Day: February 16, 2019
Nauert Says She'll Withdraw as Trump's Nominee for UN Ambassador
Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert withdrew from consideration as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, according to a statement.
Trump had said in early December that he planned to nominate Nauert, 49, to replace Nikki Haley as UN ambassador. Suspicion later mounted that her nomination was running into trouble because the White House never formally submitted her name for Senate confirmation, even after Haley resigned at year end.
State Department officials insisted there was nothing unusual in that delay, arguing that Attorney General William Barr’s nomination went more smoothly because he had already been confirmed once, in 1991. They also blamed the 35-day government shutdown and the complexity of the vetting process.
“I am grateful to President Trump and Secretary Pompeo for the trust they placed in me for considering me for the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations,” Nauert said in the statement. “However, the past two months have been grueling for my family and therefore it is in the best interest of my family that I withdraw my name from consideration.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
Report: U.S.-Backed SDF Close to Defeating Last ISIS Stronghold
UPDATED 1:22 PM PT — Sat. Feb. 16, 2019
U.S.-backed forces in Syria discuss the progress in the campaign against the Islamic State, which is nearing its end after years of unrest in the country.
On Saturday, a commander with the Syrian Democratic Forces said the final push to retake the last territory held by ISIS is underway.
The announcement follows a week of intense airstrikes as the rebel-held territory has been reduced to less than one square mile.
This marks the final stages of a four year campaign to defeat the so-called caliphate, which once held a large amount of territory in Iraq and Syria.
Source: OANN Top News
Liberal activists planning day of protests against Trump’s national emergency declaration
The demonstrations are being organized for Presidents Day, the federal holiday on Monday that some workers have off. Many have been scheduled to take place at noon.
“We’re mobilizing rapid-response events on Presidents Day—Monday, 2/18—against Trump’s fake crisis and racist deportation force and to stand with immigrant, Muslim, and Black and brown communities to stop Trump’s dangerous and illegal power grab,” the liberal MoveOn.org posted on its website.
Some local protests have been listed on the website Rallylist.com.
President Trump said Friday he is declaring a national emergency on the southern border, tapping into executive powers in a bid to divert billions toward construction of his long-promised wall.
“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border … one way or the other, we have to do it,” Trump said in the Rose Garden.
The move is expected to face a swift and forceful legal challenge that could stall the attempt in the courts for the near future. But the declaration and other money-moving plans allow Trump to continue to fight for border wall construction while also averting another partial government shutdown — which would have been triggered at midnight on Friday absent the new funding package.
Trump, in the Rose Garden, declared once again that "walls work" as he confirmed the emergency declaration would accompany the spending legislation.
"We’re talking about an invasion of our country," Trump said.
And in an almost-casual tone, the president predicted a legal fight that will wind up before the Supreme Court.
"We will have a national emergency, and we will then be sued," Trump said, adding that the federal appeals courts could well rule against his administration. "Then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake, and we’ll win at the Supreme Court — just like the [travel] ban.”
A senior administration official told Fox News that the White House plans to move $8 billion in currently appropriated or available funds toward construction of the wall. Of that, $3 billion could be diverted with help from the emergency declaration.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
Booker slams Trump over border emergency, says he won't push his vegan diet on Americans
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Sen. Cory Booker on Saturday took aim at President Trump over his declaration of a national border emergency and defended his credentials as a political fighter as he kicked off a three-day presidential campaign swing in the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House.
“If there’s any emergency at the border, it’s the one he created, the crisis he created," the Democrat from New Jersey said during an interview with Fox News. "If there’s any crisis, you see it in humanitarian issues about separating families, caging children and more.”
On Friday, the president declared a national emergency along the southern border, with the hopes of diverting billions in Defense Department funding toward wall construction. “We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border … one way or the other, we have to do it,” Trump said in the Rose Garden.
But Booker, making his first trip to New Hampshire since declaring his candidacy for president, argued that “we’ve been making progress and we still need to do more to secure our border but not with a wasteful wall.”
Booker on Thursday joined three other Democratic senators running for White House – Kamala Harris, of California; Kirsten Gillibrand; of New York, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts – in voting against a bipartisan compromise that averted another federal government shutdown. The deal also gave the president $1.3 billion for the construction of barriers along the U.S.-Mexican border, far less than the more than $5 billion Trump demanded.
“This is outrageous,” Booker said of president’s actions in signing the compromise agreement from Congress and then declaring the border emergency. “I didn’t vote for that simply because of the way the president has his posture towards all this.”
The senator was also noncommittal on a recent call by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas to tear down existing parts of the border wall in his hometown of El Paso.
“I have no specific knowledge of that section,” Booker told Fox News.
O’Rourke, who’s seriously mulling a White House bid of his own, said Thursday in an interview with MSNBC that he’d “absolutely … take the wall down," referring to the barrier by El Paso, Texas.
O’Rourke, who came close to upsetting GOP Sen. Ted Cruz in last November’s Senate election in Texas, argued that the existing 600 miles of wall and fencing along the 2,000-mile border have “not in any demonstrable way made us safer.”
Republicans quickly criticized O’Rourke, charging that he embraces open borders.
Booker, if elected, would be the first vegan president in American history. In a recent interview with VegNews, he lamented that “the tragic reality is this planet simply can’t sustain billions of people consuming industrially produced animal agriculture because of environmental impact.”
Asked if he would advocate for Americans to eat a vegan diet, Booker said, “I think that whatever you eat is a very personal decision and everybody should what eat what they want to eat. That’s America. That’s freedom. Here it’s live free or die. The last thing we want is government telling us what to eat.”
But he warned that massive corporate companies “are coming in here and polluting our water and creating unsustainable practices.”
During his speech to a jampacked crowd that his campaign estimated at nearly 500, Booker touted his credentials as a fighter. Pushing back against those who might term as “weak” his advocacy of a politics of love, he said “come on…love is the most powerful force,” adding it “can topple the strongest of leaders.”
And he touted his credentials a political fighting coming up through the ranks in Newark, New Jersey, where he served two terms as mayor before being elected to the Senate.
But Booker added that the 2020 election “cannot be just about who can beat the guy in the White House. … This has got to be not just about how to beat somebody but how to unite all of us.”
During a question and answer session with the audience, the conversation turned to health care.
Booker spotlighted that there are a “lot of pathways” to achieve universal coverage. But he warned that those who back the "Medicare for All" proposal will “have to find ways to advance the ball given the Congress we have.”
Ahead of his trip to New Hampshire, the Republican National Committee attacked Booker for his “support of out-of-the mainstream policies, to his over-the-top theatrical style.”
“Cory Booker is nothing but extreme – and so is his agenda. Booker’s Presidential platform would upend our way of life, cost taxpayers trillions of dollars and is more pie-in-the-sky than actual reality,” the RNC said.
Source: Fox News Politics
Pence Chastises EU, Rejects Merkel's Call to Work with Russia
Vice President Mike Pence rebuked European powers over Iran and Venezuela on Saturday in a renewed attack on Washington's traditional allies, rejecting a call by Germany's chancellor to include Russia in global cooperation efforts.
In speeches and in private talks at the Munich Security Conference, Pence and Chancellor Angela Merkel laid out competing visions for how the West should address world crises.
"America is stronger than ever before and America is leading on the world stage once again," Pence told European and Asian officials in Munich, listing what he described as U.S. foreign policy successes from Afghanistan to North Korea, and urging support from American allies.
"America First does not mean America alone," he said, hailing the results of Donald Trump's presidency as "remarkable" and "extraordinary," and calling on the EU to follow Washington in quitting the Iran nuclear deal and recognizing the head of Venezuela's congress, Juan Guaido, as the country's president.
Addressing an audience that included Trump's daughter Ivanka, Pence's speech was the latest attempt by a Trump administration official to put the president's "America First" agenda into a coherent policy plan.
European leaders are troubled by Trump's rhetoric, which they say is erratic and disruptive, citing his decision to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as undermining an arms control agreement that prevented Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.
But Pence — who last week accused Britain, Germany and France of undermining U.S. sanctions on Iran — repeated his demand for European powers to withdraw from the deal.
"The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal," he said, and later pressed Merkel over the issue in bilateral talks.
He also reiterated to her Washington's opposition to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under construction between Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea. "We cannot strengthen the West by becoming dependent on the East," Pence said.
Merkel, who made a robust defense of Germany's foreign trade relations and ties with Russia during her speech, said later it was unreasonable to assume that Russia would be an unreliable energy supplier.
"AMERICA WILL BE BACK"
Speaking before Pence, Merkel questioned whether the U.S. decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal and withdrawal from Syria was the best way to tackle Tehran in the region.
During a question-and-answer session, she added that it would be wrong to exclude Russia politically, but Pence said Washington was "holding Russia accountable" for its 2014 seizure of Ukraine and what the West says are efforts to destabilize it through cyber attacks, disinformation and covert operations.
"Geostrategically, Europe can't have an interest in cutting off all relations with Russia," Merkel said.
Pence, who used his trip to Europe to push Trump's policy of favoring sovereign states as opposed to alliances and blocs, took aim at the EU over Venezuela's political crisis.
"Today we call on the European Union to step forward for freedom and recognize Juan Guaido as the only legitimate president of Venezuela," he said, calling President Nicolas Maduro a dictator who must step down.
In his roving address, Pence also stepped up U.S. pressure on Chinese telecoms gear companies such as Huawei Technologies Co, urging allies to avoid the firms and saying Chinese law requires them to give Beijing access to networks and data.
China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi rejected Pence's comments. "Chinese law doesn't require companies to install back doors to collect intelligence," Yang told the conference.
Yang, one of the architects of Chinese foreign policy, echoed Merkel's vision, saying the world should "pull together" to address global challenges, while former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden got a standing ovation for a speech in which he said that after Trump, close traditional U.S.-EU would resume. "America will be back," he said.
Source: NewsMax Politics
Report: Bernie Sanders Records Campaign Announcement Video
Bernie Sanders has recorded a campaign video in which he says he’s running for president in 2020, Politico reports, citing two people familiar. It’s unclear when, or whether, the video will be released, Politico says.
Sanders, 77, an independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, said earlier this week he would introduce a Medicare for All bill “fairly soon.” In the event of a campaign announcement, he would be joining a widening group of presidential hopefuls including Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Kamala Harris of California, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey
Sanders spokeswoman Sarah Ford didn’t respond to a request for comment from Politico. In January, Politico reported that the Sanders team was in talks with film-making company Means of Production, which created New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign video in the 2018 midterm election.
Source: NewsMax Politics
Pete King: NY Dems Must Stop Leftists After Amazon Loss
Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., on Saturday urged Democratic leaders in New York to fight far-left members of the party who succeeded in forcing Amazon to pull out of a plan to bring thousands of jobs to Long Island City.
"Amazon's decision to leave Long Island City was a disaster for the entire New York-Long Island Metropolitan region and it was caused entirely by the radical progressive wing of the Democratic Party," King wrote in an email sent to constituents. "It is now absolutely necessary for New York Democrats to take a strong, unequivocal stand against these left wing progressives."
The Republican congressman noted he has long worked with members of both parties for the good of his state and the city, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, both of whom worked with Amazon to bring the headquarters to the city.
Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was among the leaders of the movement to push Amazon out, citing, among other things, $3 billion in tax breaks offered by the state and local governments.
"Democratic political and governmental leaders must make it clear that radical progressives will not have a veto power over the economic future of New York and Long Island," King warned in his Saturday message. "Not only did Amazon’s decision cost New York tens of thousands of jobs and as much $100 billion in revenues, it sent a signal to the rest of the country that New York is not open for business. And this came at a time when business people and billions of tax dollars were already leaving New York.
"The undoing of their deal was brought about by radical progressives and elected Democrats," King said. "The irresponsible policies and agendas of these radical Democrats can no longer be ignored or romanticized. Too much is at stake. Too many working people are being hurt and their futures put at risk. Democratic leaders must step and speak out."
Source: NewsMax Politics
U.S., China Trade Talks Expected to Resume in Washington Next Week
UPDATED 10:48 AM PT — Sat. Feb. 16, 2019
In an effort to end the ongoing trade war, trade talks between the U.S. and China are slated to continue in Washington D.C. next week.
On Friday, White House officials said the two sides plan to resume discussions to reach an agreement prior to the March 1st deadline.
The Washington talks are expected to be led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, along with China’s Vice Premier and Chief Trade Negotiator.
This comes after President Trump floated the idea of extending the deadline if it will bring the nations closer to a deal and prevent tariffs from rising on Chinese goods.
Meanwhile, tariffs are expected to increase from 10% to 25% if no deal is reached.
Source: OANN Top News
Police: Aurora Attacker Shouldn't Have Owned Gun
Police say the fired worker who killed five people at a warehouse in Aurora, Illinois, was able to buy the gun he used because an initial background check didn't catch that he had a prior felony conviction in Mississippi.
Aurora police Chief Kristin Ziman said Saturday that Gary Martin was issued a firearm owner's identification card in January of 2014 after he passed the initial background check.
She said he bought the Smith and Wesson .40-caliber handgun on March 11, 2014, and that his 1995 felony conviction for aggravated assault in Mississippi wasn't flagged until he applied for a concealed carry permit five days later. That application process includes vetting using a more rigorous digital fingerprinting system.
Authorities say Martin fatally shot five Henry Pratt Co. workers and wounded a sixth and five police officers on Friday before officers killed him.e.
Source: NewsMax America
V.P. Mike Pence Calls for Europe to Leave Iran Nuclear Deal, Support Guaido
UPDATED 8:24 AM PT — Sat. Feb. 16, 2019
Vice President Mike Pence urges the European Union to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal.
On Saturday, Pence delivered a speech to world leaders at the Munich Security Conference, calling for European countries to join the U.S. in pressuring the Iranian regime to give the people the peace and freedom they deserve.
He also warned of the threat posed by telecoms equipment supplied by Chinese provider Huawei.
Pence also addressed a terrorism issue and said the U.S. will continue fighting the Islamic State.
Additionally, Pence asked the leaders in the room to support Venezuela in its struggle for democracy and recognize Juan Guaido as the only legitimate President of Venezuela.
Source: OANN Top News
Trump Emergency Declaration Faces Fights in the Courts
President Donald Trump declared a national emergency along the southern border and predicted his administration would end up defending it all the way to the Supreme Court.
That might have been the only thing Trump said Friday that produced near-universal agreement.
The American Civil Liberties Union announced its intention to sue less than an hour after the White House released the text of Trump's declaration that the "current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency."
Nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen filed suit later, urging the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to "bar Trump and the U.S. Department of Defense from using the declaration and funds appropriated for other purposes to build a border wall."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several Democratic state attorneys general already have said they might go to court.
The coming legal fight seems likely to hinge on two main issues: Can the president declare a national emergency to build a border wall in the face of Congress' refusal to give him all the money he wanted and, under the federal law Trump invoked in his declaration, can the Defense Department take money from some congressionally approved military construction projects to pay for wall construction?
The Pentagon has so far not said which projects might be affected.
But after weeks of publicly ruminating whether to act, Trump's signature on the declaration set in motion a quick march to the courthouse.
Trump relied on the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which Congress adopted as a way to put some limits on presidential use of national emergencies. The act requires a president to notify Congress publicly of the national emergency and to report every six months. The law also says the president must renew the emergency every year, simply by notifying Congress. The House and Senate also can revoke a declaration by majority vote, though it would take a two-thirds vote by each house to override an expected presidential veto.
Beyond that, though, the law doesn't say what constitutes a national emergency or impose any other limits on the president.
The broad grant of discretion to the president could make it hard to persuade courts to rule that Trump exceeded his authority in declaring a border emergency. "He's the one who gets to make the call. We can't second-guess it," said John Eastman, a professor of constitutional law at the Chapman University School of Law.
Courts often are reluctant to look beyond the justifications the president included in his proclamation, Ohio State University law professor Peter Shane said on a call organized by the liberal American Constitution Society.
But other legal experts said the facts are powerfully arrayed against the president. They include government statistics showing a decades-long decline in illegal border crossings as well as Trump's rejection of a deal last year that would have provided more than the nearly $1.4 billion he got for border security in the budget agreement he signed Thursday. Opponents of the declaration also are certain to use Trump's own words at his Rose Garden news conference Friday to argue that there is no emergency on the border.
"I could do the wall over a longer period of time," Trump said. "I didn't need to do this, but I'd rather do it much faster."
Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan said Congress made a conscious choice not to give Trump what he wanted. "A prerequisite for declaring an emergency is that the situation requires immediate action and Congress does not have an opportunity to act," Amash said on Twitter.
ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said Trump's remarks are an admission that there is no national emergency. "He just grew impatient and frustrated with Congress," Romero said in a statement that also said the rights group would file a lawsuit next week.
Trying to turn the president's words against him failed in the challenge to Trump's ban on travel to the United States by citizens of several mostly Muslim countries. The ban's opponents argued that Trump's comments as a candidate and as president showed the ban was motivated by anti-Muslim bias, not concern about national security. Lower courts struck down the ban, but the Supreme Court upheld it in a 5-4 vote last year.
Trump said he expected to lose in lower courts that he claims have been unfair to him, particularly if lawsuits are filed in California. "Hopefully, we'll get a fair shake and we'll win in the Supreme Court, just like the ban," he said.
Beyond the challenge to Trump's authority to declare an emergency, lawsuits also are expected to focus on the military construction project law that allows the re-allocation of money in a national emergency.
Eastman said he doubts that the Supreme Court would try to interfere with Trump's decision to send the military to the border and then authorize the use of money from other Defense Department construction projects to build miles of a border wall. "The president is authorized to make those judgments, not some judge in San Francisco," Eastman said.
But the ACLU's suit will argue that Congress allowed for flexibility in using money it appropriated for projects needed to support the emergency use of the military forces, like overseas military airfields in wartime.
Several legal experts said claims that the building of the wall is not the kind of project contemplated in the military construction law could be more difficult to rebut because border security is more like a law enforcement issue than a military emergency.
But Shane, the Ohio State professor, said, "It's hard to know how exactly this is going to unfold politically or judicially."
Source: NewsMax Politics
Trump to Nominate Satterfield Ambassador to Turkey
President Donald Trump intends to nominate David Satterfield, a veteran diplomat with deep experience in the Middle East, to be U.S. ambassador to Turkey, the White House said on Friday.
Satterfield has been the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs since 2017. He has previously served as the deputy U.S. chief of mission in Iraq, ambassador to Lebanon, director for Near Eastern affairs on the National Security Council, as well as in Syria, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
Turkey, a Muslim-majority NATO ally, borders Syria, Iraq and Iran and is a major player in the region.
The conflict in Syria following Trump's announcement of a U.S. pullout, the fallout from the murder of a Saudi journalist in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Turkey's demand for the extradition of a Muslim cleric from the United States are among the main issues in the two countries' relations.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan welcomed Trump's decision in December to withdraw American troops from Syria. Washington has backed Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters while Turkey brands the group a terrorist organization.
Erdogan said in November Turkey would not abide by renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil and shipping industries because they were aimed at "unbalancing the world."
Trump and Erdogan have also taken different tacks in their response to the Oct. 2 killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump has said he wants Washington to stand by the Saudi government and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite a CIA assessment it was likely the prince had ordered the killing. Saudi Arabia has said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder.
Trump said in November that he was not considering extraditing Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for a failed 2016 coup.
Source: NewsMax Politics
Tear down that border wall: Is Beto's battlecry the new Dem litmus test for 2020?
Beto O’Rourke may have inadvertently got the ball rolling this week on an emerging litmus test for Democrats eyeing the White House in 2020 when he said he “absolutely” supports tearing down the existing barriers along the southern border with Mexico.
Since then, the other Democrats eyeing the 2020 Democratic nomination are facing calls to say whether they agree. And some are now expressing an openness to it, as they work to appeal to a liberal base that argues the wall is immoral.
“Curious to know if @KamalaHarris, @CoryBooker, @ewarren, @JulianCastro, @gillibrandny and @amyklobuchar agree with @BetoORourke that we should tear down the wall that already exists at the border?” tweeted Brad Parscale, Trump’s re-election campaign manager.
O’Rourke, the former Texas Democratic congressman and potential presidential candidate, called for the destruction of the El Paso wall after the White House said President Trump would declare a national state of emergency to fund the remainder of his border wall project.
During an interview in his hometown on Thursday, MSNBC host Chris Hayes asked O’Rourke: "If you could, would you take the wall down here — knock it down?"
"Yes, absolutely," answered O’Rourke, who is widely thought to be a potential candidate in 2020 but has not formally announced his intention to run. "I’d take the wall down."
And on Friday, at least one Democrat in the 2020 field signaled they are open to it.
"I could look at it and see which part he means and why and if it makes sense I could support it,” New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told Fox News in New Hampshire on Friday.
Meanwhile, Republicans expressed disbelief over O’Rourke’s comments, while signaling they believe they could use the issue to paint Democrats as extreme and pro-open borders.
“Correct me if I am wrong, but did Beto say he would tear down existing border fencing and walls?” tweeted Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who is up for re-election in 2020. Some Democrats have encouraged O’Rourke to challenge Cornyn if he doesn’t run for president.
“Give Beto O’Rourke points for honesty: he admits that he wants to tear down existing border walls & have totally open borders,” said Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton. “At least he’ll say what most Democrat politicians believe.”
RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel used O’Rourke’s comments to say it’s proof Democrats are “the party of open borders.”
While O’Rourke was the first likely 2020 presidential candidate to call for tearing down walls, other lesser-known Democrats in recent weeks have suggested they support the idea.
In an interview in January for example, Democratic Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar told CNN that "we know walls don’t work, that they don’t stop drugs, that they don’t stop migration." Escobar also suggested she was open to destroying existing walls, remarking that they are "really ugly" and "monuments to division."
But not all Democrats have embraced the idea: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said during an interview on Fox News’ "Special Report with Bret Baier" last month that border walls "obviously" work in some areas, and he rejected suggestions that barriers should be removed where they already exist.
Fox News’ Gregg Re contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
New testing helps nab nurse, 44, in brutal Alaska killing from 25 years ago, authorities say
A relatively new type of genetic testing was credited Friday with helping authorities in Alaska solve a case in which a 20-year-old woman was found brutally murdered in the bathroom of a university dorm room more than 25 years ago.
On Friday, a 44-year-old man working as a nurse across the country in Auburn, Maine, was arrested in connection with the 1993 cold case killing of Sophie Sergie, who was found to have been sexually assaulted, stabbed multiple times and shot in her head, according to Alaska State Troopers.
The suspect, identified as Steven Downs, was 18 at the time of the slaying. He is charged with sexual assault and murder in the death of Sergie and is expected to be extradited to Alaska. No motive was given for the killing and it was unclear if Downs and Sergie knew each other prior to her death.
"For more than 20 years, AST continued to receive info about Sophie’s murder," said Col. Barry Wilson, director of the Alaska State Troopers. "Each tip generated a response by members of the cold case unit hoping to break the case."
Sergie was found dead April 26, 1993, in the dorm room on the campus of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. She had been visiting friends while in town for an appointment, KTUU-TV of Anchorage reported.
Downs was a student who lived in the dorm, authorities said. In 2018, investigators submitted DNA from the crime scene to a Virginia-based lab to develop a likely suspect using genetic genealogy.
The testing led police to Downs.
"Through their dogged persistence, advances in tech and spirit of cooperation exhibited by other agencies that touched this case," Wilson said, "justice for Sophie is finally within reach."
Source: Fox News National
Vatican defrocks former US cardinal McCarrick over sex abuse
VATICAN CITY – Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been found guilty by the Vatican of sex abuse and defrocked, as calls rose Saturday for Pope Francis to reveal what he knew about the once-powerful American prelate’s apparently decades-long predatory sexual behavior.
The announcement Saturday, delivered in uncharacteristically blunt language for the Vatican, meant that the 88-year-old McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., becomes the highest-ranking churchman and the first cardinal to be punished by dismissal from the clerical state, or laicization.
He was notified Friday of the decision, which was upheld upon his appeal and approved by Pope Francis.
The pontiff next week leads a summit of bishops from around the world who have been summoned to Rome help him grapple with the entrenched problems of clerical sex abuse and the systematic cover-ups by the Catholic church’s hierarchy.
Decades of revelations about priests who have sexually preyed on minors and their bosses who shuffled abusive clergy from parish to parish instead of removing them from access to children have shaken the faith of many Catholics. They also threaten the moral authority of Francis and even the survival of his papacy.
McCarrick, who in his prestigious red cardinal robes hobnobbed with presidents, other VIP politicians and pontiffs, is now barred from celebrating Mass or other sacraments including confession and from wearing clerical garb. He is to be referred to as Mr. McCarrick.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Holy See’s guardian of doctrinal purity, issued a decree on Jan. 11 finding McCarrick guilty of "solicitation in the sacrament of confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power," the Vatican said. That commandment forbids adultery.
On Wednesday, Congregation officials considered his appeal and upheld the decree.
The pope "recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accordance with (church) law, rendering it as ‘res iudicata,’" the Vatican said, using the Latin phrase for admitting no further recourse.
The McCarrick scandal was particularly damning to the church’s reputation because it apparently was an open secret in some ecclesial circles that he slept with adult seminarians. Francis yanked McCarrick’s rank as a cardinal in July after a U.S. church investigation found credible an allegation he fondled a teenage altar boy in the 1970s.
McCarrick’s civil lawyer, Barry Coburn, said Saturday that his client had no comment on the defrocking.
Coburn declined to say if McCarrick would stay at the residence in Kansas where he moved after Francis ordered him to live in penance and prayer while the investigation into his actions continued.
But the Salina, Kansas, diocese, said "Mr. McCarrick will continue to reside at the St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria until a decision of permanent residence is finalized."
Besides bishops arriving for the sex abuse summit, victims’ rights advocates are also converging on Rome. They are demanding that Francis, other Vatican officials and bishops elsewhere come clean about how McCarrick managed such a meteoric rise through church ranks despite reports about his sexual life.
"The pope has known from the earliest days of his papacy, or he should have known, that ex-cardinal McCarrick was a sexual predator," said Anne Barrett Doyle, an advocate at BishopAccountability.org.
"He has a resistance to removing bishops and he also has a tolerance for bishops who are sexual wrongdoers," Doyle told The Associated Press on Saturday near St. Peter’s Square.
Of the defrocking, Doyle said: "Let McCarrick be the first of many. I can think of 10 other bishops who are substantively, credibly accused of sexual abuse with minor and sexual misconduct with adults, who should be laicized."
A conservative lay group, The Catholic Association, said in a statement that much more must be done to hold accountable "those in the church hierarchy who looked the other way as McCarrick rose through their ranks" and to ensure that priestly celibacy is restored and youths are safeguarded from sexual abuse.
Walking with Doyle was Phil Saviano, a board member of BishopAccountability.org, and a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest. While calling McCarrick’s defrocking "ultimately a good thing," he said the punishment should have been meted out long ago.
He said he hoped Francis isn’t "throwing a bone to his dissenters in an attempt to quiet everybody down. And then McCarrick will be the one and only, because there are certainly many others who have allegations against them who should face some accountability."
His account of being abused helped the Boston Globe produce a Pulitzer-winning investigation into church cover-ups, which was chronicled in the movie "Spotlight."
When ordained a priest in his native New York City in 1958, McCarrick embraced a vocation that required celibacy. Later on in his career, McCarrick curried cachet at the Vatican as a stellar fundraiser. A globe-trotting powerbroker, McCarrick liked to be called "Uncle Ted" by the young seminarians he courted.
Despite apparent common knowledge in church circles of his sexual behavior, McCarrick rose up through the ranks, even serving as the spokesman for fellow U.S. bishops when they enacted a "zero tolerance" policy against sexually abusive priests in 2002.
One of his accusers, James Grein, the son of a family friend of McCarrick’s, testified to church officials that, among other abuses, McCarrick had repeatedly groped him during confession. He said the abuse, which went on for decades, began when he was 11.
"Today I am happy that the pope believed me," Grein said in a statement issued through his lawyer. He expressed hope that McCarrick "will no longer be able to use the power of Jesus’ church to manipulate families and sexually abuse children."
Grein said pressure must be put on U.S. state attorney generals and senators to change the statute of limitations for abuse cases.
"Hundreds of priests, bishops and cardinals are hiding behind man-made law," he said.
The current archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where McCarrick was posted at the pinnacle of his career from 2001-2006, said it hoped that the Vatican decision "serves to help the healing process for survivors of abuse, as well as those who have experienced disappointment or disillusionment because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done."
Complaints were also made about McCarrick’s conduct in the New Jersey dioceses of Newark and Metuchen, where he previously served.
Francis himself became implicated in the decades-long McCarrick cover-up after a former Vatican ambassador to Washington accused the pope of rehabilitating the cardinal from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI despite being told of his penchant for young men.
Francis hasn’t responded to those claims but he ordered a limited Vatican investigation. The Vatican has acknowledged the outcome may produce evidence that mistakes were made and said Francis would "follow the path of truth, wherever it may lead."
Sexual abuse scandals have threatened to taint the legacy of past papacies, including that of John Paul II, who has since been made a saint.
The Rev. Marcial Maciel, a pedophile, enjoyed John Paul II’s admiration for his success in spurring vocations and for inspiring generous financial donations.
Maciel’s predatory crimes against children were ignored for decades by the Vatican bureaucracy.
Frances D’Emilio is on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/fdemilio
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News National
France: Syrian suspect accused of crimes against humanity
PARIS – French authorities have filed preliminary charges of complicity in crimes against humanity against a Syrian suspected of involvement in a bloody secret police crackdown on opposition activists.
A judicial official said Saturday the man is being held in custody pending further investigation, after being detained Tuesday near Paris as part of an international probe. The official was not authorized to be publicly named discussing an ongoing investigation.
Two other suspects were detained in Germany on Tuesday, also suspected of carrying out or aiding crimes against humanity.
Human rights groups hailed the arrests. They mark the first major breakthroughs of international investigators who are trying to track down individuals they think are responsible for atrocities committed on behalf of the Syrian government during the country’s eight-year civil war.
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8 miners rescued in Zimbabwe; others remained trapped
KADOMA, Zimbabwe – Eight artisanal miners who were trapped underground for several days after heavy flooding in Zimbabwe have been rescued, though some of their co-workers are still missing and feared dead.
Rescuers on Saturday pulled the exhausted, muddied survivors from the ground and took them to a tent for medical treatment. Relatives waiting at the scene ululated, cheered and hugged each other.
Dozens of gold miners were caught underground Tuesday on the outskirts of Kadoma, west of the Zimbabwean capital of Harare.
It is unclear how many miners remain trapped. The government has said a total of between 60 and 70 people were working underground at the time of the accident.
Source: Fox News World
Iran: Sabotage may be behind failed satellite launches
TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s foreign minister says sabotage by the U.S. is a possible reason for Tehran’s failed attempts to launch two satellites in recent months.
Mohammad Javad Zarif said Friday in an interview with NBC News in Munich, Germany, that it’s possible there is a U.S. sabotage campaign against Iranian satellite launches. He confirmed that Iran suffered two failed attempts to launch satellites over the past two months.
"It’s quite possible. We don’t know yet," he said. "We need to look into it very carefully."
Both attempts took place despite U.S. criticism that Iran’s space program helps the country develop ballistic missiles. Iran denies the charge.
In January, the country launched a satellite, but authorities said it failed to reach the "necessary speed" in the third stage of its launch.
Source: Fox News World
Nigerians wake to find a delayed election, with some angry
YOLA, Nigeria – Nigerians have awakened to find the presidential election delayed a week from Saturday until Feb. 23 because of what the electoral commission has called unspecified "challenges." The country’s top two political parties condemn the last-minute postponement.
Some bitter voters in the capital, Abuja, and elsewhere who traveled home to cast their ballots say they cannot afford to wait another seven days.
A spokesman for top opposition challenger Atiku Abubakar in Delta state said the electoral commission "has destroyed the soul of Nigeria with this act."
Abubakar is expected to speak to reporters later Saturday from his home in the north.
One ruling party campaign director said it is better to give the electoral commission time to conduct a credible vote.
The commission is to give more details in the afternoon.
Source: Fox News World
Iran threatens retaliation over car bombing that killed 27
ISFAHAN, Iran – The head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard has threatened to retaliate against neighboring Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates over a suicide car bombing this week that killed 27 members of the elite organization.
Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari spoke late Friday at one of two funeral ceremonies for the victims of Wednesday’s attack in the central Iranian city of Isfahan. He claimed without providing evidence that the United States and Israel ordered Saudi Arabia and the Emirates to carry out the attack, which wounded 12.
"We definitely will retaliate," Jafari said in comments reported by the semi-official Tasnim news agency Saturday.
The bombing immediately raised the possibility of Iranian retaliation against the Jaish al-Adl Sunni militant group that claimed responsibility for the attack. It mainly operates near Iran-Pakistan border.
Source: Fox News World
Trump’s declaration of national emergency was unnecessarily ‘dramatic’: Victor Davis Hanson
The pending legal battle over the national emergency declared by President Trump may all center around “semantics,” Hoover Institution fellow Victor Davis Hanson argued Friday.
Earlier in the day, President Trump officially declared a national emergency in order to allocate funding for the border wall that wasn’t included in the compromise border security bill that Congress passed and that the president signed into law.
On Friday’s "Special Report" All-Star panel, Hanson — along with Townhall.com political editor Guy Benson and former Obama White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina — weighed in on the political fallout from the president’s decision.
Hanson began by suggesting that President Trump should have echoed his predecessor President Barack Obama’s “I have a pen and I have a phone” remark and incrementally pulled funding from various departments instead of making his move so “dramatic.”
“I think that the news cycle is going to go on and it’s not going to be the big cycle drone that everybody thinks,” Hanson predicted.
The Hoover Institute fellow later added that it was “psycho-dramatic” to say that the Constitution is “in danger,” pointing to Obama’s actions on the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program for delaying deportation for adults who came to the U.S. illegally when they were children).
Messina pointed out that during his news conference, President Trump admitted that he “didn’t need” to declare a national emergency but that he did so to expedite funding for the wall, which Messina concluded made the event the “definition of not an emergency.”
“This is a troubling move by a president. The framers put together a Constitution to make sure that there was separation of powers and not to have kings. And I think the president is right, he’s going to spend a lot of time in court,” Messina said.
Benson seemed to agree with the sentiment, calling Trump’s decision “politically questionable” and “legally dubious.”
“Frankly, as a conservative, I hope he loses in court on this because I do not want a precedent where presidents can get rejected or stymied by Congress and go ahead and do what they want anyhow."
Source: Fox News Politics
AP Explains: What are India's options after Kashmir attack
NEW DELHI – With India’s national elections barely months away, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under heavy pressure from his supporters to punish nuclear-rival Pakistan for a suicide attack on an Indian paramilitary convoy that killed at least 41 soldiers in disputed Kashmir.
India placed the blame for Thursday’s bombing squarely on neighboring Pakistan, which India accuses of supporting rebels in Kashmir. Pakistan denies the charge. A look at some of the steps India is likely to consider:
India’s first public reaction to the attack was to withdraw the most-favored nation trade status given to Pakistan and take all possible diplomatic steps "to ensure the complete isolation from international community of Pakistan." New Delhi insists "incontrovertible evidence is available of (Pakistan) having a direct hand in this gruesome terrorist incident." The Greater Kashmir newspaper reported that a militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, headquartered in Pakistan, claimed responsibility. India’s foreign ministry on Friday briefed New Delhi-based diplomats of key countries, including China, which has in the past blocked India’s proposal to list Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a designated terrorist by the United Nations. The ministry demanded Pakistan take "immediate and verifiable action against terrorists and terror groups operating from territories under its control to create conducive atmosphere in the region free of terror."
After a 2016 attack on an Indian army base that killed 19 soldiers, India’s army said it carried out a campaign of "surgical strikes" against militants across the highly militarized frontier that divides the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan. Pakistan dismissed the reports that India’s military had targeted "terrorist launch pads" inside the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir. Islamabad said instead that two of its soldiers were killed in "unprovoked" firing by India across the border. Following the latest attack — the worst in Kashmir’s history — Modi warned that those behind it would pay a heavy price and that security forces have been given a free hand to act against terror. The Times of India newspaper reported Saturday that the military options — short of two nuclear-armed rivals going to war — could range from "shallow ground-based attacks and occupation of some heights along the Line of Control (cease-fire line) to restricted but precision airstrikes against non-state targets in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir." G.Parthasarthy, India’s former high commissioner to Pakistan, said a possible military response can’t be discussed in public. "We have said that Pakistan will pay a price. For obvious reasons we are not going to spell out how that cost would be imposed." Paul Staniland, a political science professor and South Asia expert at the University of Chicago, said that the Pakistan army is assuming it will be attacked and that Indian forces are preparing for a serious incursion of some sort.
Indian analysts say no political party could afford to neglect public opinion ahead of Indian elections. Already, protesters chanted "Attack Pakistan" and fiery debates on television channels demanded retaliation. "’I think the situation is extremely tense. The mood in the country is extremely angry at what has happened. And moreover there are elections in the offing. No party could afford to neglect public opinion,’" said Amitabh Mattoo, professor of international studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. Staniland said the stakes were too high for India to do nothing at all. "Modi is in a tricky position. Indian forces are quite capable but it’s not obvious what kinds of strikes would accomplish the core goal. Kashmir and Pakistan are among the few foreign policy topics that have real electoral resonance." Elections are scheduled to be held before May.
The U.S. singled out Pakistan in a statement condemning the attack and said it strengthened U.S. resolve to bolster counterterrorism cooperation with India. To improve India’s military capabilities, the U.S. has offered to sell it unarmed Guardian surveillance drones, aircraft carrier technologies and F-18 and F-16 fighter aircraft. There are sticking points, however, including the purchase by India of Iranian oil and the Russian S-400 ground-to-air missile system, which could trigger U.S. sanctions on India.
THE HIMALAYAN PUZZLE
Indian-controlled Kashmir has remained a challenge for India’s policymakers ever since the Himalayan territory was split between India and Pakistan shortly after the two archrivals gained independence in 1947. The territory has been at the heart of India’s two wars out of four the country fought against Pakistan and China. Human rights groups say India has been responding to public protest with disproportionate force while treating the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination as Islamabad’s proxy war against New Delhi. New Delhi initially grappled with largely peaceful anti-India protests. However, a series of political blunders, broken promises and a crackdown on dissent led to Kashmir’s eruption into a full blown armed rebellion against India in 1989 for a united Kashmir, either under Pakistan rule or independent of both. The conflict has intensified since Modi came to power in 2014 amid rising attacks by Hindu hard-liners against minorities in India, further deepening frustration with New Delhi’s rule in the Muslim-majority Kashmir. Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharitya Janata Party-led government has toughened its stance both against Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists. Policy experts say such an approach is intended to project the party as strong and uncompromising. But Modi’s policies have also had the unintended consequence of strengthening the resolve of those fighting for an end to India’s rule in Kashmir.
VIEW FROM PAKISTAN
After Imran Khan took over as Pakistani prime minister last August, he promised to take two steps forward for India’s one step to forge friendly ties. He said Kashmir is at the core of their differences and they have to end the tit-for-tat accusations. But the peace initiative remained a non-starter with violence rising in the Indian portion of Kashmir and India asking Pakistan to stop supporting insurgents. Khan has now proposed to hold talks with India after the Indian elections. The former cricketer is very popular in India. He recently offered to open a Sikh religious shrine for Indian visitors on the Pakistani side of the border in Punjab province as a peace gesture. But in September, India pulled the plug on a rare meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of a U.N. summit — a move that was termed "arrogant" by Khan and unleashed a barrage of insults from both sides. India says it has not seen any constructive approach from Pakistan.
Associated Press writer Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News World
Rahm Emanuel warns Dems not to 'mimic' Trump’s politics, says Virginia's Northam shouldn't resign
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel doesn’t agree with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that if President Trump can declare a national emergency to bypass Congress in order to secure funding for his long-promised border wall, a Democratic president can do the same for guns.
“The one thing you don’t want to mimic … their politics,” Emanuel said during a guest appearance Friday on HBO’s’ Real Time with Bill Maher. “He [Trump] wants you on certain cases to actually mimic what he’s doing because then there’s a difference of nothing. That’s not where you want to go against him.”
The conversation quickly moved on to other topics without a mention of Friday’s deadly workplace shooting in Aurora, Ill., that ended with six dead, including the gunman, and several wounded police officers.
Emanuel — the former White House chief of staff under former President Barack Obama — believes Trump is using a national emergency declaration, not to enhance border security, but to deliver on his signature campaign promise.
“You have a faux constitutional crisis to basically cover a real campaign crisis,” he said “This is all about the campaign. Some pledge he made.”
The two-term mayor was then asked his thoughts on embattled Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, who has resisted calls to resign over his 1984 medical school yearbook page that featured one person in Ku Klux Klan garb and another in blackface. Northam denies that he is in the photo.
“I don’t buy that that’s not his photo,” said Emanuel, before making his case that Northam shouldn’t leave office. He cited Obama’s initial opposition to gay marriage and Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation of slaves.
“Part of civil rights. Part of any change is maturity and evolution,” he said. “He is now going to be the greatest fighter for civil rights because he has something to prove. That fact is he has evolved.
“There’s nothing like a convert. He is going to have a zealotry to prove something because he has the campaign of his reputation.”
A recent poll found that 58 percent of African-American residents in Virginia want Northam to remain in office.
Source: Fox News Politics
Illinois man being fired from job fatally shoots 5 workers
AURORA, Ill. – The man who opened fire and killed five co-workers including the plant manager, human resources manager and an intern working his first day at a suburban Chicago manufacturing warehouse, took a gun he wasn’t supposed to have to a job he was about to lose.
Right after learning Friday that he was being fired from his job of 15 years at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora, Gary Martin pulled out a gun and began shooting, killing the three people in the room with him and two others just outside and wounding a sixth employee, police said Saturday.
Martin shot and wounded five of the first officers to get to the scene, including one who didn’t even make it inside the sprawling warehouse in Aurora, Illinois, a city of 200,000 about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Chicago.
After that flurry of shots and with officers from throughout the region streaming in to help, he ran off and hid in the back of the building, where officers found him about an hour later and killed him during an exchange of gunfire, police said.
"He was probably waiting for us to get to him there," Aurora police Lt. Rick Robertson said. "It was just a very short gunfight and it was over, so he was basically in the back waiting for us and fired upon us and our officers fired."
Like in many of the country’s mass shootings, Friday’s attack was carried out by a man with a violent criminal history who was armed with a gun he wasn’t supposed to have.
Martin, 45, had six arrests over the years in Aurora, for what police Chief Kristen Ziman described as "traffic and domestic battery-related issues" and for violating an order of protection. He also had a 1995 felony conviction for aggravated assault in Mississippi that should have prevented him from buying his gun, Ziman said.
He was able to buy the Smith and Wesson .40-caliber handgun on March 11, 2014, because he was issued a firearm owner’s identification card two months earlier after passing an initial background check. It wasn’t until he applied for a concealed carry permit five days after buying the gun and went through a more rigorous background check using digital fingerprinting that his Mississippi conviction was flagged and his firearm owner’s ID car was revoked, Ziman said. Once his card was revoked, he could no longer legally have a gun.
"Absolutely, he was not supposed to be in possession of a firearm," she said.
But he was, and on Friday he took it and several magazines of ammunition to work.
Scott Hall, president and CEO of Mueller Water Products Inc., which owns Henry Pratt, said that Martin came to work for his normal shift Friday and was being fired when he started shooting.
"We can confirm that the individual was being terminated Friday for a culmination of a various workplace rules violations," he told a news conference Saturday. He gave no details of the violations by Martin at the plant that makes valves for industrial purposes.
A company background check of Martin when he joined Henry Pratt 15 years ago did not turn up a 1995 felony conviction for aggravated assault in Mississippi, Hall said.
The employee who survived being shot is recovering at a hospital, Ziman said Saturday. None of the officers who were shot received life-threatening wounds, she said.
Police identified the slain workers as human resources manager Clayton Parks of Elgin; plant manager Josh Pinkard of Oswego; mold operator Russell Beyer of Yorkville; stock room attendant and fork lift operator Vicente Juarez of Oswego; and human resources intern and Northern Illinois University student Trevor Wehner, who lived in DeKalb and grew up in Sheridan.
It was Wehner’s first day on the job, his uncle Jay Wehner told The Associated Press. Trevor Wehner, 21, was on the dean’s list at NIU’s business college and was on track to graduate in May with a degree in human resource management.
"He always, always was happy. I have no bad words for him. He was a wonderful person. You can’t say anything but nice things about him," Jay Wehner said of his nephew.
Associated Press writers Carrie Antlfinger and Amanda Seitz contributed to this report. Babwin and Rousseau reported from Chicago.
Source: Fox News National
Flamengo soccer club fire in Brazil: bad luck or negligence?
RIO DE JANEIRO – Within hours of a fire at soccer club Flamengo’s training facility that would kill 10 teenage players, the club’s president called it "the worst tragedy" in the team’s 123-year history.
Soccer greats around the world expressed condolences, Rio de Janeiro’s mayor declared three days of mourning and the club, Brazil’s most popular and one of the most recognizable in Latin America, commemorated the boys during its latest home game on Thursday. Club officials repeatedly said the fire was simply a question of bad luck.
"It was not because of lack of attention and care from Flamengo. These boys are our biggest asset," said Flamengo’s CEO Reinaldo Belotti a day after the Feb. 8 blaze. "It was all a succession of events after a catastrophic day for Rio."
But for at least four years before the blaze, the club flouted city and code regulations at the training facility, incurred numerous fines and was the target of a lawsuit by state prosecutors related to the treatment of its academy players and their living quarters, an Associated Press review of city documents and a lawsuit has found. What’s more, a material used in the construction of the dorms, polyurethane, could have fueled the fast-moving blaze that engulfed the players, according to fire experts.
The findings raise questions about whether negligence by the team and a collective failure of authorities to regulate the training grounds ultimately played the largest roles in the tragedy.
"This is an irregular construction," city hall spokesman Tiago Costa told The Associated Press when asked about the container-like structures where 26 players were sleeping when fire struck.
Officials have not given an official cause for the blaze, though they have said they are investigating the possibility that an air conditioning unit caught fire after a power surge.
For years, the club had its academy players, teens between the ages of 14 and 16 identified as potential future professionals, sleeping in quarters that were never approved by the city. In fact, the area that burned was licensed as a parking lot, not a dormitory.
The most recent city license for the club, from April of last year, had no mention of sleeping quarters anywhere on the sprawling complex known as Ninho de Urubu in western Rio de Janeiro.
Since the dormitory didn’t officially exist, firefighting officials said they did not inspect or certify it.
The burned area "was not part of the security plan against fire or panic presented by the club and approved by the Fire Department," state firefighters said in a statement to the AP.
Bernardo Monteiro, a Flamengo spokesman, told the AP that the team had used the containers since 2010. He said there was one exit and the structures had fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, though could not say how many.
The existence of the containers was well known by authorities.
In March 2015, Rio state prosecutors filed a suit against the club demanding the closure of the training facility unless several irregularities were rectified.
Prosecutors demanded the club "address all the inherent peculiarities in the care of children and adolescents, from the pedagogical, social, psychological and medical all the way to the adequacy of accommodation facilities," read the suit.
The suit also called for the facility to be closed until there was "proof of compliance with the conditions imposed by the Fire Department, Civil Defense and City Hall," and any infraction to be met with a $27,000 fine.
Nearly four years later, no decision was made on the case — until Wednesday, five days after the deadly fire.
In a blistering ruling, Judge Pedro Henrique Alves said that Flamengo hadn’t just failed to address the demands in the suit, but also "didn’t even inform the court" of other changes it had made since the suit was filed.
Flamengo "used as lodging for adolescents containers that, unfortunately, caught fire, taking the lives of 10 (players) and injuring three others," he wrote, adding that children and adolescents were barred from entering the facility until further notice. Any infraction would result in a US$2.8 million fine.
The club was also frequently in the crosshairs of city officials: it was fined 31 times over the last few years for licensing violations, and in October 2017 the training facility was temporarily closed.
"If you are fined 30 times, you can’t keep postponing and get 20 more. Something has to be done," Arthur Antunes Coimbra, one of the club’s most famous players known as "Zico," told Globo’s SporTV this week.
Police have opened an investigation and say that criminal charges are possible.
Meanwhile, the company that made the dormitory, NHJ do Brasil, told the AP in a statement that its structures were made in accordance with the latest international standards. It also said the structure that burned was made of a metallic shell and lined on the inside with galvanized thermal acoustic panels that had a polyurethane core that was "self-extinguishing."
"In other words, the modules are made of metal and filled in with anti-inflammable material," said the company, which declined to answer whether the structures came with fire extinguishers, smoke detectors or air-conditioning units.
Polyurethane is an expanded plastic, or plastic injected with air, that is widely used in construction. While it can be treated with retardant, it can also burn very quickly if it catches fire from another source, three fire experts not involved in the investigation told the AP.
"Polyurethane foam used in this way is a cheap technology and dangerous from a fire protection perspective," said David Howitt, an emeritus professor at the University of California at Davis and expert in combustion. "These so-called ‘fire retardant’ foams are not retardants to the degree that the manufacturers suggest and are frequently grossly overstated."
Robert Solomon, a fire engineer with the Quincy, Massachusetts-based National Fire Protection Association, reviewed security camera video of the blaze and pictures of the aftermath. The images show drooping metallic roofs, mangled black panels and many objects so badly charred that they are indistinguishable.
Solomon said he found at least three red flags: only one exit, bars on some of the windows and an apparent lack of basic protective tools like smoke alarms. And the video footage appeared to show "flashover," when every combustible thing in an area is burning, he said. Flashover temperatures, upward of 1,900 Fahrenheit (1,037 Celsius), are so high that a person can become paralyzed, even if the flames are not touching them.
"At that point, it’s like being trapped in a prison with no way to escape," said Solomon.
After the fire, the Rio state prosecutor’s office formed a task force focused on financial compensation of the victims’ families. Many families whose children stay at academies are low income, and sometimes live far from the team.
Some family members and friends of victims have quietly questioned the safety measures the team had in place.
"There should have been an emergency door. There wasn’t," said Severino Fausto Santana, while attending the funeral of 15-year-old nephew Samuel Thomas de Souza Rosa. "That’s why the 10 (boys) died."
But for the most part, families have remained quiet, either declining to speak about Flamengo or lauded the club’s effort at a time of great grief.
"Flamengo is very useful and helping with everything," said Sergio Morikawa, who was not the biological father but was helping to raise 15-year-old Vitor Isaias, one of the kids who died. "I don’t want to judge, work myself up or blame anyone."
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Saudi crown prince delays visit to Pakistan by a day
ISLAMABAD – Pakistani officials say the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been delayed by a day.
Without giving any explanation for the delay, the Foreign Ministry says Prince Mohammad will now arrive in Islamabad on a two-day visit on Sunday and that his program remains unchanged.
The crown prince is expected to sign investment agreements worth billions of dollars. He will also travel to neighboring India amid heightened tension between Islamabad and New Delhi over this week’s attack on a paramilitary convoy in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 41 people.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed Pakistan for Thursday’s bombing.
Pakistan rejected the allegation and has lodged a protest over the Indian accusations.
Source: Fox News World
Border declaration protesters arrested at NYC Trump hotel
NEW YORK – Some people have been arrested while protesting President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration outside a New York City hotel that bears his name.
The NYPD wasn’t immediately able to say how many people were taken into custody Friday night outside the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Manhattan.
Video shows protesters going peacefully with their hands zip-tied behind their backs as officers lead them to police vans. They’ll likely be charged with disorderly conduct and blocking traffic.
Trump declared a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday in a move to secure more money for his long-promised wall.
Protesters outside the Columbus Circle hotel held signs with slogans such as "Abolish I.C.E." and ‘Trump Is The Emergency."
Trump developed the 44-story hotel, but it is owned by other investors.
Source: Fox News National
Aurora workplace shooter was set to be fired by company, police chief says
The gunman in a deadly shooting spree at a manufacturing warehouse in Aurora, Ill., where five employees were killed and five officers were wounded Friday, was set to be fired by the company, Police Chief Kristen Ziman told reporters at a news conference Friday night.
The suspect, identified as Gary Martin, 45, of Aurora, used a handgun and had worked for the Henry Pratt Co. — one of the largest makers of industrial water valves — for 15 years, she said. He was killed at the scene. The attack lasted 90 minutes.
“We don’t whether he had the gun on him at the time or if he went to retrieve it,” Ziman said, adding that authorities were not sure if Martin planned the shooting. “We can only surmise with a gentleman who was being terminated that this was something he intended to do, I’m not sure.”
It was not immediately known if the victims were the managers who were firing Martin. The company employs around 200 people, but authorities were not sure how many were in the 29,000-square-foot warehouse at the time of the shooting.
A woman claiming to be Martin’s mother told the Chicago Sun-Times her son was "stressed out" before the shooting.
“He was way too stressed out,” she said. She declined to tell the paper her name and did not specify why he was stressed. Court records show Martin had a conviction for stabbing a woman in Mississippi in 1994, according to the paper.
In a statement Friday night, Mueller Water Products – the parent company of Henry Pratt – said it "is shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific tragedy that occurred today at our Henry Pratt Facility."
"Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones, the first responders, the Aurora community and the entire Mueller family during this extremely difficult time. Our entire focus in the health and wellbeing of our colleagues, and we are committed to providing any and all support to them and their families. We continue to work closely with law enforcement, with whom we share our deepest gratitude for their support," the statement continued.
Police conducted a search on Martin’s home, but no weapons were found inside, Ziman said.
Several calls of an active shooter were reported around 1:24 p.m. local time at the manufacturing warehouse and officers arrived roughly four minutes later "and were fired upon immediately," Ziman said.
"Two of the initial four officers entering the building were shot. Additional officers began to arrive and were also fired upon," she said. "A total of five officers were struck by gunfire."
All of the officers were taken to nearby hospitals and two were later airlifted to trauma centers in the Chicago area, Ziman said, adding that "a sixth officer is being treated for a knee injury."
Five Aurora police officers suffered non-life-threatening injuries, Ziman said. One employee suffered a non-life threatening gunshot wound.
Multiple law enforcement agencies responded to the scene, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
John Probst, a Henry Pratt employee who escaped the building, told WLS-TV in Chicago that he saw a man holding a pistol with a laser sight. He said he recognized the shooter as a co-worker who was firing indiscriminately.
"One of the guys was up in the office, he said this person was shootin’, and, he come running down and he was bleeding pretty bad, and the next thing you know he was walking back and forth, I heard more shots, and we just left the building," he told the station.
Ziman did not know whether Martin was targeting specific employees or if his actions were part of a "classic workplace shooting."
"I hate that we have to use the term classic workplace shooting," she told reporters. "That pains me to do so."
Police were still working Friday to identify those killed.
Several public figures offered their thoughts on Friday’s attacks on Twitter. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said his "heart breaks for Aurora."
President Trump offered his condolences over Twitter as well: "Great job by law enforcement in Aurora, Illinois. Heartfelt condolences to all of the victims and their families. America is with you!"
The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police praised the actions of Aurora police in a statement Friday.
"Every police officer dreads days like this one, yet these four courageous Aurora officers and their colleagues did not hesitate to literally put their lives on the line today to stop further bloodshed. These four heroes willingly ran into harm’s way to protect their fellow citizens and very nearly paid the ultimate price. We Illinoisans should be humbly grateful for their sacrifice, and we ask that you join us in praying that the injured civilians and police officers make a full and speedy recovery."
Source: Fox News National
‘New evidence’ prompts release of two men questioned in Jussie Smollett case, Chicago PD says
Citing “new evidence,” the Chicago Police Department announced Friday night that two men held for questioning in connection with an alleged attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett have been released, with no charges filed against them.
The news came shortly after 10 p.m. ET in a Twitter message from Tom Ahern, deputy director of news affairs and communications for the police department.
“Due to new evidence as a result of today’s interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the #Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” Ahern wrote.
No description of the evidence was disclosed.
The two men — whom police have identified only as Nigerian brothers — were picked up at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Wednesday and taken into custody after returning from Nigeria after police learned that at least one of the men worked on "Empire," according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. He said he did not know what the man’s job was on the television drama.
Guglielmi’s comments followed a furious 24 hours that included local media reports that the attack was a hoax. Police say those reports are unconfirmed. Producers of the television drama also disputed media reports that Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon, was being written off the show, calling the idea "patently ridiculous."
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, told the Chicago Police Department that he was attacked by two men on Jan. 29 while walking home to his apartment. He alleged the men hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him, beat him and poured an "unknown chemical substance" on him.
Responding officers, according to a police report, found Smollett with a rope hanging from his neck. Chicago police told Fox News it was a “small white rope, like the type you’d buy in a hardware store.”
Fox News’ Matt Finn and Sasha Savitsky and the Associated Press contributed to this story.
Source: Fox News National
2020 Dems hit early voting states; Weld explores GOP bid
Several Democratic presidential candidates are spending the long holiday weekend on the campaign trail, while a Republican has announced he’s creating an exploratory committee for a possible 2020 run.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California are visiting early voting states on Friday that will be critical to securing the Democratic nomination next year.
Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, who ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 2016, said Friday that he was considering challenging President Donald Trump in a 2020 Republican primary.
A look at midterm campaign activities ahead of Presidents Day weekend:
Gillibrand, in New Hampshire, participated in a walking tour of downtown Concord before visiting businesses in Dover and meeting members of the LGBT community in Somersworth.
On Friday, she called Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border "inappropriate" and said Trump manufactured a crisis to justify the move.
The only national emergency, she said, "is the humanitarian crisis that President Trump has created at our border from separating family from children and treating people who need our help inhumanely."
Gillibrand visited a coffee shop in downtown Concord before stopping to listen to a homeless man, Kevin Clark, play a song by Cat Stevens called "Father and Son." She praised his singing and gave him a hug before heading off to a consignment shop, where she bought a vase and a small plate.
Later Friday, Gillibrand spoke at Teatotaller, a cafe in Somersworth that refers to itself as an "oasis of queer, hipster, tea, coffee and pastry goodness."
She told the crowd that she would advocate for the rights of the LGBTQ community and called it "an outrage" for Trump to tell transgender people what bathrooms they can use or whether they are qualified to serve in the military. She said she would support the addition of a non-binary or third gender classification.
Gillibrand also spoke out in favor of the Green Neal Deal, a set of proposed programs that aim to address climate change.
Harris, who is campaigning in South Carolina, visited Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site of the 2015 shooting that killed nine African-American churchgoers.
Speaking to reporters after a lunchtime stop, Harris said she’d visited the church, known as Mother Emanuel, earlier Friday and called it a "very tragic symbol of failure of people, in particular in the United States Congress, to pass smart gun safety laws."
Mother Emanuel is one of the oldest black churches in the South. During her visit, Harris paid her respects and left flowers. The church has been a pillar of African-American and spiritual life in South Carolina.
At a town hall in North Charleston later Friday, the scoreboard overhead in the gymnasium was changed to reflect the date of South Carolina’s Democratic primary: Feb. 29, 2020. The crowd swelled, and some attendees climbed on top of folded bleachers for makeshift seating.
Harris talked about the bill that the Senate passed this week that would explicitly make lynching a federal crime. Harris, one of three black members of the Senate, introduced the bill with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Booker is also running for president.
Harris says lynchings are "a stain on America’s history."
While in South Carolina, she received an endorsement for president from California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said on MSNBC: "I think the American people could not do better" than Harris.
Weld, who is little-known on the national stage but well-respected among veterans in the GOP established, announced the creation of an exploratory committee for president on Friday.
The move makes Trump the first incumbent president since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992 to face a notable primary challenge.
Weld served as Massachusetts governor from 1991 to 1997 and was popular despite being a Republican in a heavily Democratic state. He held the line on spending and taxes but embraced liberal positions on abortion and gay rights.
Trump remains very popular with Republicans so he faces little risk of losing the GOP nomination.
But primary challenges often foreshadow trouble ahead for incumbent presidents. Bush and Democrat Jimmy Carter lost their bids for a second term after facing challenges from inside their own party.
Source: Fox News National
Explosive device found, disarmed in Mexican mall
MEXICO CITY – Authorities on the outskirts of Mexico’s capital are investigating a homemade explosive device found in a shopping mall bathroom.
The Mexico state security secretary said in a statement Friday that the device discovered inside a mall in Tlalnepantla included a battery detonator and analog clock, as well as nuts and screws. It was housed in a small wooden box.
State police disarmed the device and turned it over to federal prosecutors.
Local press reported that the device was found inside a bathroom and was housed in a cigar box. Janitors allegedly found it about an hour before it was set to detonate.
Source: Fox News World
Trump Says Japan's PM Nominated Him for Nobel Peace Prize
President Donald Trump said Friday that Japan's prime minister had nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize for opening a dialogue with North Korea.
Trump also complained about President Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize and doubted he would be similarly honored.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe "gave me the most beautiful copy of a letter that he sent to the people who give out a thing called the Nobel Prize," Trump said at a White House news conference when asked about his late February summit in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "He said, 'I have nominated you, respectfully, on behalf of Japan. I am asking them to give you the Nobel Peace Prize.'"
The Associated Press could not immediately confirm Trump's claim.
Japan's Foreign Ministry said Saturday that it was aware of Trump's remark but cannot comment on details of the exchanges between Trump and Abe.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who also has credited Trump with starting negotiations with the reclusive North, has endorsed the U.S. leader for the Nobel Peace Prize as well.
Trump said early exchanges with Kim were filled with "fire and fury," but that the two have established a good relationship since their first meeting last year in Singapore. He said claimed Abe nominated him because he was worried about North Korea conducting missile tests over Japan.
Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, his first year in office, for laying out the U.S. commitment to "seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."
Trump complained Friday that Obama was there "for about 15 seconds" before he was awarded the prize.
"I'll probably never get it, but that's OK," Trump said. "They gave it to Obama. He didn't even know what he got it for."
Source: NewsMax Politics
Trump Picks Former Alabama Official to Lead FEMA
President Donald Trump says he will nominate a former Alabama official to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Jeffrey Byard held several positions with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency before he joined FEMA in 2017 during the agency's response to Hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida. Byard is currently the associate administrator for the Office of Response and Recovery.
If confirmed by the Senate, Byard would succeed Brock Long, who resigned this week after a two-year tenure in which he managed the response to historic wildfires and major hurricanes. Long was also dogged by questions about his use of government vehicles to and from his North Carolina home.
Long said he wants to spend more time with his family. His last day is March 8.
Source: NewsMax Politics
Mueller claims to have evidence Roger Stone communicated with WikiLeaks
Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday claimed in a new court filing that prosecutors have evidence that former Trump adviser Roger Stone communicated with WikiLeaks, the organization that released hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign.
Stone – who was indicted last month on charges of obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering – denied to Fox News that evidence of such communications exists.
“There is no such evidence,” Stone said in a text message.
In a Friday motion, Mueller’s team said that “search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone’s communications” with an organization widely believed to be WikiLeaks.
Last month’s indictment does not charge Stone with conspiring with WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website that published the emails, or with the Russian officers Mueller says hacked them. Instead, it accuses him of witness tampering, obstruction and false statements about his interactions related to WikiLeaks’ release.
The indictment says Stone spoke to Trump campaign officials during the summer of 2016 about WikiLeaks and information the organization had that might be damaging to the Clinton campaign. It also says Stone was contacted by “senior Trump campaign officials” to inquire about future WikiLeaks releases of hacked Democratic emails.
Stone has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Earlier Friday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the federal court for the District of Columbia instituted a partial gag order, ordering that Stone “refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.”
Jackson further ordered that any participants in the case, including witnesses and counsel, “refrain” from making any statements to the media or public when they are near the courthouse that could “influence any juror, potential juror, judge, witness or court officer or interfere with the administration of justice.”
Fox News’ Eben Brown, Brooke Singman and Bill Mears and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics