Posted by BW Actual on Sep 20th 2022
BLACKWATER USA | DAILY BRIEF
- The U.S. and the Taliban swapped prisoners: the Taliban released civil engineer Mark Frerichs, who was abducted by a Taliban-linked group in Jan. 2020, and the U.S. released Bashir Noorzai, a tribal leader with close Taliban links who was convicted of heroin trafficking in 2008 and has been incarcerated in the U.S. ever since.
- Analysts see Noorzai's release as a symbolic victory for the Taliban: at a press conference celebrating his return to Afghanistan, the Taliban's acting foreign minister gloated that the Taliban "is ready to solve problems by negotiation with all including the United States." Pres. Biden, by contrast, lamented the "difficult decisions" he had to make to secure Frerichs's release.
- Russia fired a missile that exploded less than 900 feet from reactors at Ukraine's second-largest nuclear plant, the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant. There was no damage to the plant's reactors or safety equipment.
- Worryingly, South Ukraine is far from the fighting in Ukraine, and Russia seems to have targeted it as part of its pattern of striking Ukrainian civilian infrastructure. Ukraine accused Russia of "nuclear terrorism."
- A U.S. official told the NYT that "many" of the prisoners Russia's Wagner Group are trying to recruit to fight in Ukraine are refusing the offer of freedom in exchange for a six-month combat tour, hinting that their refusal is because they've heard the news that Russia is losing. Wagner is reportedly seeking to recruit 1,500 prisoners to fight.
- Iconic Russian singer Alla Pugacheva posted criticism of the war on her Instagram account, which has 3.5 million followers, and asked the Kremlin to designate her a "foreign agent" - as it recently designated her TV presenter husband. The deputy chair of Russia's State Duma sought to discount her view by saying the 73-year-old Pugacheva has "lost touch with reality so much and is in solidarity with those who today wish Russia's defeat."
- An "epidemic-related" bus carrying 47 people crashed in southwestern China, killing 27 passengers. It seems those aboard were being sent from Guiyang, where quarantine facilities are full, to isolation centers in other cities, so the incident ignited a new round of debate over the necessity of China's zero-COVID policies - without which those 27 people would still be alive.
- SecState Blinken hosted his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts for a summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, and urged them to reach "a durable peace." Border skirmishes have subsided this week, but it's a fragile peace that could devolve quickly.
- Exxon and its partners boosted production in Guyana to a record 390,000 barrels per day by optimizing output from the Liza Destiny well. That's far above the initial target for 2022 of 340,000 barrels per day.
- That said, Exxon isn't sure if it will bid on the new blocks Guyana plans to auction later this year. Exxon secured lucrative terms for its current blocks that have proven richer than anyone expected - Guyana keeps less than 15% of the proceeds from its oil sales - and Guyana wants to claw a greater share of profits from new blocks. Exxon says it will evaluate the terms proposed for new blocks before deciding whether to bid on them.
- Equatorial Guinea announced it will abolish the death penalty in a new penal code, but human rights advocates are not likely to be impressed: they're far more concerned about regular reports of "President" Obiang torturing and disappearing anyone who dares speak out against him than about executions, which haven't happened since 2014.