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Europe must speak up for Catalan separatists, says Puidgemont

November 7, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
AP
Tue, 2017-11-07 03:00
ID: 
1510075813478484100

MADRID: Ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who wants to lead a pro-independence coalition of political forces in an upcoming regional election, has criticized the passivity of European politicians in denouncing the prosecution of dismissed secessionist officials.
In an interview on Tuesday in Brussels with Catalan public radio, the separatist leader says there is an “absolute disconnect between the interests of the people and the European elites” and that Catalonia’s problem is an “issue of human rights that requires maximum attention.”
Puigdemont is fighting extradition to Spain, where other members of the ousted Cabinet have been sent to jail while awaiting the results of a probe for allegedly implementing a strategy to secede from Spain.
Spanish central authorities are now in direct control of the northeastern region, where an early election on Dec. 21 is shaping into a tight race between separatist and pro-union forces.
The civil society group that spearheaded the Catalan endeavor for secession from Spain on Tuesday called for the region’s separatist political parties to run in a “unified pro-independence ticket.”
In a statement, Assemblea Nacional Catalana said such a joint coalition should include jailed separatist activists and the members of the deposed Catalan Cabinet as candidates.
The parties were facing a midnight deadline to register an interest in forming coalitions.
But a repetition of the ousted ruling coalition of the center-right PDeCAT and the left republican ERC that also appeals to the anti-establishment CUP party seems unlikely before the deadline expires.
PDeCAT wants Puigdemont to lead a hypothetical coalition, while ERC says it will only agree if deposed and jailed Vice President Oriol Junqueras heads a ticket supported by the CUP and even far-left non-nationalists.
A recent poll by the Barcelona-based La Vanguardia newspaper predicted that the three pro-secession parties would win between 66 and 69 seats in December. Sixty-eight seats are needed for a majority.
Pro-secession parties held a slim majority of 72 of 132 seats in the Catalan Parliament before it was dissolved by Spanish authorities after lawmakers passed a declaration of independence on Oct. 27.
The central government also removed Puigdemont’s Cabinet and called for a snap election to replace them.
Catalonia’s opposition leader Ines Arrimadas said on Tuesday she hoped that disillusionment among pro-independence supporters would help her Ciutadans (Citizens) party and other pro-Spanish unity groups to band together and oust the pro-secessionists.
Arrimadas, 36, said secessionist parties will have no credibility if they again promise a bright future for Catalonia’s independence.
She said no country recognized their secession declaration on Oct. 27, the EU insists independent Catalonia will be expelled and thousands of businesses have since moved their headquarters from the region.
Arrimadas, whose party holds 25 seats in the 135-deputy Catalan parliament, said “demoralization” among the pro-independence camp and mobilization of unionist parties could help swing the balance in Spain’s favor.
Meanwhile, judges are also gauging possible rebellion charges against the former Catalan separatist officials and lawmakers who made the vote possible. Eight former Cabinet members including Junqueras have been jailed, one of them released on bail and five more, including Puigdemont, are in Belgium where they plan to campaign while fighting extradition to Spain.
Six lawmakers, including the regional parliament’s speaker Carme Forcadell, could also be sent to jail as soon as Thursday after they testify before a Supreme Court judge on a similar probe. They face possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, which can be punished with up to 30 years in prison.
Catalan separatist parties are planning to include some of the officials in ballots as a way to draw more attention to a situation that they consider unjust. Lawyers are also arguing that the officials should be spared jail before trial because running for a parliamentary seat means that they have no intention of fleeing the country.

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‘He needed to be stopped,’ says local hero who pursued Texas gunman

November 7, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Reuters
Tue, 2017-11-07 06:19
ID: 
1510032244685242100

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas: A Texas man who saw a local exchanging gunfire with the assailant who had just massacred 26 people at a small town church said he had no hesitation in pursuing the gunman because he needed to be stopped.
“That’s it. I mean that’s the bottom line, he needed to be stopped,” Johnnie Langendorff told Reuters TV. “He was stopped and he’s not going to hurt anyone else ever again.”
Langendorff was driving his pickup truck in Sutherland Springs on Sunday when he saw a local man, Stephen Willeford, trading rifle fire with a black-clad stranger who had just emerged from the First Baptist Church.
“He jumped in my truck and said ‘He just shot up the church, we got to get him’ and I said ‘OK, let’s go,’” Langendorff said of his rapid words with Willeford.
“And so from there we blew through this intersection and he started going about 90-95 (miles per hour) (145-153 km per hour) keeping up with this guy,” Langendorff said.
At the time, neither of them knew they were chasing Devin Kelley, 26, an Air Force veteran who police say put on tactical gear, a ballistic vest and skull-like mask to carry out the most deadly mass shooting in the modern history of Texas.
The pursuit lasted about 10-12 minutes, Langendorff said. Then Kelley lost control and crashed into a ditch. They stopped too and Willeford trained his rifle on the disabled vehicle, Langendorff added, but the gunman never emerged.
Willeford’s cousin Ken Leonard told CNN that Willeford shot Kelley where there was a gap in his vest.
“Stephen is the best shot that I know,” Leonard told CNN. “He without armor and barefooted ran into the fire and put his own life at risk, took return fire and fired accurately three times. That’s an amazing accomplishment, especially for a man who has, who was never in the military.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Freeman Martin, a regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, described Willeford as a good Samaritan and a “Texas hero.”
Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt also hailed Willeford for grabbing his gun and responding to the danger.
“He didn’t have to come out,” Tackitt told Reuters. “He could have stayed at his house.”

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related_nodes: 
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Reports: Queen Elizabeth has investments in offshore tax havens

November 6, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
AP
Sun, 2017-11-05 03:00
ID: 
1509984469060986000

LONDON: Newly leaked papers revealed Sunday that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has invested some of her private money in offshore tax havens.
According to documents obtained by the International Consortium of Journalists, the queen’s investment managers placed roughly £10 million ($13 million) in offshore portfolios in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
The investments were made in 2004 and 2005 by the Duchy of Lancaster, the queen’s private financial manager.
The Duchy of Lancaster, which holds assets for the British monarch to generate income for her, confirmed in a statement that some of its investments are in overseas accounts.
It said that all its investments were legitimate.
“We operate a number of investments and a few of these are with overseas funds. All of our investments are fully audited and legitimate,” it said.
The documents showed that the queen has roughly £3,200 invested in BrightHouse, a household goods and electronics retailer that has been accused of exploiting customers by charging high interest rates.
Her use of offshore tax havens is likely to generate criticism from activists seeking to abolish the monarchy in favor of a republic.
The queen pays taxes on the income generated by her holdings in the Duchy of Lancaster.
She has vast financial assets, including luxury real estate, valuable artwork and jewelry.
She is also the legal owner of many of the swans on the River Thames.
The documents about Elizabeth’s financial holdings are part of a tranche of some 13.4 million records of offshore accounts leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Journalists and a network of more than 380 journalists in 67 countries.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the widespread use of offshore havens by wealthy individuals in dozens of countries proves “there’s one rule for the super-rich and another for the rest when it comes to paying tax.”

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US extremists fail to build significant networks, act alone

November 5, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
AFP
Sun, 2017-11-05 05:12
ID: 
1509858526401158000

WASHINGTON: Sayfullo Saipov, the radicalized Uzbek who mowed down eight people on a New York bike path, apparently developed his plot in relative isolation, like most other extremist attackers in the United States.
But in Europe many have had community support, an underground network, or even a hard-line Islamist to guide them, as in the twin attacks in Spain in August.
What makes the difference?
Experts say that in part, a better rooted, more affluent US Muslim community shows no tolerance for anyone exhibiting sympathy for causes like the Daesh group or Al-Qaeda.
And tougher and expansive US laws and more aggressive law enforcement than Europe have also made a difference.
Together, they leave aspiring extremists in the United States isolated with their social media links and, at times, just a few friends in the know.
Saipov, who crashed a rented truck down a busy New York bike path Tuesday, is so far believed by investigators to have been “self-radicalized” online without any apparent support inside the United States.
Analysts say that’s because it is much harder to safely find support.
“We tend not to have large clusters in the US…. For the most part you are talking about ones and twos,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.
Hughes said one fundamental reason is distance: the country is much farther away from extremist networks and it is much harder to travel to the Middle East because of official no-fly lists.
European Muslims find it much easier to travel to areas where radical groups like Daesh operate.
As a consequence, he said, “We don’t have the kind of in-person recruitment done in Europe.”
Another factor is the expansive use of the charge of “material support of terrorism,” a catch-all that “allows the FBI to interject themselves at an earlier stage than our European partners,” Hughes said.
For critics, the FBI is too aggressive and stretches the law with undercover schemes that entrap people who are not really threats. But the net effect is to prevent them from establishing connections and frightening others thinking of trying to build networks.
According to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, heavier prison sentences in terror cases in the US makes a difference.
US sentences are 15-20 years, compared to four to seven years in Europe, which releases terror convicts back into the community much more quickly. That helps sustain dangerous cells, he said.
That is not to say the United States has not had its own cells or ringleaders, Gartenstein-Ross notes.
Anwar Al-Awlaki, one of the most influential extremist thinkers and propagandists, was born and raised in the United States before he joined Al-Qaeda in Yemen and was killed in a 2011 drone strike.
And in the late 2000s a cell that involved maybe 20 people developed around the Somali community in Minneapolis that became an effective body to recruit people to join Daesh.
“That was clearly a network,” like those in Europe, he said. “They have not been prevented, they still exist.”
The Somali cell more resembled those in Europe, rooted in a more recent, less wealthy, poorly educated immigrant community.
For the most part American Muslim communities are wealthier, and better educated on average than European communities.
That makes them less alienated and better-integrated, according to Corey Saylor, an expert on Islamophobia at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
US Muslim groups will more readily chase out of the community and the mosque someone who espouses radical ideas.
“If somebody in the congregation is talking about it, they get pushed out fairly quickly. There is no hospitality” for it, he said.
While neither side talks about it much, US Muslim communities have been more willing to report possible threats to law enforcement than in Europe. That was helped by outreach programs under president Barack Obama, according to Gartenstein-Ross.
That may have ebbed under President Donald Trump, however, given his open mistrust of Muslims. “The lack of trust has impeded cooperation; suspicion has likely increased,” he said.

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Trump: No regime should underestimate American resolve

November 5, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
AFP
Sun, 2017-11-05 05:37
ID: 
1509850000770769200

YOKOTA Air Base: President Donald Trump warned on Sunday that “no dictator, no regime” should underestimate the US, as he kicked off an Asian tour likely to be dominated by the threat posed by North Korea.
“No one, no dictator, no regime… should underestimate American resolve,” Trump told cheering servicemen at the Yokota Air Base on his arrival in Japan.
Trump had earlier described Japan as a “treasured partner and crucial ally of the US,” as Asian partners look for reassurance that Washington will back them if conflict with North Korea were to break out.
The president was speaking at the start of a marathon Asian tour that will take in five countries, starting with a trip to Japan to visit his “friend” Shinzo Abe.
Before touching down, Trump had announced to reporters on Air Force One that he was expecting to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during the trip, as the international community strives for a solution to the North Korea crisis.
“I think it’s expected we’ll meet with Putin, yeah. We want Putin’s help on North Korea, and we’ll be meeting with a lot of different leaders,” said Trump.

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Mugabe threatens to sack VP as wife booed at rally

November 4, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
AFP
Sat, 2017-11-04 21:19
ID: 
1509832821397310100

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe openly pilloried his deputy and possible successor Saturday, saying he might sack him, in a combative speech at a rally where his wife Grace was booed by some in the crowd.
The 93-year-old leader’s remarks exposed tensions in the ruling ZANU-PF party over who stands to take power after him, an event only expected when Mugabe dies but a generational change likely to prompt bitter battles.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, nicknamed “the Crocodile,” is one of the top candidates.
But Grace Mugabe — 41 years younger than her husband — has become increasingly active in public life in what many say is a political grooming process to help her eventually take the top job.
Mnangagwa has been accused by Mugabe loyalists of undermining the president and of fanning factionalism in ZANU-PF, which has already named the incumbent as its candidate for next year’s presidential election.
Mnangagwa, 75, was appointed vice president in 2014 and has been widely touted as the obvious successor to Mugabe, who has led the country for 37 years.
But a visibly incensed Mugabe unleashed wrath at his vice president, sitting nearby, when speaking in Shona in the opposition stronghold city of Bulawayo.
“We are denigrated and insulted in the name of Mnangagwa. Did I make a mistake in appointing him as my deputy?” Mugabe asked.

“If I made a mistake by appointing Mnangagwa… tell me. I will drop him as early as tomorrow. We are not afraid of anyone. We can decide even here,” he said.
“If it has come to this, it is time we make a final decision,” he added, telling Mnangagwa and his supporters they were free to leave ZANU-PF.
“You can go ahead and form your party because we honestly cannot have this. We cannot be insulted on a daily basis.”
Some rallygoers heckled Grace Mugabe, chanting at her “you know nothing” and “you are too junior” as the first lady spoke before a section of the crowd that broke into a popular local song “oyenzayo siyaizonda” which translates to “we hate what you do.”
She shouted back at the hecklers: “If you have been paid to boo me, boo, go ahead…I don’t care, I am powerful.”
She then repeated her ambition to be appointed her husband’s deputy.
“Even if I become vice president, is there anything wrong with that?“
Mnangagwa was last month stripped of his role as justice minister, in a cabinet reshuffle widely considered part of a campaign to reduce his powers and quash opposition within the government.

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AP finds hackers hijacked at least 195 Trump web addresses

November 4, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
TAMI ABDOLLAH | AP
Sat, 2017-11-04 23:00
ID: 
1509812846115205100

WASHINGTON: Four years ago, well before the furor over allegations Moscow meddled in the 2016 election that put Donald Trump in the White House, at least 195 web addresses belonging to Trump, his family or his business empire were hijacked by hackers possibly operating out of Russia, The Associated Press has learned.
The Trump Organization denied the domain names were ever compromised. But a review of Internet records by the AP and cybersecurity experts shows otherwise. And it was not until this past week, after the Trump camp was asked about it by the AP, that the last of the tampered-with addresses were repaired.
After the hack, computer users who visited the Trump-related addresses were unwittingly redirected to servers in St. Petersburg, Russia, that cybersecurity experts said contained malicious software commonly used to steal passwords or hold files for ransom. Whether anyone fell victim to such tactics is unclear.
A further mystery is who the hackers were and why they did it.
The discovery represents a new twist in the Russian hacking story, which up to now has focused mostly on what US intelligence officials say was a campaign by the Kremlin to try to undermine Democrat Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and benefit Trump’s.
It is not known whether the hackers who tampered with the Trump addresses are the same ones who stole Democratic officials’ emails and embarrassed the party in the heat of the campaign last year. Nor is it clear whether the hackers were acting on behalf of the Russian government.
The affected addresses, or domain names, included donaldtrump.org, donaldtrumpexecutiveoffice.com, donaldtrumprealty.com and barrontrump.com. They were compromised in two waves of attacks in August and September 2013, according to the review of Internet records.
Many of the addresses were not being used by Trump. Businesses and public figures commonly buy addresses for possible future use or to prevent them from falling into the hands of rivals or enemies. The Trump Organization and its affiliates own at least 3,300 in all.
According to security experts, the hackers hijacked the addresses by penetrating and altering the domain registration records housed at GoDaddy.com, a seller of web addresses.
Accounts at GoDaddy, like at any site that requires a user name and password, are often subject to malicious messages known as phishing attacks, which are designed to trick people to reveal that personal information to hackers.
Computer users who entered or clicked on one of those Trump addresses probably would have had no idea they were redirected to servers in Russia.
Within days after the AP asked the Trump Organization about the tampering, the affected web addresses were all corrected.
The White House referred questions to the Trump Organization. The FBI did not respond to a request for comment.
GoDaddy spokesman Nick Fuller said the company had no breaches of its system in 2013 and has measures in place to monitor for malicious activity. Fuller would not discuss any customers in particular.
Some cybersecurity experts said there is an outside chance the tampering was a probe — an attempt to test security for an eventual effort to gather information on Trump or his business dealings. But those experts were only guessing.
There was no evidence the hackers ultimately broke into server computers at the Trump Organization or other Trump interests.
“This is beyond me,” said Paul Vixie, CEO of the San Mateo, California-based Internet security company Farsight Security Inc. “I have simply never seen a benefit accrue from an attack of this kind. I’m at loss, unless it’s a demonstration of capabilities.”
Vixie said the Trump Organization’s apparent failure to detect what was happening probably suggests inadequate cybersecurity at the company.
“There’s no way something like this could go by in the Bloomberg empire without this being seen,” Vixie said.

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Smog disrupts life in Pakistan’s Punjab province

November 4, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
SIB KAIFEE
Sat, 2017-11-04 22:57
ID: 
1509814675075438800

ISLAMABAD: Smog is causing chaos in the Pakistani province of Punjab close to the Indian border, in particular the densely populated provincial capital, Lahore.

Traffic accidents, flight delays, health hazards, and power failures have been reported across the province.

Chashma nuclear power plant units C1, C2, C3 and C4 have shut down, along with other power production units. Specialists are working to restore the systems and expect the plants to be at full capacity within a few days.

One commuter told Arab News on Saturday that there was “almost zero visibility” on the highway between Islamabad and Lahore. Authorities prohibited heavy vehicles from using that highway on Saturday.

Dozens of accidents resulting in serious injuries and deaths have been reported around Punjab. And a number of flights have been cancelled in the province’s major cities.

“The air in the outskirts of Lahore is very bad,” Lahore resident Adnan Khan told Arab News. “But this is nothing new for us. We go through this phase usually at this time of the year when the temperature starts to drop. It’s the open fields where the density of smog is greater and drifting in towards the city and roads.”

The government has ordered the closure of all oil-based power plants to reduce the smog’s environmental impact. Reports indicate that the region is relying on hydroelectric generation as its primary source of electrical power. This has caused a drop of 7000 megawatts from the distribution grid, as several power plants are offline.

Faheem Khokhar, a professor at the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, told Arab News there is no reason to panic about the nuclear shutdown. “The tripping is likely due to safety reasons,” he said. “Our nuclear plants are secure enough.”

Khohkar says there is no current data on smog levels in Pakistan but he estimated that the “scale is quite high.”

According to local media reports, the Environment Protection Department (EPD) says the smog has been caused by emissions from nine nearby thermal power plants in India, and by Indian farmers setting leftover crops on fire after the harvest.

EPD officials speaking to Geo News on Friday noted that the smog was affecting the Indian cities of New Delhi, Amritsar, and Ambala as well.

The officials urged the Pakistani government to engage Indian authorities over the issue immediately.

A local TV network reported on Friday that the Punjab environment minister blames India for triggering the smog by burning some 35 million tons of waste.

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Red Cross says $6 million for Ebola fight stolen through fraud

November 4, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
CLARENCE ROY-MACAULAY and KRISTA LARSON | AP
Sat, 2017-11-04 20:50
ID: 
1509807376994652600

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone: Fraud by Red Cross workers and others wasted at least $6 million meant to fight the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the organization confirmed Saturday.
The revelations follow an internal investigation of how the organization handled more than $124 million during the 2014-2016 epidemic that killed more than 11,000 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
The disease erupted in Guinea and quickly spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia. The international aid response was initially slow, and money once it arrived was often disbursed quickly in the rush to purchase supplies and get aid workers into the field.
As much as $2.13 million disappeared as the result of “likely collusion” between Red Cross staff and employees at a Sierra Leonean bank, the investigation found. It is believed that the money was lost when they improperly fixed the exchange rate at the height of the epidemic.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it was “outraged” by what it had uncovered, and was strengthening its efforts to fight corruption, including introducing cash spending limits in “high-risk settings.” It also plans to send trained auditors along with emergency operations teams. Other measures will include additional staff training and “the establishment of a dedicated and independent internal investigation function.”
“These cases must not in any way diminish the tremendous courage and dedication of thousands of volunteers and staff during the Ebola response. They played a critical and widely recognized role in containing and ending the outbreak, and preventing further spread of the Ebola virus internationally,” said Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, the IFRC under secretary general for partnerships.
“We are pursuing every possible avenue to reclaim all funds that have been misappropriated, diverted, or otherwise illegally taken. This includes working with authorities in affected countries and elsewhere as appropriate.”
The findings of the internal investigation were first posted online Oct. 20 but were not widely publicized until Friday. The IFRC confirmed the findings Saturday and said it was working with Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission to “investigate and legally pursue any persons involved.”
IFRC also revealed evidence of fraud in the two other hardest-hit countries during the Ebola crisis.
In Liberia, investigators found “evidence of fraud related to inflated prices of relief items, payroll and payment of volunteer incentives.” IFRC estimated the loss at $2.7 million.
And in Guinea, at least $1.17 million disappeared because of fraudulent billing practices by a customs clearance service provider. Two other investigations there are pending, IFRC said.
___
Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed.

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