Trump called on spy chiefs for help as Mueller probe began

international News, Politics, Power

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two months before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed in the spring of 2017, President Donald Trump picked up the phone and called the head of the largest U.S. intelligence agency. Trump told Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, that news stories alleging that Trump’s 2016 White House campaign had ties to Russia were false and the president asked whether Rogers could do anything to counter them.

Rogers and his deputy Richard Ledgett, who was present for the call, were taken aback.

Afterward, Ledgett wrote a memo about the conversation and Trump’s request. He and Rogers signed it and stashed it in a safe. Ledgett said it was the “most unusual thing he had experienced in 40 years of government service.”

Trump’s outreach to Rogers, who retired last year, and other top intelligence officials stands in sharp contrast to his public, combative stance toward his intelligence agencies. At the time of the call, Trump was just some 60 days into his presidency, but he already had managed to alienate large parts of the intelligence apparatus with comments denigrating the profession.

Since then, Trump only has dug in. He said at a news conference in Helsinki after his 2017 summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin that he gave weight to Putin’s denial that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, despite the firm conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that it had. “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia, Trump said. And earlier this year, Trump called national security assessments “naive,” tweeting “perhaps intelligence should go back to school.”

Yet in moments of concern as Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election got underway, Trump turned to his spy chiefs for help.

The phone call to Rogers on March 26, 2017, came only weeks after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had angered Trump by stepping aside from the investigation. James Comey, the FBI director who would be fired that May, had just told Congress that the FBI was not only investigating Russian meddling in the election, but also possible links or coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

The call to Rogers and others like it were uncovered by Mueller as he investigated possible obstruction. In his 448-page report released Thursday, Mueller concluded that while Trump attempted to seize control of the Russia investigation and bring it to a halt, the president was ultimately thwarted by those around him.

The special counsel said the evidence did not establish that Trump asked or directed intelligence officials to “stop or interfere with the FBI’s Russia investigation.” The requests to those officials, Mueller said, “were not interpreted by the officials who received them as directives to improperly interfere with the investigation.”

During the call to Rogers, the president “expressed frustration with the Russia investigation, saying that it made relations with the Russians difficult,” according to the report.

Trump said news stories linking him with Russia were not true and he asked Rogers “if he could do anything to refute the stories.” Even though Rogers signed the memo about the conversation and put it in a safe, he told investigators he did not think Trump was giving him an order.

Trump made a number of similar requests of other top intelligence officials.

On March 22, 2017, Trump asked then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats to stay behind after a meeting at the White House to ask if the men could “say publicly that no link existed between him and Russia,” the report said.

In two other instances, the president began meetings to discuss sensitive intelligence matters by stating he hoped a media statement could be issued saying there was no collusion with Russia.

After Trump repeatedly brought up the Russia investigation with his national intelligence director, “Coats said he finally told the President that Coats’s job was to provide intelligence and not get involved in investigations,” the report said.

Pompeo recalled that Trump regularly urged officials to get the word out that he had not done anything wrong related to Russia. But Pompeo, now secretary of state, said he had no recollection of being asked to stay behind after the March 22 meeting, according to the report.

https://www.newsbreakapp.com/n/0LfqeUcH?s=a99&pd=31667862

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Vatican spokesman, deputy resign suddenly

international News

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The spokesman for the Vatican and his deputy resigned suddenly on Monday, an official statement said.

It gave no reason for the resignation of Greg Burke, an American, and Paloma Garcia Ovejero, a Spaniard, but they quit several weeks after Pope Francis appointed an Italian journalist and personal friend, Andrea Tornielli, to become editorial director of Vatican communications.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by John Stonestreet)

Vía One America News Network http://bit.ly/2CG3AKa

Weed that sprouted holiday cheer mysteriously uprooted

international News

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A street corner weed that had been decked out with Christmas lights and brought out holiday goodwill in Ohio has apparently met an early demise.


In this Dec. 18, 2018 photo, Jimmy Izbinski, wearing a Santa suit, waves to motorists passing the Christmas weed in Toledo, Ohio. The street corner weed decked out with lights and ornaments is spreading holiday goodwill. (AP Photo/John Seewer)

WTVG-TV in Toledo reports that someone pulled out the “Christmas weed” early Friday morning and drove off with it in his trunk.

The weed had become a holiday attraction after a family decorated it with tinsel to spread some Christmas cheer.

Embedded video


O Christmas Weed: An overgrown street corner weed now decorated with lights and ornaments has turned into a holiday attraction in Ohio. Read more: http://apne.ws/syUVvy2 1299:56 AM – Dec 20, 201850 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

Others added their own ornaments and began leaving behind donations for the needy. It became so popular that Toledo officials set up donation boxes and handed out the items to local charities.

The weed had been scheduled to be cleaned up on Saturday along with all of the decorations and donations surrounding it.

Scrutiny, criticism of ICE come with immigration enforcement – AP

international News

By COLLEEN LONG

In this Oct. 22, 2018, photo U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents surround and detain a person during a raid in Richmond, Va. ICE’s enforcement and removal operations, like the five-person field office team outside Richmond, hunt people in the U.S. illegally, some of whom have been here for decades, working and raising families. Carrying out President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies has exposed ICE to unprecedented public scrutiny and criticism, even though officers say they’re doing largely the same job they did before the election, prioritizing criminals. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The officers suit up in the pre-dawn darkness, wrapping on body armor, snapping in guns, pulling on black sweat shirts that read POLICE and ICE.

They gather around a conference table in an ordinary office in a nondescript office park in the suburbs, going over their targets for the day: two men, both with criminal histories. Top of the list is a man from El Salvador convicted of drunken driving.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s enforcement and removal operations, like the five-person field office team outside Richmond, hunt people in the U.S. illegally, some of whom have been here for decades, working and raising families. Carrying out President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies has exposed ICE to unprecedented public scrutiny and criticism, even though officers say they’re doing largely the same job they did before the election — prioritizing criminals.

But they have also stepped up arrests of people who have no U.S. criminal records. It is those stories of ICE officers arresting dads and grandmothers that pepper local news. Officers are heckled and videotaped. Some Democratic politicians have called for ICE to be abolished.

ICE employees have been threatened at their homes, their personal data exposed online, officials said.

“There is a tension around ‘It could be that somebody could find out what I do and hate me for it or do worse than hate me for it,’” Ronald Vitiello, acting head of the agency, told The Associated Press.

Vitiello said the agency is monitoring social media and giving employees resources for when they feel threatened.

ICE, formed after the Sept. 11 attacks, had been told under the Obama administration to focus on removing immigrants who had committed crimes. Trump, in one of his first moves in office, directed his administration to target anyone in the country illegally.

Government data back up that ICE is still mostly targeting people convicted of a crime. But the data also show the agency has greatly ramped up arrests of people who were accused of a crime but not convicted, and increased arrests solely on immigration violations.

ICE arrested 32,977 people accused of crimes and 20,464 with immigration violations during the budget year 2018. There were 105,140 arrests of someone with a criminal conviction and 158,581 arrests overall. The most frequent criminal conviction was for drunken driving, followed by drug and traffic offenses.


Manhunt Still on for inmate who escaped from California prison

international News

SAN QUENTIN, Calif. (AP) — California authorities were on a manhunt Thursday for an inmate who walked away from San Quentin State Prison and is believed to have carjacked a vehicle overnight.

Shalom Mendoza, 21, was last seen at the prison before 6 p.m. Wednesday and reported missing after 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. He fled from a work assignment outside the prison walls, spokesman Sgt. Robert Gardea said.

Mendoza is believed to have carjacked a victim in a Home Depot parking lot less than a mile from the prison after 9 p.m., fleeing in a silver Toyota RAV4 with California license plate number 6STZ502, San Rafael police said.

They said a man with a similar physical description to Mendoza, last seen wearing a white T-shirt and khaki or light-yellow pants, motioned to the victim as if he had a weapon or gun under his shirt. He then threatened to kill her and demanded her car keys, but she was not injured.

Mendoza was sentenced to prison a year ago to serve a five-year term for using a deadly weapon during a Los Angeles County carjacking and evading or attempting to evade police while driving recklessly.

He arrived at San Quentin in April and was assigned to a minimum-security inmate work crew in May, Gardea said. Mendoza lived in a dormitory behind a security fence, but he was with a work crew outside the prison fence when he walked away, he said.

San Quentin is California’s oldest prison, opening in 1852. It houses more than 4,100 inmates, including those on death row.

Walk-aways by inmates outside of secure areas are not unusual, and most are quickly apprehended without incident. Far more uncommon are escapes from walled or fenced prisons, like Michael Garrett’s escape in January from the California Institution for Men in Chino, east of Los Angeles.

Officials released new details on that escape Thursday, telling the Associated Press that Garrett went over a non-lethal fence at the prison holding minimum- and medium-security inmates. He was caught without incident the next day.

The department subsequently improved the fence, lighting and alarms and added staff in the area of the escape, spokesman Jeffrey Callison said.

___

This story clarifies that Mendoza left from a work assignment, not a dormitory, based on new information from corrections officials.

2 dead, nearly 30 wounded in bomb blast at Philippine mall -AP

international News, Terrorism

COTABATO, Philippines (AP) — Suspected Muslim militants remotely detonated a bomb near the entrance of a mall in the southern Philippines on Monday as people did last-minute shopping ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations, killing at least two and wounding nearly 30, officials said.

The bomb went off near the baggage counter at the entrance of the South Seas mall in Cotabato city, wounding shoppers, vendors and commuters. Authorities recovered another unexploded bomb nearby as government forces imposed a security lockdown in the city, military and police officials said.

Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said by phone that an initial investigation showed the design of the bomb was similar to those used in the past by local Muslim militants who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

Government forces launched an offensive against the militants belonging to a group called Daulah Islamiyah last week and at least seven of the militants died in the fighting, Sobejana said.

“This is a part of the retaliation, but the problem is they’re victimizing innocent civilians,” he told reporters.

Supt. Romeo Galgo Jr., the deputy police director of Cotabato, said witnesses saw a man leave a box in a crowded area near the mall’s entrance where vendors and shoppers were milling. The explosion shattered glass panels and scattered debris to the street fronting the mall.

Two of the roughly 30 people hit by the blast died while being brought to a hospital, Sobejana said.

Cotabato Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi condemned the bombing and called on residents to help fight terrorism.

“This is not just another terroristic act but an act against humanity. I cannot fathom how such evil exists in this time of merry making,” she said.

“It is unimaginable how some people can start the new year with an act of cruelty but no matter how you threaten us, the people of Cotabato are resilient. … We will stand up against terrorism,” she told reporters.

The bombing, the latest in a number of attacks blamed on militants in the volatile region, occurred despite on-and-off military assaults against pockets of militant groups operating in the marshlands and hinterlands not far from Cotabato and outlying provinces.

Hundreds of militants aligned with the Islamic State group laid siege in the southern Islamic city of Marawi in May last year, sparking five months of intense fighting and military airstrikes that left more than 1,100 mostly militants dead and displaced hundreds of thousands of villagers.


‘I can’t breathe.’ Jamal Khashoggi’s

international News

Jamal Khashoggi’s last words disclosed in transcript Source says

By Nic Robertson, CNN  Sun December 9, 2018

(CNN)”I can’t breathe.” These were the final words uttered by Jamal Khashoggi after he was set upon by a Saudi hit squad at the country’s consulate in Istanbul, according to a source briefed on the investigation into the killing of the Washington Post columnist.The source, who has read a translated transcript of an audio recording of Khashoggi’s painful last moments, said it was clear that the killing on October 2 was no botched rendition attempt, but the execution of a premeditated plan to murder the journalist.During the course of the gruesome scene, the source describes Khashoggi struggling against a group of people determined to kill him.”I can’t breathe,” Khashoggi says.”I can’t breathe.””I can’t breathe.”The transcript notes the sounds of Khashoggi’s body being dismembered by a saw, as the alleged perpetrators are advised to listen to music to block out the sound.And, according to the source, the transcript suggests that a series of phone calls are made, briefing them on progress. Turkish officials believe the calls were made to senior figures in Riyadh.Some of the details in the transcript seen by CNN’s source have emerged in previous reports of the recording’s content. But this is the fullest account of the transcript that has so far been published.

Jamal Khashoggi’s private WhatsApp messages may offer new clues to killingIt is likely to increase pressure on the Trump administration, which has been determined to separate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from the murder, and sought to frame the issue as a binary choice between supporting or cutting off a key partner in the Middle East. US President Donald Trump has been at odds with the CIA, which, sources say, has concluded bin Salman personally ordered the killing.The revelations also threaten to undermine a key plank of an initial Saudi explanation for Khashoggi’s death, that it was a rogue operation that went horribly wrong.

The original transcript of the audio was prepared by Turkish intelligence services. Turkish officials have never said how they obtained the audio. The transcript would have been translated before it was shared with other intelligence services; CNN’s source read a translated version and has been briefed on the investigation.

The office of one US senator, who has received a briefing on the investigation by CIA Director Gina Haspel, told CNN that the source’s recollections of the transcript are “consistent” with that briefing.CNN asked Saudi officials to comment on the contents of the transcript as described by the source, and to provide comment from those named in it.

A Saudi official said: “The relevant Saudi security officials have reviewed the transcript and tape materials through Turkish security channels and nowhere in them is there any reference or indication of a call being made.””If there is additional information Turkish authorities have that we are unaware of, we would welcome it being officially handed over to us for review, which we have requested numerous times and are still requesting. And, up until now; we have not received anything.” The official did not address the transcript’s characterization of the scene inside the Saudi consulate, nor Khashoggi’s last words.

A security camera image shows Khashoggi entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

A security camera image shows Khashoggi entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

‘You are coming back’

The transcript begins at the moment Khashoggi enters the Saudi consulate in a quiet residential district of Istanbul at lunchtime on October 2.Khashoggi thought he had made a routine appointment to pick up papers that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. But, according to the source, it dawns upon Khashoggi almost immediately that things are not going to plan, when he recognizes one of the men who meets him.

He asks the man what he is doing there.According to CNN’s source, a voice identified in the transcript as Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a former Saudi diplomat and intelligence official working for bin Salman, and known to Khashoggi from their time together at the Saudi Embassy in London, addresses him.”You are coming back,” the man says.”You can’t do that,” Khashoggi replies. “People are waiting outside.”(Khashoggi’s fiancée accompanied him as far as the consulate, with instructions to call associates if he did not emerge.)

Without any further dialogue, according to the source, the transcript indicates that several people set upon Khashoggi. Noises follow, and very quickly Khashoggi is fighting for air.


Prince Mohammed bin Salman

The slow-motion disaster of Trump’s Khashoggi strategy In one version of the evolving explanations for his death, Saudi officials suggested Khashoggi was accidentally choked. But according to the transcript, CNN’s source says, the journalist’s voice can be heard above the noise, repeatedly claiming he could not breathe.Despite his desperate pleas, the last discernible words the transcript records for Khashoggi are:”I can’t breathe.”The transcript notes more noises, and several more voices.One of those voices is identified on the transcript by Turkish authorities as belonging to Dr. Salah Muhammad al-Tubaiqi, the head of forensic medicine at Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry, the source says.

Aside from Khashoggi and Mutreb, he is the only other voice identified by name on the transcript.As the transcript continues, it is clear Khashoggi is not yet dead.The transcript notes the noises that can be heard on the tape, almost in the manner that subtitles describe moments in movies where there is no dialogue.”Scream.””Scream.””Gasping.”Then, the transcript notes other descriptions.”Saw.””Cutting.”

Tubaiqi is noted giving some advice to other people in the room, apparently to help them deal with the appalling task.”Put your earphones in, or listen to music like me.”During the scene, the transcript notes at least three phone calls placed by Mutreb.

The transcript does not specify the moment Khashoggi dies.According to the source, the transcript suggests Mutreb is updating someone, whom Turkish officials say was in Riyadh, with almost step-by-step details of what is taking place.”Tell yours, the thing is done, it’s done.”The word “yours” is taken by CNN’s source to refer to a superior, or boss.

The transcript has been circulated to key Turkish and Saudi allies, including those in Europe, but only the United States and Saudi Arabia have received the recording itself, the source believes. The working assumption among those allies is that Mutreb was talking to Saud al-Qahtani, bin Salman’s closest aide, the source said. Saudi officials say al-Qahtani has been removed from his former position as media chief to the crown prince.The transcript only records Mutreb’s side of the conversation. Without a recording of that call, or more details of which number was called, further conclusions based on the transcript alone cannot be made.

A portrait of Jamal Khashoggi during a remembrance ceremony for him in Washington on November 2.

A portrait of Jamal Khashoggi during a remembrance ceremony for him in Washington on November 2. A source close to the Saudi investigation into Khashoggi’s killing told CNN that Mutreb and Tubaiqi deny making any phone calls.CNN has previously reported how Mutreb, Tubaiqi and 13 other Saudis arrived in Istanbul by private charter jets and commercial aircraft on the day of and the days leading up to Khashoggi’s murder.Turkish surveillance video records the 15-man hit team arriving at the consulate shortly before Khashoggi, and departing a few hours later.

A body double of Khashoggi dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes is seen on CCTV leaving by the back door. It is clear from the transcript of the phone conversation that the calls do not describe a terrible situation gone awry, or explain an unexpected set of circumstances, the source says. Instead, the caller appears simply to be informing someone of what is going on. Hardly, the source says, the actions of a panicked ringleader, but more the description of a situation going entirely according to plan.

The transcript is relatively short, given the time span it describes, the source told CNN. There is not much dialogue; certainly no hint of a conversation about why Khashoggi should go “back,” and no suggestion either, as advanced at one point by Saudi officials, that he had been drugged by the hit team. There is nothing in this transcript that the source could describe as a “smoking gun” — a snippet of conversation or phone call that directly ties bin Salman to the so-called hit team, and to Khashoggi’s murder.

Graham on Khashoggi: Crown Prince ‘complicit’ 02:00But the lasting conclusion the source drew from the transcript is that Khashoggi’s killing was a planned assassination by an organized team that carried out its job with ruthless efficiency, keeping someone in Riyadh informed at each step.While the transcript provides no smoking gun directly tying Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the killing, it seems to echo Sen. Lindsey Graham’s sentiments after hearing the CIA’s assessment of Khashoggi’s killing.

Graham, who was among a group of senators to receive a classified briefing on the Khashoggi case, said earlier this week that he agreed with the conclusions of the US security services that bin Salman was implicated in the case.”There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw,” he said.

Source: CNN.

The blind woman developing tech for the good of others

Entertainment, Facts, International Finance, international News, personality, Tech

Virginia Harrison BBC News, Singapore

Chieko Asakawa was awarded Japan's Medal of Honour for her contributions to accessibility research
Chieko Asakawa received Japan’s Medal of Honour for her contribution to accessibility research

An accident in a swimming pool left Chieko Asakawa blind at the age of 14. For the past three decades she’s worked to create technology – now with a big focus on artificial intelligence (AI) – to transform life for the visually impaired.

“When I started out there was no assistive technology,” Japanese-born Dr Asakawa says.

“I couldn’t read any information by myself. I couldn’t go anywhere by myself.”

Those “painful experiences” set her on a path of learning that began with a computer science course for blind people, and a job at IBM soon followed. She started her pioneering work on accessibility at the firm, while also earning her doctorate.

Dr Asakawa is behind early digital Braille innovations and created the world’s first practical web-to-speech browser. Those browsers are commonplace these days, but 20 years ago, she gave blind internet users in Japan access to more information than they’d ever had before.

Hands on a keyboard with a braille computer display
Braille and voice control are still key technologies for blind people

Now she and other technologists are looking to use AI to create tools for visually impaired people.

Micro mapping

For example, Dr Asakawa has developed NavCog, a voice-controlled smartphone app that helps blind people navigate complicated indoor locations.

Low-energy Bluetooth beacons are installed roughly every 10m (33ft) to create an indoor map. Sampling data is collected from those beacons to build “fingerprints” of a specific location.

“We detect user position by comparing the users’ current fingerprint to the server’s fingerprint model,” she says.

Close-up of blind person's can on road
Image captionCould navigation apps mean blind people have to rely on canes less?

Collecting large amounts of data creates a more detailed map than is available in an application like Google Maps, which doesn’t work for indoor locations and cannot provide the level of detail blind and visually impaired people need, she says.

“It can be very helpful, but it cannot navigate us exactly,” says Dr Asakawa, who’s now an IBM Fellow, a prestigious group that has produced five Nobel prize winners.

NavCog is currently in a pilot stage, available in several sites in the US and one in Tokyo, and IBM says it is close to making the app available to the public.

‘It gave me more control’

Pittsburgh residents Christine Hunsinger, 70, and her husband Douglas Hunsinger, 65, both blind, trialled NavCog at a hotel in their city during a conference for blind people.

“I felt more like I was in control of my own situation,” says Mrs Hunsinger, now retired after 40 years as a government bureaucrat.

She uses other apps to help her get around, and says while she needed to use her white cane alongside NavCog, it did give her more freedom to move around in unfamiliar areas.

Chieko Asakawa
Image captionDr Asakawa says memories of colour help with her work on object recognition and NavCog

Mr Hunsinger agrees, saying the app “took all the guesswork out” of finding places indoors.

“It was really liberating to travel independently on my own.”

A lightweight ‘suitcase robot’

Dr Asakawa’s next big challenge is the “AI suitcase” – a lightweight navigational robot.

It steers a blind person through the complex terrain of an airport, providing directions as well as useful information on flight delays and gate changes, for example.

The suitcase has a motor embedded so it can move autonomously, an image-recognition camera to detect surroundings, and Lidar – Light Detection And Ranging – for measuring distances to objects.

When stairs need to be climbed, the suitcase tells the user to pick it up.

“If we work together with the robot it could be lighter, smaller and lower cost,” Dr Asakawa says.

The current prototype is “pretty heavy”, she admits. IBM is pushing to make the next version lighter and hopes it will ultimately be able to contain at least a laptop computer. It aims to pilot the project in Tokyo in 2020.

“I want to really enjoy travelling alone. That’s why I want to focus on the AI suitcase even if it is going to take a long time.”

IBM showed me a video of the prototype, but as it’s not ready for release yet the firm was reluctant to release images at this stage.

AI for ‘social good’

Despite its ambitions, IBM lags behind Microsoft and Google in what it currently offers the visually impaired.

Microsoft has committed $115m (£90m) to its AI for Good programme and $25m to its AI for accessibility initiative. For example, Seeing AI – a talking camera app – is a central part of its accessibility work.

Microsoft's Saqib Shaikh demonstrates the firm's text-to-speech smartphone app
Image captionMicrosoft’s Saqib Shaikh demonstrates the firm’s text-to-speech smartphone app

And later this year Google reportedly plans to launch its Lookout app, initially for the Pixel, that will narrate and guide visually impaired people around specific objects.

“People with disabilities have been overlooked when it comes to technology development as a whole,” says Nick McQuire, head of enterprise and AI research at CCS Insight.

But he says that’s been changing in the past year, as big tech firms push hard to invest in AI applications that “improve social wellbeing”.

He expects more to come in this space, including from Amazon, which has sizeable investments in AI.

“But it’s really Microsoft and Google… in the last 12 months that have made the big focus in this area,” he says.

Mr McQuire says the focus on social good and disability is linked to “trying to showcase the benefits [of AI] in light of a lot of negative sentiment” around AI replacing human jobs and even taking over completely.

But AI in the disability space is far from perfect. A lot of the investment right now is about “proving the accuracy and speed of the applications” around vision, he says.

Dr Asakawa concludes simply: “I’ve been tackling the difficulties I found when I became blind. I hope these difficulties can be solved.”

Edited By Don Michael Adeniji 

Coming between Cardi B and Offsets

Entertainment, international News, movies, Music, personality, song

Let’s give Cardi B a minute

Analysis by Lisa Respers France, CNN

(CNN) Before you tweet me asking, “Why is Cardi B’s marital split news?” I will beat you to the punch and say it’s not, really.Cardi shot to the top of Twitter trends Wednesday after she announced her split from husband and fellow rapper Offset on Instagram. 

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 06: A model prepares backstage for the Jeremy Scott show during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Gallery I at Spring Studios on September 6, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)

I’m shocked by how shocked peo

ple are that Cardi B and Offset broke up— bilal (@ziadehb) December 5, 2018

Sad to hear Cardi B has split from Offset. I genuinely thought that one was going to work out.— FIGHTING POLYGON TEAM (@connorarose) December 5, 2018

Yall really cant sit here and tell me you could handle Cardi B for more than 20 minutes. Imagine hearing that voice every time you woke up lol Offset should get a Nobel peace prize for making it this long https://t.co/SnuHsfFSf1— 🇺🇸 Trev 🇿🇦 (@trevcannon) December 5, 2018

Celebrity couples who eventual break up is almost a given these days, unless they are in the rarefied air of a few. (You have the power to destroy us Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, so please keep hanging in there.)Cardi has earned her right to grieve the end of her year-long marriage in private, should she so choose.But given Offset’s success as a member of the rap group Migos and Cardi’s rapid rise as a solo artist, interest is understandable.”There’s been a lot of good and bad in Cardi B’s personal life this year,” Jason Lipshutz, editorial director at Billboard told CNN. “I don’t think it diminishes from the fact she’s had one of the biggest breakthrough years in hip-hop history and in recent popular music memory.”As the first female MC to top the Billboard 100 in almost 20 years, (Lauryn Hill last did it in 1998 with “Doo-Wop (That Thing)”) and the first woman to chart their first three entries in the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs’ Top 10 simultaneously, it would seem like Cardi has worked hard enough to earn a pass on the mountain of speculation that is sure to come in the wake of her marriage.

An unlikely career

This is a woman who has already beaten the odds on so many levels.Belcalis Almanzar (Cardi’s birth name) took the Cinderella story of a stripper who hits the big time and flipped it on its head.She defied the Hollywood trope of the stripper waiting for a knight in shining armor to take her off the pole. Cardi did it herself, through shear determination.She first came to fame on the VH1 reality series “Love & Hip Hop: New York.”The future star was loud, combative and in your face about everything — from her exotic dancing to her then imprisoned boyfriend, identified only as “Tommy” on the show.In other words, authentically Cardi B.Who is Cardi B?She was far from polished, which is one of the things viewers loved — and continue to love — about her.In one memorable scene from Season 6 of “Love & Hip Hop: New York,” tensions between Cardi and the girlfriend of a fellow cast member boiled over and resulted in Cardi uttering one of the show’s most memorable lines.

Uber cedes control in Russian market with Yandex tie-up

Business, economy, International Finance, international News, Tech
Uber cedes control in Russian market with Yandex tie-up
This March 1, 2017 file photo shows the exterior of the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. Uber is ceding control of its operations in Russia by agreeing to merge its ridesharing business in the country and five other ex-Soviet …more

Uber is ceding control of the Russian market by agreeing to merge its ride-hailing business in the country with Yandex, the Russian search-engine leader that also runs a popular taxi-booking app.

For Uber, the deal marks the exit from another big market after it sold its operations in China last year to local rival Didi Chuxing.

Yandex said in a statement on Thursday that Uber and Yandex Taxi would combine into a new company in Russia as well as in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Yandex will own 59 percent, Uber roughly 37 percent, and employees the rest. The CEO of Yandex Taxi, Tigran Khudaverdyan, will become the chief executive of the new combined company.

San Francisco-based Uber will invest $225 million in the new company and Yandex $100 million, putting its value at over $3.7 billion. The companies said that together they deliver over 35 million rides a month, with $130 million in gross bookings in June. Yandex is the bigger company, with roughly the twice the business Uber currently has in the region.

In both Russia and China, Uber was having trouble competing against larger ride services that have the advantages of being the hometown company and knowing cultural differences, said independent technology analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research in California. “It’s like competing with Google in the U.S.,” he said. “They just weren’t really making headway against the local competitors.”

At this stage of its development, the money-losing Uber is looking to move to profitability, reviewing regions to see if there are prospects for making money. If the prospects aren’t good, Uber is likely to get out, Dawon said.

In the Yandex case, Uber will exit “in a dignified way” with the 37 percent stake in the new company. Uber had invested $170 million in Russia and is adding $225 million to the new company. So for about $400 million, it’s getting a stake in Yandex that’s worth over $1 billion, Dawson said.

Shares in Yandex jumped 15 percent on the Moscow stock exchange on news of the deal. The company is one of Russia’s most successful Internet enterprises, accounting for some 65 percent of all searches and operating popular maps and public transit apps.

Once the deal is closed toward the end of this year, consumers will be able to use both Yandex and Uber apps to hail rides while for drivers, the apps will be integrated.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-07-uber-cedes-russian-yandex-tie-up.html#jCp

Huawei CFO arrested: Why Meng Wanzhou’s detention on U.S. extradition charges is a big deal

Business, international News, News, Tech


Along with Huawei’s success has come suspicion about the company’s ties to China’s government, its willingness to overlook U.S. sanctions and the security of its systems.

By Jason Abbruzzese 

The arrest of a Chinese tech executive in Canada on Saturday was the most recent and public chapter of an ongoing battle between the U.S. government and one of the world’s biggest tech companies — Huawei.

The arrest, which came on U.S. extradition charges, featured a heightened level of intrigue due to the profile of the person arrested: Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of Huawei’s secretive founder, Ren Zhengfei, who is one of the most powerful businessmen in China. The arrest came amid reports that Huawei had been sending U.S. technology to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions against the country.

Huawei is not a household name in the U.S., but the company has emerged as one of the largest tech firms in the world in the past decade thanks to its success in producing telecommunications equipment including cell towers and equipment for next-generation 5G wireless networks. Huawei is also second in the global smartphone market, having surpassed Apple earlier in 2018.

But along with its success has come suspicion about the company’s ties to China’s government, its willingness to overlook U.S. sanctions and the security of its systems.

“Huawei is effectively an arm of the Chinese government, and it’s more than capable of stealing information from U.S. officials by hacking its devices,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said in February when he introduced legislation to block the U.S. government from buying telecom equipment from Huawei or ZTE, another Chinese hardware maker. President Donald Trump signed the the bill in August.

The arrest of the Huawei executive is a BIG deal in China and is probably being underplayed in the US news cycle. Equivalent of an Apple or Facebook exec being arrested in China. https://www.scmp.com/tech/article/2176655/detained-huawei-cfo-sabrina-meng-wanzhou-told-staff-one-may-accept-risk …

310 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

Ren, a former Chinese army engineer, started Huawei in 1987 and found initial success making telephone equipment. Huawei’s expansion into telecommunications technology in the 1990s would fuel the company’s international expansion — and put it on the radar of U.S. security experts. Meng has been seen as the successor to Huawei.

In 2017, Fortune magazine ranked Huawei as the seventh-biggest tech company in the world by revenue, with more than $89 billion. The company has more than 180,000 employees.

Despite its size and global reach, only 38 percent of Americans said they had heard of Huawei, according to the survey company Morning Consult. The company’s name has also been something of a mystery for some in the West who wonder how to pronounce it. The company even made a humorous video for the U.K. about how to pronounce Huawei.

China’s rise as a global power has coincided with the emergence of the internet as a major av

BREAKING: 41 Palestinians killed, thousands wounded as U.S. opens new embassy in Jerusalem premiumtimesng.com

international News, Islam, Terrorism
Gaza on map used to illustrate the story. [Photo credit: Wikipedia]

At least 41 people were killed and more than 1,000 wounded when violence erupts near the Israel border with Gaza on Monday.

The death toll has continued to climb as Palestinians attempt to cross the border from Gaza to Israel, according to Israeli daily, Haaretz.

About 2,000 Palestinians were also injured, AlJazeera reports.

Protests on the border have escalated in recent weeks but suddenly descended into deadly chaos shortly before the formal launching of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem. President Donald Trump recently recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

An official opening ceremony for the movement of the embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv is currently underway, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several top officials from the U.S. on the ground. Jared Kushner, an in-law of Mr Trump, and his wife, Ivanka, who is Mr Trump’s daughter, are currently attending the event which is televised across the world.

Israeli troops intervened to prevent the Palestinian protesters from entering into Israel used tear gas and live ammunition, media reports said.

The soldiers keep Palestinians from scaling a fence across the border. Video feed circulating online shows protestors seeking to cross the border.

Some media reports said many children were among those killed and wounded. Israeli authorities said some in the crowds were throwing explosives or flying flaming kites into Israel.

Mr Trump addressed the audience via a recorded video and praised the decision to move the capital to Jerusalem.

Ivanka Trump unveiled the formal dedication and said she was delighted to pronounce “Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

The move is a fulfillment of a major campaign promise of Mr Trump, but it had been condemned by leaders across the world. Critics also feared that the development could further complicate ongoing peace talks in the Middle East.

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CBI probing another Rs 5,280 crore loan taken by Choksi and his companies — Social News XYZ

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By Rajnish Singh New Delhi,

 The CBI is probing another loan of Rs 5,280 crore taken by diamond trader Mehul Choksi and his companies from a consortium of 31 banks led by ICICI Bank, informed sources said. The probe is part of the existing FIR filed against Choksi and his Gitanjali Group of companies, said the sources. They said the Rs 5,280 crore loan amount was separate from the Rs 13,600 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud already being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). “The investigation is under the purview of working capital loan and it may become the part of the existing PNB fraud cases. If this proves to be a fraud too, the whole fraud amount may officially touch Rs 19,000 crore.

” As per the complaints of PNB, the country’s second-biggest state-run lender, the CBI is currently probing about Rs 7,080 crore fraud during 2013-17 against Gitanjali Gems Ltd, Gill India Ltd, Nakshatra Brand Ltd and Asmi Jewellery India Ltd. The CBI on February 15 filed a case against Gitanjali group of companies controlled by Choksi for allegedly defrauding the bank of Rs 4,8886.72 crore. Later the agency got another PNB complaint on February 22 wherein the fraud in respect of Foreign Letter of Credits increased by another Rs 1,251.56 crore. The agency on March 4 received another complaint from PNB against Gitanjali Group regarding additional exposure of about Rs 942.18 crore. Choksi, the chairman of the Gitanjali Group, was so far accused along with his nephew Nirav Modi in the Rs 13,600 crore PNB bank fraud. The CBI has registered separate FIRs in connection with the case.

Billionaire diamantaire Modi, a regular on the lists of rich and famous Indians since 2013, his group companies — Diamond R US, Stellar Diamond and Solar Exports– his wife Ami and brother Nishal Modi are also named in along with others in the fraud, admitted by the PNB in February and leading to a massive upheaval in the country’s banking system. Choksi, Modi and his family are still at large as they fled abroad in first week of January – around a month before the PNB filed first complaint against them about the fraud.

The PNB has claimed in different complaints to the CBI that several LoUs — issued by one bank to other banks, based on which foreign branches offer credit to buyers — were fraudulently issued by its officials in connivance with Modi and the other accused in the case causing huge losses to the bank. (Rajnish Singh can be contacted at rajnish.s@ians.in)

 

read more: CBI probing another Rs 5,280 crore loan taken by Choksi and his companies — Social News XYZ

Hundreds of Immigrant Children Have Been Taken From Parents at U.S. Border -NY Times

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Immigrants after crossing the border near McAllen, Tex., this month. The Trump administration has in the past said it was considering taking children from their parents as a way to deter migrants from coming here.CreditLoren Elliott/Reuters

On Feb. 20, a young woman named Mirian arrived at the Texas border carrying her 18-month-old son. They had fled their home in Honduras through a cloud of tear gas, she told border agents, and needed protection from the political violence there.

She had hoped she and her son would find refuge together. Instead, the agents ordered her to place her son in the back seat of a government vehicle, she said later in a sworn declaration to a federal court. They both cried as the boy was driven away.

For months, members of Congress have been demanding answers about how many families are being separated as they are processed at stations along the southwest border, in part because the Trump administration has in the past said it was considering taking children from their parents as a way to deter migrants from coming here.

Officials have repeatedly declined to provide data on how many families have been separated, but suggested that the number was relatively low.

But new data reviewed by The New York Times shows that more than 700 children have been taken from adults claiming to be their parents since October, including more than 100 children under the age of 4.

The data was prepared by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services that takes custody of children who have been removed from migrant parents. Senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security, which processes migrants at the border, initially denied that the numbers were so high. But after they were confirmed to The Times by three federal officials who work closely with these cases, a spokesman for the health and human services department on Friday acknowledged in a statement that there were “approximately 700.”

Homeland security officials said the agency does not separate families at the border for deterrence purposes. “As required by law, D.H.S. must protect the best interests of minor children crossing our borders, and occasionally this results in separating children from an adult they are traveling with if we cannot ascertain the parental relationship, or if we think the child is otherwise in danger,” a spokesman for the agency said in a statement.

But Trump administration officials have suggested publicly in the past that they were, indeed, considering a deterrence policy. Last year, John F. Kelly, President Trump’s chief of staff, floated the idea while he was serving as homeland security secretary.

If approved, the plan would have closed detention facilities that are designed to house families and replaced them with separate shelters for adults and children. The White House supported the move and convened a group of officials from several federal agencies to consider its merits. But the Department of Homeland Security has said the policy was never adopted.

The homeland security chief told colleagues she was close to resigning after President Trump berated her in a cabinet meeting over border security

international News, law enforcement, News

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Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, told colleagues she was close to resigning after President Trump berated her on Wednesday in front of the entire cabinet for what he said was her failure to adequately secure the nation’s borders, according to several current and former officials familiar with the incident.

Ms. Nielsen, who is a protégée of John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, has drafted a resignation letter but has not submitted it, according to two of the people.

Read More »

How Burmese forces burned, looted and killed in a remote village

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Reporting for this story is what led to the arrest of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.

BOUND together, the 10 Rohingya Muslim captives watched their Buddhist neighbours dig a shallow grave. Soon afterwards, on the morning of Sept 2, all 10 lay dead. At least two were hacked to death by Buddhist villagers. The rest were shot by Burmese troops, two of the gravediggers said.

“One grave for 10 people,” said Soe Chay, 55, a retired soldier from Inn Din’s Rakhine Buddhist community who said he helped dig the pit and saw the killings. The soldiers shot each man two or three times, he said.

“When they were being buried, some were still making noises. Others were already dead.”

The killings in the coastal village of Inn Din marked another bloody episode in the ethnic violence sweeping northern Rakhine state, on Burma’s (Myanmar) western fringe. Nearly 690,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled their villages and crossed the border into Bangladesh since August. None of Inn Din’s 6,000 Rohingya remained in the village as of October.

The Rohingya accuse the army of arson, rapes and killings aimed at rubbing them out of existence in this mainly Buddhist nation of 53 million. The United Nations has said the army may have committed genocide; the United States has called the action ethnic cleansing. Burma says its “clearance operation” is a legitimate response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.

Rohingya trace their presence in Rakhine back centuries. But most Burmese consider them to be unwanted immigrants from Bangladesh; the army refers to the Rohingya as “Bengalis.” In recent years, sectarian tensions have risen and the government has confined more than 100,000 Rohingya in camps where they have limited access to food, medicine and education.

SEE ALSO: Burma arrests two Reuters journalists covering Rohingya crisis

Reuters has pieced together what happened in Inn Din in the days leading up to the killing of the 10 Rohingya – eight men and two high school students in their late teens.

Until now, accounts of the violence against the Rohingya in Rakhine state have been provided only by its victims. The Reuters reconstruction draws for the first time on interviews with Buddhist villagers who confessed to torching Rohingya homes, burying bodies and killing Muslims.

This account also marks the first time soldiers and paramilitary police have been implicated by testimony from security personnel themselves. Members of the paramilitary police gave Reuters insider descriptions of the operation to drive out the Rohingya from Inn Din, confirming that the military played the lead role in the campaign.Photographs from a massacre

The slain men’s families, now sheltering in Bangladesh refugee camps, identified the victims through photographs shown to them by Reuters. The dead men were fishermen, shopkeepers, the two teenage students and an Islamic teacher.

Three photographs, provided to Reuters by a Buddhist village elder, capture key moments in the massacre at Inn Din, from the Rohingya men’s detention by soldiers in the early evening of Sept 1 to their execution shortly after 10AM on Sept 2. Two photos – one taken the first day, the other on the day of the killings – show the 10 captives lined up in a row, kneeling. The final photograph shows the men’s bloodied bodies piled in the shallow grave.

The Reuters investigation of the Inn Din massacre was what prompted Burmese police authorities to arrest two of the news agency’s reporters. The reporters, Burmese citizens Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were detained on Dec 12 for allegedly obtaining confidential documents relating to Rakhine.

Then, on Jan 10, the military issued a statement that confirmed portions of what Wa Lone, Kyaw Soe Oo and their colleagues were preparing to report, acknowledging that 10 Rohingya men were massacred in the village. It confirmed that Buddhist villagers attacked some of the men with swords and soldiers shot the others dead.

The statement coincided with an application to the court by prosecutors to charge Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo under Burma’s Official Secrets Act, which dates back to the time of colonial British rule. The charges carry a maximum 14-year prison sentence.

But the military’s version of events is contradicted in important respects by accounts given to Reuters by Rakhine Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim witnesses. The military said the 10 men belonged to a group of 200 “terrorists” that attacked security forces. Soldiers decided to kill the men, the army said, because intense fighting in the area made it impossible to transfer them to police custody. The army said it would take action against those involved.

Buddhist villagers interviewed for this article reported no attack by a large number of insurgents on security forces in Inn Din. And Rohingya witnesses told Reuters that soldiers plucked the 10 from among hundreds of men, women and children who had sought safety on a nearby beach.

SEE ALSO: United States says it is ‘clear’ that Rohingya crisis is ethnic cleansing

Scores of interviews with Rakhine Buddhist villagers, soldiers, paramilitary police, Rohingya Muslims and local administrators further revealed:

The military and paramilitary police organised Buddhist residents of Inn Din and at least two other villages to torch Rohingya homes, more than a dozen Buddhist villagers said. Eleven Buddhist villagers said Buddhists committed acts of violence, including killings. The government and army have repeatedly blamed Rohingya insurgents for burning villages and homes.

An order to “clear” Inn Din’s Rohingya hamlets was passed down the command chain from the military, said three paramilitary police officers speaking on condition of anonymity and a fourth police officer at an intelligence unit in the regional capital Sittwe. Security forces wore civilian clothes to avoid detection during raids, one of the paramilitary police officers said.

► Some members of the paramilitary police looted Rohingya property, including cows and motorcycles, in order to sell it, according to village administrator Maung Thein Chay and one of the paramilitary police officers.

► Operations in Inn Din were led by the army’s 33rd Light Infantry Division, supported by the paramilitary 8th Security Police Battalion, according to four police officers, all of them members of the battalion.

Potential criminal cases

Michael G. Karnavas, a US lawyer based in The Hague who has worked on cases at international criminal tribunals, said evidence that the military had organised Buddhist civilians to commit violence against Rohingya “would be the closest thing to a smoking gun in establishing not just intent, but even specific genocidal intent, since the attacks seem designed to destroy the Rohingya or at least a significant part of them.”

Evidence of the execution of men in government custody also could be used to build a case of crimes against humanity against military commanders, Karnavas said, if it could be shown that it was part of a “widespread or systematic” campaign targeting the Rohingya population.

Kevin Jon Heller, a University of London law professor who served as a legal associate for convicted war criminal and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, said an order to clear villages by military command was “unequivocally the crime against humanity of forcible transfer.”

In December, the United States imposed sanctions on the army officer who had been in charge of Western Command troops in Rakhine, Major General Maung Maung Soe. So far, however, Burma has not faced international sanctions over the violence.

Burma’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has disappointed many former supporters in the West by not speaking out against the army’s actions. They had hoped the election of her National League for Democracy party in 2015 would bring democratic reform and an opening of the country. Instead, critics say, Suu Kyi is in thrall to the generals who freed her from house arrest in 2010.

Asked about the evidence Reuters   has uncovered about the massacre, government spokesman Zaw Htay said, “We are not denying the allegations about violations of human rights. And we are not giving blanket denials.” If there was “strong and reliable primary evidence” of abuses, the government would investigate, he said. “And then if we found the evidence is true and the violations are there, we will take the necessary action according to our existing law.”

When told that paramilitary police officers had said they received orders to “clear” Inn Din’s Rohingya hamlets, he replied, “We have to verify. We have to ask the Ministry of Home Affairs and Myanmar police forces.” Asked about the allegations of looting by paramilitary police officers, he said the police would investigate.

He expressed surprise when told that Buddhist villagers had confessed to burning Rohingya homes, then added, “We recognise that many, many different allegations are there, but we need to verify who did it. It is very difficult in the current situation.”

Zaw Htay defended the military operation in Rakhine. “The international community needs to understand who did the first terrorist attacks. If that kind of terrorist attack took place in European countries, in the United States, in London, New York, Washington, what would the media say?”

Neighbour turns on neighbour

Inn Din lies between the Mayu mountain range and the Bay of Bengal, about 50 km north of Rakhine’s state capital Sittwe. The settlement is made up of a scattering of hamlets around a school, clinic and Buddhist monastery. Buddhist homes cluster in the northern part of the village. For many years there had been tensions between the Buddhists and their Muslim neighbours, who accounted for almost 90 percent of the roughly 7,000 people in the village. But the two communities had managed to co-exist, fishing the coastal waters and cultivating rice in the paddies.

In October 2016, Rohingya militants attacked three police posts in northern Rakhine – the beginning of a new insurgency. After the attacks, Rohingya in Inn Din said many Buddhists stopped hiring them as farmhands and home help. The Buddhists said the Rohingya stopped showing up for work.

On Aug 25 last year, the rebels struck again, hitting 30 police posts and an army base. The closest attack was just 4 km to the north. In Inn Din, several hundred fearful Buddhists took refuge in the monastery in the centre of the village, more than a dozen of their number said. Inn Din’s Buddhist night watchman San Thein, 36, said Buddhist villagers feared being “swallowed up” by their Muslim neighbours. A Buddhist elder said all Rohingya, “including children,” were part of the insurgency and therefore “terrorists.”

SEE ALSO: Rohingya rebel group denies links to human, drug trafficking groups

On Aug 27, about 80 troops from Burma’s 33rd Light Infantry Division arrived in Inn Din, nine Buddhist villagers said. Two paramilitary police officers and Soe Chay, the retired soldier, said the troops belonged to the 11th infantry regiment of this division. The army officer in charge told villagers they must cook for the soldiers and act as lookouts at night, Soe Chay said. The officer promised his troops would protect Buddhist villagers from their Rohingya neighbours. Five Buddhist villagers said the officer told them they could volunteer to join security operations. Young volunteers would need their parents’ permission to join the troops, however.

The army found willing participants among Inn Din’s Buddhist “security group,” nine members of the organisation and two other villagers said. This informal militia was formed after violence broke out in 2012 between Rakhine’s Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, sparked by reports of the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by three Muslim men. Burmese media reported at the time that the three were sentenced to death by a district court.

Inn Din’s security group built watch huts around the Buddhist part of the village, and its members took turns to stand guard. Its ranks included Buddhist firefighters, school teachers, students and unemployed young men. They were useful to the military because they knew the local geography, said Inn Din’s Buddhist administrator, Maung Thein Chay.

Most of the group’s 80 to 100 men armed themselves with machetes and sticks. They also had a handful of guns, according to one member. Some wore green fatigue-style clothing they called “militia suits.”

Organising the arson attacks

In the days that followed the 33rd Light Infantry’s arrival, soldiers, police and Buddhist villagers burned most of the homes of Inn Din’s Rohingya Muslims, a dozen Buddhist residents said.

Two of the paramilitary police officers, both members of the 8th Security Police Battalion, said their battalion raided Rohingya hamlets with soldiers from the newly arrived 33rd Light Infantry. One of the police officers said he received verbal orders from his commander to “go and clear” areas where Rohingya lived, which he took to mean to burn them.

The second police officer described taking part in several raids on villages north of Inn Din. The raids involved at least 20 soldiers and between five and seven police, he said. A military captain or major led the soldiers, while a police captain oversaw the police team. The purpose of the raids was to deter the Rohingya from returning.

SEE ALSO: As Tillerson visits Burma, Holocaust Museum points to ‘mounting evidence of genocide’

“If they have a place to live, if they have food to eat, they can carry out more attacks,” he said. “That’s why we burned their houses, mainly for security reasons.”

Soldiers and paramilitary police wore civilian shirts and shorts to blend in with the villagers, according to the second police officer and Inn Din’s Buddhist administrator, Maung Thein Chay. If the media identified the involvement of security personnel, the police officer explained, “we would have very big problems.”

A police spokesman, Colonel Myo Thu Soe, said he knew of no instances of security forces torching villages or wearing civilian clothing. Nor was there any order to “go and clear” or “set fire” to villages. “This is very much impossible,” he told Reuters. “If there are things like that, it should be reported officially, and it has to be investigated officially.”

“As you’ve told me about these matters now, we will scrutinise and check back,” he added. “What I want to say for now is that as for the security forces, there are orders and instructions and step-by-step management, and they have to follow them. So, I don’t think these things happened.”

The army did not respond to a request for comment.

A medical assistant at the Inn Din village clinic, Aung Myat Tun, 20, said he took part in several raids. “Muslim houses were easy to burn because of the thatched roofs. You just light the edge of the roof,” he said. “The village elders put monks’ robes on the end of sticks to make the torches and soaked them with kerosene. We couldn’t bring phones. The police said they will shoot and kill us if they see any of us taking photos.”

The night watchman San Thein, a leading member of the village security group, said troops first swept through the Muslim hamlets. Then, he said, the military sent in Buddhist villagers to burn the houses.

“We got the kerosene for free from the village market after the kalars ran away,” he said, using a Burmese slur for people from South Asia. A Rakhine Buddhist youth said he thought he heard the sound of a child inside one Rohingya home that was burned. A second villager said he participated in burning a Rohingya home that was occupied.

‘I started hacking him with a sword’

Soe Chay, the retired soldier who was to dig the grave for the 10 Rohingya men, said he participated in one killing. He told Reuters that troops discovered three Rohingya men and a woman hiding beside a haystack in Inn Din on Aug 28. One of the men had a smartphone that could be used to take incriminating pictures.

The soldiers told Soe Chay to “do whatever you want to them,” he said. They pointed out the man with the phone and told him to stand up.

“I started hacking him with a sword, and a soldier shot him when he fell down.”

Similar violence was playing out across a large part of northern Rakhine, dozens of Buddhist and Rohingya residents said.

Data from the UN Operational Satellite Applications Programme shows scores of Rohingya villages in Rakhine state burned in an area stretching 110 km. New York-based Human Rights Watch says more than 350 villages were torched over the three months from Aug. 25, according to an analysis of satellite imagery.

In the village of Laungdon, some 65 km north of Inn Din, Thar Nge, 38, said he was asked by police and local officials to join a Buddhist security group. “The army invited us to burn the kalar village at Hpaw Ti Kaung,” he said, adding that four villagers and nearly 20 soldiers and police were involved in the operation. “Police shot inside the village so all the villagers fled and then we set fire to it. Their village was burned because police believed the villagers supported Rohingya militants – that’s why they cleaned it with fire.”

A Buddhist student from Ta Man Tha village, 15 km north of Laungdon, said he too participated in the burning of Rohingya homes. An army officer sought 30 volunteers to burn “kalar” villages, said the student. Nearly 50 volunteered and gathered fuel from motorbikes and from a market.

“They separated us into several groups. We were not allowed to enter the village directly. We had to surround it and approach the village that way. The army would shoot gunfire ahead of us and then the army asked us to enter,” he said.

After the Rohingya had fled Inn Din, Buddhist villagers took their property, including chickens and goats, Buddhist residents told Reuters. But the most valuable goods, mostly motorcycles and cattle, were collected by members of the 8th Security Police Battalion and sold, said the first police officer and Inn Din village administrator Maung Thein Chay. Maung Thein Chay said the commander of the 8th Battalion, Thant Zin Oo, struck a deal with Buddhist businessmen from other parts of Rakhine state and sold them cattle. The police officer said he had stolen four cows from Rohingya villagers, only for Thant Zin Oo to snatch them away.

Reached by phone, Thant Zin Oo did not comment. Colonel Myo Thu Soe, the police spokesman, said the police would investigate the allegations of looting.

The victims are chosen

By Sept 1, several hundred Rohingya from Inn Din were sheltering at a makeshift camp on a nearby beach. They erected tarpaulin shelters to shield themselves from heavy rain.

Among this group were the 10 Rohingya men who would be killed the next morning. Reuters has identified all of the 10 by speaking to witnesses among Inn Din’s Buddhist community and Rohingya relatives and witnesses tracked down in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Five of the men, Dil Mohammed, 35, Nur Mohammed, 29, Shoket Ullah, 35, Habizu, 40, and Shaker Ahmed, 45, were fishermen or fish sellers. The wealthiest of the group, Abul Hashim, 25, ran a store selling nets and machine parts to fishermen and farmers. Abdul Majid, a 45-year-old father of eight, ran a small shop selling areca nut wrapped in betel leaves, commonly chewed like tobacco. Abulu, 17, and Rashid Ahmed, 18, were high school students. Abdul Malik, 30, was an Islamic teacher.

SEE ALSO: Rohingya crisis: Burmese military slammed after clearing itself of any wrongdoing

According to the statement released by the army on Jan. 10, security forces had gone to a coastal area where they “were attacked by about 200 Bengalis with sticks and swords.” The statement said that “as the security forces opened fire into the sky, the Bengalis dispersed and ran away. Ten of them were arrested.”

Three Buddhist and more than a dozen Rohingya witnesses contradict this version of events. Their accounts differ from one another in some details. The Buddhists spoke of a confrontation between a small group of Rohingya men and some soldiers near the beach. But there is unanimity on a crucial point: None said the military had come under a large-scale attack in Inn Din.

Government spokesman Zaw Htay referred Reuters to the army’s statement of Jan. 10 and declined to elaborate further. The army did not respond to a request for comment.

 The Rohingya witnesses, who were on or near the beach, said Islamic teacher Abdul Malik had gone back to his hamlet with his sons to collect food and bamboo for shelter. When he returned, a group of at least seven soldiers and armed Buddhist villagers were following him, these witnesses said. Abdul Malik walked towards the watching Rohingya Muslims unsteadily, with blood dripping from his head. Some witnesses said they had seen one of the armed men strike the back of Abdul Malik’s head with a knife.

Then the military beckoned with their guns to the crowd of roughly 300 Rohingya to assemble in the paddies, these witnesses said. The soldiers and the Rohingya, hailing from different parts of Burma, spoke different languages. Educated villagers translated for their fellow Rohingya.

“I could not hear much, but they pointed toward my husband and some other men to get up and come forward,” said Rehana Khatun, 22, the wife of Nur Mohammed, one of the 10 who were later slain. “We heard they wanted the men for a meeting. The military asked the rest of us to return to the beach.”

Fresh clothes and a last meal

Soldiers held and questioned the 10 men in a building at Inn Din’s school for a night, the military said. Rashid Ahmed and Abulu had studied there alongside Rakhine Buddhist students until the attacks by Rohingya rebels in October 2016. Schools were shut temporarily, disrupting the pair’s final year.

“I just remember him sitting there and studying, and it was always amazing to me because I am not educated,” said Rashid Ahmed’s father, farmer Abdu Shakur, 50. “I would look at him reading. He would be the first one in the family to be educated.”

A photograph, taken on the evening the men were detained, shows the two Rohingya students and the eight older men kneeling on a path beside the village clinic, most of them shirtless. They were stripped when first detained, a dozen Rohingya witnesses said. It isn’t clear why. That evening, Buddhist villagers said, the men were “treated” to a last meal of beef. They were provided with fresh clothing.

On Sept 2, the men were taken to scrubland north of the village, near a graveyard for Buddhist residents, six Buddhist villagers said. The spot is backed by a hill crested with trees. There, on their knees, the 10 were photographed again and questioned by security personnel about the disappearance of a local Buddhist farmer named Maung Ni, according to a Rakhine elder who said he witnessed the interrogation.

SEE ALSO: ‘He stuck a knife into my side’: Burmese army accused of gang-raping women and girls

Reuters was not able to establish what happened to Maung Ni. According to Buddhist neighbours, the farmer went missing after leaving home early on Aug 25 to tend his cattle. Several Rakhine Buddhist and Rohingya villagers told Reuters they believed he had been killed, but they knew of no evidence connecting any of the 10 men to his disappearance. The army said in its Jan 10 statement that “Bengali terrorists” had killed Maung Ni, but did not identify the perpetrators.

Two of the men pictured behind the Rohingya prisoners in the photograph taken on the morning of Sept 2 belong to the 8th Security Police Battalion. Reuters confirmed the identities of the two men from their Facebook pages and by visiting them in person.

One of the two officers, Aung Min, a police recruit from Yangon, stands directly behind the captives. He looks at the camera as he holds a weapon. The other officer, police Captain Moe Yan Naing, is the figure on the top right. He walks with his rifle over his shoulder.

The day after the two Reuters reporters were arrested in December, Burma’s government also announced that Moe Yan Naing had been arrested and was being investigated under the 1923 Official Secrets Act. Aung Min, who is not facing legal action, declined to speak to Reuters.

Vengeance for a missing farmer

Three Buddhist youths said they watched from a hut as the 10 Rohingya captives were led up a hill by soldiers towards the site of their deaths. One of the gravediggers, retired soldier Soe Chay, said Maung Ni’s sons were invited by the army officer in charge of the squad to strike the first blows.

The first son beheaded the Islamic teacher, Abdul Malik, according to Soe Chay. The second son hacked another of the men in the neck. “After the brothers sliced them both with swords, the squad fired with guns. Two to three shots to one person,” said Soe Chay. A second gravedigger, who declined to be identified, confirmed that soldiers had shot some of the men.

In its Jan 10 statement, the military said the two brothers and a third villager had “cut the Bengali terrorists” with swords and then, in the chaos, four members of the security forces had shot the captives. “Action will be taken against the villagers who participated in the case and the members of security forces who broke the Rules of Engagement under the law,” the statement said. It didn’t spell out those rules.

Tun Aye, one of the sons of Maung Ni, has been detained on murder charges, his lawyer said on Jan 13. Contacted by Reuters on Feb 8, the lawyer declined to comment further. Reuters was unable to reach the other brother.

 In October, Inn Din locals pointed two Reuters  reporters towards an area of brush behind the hill where they said the killings took place. The reporters discovered a newly cut trail leading to soft, recently disturbed earth littered with bones. Some of the bones were entangled with scraps of clothing and string that appeared to match the cord that is seen binding the captives’ wrists in the photographs. The immediate area was marked by the smell of death.

Reuters   showed photographs of the site to three forensic experts: Homer Venters, director of programs at Physicians for Human Rights; Derrick Pounder, a pathologist who has consulted for Amnesty International and the United Nations; and Luis Fondebrider, president of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, who investigated the graves of those killed under Argentina’s military junta in the 1970s and 1980s. All observed human remains, including the thoracic part of a spinal column, ribs, scapula, femur and tibia. Pounder said he couldn’t rule out the presence of animal bones as well.

SEE ALSO: Diphtheria hits Rohingya camps amid rising evidence of genocide

The Rakhine Buddhist elder provided Reuters reporters with a photograph which shows the aftermath of the execution. In it, the 10 Rohingya men are wearing the same clothing as in the previous photo and are tied to each other with the same yellow cord, piled into a small hole in the earth, blood pooling around them. Abdul Malik, the Islamic teacher, appears to have been beheaded. Abulu, the student, has a gaping wound in his neck. Both injuries appear consistent with Soe Chay’s account.

Forensic pathologist Fondebrider reviewed this picture. He said injuries visible on two of the bodies were consistent with “the action of a machete or something sharp that was applied on the throat.” Some family members did not know for sure that the men had been killed until Reuters returned to their shelters in Bangladesh in January.

“I can’t explain what I feel inside. My husband is dead,” said Rehana Khatun, wife of Nur Mohammed. “My husband is gone forever. I don’t want anything else, but I want justice for his death.”

In Inn Din, the Buddhist elder explained why he chose to share evidence of the killings with Reuters. “I want to be transparent on this case. I don’t want it to happen like that in future.” – Reuters

Topics covered: BurmaHuman RightsRohingyaRohingya Crisis

Read more at https://asiancorrespondent.com/2018/02/burmese-forces-burned-looted-killed-remote-village/#um33pQ5dEjJdKBUJ.99

Firm Tied to Russian Oligarch Made Payments to Michael Cohen

international News, News
Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s lawyer and fixer. His shell company received payments from a firm linked to a Russian oligarch, as well as corporations with business before the Trump administration.CreditBrendan Mcdermid/Reuters

A shell company that Michael D. Cohen used to pay hush money to a pornographic film actress received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to documents and interviews.

Financial records reviewed by The New York Times show that Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer and longtime fixer, used the shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., for an array of business activities that went far beyond what was publicly known. Transactions adding up to at least $4.4 million flowed through Essential Consultants starting shortly before Mr. Trump was elected president and continuing to this January, the records show.

Among the previously unreported transactions were payments last year of about $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm in New York whose biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch. A lawyer for Columbus Nova, in a statement on Tuesday, described the money as a consulting fee that had nothing to do with Mr. Vekselberg.

Other transactions described in the financial records include hundreds of thousands of dollars Mr. Cohen received from Fortune 500 companies with business before the Trump administration, as well as smaller amounts he paid for luxury expenses like a Mercedes-Benz and private club dues.

References to the transactions first appeared in a document posted to Twitter on Tuesday by Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stephanie Clifford, the adult film star who was paid $130,000 by Essential Consultants to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Mr. Trump. The lawyer’s seven-page document, titled “Preliminary Report of Findings,” does not explain the source of his information but describes in detail dates, dollar amounts and parties involved in various dealings by Mr. Cohen and his company. Most of the transactions involved two banks: First Republic Bank and City National Bank.

The Times’s review of financial records confirmed much of what was in Mr. Avenatti’s report. In addition, a review of documents and interviews shed additional light on Mr. Cohen’s dealings with the company connected to Mr. Vekselberg, who was stopped and questioned at an airport earlier this year by investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Taken together, The Times’s findings and Mr. Avenatti’s report offer the most detailed picture yet on Mr. Cohen’s business dealings and financial entanglements in the run-up to the election and its aftermath. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating Mr. Cohen for possible bank fraud and election-law violations, among other matters, according to people briefed on the investigation. Stephen Ryan, a lawyer representing Mr. Cohen, declined to comment.

merlin_137864961_53a07143-4c80-4668-a4ee-30bc217ed8de-superJumboViktor Vekselberg, left, the Russian oligarch, with Marat Khusnullin, deputy mayor of Moscow, before the inauguration ceremony of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia this week.CreditAlexey Filippov/Sputnik, via Associated Press

Ms. Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, is suing Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump to break her nondisclosure agreement related to the $130,000.

It is unclear whether that or any of the other transactions were improper, but Mr. Avenatti has asserted that Mr. Cohen’s use of Essential Consultants potentially violated banking laws. The financial records indicate that at least some of the money that passed through Essential Consultants was from sources and in amounts that were inconsistent with the company’s stated purpose.

Mr. Cohen also used the company to collect $250,000 after arranging payments in 2017 and 2018 by a major Republican donor, Elliott Broidy, to a former Playboy model he allegedly impregnated, according to news reports last month.

Among the other payments to Mr. Cohen’s company described in the financial records were four for $99,980 each between October and January by Novartis Investments S.A.R.L., a subsidiary of Novartis, the multinational pharmaceutical giant based in Switzerland. Novartis — whose chief executive was among 15 business leaders invited to dinner with Mr. Trump at the World Economic Forum in January — spent more than $10 million on lobbying in Washington last year and frequently seeks approvals from federal drug regulators. Novartis said in a statement that its agreement with Essential Consultants had expired.

In addition, Korea Aerospace Industries paid Mr. Cohen’s company $150,000 last November, according to the records. The company, an aircraft manufacturer, has teamed with the American defense contractor Lockheed Martin in competing for a multibillion-dollar contract to provide trainer jets for the United States Air Force that is expected to be awarded this year. A representative for Korea Aerospace declined to comment.

AT&T made four payments totaling $200,000 between October 2017 and January 2018, according to the documents. AT&T, whose proposed merger with Time Warner is pending before the Justice Department, issued a statement on Tuesday evening confirming that it made payments to Mr. Cohen’s firm.

“Essential Consulting was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration,” the statement said. “They did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017.”

The payments by Columbus Nova occurred between January and August of last year. Andrew Intrater, the company’s American chief executive and Mr. Vekselberg’s cousin, donated $250,000 to Mr. Trump’s inauguration,campaign finance records show. He and Mr. Vekselberg attended the event together and met with Mr. Cohen there, according to a person briefed on the matter. Columbus Nova retained him as a consultant soon afterward.

A person close to Mr. Intrater said that the executive had no idea Essential Consultants was used for the separate payment to Ms. Clifford, and that he hired a number of other consultants at the time for similar prices.

“Columbus Nova is an investment management company solely owned and controlled by Americans,” said Richard Owens, a lawyer for Mr. Intrater and Columbus Nova, adding that Mr. Vekselberg has never owned the firm. “After the inauguration, the firm hired Michael Cohen as a business consultant regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures.

“Reports today that Viktor Vekselberg used Columbus Nova as a conduit for payments to Michael Cohen are false. The claim that Viktor Vekselberg was involved in or provided any funding for Columbus Nova’s engagement of Michael Cohen is patently untrue,” Mr. Owens said. “Neither Viktor Vekselberg nor anyone else outside of Columbus Nova was involved in the decision to hire Cohen or provided funding for his engagement.”

A lawyer for Mr. Vekselberg did not respond to a request for comment.

In addition to questioning Mr. Vekselberg, Mr. Mueller’s investigators have also interviewed Mr. Intrater, though there is no indication that either man is suspected of wrongdoing, The Times reported last week.

The person close to Mr. Intrater said that he was encouraged to attend the inauguration by an American friend, unrelated to Mr. Cohen, and that he had wanted to use the trip as an opportunity to meet with business associates in Washington.

Mr. Vekselberg has invested in Columbus Nova’s private equity funds through his sprawling Russian-based conglomerate, the Renova Group, which operates in the energy sector and elsewhere. Mr. Vekselberg was one of seven Kremlin-linked oligarchs hit with sanctions in April by the Trump administration, which also imposed the penalties on the Renova Group.

Renova has had a financial relationship with VTB, one of the largest state-owned banks in Russia, according to documents that were part of the “Panama Papers” leak of files from an offshore law firm. The documents show that Mr. Vekselberg’s companies received at least $350 million in loans or investments from VTB and a subsidiary, VTB Capital. The current state of the debt is unclear, though one document suggests it was discharged in 2010.

 

But last week, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York said that Mr. Trump had reimbursed Mr. Cohen through several $35,000 monthly transactions that amounted to more than $400,000 — covering the payment to Ms. Clifford and, he said, other “incidental expenses.”

Reporting was contributed by Matt Apuzzo, Emily Flitter, Adam Goldman, Sharon LaFraniere, William K. Rashbaum and Katie Thomas.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: A Trail of Money Leading to Cohen.

Bellingcat: 9 Russian officers directed Ukraine attack

international News, Military, News

 

MOSCOW – The Bellingcat investigative group says that it has identified nine Russian officers who allegedly were directly involved in the rocket attack on an eastern Ukrainian city that killed at least 30 civilians. The group, which has previously released reports on the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the fatal downing of a Malaysian airliner […]

MOSCOW – The Bellingcat investigative group says that it has identified nine Russian officers who allegedly were directly involved in the rocket attack on an eastern Ukrainian city that killed at least 30 civilians.
The group, which has previously released reports on the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the fatal downing of a Malaysian airliner over rebel-held territory, says it analyzed video and audio data that Ukraine is providing to the International Court of Justice.
Mariupol, a strategic port city on the Azov Sea, came under rocket fire on Jan. 24, 2015. Separatist rebels initially announced they were advancing on the city, then backtracked and blamed Ukrainian forces.
Russia persistently denies allegations of supporting separatist rebels in Ukraine. The Defense Ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment on Monday’s report.

 

via Bellingcat: 9 Russian officers directed Ukraine attack — INKLING LEAGUE

Police: Temple Student Daniel Duignam Called 911 After Being Shot, Still Searching For Suspects — CBS Philly

Crime, international News, News

PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Philadelphia police are still searching for those responsible in the fatal shooting of a Temple University student on Saturday night. Officers found Daniel Duignam, a 21-year-old student at Temple’s Fox School of Business, shot multiple times shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Temple University Confirms 21-Year-Old Student,…

PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Philadelphia police are still searching for those responsible in the fatal shooting of a Temple University student on Saturday night.

Officers found Daniel Duignam, a 21-year-old student at Temple’s Fox School of Business, shot multiple times shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Temple University Confirms 21-Year-Old Student, Daniel Duignam, Was Shot To Death In Apartment

Philadelphia Police Homicide Capt. John Ryan said during a press conference on Monday that Duignam called 911, telling the dispatcher he couldn’t breathe.

When police arrived on the scene, they found the apartment ransacked and no forced entry. Ryan says they believe Duignam knew who was inside the apartment with him at the time and that money was taken from his apartment.

“We’re looking for anyone who might have information,” said Ryan.

Police say there are currently no suspects.

“On behalf of everyone at Temple, I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Daniel’s family and friends at this tragic time. They are in the thoughts and prayers of us all. The death of a member of Temple University’s community takes an enormous emotional toll on all of us,” Temple University President Richard Englert said in a statement.

Those that knew Duignam have taken to social media to send condolences.

The 21-year-old student was from Tatamy, Pennsylvania, about 55 miles north of Philadelphia.

Duignam’s grandfather was the former mayor of Tatamy.

In a post on the Tatamy Borough’s Facebook page, current Mayor Christopher Moren called his death a “senseless tragedy.”

“I am beyond heartbroken to let you know that one of our own has fallen to a senseless tragedy. Dan was the grandson of former Mayor Luke Duignam. I cannot imagine their pain and sadness,” said Moren.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

via Police: Temple Student Daniel Duignam Called 911 After Being Shot, Still Searching For Suspects — CBS Philly

An Israeli minister hints that Assad could be assassinated over any Iranian attacks on Israel from Syria — National Post

international News, Middle East, News, Politics, SEcurity, SYRIA

JERUSALEM, May 7 (Reuters) — Israel could respond to any Iranian attack on it from Syria by toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, an Israeli security cabinet minister said on Monday, hinting that Assad himself may be targeted for assassination. Israel and Iran have traded blows over Syria since February, stirring concern that major escalation…

JERUSALEM, May 7 (Reuters) — Israel could respond to any Iranian attack on it from Syria by toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, an Israeli security cabinet minister said on Monday, hinting that Assad himself may be targeted for assassination.

Israel and Iran have traded blows over Syria since February, stirring concern that major escalation could be looming ahead of next week’s review decision by U.S. President Donald Trump on the 2015 international nuclear deal with Tehran.

On April 9, an air strike killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps members at the Syrian base. Tehran blamed Israel and vowed unspecified retaliation, drawing Israeli counter-threats to broaden attacks on Iranian military assets in Syria.

Sharpening these warnings, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday that Assad may find himself in Israel’s sights.

“If Assad allows Iran to turn Syria into a military vanguard against us, to attack us from Syrian territory, he should know that would be the end of him, the end of his regime,” Steinitz told the Ynet news site.

Asked if that meant Israel might assassinate Assad, Steinitz said: “His blood would be forfeit.” He also appeared to suggest that his remarks did not reflect Israeli government policy, saying: “I’m not talking about any concrete proposal.”

There was no immediate response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office or from Israel’s Defence Ministry.

A Ynet text story had quoted Steinitz as saying explicitly that Israel would kill Assad, but this was not borne out by a video clip of the interview.

Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and Russia have been reinforcing Damascus against a seven-year-old Syrian rebellion. The Israelis worry that Iran’s garrison will remain, linking with Hezbollah to form a broad Syrian-Lebanese front against them.

On Sunday, Israeli media carried what they described as an alert by Israel’s intelligence services that Iran was planning a missile salvo against Israeli military bases from within Syria.

Some analysts interpreted the publication as a warning to Iran that its plans were known, lest it try to carry out the missile strike without explicitly claiming responsibility.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss Syria, where Moscow wants to see Assad’s rule restored.

“Whoever is interested in Assad’s survival should do the honour of telling Assad to prevent attacks on Israel,” Steinitz said, alluding to Putin.

via An Israeli minister hints that Assad could be assassinated over any Iranian attacks on Israel from Syria — National Post

Cape Town men ‘steal’ car and drive straight to Pollsmoor Prison -Iavan Pijoos

Crime, international News, News

ct.jpgFour robbers, who stole a car in Cape Town on Sunday morning, drove straight to Pollsmoor Prison in an attempt to flee from police.

Cape Town law enforcement spokesperson Wayne Dyason said the four men allegedly stole the car in the Hout Bay area.

“They were then chased by police and drove straight to the West Lake entrance of the prison, which is used for visitors and the prison wardens who live on the property. They got out and ran into the grounds of the prison where they were arrested,” Dyason said.

He said when they were searched at the police station, it was found that they roughly had 35 cases of murder, attempted murder, theft and possession of illegal firearms pending against them.

In a separate incident, five suspects were arrested in Muizenberg and Steenberg on Saturday for possession of mandrax. Dyason said the suspects allegedly tried to bribe officers in a bid to avoid prosecution.

Two other suspects were arrested after the car they were travelling in was pulled over by police and were found in possession of a replica firearm, a crowbar, knives and the City of Cape Town marked overalls.

“These are the hallmark tools of the notorious crowbar gangs.”

They were charged with possession of a replica firearm, possession of house breaking implements and possession of presumed stolen property.

One suspect was also wanted on a 2014 Khayelitsha case for arms and ammunition.

Saudi Arabia intercepts 2 missiles launched by Houthis

international News, Middle East, Military, Politics

Riyadh, May 7 (IANS/WAM) Saudi Air Defence forces intercepted two ballistic missiles launched by the Houthi rebels from Yemen. The missiles on Sunday were directed towards the city of Najran and launched by the militia deliberately to target civilian and populated areas, spokesman for the Arab Coalition Forces Colonel Turki al-Maliki said. There were no […]

https://www.socialnews.xyz/?p=1232798

Chad – President Idriss Deby Itno announced in Ndjamena a general amnesty for all Chadians involved in rebel movements or working as mercenaries

international News, Politics

2018/05/07 – “I proclaim a general amnesty for all Chadians who, for one reason or another, have left their country, those who became mercenaries and those who fought us, among others,” President Deby said, after signing a decree for the country’s new constitution.
The amnesty was one of the main recommendations of the all-inclusive national forum on institutional reforms which process led to the adoption of a new constitution.
Although President Deby did not refer directly to armed groups, his regime faced rebel groups between 2000 and 2008, which came close to overthrowing him twice, in April 2006 and February 2008, when rebel coalitions failed to dislodge him after reaching the gates of the presidency.
Currently, there are several armed groups in the east and far north of the country, with heavily armed fighters whose spokespersons have yet to respond to the amnesty declared by Deby.
It would be recalled that Chadian Prime Minister Pahimi Padacke Albert presented his government’s resignation to Déby on Thursday night in N’djamena.
A press release from the Secretary General at the Presidency, Jean-Bernard Padare, said the head of state ordered dissolution of the cabinet, pending the formation of a new government.
It would be further recalled that Chad’s National Assembly on April 30 endorsed the adoption of a new constitution to be promulgated on Friday, and under which the post of prime minister was abolished.
The new constitution provides for the establishment of the 4th Republic in which President Déby will hold all executive power.
Meanwhile, on 3 May, 26 opposition deputies filed an appeal with the country’s Constitutional Council asking it to annul the new constitutional amendment providing for a new constitution.
Chad’s parliament during its April 30 plenary session approved adoption of a new draft constitution, which takes the country to the Fourth Republic.
The new constitution consecrates an “integral presidential regime” with the President of the Republic to wield all Executive power, without a Prime Minister or Vice-President.
The presidential term was also increased from 5 to 6 years, renewable once.
According to observers and pundits, President Deby has been in power since 1990. After being re-elected for a 5th term in the April 2016 election, should he decide to run again for office, as widely believed, then the way was opened under the new constitution for Deby to be in office up to 2030.

Source: APA

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Saudi Arabia launches initiative to improve country’s lifestyle

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May 4, 2018

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia plans to spend 50 billion riyals ($13.33 billion) by 2020 on an initiative to promote entertainment, health, sports and education as part of a modernizing drive by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

At an event in Riyadh on Thursday, Ahmed al-Khatib, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), said the program, called Quality of Life, should generate 300,000 jobs by 2020, most of which will come under the General Sports Authority.

“The initiatives will cost a total of 50 billion riyals, and government spending will be around 60 percent, with 40 percent from the private sector,” Khatib told Reuters.

“The entire benefit from this big spending will be for the private sector, and this supports the 2030 Vision that strengthens the role of the private sector.”

The kingdom has undergone many changes in recent months, holding concerts and opening cinemas. The moves in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom are hailed as proof of progress spearheaded by Prince Mohammed, who has appealed to the young since he ascended to power.

The kingdom’s strict social customs and rapid development created a nation in which community is highly valued but opportunities for public gathering are scarce. Obesity rates are also high. Many Saudis revere the harsh life of the country’s Bedouin forebears.

Saudi citizens have no vote and falling oil income means economic horizons may contract in coming years. As a result, improving the quality of life is seen as important for ensuring political stability.

International human rights groups also urge the kingdom to improve its treatment of human rights advocates, stop executions and cancel its pervasive system of male guardianship.

At the event, Khatib listed a water park, three theme parks, museums and more cinemas as projects in the initiative, which is itself part of a National Transformation Plan that includes hundreds of steps to modernize the economy and society by 2020.

Retired French footballer Thierry Henry, American actress Katie Holmes and British actor Idris Elba attended the event, invited to promote the initiative and Saudi Arabia’s image to an international audience.

Saudi female fencer Lubna al-Omair told the crowd she enjoyed riding her bike and going to museums when she did her master’s abroad.

“One of the things I was worried I would lose (when I moved back) was the sport I had gotten attached to and that had become a part of me,” she said, adding that now she could practice fencing.

(Reporting by Sarah Dadouch; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

Vía One America News Network https://ift.tt/2JSfFNe