World

Awwad al-Awwad

Saudi accused of threat to Khashoggi UN investigator is human rights chief

The Saudi official who is alleged to have twice issued threats against the independent UN investigator Agnès Callamard is the head of the kingdom’s human rights commission, and formerly served as an aide to the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Awwad al-Awwad is alleged by a person familiar with the matter to have twice threatened to “take care of” Callamard at a January 2020 meeting with senior human rights officials in Geneva.

Freedom House

Three basic warnings: US sinks to new low in rankings of world's democracies

The US has fallen to a new low in a global ranking of political rights and civil liberties, a drop fueled by unequal treatment of minority groups, damaging influence of money in politics, and increased polarization, according to a new report by Freedom House, a democracy watchdog group. The US earned 83 out of 100 possible points this year in Freedom House’s annual rankings of freedoms around the world, an 11-point drop from its ranking of 94 a decade ago. The US’s new ranking places it on par with countries like Panama, Romania and Croatia and behind countries such as Argentina and Mongolia.

Donald Trump Six key findings

The New York Times' Trump taxes bombshell

The publication of Donald Trump’s records by the New York Times is one of the biggest bombshells to hit an unprecedented 2020 election campaign already been hit by a litany of scandals, a bitter fight over a supreme court nomination and a pandemic in which 7m Americans have been infected and more than 200,000 have died, during a bungled federal response.

Attacks on Americans

Iran reportedly paid bounties to Afghan group

Iran is reported to have paid bounties to a Taliban faction for killing US and coalition troops in Afghanistan, leading to six attacks last year including a suicide bombing at the US airbase in Bagram.

Kim Jong-un

In North Korea dogs are now processed in restaurants and kitchens

Kim Jong-un has declared that pet dogs are a symbol of capitalist 'decadence' and ordered that dogs in Pyongyang be rounded up - and owners are fearful that their beloved pets are being used to solve the nation's food shortages.

Toronto: Brass Rail Tavern

Strip club employee may have exposed about 550 people to Covid-19

Health officials in the Canadian city of Toronto have warned that as many as 550 people may have been exposed to the coronavirus at a downtown strip club after an employee tested positive for the virus.

More than 150 dead · 400,000 homeless · 5,000 wounded

Fireworks, ammonium nitrate likely fueled Beirut explosion

Fireworks and ammonium nitrate appear to have been the fuel that ignited a massive explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut, experts and videos of the blast suggest.

Human merchandise

Russia jails former US marine for nine years for police assault

A Russian court has sentenced a former US marine to nine years in prison on charges of assaulting a police officer while drunk, in a controversial case that he has claimed is political.

China

Why is Xi Jinping pitting against the world?

Earlier this week, Chinese leader Xi Jinping held a rare meeting in Beijing with business leaders. Admitting that the Covid-19 pandemic had a “huge impact” on the country’s economy, Xi used a Chinese idiom to assure his listeners.

Welthungerhilfe

Düstere Prognose: Bis zu eine Milliarde Hungernde

Die Welthungerhilfe rechnet mit verheerenden Folgen der Corona-Pandemie für Menschen in Armut. Die Zahl der Hungernden drohe weltweit auf eine Milliarde Menschen anzusteigen.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Ägypten vor Kriegseinsatz gegen Libyen

«Seid bereit für jegliche Mission innerhalb unserer Grenzen - oder wenn nötig außerhalb unserer Grenzen», sagte Al-Sisi beim Besuch einer Luftwaffenbasis nahe der libyschen Grenze.

Russland

Paul Whelan: 16 Jahre Straflager wegen Spionage

Wegen Spionage für die USA hat ein Gericht in Moskau den seit fast eineinhalb Jahren inhaftierten US-Bürger Paul Whelan zu 16 Jahren Straflager verurteilt.

International Criminal Court

E.U. has ‘serious concern’ about U.S. sanctions against ICC

Donald Trump’s decision to authorize sanctions against the International Criminal Court is "a matter of serious concern," the EU's top diplomat said.

NAZI

'Miss Hitler' pageant entrant jailed for belonging to neo-Nazi group

Alice Cutter and her partner Mark Jones were jailed for being members of the banned extreme right-wing neo-Nazi group National Action.

Shortnews

Fox & Friends

Harry and Meghan cause for Prince Philip's death

Minutes after the British royal family announced that Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, had died at the age of 99, the sleuths at Fox & Friends blamed their inevitable culprits: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Host Brian Kilmeade immediately linked the death of the extremely old and sickly Duke of Edinburgh to Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, which aired last month and contained shocking claims of racism and cruel treatment against Meghan by royal family members.

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Fox & Friends

Harry and Meghan cause for Prince Philip's death

Minutes after the British royal family announced that Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, had died at the age of 99, the sleuths at Fox & Friends blamed their inevitable culprits: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Host Brian Kilmeade immediately linked the death of the extremely old and sickly Duke of Edinburgh to Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, which aired last month and contained shocking claims of racism and cruel treatment against Meghan by royal family members.

Kilmeade said on Friday’s show: “There are reports that [Philip] was enraged after the interview and the fallout from the interview with Oprah Winfrey, so here he is trying to recover and he’s hit with that.”

Kilmeade then went on to cite Piers Morgan, of all people, as evidence that Philip’s health was hit by the Oprah interview. Morgan resigned in disgrace from his show, Good Morning Britain, after thousands of people complained about his repeated attacks on Meghan. The low point came when he said didn’t believe her admission that she felt suicidal.

The Fox & Friends host said: “Piers Morgan was saying on his morning show, which he famously walked off of, is like ‘Really? Your grandfather is in the hospital, you know he’s not doing well, is this really the time you have to put out this interview?’ Evidently, it definitely added to his stress.”

Philip left his London hospital after a month-long stay for treatment of an unspecified infection. He also underwent a procedure for a pre-existing heart condition in that time. He was also 99 years old.

Ghislaine Maxwell

New charges as US prosecutors expand criminal case

Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite accused of aiding in her former partner Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of minor girls, faces two more charges, a new Manhattan federal court indictment filed on Monday reveals. This indictment also identified a new accuser in the case, referred to as “minor victim-4” in court papers, and expanded the timeframe of Maxwell’s alleged participation in Epstein’s abuse by seven years – from 1994 to 2004, rather than from 1994 to 1997. Maxwell now faces a total of eight counts.

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Ghislaine Maxwell

New charges as US prosecutors expand criminal case

Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite accused of aiding in her former partner Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of minor girls, faces two more charges, a new Manhattan federal court indictment filed on Monday reveals. This indictment also identified a new accuser in the case, referred to as “minor victim-4” in court papers, and expanded the timeframe of Maxwell’s alleged participation in Epstein’s abuse by seven years – from 1994 to 2004, rather than from 1994 to 1997. Maxwell now faces a total of eight counts.

The new charges, sex trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking of a minor, involve “minor victim-4”.

The indictment alleges that “minor victim-4” was “recruited to provide Epstein with sexualized massages” that he or his associates – including Maxwell – paid for.

Maxwell allegedly met “minor victim-4” at Epstein’s south Florida home around 2001, when the girl was around 14-years-old, and “interacted with [her] on multiple occasions”, according to court papers.

During their interactions, which happened from 2001 to 2004, Maxwell allegedly “groomed minor victim – 4 to engage in sexual acts with Epstein through multiple means.”

Maxwell did so by asking “minor victim-4” about her family and life. She “also sought to normalize inappropriate and abusive conduct by, among other things, discussing sexual topics in front of minor victim-4 and being present when minor victim-4 was nude in the massage room of the Palm Beach residence,” according to the court documents.

On multiple occasions from 2001 to 2004, this victim gave Epstein nude massages, during which he “engaged in multiple sex acts” with her. Maxwell would sometimes call this victim to schedule these massages, court papers allege.

During this timeframe, Epstein and Maxwell invited her to travel with him, and said they would help her get a passport. She declined their offer.

The court papers also allege that during this period, Epstein’s staff, including Maxwell, sent the victim gifts – such as lingerie – at her Florida home.

Maxwell and Epstein were both accused of encouraging this girl “to recruit other young females to provide sexualized massages to Epstein”.

She did so, the indictment claims, by bringing “multiple females, including girls under the age of 18” to Epstein’s south Florida home.

“On such occasions, both minor victim-4 and the girl she brought were paid hundreds of dollars in cash,” court papers state.

Maxwell has maintained her innocence since her arrest last summer at a secluded luxury home in New Hampshire.

When Maxwell was arrested, she faced six counts, including conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and perjury.

Her attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new charges.

She is being held in federal detention in Brooklyn.

Epstein, a convicted sex offender, was found dead in his cell in federal custody in New York in August 2019, where he was awaiting trial on serious charges just over a month after his arrest on charges of sex trafficking girls as young as 14.

Epstein and Maxwell’s arrests have spurred intense scrutiny of Prince Andrew, who was a friend of both purported sex traffickers.

Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s many accusers, alleged in a civil lawsuit that Maxwell lured her into Epstein’s circle under the false pretense of massage work.

After being pulled into their orbit, Maxwell forced her to have sex with powerful men, including Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, when she was just 17, Giuffre claimed. Maxwell denies the claims. Andrew directly and via statements from Buckingham Palace has vehemently and repeatedly denied all of Giuffre’s claims.

William Walker

Pelosi taps D.C. National Guard chief as top House security official

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped the head of Washington, D.C.,’s National Guard, Maj. Gen. William Walker, as the House’s new top security official. Walker, a 39-year military veteran, will become the House’s permanent sergeant-at-arms, Pelosi announced Friday. He succeeds Timothy Blodgett, who took over the post temporarily in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. The previous permanent sergeant-at-arms, Paul Irving, was pushed out of the job after Jan. 6, amid recriminations over the security failures that allowed a mob of thousands of Donald Trump's supporters to occupy the Capitol and delay Congress’ certification of the 2020 election results.

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William Walker

Pelosi taps D.C. National Guard chief as top House security official

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped the head of Washington, D.C.,’s National Guard, Maj. Gen. William Walker, as the House’s new top security official. Walker, a 39-year military veteran, will become the House’s permanent sergeant-at-arms, Pelosi announced Friday. He succeeds Timothy Blodgett, who took over the post temporarily in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. The previous permanent sergeant-at-arms, Paul Irving, was pushed out of the job after Jan. 6, amid recriminations over the security failures that allowed a mob of thousands of Donald Trump's supporters to occupy the Capitol and delay Congress’ certification of the 2020 election results.

“His historic appointment as the first Black American to serve as Sergeant-at-Arms is an important step forward for this institution and our nation,” Pelosi said in a statement. The California Democrat also noted that Walker had a long career as a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Walker has provided key information about the timeline of events that led to the security breakdown on Jan. 6. In Senate testimony earlier this month, he said he relayed an urgent plea from the head of the Capitol Police to senior Pentagon officials seeking backup for the overwhelmed police force.

But that request languished for more than three hours, Walker has said, until final approval just after 5 p.m. That delay in the official dispatching of the guard has become a key focus of lawmakers’ investigations into the riot.

Walker also has described a 2:30 p.m. phone call between Capitol Police and Pentagon brass and said senior Pentagon officials seemed to lack urgency despite frantic pleas from those inside the building.

Walker was the 23rd commanding general of the D.C. National Guard and previously spent three decades as a guardsman and DEA agent.

Asa Hutchinson

GOP Gov. admits ‘Near-Total Abortion Ban’ is unconstitutional

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) said he only signed what has been widely described as a “near-total abortion ban” in his state this month because he hopes it leads to the Supreme Court taking away women’s rights to make decisions about their own bodies. Hutchinson was speaking during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, after host Dana Bash raised with the issue with him.

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Asa Hutchinson

GOP Gov. admits ‘Near-Total Abortion Ban’ is unconstitutional

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) said he only signed what has been widely described as a “near-total abortion ban” in his state this month because he hopes it leads to the Supreme Court taking away women’s rights to make decisions about their own bodies. Hutchinson was speaking during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, after host Dana Bash raised with the issue with him.

“Even when you signed it, you said you had reservations about the law, saying that it violates Supreme Court precedent,” Bash said. “So to be clear, did you sign this bill because you hope it will be a vehicle for the Supreme Court to look at overturning Roe v. Wade.

“Yes, that was the whole design of the law,” Hutchinson told Bash. “It is not constitutional under Supreme Court cases right now.”

Claiming that he “preferred a rape and incest exception,” the governor added, “I didn’t get a vote on that and so I signed it because it is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, that was the intent of it, I think there’s a very narrow chance that the Supreme Court will accept that case, but we’ll see.”

The new Arkansas law only allows abortion in cases where the life of the mother is directly threatened. It is not expected to be enforced until summer 2021 at the earliest, which allows time for challenges at the lower court level before it takes effect.

COVID-19

Mar-a-Lago partially closed due to outbreak

Former President Trump's luxury resort club Mar-a-Lago has reportedly been partially closed in response to an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Palm Beach, Fla. property. Sources confirmed to The Associated Press that Mar-a-Lago has been closed until further notice in a cautionary move that follows positive COVID-19 tests. Several workers have reportedly been quarantined. The extent of the outbreak and the identities of those who have tested positive were not immediately made known.