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Disputed Kurdish oil tanker mysteriously goes dark off Texas coast

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By Terry Wade and Anna Louie Sussman

HOUSTON (Reuters) – A tanker near Texas loaded with $100 million of disputed Iraqi Kurdish crude has disappeared from satellite tracking, the latest development in a high stakes game of cat-and-mouse between Baghdad and the Kurds.

The AIS ship tracking system used by the U.S. Coast Guard and Reuters on Thursday showed no known position for the United Kalavrvta, which was carrying 1 million barrels of crude and 95 percent full when it went dark.

Several other tankers carrying disputed crude from Iran or Iraqi Kurdistan have unloaded cargoes after switching off their transponders, which makes their movements hard to track.

Days ago, the partially full Kamari tanker carrying Kurdish crude disappeared from satellite tracking north of Egypt’s Sinai. It reappeared empty two days later near Israel.

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And in late July, the tanker United Emblem offloaded part of its cargo of Kurdish crude onto another ship in the South China Sea.

Baghdad, which says it has the exclusive right to export the crude, has filed a lawsuit in a U.S. court to reclaim control of the United Kalavrvta cargo and block the Kurdistan Regional Government from delivering it.

The suit shows Baghdad is stepping up a legal and diplomatic push to stop Kurdistan from exporting crude, which the Kurds say is crucial to their own dreams of independence.

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The court on Monday threw out an order issued to seize the cargo, saying it lacked jurisdiction because the tanker was some 60 miles offshore.

The judge has invited Iraq to re-plead its case over the rightful ownership of the cargo. Baghdad could file claims against anyone taking delivery of the oil.

A Coast Guard official said the vessel in the Gulf of Mexico might have turned off its beacon, sailed beyond antennas that monitor transponders, or perhaps some antennas might have been taken out of service.

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However, dozens of vessels were visible on Thursday in the Galveston Offshore Lightering Area, where the Kurdish tanker was last seen.

(Reporting By Terry Wade and Anna Louie Sussman. Editing by Andre Grenon)

[Image: A still image from video taken by a U.S. Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft shows the oil tanker United Kalavyrta (also known as the United Kalavrvta), which is carrying a cargo of Kurdish crude oil, approaching Galveston, Texas July 25, 2014. REUTERS/US Coast Guard/handout via Reuters]


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House GOP group wants to pressure Amazon into selling gay conversion therapy books written by long-debunked quack

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A key bloc of House Republicans is planning to put pressure on Amazon to once again start selling "gay conversion therapy" books that the website had previously removed for peddling a dangerous, pseudo-scientific procedure that has been linked to suicide and mental health problems.

Vice News reports that the Republican Study Group issued a handout to its members this week encouraging them to raise concerns about "Amazon censorship" of books written by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, the late clinical psychologist who has been credited with pioneering so-called gay conversion therapy techniques.

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American Islamic State ‘sniper’ charged in New York: Justice Dept

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A naturalized American who was a sniper for the Islamic State group has been charged in New York with material support for a terror group after being captured in Syria and repatriated to the United States, the Justice Department announced Friday.

Kazakhstan-born Ruslan Maratovich Asainov fought for the Islamic State in Syria for five years before he was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces and handed over to US custody, the department said.

Asainov, 43, was brought back to the United States on Thursday and was to be arraigned Friday afternoon in federal court in Brooklyn.

He fought for IS in Syria from 2013 to 2018 as a sniper and a weapons trainer for other combatants.

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WATCH: Employee at Tim Hortons slurs Muslim couple and tells them ‘go back to your own country’

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According to a report from Deadline Detroit, a Muslim advocacy group has filed a complaint against a local Tim Horton's location after an employee insulted a Muslim couple and told them to "go back to their own country," followed by a sexist slur.

The report states Alaa Kouider and her husband, Ameur Dhaimini, were purchasing coffee at the local fast food location when they got into an argument with the cashier.

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