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Amid internet shutdowns in Iran, US takes step to allow tech firms to help Iranian people access online info

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CNN
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Amid web shutdowns by the Iranian authorities within the face of widespread protests, the US authorities has taken a step meant to permit expertise companies to assist the individuals of Iran entry info on-line, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken introduced Friday.

“It’s clear that the Iranian authorities is afraid of its personal individuals,” Blinken mentioned in an announcement. “Mahsa Amini is senselessly, tragically lifeless, and now the federal government is violently suppressing peaceable protesters rightly offended about her loss.”

Blinken mentioned the Treasury Division has issued a normal license, which authorizes sure transactions which might in any other case be prohibited underneath sanctions, “to advance our efforts and commitments to make sure that the Iranian individuals can freely entry info on-line.”

“We’re taking this step towards a stark backdrop,” he mentioned. “The Iranian authorities has lower off entry to the Web for many of its 80 million residents to stop them — and the world — from watching its violent crackdown on peaceable protestors.”

“(W)e are going to assist make sure that the Iranian individuals are not stored remoted and at the hours of darkness. It is a concrete step to supply significant assist to Iranians demanding that their primary rights be revered,” he mentioned.

In keeping with the Treasury Division, the overall license expands the classes of software program and companies that may be supplied “to incorporate social media platforms, collaboration platforms, video conferencing, in addition to cloud-based companies,” offers “extra authorization for the companies that assist the communication instruments to help strange Iranians in resisting repressive web censorship and surveillance instruments deployed by the Iranian regime,” and “removes the requirement to confirm communications are ‘private’ in nature.”

It additionally “continues to authorize anti-virus and anti-malware software program; anti-tracking software program; cell working methods and associated software program; anti-censorship instruments and associated software program; Digital Non-public Community (VPN) shopper software program; and associated software program,” noting that “these instruments defend the power of Iranians to have interaction in free expression and bravely resist regime oppression,” the Treasury mentioned.

The announcement comes a day after the US issued sanctions on Iran’s Morality Police, in whose custody Amiri died.

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Venezuela releases 7 jailed Americans; US frees 2 prisoners

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WASHINGTON — Venezuela on Saturday freed seven Individuals imprisoned within the South American nation in change for the discharge of two nephews of President Nicholas Maduro’s spouse who had been jailed for years by the US on drug smuggling convictions, a senior U.S. official mentioned.

The swap of the Individuals, including five oil executives held for nearly five years, is the most important commerce of detained residents ever carried out by the Biden administration.

“We’re relieved and gratified to be welcoming again to their households as we speak seven Individuals who had been wrongfully detained for too lengthy in Venezuela,” mentioned Joshua Geltzer, the deputy homeland safety adviser.

It quantities to a uncommon gesture of goodwill by Maduro because the socialist chief appears to be like to rebuild relations with the U.S. after vanquishing most of his home opponents. The deal follows months of back channel diplomacy by Washington’s top hostage negotiator and other U.S. officials — secretive talks with a serious oil producer that took on larger urgency after sanctions on Russia put strain on international power costs.

CITGO oil executives in Caracas, Venezuela.
CITGO oil executives from left, Jose Angel Pereira, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Alirio Jose Zambrano in Caracas, Venezuela.Jorge Arreaza/Venezuela’s International Ministry Twitter through AP File

These freed embody 5 workers of Houston-based Citgo — Tomeu Vadell, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Zambrano, Jorge Toledo and Jose Pereira — who had been lured to Venezuela proper earlier than Thanksgiving in 2017 to attend a gathering on the headquarters of the corporate’s guardian, state-run-oil big PDVSA. As soon as there, they had been hauled away by masked safety brokers who busted right into a Caracas convention room.

Additionally launched was Matthew Heath, a former U.S. Marine corporal from Tennessee who was arrested in 2020 at a roadblock in Venezuela on what the State Division has known as “specious” weapons prices, and Florida man, Osman Khan, who was arrested in January.

America freed Franqui Flores and his cousin Efrain Campo nephews of “First Combatant” Cilia Flores, as Maduro has known as his spouse. The lads had been arrested in Haiti in a Drug Enforcement Administration sting in 2015 and instantly taken to New York to face trial. They had been convicted the next 12 months in a extremely charged case that solid a tough have a look at U.S. accusations of drug trafficking on the highest ranges of Maduro’s administration.

Each males had been granted clemency by President Joe Biden earlier than the discharge.

The Biden administration has been beneath strain to do extra to deliver house the roughly 60 Individuals it believes are held hostage overseas or wrongfully detained by hostile overseas governments. Whereas a lot of the main focus is on Russia, the place the U.S. has to date tried unsuccessfully to safe the discharge of WNBA star Brittney Griner and another American, Paul Whelan, Venezuela has been holding the most important contingent of Individuals suspected of getting used as bargaining chips.

At the least 4 different Individuals stay detained in Venezuela, together with two former Inexperienced Berets concerned in a slapdash try and oust Maduro in 2019, and two different males who, like Khan, had been detained for allegedly getting into the nation illegally from neighboring Colombia.

The Biden administration didn’t launch one other prisoner lengthy sought by Maduro: Alex Saab, an insider businessman who Venezuela considers a diplomat and U.S. prosecutors a corrupt regime enabler. Saab fought extradition from Cape Verde, the place he was arrested final 12 months throughout a stopover en path to Iran, and is now awaiting trial in Miami federal courtroom on prices of siphoning off hundreds of thousands in state contracts.

The oil executives had been convicted of embezzlement final 12 months in a trial marred by delays and irregularities. They had been sentenced to between eight years and 13 years in jail for a never-executed proposal to refinance billions within the oil firm’s bonds. Maduro on the time accused them of “treason,” and Venezuela’s supreme courtroom upheld their lengthy sentences earlier this 12 months. The lads have all pleaded not responsible and the State Division has regarded them — and the 2 different Individuals freed on Saturday — as wrongfully detained.

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Spirit Airlines flight makes emergency landing in Baltimore after ‘mechanical issue’

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A Spirit Airways flight to Florida needed to flip round and make an emergency touchdown in Maryland Friday night time due to an issue with the engine.

Flight 2077 took off from Baltimore/Washington Worldwide Thurgood Marshall Airport headed for Orlando Worldwide Airport. However after takeoff, the aircraft had a “mechanical subject” and needed to flip again, an airline spokesperson mentioned in a press release Saturday.

It arrived again in Baltimore shortly at 8:51 p.m., about half-hour after takeoff, based on FlightAware.

“The aircraft landed safely at BWI, and visitors deplaned beneath regular procedures,” the assertion learn.

The spokesperson didn’t present additional particulars about what occurred.

Spirit Airways mentioned the aircraft can be faraway from service and inspected by the upkeep division.

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Ian slows down as death toll from hurricane grows in Florida

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The remnants of Hurricane Ian, one of many strongest and costliest storms to ever hit the U.S., pushed north on Saturday, promising extra harmful flooding, energy outages and distress all through the Southeast.

The storm, which has been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone after slamming into Florida after which South Carolina, has killed not less than 34 people in Florida, in keeping with official and NBC Information counts.

The Nationwide Hurricane Heart has warned of record river flooding throughout components of Florida, and flash, city and small stream flooding throughout the central Appalachians and components of the southern Mid-Atlantic areas by the weekend. 

Ian could have most sustained winds of 35 mph, in keeping with the NHC. It additionally mentioned that the storm is predicted to dissipate over south-central Virginia by tonight. 

Rescue efforts had been ongoing.

“Since this operation began for us, simply hours after the storm made landfall, we’ve been capable of rescue 325 individuals and greater than 100 pets,” Rear Adm. Brendan McPherson instructed the In the present day Present on Saturday morning. 

McPherson instructions the Coast Guard in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

He warned that power outages had been complicating rescue efforts as individuals in affected communities battle with out entry to their cell phones or electrical energy. 

A pedestrian carries an umbrella during hard rain from Hurricane Ian, in Charleston, S.C., on Friday. on September 30, 2022
A pedestrian carries an umbrella throughout onerous rain in Charleston, S.C.Scott Olson / Getty Photos

“It’s one of many greatest challenges,” he mentioned. “Instantly after this storm we had search and discover air crews on the lookout for individuals needing help.”

However he added that the majority areas which were lower off in southwest Florida have now been accessed both by air or by city search and rescue groups going door to door by boat.

In Florida, almost 1.3 million properties and companies had been left with out energy early Saturday, three days after Ian hit the state. In South Carolina, greater than 62,000 prospects didn’t have energy.

Ian has menaced tens of millions of individuals for many of the week, battering western Cuba earlier than tearing throughout Florida from the nice and cozy waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Nationwide Hurricane Heart has warned of record river flooding throughout components of Florida, and flash, city and small stream flooding throughout the central Appalachians and components of the southern Mid-Atlantic areas by the weekend. 

Hundreds of thousands in Florida had been nonetheless having to deal with the influence of Ian. Distressed residents waded by knee-high water Friday in Fort Myers, one of many hardest hit areas within the state, salvaging what possessions they may from their flooded properties and loading them onto rafts and canoes.

“I need to sit within the nook and cry. I don’t know what else to do,” The Related Press quoted Stevie Scuderi as saying after she shuffled by her principally destroyed Fort Myers residence, the mud in her kitchen sticking to her purple sandals.

In South Carolina on Friday, Ian’s heart got here ashore close to Georgetown, a small neighborhood alongside the Winyah Bay about 60 miles north of historic Charleston. The storm washed away components of 4 piers alongside the coast, together with two linked to the favored vacationer city of Myrtle Seaside.

Weakened to a post-tropical cyclone, Ian is predicted to maneuver throughout central North Carolina over Saturday with most windspeeds of 35mph, in keeping with the Nationwide Hurricane Heart, and dissipate over south-central Virginia by tonight.

Ian could have most sustained winds of 35 mph, in keeping with the NHC. It additionally mentioned that the storm is predicted to dissipate over south-central Virginia by tonight.  

However whilst Ian’s winds are anticipated to dissipate this night, communities from coastal vacationer cities to inland suburbs are more likely to proceed to expertise the consequences of floods attributable to heavy rainfall and overflowing rivers, with sustained restore work unable to start in earnest till the slowing of windspeed.

The storm is predicted to supply an additional 2 to 4 inches of rainfall on Saturday, with a most of six inches in components of the central Appalachians and North Carolina.

Related Press contributed.

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