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Taliban say frustrated by additional demands of US

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 08:08

The Taliban, in a rambling commentary published on their website, expressed frustration with what they describe as additional U.S. demands in peace talks — even after they had offered a “reduction of violence.” They have not publicly outlined what that would entail and did not explain the new Washington demands. The insurgents' gesture of reduced violence, though never quantified, was meant to open a window for the signing of a peace agreement that could see the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the end to the 18-year war in Afghanistan, America's longest conflict. “The United States and the Afghan Taliban must commit to abide by the laws of war and end all attacks on Afghan civilians,” he added.


More airports screening passengers amid China virus outbreak

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 07:32

More airports are beginning to screen passengers arriving from China amid growing concerns Friday over the outbreak of a new virus there that has already killed more than two dozen people and sickened hundreds. The energy-rich Gulf Arab nation of Qatar, home to long-haul carrier Qatar Airways, said it had installed thermal scanners at its main hub, Hamad International Airport. Kuwait announced similar measures late the night before at Kuwait International Airport, joining the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which on Thursday announced screenings for all passengers arriving on direct flights from China, including at Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest.


Donald Trump shares image of Barack Obama scaling Trump Tower

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 06:49

Donald Trump has tweeted a photoshopped image of Barack Obama scaling the walls of Trump Tower with suction cups and holding binoculars.The image, which was posted without a caption, appeared to be a reference to Mr Trump’s claims that Mr Obama and the FBI illegally spied on him.


Trump administration accused by the UK of a 'denial of justice' after refusing to extradite a diplomat's wife accused of killing a British teenager

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 05:14

The UK government said the decision to reject the extradition request was a "denial of justice."


U.S.-Israeli woman jailed in Russia has not yet sought pardon: Kremlin

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 05:13

The Kremlin said on Friday that the possible release of Naama Issachar, a U.S.-Israeli woman jailed in Russia on drug charges, was being held up because she had not yet formally asked to be granted a pardon. Israel has called on Russia to release Issachar, who was sentenced by a Russian court to seven-and-a-half years in jail for drug offences in October.


Democrats pounce as Trump says he would consider cuts to Social Security and Medicare

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 05:00

President Trump said he was open to look at cutting entitlements, giving Democrats another issue to run on in 2020.


No qualms for India's hangman before first job of executing rapists

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 03:53

Pawan Kumar feels zero sympathy for the four men he is due to hang next month for a 2012 gang rape and murder that appalled India. The group set to meet their demise before dawn on February 1 -- although it may be delayed -- were convicted for a brutal crime against Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old student. Angry demonstrations by tens of thousands of people broke out across the vast South Asian nation, sparking soul-searching about the plight of Indian women and leading to heavier sentences for sex crimes.


One image from Wuhan shows the sheer scale of trying to treat a city on lockdown, as Wuhan coronavirus spreads

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 01:50

A video captured in a hospital in Wuhan shows people packed into small hallways awaiting treatment for the deadly novel coronavirus.


Lindsey Graham is offering unsolicited legal advice to Trump's team

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 23:24

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a juror in President Trump's impeachment trial, is offering free legal advice to his counsel, if they want to accept it.So far, the House impeachment managers have "done a good job" of "painting ... a tapestry, taking a series of events and telling a story," Graham told reporters on Thursday. When Trump's legal team starts delivering his defense on Saturday, they will "start pulling on the threads."Graham also thinks Trump's attorneys will need to shift the focus to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden was on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, and is in the center of a debunked conspiracy theory being peddled by Trump allies, including Rudy Giuliani. Graham said Trump's team needs to "really go hard at the idea that when they tell you there's not a scintilla of evidence, groundless, baseless, phony accusations regarding the Bidens, I would challenge that very hard."More stories from theweek.com Trump debuts official Space Force logo — and it's literally a ripoff of Star Trek 14 dead, hundreds injured after 6.7 earthquake in eastern Turkey Donald Trump and the moral decline of the pro-life movement


At impeachment trial, Democrats address Biden corruption allegations as Graham promises more developments

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 21:31

Sen. Lindsey Graham made it clear that he plans to make Hunter Biden a much bigger part of the impeachment debate in the coming days.


Regime Critic Says Saudis Tried to Kidnap Him on U.S. Soil

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 19:59

A suspected agent of the Saudi government attempted to kidnap a regime critic on American soil, according to the critic and multiple U.S. and foreign sources familiar with the episode. The young Saudi man says the FBI saved him from becoming the next Jamal Khashoggi.Abdulrahman Almutairi is a 27-year-old comedian and former student at the University of San Diego with a big social-media presence. After Almutairi used social media to criticize the powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman over the October 2018 murder and dismemberment of Washington Post contributor Khashoggi, an unidentified Saudi man accompanied Almutairi’s father on a flight to collect Almutairi against his will and bring him back to Saudi Arabia, according to The Daily Beast’s sources.  “The Saudi government realized I was a threat,” Almutairi told The Daily Beast, revealing for the first time an ordeal that might have culminated in a whole new crisis: the kidnapping and rendition of a Saudi dissenter on American soil. Only timely intervention from the FBI broke up the plot, two sources say. “If I go back to Saudi Arabia,” Almutairi said, “I’ll be killed in the airport.” Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, has investigated the Khashoggi killing. She drew attention this week by calling for an inquiry into allegations that MBS hacked Jeff Bezos’ phone. Callamard is familiar with Almutairi’s story, although they haven’t spoken, and considers it credible. She told The Daily Beast that it’s part of an ominous trend, particularly now that MBS has skated for Khashoggi’s murder. “There is a pattern of the Saudi authorities, particularly over the last two years, targeting individuals—high profile people with a big Saudi audience,” Callamard said, “either because they’re critical of MBS or the government or not just for what they say but what they don’t say, if they’re insufficiently supportive.”Almutairi has previously spoken about the harassment he received as a critic of the Saudi government, most prominently to PBS’ Nick Shifrin, including a mysterious phone call from a Saudi trying to get Almutairi to come home for a “family reunion.” But he has not, until now, revealed the attempted capture. “I couldn’t afford to speak out earlier, my situation was so intense, and all I wanted was to get out of it,” he explained. But over a year later, Almutairi doesn’t speak with his family, lives for protracted stretches out of his car, and generally fears for his life. On his YouTube channels, which have 200,000 subscribers between them, and his Instagram, where he has 208,000 followers, he’s posting through it. About the only positive thing Almutieri sees emerging from the ordeal was his social-media rebirth as a comedian, something he started as a response to the horrorshow in his mentions. But the harassment may have worked. In the new year, Almutairi told The Daily Beast, he’s going to stop speaking out against the Saudi government. “My criticism against the government won’t do anything. It’ll just turn more people against me,” Almutairi said. “I’m trying not to use the term ‘political dissident.’ I want to influence my country for the better.”That desire prompted Almutairi to cheer when MBS took power. As he saw it, the sclerotic, wealth-soaked royal court finally had a dynamic, young reformer on the rise. MBS was out to fix what was wrong with the country: women forbidden to drive, an economy driven entirely by oil extraction. While Almutairi studied finance and marketing at the University of San Diego, he posted videos on his Snapchat and Twitter accounts boosting MBS to his growing legion of followers.With his expenses paid by the Saudis’ stipend for subjects’ education abroad, Almutairi’s life online was about promoting reform within his home country, the sort of liberalization MBS touted. A frequent topic was the rigidity of the Saudi religious establishment, whose dark portrayal of America didn’t match the place he saw up close. But his growing audience—one of his recent Arabic-language videos has 842,000 views—became a problem for Riyadh. The Real Reasons Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Wanted Khashoggi ‘Dead or Alive’On Oct. 2, 2018, agents of Saudi Arabia murdered and dismembered journalist Khashoggi in Istanbul, a crime the CIA assessed MBS ordered. The brazenness and brutality of the Khashoggi slaying made it one of the biggest stories in the world. Yet for all the damage it momentarily did to the reputation of a prince who melted the heart of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, MBS quickly saw it saw to it that the crime had no lasting impact. The Trump administration, with which he had cultivated close ties, quickly spared him from consequences. On Oct. 11, 2018, barely a week after Khashoggi’s murder, Trump said that sanctioning Saudi weapons purchases from the U.S. would be a self-inflicted economic wound. MBS denied involvement—and still does. And at first Almutairi believed him. “I was in denial,” Almutairi remembered. “MBS would never do an atrocity like that.” But the accruing reports tying the murder closer and closer to MBS prompted him first to break with his political hero, then to post about his disillusionment—and soon after to denounce MBS online. Death threats quickly piled into his mentions and onto his messaging apps. One picture sent to him contained a beheaded body. Another showed a flayed, severed head. “You will eat a bullet,” he said someone texted him, seemingly a reference to MBS’ nickname, the Father of Bullets. “They say I’m supported by the Muslim Brotherhood—I’m openly agnostic!” Almutairi said. More disturbing to him was a different kind of text, one that he still receives. “I get ‘come home’ messages daily,” Almutairi said. Whether the Saudi government is behind them, he can’t know, but his suspicion lingers. Then someone he describes only as a source in Saudi Arabia told him that his life was in danger—and that living in California did not mean he was safe. It prompted Almutairi to call the police during the week of Oct. 25, 2018.  What happened next he would only learn from an FBI official he said he spoke with: Without Almutairi’s knowledge, his father flew to Los Angeles, and he wasn’t alone. Accompanying his father was someone Almutairi does not know.But they never arrived in San Diego. The FBI was waiting for them at LAX. According to two additional sources familiar with the incident, the FBI intercepted both the senior Almutairi and the unidentified Saudi man and sent them back on a subsequent flight. The FBI declined to comment for this story. Almutairi said that the FBI debriefed him after the airport interception. “I was shown a picture of someone who came with my dad, who I didn’t recognize,” he said. Almutairi has no way of verifying it, but he believes the man worked for the Saudi royal court. In July, Middle East Eye’s Dania Akkad first reported that in November 2018, a timeline consistent with Almutairi’s story, the FBI met with at least four Saudi dissidents in the U.S. to warn them of threats to their lives emanating from the kingdom. The dissidents were not named, but one of them, Akkad reported, “runs a popular YouTube channel critical of the Saudi government.”The Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment by press time.The near-miss was not the end of the harassment. Almutairi deleted his Twitter because of the non-stop threats. As he previously told PBS, he was forced to drop out of school shortly before he was to graduate after the Saudis cut off his scholarship, his $1,800 monthly allowance, and his health insurance. He was without a way to afford his rent, his bills, and his medications. Almutairi took restaurant work, but the low pay required him to visit food pantries. For three weeks he was homeless. “I remember Thanksgiving 2018,” he recalls. “I was homeless, sleeping at the beach. I saw everyone with their families and stuff and it almost killed me, psychologically,” he said. “It’s really hard to process, suffering for what I had said. I wish Saudis would live like Americans. We deserve a better life.” These days, Almutairi doesn’t speak to most of his family, out of fear that he’ll put them in danger. They received messages saying, “you have to get him to stop” making his MBS-critical videos. He is sure that his father was coerced into boarding the plane to Los Angeles. Saudi Crown Prince Appeared to Taunt Jeff Bezos Over Secret Affair Before Enquirer Exposé“Abduction is part and parcel of the way the Saudi government has operated for many years,” said Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur. But until MBS became crown prince two years ago, “most victims were part of the royal family. It appears now that their kidnapping attempts are expanding.” Being a Saudi dissident living in America is no protection, she warned: “Absolutely, they will keep trying to lure people in the United States. The only reason why they haven’t succeeded is because the U.S. intelligence agencies are doing their job.”The impunity with which MBS acts also follows a long pattern. As defense minister, he launched a devastating war in neighboring Yemen—with the active cooperation of the Obama administration—that has decimated the country. He seized power in the kingdom in a move applauded by Friedman and other prominent commentators. On Tuesday, the Guardian reported that before the Khashoggi murder, MBS sent Jeff Bezos a malware-tainted video file over WhatsApp to extract potential blackmail material from the richest man in the world—who happens to own the newspaper that Khashoggi worked for and which has crusaded for accountability on the execution. After the murder, and the Post’s aggressive reporting, MBS messaged Bezos “private and confidential information about Mr. Bezos' personal life that was not available from public sources,” according to U.N. officials. The MBS message came months before the National Enquirer—whose publisher once issued an MBS-boosting magazine—reported that Bezos was having an affair. All that corroborated a March 2019 op-ed published in The Daily Beast from Bezos security aide Gavin de Becker alleging that “the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information.” “At a time when Saudi Arabia was supposedly investigating the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, and prosecuting those it deemed responsible, it was clandestinely waging a massive online campaign against Mr. Bezos and Amazon targeting him principally as the owner of The Washington Post,” Callamard and her U.N. colleague David Kaye said in a Wednesday statement. Saudi Arabia’s U.S. embassy called allegations that the kingdom was behind the hack “absurd.”These days, Almutairi focuses on his two YouTube channels and his Instagram account. “I use comedy to convey positive thoughts and empower young Saudis,” he said. “I think I’m a living example: I was once homeless, now I’m not, and I’m starting two companies in California. My story, especially to people who saw it happening on social media, can be inspiring to a lot of Saudis.” But his vlogs are pivoting away from Saudi Arabian politics in the new year. Without school, Almutairi is focusing on his comedy. In March, he plans on launching a YouTube show called “America on Wheels,” which he envisions as a conversational comedy filmed in his car that introduces a Saudi audience to young Americans and their issues. It sounds like if ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’ operated as a tacit rebuke to the Saudi religious establishment. He’s also applying to film school at USC.“My message to the American people,” he said over text, “please don’t brush the Saudi people with the same brush you use with MBS. We have no choice but to nod our heads and agree, he is a dictator.” But even his comedy contains limits set by his ordeal. He recently passed on an offer to tell jokes in Saudi-allied Dubai. “The UAE? Nah, bro,” he said. And while Almutairi may have given up commenting on MBS on social media, that has not left him feeling any safer. Even in sunny California, he constantly wonders what might be coming for him around the next corner, since the threats keep popping up on his phone. Some say things like “we’ll pay someone to kill you. It’ll look like an accident in LA,” Almutairi said. Nonchalantly, he added, “I expect that to happen at any moment.” 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.


Virologist who helped identify SARS on coronavirus outbreak: 'This time I'm scared'

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 17:58

Experts are seeing shocking similarities between the coronavirus that has now spread beyond China and the SARS outbreak of 2003.Like the infectious pneumonia that has killed at least 17 people, SARS was caused by a coronavirus that originated in China. But when one of the virologists who helped identify the SARS virus visited Wuhan, where this virus originated, he didn't see nearly enough being done to fight it. People were out at markets without masks, "preparing to ring in the New Year in peace and had no sense about the epidemic," Guan Yi of the University of Hong Kong's State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases told Caixin. Airports were hardly being disinfected, Guan continued, saying the local government hasn't "even been handing out quarantine guides to people who were leaving the city."The city did disinfect the market where the virus has been traced to, but Guan criticized Wuhan for that, saying it hurts researchers' abilities to track down the virus's source. "I've never felt scared," Guan told Caixin. "This time I'm scared."A case involving the coronavirus was identified in Washington state on Wednesday, and cases have also been identified in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. A total of 639 cases were confirmed in China.More stories from theweek.com Trump debuts official Space Force logo — and it's literally a ripoff of Star Trek 14 dead, hundreds injured after 6.7 earthquake in eastern Turkey Donald Trump and the moral decline of the pro-life movement


Donald Trump is suddenly scared of Mike Bloomberg — as he should be

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 17:30

Mike Bloomberg probably isn’t going to win the Democratic nomination for president. But he might beat Donald Trump anyway. The reason? Well, there are a couple billion of them — namely, the $2 billion Bloomberg plans to spend on Democrats' behalf.


Smugglers tried to bring 3,700 invasive crabs through the Port of Cincinnati

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 17:21

Mitten crabs are a delicacy in Asia and sell for about $50 each in the United States, officials say. They are considered an invasive species.


Rep. Ilhan Omar launches 'Send her back to Congress!' reelection bid with big advantages

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 17:07

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., is kicking off her reelection campaign Thursday night with a massive bank account and no challengers who pose a serious threat from either party. Her campaign slogan — “Send her back to Congress!” — gleefully evokes President Trump’s personal attacks on her.


Canada's TSB says Iran has invited it to examine black boxes

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 16:29

Canada's Transportation Safety Board said Thursday it has been invited by Iran to participate in the download and analysis of the flight recorders from the downing of a Ukraine International Airlines jet “whenever and wherever” that takes place. Iran has acknowledged that its armed forces fired two Russian anti-aircraft missiles at the jetliner that crashed after taking off from Tehran's main airport earlier this month, killing all 176 people on board. Fifty-seven Canadians died and 138 of the passengers were headed to Canada.


LAX passenger from Mexico City receives medical treatment amid coronavirus fears

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 16:01

There have been three incidents thought to involve coronavirus this week, including one on a flight to LAX that did not originate in Asia.


Hallmark CEO steps down after conservative backlash to same-sex couple ads

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 15:54

The president and CEO of Hallmark's media brands is stepping down amid a conservative Christian backlash to an ad showing a same-sex couple.Bill Abbott, the now-former head of Crown Media, which operates the Hallmark Channel, is leaving the company one month after the channel aired, then removed, four Zola ads showing two married women kissing.


Family attorneys say cruise line's story of toddler's death is 'physically impossible'

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 15:53

Attorneys representing Chloe Wiegand's family say a ship visit proves it's "physically impossible" for her grandfather to hold her out of the window.


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