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US joins Europe with fresh sanctions over Iran protest crackdown

The US Treasury Department said on Monday that its sanctions, taken in coordination with the European Union and United Kingdom, targeted the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Cooperative Foundation and five of its board members, as well as four senior IRGC commanders.

Iran’s Deputy Minister of Intelligence and Security Naser Rashedi was also blacklisted.

“Along with our partners, we will continue to hold the Iranian regime accountable so long as it relies upon violence, sham trials, the execution of protestors, and other means of suppressing its people,” Treasury Department official Brian E Nelson said in a statement.

The sanctions are the latest step by the US and its European allies to penalise the Iranian government over its repression of protests that broke out in September of last year following the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini.

Amini died in custody after being detained by the country’s “morality police” for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women.

Her death set off mass nationwide demonstrations, which were met with a harsh crackdown by the Iranian authorities. Foreign-based human rights organisations say more than 500 people have been killed in the unrest, while at least four people have been executed in relation to the protests.

Earlier on Monday, the EU placed 37 Iranian officials and entities on its sanctions list for what European officials described as the “brutal and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian authorities against peaceful protesters”.

The EU measures stopped short of designating the IRGC as a “terrorist” organisation, however – a move that Iran has said would violate international law.

The UK also imposed sanctions on more Iranian individuals and entities on Monday, including an asset freeze on Iranian Deputy Prosecutor General Ahmad Fazelian, who the British foreign office said was responsible for an unfair judicial system that used the death penalty for political purposes.

“Those sanctioned today, from the judicial figures using the death penalty for political ends to the thugs beating protestors on the streets, are at the heart of the regime’s brutal repression of the Iranian people,” British Foreign Minister James Cleverly said in.

The US Treasury Department said its new sanctions targeted a “key economic pillar of the IRGC, which funds much of the regime’s brutal suppression; as well as senior security officials coordinating Tehran’s crackdown at the national and provincial levels”.

Washington alleged that agents in Iran’s Intelligence and Security Ministry of abuses meant to suppress protests, including coerced confessions, surveillance, and sexual abuse.

It also accused the IRGC of continuing to aggressively crack down on peaceful demonstrations and said it has played “a leading role in suppressing protests through extensive human rights abuses”.

The measures freeze any US-based assets of the individuals and groups sanctioned, and generally bar people in the US from dealing with them.

The Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Reuters news agency.

Iran has pushed back against criticism of its human rights record and has accused foreign powers such as the US of fomenting unrest inside the country.

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Public Notices

Japan just found 7,000 islands it didn’t know it had

Japan has recounted its islands – and discovered it has 7,000 more than it previously thought.

Digital mapping by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) recently found there to be 14,125 islands in Japanese territory, more than double the figure of 6,852 that has been in official use since a 1987 report by Japan’s Coast Guard.

However, the GSI this week stressed that the new figure reflected advances in surveying technology and the detail of the maps used for the count – it did not change the overall area of land in Japan’s possession.

It said that while there is no international agreement on how to count islands, it had used the same size criterion as the previous survey 35 years ago.

That entailed counting all naturally occurring land areas with a circumference of at least 100 meters (330 feet).

The new number does not include any artificially reclaimed land.

The islands surrounding Japan have been at the heart of several territorial disputes.

Japan lays claim to the Russian-held southern Kuril islands, which Tokyo calls the Northern Territories, a dispute that dates to the end of World War II, when Soviet troops seized them from Japan.

Japan also says it has a historical claim to the uninhabited Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which it currently administers, but China has repeatedly challenged that claim.

Meanwhile, Japan and South Korea remain locked in a more than 70-year dispute over the sovereignty of a group of islets known as Dokdo by Seoul and Takeshima by Tokyo in the Sea of Japan, which Korea calls the East Sea.

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Yosemite National Park to partially reopen after 3-week closure

Yosemite National Park will begin to reopen Saturday with limited access and hours, the US National Park Service has announced. The park remains closed today.

The popular park, nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, was closed because of a series of damaging storms that have swept across the region in recent weeks.

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Public Notices

Charles and Camilla

Britain’s King Charles III and his wife, Queen Camilla, have been married since 2005. They reportedly met at a polo match in 1970 and became friends when Charles was a prince.

When Charles joined the Royal Navy in 1971, Camilla married cavalry officer Andrew Parker Bowles.

Charles married Diana Spencer in 1981 but then admitted in 1994 that he had been having an extramarital affair with Camilla. Diana confirmed his infidelity and her own the following year.

Camilla got a divorce in 1995, and Charles and Diana divorced in 1996. Camilla all but vanished from public life at the time as public and media support swung behind Diana.

In 1999, Clarence House embarked on a program to reintroduce Camilla to the public with a carefully orchestrated first appearance with Charles outside the Ritz Hotel in London.

Six years later, their decades-long love story culminated in a wedding that had the consent of Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II. Camilla was confirmed as Charles’ official consort and future queen.

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