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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says he believes Russians and Ukrainians constitute one nation and that the countries should find a way to integrate.

Putin made the comments in an interview with the American film director Oliver Stone on June 19; material from the interview was used in a Stone film about Ukraine and the full transcript was published by the Kremlin on Friday.

“I believe that Russians and Ukrainians are one people … one nation, in fact,” Putin said. “When these lands that are now the core of Ukraine joined Russia … nobody thought of themselves as anything but Russians.”

In light of this bond, Putin said “we can use this as our competitive advantage during some form of integration.”

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TEHRAN, Iran — A powerful council in Iran said Saturday the country’s seizure of a British oil tanker in the strategic Strait of Hormuz was in response to Britain’s role in impounding an Iranian supertanker two weeks earlier.

Spokesman of Iran’s Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, was quoted in the semi-official Fars news agency saying “the rule of reciprocal action is well-known in international law” and that Iran’s moves to “confront the illegitimate economic war and seizure of oil tankers is an instance of this rule and is based on international rights.”

The council rarely comments on state matters, but when it does it is seen as a reflection of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s views. That’s because the council works closely with Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters.

The free flow of traffic through the Strait of Hormuz is of international importance because one-fifth of all global crude exports passes through the waterway from Mideast exporters to countries around the world.

The British-flagged Stena Impero was seized by Iran on Friday evening with a crew of 23 crew aboard. None are British nationals. Maritime trackers show it was headed to a port in Saudi Arabia.

Two weeks earlier, Britain’s Royal Marines took part in the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker carrying more than 2 million barrels of Iranian crude by Gibraltar, a British overseas territory off the southern coast of Spain. Officials there initially said the July 4 seizure happened on orders from the U.S.

Britain has said it would release the vessel if Iran could prove it was not breaching European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria. However, on Friday, a court in Gibraltar extended by 30 days the detention of the Panama-flagged Grace.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif characterized the seizure of Iran’s tanker as “piracy.” In comments on Twitter, he wrote that the U.K. must cease being an accessory to the “economic terrorism” of the U.S. — a reference to sweeping American sanctions on Iran.

Iran’s subsequent seizure of the British tanker was seen as a significant escalation. Germany and France have both condemned the move, with Berlin saying it undermines all efforts to find a way out of the current crisis.

In London, Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of Britain’s House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said military action to free the British tanker would be “extremely unwise,” especially because the vessel was apparently taken to a well-protected port.

Current tensions have been escalating since President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and imposed economic sanctions on Iran, including its oil exports.

In May, the U.S. announced it was dispatching an aircraft carrier and additional troops to the Middle East, citing unspecified threats posed by Iran.

The ongoing showdown has caused jitters around the globe, with each maneuver bringing fear that any misunderstanding or misstep by either side could lead to war.

In June, Iran shot down an American drone in the same waterway, and Trump came close to retaliating but called off an airstrike at the last moment. Just this week, Washington claimed that a U.S. warship downed an Iranian drone in the strait. Iran denied that it lost an aircraft in the area. There have also been attacks on oil tankers in recent weeks that the U.S. blames on Iran — an allegation denied by the Islamic Republic.

Stena Bulk, the owner of the seized British tanker, said the vessel’s crew members are of Indian, Filipino, Russian and Latvian nationalities. Iranian officials say the crew remain on the tanker.

The state-run news agency IRNA had reported earlier Saturday that Iran seized the British-flagged vessel after it collided with an Iranian fishing boat — an explanation that portrayed the seizure as a technicality rather than a tit-for-tat move.

The company that owns the ship said the vessel was in full compliance with all international regulations when it was intercepted Friday by “unidentified small crafts and a helicopter” during its transit through the Strait of Hormuz.

The comments Saturday by the Guardian Council reflect how prominently Britain has featured in the rising U.S. tensions with Iran.

There was a brief standoff between the British navy and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels recently. The British navy said it warned three Guard vessels away after they tried to impede the passage of a commercial British tanker that the navy was escorting.

U.K.-flagged vessels represented less than 0.6% of the 67,533 ships sailing through the Strait of Hormuz in 2018, with 427 transits, according to maritime publication Lloyd’s List, quoting research from Russel Group.

Iran’s government has desperately tried to get out of the economic chokehold, urging the other partners in the nuclear deal, particularly European nations, to find ways around the U.S. sanctions.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is mulling a proposal called the Sentinel Program — a coalition of nations working with the U.S. to preserve maritime security in the Persian Gulf and keep eyes on Iran.

The U.S. is also sending several hundred troops as well as aircraft and air defense missiles to Iran’s rival, Saudi Arabia, as part of its increased military presence in the region. The move has been in the works for several weeks.

King Salman approved hosting U.S. armed forces in the kingdom “to increase joint cooperation in defense and regional security and stability,” a statement in the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.

___

Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Gregory Katz in London contributed to this report.

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(LONDON) — Britain’s foreign secretary said Iranian authorities seized two vessels Friday in the Strait of Hormuz, actions signaling an escalation in the strategic waterway that has become a flashpoint in tensions between Tehran and the West.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said one of the seized ships was British-flagged and the other sailed under Liberia’s flag. The crews members comprise a range of nationalities but are not believed to include British citizens, he said.

“These seizures are unacceptable,” Hunt said entering an emergency government meeting to discuss securing the release of the two vessels and their crews. “It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”

Details of what took place remained sketchy. Iran said earlier Friday that it had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz,

The tanker Stena Impero was taken to an Iranian port because it was not complying with “international maritime laws and regulations,” Iran’s Revolutionary Guard declared.

A statement from Stena Bulk, which owns the tanker, said it was unable to contact the ship after it was approached by unidentified vessels and a helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz.

The company said the tanker, with 23 crew members aboard, was in international waters when it was approached but subsequently appeared to be heading toward Iran.

U.K. Chamber of Shipping chief executive Bob Sanguinetti said the seizure represented an escalation in tensions in the Persian Gulf and made it clear more protection for merchant vessels was urgently needed.

He claimed the action is “in violation of international regulations which protect ships and their crews as they go about their legitimate business in international waters.”

The British government should do “whatever is necessary” to ensure the safe and swift return of the ship’s crew, Sanguinetti said.

The incident came just two days after Washington claimed that a U.S. warship downed an Iranian drone in the Strait. Iran denied that it lost an aircraft in the area.

On June 20, Iran shot down an American drone in the same waterway, and Trump came close to retaliating but called off an airstrike at the last moment.

Tensions in the region have been growing since the Trump administration withdrew a year ago from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. After the withdrawal, the U.S. imposed harsh sanctions, including on Tehran’s oil trade, that have sent the Iranian economy into a tailspin.

Iran’s government has desperately tried to get out of the chokehold, appealing to the other partners in the deal, particularly Europe, to pressure the U.S. to lift the bruising sanctions. Europe wants to maintain the nuclear deal, but has not been able to address Iranian demands, particularly concerning the sale of oil, without violating U.S. sanctions.

On Friday, Iran and the United States emphatically disagreed over Washington’s claim that a U.S. warship downed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz. American officials said they used electronic jamming to bring down the unmanned aircraft, while Iran said it simply didn’t happen.

Neither side provided evidence to prove its claim.

At the White House, President Donald Trump said flatly of the Iranian drone: “We shot it down.” But Pentagon and other officials have said repeatedly that the USS Boxer, a Navy ship in the Strait of Hormuz, actually jammed the drone’s signal, causing it to crash, and did not fire a missile. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive technology.

Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said, “There is no question this was an Iranian drone, and the USS Boxer took it out as the president announced yesterday because it posed a threat to the ship and its crew. It’s entirely the right thing to do.”

In Tehran, the Iranian military said all its drones had returned safely to their bases and denied there was any confrontation with the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship.

“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else,” tweeted Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on its website Friday said the drone recorded three hours of video of the USS Boxer and five other vessels Thursday beginning when the ships first entered the Strait of Hormuz. There was no immediate explanation as to how the video was evidence that no Iranian drone was destroyed.

The strategically vital Strait of Hormuz is at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and serves as the passageway for one-fifth of all global crude exports.

Trump on Thursday said the USS Boxer took action after the Iranian drone closed to within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored commands to stay away. The president accused Iran of “provocative and hostile” action and said the U.S. acted in self-defense.

The Revolutionary Guard said its forces continue to monitor all movements by foreigners — especially “the terrorist forces” of the U.S. and the British in the Strait and the Gulf.

After Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal with world powers last year and imposed economic sanctions against Tehran, the Iranians have pushed back on the military front in recent weeks, with Washington accusing Tehran of threatening American forces and interests in the region.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, suggested in New York as he arrived for a meeting at the United Nations that Iran could immediately ratify an agreement to allow broader checks of its nuclear facilities by U.N. inspectors if the U.S. dropped its sanctions.

China urged Washington to consider the offer, calling it “a positive signal that Iran is willing to seek a compromise solution.”

The Pentagon said Thursday’s incident happened in international waters while the Boxer was entering the Gulf. The Boxer is among several U.S. Navy ships in the area, including the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier that has been operating in the North Arabian Sea for weeks in response to rising tensions.

The Iranians and Americans have had close encounters in the Strait of Hormuz in the past, and it is not unprecedented for Iran to fly a drone near a U.S. warship.

Zarif blamed Washington for the escalation and accused the Trump administration of “trying to starve our people” and “deplete our treasury” through sanctions.

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What Happened This Week:

Europe has a new president! Sort of. Germany’s former defense minister Ursula Von der Leyen became the new president-elect of the European Commission (EC) this week following a close vote in the European Parliament.

Why It Matters:

Whoever leads the European Commission—the EU’s executive arm—is the most powerful person in the day-to-day affairs of the European Union and oversees 32,000 EU bureaucrats. Traditionally, the role of the European Commission (made up of Commissioners from each one of the 28 member states; 27 once Britain gets on with Brexit) is to propose new legislation and policies that are then voted on by the European Parliament (more on that below) and to implement those policies in areas reserved to the EU (as opposed to national governments); it also speaks for the EU in international negotiations. The President of the EC decides which Commissioners get which policy portfolios, and generally drives the EC’s policy agenda; he/she also represents the EU in major international meetings like the G7 and G20. Von der Leyen, who is a close ally of Angela Merkel’s and a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party back in Germany, is the first woman to ever hold the post.

But her victory came at a cost. One of the key concessions Von der Leyen made to get reluctant members of European Parliament (MEPs) on board was giving them the “right of the initiative”, i.e. assurances that the Commission would act on whatever resolutions were passed by the European parliament. Up until this week, it was only the Commission that could propose laws and MEPs would have to vote whether to approve of them or not. In a bid to get more MEPs to back her, Von der Leyen also offered to put Europe on a path to carbon neutrality by 2050 and to discuss the introduction of a minimum wage (among other pledges).

Why was it necessary for Von der Leyen to offer so many concessions to secure the post? Because her nomination didn’t come from the European Parliament as has been expected by MEPs, but rather as a compromise from the leaders of the major European countries in a backroom deal (the same deal that resulted in Christine Lagarde heading up the European Central Bank). That institutional clash made her election difficult, as did the fractious political landscape of Europe.

European politics are much messier than traditional left-right politics (though that plays a big role, too); it’s also about integration vs. Euro-skepticism, Eastern Europe vs. Western Europe, core Europe vs. periphery Europe, pro-climate change action vs. anti, and so on. And while European leaders—notably France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Merkel—were able to strike a deal that secured a majority among MEP members (however slight), the roundabout way that Von der Leyen (a committed Europhile who supports more European integration and reforms, and even a European army) was elected will provide more fodder for anti-EU politicians across the continent railing against unaccountable bureaucrats back in Brussels.

What Happens Next:

Von der Leyen is a clear sign that at the EU level, things aren’t changing much. Her policy priorities will be similar to her predecessor’s, and her general orientation is similarly very pro-Europe. Populists remain at the political margins (at least in Brussels), and don’t agree on much of anything amongst themselves to pose an immediate threat to the pro-European establishment on the EU-wide level. Europe isn’t in danger of falling apart. But an EC helmed by Von der Leyen doesn’t change the fact that the EU is becoming less important on the global stage. To be fair though, Von der Leyen is the symptom, not the cause, of that reality.

The Key Quote That Sums It All Up:

“Ursula von der Leyen has scraped in by 9 votes. Power but no legitimacy.” –the UK’s Nigel Farage, a leading authority on narrow victories—Brexit was one—and how legitimate they are.

The One Major Misconception About It:

That Angela Merkel was the big winner in all this horse trading for getting one of her government ministers the most important job in Brussels (she’s also the first German to hold the post in more than 50 years). The even-bigger winner is Emmanuel Macron, who backed Von der Leyen for the post (who in addition to sharing his pro-integration and pro-reform orientation towards Europe now owes him for his political backing of her candidacy) and secured the role of European Central Bank head for his fellow Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde. As for Merkel, the elevation of Von der Leyen as the compromise choice came at the cost of her initial proposal to install a Socialist candidate at the head of the Commission… which infuriated her Socialist coalition partners back home in Germany and adds even more pressure to her already-straining coalition.

The One Thing to Say About It at a Dinner Party:

Ursula Von der Leyen is more of the same. That’s not what a waning Europe actually needs right now… but it’s what it can get. She’s not going to move Europe forward, but she won’t let it fall apart, either.

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As millions of people prepare for sweltering heatwaves in the U.S. Midwest and East Coast, scientists say July will likely be the hottest July on record, following the hottest June on record. These types of heatwaves are expected to become more frequent throughout the world as global warming continues, say scientists.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports the average global temperature for June was 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average of 59.9 degrees. NOAA also reported record-breaking decreases in sea ice coverage in the Arctic and Antarctica.

“Our climate is warming,” Ahira Sánchez-Lugo, a climatologist at NOAA, tells TIME. “We have a new normal, we are in a new warmer climate. Just in the 21st century, we’ve set a new global world temperature record five times.”

Robert Rohde, lead scientist at Berkeley Earth, tells TIME that July is also likely to be the hottest July on record, as global temperatures continue to trend towards increasing heat.

Regionally, hot June temperatures broke records in Europe, Africa and South America, and it was the hottest first half of the year for Alaska, Madagascar, New Zealand, Mexico, western Canada and eastern Asia.

Overall between January through June, the temperature averaged out to 1.71 degrees above the 20th century average of 55.3, tying with 2017 as the hottest year so far.

Rohde says this trend can be attributed to human emissions of greenhouse gases. “This trend will continue until humans find a way to change their behavior and stop modifying the atmosphere,” Rohde says.

He points out that while the trend continues upward, the world may not see consistently warmer temperatures. “It doesn’t happen continuously,” he says. “There are fluctuations, we don’t have a new hottest year every year or a new hottest month every month, but as we move forward we expect to set many records over time.”

Why does record-breaking heat matter?

Sánchez-Lugo says as the world gets warmer, populations can expect more frequent heatwaves, droughts and extreme weather.

“Our extremes will change,” she says. “Drought is expected to become more intense and more frequent, heatwaves too, and all of this has consequences. Drought can impact the quality of water, the quantity of water, crops, food might get more expensive if there’s a drought.”

As temperatures continue to increase globally due to greenhouse gas emissions, the world will begin to see fewer cool days, according to Rohde.

“These conditions will start to put stress on social, economic and technical systems designed for the historical climate,” he adds. For example, agricultural systems that depend on a certain amount of rainfall that gradually starts to decrease while temperatures gradually increase.

Sánchez-Lugo says we have already seen examples of climate change effecting parts of the U.S., pointing to above average rainfall in the U.S. Midwest in June that prevented the planting and growing of crops.

“This year there were pastures that were not even planted with corn because it was so wet,” she says.

In the longterm, climate change threatens ice melting in the Arctic and Antarctic, increasing sea levels, which is already occurring. In Antarctica, sea ice coverage was 8.5% below the 1981-2010 average, the difference of 62,000 square miles, the smallest Antarctic record for June. And in the Arctic, sea ice coverage was 10.5% below average, the second-smallest on record for June.

Where have people been impacted by severe heat?

In Europe, Austria, Germany and Hungary had the warmest June on record, but heat also increased in Switzerland and France, which saw its hottest day in history on June 28 — 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heatwaves in Europe can be especially dangerous for elderly people in regions that are not used to high temperatures, says Piers Forster, professor of climate physics at the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds.

“Particularly in Europe, when heatwaves occur it can be especially damaging to harvests,” he adds. “Crops can be heavily effected, and of course you create a lot more susceptibility to wildfires, that can burn down homes and that also creates worse air pollution as well.”

The entire continents of South America and Africa and parts of Alaska saw saw the warmest June on record. In Alaska, infrastructure damage has been caused by permafrost melting due to temperature rising.

Now much of the U.S. prepares for a weekend heatwave expected to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme heat is the most fatal weather hazard in the U.S., according to the National Weather Service, even more deadly than hurricanes and floods.

What can be done to change the rising temperature trend?

Sánchez-Lugo, Rodhe and Forster agree the world needs to halt the the emission of greenhouse gasses in order to end the global rise in temperature.

Forster says temperatures are expected to increase globally even if greenhouse gases are reduced. “So to prevent them from going up, we have to reduce our emission of greenhouse gases all the way to zero.”

179 countries have signed onto the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally with the goal of keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, or 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels. But the U.S. withdrew from the agreement in 2017.

Still, Forster is optimistic. “Countries around the world are taking it really seriously,” he says. “The thing is you have to get every country in the world to do it and you have to get every part of the economy interested. So that’s where the challenge is but I would say that humanity always rises to these challenges, so I’m personally quite optimistic.”

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TIME - World by Robert Burns, Amir Vahdat And David.. - 2d ago


(WASHINGTON) — Iran and the United States emphatically disagreed Friday over Washington’s claim that a U.S. warship downed an Iranian drone near the Persian Gulf. American officials said they used electronic jamming to bring down the unmanned aircraft, while Iran said it simply didn’t happen.

Neither side provided evidence to prove its claim.

At the White House on Friday, President Donald Trump said flatly of the Iranian drone: “We shot it down.”

But Pentagon and other officials have said repeatedly that the USS Boxer, a Navy ship in the Strait of Hormuz, actually jammed the drone’s signal, causing it to crash, and did not fire a missile. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive technology.

Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said, “There is no question this was an Iranian drone, and the USS Boxer took it out as the president announced yesterday because it posed a threat to the ship and its crew. It’s entirely the right thing to do.”

In Tehran, the Iranian military said all its drones had returned safely to their bases and denied there was any confrontation with the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship.

“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else,” tweeted Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on its website Friday said the drone recorded three hours of video of the USS Boxer and five other vessels Thursday beginning when the ships first entered the Strait of Hormuz. There was no immediate explanation as to how the video was evidence that no Iranian drone was destroyed.

The strategically vital Strait of Hormuz is at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and serves as the passageway for one-fifth of all global crude exports, and oil prices ticked upward Friday on the news.

On June 20, Iran shot down an American drone in the same waterway, and Trump came close to retaliating but called off an airstrike at the last moment.

Trump on Thursday said the USS Boxer took action after the Iranian drone closed to within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored commands to stay away. The president accused Iran of “provocative and hostile” action and said the U.S. acted in self-defense.

The Revolutionary Guard said its forces continue to monitor all movements by foreigners — especially “the terrorist forces” of the U.S. and the British in the Strait and the Gulf.

After Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal with world powers last year and imposed economic sanctions against Tehran, the Iranians have pushed back on the military front in recent weeks, with Washington accusing Tehran of threatening American forces and interests in the region.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, suggested in New York as he arrived for a meeting at the United Nations that Iran could immediately ratify an agreement to allow broader checks of its nuclear facilities by U.N. inspectors if the U.S. dropped its sanctions.

China urged Washington to consider the offer, calling it “a positive signal that Iran is willing to seek a compromise solution.”

The Pentagon said Thursday’s incident happened in international waters while the Boxer was entering the Gulf. The Boxer is among several U.S. Navy ships in the area, including the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier that has been operating in the North Arabian Sea for weeks in response to rising tensions.

The Iranians and Americans have had close encounters in the Strait of Hormuz in the past, and it is not unprecedented for Iran to fly a drone near a U.S. warship.

Zarif blamed Washington for the escalation and accused the Trump administration of “trying to starve our people” and “deplete our treasury” through sanctions.

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(WASHINGTON) — The United States is targeting a senior operative of the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group with sanctions as part of its pressure campaign against Tehran. The government is also issuing a $7 million reward for information leading to the capture of the operative, Salman Rauf Salman.

The action by the Treasury Department falls on the 25th anniversary of an attack Salman is said to have coordinated on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The attack killed 85 people and wounded hundreds of others. The Treasury Department’s action freezes all assets that Salman has within U.S. jurisdiction. Treasury says Salman is also accused of planning other terror attacks abroad from a base in Lebanon.

On Thursday, Argentina’s government branded Hezbollah a terrorist organization and froze its assets.

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(ATHENS, Greece) — A strong earthquake hit Friday near the Greek capital of Athens, causing residents to run into the streets in fear and firefighters to check for people trapped in elevators.

The Athens Institute of Geodynamics gave the earthquake a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 but the U.S. Geological Survey tagged it as a magnitude of 5.3. The Athens Institute says the quake struck at 2:13 p.m. local time (1113 GMT) some 23 kilometers (14.2 miles) north of Athens.

Authorities inspected areas close to the epicenter by helicopter and police patrols but no deaths or serious injuries were reported. Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said one abandoned building had collapsed in a western district of Athens and that several other abandoned buildings had suffered serious damages in other parts of the city.

“There are no reports of serious injuries … I urge members of the public to remains calm, in Greece we are well acquainted with earthquakes,” he said.

The quake caused limited power cuts and communication problems around Athens and the fire brigade reported receiving calls about people being trapped in elevators. The shock was caught live in the studios of state broadcaster ERT.

The most powerful quake to hit the Greek capital in the last 20 years came in 1999, when a temblor of magnitude 6.0 caused extensive damage and killed more than 140 people.

Gerasimos Papadopoulos, the senior seismologist at the Geodynamics Institute said Friday’s quake was felt across southern Greece.

“It had a very shallow depth and that’s why it was felt so strongly,” he said. “It is too early to say whether this was the main earthquake, but there have been aftershocks of magnitude 3.5, 2.5 and 3.2 and that is encouraging. But we need more time and data to have a clear picture.”

Earthquakes are common in Greece and neighboring Turkey.

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Can Queen Elizabeth stop Brexit?

The question has been dismissed as pure fantasy by those on both sides of the Brexit debate in the past. But according to a new report by the BBC’s Newsnight program, rebel lawmakers have drawn up a plan to ask Britain’s constitutional head of state to take the most drastic step of her 67-year reign, wading into U.K. politics for the first time ever in order to stop a so-called “no deal” Brexit.

The news comes as Britain prepares itself for a new Prime Minister, expected to be former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Some lawmakers are now concerned that Johnson—who is in favor of a hard break with the European Union—will try to push through a “no deal” Brexit, where the U.K. leaves the political and economic bloc without an agreement for trade and commerce to continue. A majority of lawmakers in Parliament are against a “no deal” Brexit, but Johnson has refused to rule out overruling parliament via prorogation, or effectively locking the chamber’s doors so no vote can take place.

To prevent this, the BBC reports, these unnamed lawmakers would invite the Queen to travel to the next E.U. summit in place of Johnson, in defiance of precedent and constitutional norms. There, under the plan, the Queen would ask other E.U. leaders to delay the U.K.’s departure, foiling Johnson’s plan to leave with or without a deal on the current deadline of Oct. 31.

But there’s a sizeable hitch: no monarch has so directly involved themselves in the country’s politics since 1707, when Queen Anne refused royal assent to a bill. Like her ancestors, the Queen is bound by convention to be entirely neutral in the running of the country. Although she meets with the Prime Minister regularly, she does not vote and has never publicly intervened or ventured opinions on political matters.

So while technically possible it would be nothing short of a constitutional overhaul if this plan were to go ahead — and outside of the realms of plausibility, according to one leading expert.

“This idea that the Queen could be asked to go on a mission to some European summit is completely wacky,“ Robert Hazell, a professor of Government and the Constitution at University College London, tells TIME. “E.U. summits are heads of government meetings. They are not meetings of heads of state. The Queen of Denmark is not going to be there. The King of Sweden is not going to be there. The Queen would be a very very odd one out if she attended as a representative of the British government.”

But if the next Prime Minister decides to prorogue parliament, the Queen would be involved one way or another. The legislative body can only be prorogued if the Prime Minister asks the Queen to do so and she accepts. Under extreme circumstances, the Queen would be within her constitutionally-mandated limits to say no.

And if the Prime Minister has no majority—so, for example, if lawmakers stage a vote of no confidence in response—the Queen can refuse to follow his or her advice. “The Prime Minister’s advice is only binding on the Queen when the Prime Minister commands the confidence of Parliament,” Hazell says.

These constitutional questions are still hypothetical, but they may not be for much longer. A majority in parliament has vowed to stand in the way of a no-deal Brexit. And yet Johnson has said the U.K. will leave the E.U. on Oct.31, “do or die.” One side will have to back down, whether Queen Elizabeth is involved or not.

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(COPENHAGEN, Denmark) — U.S. rapper A$AP Rocky should be held for another week in pre-trial detention to allow police to finish investigating a June 30 fight in downtown Stockholm, a prosecutor said Friday.

Daniel Suneson has asked Stockholm’s District Court to hold A$AP Rocky — the stage name of Rakim Mayers — until July 25. A ruling is expected later Friday.

Suneson said police “have worked intensively” with the preliminary investigation but need more time to complete their probe.

On July 5, Mayers who was in Sweden to perform at a music festival, and his body guards were ordered held for two weeks after being detained two days earlier. Videos published on social media, show a person being violently thrown onto the ground by Mayers. It was not clear who else was involved. A defense lawyer has said it was self-defense.

The platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated artist has seen many celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West, her husband Kanye West and Justin Bieber come to his support since his arrest.

Soon after the news of his arrest broke, the movement #JusticeForRocky pushed for the rapper’s release. A petition calling for his release has also garnered half a million signatures. And Adriano Espaillat, a New York Democrat in the House of Representatives, is pushing for the release of the rapper, who was born in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.

“Everyone deserves to be treated equally and A$AP Rocky’s rights continue to be violated. It is not a fair process,” the congressman earlier said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Espaillat said he has been in contact with the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Sweden and wants everyone to continue showing their support to help us in this process of getting justice for Rocky.”

Kim Kardashian West, the reality TV star, and her husband, rapper and record producer Kanye West have lobbied President Donald Trump, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner in support of A$AP Rocky.

Kardashian West thanked the president and senior members of his administration, saying on Twitter that their “commitment to justice reform is so appreciated.”

___

This story has been corrected to state in sixth paragraph that Harlem is a neighborhood not a borough of New York City.

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