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  • House panel calls new postal chief to explain mail delays news

    The House Oversight Committee has invited the new postmaster general to appear at a hearing next month to examine operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service that are causing delays in mail deliveries across the country. The plan imposed by Louis DeJoy, a Republican fundraiser who took over the top job at the Postal Service in June, eliminates overtime for hundreds of thousands of postal workers and orders that mail be kept until the next day if postal distribution centers are running late. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat who chairs the Oversight panel, said the Sept. 17 hearing will focus on “the need for on-time mail delivery during the ongoing pandemic and upcoming election,” which is expected to include a major expansion of mail-in ballots.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 15:49:30 -0400
  • WHO advance team ends visit to China to probe COVID origin

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    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 14:33:58 -0400
  • Floodwaters inundate South Korea as country braces for impacts from Hagupit news

    Officials issued a "serious" crisis warning in South Korea on Monday after a weekend of heavy rainfall caused floodwaters to overtake cities across the region. This won't be the last round of downpours for the country as Hagupit, currently a typhoon, will reach the region by the second half of the week as a tropical rainstorm.A storm system brought heavy rainfall to much of the Korean Peninsula this past weekend and into the start of the week, including in the capital city of Seoul, where the Han River spilled into the streets on Monday morning.According to KBS World, at least 12 people have been killed and another 13 are missing in South Korea due to the heavy rainfall.> LOOK: Torrential rain drenched most of South Korea over the weekend killing six people and leaving seven others missing. > > The downpour triggered dozens of landslides and flooding in residential areas> > -- Bloomberg QuickTake (@QuickTake) August 2, 2020Four people were rescued after a landslide sent mud and debris into a factory in Pyeongtaek in northwestern South Korea. One local news outlet reported that three people were found unconscious and one was seriously injured.Streets were turned into raging rivers in the city of Cheonan after 183 mm (7.20 inches) of rainfall fell in the city from Sunday into Monday. Another 190 mm (7.48 inches) of rainfall was reported in the city of Chuncheon in just 24 hours.Residents in Icheon City were forced to evacuate their homes as the nearby Bonjuk Reservoir began to collapse, according to local reports. Nearly one thousand people have been forced from their homes across the region due to numerous instances of flooding and landslides.Residents across the Korean Peninsula are bracing for another round of widespread heavy rainfall that will spread over the area by the middle of the week.CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APPAs Hagupit moves inland across eastern China by Tuesday morning, it will be pulled north by a nontropical system that has been sitting over northern China and across the Korean Peninsula.Hagupit will track over the mountainous terrain of Anhui, Jiangsu and Shangdong, China, through Tuesday night and into Wednesday, which will work to rip apart the system. This will limit impacts in these prefectures to areas of rain and thunderstorms.As Hagupit is absorbed by the non-tropical system, it will strengthen over the Yellow Sea, which will help to produce widespread flooding downpours across the Korean Peninsula. "Widespread rainfall of 100-200 mm (4-8 inches) is expected across North Korea later Wednesday into Thursday, local time," stated AccuWeather Lead International Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.Nicholls added that an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 250 mm (10 inches) will be possible in areas that receive the heaviest rainfall, especially into the higher elevations.Rainfall totals of 50-100 mm (2-4 inches) will be common across South Korea. However, if the storm system shifts farther south, higher rainfall totals can threaten northern parts of the country, including Seoul.Disruptive flooding already caused disruptions across South Korea in late July after a storm system combined with high tide to inundate the city of Busan along the southern coast.It's not unusual for heavy rain to make an appearance across the region during July and August. The front that produces the rainy season across southern China and Japan during the late spring and early summer typically shifts north by the end of the summer.Keep checking back on and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 14:27:00 -0400
  • Tanzanite: Tanzanian miner earns millions after second rare find news

    Saniniu Laizer sells a Tanzanite stone for $2 million (£1.5m), months after a similar find.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 14:19:54 -0400
  • Government urges post-Brexit drug stockpiles news

    Firms should have six weeks' worth of post-Brexit drug stockpiles by the end of 2020, the government says.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 13:23:00 -0400
  • Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia return to talks over disputed dam news

    Three key Nile basin countries on Monday resumed their negotiations to resolve a years-long dispute over the operation and filling of a giant hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, officials said. The talks came a day after tens of thousands of Ethiopians flooded the streets of their capital, Addis Ababa, in a government-backed rally to celebrate the first stage of the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s 74 billion-cubic-meter reservoir. Ethiopia's announcement sparked fear and confusion downstream in Sudan and Egypt.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 11:38:45 -0400
  • Quality Education Advocate Named 2020-2021 UNA-USA Youth Observer to the United Nations

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    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 11:30:00 -0400
  • Anti-Kremlin protests continue in Russia's far east for 24 days news

    Approximately 10,000 people attended Saturday's demonstration despite pouring rain. Some chanted, "Russia without Putin" and "We are power here."

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 11:26:59 -0400
  • Leaked documents brandished by Jeremy Corbyn 'stolen from minister's account by Russian hackers' news

    Russian hackers stole classified documents from the email account of a Cabinet minister before they were used by Jeremy Corbyn to attack the Government, it was claimed on Monday. Former Trade Secretary Liam Fox was the victim of what appears to have been a "state-backed" operation ahead of last year's general election, sources said. The news triggered a review of Government security as ministers and MPs were reminded of the need to follow rules set out by the National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ. If the claims – currently the subject of a police investigation – are proven, it would be the first time a current or former Cabinet minister had been successfully targeted by Russian hackers. Last month, Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, announced that "Russian actors" had sought to interfere in the December election "through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked Government documents". Mr Raab was referring to stolen details of US-UK trade negotiations which were published online and later used by Mr Corbyn to claim the NHS was being put up for sale. The Foreign Secretary stopped short of saying who he believed had stolen the documents in the first place and how they were obtained. According to a report by the Reuters news agency, Russian hackers accessed Dr Fox's account multiple times between July 12 and October 21 last year. It is unclear which of his email accounts was hacked and when it was first compromised, or whether the successful attempt to access his email happened before or after he lost his role as Trade Secretary in a Cabinet reshuffle last July. The report comes amid increasing tensions between London and Moscow, which have been building since the 2018 Salisbury poisonings. Last month a report into Russian interference in democracy by Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee concluded that Russia had attempted to influence the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 11:12:11 -0400
  • Trump slams passage of Nevada bill to mail voters ballots news

    Nevada lawmakers passed a bill that would add the state to a growing list of U.S. states mailing active voters ballots ahead of the November election amid the coronavirus pandemic. The bill, which was passed Sunday, now heads to Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat. If he signs it as expected, Nevada will join seven states that plan on automatically sending voters mail ballots, including California and Vermont, which moved earlier this summer to adopt automatic mail ballot policies.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 10:56:43 -0400
  • Judge starts new injunction barring Lee statue removal news

    A judge dismissed a legal challenge Monday preventing Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration from removing an enormous statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, but immediately imposed another injunction in a different lawsuit. The new 90-day injunction bars the state from “removing, altering, or dismantling, in any way” the larger-than-life statue or its massive pedestal while the claims in a lawsuit filed by a group of Richmond property owners are litigated. Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant wrote that “the public interest does weigh in favor" of a temporary injunction.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 10:51:46 -0400
  • Shoprite: Africa's biggest supermarket considers pulling out of Nigeria news

    Shoprite is the latest high-profile South African retailer to struggle in the Nigerian market.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 09:45:52 -0400
  • Gold in secret vault is traced to Hugo Chávez's former nurse news

    It was 2014 and Venezuela's former treasurer Claudia Díaz was looking for a safe haven to store the unexplained wealth she had accumulated over the years. Then-president Hugo Chávez, who she once served as a nurse, had recently died and with the election of Nicolás Maduro, the nation's politics and relations with the U.S. were in tumult. In quick succession a shell company established in the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines that she allegedly controlled purchased 250 gold bars valued at more than $9.5 million, according to court records from Liechtenstein obtained by The Associated Press.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 09:44:04 -0400
  • EU eyes softening key state aid demand in Brexit talks - sources

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    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 08:51:05 -0400
  • International trade has cost Americans millions of jobs. Investing in communities might offset those losses news

    Arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity, said former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Globalization, the international trade in goods and services with minimal barriers between countries, may seem inevitable as the world’s economies become more interdependent. Properly regulated, globalization can be a powerful force for social good. For wealthy nations, globalization can mean less expensive goods, additional spending and a higher standard of living. For those who live and work in poorer nations, globalization can lead to greater prosperity with the power to reduce child labor, increase literacy and enhance the economic and social standing of women. But not everyone gains from globalization. An analysis of 120 countries between 1988 and 2008 and published by the World Bank illustrates who has lost. The U.S. trade deficit with China, for instance, has had an adverse effect on American workers, effectively eliminating 3.7 million jobs between 2001 and 2018. More than 75% of those job losses were in manufacturing, accounting for more than half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs lost or displaced during this period.If globalization is inevitable, then what are the best strategies to help American workers get back into the workforce when their jobs have been eliminated? Job loss and the working classThe economist Branko Milanovic, using data from the World Bank, argues that the losers from globalization are working people in rich nations. Milanovic’s research demonstrates that a large portion of the lower middle class in the U.S. and Western Europe have seen little to no gain in income since 1988. At the same time, 200 million Chinese, 90 million Indians and nearly 30 million people in Indonesia, Brazil, Egypt and Mexico have profited from globalization. Many American workers have been negatively impacted by liberalized trade with China, the so-called “China trade shock,” because goods that China exports to the U.S. have substituted for comparable American-made products. From an economic perspective, China successfully increased its share of world manufacturing exports from a little more than 2% in 1991 to 28% in 2018. By contrast, in 2001, U.S. trade began to increase with China when the latter joined the World Trade Organization, the international organization that determines the global rules of trade. Even though U.S. exports to China have increased over time, since the U.S. buys more from China than we sell to them, a large trade deficit has opened up. The growth of this deficit means that the U.S. is losing jobs in manufacturing and foregoing opportunities to add jobs in this sector because imports from China have skyrocketed, while exports have not increased as much.The trade deficit has had different impacts on regions within the U.S. Some regions are devastated by layoffs and factory closings, while others are surviving but not growing the way they might if new factories were opening and existing plants were hiring more workers. This slowdown in manufacturing job generation is also contributing to stagnating wages and incomes of typical workers and widening economic inequality. Retraining and moving for workWhat are the solutions for the millions of American workers who have lost their jobs? Economists generally support “people-based” over “place-based” policies and investments. The rationale is that it’s more important to invest in workers rather than bolster a place where workers live. Economists would argue that directing public funds into regions doing poorly is akin to wasting money. The logical outcome of such policies is that towns that have lost their economic base are allowed to shrink while other economies take their place. [Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]The Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers program helps workers displaced by international trade with job training and relocation assistance, subsidized health insurance and extended unemployment benefits. Trade Adjustment Assistance is a “people-based” policy because it invests in workers. I believe that, relative to the magnitude of the job losses, Trade Adjustment Assistance provides too little relief. While there is little support among economists for place-based policies, recent evidence demonstrates that such policies may deserve another look.Examples of place-based policies include enterprise zones where economic incentives are offered to firms to create jobs in economically challenged areas and policies that seek to promote economic development by investing in infrastructure, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, which, since 1933, provided electrification to the rural South, promoting industrialization and enhancing the quality of life in that region. Adapting to joblessnessPeople-based policies are predicated on the assumption that if given the right incentives, people will leave economically strapped areas and move to flourishing regions. Yet research shows that even in regions of the U.S. where deep manufacturing job losses have occurred, workers frequently did not move to new jobs. Those who lost their jobs adjusted, spent less money and stayed put, resulting in a further reduction of economic activity in regions that, in turn, became poorer.Workers who can move to more promising locales, but choose not to, is a phenomenon not only in the U.S. but in Germany, Norway and Spain, even if economically depressed regions have a negative impact on those who live there. Men – particularly young, white men – in the U.S. are less likely to graduate from college, more likely to bear children out of wedlock and more likely to suffer from what the economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton have called “deaths of despair.” These deaths arise because of a deep sense of hopelessness stemming from unemployment, lack of resources and alcohol and drug dependency. Strengthening a place called homeIf relatively low-skilled workers are unwilling to move, then should policies that favor people-based programs continue? Or is it better to make place-based investments, as the 2019 Nobel laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo suggest?I believe that the U.S. should back policies that support people where they live and invest in those places when global trade, specifically liberalized trade, has taken a toll on American workers. Regional policymaking might ask what is needed so that those who are unemployed do not feel, as Nobel Prize-winning poet Gabriela Mistral writes, that “everyone left and we have remained on a path that goes on without us.”This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * Globalization really started 1,000 years ago * The gender pay gap that no one is paying attention toAmitrajeet A. Batabyal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 07:59:22 -0400
  • Spain's new wave of infections hits the young, middle-aged news

    SANT SADURNÍ D'ANOIA, Spain (AP) — Like most Spaniards, Emma Gaya thought the worst of the pandemic was behind her. Spain’s government had ended a three-month lockdown after an COVID-19 onslaught that claimed at least 28,400 lives in the European Union nation. To kickstart its stalled economy, Spaniards were encouraged to cautiously resume their lives under a “new normality” based on wearing face masks, washing hands and social distancing.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 07:59:01 -0400
  • He Was the First UN Peacekeeper to Die of COVID-19—or Was He? news

    OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso—Fernando Guillén, a 22-year-old gamer and YouTuber, switched on his computer, took a sip of water and a deep breath and thanked God for being alive, before beginning his live stream on video games from his bedroom in San Antonio, Texas. Sitting in a high-backed gaming chair and dressed in a black hoodie with a white bandanna around his head, Fernando began:“My heart’s beating. I’m a little bit nervous, because I usually wouldn’t do this, but,” he exhaled. “O.K., so, as of May 27, 2020, my biological father passed away and it… it came to me as a surprise,” he said, before breaking down. Fernando’s girlfriend, Fatima, entered the edge of the screen wrapped in a pastel-blue blanket and hugged him as he wept. “I got it; I got it,” he said.More than 5,000 miles away across the Atlantic, in the landlocked West African country of Mali, Fernando’s estranged father, Lieut. Col. Carlos Moisés Guillén Alfaro, a 46-year-old pilot with the El Salvadorean air force, had become the first United Nations peacekeeper to officially die of COVID-19, on the afternoon of May 28. Seven peacekeepers have died of COVID-19 on UN missions throughout Africa so far, and four of them have been uniformed officers, like Guillén, according to a spokesperson for the UN Department of Peace Operations in New York City.“He died doing what he loved. He died doing good for the world and helping others,” Fernando said, and spoke about the uncertainty as to whether Guillén died of COVID-19 or malaria. He also spoke about the distant relationship he’d had with his father, who separated from his mother when he was a child. His biggest regret, Fernando said, was not telling him the news that his girlfriend was pregnant, and that he too was expecting to become a father in the coming months.“I just wish I could have talked to my biological father one last time,” Fernando told his followers, dedicating the stream to his father.Fernando flashed the military hats his father had given him over the years—a blue fatigue cap, a dusty navy-blue baseball hat with golden wings on the front and the name GUILLEN on the back, along with a military name patch. He proudly clicked through photographs of his father as a young pilot in El Salvador; there was the image of Fernando as a child dressed in a Spiderman suit with his nose painted red and cheeks dotted with black, framed by the arms of his father, who wore a checked-blue shirt and sunglasses; and then a photo of his father standing next to the Eiffel Tower.Among the pictures was a selfie that Guillén took dressed in desert fatigues with a UN peacekeeping-blue beret on his head and scarf wrapped around his neck, his M-16 machine gun hanging on the Corimex wall behind him in the military base in the northern Malian city of Timbuktu, where he was serving as a logistics officer. That is where he fell ill with malaria and would later die in Bamako, Mali’s capital, from COVID-19, according to the UN mission, called Minusma (Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali).After clicking through the rest of the photos, Fernando and his followers began playing Fortnite, a popular online game.Fernando’s YouTube video would be circulated around the tight-knit community of active and retired pilots from the El Salvadorean air force, some of whom knew Guillén, others who had heard of his death. They traded notes about the latest developments on the repatriation of his body from Bamako and threads about the circumstances surrounding his death.Guillén’s death would bring distant friends and family members from the United States and El Salvador in contact with one another, and Fernando would research Mali’s health-care system, which has been shattered by years of conflict.“The health system is pretty bad in Mali from what I’ve researched, and people need to be aware of things like this,” Fernando told PassBlue in a phone call on June 17, adding that it helped him think beyond the pandemic surrounding him in the U.S. He, like others, would continue to wait for news of whether his father’s body would be repatriated to El Salvador. “He was a peacekeeper. It is the least he deserves,” Fernando said.For weeks after Guillén’s death and the UN announcing the first fatalities of peacekeepers to COVID-19, there would be uncertainty about whether his body would be repatriated. There would continue to be confusion about the circumstances surrounding his death, as his family back in El Salvador was unable to access his complete medical records and original death certificate. All they had was a death certificate from the hospital where he died in Bamako, without a cause of death on it. Peacekeepers tested for COVID-19 too lateMaj. Gen. Sar Savy, a Cambodian peacekeeper who was also stationed in Mali and part of a specialized unit sweeping the area for mines, died of COVID-19 a day after Guillén. Both of their bodies were carried in large sealed caskets to Minusma’s headquarters, in Bamako, by uniformed peacekeepers wearing the peacekeeping-blue berets and aquamarine COVID-19 masks for a memorial service held on June 4.But General Savy’s body would be buried in a Christian cemetery in the city on July 1, because of “COVID-related complications,” including the lack of international flights; and “because of a decision by Cambodian authorities and families to do so,” according to Olivier Salgado, a spokesperson for Minusma, who asked to respond to PassBlue’s questions via email. On July 24, the Ministry of Health in Cambodia also confirmed that four peacekeepers who had served in Mali tested positive for COVID-19 upon their return from the country, according to a news report.Cambodian officials would be left with questions surrounding General Savy’s death and the exact times he became ill and was tested for the virus, as would Guillén’s family in El Salvador. “The UN report did not indicate when [General Savy] contracted the virus,” said Maj. Gen. Kosal Malinda, a spokesperson for Cambodia’s National Center for Peacekeeping Forces and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance (NPMEC), according to the Khmer Times, a Cambodian English-language daily newspaper. “All we know is that he went to a hospital to get treated for fever and was not tested for COVID-19 at the time. He remained sick for five days, with his condition worsening over the last three days.”The outline of General Savy’s treatment and the circumstances right before his death echoed that of Guillén’s. Through interviews with Guillén’s wife, Nuria Magaly Choto de Guillén, and his stepdaughter, Alejandra Choto; transcripts of WhatsApp chats between the pilot and his wife; medical records from the hospital in Bamako; and an interview with the doctor who treated Guillén as he fell into critical condition, PassBlue has pieced together a rough chronology of the peacekeeper’s final days.At the Timbuktu base, he appears to have been diagnosed with malaria and was sick for at least 12 days before he was tested for COVID-19 and evacuated to Bamako. By then, “unfortunately his lungs were really already affected” and he had to be put on a high dose of oxygen, according to the doctor who treated him there.Two months after his death, Guillén’s mother, Vilma Nery Guevara Alfaro, and his widow, Nuria, continue to demand his medical records, including those that document his initial treatment for malaria in Timbuktu and until his death in Bamako, along with the original death certificate noting the cause of death. “There are certain things that are not connecting,” Nuria told PassBlue in a phone call from El Salvador.The family has also asked Minusma to conduct an investigation into Guillén’s death and have accused the leadership of the El Salvadorean peacekeeping camp in Timbuktu of failing to implement social-distancing measures to protect troops and ensure that Guillén received the treatment he needed. “In another galaxy”Without complete medical records and a death certificate stating cause of death, Nuria, Guillén’s wife of seven years, and her daughter, Alejandra, have nevertheless tried to construct the last two weeks of Guillén’s life, before he died on May 28.There are two days of medical reports from the Golden Life American Hospital in Bamako and 12 days of WhatsApp chats in Spanish between Nuria and her husband, replete with kisses, flowers and hands in prayer position, punctuated by the words “Primero Dios,” or “God First,” and Nuria’s pleas to God that Guillén gets well. There are the messages between Gordo, or “chubby,” Nuria’s nickname for Guillén, who had been a chubby child, and Gordita, the feminized version of chubby that he gave to her by virtue of her being his wife. Both of them called each other “osito” and “osita,” or “little bear.”They often messaged on WhatsApp and rarely talked on the phone because of the poor network, often worsened by sandstorms in Timbuktu. (Nuria allowed PassBlue to read and cite the text messages.)As early as May 12, Guillén complained of stomach pain and diarrhea and a temperature and pain in his shoulders. Early on, Nuria was concerned he could have COVID-19. Here are some of the text messages exchanged between the two on WhatsApp (our italics):Does your throat hurt? Nuria asks. No it doesn’t, Guillén responds. God first it’s nothing serious, she says. Send me all the symptoms of that thing And what should be done to prevent it, writes Guillén, referring to COVID-19.On May 13, he told Nuria in a WhatsApp chat that he was being treated for malaria and would be isolated for three days in the Timbuktu base. Nuria said he had contracted malaria the year before and been similarly isolated. He expressed annoyance at being isolated and referred to someone in the senior command of Camp Torogoz, one of two El Salvadorean camps in the Timbuktu base:And he said to the doctor we must abide by the protocols, he tells Nuria, referring to the COVID-19 protocols.In the name of Jesus you will be fine, writes Nuria. And I said to him there are no protocols here I was so enraged bear, he writes. Thanks to God it’s not COVID-19, she writes back.He told her he would stay in the room with three other men while he took his malaria treatment. He complained and said he felt as though he was “in the air.”The couple traded I love yous and advised each other on managing the pandemic in the countries in which they were each living—El Salvador and Mali. Whenever Guillén wrote to Nuria that he had a fever, she told him to put a cold towel on his face and to take the medicine the doctor prescribed. When he complained of aching bones and feeling cold, Nuria told him to put a hot towel on his face and said that she was praying to God for him.Guillén offered advice to Nuria as well. As she waded through the supermarkets of San Salvador, the capital, during the nation’s strict lockdown, with a walking cane she uses after breaking her heel when she fell from an avocado tree, he told her not to touch anything she didn’t need on the shelf. She complained of the lines and the banked-up cashiers, the lack of spices and the rationing of the eggs and people’s lack of respect for social-distancing rules. And they didn’t let you pass even though you have a cane bear, Guillén wrote, following up with comments on the rising cases of the coronavirus in Russia and Brazil.The fever is ugly, Guillén noted, complaining of the aches in his bones and the sleepless nights. On May 16, he did his washing and expressed annoyance about the washing machines on the base. By May 17, after a course of malaria treatment, he said he was given penicillin but still had a high fever. Nuria asked him if he had been tested for COVID-19:But you don’t have a cough And did they test you bear, she asks. Yes I have a little cough But I don’t have respiratory problems, he writes. He confirms again he was tested for malaria.Two days later, on May 19, Guillén said he was sent back to work by the commander of the camp but could not complete his shift, according to Nuria. Back in a UN treatment center in Timbuktu, he told Nuria that he was on an intravenous drip, the medication wasn’t working, that he could hardly write and that the doctor would do a blood count the next day.By May 20, Guillén said he was diagnosed with another strain of malaria. On May 22, he told Nuria that his mother was having heart problems, and he didn’t want her to know about his own health problems. Bear don’t mention to my mom I am sick okay.On May 23, he complained of having to source malaria medication from outside the camp. He complained of having difficulty sleeping.When you come home you will be pampered a lot, Nuria tells him.On May 24, he fell out of contact.On May 25, Nuria sent Guillén a message wishing him a happy wedding anniversary:Thank you little bear it’s not the best but cheers I was evacuated yesterday I am in BMKO [Bamako] And they are treating me for COVID-19 bear The fatigue I can’t take it Yesterday I was the first one they swabbed and thank God it came out negative, he writes. Is it hard for you to breathe, Nuria asks. And drink Yes bear, he writes back. God heal you little bear, she responds.And later, I will be here and I hope to recover from this, he writes. Little bear of my life make a deal with God and he will make a miracle I love you, Nuria writes.They exchanged their last messages on May 26, when Guillén said he had been given a blood transfusion and that the second COVID-19 test came back negative. He told her he had been intubated and diagnosed with bronchitis:Yesterday I was in another galaxy, Guillén writes And if praying you don’t know what I have been throughThey trade their last I love yous. May god protect you, Nuria writes.Nuria told PassBlue that she fell out of contact with her husband the next day, May 27. “I would send messages—yeah they landed but I never got a response,” she said. She said that she didn’t know which hospital he was in or who to call to find out how he was doing.What did Guillén die of?Moussa Seydou Konaté, the external-relations director at Golden Life, said in a phone call with PassBlue that the hospital had shared all the records with Minusma through a hospital coordinator who works with the mission and was surprised that there was a death certificate in Spanish with no cause of death on it. I asked him whether the death certificate was forged.“I’m not claiming anything and I’m affirming anything but I know that Golden Life does not deliver a death report in Spanish that’s one million percent sure,” he said in a recorded WhatsApp message. With the family’s permission, PassBlue later shared the death certificate with Konaté, who said via a WhatsApp text message, “[a]ll I can tell you it has not been delivered by Golden Life,” and told PassBlue to contact Minusma for further questions.For Guillén’s wife and family in El Salvador, many questions remain unanswered as to the cause of his death and the testing and treatment he received beforehand, and whether he in fact died of COVID-19. The death certificate, translated into Spanish, given to the family by the Salvadorean Air Force and shared with PassBlue, states no cause of death, and the medical records from the Golden Life American Hospital in Bamako, where he was treated, appear to span only two days, up until May 26, two days before Guillén died.The medical records from Golden Life indicate he had been diagnosed with malaria and had tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies before arriving at the hospital on the evening of May 24. He was then tested twice for COVID-19 at the hospital and received negative results both times. A COVID-19 test was scheduled for his fifth day of treatment, according to undated medical records from Golden Life. By this time Guillén was dead.An official chain of tweets from the Minister of Defense of El Salvador, René Francis Merino Monroy, above, on May 29, echoed the chronology of Guillén’s illness as documented by the family and the medical records. Merino wrote that Guillén tested positive for COVID-19 once; “underwent two more tests leaving negative”; and never confirmed COVID-19 as the cause of Guillén’s death or referred to any posthumous positive test. Instead, he said he died of “cardiac arrest.” PassBlue requested information on June 17 from Minusma about Guillén’s treatment.Olivier Salgado of Minusma responded via email, saying, “We will not be in a position to follow up further on your medical question.” Guillén’s medical records from the hospital in Bamako were stamped and signed by a Minusma medical coordinator who works for Golden Life American Hospital and is responsible for liaising between the hospital and the mission.Salgado said that Guillén had tested negative twice for COVID-19, and that the final test, taken after his death on May 28, came back positive. The hospital confirmed he had tested positive posthumously, but PassBlue has not seen any official records of any of the tests. The two COVID-19 tests referred to in the medical records that the family received were not contained in the documents it got from the Air Force in El Salvador.The medical records for the final two days of Guillén’s life are missing, according to his family, and there are no records detailing the malaria tests and treatment taken in the medical facilities on the base in Timbuktu, referred to in Guillén’s WhatsApp chats with his wife. The family also has no records of the COVID-19 tests that may have been administered in Timbuktu and the posthumous test that Minusma claims was positive and taken in Bamako. “I had a pain in my heart”While the family has now struggled for nearly two months to get Guillén’s medical records and has emailed the hospital in Bamako multiple times, when I called the external-relations officer for the hospital, Moussa Seydou Konaté, he quickly connected me with Dr. Korkmaz Yalcin, the doctor who treated Guillén. Konaté also sent me a video of Guillén’s digital thoracic scan, via WhatsApp, and translated from Turkish into English as Dr. Yalcin outlined Guillén’s medical history, giving me details such as his oxygen-saturation levels. Guillén was admitted on May 24 in a conscious state and could speak, according to Dr. Yalcin, but he had to be put on a high dosage of oxygen because “his lungs weren’t working, he couldn’t breathe by himself.”The air force pilot who had once taken selfies of himself with an oxygen mask on as he soared in a fighter jet through the skies of El Salvador had lain in a hospital bed on life support. He was tested for COVID-19 twice on that same day and both tests came back negative despite him “showing most of the signs of COVID,” according to Dr. Yalcin.On May 26, he showed signs of bacterial and viral infections and was intubated to keep his airways open. On May 28, Guillén fell into a critical state around noon and Dr. Yalcin said he spent 62 minutes trying to resuscitate Guillén before he was pronounced dead at 14:55 P.M. Dr.Yalcin said Guillén’s speed at which his condition deteriorated was “most probably due to a pulmonary emboly,” or a blockage of an artery in the lungs.After Dr. Yalcin detailed Guillén’s treatment to me, Konaté said he would try and send the medical records to me and then asked what my relationship was to the patient. For the third time, I told him that I am a journalist who is writing about Guillén’s death for PassBlue. He later told me he thought I was a doctor.Nuria’s last message on May 28 was sent at 8:20 A.M., local time in El Salvador, and 2:20 P.M. in Bamako, while attempts were being made to resuscitate him and just 35 minutes before he died. “I had a pain in my heart; I thought something bad had happened,” Nuria told PassBlue.Nuria was informed of his death five hours later, around 2 P.M. in El Salvador, via a phone call on Facebook by the El Salvador Air Force, who came to the family home two times that day because the force had not fully confirmed the circumstances surrounding Guillén’s death, Alejandra, the stepdaughter, said. They told the family Guillén had died of a “heart attack,” and the reports would be forthcoming.“When they told me he was already dead, I tried to call many times but no one picked up,” Nuria said. She called her husband and continued to send messages and music videos and recordings of Latin love songs to his WhatsApp account for at least three weeks after his death. “The worst news was that he had died alone, so far from his family with no one close to help him.”I mentioned to Konaté that the family has emailed the hospital twice, asking for the medical records. “And could they give you the name of the Minusma employee who gave them the report so we can check out why they did not give the report we gave them,” he wrote via WhatsApp. I said that they have asked to have them sent directly from the hospital. “Our medical team will treat that request and do it or if they can’t they will tell why they can’t,” he said in a WhatsApp message. The family has continued to write emails to the hospital requesting the records, but no one has responded. The Guilléns request an investigationOn June 15, Nuria and Guillén’s mother, Vilma Nery Guevara Alfaro, wrote a detailed letter to the force commander of Minusma, a Swede named Dennis Gyllensporre, and to Mahamat Saleh Annadif, a former diplomat from Chad who heads the peacekeeping mission. In the letter, Nuria and Guillén’s mother accuse the El Salvadorean leadership of the camp of negligence and ignoring COVID-19 and social-distancing protocols as well as “conspiring” to give Guillén “a hard time during his illness.” They requested an investigation into his death and asked for all the documentation related to his treatment from the base in Timbuktu up to his death on May 28.PassBlue saw the photos the family sent to Minusma as evidence that COVID-19 regulations, including social distancing, were not being enforced on the Torogoz camp. The photos show peacekeepers packed around tables in a mess hall, said to be taken on Soldiers’ Day, which is celebrated in El Salvador on May 7; and on Mother’s Day, celebrated on May 10. There are images of troops playing outdoor volleyball at the camp. The images are screengrabs and photos that appear to have been taken by different people on phones or cameras. In one image of soldiers gathered in the mess hall, a mask dangles from a soldier’s pocket. There are also images of soldiers wearing masks in formation.PassBlue could not independently verify the source or the dates of these images and twice requested an interview with Colonel Gyllensporre through the Minusma press office and his Twitter account, receiving no response.The complaint emailed by Guillén’s family to Minusma outlines the damages caused to the family:“Incalculable, not measurable, pain, frustration, sadness, helplessness. We were robbed of a wonderful, intelligent, big-hearted being who had a bright future, who didn’t hurt anyone.”Thierry Kaiser, a senior legal adviser for Minusma, sent a follow-up response to Nuria, stating “all type of communication or claim(s) from family members of a person service as contingent member in a UN Operation, should be first channeled to the Government of the country where this contingent originates—and in your case, the Government of El Salvador (Ministry of Defense)—for review and follow up with the UN Headquarters as appropriate.”A week after Nuria received the email from Kaiser, the family presented the same complaint to the Ministry of Defense in El Salvador with a transcript of text messages between Nuria and Guillén, said Alejandra, who added they have not received a response.PassBlue emailed Atul Khare, the under secretary-general of the UN Department of Operational Support (DOS), based in New York City, requesting comment on the claims of Guillén’s family that social-distancing measures weren’t taking place on the Torogoz base; that the family had not received complete medical records; and that the UN should be more mindful about the well-being of people serving on their mission.A member of the press office from the Department of Peace Operations in New York City sent back a series of comments that were “attributable to a senior official from the Department of Operational Support.” The press office refused to confirm whether Khare was the senior UN official who responded, nor would it give the name of anyone to whom the comment could be attributed.“Following clear command and control structures, we rely on contributing countries and their commanders to ensure appropriate awareness and training within these contingents,” said the emailed comment from the “senior UN official.”“This isn’t to suggest that the UN is removed from responsibility. We continue to work to provide the safest possible living and operating environment, along with an appropriate medical response capability, and to support preparedness of troops and police as the pandemic spreads.”The senior official said that “wearing of face coverings is mandatory for all personnel in all Mission facilities across Mali,” adding, “Per protocol, the responsibility of providing records to the next of kin lies with troop contributing countries” and that troop-contributing countries had the role of “maintaining social communications between troops deployed on the field and their families.”“We will continue working with the authorities in El Salvador to ensure any shortcomings are addressed,” the unnamed official said. The official also said that an insurance claim related to Guillén’s death had been received by the office recently. Nuria Guillén told PassBlue she had not been informed about the insurance claim.“They aren’t interested,” she told PassBlue. “[I]t is their responsibility to attend directly to the families, not the government, because the governments of those countries do not care.”The Ministry of Defense in El Salvador acknowledged receipt of a series of questions from PassBlue, including questions about the medical records, but did not respond in the five days before the publication of this article. He always wanted to flyAs a pilot, Guillén had served with the El Salvadorean military contingent in Minusma for one year before his death, based at a large camp at the Timbuktu airport, housing multiple contingents from different nations, known as the “supercamp.” He served as a logistics officer with the Torogoz helicopter unit, named after a small bird with a turquoise brow that is the national bird for El Salvador.Since 2015, El Salvador has contributed troops and three helicopters to Minusma and has partnered with Swedish peacekeepers to gather intelligence in and around Timbuktu, the ancient cultural crossroads city in northern Mali, monitoring the jihadist and other deadly threats now plaguing the region and ensuring safe passage of humanitarian aid people and UN staff. This stint was Guillén’s second UN mission. His first was in neighboring Ivory Coast in 2011 and 2012, where a peacekeeping mission was set up after the country went through a civil war. The UN stayed in the Ivory Coast from 2004 until 2017.Guillén’s friend Erick Huezo, a former pilot who lives in Dallas, Texas, who attended high school and the air force with him in El Salvador, was shocked to hear of his friend’s death. As pilots stationed in Comalapa, with the 2nd Air Brigade, Huezo and Guillén had shared a near death experience, when they were taking a low-flying run in a Cessna 0-2 Skymaster military plane, and one of their engines started to falter as they headed into a valley with mountains to the left and to the right and they couldn’t pull the plane up, but they made it through.Huezo remembered Guillén as a dedicated flyer who loved the military life and was sometimes teased by his colleagues for it.“He was a good pilot and was so passionate about flying,” he said in a phone call. Huezo told PassBlue that both men came of age during El Salvador’s devastating civil war in the 1990s, where bodies littered the streets of San Salvador. They joined the air force out of a sense of adventure and desire to see the world, he said, and UN peacekeeping missions were opportunities for both traveling and making money. (Each soldier in the unit earns an approximate monthly paycheck of about $1,300.)“It’s always fun when you go to those missions and you interact with a lot of people from different countries,” Huezo said.Johanna Vielman, a former pilot who lives in San Salvador, was one of a handful of women who trained with the air force. She met Guillén on a base in Ilopango, the center of the country, and recalled him as someone who supported the few female pilots there. “There are men that don’t look at women like they are their equals,” she said. “Carlos looked at us like, ‘Yes she can do this, put her on this flight because she can.’ He was always treating us the same or equal to men.”Huezo and Vielman were among the people who closely monitored the progress on the return of Guillén’s body back home. In El Salvador, Guillén’s wife, Nuria, and his family lobbied the Ministry of Defense in El Salvador to have her husband’s remains repatriated. COVID-19 hits fragile MaliAs cases of the novel coronavirus throughout the world continue to soar, institutions like the UN and its peacekeeping missions that bring together thousands of people from across the world are being confronted with questions as to how they can protect their own staff and the vulnerable populations in the fractured countries in which they work.Dr. Charles Dara, an infectious disease specialist who is managing COVID-19 testing and treatment for the Mali government in Timbuktu, confirmed the first registered case in the city was that of a Nigerian peacekeeper at the end of April. Of the 500 confirmed cases in Timbuktu so far, 106 have been Minusma peacekeepers. “It’s not at all surprising that the first case was among the United Nations peacekeepers,” he told PassBlue in a phone interview. “They travel a lot; they are very mobile and they access international flights.”Minusma, one of the largest UN missions, currently has by far the highest number of COVID-19 infections of any UN peacekeeping mission, with 263 confirmed cases, 236 recoveries and 2 deaths, according to figures published on July 23. PassBlue asked Minusma what it is doing to address COVID-19 infections on its bases throughout the vast country.“We are doing everything we can to protect our personnel, so they can continue to protect others,” Salgado, the Minusma spokesperson, wrote via email. “Minusma has established mitigation measures to help contain the virus and ensure we are not a contagion vector.” Salgado said all troop rotations had been suspended, with exceptions; that all incoming staff would be quarantined for 14 days; and that the mission was working on creating its own “testing capacity” to not strain the national health care system.Minusma remains the deadliest mission of all peacekeeping missions, with bases regularly attacked by armed and jihadist groups and restrictions on travel, raising challenges also for repatriating the bodies of peacekeepers who die in combat.According to the three pages of medical records shared with the family and seen by PassBlue, Guillén had been unsuccessfully treated for malaria at a UN medical facility in Timbuktu and was later admitted to the facility with respiratory problems and put on oxygen. The medical records indicate a rapid antibody test for COVID-19 administered in Timbuktu that came back positive and that he had anemia. It appears as though he was no longer being treated for malaria while in hospital in Bamako.PassBlue asked the Minusma press office in an email whether the mission currently had testing capacity in any of the Minusma medical facilities, including Timbuktu, and did not receive a response. Dr. Dara said that government authorities in Timbuktu were not doing antibody tests, raising the question as to whether Minusma had COVID-19 testing capacity at the onset of Guillén’s illness. Guillén’s body sent homeMore than a month after his death and after four days of negotiations for clearances to fly out of Mali, whose international borders remain closed during the pandemic, and travel through the airspace of Latin American countries, where regulations remain strict, Guillén’s body finally departed Bamako on a small private plane chartered by the UN mission. Four masked pilots would rotate on shifts during the 24-hour journey, touching down in Cape Verde and Barbados before landing on June 30 at the international airport on the outskirts of San Salvador, where an air force base is located.A request had been made for two Salvadorean peacekeepers to accompany the body on the flight, as is custom in the tradition of peacekeeping missions and militaries throughout the world, but Minusma wouldn’t allow it.Nuria stood on the tarmac, her blonde hair shaking in the wind and her mouth covered with a black N-90 mask, as military planes flew overhead and a carefully distanced marching band played El Salvador’s anthem. Soldiers dressed in surgical masks marched slowly on the tarmac, too, escorting Guillén’s coffin, draped with the country’s blue-and-white flag and its creed—“God, Unity and Liberty” written in Spanish. Guillén’s body was actually not in the coffin but inside a large rectangular white box lined with zinc and sealed shut, but one of his brothers, who runs a funeral home, had brought a polished wooden casket, the kind the family would have liked to have seen Guillén laid to rest in, but it didn’t happen.Inside the hangar, a photograph of Guillén was placed next to his flight helmet and oxygen mask, a pair of sunglasses and the polished black boots of soldiers, all never worn by him but put there to symbolize his life as military pilot. His own belongings were sent home later. A military official presented Nuria the El Salvador flag folded neatly into a triangular box, and his navy-blue pilot’s hat, which the defense ministry had asked the family take with them for the event, was handed back to his mother.Guillén’s body was placed into a minivan that drove to a tree-lined cemetery in the center of San Salvador. The white box where Guillen’s body lay that had been nailed and sealed shut was lowered into the grave by a yellow machine, with the help of men in muddy white-and-yellow hazmat suits. Ten people were permitted to go to the burial, among them Guillén’s parents, his two brothers, his wife and stepdaughter, Alejandra. His two sons by two previous partners remained in the U.S.Between her black-gloved fingers, Nuria held the stems of two white roses edged in blue—Guillen’s favorite colored rose—and dropped them on top of the coffin. Other family members dropped in the remaining roses that lay scattered on the scratched white box. They had around 15 minutes to say goodbye, and like many widows around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nuria never saw her husband’s face before he was buried.At first, Nuria said she was relieved her husband was back home. Weeks later, however, she would question whether it was even Guillén’s body buried in the cemetery that day. Nuria still wonders whether he died of COVID-19 and told PassBlue she would like the body to be exhumed and an autopsy performed.For Guillén’s family and many of his pilot friends, there remain so many other unanswered questions. “Why didn’t they take the measures they needed to for him to get treatment?” Nuria said in a phone call. “What was the reason, or who decided, to keep him in the campsite until the moment he was almost dying?”Alejandra, who watched her mother struggle as her husband and her own stepfather died, thinks peacekeeping missions ought to do more to make sure families can stay in contact with their relatives and be updated on the conditions of their loved ones who are sick and dying.“I would like for the UN to be more careful and take responsibility for the well-being of the people who work for them,” she told PassBlue.PassBlue is a nonprofit media site based in New York City.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 06:52:02 -0400
  • Iran has been covering up its coronavirus death toll, according to BBC investigation which says the true figure is almost 3 times higher news

    Both coronavirus deaths and cases are significantly higher than Iran is publicly reporting, according to government figures seen by the BBC.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 06:34:08 -0400
  • Iran virus deaths three times higher than official figures, leaked docs show news

    Iran has dramatically underreported the extent of its coronavirus epidemic, according to leaked government figures showing nearly three times as many people may have died from Covid-19 than Tehran has officially acknowledged. The secret data suggests the government recorded 42,000 people dying with coronavirus-like symptoms up until July 20, whereas the health ministry reported 14,405 deaths in the same period. That data also showed 451,024 cases of the virus, a figure nearly double the 278,827 officially reported in that time. The documents were obtained by BBC Persian and published on Monday as the health ministry reported that Iran faces a resurgence of the disease. Even by the government’s public figures, Iran is the worst affected country in the Middle East. Health ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari rejected the report, claiming that foreign media were relying on anonymous sources and unscientific methodology for political purposes, according to Tehran Times. Iran officially reported its first case of coronavirus on February 19, reporting the death of two people in Qom, though health professionals and Iranian journalists had given earlier warnings about the disease. Since then, some observers have accused the government of deliberately underreporting infections. The leaked documents, supplied by an anonymous source, show Iran recorded its first Covid-19 death on January 22. This was despite repeated denials from Iranian officials that there were any virus cases in the country. The secret files included detailed information on daily hospital admissions across the country that corresponded with some other verified patient information obtained by the BBC. The discrepancy between the official records and the obtained data also corresponded with the difference between official records and the country’s excess mortality rate - the number of deaths above what would be expected under normal circumstances. The leaked data suggested that Iran was deliberately misrepresenting its coronavirus infections, as opposed to the general underreporting seen worldwide that is largely attributable to a lack of testing capacity. This was reinforced by the source, who told the BBC they shared the information to illuminate the government’s “political games” and to “shed light on truth”. “Everyone knew that the number of Covid cases was significantly higher than what officials were reporting,” an Iranian journalist in Tehran told The Telegraph. “The reports are manipulated on every level, from hospital rooms, to morgues and the health ministry,” the journalist said, speaking anonymously from fear of repercussions. BBC Persian previously reported the government was underreporting the extent of the coronavirus epidemic in the country, claiming in February that the death toll was six times higher than official figures. At that time ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said it was being transparent and accused the BBC of publishing falsehoods. The government may have felt compelled to underplay the severity of the pandemic due out of fear it would stoke popular unrest and anger. The coronavirus outbreak came as the country was marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution on February 11 and preparing for parliamentary elections. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that people wanted to use the epidemic to undermine the election on February 21. Iran reported its highest single-day novel coronavirus infection count in nearly a month on Sunday, with the ministry reporting 2,685 more Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily count since July 8.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 06:14:06 -0400
  • Yemen Houthi rebels claim fighters shot down a US-made drone

    No description related. Click here to go to original article.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 05:36:21 -0400
  • Report: Retired Pope Benedict XVI ill after visit to Germany news

    Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has fallen ill after his return from a trip to his native Bavaria to visit his brother, who died a month ago, a German newspaper reported Monday. The daily Passauer Neue Presse quoted Peter Seewald, a biographer of the retired pontiff, as saying that the 93-year-old has been suffering from a facial infection since his return to Rome. Seewald, who has published several book-length interviews with Benedict, handed over a copy of the biography to the former pontiff on Saturday, the newspaper reported.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 04:53:00 -0400
  • John Hume, who worked to end N. Ireland violence, dies at 83 news

    John Hume, the visionary politician who won a Nobel Peace Prize for fashioning the agreement that ended violence in his native Northern Ireland, has died at 83, his family said Monday. The Catholic leader of the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party, Hume was seen as the principal architect of Northern Ireland's 1998 peace agreement. “I want to see Ireland as an example to men and women everywhere of what can be achieved by living for ideals, rather than fighting for them, and by viewing each and every person as worthy of respect and honor,” he said in 1998.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 04:46:21 -0400
  • LGBTQ Russians Fight to Survive Putin’s Campaign of Hate news

    ST. PETERSBURG, Russia—Dozens of young people were singing lyrics by a local band on Palace Square: “We’ll be together, like Sid and Nancy, we’ll never live long enough to be pensioners.” The warm July night was young. In spite of the dark context of the song, people looked happy. The wind played with a young woman’s rainbow-dyed hair, while she was kissing her girlfriend. That scene was hardly unusual, even in Russia, where authorities ban what they call “gay propaganda,” same-sex marriage and even the rainbow itself. Russian Activist Yulia Tsvetkova Fights ‘Gay Propaganda’ Legal Battle, as LGBTQ Persecution IncreasesLiza, who is 21, said she felt much happier once she dyed her hair in rainbow colors. “This is who I am, I am a lesbian,” she said. “I don’t think any banning makes sense—nobody could delete the rainbow symbol from the walls of kindergartens, or from every box of colored pencils. The rainbow will come over the Kremlin and make all these propagandists look stupid,” Liza said, laughing. But the Russian repression machine is working full force. The leader of Russia’s Women’s Union, ex-senator Yekaterina Lakhova, recently complained to President Vladimir Putin about an ice cream ad “promoting homosexual behavior among minors” because it included a rainbow, signifying a multi-flavored ice cream. “I am happy the rainbow is gone from the ice cream advert,” she said in an interview with The Daily Beast last week, stressing that her main intention during her 30-year career in the Women’s Union was to “defend traditional family values, to increase demography.” Together with dozens of pro-Kremlin organizations, the Women’s Union protested Russia’s ratification of the UN convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. “The convention is aiming to squeeze in all sorts of rights for same-sex families,” Lakhova said. The effort to ban the rainbow symbol, even from something as harmless as an ice cream ad, shows the extreme lengths Russian authorities have gone in fighting sexual minorities; every new effort is locked into legislation.On July 1, Russians voted in a referendum for dozens of constitutional amendments allowing Putin to stay in power until 2036, defining “belief in God” as a Russian national value, and constitutionally banning same-sex marriage. The amendments also allow Russia to ignore international courts’ rulings on cases of human rights violations. Lakhova was one of the amendments’ lobbyists. At a meeting earlier this month, Putin told Lakhova he needed a loyal network of organizations to keep an eye on any type of “gay propaganda” that might come up, since he alone “cannot follow everybody.” The system is quickly reacting to the constitutional changes: Parliament came up with a package of laws aiming to “defend the marriage between a man and a woman.” Many wonder how far Russian authorities will go now to interfere in the lives of same-sex families. LGBTQ activists in Saint Petersburg fear the Kremlin will oblige all Russian transgender people to put their sex registered at birth in passports and other IDs. “All my friends are concerned about police investigating doctors, who are involved in surrogacy. Any threat for LGBTQ parents will cause a massive emigration,” Karèn Shainyan, the author of Straight Talk with Gay People blog told The Daily Beast.Russian gay, lesbian, transgender or queer citizens will not disappear overnight, no matter how hard the legislators try. The more pressure is exerted, the deeper people seem to withdraw into underground life. For now, gay clubs are open both in St. Petersburg and Moscow, after almost four months of the COVID-19 shutdown. About 100 happy passengers partied on Saturday night on a ship sailing down the Neva river—the party was organized by Central Station, one of the most popular gay clubs in Moscow. But if the large cities have a fairly free environment, lives of LGBTQ people continue to be threatened in the Northern Caucauses. Police detained 22-year-old Amin, a Chechen dancer and hairdresser, and tortured him for several weeks in March, 2017. “My interrogators connected electricity to my fingers, and spun the handle until I could not breathe from pain,” Amin told The Daily Beast in a phone interview. Today, Amin is an activist with the Rainbow Railroad organization in Canada, helping other young LGBTQ people from homophobic countries overcome their fear. “I was one of several dozen Chechen gay men to escape abroad,” Amin said. “I hope Russians make their country a different place, where parents do not have to say goodbye to their children for the sake of saving their lives, and where human rights and freedoms are respected.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 03:54:26 -0400
  • ‘The Swamp’ Exposes Just How Much Republican Matt Gaetz Kisses Trump’s Butt news

    Spoiler alert: Contrary to his stated intentions, President Donald Trump has not “drained the swamp,” but has in fact amplified D.C. corruption and special-interest power—currently, more than 300 lobbyists have seats in his administration—unseen in modern times. The Swamp understands and exposes this fact, and yet Daniel DiMauro and Morgan Pehme’s HBO documentary (premiering August 4) nonetheless tackles the issue of politics and money via a decidedly wishy-washy look at three of Trump’s staunchest faux-“renegade” GOP congressional acolytes: Colorado’s Ken Buck, Kentucky’s Thomas Massie and Florida’s perpetually sycophantic Matt Gaetz.It’s Gaetz who’ll likely be best known to viewers, thanks to a series of headline-making (and social media-inflaming) stunts, including tweeting out a not-so-veiled threat to congressional witness (and former Trump attorney) Michael Cohen, and leading a group of rabble-rousing Republicans on a raid of a closed-door impeachment hearing deposition. A perpetual fixture on Fox News, where he parrots Trump talking points in the most extremist fashion imaginable, he’s a young, eager go-getter who’s hitched his post to the current commander-in-chief. That’s certainly the figure depicted by DiMauro and Pehme’s film, which captures him articulating his staunch support in personal phone calls to the president (and is told, in return, “You’re doing fantastic…you’re tough and smart and you have the look”), as well as stating outright “I love him so much.” Throughout the film, Gaetz is repeatedly seen fawning all over Trump, receiving marching orders from the president and delivering near-daily progress reports. When Trump calls him “handsome,” the congressman acts like he’s won the lottery. John Oliver Unloads on ‘Idiot’ Trump for Endorsing Dr. Demon SpermNetflix Targets the ‘World’s Most Wanted’ CriminalsGiven his fawning admiration for the president, it’s predictable that Gaetz spends a lot of time in The Swamp criticizing D.C. venality at the hands of wealthy special interest groups, whose checkbooks are coveted by politicians wanting to maintain their membership in the party, and their position in committees. Gaetz, Massie and Buck’s dismay over this flawed paradigm is voiced at regular intervals throughout the film (set in 2018-2019), as is a greater desire for bipartisanship, which Gaetz himself partakes in alongside California’s Ro Khanna with their Khanna-Gaetz amendment designed to take unilateral war powers (specifically with regards to Iran) away from the president and return them to Congress. In this effort, as in their many censures of super PAC influence, the three come across as principled outliers committed to upending the “new normal” of donor-driven governance ushered in by Newt Gingrich in 1994.Like an introductory scene of Gaetz dressing and putting on makeup in the office work closet he calls home—the better to maximize his daily productivity, he says—such commentary is the trio’s (and film’s) means of casting them as hard-working against-the-grain mavericks. At the same time, though, directors DiMauro and Pehme fully recognize that these supposed rebels—and Gaetz in particular—are bald-faced hypocrites who don’t walk their own talk. While it’s true that, in 2020, Gaetz became the first Republican to swear off any campaign donations from super PACs (a worthwhile stand, to be sure), he otherwise comes across as a guy who doesn’t care that his beloved president is far from the reformer he claimed he would be on the campaign trail. First during the Mueller hearings and again throughout the impeachment process, Gaetz readily takes to his Fox News pulpit to rail against the “witch hunt” and Democrats, as well as to vilify immigrants as “criminals, thugs, special-interest aliens…jihadists,” habitually using the president’s very own polarizing language. He’s akin to a Trump ventriloquist dummy.The discrepancy between Gaetz’s anti-“swamp” pronouncements and his adulation of a leader whose entire Oval Office tenure has been designed to enrich himself is hard to ignore, and The Swamp certainly takes pains to underline it, as it does the dissonance between Buck and Massie’s avowed disgust for special interests and yet dubious connections to the NRA and the coal industry. Massie himself likens his congressional pin to The Lord of the Rings’ ring (because its limitless power is corrupting), and equates himself to Star Wars’ rebel fighters and Congress to the Death Star, and the nerdiness of the latter point is only outweighed by the silliness of the analogy, especially since Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale recently associated the president’s re-election as a villainous Death Star juggernaut ready to wipe out its enemies.Despite routinely pricking Gaetz and company for behaving in ways that are diametrically opposed to their declared values, The Swamp still spends considerable energy lavishing fond attention on them. Slow-motion shots of Gaetz strutting down D.C. streets, sunglasses on and the sun shining from behind him, contribute to puffing up his media-friendly persona as rock star-ish upstart contrarian driven to shake up the status quo. Since the film knows this isn’t really the case—at its conclusion, Gaetz votes along party lines for a military bill even though his beloved war powers amendment was cut out of it—the effect is to make one feel as if the directors want to have it both ways, obligated to critique their subject but not too harshly because, after all, Gaetz has granted them intimate access to his life in the first place.Only in interviews with Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig does The Swamp make a truly passionate case for the need for wide-scale lobbying reform—which came, most recently, in the form of Democrats’ H.R. 1 bill, which found few receptive Republican friends in the Senate. From climate change to military funding to gun control (to name only a few pressing national concerns), “none of these issues can be addressed sensibly until we address the deep corruption inside of our government,” he says. Without that, we’re doomed to deal with a system that turns politicians into fundraisers, and because “politics of hate is the most productive technique for fundraising we have,” that in turn leads to the hyper-polarization we see today.When it’s providing an insider’s view of the ways elected representatives are compelled—often willingly—to sell themselves to the highest bidder in order to maintain their sliver of power, The Swamp is a revealing and timely survey of our broken government. Where it stumbles, however, is in its choice of tour guides through that greedy bog—a collection of pretenders whose corruption-friendly actions speak far louder than their crusading words. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 03:39:52 -0400
  • Lebanese foreign minister quits over lack of will to reform news

    Lebanon's foreign minister resigned on Monday amid a severe economic and financial crisis gripping the Arab country, warning that a lack of vision and a will to make changes is risking turning Lebanon into a “failed state.” Nassif Hitti is the first Cabinet minister to step down from his post amid the crisis, which poses as the most significant threat to the country since a devastating 15-year civil war ended in 1990. A few hours later, Diab held a meeting with President Michel Aoun after which Charbel Wahbe, a presidential adviser, was appointed to succeed Hitti as foreign minister.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 03:36:47 -0400
  • Isaias near hurricane strength as it crawls toward Carolinas news

    The U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning from South Santee River, South Carolina, to Surf City, North Carolina. A tropical storm warning was extended northward up the U.S. East Coast all the way to mouth of the Merrimack River in New Hampshire.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 03:36:36 -0400
  • The Swamp: a revealing look into Washington corruption news

    A new documentary finds bipartisan common ground as it follows Republican lawmakers to examine the corrosive influence of money in US democracy * Join us for an online event with Eric Holder to discuss voter suppression in the 2020 election, Thursday at 5pm ET. Register nowThere’s a recurring graphic in The Swamp, a new HBO documentary riffing on the Trump campaign’s (false) promise to drain Washington of moneyed interests, in which vines overrun the Rotunda as it sinks into a gooey morass. The lure of corruption, and the entrenchment of money, is all-encompassing – a rare shared point between America’s two political parties, and a thesis of a film attempting to pull back the curtain on business as usual in Washington.Directors Morgan Pehme and Daniel DiMauro were not strangers to corruption in American politics; the two directed the 2017 documentary Get Me Roger Stone, a film about the Trump campaign consultant who was sentenced to 40 months in prison for corruption charges (Trump commuted his sentence last month). But the two did not expect to find commonality on the issue of corruption in Congress in Drain the Swamp, a book invoking the Trump slogan by a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, Colorado representative Ken Buck.The duo, self-described liberals, read the first seven or so chapters and were surprised to find themselves thinking, “we’re on the same page with this conservative member of the Freedom Caucus about how the rich donors and special interests are controlling and perverting our government,” Pehme told the Guardian. Then they got to the chapter on Buck’s argument for the end of the Endangered Species Act, and it was, “Oh, right, we’re not on the same page with you at all.”Still, the near-overlap with progressive calls from the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to cleanse Washington of big-money donors seemed like a window into the deliberately opaque and confusing world of congressional fundraising. Filming Buck and two fellow Republican lawmakers – Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Matt Gaetz of Florida in their DC offices, at their homes, at campaign stops and constituent visits – could offer “a chance to take the American public behind closed doors in Congress for the first time and show them how the sausage is made”, said Pehme.They began filming The Swamp in 2019 with an understanding of money’s corrosive role in representative democracy, especially in the near-decade since the Citizens United v FEC decision by the supreme court uncapped donations by large political groups known as Super Pacs. But the chokehold of money “was just so much worse than we could have imagined”, DiMauro told the Guardian. “Our objective was not to weasel our way into these Republican offices so that we could secretly undermine them,” said Pehme, a former political journalist. Rather, it was “to get the American people behind closed doors so they could see for themselves why the system is broken”.The Swamp follows Massie, Buck and in particular Gaetz over the course of one turbulent year, as the lawmakers navigate a thicket of corrupting influences: the fundraising requirements by the National Republican Congressional Committee (and likewise by its Democratic counterpart, the DCCC) which incentivize endless campaigning; the party systems which attach a fundraising hierarchy to committee assignments – the more money raised, the more influential the seat; the necessity of media notoriety to win some independence from reliance of so-called Political Action Committee (Pac) money; the “threat value of money”, as explained by Harvard law professor and lone academic talking head Lawrence Lessig, that could be revoked in campaigns by corporations unhappy with legislation, which “has the effect of disciplining members of Congress”, especially on anti-industry issues such as fossil fuel regulation.All three legislators decry, in public and on camera, the poisonous vines of financial incentives in Washington; all three also embody striking hypocrisies in staking their positions. Gaetz, the most notorious of the three for his friendship with Donald Trump, became the first Republican congressman to swear off Pac money in his campaigns in February, but derives much of visibility from his unwavering chumminess with a president whose administration tapped four times more lobbyists in two years than the Obama administration did in six.Gaetz represents what DiMauro called “the double-edged sword” of visibility required to make swearing off business donations helpful in meeting fundraising quotas (for Gaetz, at one point, $125,000 for the NRCC) viable. He breaks free by trafficking in what Lessig calls “the politics of hate” – drumming up “bloodsport” conflict with the opposing party to drive emotions, and thus more fundraising.“He’s able to create his own national platform by being so polarizing,” said DiMauro.In October 2019, Gaetz corralled several Republican lawmakers into crashing a closed-door impeachment inquiry committee hearing in the Capitol basement as Laura Cooper, a top Pentagon official for Ukraine policy, prepared to testify. The scene, as captured by Pehme and DiMauro and a mass of news cameras, is chaotic and absurd – lawmakers hyped with game-time energy, wielding cellphones, accessing a secured room and then ordering pizza; the stunt violated confidentiality rules, jeopardized the security of proceedings and blared across cable news.“The fact that it became such a big story shows how the media rewards the theater of the absurd,” said Pehme. “That was mission accomplished for Matt Gaetz, because he turned the story away from the depositions that were taking place in the Scif [sensitive compartmented information facility] to this false claim that the Republicans were being shut out of the process.”The film, and its makers, are careful not to lay the blame exclusively at the feet of the Republican party; the Democrats have a similar system for allotting committee seats by fundraising levels, and require member dues (which were recently boycotted by Ocasio-Cortez, who instead promised to pay the money directly to Democrats in tough races). On the party level, “there is no interest in bridging the partisan divide, because they use it is as fuel for their money machines to keep themselves in power,” said Pehme. “But I do feel that there is an opportunity to bridge the divide between members of different parties.”That’s partly why, said Pehme, the film focuses in particular on bipartisan support for ending America’s perpetual wars; it’s an admittedly surprising image to see Massie, a staunch fiscal conservative who denies human-produced carbon dioxide’s role in climate change (yet whose house runs entirely on solar power), standing in support behind Barbara Lee, the lone lawmaker to oppose the passage of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists act (AUMF) in 2001, which expanded executive power under Bush for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Massie joined several Republicans opposed to America’s involvement in cyclical wars to support Lee’s proposal to repeal the AUMF.The Swamp suggests, as the chaos of 2019 lurched into an unfathomable 2020, that special interests in Washington are not withering. Massie supported a war powers resolution restricting Trump’s ability to conduct military action in Iran – a vote in line with his conscience but not his Republican base – and laments his next 90 days “groveling” for campaign money to ward off a primary challenger. Gaetz swore off the Pac money – weeks before the coronavirus pandemic, which triggered a congressional stimulus bill that delivered billions to special interests at the expense of small businesses.If it all seems bleak, the hope, said the film-makers, is change through translating common wisdom – Washington is dysfunctional, we all know that – into clear examples on screen. “If the American people get to see and understand exactly how Congress is corrupt,” Pehme said. “We can come together – Democrats, Republicans, independents – and we can insist that our members stop playing this game.” * The Swamp premieres on HBO on 4 August with a UK date to be announced

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 03:35:34 -0400
  • Headspring And Silk Road Education Announce Launch Of New Executive DBA news

    A groundbreaking executive advancement program was recently launched to optimally understand and manage the global impact of the "New Silk Road – One Road One Belt" initiative launched by Xi Jinping.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 03:00:00 -0400
  • Analysis: Often on brink, Lebanon headed toward collapse news

    It may seem like a standard summer in Lebanon, a country used to wrestling with crumbling infrastructure as it vaults from one disaster to another. Only this time, it's different, Every day brings darker signs Lebanon has rarely seen in past crises: Mass layoffs, hospitals threatened with closure, shuttered shops and restaurants, crimes driven by desperation, a military that can no longer afford to feed its soldiers meat and warehouses that sell expired poultry. Lebanon is hurtling toward a tipping point at an alarming speed, driven by financial ruin, collapsing institutions, hyperinflation and rapidly rising poverty — with a pandemic on top of that.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 02:48:24 -0400
  • Israeli army says it thwarted attack by militants from Syria news

    The Israeli military said it thwarted an infiltration attempt from Syria early on Monday staged by four suspected militants it accused of trying to plant explosives. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Israeli troops earlier spotted “irregular” activity in the Golan Heights. Israeli troops opened fire on the suspected militants, some of whom were armed, after observing them placing the explosives on the ground, Conricus said.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 02:14:05 -0400
  • 'If not now, when?': Black women seize political spotlight news

    “Are you Charisse Davis?” the fourth grader asked. Its politics caught up with its demographics: In 2016 Hillary Clinton was the first Democratic presidential candidate to eke out a win in Cobb County since Jimmy Carter, a Georgian, in 1976.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 02:01:30 -0400
  • Downing Street backtracks on over-50s shielding plan news

    Coronavirus latest news: Number 10 hints that pubs could close to keep schools open in local outbreaks 'Covid vaccine shortages are very likely - without a plan, it will be a feeding frenzy' Leaked documents brandished by Jeremy Corbyn 'were hacked by Russians from minister's account' Revealed: Spain secretly lobbied US Congress on getting joint sovereignty over Gibraltar Norman Tebbit: A free and independent Brexit Britain could do without rule by unelected judges Subscribe to The Telegraph, free for one month Downing Street appears to be pulling back from plans to tell large swathes of the over-50s they will have to shield, following a major backlash. Over the weekend senior Government sources briefed out plans that anyone over 50 who is obese, overweight or in ill health would receive a tailored letter in the autumn advising them to stay at home to protect themselves. But Tory MPs and business leaders argued this risks damaging the economy and runs contrary to Boris Johnson’s plea to get workers back to the office. This afternoon, the Prime Minister's spokesman claimed the story was “inaccurate”, insisting that a localised approach would take priority. This echoed comments made earlier today by Nadhim Zahawi, the business minister. He told the Today programme: "The correct way to do this is to follow how the virus is behaving and react accordingly. That story is speculation and is inaccurate." Read the latest updates below.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 01:43:23 -0400
  • Court hearing held in notorious case of children's deaths news

    A detective Monday described in excruciating details how investigators unearthed the remains of two children who had been missing for months while searching the rural Idaho property of a man charged with concealing evidence. The testimony came during a preliminary hearing where a judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to hold Chad Daybell for trial.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 01:09:38 -0400
  • Parents struggle as schools reopen amid coronavirus surge news

    Putting your child on the bus for the first day of school is always a leap of faith for a parent. Rachel Adamus was feeling those emotions Monday morning as she got 7-year-old Paul ready for his first day of second grade and prepared 5-year-old Neva for the start of kindergarten. With a new school year beginning this week in some states, Adamus struggled to balance her fears with her belief that her children need the socialization and instruction that school provides, even as the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has hit about 155,000 and cases are rising in numerous places.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 01:02:05 -0400
  • Afghan forces retake prison after deadly attack by IS group news

    Militants affiliated with the Islamic State group stormed a prison in eastern Afghanistan in a daylong siege that left at least 39 people dead, including the assailants, and freed nearly 400 of their fighters before security forces restored order, a government official said Monday. The attack underscored that the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan is still a formidable presence, and it highlighted the challenges ahead as U.S. and NATO forces begin to withdraw following Washington's peace deal with the Taliban. The peace accord aims to recruit the Taliban to battle the militants from IS, which U.S. officials have told The Associated Press is the Americans' biggest foe in Afghanistan.

    Mon, 03 Aug 2020 00:43:09 -0400
  • Nigerians' double blow: Currency woes and Covid-19 news

    Three business owners explain how they are weathering the economic fallout.

    Sun, 02 Aug 2020 19:39:04 -0400
  • Nigeria Boko Haram: Governor says battle against militants being sabotaged news

    A governor in north-east Nigeria suggests soldiers were behind gunfire that forced his convoy to flee.

    Sun, 02 Aug 2020 17:37:28 -0400
  • Iran hits hawkish US expert with symbolic sanctions

    No description related. Click here to go to original article.

    Sun, 02 Aug 2020 16:00:27 -0400
  • Israel downs rocket launched by Gaza militants

    No description related. Click here to go to original article.

    Sun, 02 Aug 2020 14:38:28 -0400
  • Coronavirus: South Africa cases pass half million mark news

    The country has the world's fifth-highest number of infections, and the largest tally in Africa.

    Sun, 02 Aug 2020 12:43:12 -0400
  • Body Bags and Enemy Lists: How Far-Right Police Officers and Ex-Soldiers Planned for 'Day X' news

    GÜSTROW, Germany -- The plan sounded frighteningly concrete. The group would round up political enemies and those defending migrants and refugees, put them on trucks and drive them to a secret location.Then they would kill them.One member had already bought 30 body bags. More body bags were on an order list, investigators say, along with quicklime, used to decompose organic material.On the surface, those discussing the plan seemed reputable. One was a lawyer and local politician, but with a special hatred of immigrants. Two were active army reservists. Two others were police officers, including Marko Gross, a police sniper and former parachutist who acted as their unofficial leader.The group grew out of a nationwide chat network for soldiers and others with far-right sympathies set up by a member of Germany's elite special forces, the KSK. Over time, under Gross' supervision, they formed a parallel group of their own. Members included a doctor, an engineer, a decorator, a gym owner, even a local fisherman.They called themselves Nordkreuz, or Northern Cross."Between us, we were a whole village," recalled Gross, one of several Nordkreuz members who described to me in various interviews this year how the group came together and began making plans.They denied they had plotted to kill anyone. But investigators and prosecutors, as well an account one member gave to the police -- transcripts of which were seen by The New York Times -- indicate their planning took a more sinister turn.Germany has belatedly begun dealing with far-right networks that officials now say are far more extensive than they ever understood. The reach of far-right extremists into its armed forces is particularly alarming in a country that has worked to cleanse itself of its Nazi past and the horrors of the Holocaust. In July the government disbanded an entire company infiltrated by extremists in the nation's special forces.But the Nordkreuz case, which only recently came to trial after being uncovered more than three years ago, shows that the problem of far-right infiltration is neither new nor confined to the KSK, or even the military.Far-right extremism penetrated multiple layers of German society in the years when the authorities underestimated the threat or were reluctant to countenance it fully, officials and lawmakers acknowledge. Now they are struggling to uproot it.One central motivation of the extremists has seemed so far-fetched and fantastical that for a long time the authorities and investigators did not take it seriously, even as it gained broader currency in far-right circles.Neo-Nazi groups and other extremists call it Day X -- a mythical moment when Germany's social order collapses, requiring committed far-right extremists, in their telling, to save themselves and rescue the nation.Today Day X preppers are drawing serious people with serious skills and ambition. Increasingly, the German authorities consider the scenario a pretext for domestic terrorism by far-right plotters or even for a takeover of the government."I fear we've only seen the tip of the iceberg," said Dirk Friedriszik, a lawmaker in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where Nordkreuz was founded. "It isn't just the KSK. The real worry is: These cells are everywhere. In the army, in the police, in reservist units."Nordkreuz was one of those groups elaborately preparing for Day X. The domestic intelligence service got a tip in late 2016, and prosecutors started investigating in the summer of 2017. But it took years before the network, or a small sliver of it, came before a court.Even now, only one member of the group, Gross, has faced charges -- for illegal weapons possession, not for any larger conspiracy.Late last year, Gross was handed a 21-month suspended sentence. The verdict was so mild that this year state prosecutors appealed it, kicking the case into another protracted round of deliberations.Of some 30 Nordkreuz members, only two others, a lawyer and another police officer, are currently under investigation by the federal prosecutor on suspicion of plotting terrorism.The outcome is typical of authorities' handling of far-right cases, extremism experts say. The charges brought are often woefully narrow for the elaborate plots they are meant to deter and punish. Almost always they focus on individuals, not the networks themselves.But the obstacles to prosecuting such cases more aggressively point to another problem making German authorities increasingly anxious: Infiltration of the very institutions, like the police, that are supposed to be doing the investigating.In July the police chief of the western state of Hesse resigned after police computers had been repeatedly accessed for confidential information that was then used by neo-Nazis in death threats. It was in Hesse that a well-known neo-Nazi assassinated a regional politician last summer in a case that woke many Germans to the threat of far-right terrorism.Some Nordkreuz members were serious enough that they had compiled a list of political enemies. Heiko Bohringer, a local politician in the area where the group was based, had received death threats."I used to think these preppers, they're harmless crazies who've watched too many horror movies," Bohringer said. "I changed my mind."Friedriszik, the state lawmaker, tried for years to focus public attention on the building danger of the far right, but found himself a voice in the wilderness."This movement has its fingertips in lots of places," he said. "All this talk of Day X can seem like pure fantasy. But if you look closer, you can see how quickly it turns into serious planning -- and plotting."Northern CrossThe shooting range in Gustrow, a rural town in a northeast corner of Germany, sits at the end of a long dirt path secured by a heavy gate. Barbed wire surrounds the area. A German flag flutters in the wind."This is where it all started," Axel Moll, a local decorator and Nordkreuz member with a hunting license and gun cabinet at home, told me when I was touring the area earlier this year.Gross, the police officer, was a regular at the range. He had been a parachutist and long-distance reconnaissance officer in the German army before his battalion was absorbed by Germany's elite special forces, the KSK. He never joined the KSK but knows several men who did.Another regular was Frank Thiel, a champion in handgun competitions and sought-after tactical shooting instructor for police and military units across Germany.In the fall of 2015, as hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers from wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan arrived in Germany, the men were appalled. In their eyes, Germany faced a potential invasion from terrorists, a possible breakdown of its welfare system, maybe even unrest.And their own government was welcoming the migrants."We were worried," Gross, 49, recalled in one of several conversations with me this year.In late 2015, while conducting a shooting workshop for the KSK in southern Germany, Thiel learned about an encrypted, countrywide chat network to share privileged information about the security situation in Germany, and how to prepare for a crisis.It was run by a soldier named Andre Schmitt. But everyone knew him as Hannibal.Who wanted in?Soon some 30 people, many of them regulars at the shooting range in Gustrow, joined the northern chapter of Schmitt's network, avidly following his updates. It was not long before Gross decided to create a parallel group so they could communicate and meet up locally. Members lived in towns and villages in the region, shared far-right sympathies and considered themselves concerned citizens.By January 2016, this network had become Nordkreuz.There were two criteria for joining, Moll recalled: "The right skills and the right attitude."Gross and another police officer in the group were members of what was then an emerging far-right party, the Alternative for Germany, now the third largest force in the national Parliament. At least two others in the group had visited the Thule Seminar, an organization whose leaders had a portrait of Hitler on their wall and preach white supremacy.Nordkreuz held meetings every few weeks, on the floor above a gym owned by one member or in Moll's showroom, where the two of us also talked. Sometimes they had a barbecue. Other times, they invited guest speakers.Once a retired military officer came and talked about crisis management, Moll recalled. Another time they invited a "Reichsburger," or citizen of the Reich, a movement that does not recognize the postwar German state.Over time, Nordkreuz members recalled, their group morphed into a close-knit brotherhood with a shared ambition that would come to dominate their lives: preparing for Day X.They began hoarding enough supplies to survive for 100 days, including food, gasoline, toiletries, walkie-talkies, medicine and ammunition. Gross collected 600 euros from each member of the group to pay for it. In all, he amassed more than 55,000 rounds of ammunition.The group identified a "safe house," where members would decamp with their families on Day X: a former communist vacation village deep in the woods.The place was "ideal," Moll said. There was a stream providing fresh water, a small lake to wash themselves and clothes, a forest with wood to build and deer to hunt, even an old septic tank.Didn't all this seem a little far-fetched to them? I asked.Moll smiled at my "Western naivete."The region where they live is nestled between the former Iron Curtain and the Polish border. Members had grown up in the former East Germany."Under communism, everything was scarce,'' Moll explained. ''You had to get creative getting things through certain channels. You could not rely on things being in the supermarket. You could say we're used to prepping."And, he said, they had already seen one system collapse. "You learn how to read between the lines. It's an advantage."Through 2016, as hundreds of thousands more migrants arrived in Germany and a number of Islamist terrorist attacks took place in Europe, the planning got more serious.Gross and other Nordkreuz members traveled in the fall to an arms fair in Nuremberg and met Schmitt, the special forces soldier running the nationwide chat network, in person.Members of the group learned how to rappel down the tower of a disused fire station. Two pickup points were designated as Day X meeting spots. Two fully functioning operating theaters were built as makeshift field hospitals, in a basement and a mobile home."The scenario was that something bad would happen," Gross told me. "We asked ourselves, what did we want to prepare for? And we decided that if we were going to do this, we would go all the way."Body Bags and QuicklimeThe question investigators are now scrutinizing is what did it mean to "go all the way."Gross insisted to me that the group was only prepping for what they saw as the day that the social order would collapse, for Day X. He said they never planned any murders, or intended to cause any harm.But at least one member of the group portrays a more ominous story."People were to be gathered and murdered," Horst Schelski told investigators in 2017, according to transcripts of his statement shared with The New York Times.Schelski is a former air force officer whose account is disputed by the others. It pivots on a meeting he said took place at the end of 2016 at a highway truck stop in Sternberg, a small town about 40 minutes west of the shooting range the men frequented.There, at a coffee stand that today resembles little more than a shed facing a bleak parking lot, Gross met with a handful of other men, in what had become a concentrated cell within Nordkreuz.Among the others present were two men now under investigation on suspicion of plotting terrorism. Under German law, they cannot be fully named. One was Haik J., who like Gross was a police officer. Another was a lawyer and local politician, Jan Henrik H. Both declined to speak with me.Jan Henrik H. was described by other members as particularly fervent and hateful. On his birthdays, he held a shooting contest on a field behind his house in Rostock, a nearby city on Germany's northern coast, Nordkreuz members recalled.The winner got a trophy named for Mehmet Turgut, a Turkish street vendor killed in Rostock in 2004 by the National Socialist Underground, a far-right terrorist group.Gross was the most recent winner.Schelski told the police that Jan Henrik H. kept a thick binder in his garage with the names, addresses and photos of local politicians and activists whom he considered to be political enemies. Some had sought to help refugees by seeking real estate to turn into shelters.Much in the file came from publicly available sources. But there were also handwritten notes with information obtained from a police computer.As they drank coffee at the truck stop, Jan Henrik H. turned the conversation to "the people in the file," who he said were "harmful" to the state and needed to be "done away with," Schelski later told the police.Jan Henrik H. wanted advice on how best to transport their captives once they had been rounded up. He asked Schelski, a major in the state reservist unit, how they could get them past any checkpoints that might be created in a time of unrest. Would uniforms help? Army trucks?After that meeting, Schelski told the police, he distanced himself from the group.By then, the intelligence service was already watching. Some eight months after the truck stop meeting, the authorities conducted the first in a series of raids on the homes of several Nordkreuz members.Over two years, the raids and intelligence work uncovered weapons, ammunition, enemy lists, and a handwritten order list for Day X that included the body bags and quicklime.I asked Gross about the body bags. He told me they were "multipurpose vessels," usable as cheap waterproof sleeping bag covers or for transporting large items.The disclosure that the group had identified political enemies has rattled Bohringer, the local politician. In 2015, two police officers came to sketch his house after he started receiving death threats."We want to know where you can get in, where you sleep, so that we can protect you," they told him.He said he wasn't too concerned. But in June 2018, Bohringer was called to the police station. The homes of two Nordkreuz members had recently been raided, one of them a police officer based in his hometown: Haik J., who had been at the truck stop meeting."They showed me a handmade sketch of my home," Bohringer said. "'Do you recognize this?' they had asked.""It was the exact same sketch that those officers had made in my home," he said."I had to swallow pretty hard," he recalled. "The very people who said they wanted to protect me then passed this on to people who wanted to harm me.""They didn't just want to survive Day X, they wanted to kill their enemies," he said. "It was concrete, what they were planning."Meeting With MarkoThe first time I knocked on Gross' door, in the village of Banzkow, about an hour's drive from the shooting range, we ended up talking outside for two hours.The second time, it started raining and he invited me into his red brick farmhouse on "Liberation Street," named for Germany's liberation from the Nazis at the end of World War II.In the hallway his old military badge and uniform were on display. A large map of Germany in 1937 dominated the wall. Images of guns were ubiquitous. On refrigerator magnets. On mugs. On a calendar.It was the same home that the police had raided years earlier, in August 2017, and found more than two dozen weapons and 23,800 rounds of ammunition, some of it stolen from police and military stockpiles.Another police raid in June 2019 uncovered another 31,500 rounds of ammunition and an Uzi submachine gun. This time they arrested him.In court, it took prosecutors almost 45 minutes to read the list of cartridges, guns, explosives and knives they had found. He was only charged with illegal weapons possession. In the ongoing terrorism investigation he is a witness, not a suspect."It's pretty astounding," said Lorenz Caffier, the state's interior minister, who used to shake Gross' hand at the annual special forces workshop in Gustrow. "Someone who hoards that much ammunition at home, is close to far-right tendencies and also makes extremist comments in chats is no harmless prepper.""Marko G. has a key role," he said.Prosecutors have traced the illegal ammunition in Gross home to a dozen police and military depots across the country, indicating possible collaborators. Several of the units shot in Gustrow."We don't know how it got from there to him," said Claudia Lange, a prosecutor.Three other police officers are being investigated on suspicion of helping Gross. Asked during the trial, Gross said he did not remember how he got the ammunition. When I met him, he stuck to that line.But otherwise he was not shy about sharing his views.Chancellor Angela Merkel belongs "in the dock," he said. The multicultural cities in western Germany are "the caliphate." The best way to escape creeping migration was to move to the East German countryside, "where people are still called Schmidt, Schneider and Muller."A copy of Compact, a prominent far-right magazine, with President Donald Trump's face on the cover, lay on a shelf. A selection of the president's speeches had been translated into German in the issue. "I like Trump," Gross said.As far back as 2009, some fellow police officers had voiced concerns about Gross' far-right views, noting that he had brought books about the Nazis to work. But no one intervened, and he was even groomed for promotion."There is no danger from the far right," he insisted. "I don't know a single neo-Nazi."Soldiers and police officers are "frustrated," he told me the third time we met, ticking off complaints about migrants, crime and the mainstream media. He likens the coverage of coronavirus to the censored state broadcaster during communism. Instead, he says, he has a YouTube subscription to RT, the Russian state-controlled channel and other alternative media.In that parallel universe of disinformation, he learns that the government is secretly flying in refugees after midnight. That coronavirus is a ploy to deprive citizens of their rights. That Merkel works for what he calls the "deep state.""The deep state is global," Gross said. "It's big capital, the big banks, Bill Gates."He still expects Day X, sooner or later. Riots linked to an economic meltdown. Or a blackout, because the German government is shuttering coal plants.Nordkreuz members never told me, nor the authorities, the location of the disused vacation village that was their safe house for Day X.The safe house is still active, said Gross, who at the height of Nordkreuz's planning had boasted to a fellow member that his network contained 2,000 like-minded people in Germany and beyond."The network is still there," he said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

    Sun, 02 Aug 2020 11:53:10 -0400
  • Tammy Duckworth Is Nothing and Everything Like Joe Biden news

    Sen. Tammy Duckworth, like the man she might serve as vice president, prizes loyalty in her ranks and occasional mischief in her workplace.So when a top communications aide prepared to defect last year to the presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg, Duckworth recognized an opportunity. She recorded a faux media interview trashing Buttigieg for hiring her staff away, recruiting an intern to pose as a journalist on the tape. The file was sent to the departing aide, Sean Savett, who called the Buttigieg team in a panic.Soon, Savett was summoned to the Illinois senator's office, where she fumed theatrically, stalling as other staff members filed in quietly for the reveal: It was all a ruse. Duckworth handed him a parting gift -- a Smirnoff Ice, the centerpiece of a viral drinking game known as "icing" -- and gave a final senatorial directive: "Get down on one knee and chug."A year later, Duckworth is the one thinking about a new job and submitting to the attendant rituals. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is vetting her to be his running mate, and many of his allies see the freshman senator as a model contrast to President Donald Trump: a death-cheating, double-amputee Iraq War veteran whose life story -- whose very appearance, whooshing by wheelchair through the Capitol -- defines the decency and service that the president's opponents have found lacking in this White House.There are more accomplished legislators than Duckworth under consideration. There are more prolific policy thinkers and more electric campaigners.But in bearing and biography, Duckworth, 52, is almost certainly the Biden-est choice -- the would-be lieutenant who has, despite their disparate backgrounds, carved out a public life most evocative of his own. Although both are known as reliable Democrats whose more moderate instincts can sometimes disappoint progressives, they are also the kinds of politicians whose politics can feel beside the point to many voters.Like Biden, who entered the national consciousness as a 30-year-old senator-elect left to mourn his wife and daughter, Duckworth has forged a political identity around trauma and personal resilience, her status as a wounded warrior shadowing every inch of her professional arc since her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down outside Baghdad in 2004.In an interview, Duckworth suggested the two share a perspective that can flow only from confronting unfathomable pain, from sitting with loss and slogging through Plan B anyway."Why did some troops come home from a trauma and survive and thrive? And why do some come home and kill themselves?" Duckworth asked, without answering. "You could almost say that I'm a success story of someone who survived a trauma. But it wasn't easy. And I think that's what Vice President Biden and I have in common. We've been able to face the demons. We've been able to face the fear, the doubts and all of that, and we're still here. But we both know that it's not easy."Less weighty parallels, in style and political substance, likewise imply an intuitive partnership.Like Biden -- whose decades of verbal blunders have not kept him from six Senate terms, the vice presidency and the Democratic presidential nomination -- Duckworth can at times sound less than smooth at a microphone but has rarely paid much of a penalty for it. Past rivals said this owes, in part, to the campaign perils of insulting someone so visibly marked as a survivor of war. Most recently, after Duckworth suggested clumsily that removing monuments of George Washington merited discussion, attacks on her patriotism from conservatives like Tucker Carlson seemed to only boost her reputation among Democrats.And ideologically, Duckworth would appear closely attuned to Biden. She has spent much of her career positioned to the right of liberal Democrats, retaining some centrist muscle memory from her unsuccessful first congressional race in 2006 -- when she pledged fiscal conservatism and punishments for "illegal immigrants" -- and occasionally leading Republicans to wonder if they are looking at a kindred soul."I had a chance to develop a friendship with Tammy about 15 years ago while we were both out at Walter Reed," Bob Dole, the former Republican senator and presidential nominee, said in an emailed statement, recalling his time as a patient at the veterans hospital during Duckworth's stay there. "In hindsight, I wish I had brought up politics. She could have run as a Republican."Yet Duckworth's is a worldview that has long defied easy labeling. She is at once the product of a globe-trotting conservative military family sustained by food stamps in her youth and a soldier who gave her limbs to a war whose wisdom she came to question. She is a woman well acquainted with male-dominated worlds -- fellow pilots called her "Mommy Platoon Leader" long before she became the first sitting senator to give birth, at age 50 -- and a canny politician whose connections helped guide her to the upper reaches of her party.Those close to Duckworth still describe her present career as something of a consolation prize. Plan A was flying helicopters, and she did not surrender the vision easily.Recovering in 2005, Duckworth vowed that "some guy who got lucky one day in Baghdad" would not dictate her future.Nine years later, concluding her first congressional term, she reconsidered."I mean, it did," she conceded to a reporter. "I'm in politics."Plan A: Flying HelicoptersThe campus misogynist was enjoying his soapbox. Duckworth wanted to keep it that way.It was the early 1990s at Northern Illinois University, where Duckworth was pursuing a doctorate in political science, and a traveling evangelist had been lamenting the evils of skirt-wearing women in a public square."I came in and said, 'I wish somebody would shut that guy up,'" recalled Patricia Henry, one of Duckworth's professors. "She said, 'No, no, no. You can't do that.'"Friends said such earnest alarm over would-be speech infringement reflects Duckworth's itinerant youth across Southeast Asia, which often exposed her to repressive governments and introduced her to the tenets of U.S. democracy through the rose-colored lens of a child expat.Born in Bangkok to a white American veteran father and a Thai mother of Chinese descent, Duckworth did not learn English until she was 8. (Some Democrats suspect that the president and his allies would make an issue of her birthplace if Biden chooses her, recalling Trump questioning the presidential eligibility of Sen. Ted Cruz, another U.S. citizen born outside the country, when the two competed for the Republican nomination in 2016.)Some of Duckworth's earliest memories involve the Khmer Rouge seizing control of Cambodia, where her father was working for the United Nations. She remembers watching bombs go off in Phnom Penh from their rooftop. Her upbringing, she said, gave her "an idealized version of America."More than that, these seminomadic years seemed to enforce a certain comfort level with short-notice upheaval."There's a built-in flexibility with children who've grown up as expats," said Alison Parsons, a close friend who attended school with Duckworth in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Bangkok. "You have to be able to reinvent yourself. I'm not talking about flip-flopping, but you have to be able to make friends, to make connections on a dime."Facing financial distress, Duckworth's father moved the family to Hawaii in her teens, finding space in a down-market hotel and leaning on public assistance.Imagining a life in the foreign service, she graduated from the University of Hawaii before moving to the mainland for an international affairs program at George Washington University. She held up Madeleine Albright as a role model.But while in school, Duckworth joined the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps, partly because she noticed that many of her friends had military backgrounds.She found herself taken with the ostensible meritocracy, she said, that allowed a "little Asian girl" to rise so long as she could shoot straight, even as one fellow cadet, Bryan Bowlsbey, tested her nerves."He made a comment that I thought was derogatory about the role of women in the Army," she told C-SPAN years later. "But he came over and apologized very nicely and then helped me clean my M16."They have been married since 1993. Bowlsbey now works as an information technology consultant.Although Duckworth moved to Illinois to pursue a doctorate, she went through flight school and entered the Illinois National Guard in 1996.Before her deployment eight years later, Duckworth had been working at Rotary International, helping to manage offices in its Asia-Pacific region. When the Guard sought out commissioned officers for a mission to Iraq, she volunteered, arriving in March 2004. (Duckworth has said she always believed the Bush administration "started this war for themselves," but as a soldier, "you keep your personal opinions to yourself.")Duckworth spent much of her time there inside an operations center, coordinating missions. She flew herself about twice a week.Her last waking day in Iraq, Nov. 12, 2004, began unremarkably. Duckworth's crew was conducting "taxi service," in her telling: shuttling people and supplies, with a stop at a base in Baghdad to acquire Christmas ornaments.She had been at the controls all day. A colleague, Dan Milberg, playfully called her a "stick pig," requesting to take the lead on a final flight. She obliged.They were about 10 minutes from their destination when an explosion scorched through the right side of the cockpit, where Duckworth sat.A rocket-propelled grenade. A fireball blast at her lower body.She does not remember feeling pain immediately. She does remember the black smoke -- and an aircraft suddenly impervious to her prompts. By this point, Duckworth learned later, she had no feet.Milberg was able to land on a plot of open woods. Duckworth, on the cusp of losing consciousness, has retained a snapshot from the haze of her rescue: a cluster of tall grass poking through the base of the Black Hawk. She wondered how it had gotten there.Plan B: PoliticsDuckworth awoke more than a week later at Walter Reed. Her legs were gone.The next days passed in a whir of continuous trauma: surgeries, hallucinations from morphine, flashes of guilt that she had somehow crashed herself.Duckworth's mother and her husband took turns counting to 60 at her side, guiding her from one minute to the next. And soon, there was another patient on the hospital grounds: Her father, who had suffered a heart attack in Hawaii shortly before his daughter's injuries, had another after traveling to see her. He died a few weeks after Christmas.Around the same time, a new mentor figure entered Duckworth's life. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., had been looking for local veterans to invite to President George W. Bush's State of the Union address. Duckworth attended with an IV drip running beneath her clothes.The senator asked her to stay in touch. "I gave her my personal cellphone number," he remembered, "which she greatly abused by calling me -- I say that in jest, of course -- by calling me incessantly to do constituent work for all of her fellow vets at Walter Reed."The rehab process was painful and often slow-going. Her left leg was amputated below the knee. Her right was an inches-long stump that Duckworth had asked doctors to leave, despite the complications of fitting a prosthetic to it, because she believed it would help her fly again.It was not until later that year, she said, that a call from Durbin made her consider an alternate path. There was a congressional seat coming open in the Chicago suburbs with the retirement of a long-tenured Republican, Henry Hyde."I said, 'Tammy, would you ever consider running?'" Durbin recalled. "She didn't say no."By the summer, with a full return to combat looking remote, Duckworth had been casting about for her next "mission," she said. A campaign seemed as good an option as any.The transition was not frictionless. Like many first-time candidates, Duckworth could be tempted to act as her own campaign manager, former advisers said, seeking to impose military efficiency on overlong phone calls. Unlike many first-time candidates, she was still learning to walk in her new legs.One focus group of Democratic primary voters bristled when Duckworth wore a skirt, saying that the prominence of her prosthetics felt like the calculating work of operatives."There was a big negative reaction," said John Kupper, an adviser to the campaign. "They thought they were being manipulated." (Duckworth has said she prefers skirts because they make bathroom visits less logistically complicated.)Her military background was more of an asset in the general election for a right-leaning district. She remarked to voters that she had been shot down "18 months after the mission was accomplished," nodding at the Bush administration's infamous premature victory lap.She patiently identified herself in calls to would-be donors, who often interrupted her health care pitch with questions about her life."Yes," she would tell them, "I'm the one who was injured."Duckworth would ultimately lose, narrowly, to Peter Roskam, a local Republican legislator. But the contest drew national attention and enshrined Duckworth as a potential star in the party.Rod Blagojevich, the not-yet-jailed governor of Illinois, appointed her to lead the state's veterans department. Her name was floated as a possible Senate replacement as Barack Obama chased the presidency.And at the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver, Duckworth was invited to speak in prime time on the night Biden accepted the vice presidential nomination. She joined the Biden family backstage beforehand, convening "soldier to soldier" with Beau Biden, she recalled, just shy of his own deployment."It was a family moment," she said, "and they allowed me to join."The speech seemed to erase any doubt that Duckworth was a politician now -- or, at least, that she would be again before long. After joining the Obama administration in 2009 as an assistant secretary for Veterans Affairs, she took notice as a favorable district redrawing supplied a cleaner shot at a House seat.When Duckworth decided to run again, in 2012, she was the one picking up the phone."There are some candidates you have to recruit," said Steve Israel, then the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "She called me."The Plan From Here on OutDuckworth's years in Congress since then -- four in the House, nearly four in the Senate -- have done little to eclipse the central facts of her biography.Perhaps this was inevitable. Major policy feats can be elusive in the minority party. Voters who know much about Duckworth nationally seem likelier to recall her path to Washington than her work while there. Since defeating Mark Kirk, the incumbent Republican senator, in 2016, she has probably received the most attention for another personal turn: bringing her newborn to a Senate vote, a first for the chamber.Colleagues praise Duckworth as a forceful advocate for veterans and people with disabilities but sometimes struggle to name her signature legislative triumphs.She is not considered a foremost national voice in some policy areas of particular significance in this moment, like policing and the economy -- a potential weakness in her case to be vice president.Duckworth has generally opposed the legislative priorities and high-profile nominations of this White House, with a handful of exceptions, including a vote supporting Wilbur Ross for commerce secretary, which a majority of Democrats opposed, and another for John Kelly as homeland security secretary.Trump has signed into law legislation that Duckworth pushed involving veteran entrepreneurship and expanded access to lactation rooms in airports. Her office is quick to cite an analysis last year identifying her as the most effective freshman Democratic senator.Some peers said she has been especially valuable during private sessions on foreign policy. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and a fellow member of the Armed Services Committee, recalled Duckworth's lacerating questions recently at a classified briefing about intelligence community assessments of apparent Russian bounties on U.S. troops."She was pummeling them," Blumenthal said.Among staff, Duckworth can be more puckish, known to celebrate "Talk Like a Pirate Day" and razz communications aides by suggesting that she has just uttered something damaging to congressional reporters: "Don't really know what I said," she has bluffed upon returning to the office. "You might want to track them down."It is true, though, that Duckworth can seem less practiced than some other senators when speaking to the press, mixing self-deprecation with political self-assessments that might dishearten the left.In the interview, Duckworth by turns explained why the vetting process had been uncomplicated ("I was a soldier for 23 years, and I don't have a lot of money"); said she remained a fiscal conservative (with an aside about wasteful defense contracts); and appeared to acknowledge that her coordinates on the ideological spectrum were difficult to track."People talk to me, and they're like, 'So, are you lefty, or are you ultraconservative and a hawk?'" she said. "I'm like, 'I'm just about the strength of America.'"Duckworth is not the sort of senator who had been discussed as an instant presidential hopeful, like Kamala Harris, another freshman. Many Democrats believe that vice presidential contenders with more experience in a national race, like Harris or Sen. Elizabeth Warren, would be wiser picks.Yet in recent weeks, Duckworth said, she has been compelled to consider a life one septuagenarian's heartbeat away from the presidency -- and whether she might be ready for the highest promotion, if required.She defaulted to military imagery ("Every soldier is taught to be able to pick up the rifle of a fallen comrade in front of them") and ticked through her credentials, sounding for the first time like a job applicant: Senate, House, VA, doctorate, speaker of "a bunch of languages."And then Duckworth cut herself off, abandoning the hypothetical with a promise: "I'm going to do everything I can to keep Joe Biden as healthy as he can possibly be."She let a long laugh fly, imagining her place in the command."I'll be the one like, 'Here, here, take your vitamins,'" she said. "'Let's go work out together.'"This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

    Sun, 02 Aug 2020 11:46:54 -0400
  • Protests in the long term: How is a lasting legacy cemented? news

    What sort of staying power does it take for a protest movement to be judged a success? This year, without a centralized team of senior leaders, perhaps the largest protest movement in U.S. history has been unfolding nationwide since the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. “It’s important to see the changes over time and not be discouraged,” says Beth Robinson, a history professor at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

    Sun, 02 Aug 2020 11:30:03 -0400
  • Protests in the long term: How is a lasting legacy cemented? news

    What sort of staying power does it take for a protest movement to be judged a success? This year, without a centralized team of senior leaders, perhaps the largest protest movement in U.S. history has been unfolding nationwide since the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. “It’s important to see the changes over time and not be discouraged,” says Beth Robinson, a history professor at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

    Sun, 02 Aug 2020 11:26:08 -0400
  • In Trumpworld, the Grown-Ups in the Room All Left, and Got Book Deals news

    It was the summer of 2016, and the Republican Party was about to nominate Donald Trump for president. Until then, many party members had aggressively opposed his candidacy. "I think he's crazy," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said earlier that year. "I think he's unfit for office."But faced with the inevitable reality of Trump, the party was forced to perform what the British tabloids call a "reverse-ferret" -- a messaging U-turn in which you abruptly take the opposite position of the one you espoused a moment earlier.Contrary to what they said before, Republicans announced, Trump was totally suited for the presidency. He would rise to the occasion. Being president would render him, tautologically, presidential. In any case, at least he would be surrounded by adults who would steer him in the right direction."It began to dawn on me," Anthony Scaramucci, who went on to (briefly) work in the Trump White House, wrote of hearing about the then-candidate's tax proposals. "Donald J. Trump wasn't the extreme, unhinged, unserious candidate that I thought he was."Scaramucci spent just 11 days as the White House communications director in 2017 before being unceremoniously removed, a victim of his own operatic ineptitude as well as the dysfunction of the White House. He now regrets the error, as he sees it, of ever having admired Trump. "The guy stinks," he said recently.As it happens, Scaramucci wrote a book about his brief, unhappy White House experience, joining a large club of Trump administration evictees who have turned their bracingly bad experiences into a new genre of political revenge literature. These include James Comey, former FBI director; Omarosa Manigault Newman, former assistant to the president; Andrew McCabe, former deputy FBI director; John Bolton, former national security adviser; Cliff Sims, former White House communications aide; and Anonymous, current senior figure, at least by his or her own account, in the Trump administration.Taken en masse, the books paint a damning portrait of the 45th president of the United States. But the sheer volume of unflattering material they contain can have the paradoxical danger of blunting their collective impact. After the 10th time you read about Trump's short attention span, your own attention is in danger of wandering."There is only so much the public can absorb," Anonymous writes in "A Warning."There are even more memoirs scheduled for the fall: one by Michael Cohen, the president's disgraced ex-personal lawyer, which federal officials tried to block but then said could proceed, and another by H.R. McMaster, who was Trump's second national security adviser and is no fan of the president.But at this point, nearly four years in, is there anything left to say about Trump that might surprise us? Or, as McCabe writes in "The Threat": "What more could a person do to erode the credibility of the presidency?"Reading all these books, one after the other, is like swimming for days in a greasy, brackish canal whose bottom is teeming with shards of broken-down old industrial equipment. The experience is not pleasant, you might hurt yourself, and it leaves you covered in grime. The picture they paint of their protagonist -- Trump -- is so outrageous that if they were fiction they would be dismissed as too broad, too much of a caricature.As different as the authors are, the books share a number of common observations about the president. And so, with the Republican Party set to renominate him this month, here is a reminder of what sort of leader Trump has turned out to be, according to his growing band of disgruntled former employees.Trump vs. his employeesTrump is universally presented in the memoirs as a flamboyantly mean and intemperately indiscreet boss, wrong-footing and humiliating Cabinet members and aides with constant criticism, sometimes to their faces, sometimes behind their backs.The president dismisses Jim Mattis, his first secretary of defense as "a liberal Democrat," yells at him in meetings and notes that "I never really liked him." ("I felt sorry for Mattis, not to mention the country as a whole," Bolton writes.)He derides Kirstjen Nielsen, his second secretary of Homeland Security as ineffectual and "not mentally able" to handle her job and then, in a fit of pique, futilely attempts to reassign her responsibilities first to Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, and then to Bolton.He muses aloud on multiple occasions about dumping Vice President Mike Pence from the ticket in 2020 and replacing him with Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador. "Did we make a mistake with Gina?" he asks, referring to his decision to make Gina Haspel director of the CIA."Rex was terrible," he says about Rex Tillerson, his original secretary of state. "What good is he?" he asks rhetorically about Steven Mnuchin, his Treasury secretary. "I thought we had the right guy at Treasury. But now I don't know."He yells at his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, when Navarro attempts to show him a complicated chart outlining a policy point. ("I have no idea what I'm even looking at," the president snaps.) He tells Kushner in meetings: "Jared, you don't know what you're talking about." He mocks his original chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, as a "globalist," elongating the "O" in a sneering tone, as if the word were akin to "antifa member."Just as the president uses derisive nicknames for his political enemies, so he does for his own subordinates. He mocks Jeff Sessions his first attorney general, as "Benjamin Button." He calls Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, "Ditzy DeVos." "This place is really taking a toll on Kellyanne," he says of Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, implying that she looks tired and worn out.The president and the truthThe Trump administration surged into life with a whomping great Trumpian untruth: that Trump's inauguration crowd was the largest in history. Even Spicer did not believe it, though he had to pretend otherwise."It was hard to keep a straight face as Sean proceeded to lie to the American people," Manigault Newman writes.All the memoirists present Trump as supremely untrustworthy. He is "a deliberate liar, someone who will say whatever he pleased to get whatever he wishes," McCabe writes. "People who've known him for years accept it as common knowledge," Anonymous writes.Sometimes Trump asserts one thing and then, a few minutes later, just the opposite.On other occasions, he conjures pieces of misinformation designed to bolster his thesis, as when he insisted that "3 to 5 million people" voted illegally in the 2016 election. He has a habit of plucking figures from thin air -- first $20 billion, for instance, then $38 billion, to drive home his point about trade deficits in a meeting with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea -- regardless of the numbers' relationship to fact.The memoirists have different ways of dealing with all this presidential slipperiness. Comey and McCabe start keeping detailed logs of their encounters with the president, the way you would if you had an unstable spouse and wanted to catalog his erratic behavior for use in future divorce proceedings.Too bad, is the apparent view of Reince Priebus, the original chief of staff."The directive came down from Reince," Manigault Newman writes, "that our default position was to back up whatever the president said or tweeted, regardless of its accuracy."How to describe the experienceStriving for new ways to characterize the head-spinning unreality of the Trump White House, the authors of the memoirs turn to a variety of vivid figures of speech.Spicer: "I sometimes felt like a scuba diver, abandoned in the middle of the ocean, treading water."Comey: "The demand was like Sammy the Bull's Cosa Nostra induction ceremony -- with Trump, in the role of the family boss, asking me if I have what it takes to be a 'made man.'"Manigault Newman: "The selection process for his cabinet was like an episode of 'The Bachelor.'"Bolton: "It was like making and executing policy inside a pinball machine."Anonymous: Working for Trump was like "showing up at the nursing home at daybreak to find your elderly uncle running pantsless across the courtyard and cursing loudly about the cafeteria food."Trump as instigatorTo read these books is to read of a chaotic, paranoiac workplace, where the boss delights in fomenting discord and instability among the employees.He encourages them to keep tabs on one another. "Give me their names," he tells Sims, wielding a Sharpie and a White House note card, vowing to rid the White House of nonloyalists.He praises their rivals. "Keith Kellogg knows all about NATO," the president says airily to Bolton, speaking with ominous intent of Pence's national security adviser. "He never offers his opinions unless I ask.""As Pompeo and I reflected later, this statement told us exactly who my likely replacement would be if I resigned soon," Bolton writes. "I said, 'Of course, if you resign, maybe Keith would be Secretary of State.'" To which Pompeo responds: "Or, if we both resign, Keith could become Henry Kissinger and have both jobs.'")The president's verbal styleTrump likes to talk, the memoirists agree, and he does not like to listen.He meanders from topic to topic, loops back around, adds new topics, repeats himself, boasts, mixes facts with fake facts, throws in his latest obsession, continuing on and on according to some labyrinthine stream-of-consciousness impulse in which whatever is on his mind is worthy of public utterance. He does this in rallies and at campaign events; he also does it in briefings, in one-on-one conversations and at policy meetings."I don't use the word 'conversation' because the term doesn't apply when one person speaks nearly the entire time," Comey writes of the experience.The presidential attention spanIt is true that Trump successfully repeated the words "person, woman, man, camera, TV" on television in an effort to demonstrate the superiority of his mental acuity, but it is also true, the books argue, that he rarely reads, gets bored easily, is irritable and distracted, has trouble remembering complicated things, has no intellectual curiosity and is ignorant not just about his job but about things generally considered common knowledge.With his short attention span, he is averse to learning anything at briefings if he finds the information difficult to follow, boring, or in contravention of what he already thinks. Staff members are told to stick to a single point and repeat it often, and to boil complex proposals down to a single page -- or, better, a single paragraph. They are told not to present Trump with too-long briefing papers, lest he shout at them, or with too many slides, lest his eyes glaze over."Any time somebody new came in to brief him, he'd get angry and say, "Who's that guy? What's he want?" Manigault Newman writes.The presidential scheduleThe president keeps unconventional office hours, is often late to meetings and events and watches a lot of TV."At 9:35 I called Trump, who was as usual still in the residence," Bolton writes."He often doesn't start the day in the Oval Office until 10 or 11 a.m.," Anonymous writes. He is "channel-surfing his way through the presidency.""His official schedule was more of a loose outline than a strict regimen," Sims writes.The presidential egoIn "Too Much and Never Enough," Mary Trump describes her uncle as "a savant of self-promotion" with a "delusional belief in his own brilliance and superiority" stemming from a bottomless insecurity that needs to be assuaged with a constant stream of ego-boosting compliments.That is why the president often asserts that he is the best at everything."It was the most presidential act in decades," he says, after he directs the Pentagon to bomb Iran and then calls it off at the last minute. (Bolton has a different take: "In my government experience, this was the most irrational thing I ever witnessed any president do." )"They say I might be the world's greatest brander," he says to Sims, before unveiling his marketing idea for his tax-cut plan: calling the legislation the "Cutting Cutting Cutting Bill" (it ended up being called something else).Several memoirists describe how Trump, to soothe a wounded psyche bruised by his failure to win the popular vote in 2016, continually invited visitors to admire posters illustrating how he had won the election anyway."Trump kept big charts in his private dining room, in his den, in his study, that showed the electoral map color coded in red and blue," Manigault Newman writes. "When anyone walked in, he'd point to the chart and talk about the election results."Anonymous was familiar with the maps, as well. "Trump carried around maps outlining his electoral victory, which he would pull out at odd times," he writes. "He would beckon guests, as well as aides, advisers and incoming cabinet officers, to gaze at the sea of red on the map."Does Trump use a tanning bed?"His face appeared slightly orange, with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles," Comey writes.Manigault Newman mentions the tanning-adjacent chatter around the abrupt firing of Angella Reid, chief usher of the White House, several months into Trump's administration."Allegedly, Trump didn't approve of her handling of his tanning bed," she says. "I'd heard he was unhappy with her efforts to procure the bed, to bring it into the East Wing securely, to find a discreet place for it, and to set it up properly."Aides on the president's conductThe memoirs paint a picture of the West Wing as a place of baroque workplace dysfunction, where workers gather to trade "Guess what he did now" stories about their boss and to save him (and themselves, and the country) from his worst impulses.And so, in "A Warning," Anonymous writes that Cabinet-level administration officials contemplated "a midnight self-massacre," which would entail "resigning en masse to call attention to Trump's misconduct and erratic leadership."Many staffers are perpetually on the brink of quitting, keeping resignation letters on hand should the time come. And if his colleagues hate working for the Trump administration, John Kelly, the president's second chief of staff, apparently hates it the most."This is the worst" (insert expletive here) "job I've ever had," Kelly tells Sims."You can't imagine how desperate I am to get out of here," he tells Bolton. "This is a very bad place to work."Things Bolton claims people said to himA striking aspect of "The Room Where it Happened" is how frequently Cabinet-level officials confide incredulously in Bolton about the president's irrationality and narcissism, as if they and the former national security adviser formed a gang of rebellious high school students, quietly plotting resistance against the incompetent autocrats running the school."As McGahn often whispered to me," Bolton writes, speaking of Donald McGahn, who served for a while as White House counsel, "This is not the Bush Administration.""Has there ever been a presidency like this?" Kelly asks Bolton, mentioning that the president has just said, apropos of nothing, that it would be "cool" to invade Venezuela. ("I assured him there had not," Bolton responds.)"This is getting pretty silly," Mattis says to Bolton as the men listen to Trump rail at Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, about how America's allies mock it behind its back because it pays too much in annual dues.As for Pompeo, Bolton describes how the secretary of state passed him a snarky anti-Trump note in the middle of the president's summit with Kim Jong Un of North Korea in 2018. And he describes how, after listening to the president yell at Nielsen about border security in a particularly fruitless meeting, Pompeo whispers to Bolton: "Why are we still here?"Leaving Trump's orbit"What Donald can do in order to offset the powerlessness and rage he feels is punish the rest of us," Mary Trump writes.This is clear by the way he behaves when he has fired someone or they have quit, frequent occurrences in an administration with such a high turnover. After he fires Comey, the FBI director, while he is in California, for instance, Trump is incensed to learn that Comey has returned to Washington on the same government plane that he traveled out on."That's not right! I didn't approve of that!" he rants to McCabe. Then he decrees that Comey should never be allowed to enter the FBI headquarters again, not even to clean out his desk. "I'm banning him from the building," the president says.After Mattis resigns as defense secretary, Anonymous writes, the wounded president throws "a temper tantrum," insists that Mattis leave the job immediately, before his successor has been named, and then falsely claims that in fact he fired Mattis, rather than the other way around.How the Trump administration said 'you're fired'Comey: Saw the news reported on TV in the back of the auditorium while he was in the middle of making a speech in California.McCabe: Saw the news on TV, followed by a presidential tweet: "Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI."Manigault Newman: Called into the Situation Room before the 2017 White House Christmas Party, was informed by Kelly that "there are significant integrity violations related to you," and was not allowed to leave until the stress of the encounter triggered an asthma attack and she went home.Sims: Submitted his resignation after being told by Kelly: "In the past 40 years, I don't think I've ever had a subordinate whose reputation is worse than yours."Priebus: Idling in the presidential motorcade after a trip to New York on the day after he had submitted his resignation, learned that his removal was effective immediately when he read on Twitter that Kelly was replacing him. The motorcade went on to the White House; his car peeled away and drove off into oblivion.Trump on the authorsComey: "A weak and untruthful slime ball"McCabe: "A major sleazebag."Manigault Newman: "Vicious, but not smart."Mary Trump: "A seldom seen niece who knows little about me, says untruthful things about my wonderful parents (who couldn't stand her!) and me, and violated her NDA. ... She's a mess!"Sims: "A low level staffer that I hardly knew. ... He is a mess!"Bolton: A "sick puppy."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

    Sun, 02 Aug 2020 11:23:34 -0400
  • Iran arrests leader of militant California-based opposition group news

    Iran says it has detained the leader of a California-based militant group that is accused of being behind a deadly attack on a mosque in 2008. Iran’s intelligence ministry claims Jamshid Sharmahd is the head of “Tondor”, the militant wing of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, an opposition monarchist group based in the US. It is not clear how the California-based 65 year old, who Iran claims directed armed and terrorist acts in Iran from the US, was arrested. The 2008 bombing killed 14 people and wounded more than 200. The intelligence ministry called his arrest a “complex operation” without elaborating further. They later published a photo on their website of a blindfolded man they say is Mr Sharmahd. The US State Department said that Mr Shamahd had previously been targeted for assassination. The alleged Iranian government operative who was said to have hired a hit man to kill Mr Sharmahd was due to face trial in California but disappeared in 2010, likely having returned to Iran.

    Sun, 02 Aug 2020 10:55:02 -0400
  • Marines halt search for 8 missing troops, all presumed dead news

    Eight troops missing after their landing craft sank off the Southern California coast during a training exercise are presumed dead, the Marine Corps announced Sunday. The Marines said they had called off the search that started late Thursday afternoon when the amphibious assault vehicle sank with 15 Marines and one Navy sailor aboard.

    Sun, 02 Aug 2020 10:54:05 -0400
  • El Paso marks Walmart shooting anniversary amid pandemic

    No description related. Click here to go to original article.

    Sun, 02 Aug 2020 10:21:23 -0400
  • South Africa hits 500,000 infections but president hopeful news

    South Africa has surpassed 500,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, but President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday he sees “promising signs” that the rapid growth of cases has stabilized and that the country's strained health system is managing to cope. Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize announced 10,107 new cases Saturday night, bringing the country’s cumulative total to 503,290, including 8,153 deaths. With a population of about 58 million, South Africa has the fifth-highest number of cases in the world, behind the U.S., Brazil, Russia and India, all countries with significantly higher populations, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

    Sun, 02 Aug 2020 09:14:16 -0400
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