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24 Hours Across Africa

U.S to deploy troops aimed Iran threats.

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Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced on Monday the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

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Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since last Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked, which Washington has blamed on Tehran, more than a year after President Donald Trump said Washington was withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal.

“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” Shanahan said in a statement.

The new U.S. deployment to the Middle East is in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month in response to tanker attacks in May. Washington previously tightened sanctions, ordering all countries and companies to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.

Iran said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal, which a White House National Security Council spokesman said amounted to “nuclear blackmail.”

The 2015 accord, which Iran and the other signatories have maintained following Trump’s decision, caps Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium at 300 kg enriched to 3.67 percent.

But Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on Monday: “We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment (of uranium) and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300 kg limit.”

“Iran’s reserves are every day increasing at a more rapid rate,” he told state TV, adding that “the move will be reversed once other parties fulfil their commitments.”

The move further undermines the nuclear pact also signed by Russia, Britain, Germany, China and the European Union, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the collapse of the deal would not be in the interests of the region or the world.

The nuclear deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

Britain said if Iran breached agreed limits, London would look at “all options.” Israel, Iran’s arch foe, urged world powers to step up sanctions against Tehran swiftly should it exceed the enriched uranium limit.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said, however, the EU would only react to any breach if the International Atomic Energy Agency formally identified one.


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24 Hours Across Africa

EU to probe Amazon over use of merchant data

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Amazon became the target of an antitrust investigation by the European Union on Wednesday over its use of merchants’ data, underlining the increasing regulatory scrutiny about how tech companies exploit customers’ information.

The European Commission has been seeking feedback from retailers and manufacturers since September into Amazon’s dual role as a marketplace for merchants and acting as a competitor following complaints from traders about Amazon’s practices.

The Commission said its investigation would focus on Amazon’s standard agreements with marketplace sellers and its use of data in choosing winners of the “buy box”, which allows consumers to add items from a specific retailer directly to their shopping carts.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who can fine companies up to 10% of their global turnover, said the issue was crucial as more and more Europeans shop online.

“E-commerce has boosted retail competition and brought more choice and better prices. We need to ensure that large online platforms don’t eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behavior,” she said.

Amazon said it would cooperate fully with the EU investigation. The company reached a deal with Germany’s antitrust authority on Wednesday to overhaul its terms of service for third-party merchants.

Under its terms of service for Europe here set out on its website, merchants grant Amazon “royalty-free” rights to use in a range of ways their materials, such as technology, trademarks, content and product information.

“There have been concerns around the world that competition authorities have failed to appreciate the market power that comes from ownership of data,” he said.

In Amazon’s case, he said the Commission needed to show “the standard agreements with retailers were anti-competitive in somehow allowing Amazon to use the data to manipulate market outcomes, or that Amazon had in some way abused its dominance.”

The Commission had been struggling to define the market in which Amazon operates in order to identify where the competitive harm could have been, sources said.

This would not be Amazon’s first run-in with the Commission. Two years ago, it was told to pay back taxes of about 250 million euros ($280 million) to Luxembourg because of illegal tax benefits. That same year it settled with the regulator over its distribution deals with e-book publishers in Europe.

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24 Hours Across Africa

US House faults Trump attacks on congresswomen as racist

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Source: BBC-

The US House of Representatives has voted to condemn President Donald Trump after a series of attacks aimed at four congresswomen.

The symbolic resolution denounced Mr Trump’s “racist comments that have legitimised fear and hatred of New Americans and people of colour”.

Mr Trump had been accused of racism and xenophobia for telling the members of congress to leave the country.

The president has since tweeted: “I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!”

Tuesday’s debate in the Democratic-controlled chamber was a highly polarised debate,

with various Republicans insisting the vote itself was a breach of decorum.

It passed by 240 votes to 187.

Four Republicans and the House’s sole independent, former Republican lawmaker Justin Amash, joined all 235 Democrats to approve the resolution

The four Republicans were Texas congressman Will Hurd (the party’s only African American representative), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania), Fred Upton (Michigan) and Susan Brooks (Indiana).

Passing a resolution – which is a statement of opinion and not legally binding – criticising presidential conduct is very rare.

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