and take in a view of the Mediterranean Sea.

Those structures have vanished, footage from Reuters and other sources shows, crushed into piles of cement and debris.

Residents have been forced to wander Gaza seeking shelter from an Israeli offensive designed to destroy its arch enemy Hamas.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the campaign will not stop until Hamas is eliminated, so the bombardment and destruction are expected to continue.

Footage showed how Palestinians lived in calmer days in the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

Palestinians drove their cars along a calm street with tall trees separating traffic as far as the eye could see. Footage taken later shows a nearby street with one demolished building after another. One person could be seen walking in the smashed cement of a ghost town.

The conflict began when Hamas, which runs Gaza, burst into Israel on Oct. 7, killed 1,200 people and dragged more than 200 hostages back to Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel responded with a relentless bombardment of the enclave that has killed more than 33,000 people, according to Gaza health authorities.

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As Palestinians endure the bombing and try to cope with a humanitarian crisis, they think back to some of the places in the Reuters drone footage, like a peaceful alleyway where a teenager speeds along on his bicycle.

The footage also showed a white mosque with a green courtyard overlooking the sea. Fast forward six months and footage will show many destroyed mosques in Gaza.

In another part of Gaza, cars work their way through a roundabout in pre-war footage. Barely traces of it can be seen now. 

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