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Pope Francis visits the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto on the feast of the Annunciation, in Loreto
Pope Francis kisses a baby during a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto on the feast of the Annunciation, in Loreto, Italy March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

March 25, 2019

LORETO, Italy (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Monday visited a small stone structure that some Catholics believe was the house of the Madonna, mother of Jesus Christ, and that was miraculously flown by angels from the Holy Land to the Adriatic coast.

Francis traveled to the city of Loreto, site of one of Italy’s most visited religious shrines, where he said a Mass, comforted many sick people, and signed a paper he has written on the role of young people in the Church.

The document, known as a “apostolic exhortation,” is his assessment of a month-long synod of bishops at the Vatican last year.

The document, now being translated from the original Spanish, is expected to tell young people that they should not be obsessed with doctrinal minutiae but blend the Church’s rules with social activism to help those in need. It is due to be published soon.

According to popular tradition, the tiny house at Loreto was where the Madonna lived in Nazareth and where, according to the Bible, an angel appeared to her to tell her she would give birth to Jesus. Monday is a religious holiday, the Feast of the Annunciation, marking this event.

The house, known as the Holy House of Loreto or the Flying House of Loreto, was miraculously saved by angels so it would not be destroyed after Christian crusaders were expelled from Palestine in the 13th century, according to the tradition.

A more earthly explanation, also offered on the shrine’s website as an alternative, is that a wealthy family of merchants who ruled over what is now part of Greece and Albania and whose surname was Angeli (angels), had the stones brought over by ship.

The house is now part of a large basilica that attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year.

In his address to crowds in the square outside the shrine, Francis did not mention the tradition but said Loreto was a place of spirituality, faith and devotion.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei speaks at the annual session of CDF 2018 in Beijing
China’s Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei speaks at the annual session of China Development Forum (CDF) 2018 at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

March 25, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China will reduce direct government intervention in its vast industrial sector, the industry minister said on Monday, as Beijing seeks to ease concerns about its industrial policy, core to Washington’s complaints in the Sino-U.S. trade war.

The government’s pledge to reduce its influence over operational matters in China’s manufacturing sector follows an apparent toning down of its high-tech industrial push, which has long annoyed the United States.

“We will gradually reduce the government’s micro-management and direct intervention, in order to allow the market to effectively decide resource allocation and support the development of the manufacturing industry”, Miao Wei, minister of industry and informational technology, said at the China Development Forum.

But China will continue to encourage higher-value production, he said.

In his speech, Miao did not touch on the so-called “Made in China 2025” plan, an initiative intended to help China catch up with global rivals in sophisticated technologies such as semiconductors, robotics, aerospace and artificial intelligence (AI).

The state-backed industrial policy has provoked alarm in the West, due to China’s open efforts to deploy state support and subsidies.

The comments came days ahead of the latest round of high-level trade talks between China and the United States starting in Beijing on Thursday.

Washington has threatened further action if China does not change its practices on issues ranging from industrial subsidies to intellectual property.

China is not conceding to U.S. demands to ease curbs on technology companies, the Financial Times reported on Sunday, citing three people briefed on the discussions.

‘VALLEY OF DEATH’

The latest conciliatory tone struck by Beijing to placate Washington does not mean China is less serious about its high-tech manufacturing drive, with local governments still rolling out plans to help manufactuers move up the value chain.

Local governments have also been told to pursue new engines of industrial growth by developing innovative technologies, such as new energy vehicles (NEVs) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Miao said technology manufacturers needed to survive “the Valley of Death” as they seek to turn laboratory samples into mass production.

The southern province of Hunan this month issued a three-year plan for the AI sector, pledging more support for a local industry whose size is projected to reach 10 billion yuan ($1.49 billion) by 2021.

In the central province of Henan, production of service robots rose 14.3 times in January-February from a year earlier, according to local media. [nL3N216108]

When asked to comment on President Donald Trump’s wish to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, Miao said that such decisions could not be made by a single person because an entire supply chain was involved.

“Every company will consider putting its supply chain in a country were costs are relatively lower, this the purpose of the law of economics,” he said.

“If, after comparisons are made, that the United States has lower costs and possess advantages versus other countries, I’m sure that a company…will bring its manufacturing back to the United States.”

In a bid to support to small companies, many of which have been struggling to get financing, Miao said small and medium-sized companies will play a bigger role in the sector’s innovation.

China is planning to launch a highly-anticipated Nasdaq-style technology board – a move by Beijing to counter U.S. curbs on China’s technology advances.

The government’s next move is to implement policies such as tax reductions and to improve the protection of intellectual property rights, according to Miao, adding that the general manufacturing sector will be fully liberalized.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh and Shu Zhang; Writing by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

Chris White | Energy Reporter

  • A new report suggesting that Facebook is using a secret code to deboost conservative content is sparse on evidence, according to tech experts.
  • It’s likely that reports showing Facebook suppressing conservative content could be overblown, experts warn. Examples of Facebook deboosting conservative content could be evidence of the company’s inability to moderate its platform.
  • Facebook’s inability to be transparent about the limits of artificial intelligence is creating a lot of problems for the social media giant, one artificial intelligence researcher warns.

Tech experts are criticizing a recent Project Veritas report suggesting Facebook is involved in a secret project designed to suppress conservative content on the platform.

Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe produced a report in February suggesting that Facebook is suppressing the distribution of conservative pages. The report included documents from an insider who claimed the company’s engineers were using a piece of code designed to weed out videos on suicide as a tool to deboost conservative content.

The tool the insider saw during her time at Facebook was labeled Sigma:ActionDeboostLiveDistribution, which is a type of artificial intelligence that does real-time voice-to-text analysis of live stream videos, then records the text, and tries to decipher what the content of the text means.

Content from The Daily Caller, internet pundit Mike Cernovich and others was allegedly targeted using this tool, according to the insider. (RELATED: Daily Caller Editor In Chief Locked Out Of Account For Tweeting ‘Learn To Code”)

Project Veritas’ report also included a memo from Facebook engineer Seiji Yamamoto, who reportedly told a colleague that Facebook should address “… quite a bit of content near the perimeter of hate speech.” Yamamoto, a data science manager, and others discussed in the memos how best to collect information about internet troll behavior for the purpose of shutting down supposedly malicious content.

Screenshot of internal Facebook memo explaining reason for deboosting Mike Cernovich’s page (Screenshot)

The report gained some traction on Twitter after its release, but got elevated to a higher level after Donald Trump Jr. wrote a March 17 editorial on big tech censoring conservatives. He mentioned O’Keefe’s reporting in the piece, writing that “we now know that Mark Zuckerberg’s social media giant developed algorithms to ‘deboost’ certain content, limiting its distribution and appearance in news feeds.”

Software engineers are now poking holes in Project Veritas’ conclusions. Neil Stevens, director of information technology at The Daily Caller, believes there is not much evidence supporting the conclusion O’Keefe’s group is making. Stevens is responsible for building up and maintaining websites for both TheDC and The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Facebook is trying to block suicide content but doing it on the cheap. Instead of using human beings to monitor videos, they’re using artificial intelligence/machine learning systems to scan mass amounts of video without any human intervention,” he told TheDCNF. “And in this case, it failed,” Stevens said, referring to the content O’Keefe provided as evidence that Facebook is deboosting conservatives.

Another likely scenario is that Facebook took note of how internet trolls were jumping into YouTube videos and editing them to include clips of people promoting suicide. Such videos might look normal until a jump-cut halfway through reveals a person demonstrating how to slit a wrist. Facebook tried to use this specific code to flush out such content, but their AI experienced false-positives, Stevens believes.

Screenshot of internal Facebook guide explaining reason for deboosting Mike Cernovich’s video content (screenshot provided by Project Veritas)

Facebook has faced criticisms of censoring individuals, many of whom are conservatives, though some Democrats are also dinging the Silicon Valley giant. Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for instance, has advocated for breaking up what she believes is Facebook and Amazon’s monopoly. Conservatives meanwhile have hammered the company during the past few years over concerns related to censorship.

President Donald Trump’s social media director Dan Scavino Jr. was temporarily blocked on March 18 from making public Facebook comments. The ban claimed that “some of your comments have been reported as spam,” and that “to avoid getting blocked again,” he should “make sure your posts are in line with the Facebook Community Standards.” The president assured his supporters in a March 19 tweet that he “will be looking into this!” His tweet linked to a story about Facebook targeting Scavino.

Other engineers made similar observations. Emily Williams, a data scientist and founder of Whole Systems Enterprises, for one, argued that Facebook’s lack of transparency about the frailties of their AI-deep learning instruments makes it difficult for people to understand why and how content is being throttled. (RELATED: GOP Lawmakers Grill Social Media Giants Over Alleged Censorship Of Conservatives, Again) 

FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Facebook logo is placed on broken glass above a printed EU flag in this illustration taken January 28, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

“I think that is a very big stretch,” she said, referring to the belief that Facebook is using the code for anything other than flushing out content promoting suicide. “If Facebook came out and was transparent, that would be one thing, but a lot of people are arrogant and don’t want to admit their algorithms are imperfect,” said Williams, whose company provides AI solutions for a variety of industries.

She added: “If I were trying to weed out extremists I would not use this code. These codes are very good at what they are trained for but not very good at anything else.” Facebook is a profit-driven corporation, so if it wanted to target conservatives or liberals, then it would probably not use a code for a purpose other than what it was designed to do, Williams noted.

A more efficient process would be to “write an algorithm that tries to find those people specifically. Write one for the extreme left and extreme right. And a different one for ISIS and neo-Nazis,” she said. Stevens mirrored her comments, telling TheDCNF that using code for reasons other than the stated purpose risks creating a much higher rate of false-positives, all of which could affect content across the platform.

Facebook fired the insider in 2018 for breaking multiple employment policies, a company spokesman told TheDCNF. Project Veritas’ spokesman Marco Bruno told TheDCNF that his group stands behind O’Keefe’s report. “We happen to trust what our insider saw behind closed doors, and the documents she leaked, more than what Facebook will say on a podium,” Bruno said.

A Facebook spokesman directed TheDCNF to a section of the company’s policy page, which explains that deboosting sometimes occurs on the platform when users upload pre-recorded videos on the Facebook Live feature. The company has tools detecting when a person has misused the feature and can then prompt AI to deboost the non-live videos. Live videos are considered more newsworthy and thus take priority.

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Source: The Daily Caller

The U.S. Coast Guard Legend-class maritime security cutter USCGC Bertholf (WMSL 750) pulls into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
The U.S. Coast Guard Legend-class maritime security cutter USCGC Bertholf (WMSL 750) pulls into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawii, U.S. to support the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012 exercise in this June 29, 2012 handout photo. Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Dasbach/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

March 25, 2019

By Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States sent Navy and Coast Guard ships through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, the military said, as the United States increases the frequency of movement through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China.

The voyage risks further raising tensions with China but will likely be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from Washington amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing.

The two ships were identified as the Navy Curtis Wilbur destroyer and the Coast Guard Bertholf cutter, a U.S. military statement said.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the statement said.

“The U.S. will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” it added.

Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include a trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom of navigation patrols.

Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help defend the island nation and is its main source of arms. The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taiwan more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.

China has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island, which it considers a wayward province of “one China” and sacred Chinese territory.

China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the island on drills in the past few years and worked to isolate the island internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency released a report earlier this year describing Taiwan as the “primary driver” for China’s military modernization, which it said had made major advances in recent years.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said trade negotiations with China were progressing and a final agreement “will probably happen,” adding that his call for tariffs to remain on Chinese imported goods for some time did not mean talks were in trouble.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City
FILE PHOTO: Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference to announce a plan to strengthen finances of state oil firm Pemex, at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

March 24, 2019

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Sunday the state had in the past been the main violator of human rights in the country, as he blamed violence and disappearances on his predecessors’ “neo-liberal” economic policies.

“There was a time in which the main violator of human rights was the state. It was the violator par excellence of human rights. That’s over,” Lopez Obrador said at an event in which his government set out plans to end disappearances in Mexico.

“I, as president, and at the same time as commander of the country’s armed forces, will never give the order to massacre, to repress the people of Mexico,” he said.

Tens of thousands of people are registered as disappeared in Mexico, where fighting between drug cartels and their clashes with security forces have been blamed for more than 200,000 deaths since late 2006.

The violence has been punctuated by mass killings, some of which have drawn international condemnation of the Mexican authorities. Most notorious was the 2014 disappearance of 43 student teachers in the southwestern city of Iguala.

The government said the youths were massacred after corrupt police handed them to a local drug gang, who incinerated their bodies. But many questions remain about the teachers’ fate, and the incident did lasting damage to the reputation of Lopez Obrador’s predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto.

Lopez Obrador, who took office in December, has sought to present his presidency as a complete break with previous administrations, and said he would not back a policy of “an eye for an eye” that tried to tackle “violence with violence.”

Homicides have remained close to record levels since the veteran leftist took power.

The event set out plans to increase coordination between authorities, relatives and emergency services under a “national search system” designed to track down the disappeared.

Lopez Obrador said the government would spare no expense in its efforts to find the missing, and to put names on some 26,000 unidentified bodies currently in storage.

During his address, which was attended by relatives of some of the many disappeared, the president again attacked the economic policies of previous governments, saying they were corrupt, had impoverished Mexico and encouraged violence.

“This is what we’re suffering from,” he said, “the rotten fruit of neo-liberal economics prescribed for 36 years.”

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Source: OANN

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks at a migration summit in Budapest
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks at a migration summit in Budapest, Hungary March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

March 24, 2019

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government could resume media campaigns against European Union bodies, he suggested on Sunday, as his nationalist Fidesz party gears up for European Parliament elections due on May 26.

On Wednesday the European Parliament’s main center-right grouping, the European People’s Party (EPP), voted to suspend Fidesz amid concerns it has violated EU principles on the rule of law.

The action was triggered in part by Orban’s media campaign attacking European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, depicting him as a proponent of mass immigration into Europe and as a puppet of Hungarian-born U.S. billionaire George Soros.

The European Commission has dismissed the claims as fiction.

Orban had ended the media attacks and apologized to members of the EPP, but he again struck a combative tone in an interview with public radio on Sunday.

“People are a bit angry with us in Brussels because, at the start of the European Parliament election campaign, we ran an information campaign in Hungary, essentially exposing what Brussels was up to,” Orban said.

“We have exposed them and, naturally, they are angry.”

Nationalist Orban has often clashed with the EU over his anti-immigration campaigns and judicial reforms.

“Our job now is to continuously inform the people about what Brussels is up to,” Orban added in Sunday’s interview.

“We should not back down, we should not be scared because the opponent takes offence and attacks us with the anger of people who are exposed.”

Asked whether Orban’s remarks meant Budapest would resume its anti-EU media campaigns, a government spokesman declined further comment, saying: “The prime minister’s words speak for themselves.”

Orban has also leveled criticism at European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, the European Socialist candidate to suceed Juncker after the May elections.

Orban cast Timmermans as an out-of-touch Brussels bureaucrat living in what Orban called a “bubble”. Dutchman Timmermans is broadly disliked by nationalist parties in Eastern Europe, including in Hungary.

“Just this week there was a vote transforming the Dutch upper house, where the party of this Timmermans fell over spectacularly. He has lost the confidence of the people. And meanwhile he comes to Budapest and tours European capitals to lecture us about democracy,” Orban said.

“Such Timmermans-types, who are given the boot at home by their own people, should not be given a position in Brussels, because that will weaken cooperation in the entire EU.”

Orban also said that the outcome of the European vote would determine whether Fidesz remains in the EPP group or seeks a new alliance in Europe.

(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by David Goodman)

Source: OANN

Sister of Owais Malik, a suspected militant, displays her phone with the picture of Malik, at her home in south Kashmir's Kulgam district
Sister of Owais Malik, a suspected militant, displays her phone with the picture of Malik, at her home in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district February 16, 2019. REUTERS/Zeba Siddiqui

March 24, 2019

By Zeba Siddiqui and Fayaz Bukhari

KULGAM, India (Reuters) – Kashmiri farmer Yusuf Malik learned that his son Owais, a 22-year old arts student and apple picker, had become an armed militant via a Facebook post.

Days after Owais disappeared from his home in this picturesque valley below the Himalayan ranges, his picture appeared on the social network, posted by a user the family said they did not recognize. The short, thin, curly-haired young man in casual jeans and a T-shirt stared resolutely at the camera, both hands clutching an AK-47 rifle.

In blood red font on the photo was scribbled his new allegiance: the Hizbul Mujahideen, or ‘The Party of Warriors’, the largest of the militant groups fighting to free the mostly-Muslim Kashmir from Indian rule.

“He was a responsible kid who cared about his studies,” said Yusuf, 49, staring down at the carpeted floor of his brick home where he sat on a recent winter morning, clasping his folded hands inside his traditional pheran cloak.

The family said it has not heard from Owais since.

Owais is one of a rising number of local militants fighting for independence of Kashmir – an insurgency being spread on social media amid India’s sustained, iron-fisted rule of the region.

Hundreds of thousands of Indian troops and armed police are stationed in this lush region at the foot of the Himalayas. India and rival Pakistan have always disputed the area and in the past three decades, an uprising against New Delhi’s rule has killed nearly 50,000 civilians, militants and soldiers, by official count.

Historically, that insurrection has largely been led by militants from Pakistan, who have infiltrated into the valley.

But now, an increasing number of locally-born Kashmiris are picking up arms, according to Indian officials. About 400 local Kashmiris have been recruited by militants since the start of 2016, nearly double the number in the previous six years, according to government data. India says Pakistani groups continue to provide training and arms – a claim Islamabad rejects. 

Just a month before Owais Malik showed up on Facebook, another young man, Adil Ahmad Dar, left his home in a nearby part of Kashmir to join a militant group. This February, his suicide attack on a paramilitary convoy killed 40 Indian policemen, and took India and Pakistan to the brink of war.

After Dar’s attack, Indian security forces launched a major crackdown, searching Kashmiri homes and detaining hundreds of supporters, sympathizers and family members of those in armed groups. At least half a dozen gunbattles broke out between Indian police and militants.

The families of Dar and other young militants, as well as some local leaders and political experts, say run-ins between locals and security forces are one of the main reasons for anger and radicalization. After the recent crackdown, they expect more young people to take up arms.

“FREEDOM, MARTYRS”

Outside the narrow lane that leads to the Malik family home in Kulgam in southern Kashmir, children walk to school past shuttered shopfronts and walls spray-painted with the word “azadi”, the local word for “freedom”. The graveyard at the end of the lane has an area for militants, who are remembered as “martyrs”.

Dar’s family claims he’d been radicalized in 2016 after being beaten up by Indian troops on his way back from school for pelting stones at them.

“Since then, he wanted to join the militants,” said his father Ghulam Hassan Dar, a farmer.

India’s home and foreign ministries did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

In news conferences since the suicide bombing, Lt. Gen. K.J.S. Dhillon, India’s top military commander in Kashmir, has dismissed allegations of harassment and rights abuses by Indian troops as “propaganda”. He said the recent crackdown by security forces has resulted in the killing of the masterminds of the attack, and militant recruitment has dipped in recent months.

Syed Ata Hasnain, a retired army general who has served in Kashmir for over 20 years, said the rise in homegrown fighters does not surprise him. 

“Those who were born in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the conflict started, have now come of age,” he said. “This is a generation that has only seen the jackboot. The alienation of this generation is higher than the alienation of the previous generation.”

A 17th century Mughal emperor called Kashmir “paradise on earth”. But violence has ebbed and flowed in the valley since the subcontinent was divided into predominantly Hindu India and Islamic Pakistan after independence from Britain in 1947.

The question of Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, was never resolved, and it has been the catalyst for two wars and several violent clashes between the countries.

Tensions have risen after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in New Delhi in 2014. Modi promised a tougher approach to Pakistan and gave security forces the license to retaliate forcefully against the insurgency.

CULT FOLLOWING

Around that time, many young Kashmiris started rallying around Burhan Wani, who had left home at the age of 15 to join the insurgency. Wani had a large following on social media, where he appeared in videos dressed in military fatigues and armed with an assault rifle, calling for an uprising against Indian rule. 

He and his brother were beaten by security forces when they were teenagers, his family told local media. Wani was 22 when he was killed by security forces in 2016 and thousands attended his funeral despite restrictions on the movement of people and traffic.

The United Nations said in a report last year that in trying to quell mass protests in Kashmir since 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to between 130 and 145 killings, according to civil society estimates.

Thousands were injured, including around 700 who sustained eye injuries from the use of pellet guns by security forces, it said. Thousands of people had simply disappeared since the insurgency began, it said.

The Indian government has rejected the report as false. Indian forces have long been accused of rights abuses and torture in custody in Kashmir, but officials routinely deny the charges.

Instead, India points the finger at Pakistan. Officials say the rebellion in Kashmir is being funded and organized by Pakistan and if they cut off those resources, the insurgency will weaken and it can then focus on building Kashmir’s economy. The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group claimed responsibility for the latest attack, which was the deadliest in the insurgency.

Pakistan says it only provides moral support to the Kashmiri right to self-determination.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the Muslim spiritual leader of Kashmir who is considered a moderate separatist, contests that India has true plans to engage politically with the people of Kashmir.

“In the past five years we have seen that the government of India has only spoken to Kashmiris through the barrel of the gun, that’s it. There is no political approach,” he said.

“Nobody is dying in Kashmir for lack of roads, electricity and water.” 

LOSING ANOTHER SON

A few miles south of Owais Malik’s home in Kulgam lives Masuma Begum, who said her son and brother had been called in to an army camp two days after the latest bombing and have been held since then.

A military spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Behind the glass panes of a wall shelf above her were photos of a smiling young man, an assault rifle slung on his shoulder.

“That’s my other son, Tausif,” Masuma Begum said. The 24-year-old had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen in 2013 and been killed by the army the same year, she said. “I don’t want to lose another son.”

(Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui and Fayaz Bukhari in KULGAM; Editing by Martin Howell and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Source: OANN

An anti-Brexit protester waves an EU flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London
An anti-Brexit protester waves an EU flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

March 23, 2019

By Andrew MacAskill and Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) – Thousands of people opposed to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union will march through central London on Saturday to demand a new referendum as the deepening Brexit crisis risked sinking Prime Minister Theresa May’s premiership.

After three years of tortuous debate, it is still uncertain how, when or even if Brexit will happen as May tries to plot a way out of the gravest political crisis in at least a generation.

May hinted on Friday that she might not bring her twice-defeated EU divorce deal back to parliament next week, leaving her Brexit strategy in meltdown. The Times and The Daily Telegraph reported that pressure was growing on May to resign.

While the country and its politicians are divided over Brexit, most agree it is the most important strategic decision the United Kingdom has faced since World War Two.

Pro-EU protesters will gather for a “Put it to the people march” at Marble Arch on the edge of Hyde Park around midday, before marching past the prime minister’s office in Downing Street and finish outside parliament.

James McGrory, the director of the People’s Vote campaign and one of the organizers of the march, said the campaign for a second Brexit referendum is now the biggest mass movement in Britain, dwarfing the membership of the main political parties.

“People from all walks of life see can what they were once offered bears no relation to what is being delivered and they are angry about it because it feels like a bad deal is being rammed down their throats,” he told Reuters.

Organizers were confident that the size of the crowd would exceed a similar rally held in October, when supporters said about 700,000 people turned up.

Two hundred coaches from around Britain were booked to take people to London for the march. One coach left the Scottish Highlands on Friday evening, and another left from Cornwall on England’s western tip early on Saturday morning.

A petition to cancel Brexit altogether gained 4 million signatures in just 3 days after May told the public “I am on your side” over Brexit and urged lawmakers to get behind her deal.

In the June 23, 2016 referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 52 percent, backed Brexit while 16.1 million, or 48 percent, backed staying in the bloc.

But ever since, opponents of Brexit have been exploring ways to hold another referendum.

May has repeatedly ruled out holding another Brexit referendum, saying it would deepen divisions and undermine support for democracy. Brexit supporters say a second referendum would trigger a major constitutional crisis.

Some opinion polls have shown a slight shift in favor of remaining in the European Union, but there has yet to be a decisive change in attitudes.

Many voters in Britain say they have become increasingly bored by Brexit and May said on Wednesday that they want this stage of the Brexit process to be “over and done with.”

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

Source: OANN


People take part in the “March for Love” at North Hagley Park after the mosque attacks in Christchurch, March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

March 23, 2019

By Tom Westbrook

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – About 3,000 people walked through Christchurch in a ‘march for love’ early on Saturday, honoring the 50 worshippers massacred in the New Zealand city a week ago, as the mosques where the shooting took place reopened for prayers.

Carrying placards with signs such as, “He wanted to divide us, he only made us stronger”, “Muslims welcome, racists not”, and “Kia Kaha” – Maori for ‘stay strong’, people walked mostly in silence or softly sang a Maori hymn of peace.

“We feel like hate has brought a lot of darkness at times like this and love is the strongest cure to light the city out of that darkness,” said Manaia Butler, 16, one of the student organizers of the march.

With armed police on site, the Al Noor mosque, where more than 40 of the victims were killed by a suspected white supremacist, reopened on Saturday. Police said they were reopening the nearby Linwood mosque as well.

“It is the place where we pray, where we meet, we’ll be back, yeah,” Ashif Shaikh told reporters outside the Al Noor mosque. He said he was there on the day of the shooting in which two of his housemates were killed.

Most victims of the country’s worst mass shooting were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

At Saturday’s march security was heavy, with dozens of armed police officers and buses parked sideways across city streets to close them off for the march.

Shila Nair, a migrant from India who works for a migrant advocacy group called Shakti, traveled from Auckland to take part in the march.

“The support gives us hope and optimism that migrant and refugee communities in this country can have a level playing field,” she said.

“We appreciate the solidarity, but it must be carried on. It cannot be allowed to fizzle out. This is how social change happens.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who swiftly denounced the shooting as terrorism and has participated in many of the tributes and funerals for the victims, has announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles, some of the guns used by the shooter.

Ardern and New Zealand have been widely praised for the outpouring of empathy and unity and the response to the attacks. Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum thanked her on Twitter late on Friday.

“Thank you @jacindaardern and New Zealand for your sincere empathy and support that has won the respect of 1.5 billion Muslims after the terrorist attack that shook the Muslim community around the world,” he said on Twitter.

Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand’s 4.8-million population, a 2013 census showed, most of whom were born overseas.

On Friday the Muslim call to prayer was broadcast nationwide on television and radio and about 20,000 people attended a prayer service in the park opposite Al Noor mosque in a show of solidarity.

Many women have also donned headscarves to show their support.

In Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, a special prayer was held after the Friday sermon for the victims of the attack, according to the Saudi news website Sabq.

Most of the dead were laid to rest at a mass burial in Christchurch on Friday, when 26 victims were interred. Others have been buried at private ceremonies, or repatriated to their home countries for funerals.

Shahadat Hossain, whose brother Mojammel Haque was killed in the attack, told Reuters that she would bring his body back to Bangladesh.

“I don’t know when our family will be able to come out of this grief,” she said.

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook, Joseph Campbell, Natasha Howitt and Jill Gralow in Christchurch, Hesham Hajali in Cairo, Ruma Paul in Dhaka and Marwa Rashad in Riyadh; Writing by Tom Westbrook and Lidia Kelly; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Source: OANN


People take part in the “March for Love” at North Hagley Park after the mosque attacks in Christchurch, March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

March 23, 2019

By Tom Westbrook

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – About 3,000 people walked through Christchurch in a ‘march for love’ early on Saturday, honoring the 50 worshippers massacred in the New Zealand city a week ago, as the mosques where the shooting took place reopened for prayers.

Carrying placards with signs such as, “He wanted to divide us, he only made us stronger”, “Muslims welcome, racists not”, and “Kia Kaha” – Maori for ‘stay strong’, people walked mostly in silence or softly sang a Maori hymn of peace.

“We feel like hate has brought a lot of darkness at times like this and love is the strongest cure to light the city out of that darkness,” said Manaia Butler, 16, one of the student organizers of the march.

With armed police on site, the Al Noor mosque, where more than 40 of the victims were killed by a suspected white supremacist, reopened on Saturday. Police said they were reopening the nearby Linwood mosque as well.

“It is the place where we pray, where we meet, we’ll be back, yeah,” Ashif Shaikh told reporters outside the Al Noor mosque. He said he was there on the day of the shooting in which two of his housemates were killed.

Most victims of the country’s worst mass shooting were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

At Saturday’s march security was heavy, with dozens of armed police officers and buses parked sideways across city streets to close them off for the march.

Shila Nair, a migrant from India who works for a migrant advocacy group called Shakti, traveled from Auckland to take part in the march.

“The support gives us hope and optimism that migrant and refugee communities in this country can have a level playing field,” she said.

“We appreciate the solidarity, but it must be carried on. It cannot be allowed to fizzle out. This is how social change happens.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who swiftly denounced the shooting as terrorism and has participated in many of the tributes and funerals for the victims, has announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles, some of the guns used by the shooter.

Ardern and New Zealand have been widely praised for the outpouring of empathy and unity and the response to the attacks. Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum thanked her on Twitter late on Friday.

“Thank you @jacindaardern and New Zealand for your sincere empathy and support that has won the respect of 1.5 billion Muslims after the terrorist attack that shook the Muslim community around the world,” he said on Twitter.

Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand’s 4.8-million population, a 2013 census showed, most of whom were born overseas.

On Friday the Muslim call to prayer was broadcast nationwide on television and radio and about 20,000 people attended a prayer service in the park opposite Al Noor mosque in a show of solidarity.

Many women have also donned headscarves to show their support.

In Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, a special prayer was held after the Friday sermon for the victims of the attack, according to the Saudi news website Sabq.

Most of the dead were laid to rest at a mass burial in Christchurch on Friday, when 26 victims were interred. Others have been buried at private ceremonies, or repatriated to their home countries for funerals.

Shahadat Hossain, whose brother Mojammel Haque was killed in the attack, told Reuters that she would bring his body back to Bangladesh.

“I don’t know when our family will be able to come out of this grief,” she said.

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook, Joseph Campbell, Natasha Howitt and Jill Gralow in Christchurch, Hesham Hajali in Cairo, Ruma Paul in Dhaka and Marwa Rashad in Riyadh; Writing by Tom Westbrook and Lidia Kelly; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Source: OANN

Mary Margaret Olohan | Reporter

A Catholic priest was stabbed several times during a live-streamed mass in Montreal on Friday morning.

Rev. Claude Grou, the rector at St. Joseph’s Oratory, was celebrating mass when a “tall, slim man” approached the altar, crossed behind it and chased after the fleeing priest to stab him repeatedly, according to CBC News. The man was thrown to the ground and restrained.

Grou was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. The Montreal Diocese confirmed that the priest is recovering and in stable condition. His wounds were superficial as the knife broke during the attack, according to witnesses. (RELATED: Priest Accused Of Sexual Abuse Found Shot To Death In Presumed Homicide)

The attack was captured on livestream and broadcast by the Catholic channel Salt + Light.

WATCH: 

One of the parishioners who witnessed the event, Philip Barrett, reported that there were about 60 people at the mass and that the priest was getting ready to read the Gospel when the incident occurred.

“He [the assailant)]walked past the barrier leading into the sanctuary near the altar, and everyone was just initially wondering what was going on, and some people were starting to react a little bit,” he told CBC News.

“And he walked directly behind the altar and seemed to strike the priest.”

The parishioners present do not recall seeing the man at that church before. He has been taken into custody and will be questioned by police later Friday. CBC News reported the suspect is 26 years old.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the attack is a “horrible and inexcusable gesture that has no place in Montreal.”

“I am relieved to learn that the life of Father Claude Grou, rector of the [Oratory], is out of danger and that his condition is stable,” she tweeted. “On behalf of all Montrealers, I wish him speedy recovery.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also tweeted, “What a horrible attack at Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal this morning. Father Claude Grou, Canadians are thinking of you and wishing you a swift recovery.”

Follow Mary Margaret on Twitter

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Source: The Daily Caller

Matt M. Miller | Contributor

Parkland shooting survivor Sydney Aiello, 19, died Sunday after committing suicide, according to police.

Aiello was reportedly suffering from “survivor’s guilt” on account of one of her very close friends being killed in the mass school shooting last winter, CBS 4 Miami reports.

Cara Aiello, Sydney’s mother, told CBS 4 that Sydney had also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, making it difficult for her to attend her college classes because of her fear of being in a classroom. She said Sydney was frequently sad but never reached out for help before killing herself. (RELATED: Here’s The Wounded Warrior’s Response To David Hogg That Is Going Viral)

Sydney’s close friend, Meadow Pollack, was one of the 17 victims of the shooting last winter.

Meadow’s brother, Hunter Pollack, tweeted Wednesday in response to Sydney’s suicide, urging Twitter users to help the Aiello family by contributing for the funeral expenses: “Beautiful Sydney with such a bright future was taken from us way too soon. My friend’s sister and someone dear to Meadow.”

Ryan Petty, father of Alaina Perry — another one of the 17 students killed in the Parkland shooting — told CBS 4 Thursday, “It breaks my heart that we’ve lost yet another student from Stoneman Douglas.” (RELATED: Parkland Students’ Anti-NRA Protest Against Publix Backfires)

“Some of the questions that need to be asked are: Do you wish you were dead and not wake up? Second question: Have you had thoughts of killing herself?” he said. “My advice to parents is to ask questions. Don’t be afraid. Don’t wait.”

Source: The Daily Caller

The Democratic Socialists of America is officially supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for president.

The group, which says it is the “largest and fastest growing socialist organization in the U.S.,” made the announcement in a tweet on Thursday night.

“Democratic Socialists of America is proud to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for president!” the tweet said. “We’re building a mass movement to take on the billionaires and win a society that puts people over profit. Join us.”

The DSA had also endorsed Sanders’ primary bid in 2016, The Hill noted.

“Sanders is the only Democratic Socialist running for president in 2020, and the only socialist in American history with a serious chance of winning the presidency,” the DSA said in a statement, according to Fox News.  “Sanders’s platform — Green New Deal, Medicare for All, College for All, ending cash bail, strengthening unions, and a living wage — would transform American society by ending the worst forms of poverty and inequality while empowering workers to fight for even more.”

Source: NewsMax

The Democratic Socialists of America is officially supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for president.

The group, which says it is the “largest and fastest growing socialist organization in the U.S.,” made the announcement in a tweet on Thursday night.

“Democratic Socialists of America is proud to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for president!” the tweet said. “We’re building a mass movement to take on the billionaires and win a society that puts people over profit. Join us.”

The DSA had also endorsed Sanders’ primary bid in 2016, The Hill noted.

“Sanders is the only Democratic Socialist running for president in 2020, and the only socialist in American history with a serious chance of winning the presidency,” the DSA said in a statement, according to Fox News.  “Sanders’s platform — Green New Deal, Medicare for All, College for All, ending cash bail, strengthening unions, and a living wage — would transform American society by ending the worst forms of poverty and inequality while empowering workers to fight for even more.”

Source: NewsMax

The Democratic Socialists of America is officially supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for president.

The group, which says it is the “largest and fastest growing socialist organization in the U.S.,” made the announcement in a tweet on Thursday night.

“Democratic Socialists of America is proud to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for president!” the tweet said. “We’re building a mass movement to take on the billionaires and win a society that puts people over profit. Join us.”

The DSA had also endorsed Sanders’ primary bid in 2016, The Hill noted.

“Sanders is the only Democratic Socialist running for president in 2020, and the only socialist in American history with a serious chance of winning the presidency,” the DSA said in a statement, according to Fox News.  “Sanders’s platform — Green New Deal, Medicare for All, College for All, ending cash bail, strengthening unions, and a living wage — would transform American society by ending the worst forms of poverty and inequality while empowering workers to fight for even more.”

Source: NewsMax

Turkish President Erdogan makes a speech as New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston listens in Istanbul
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech as New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters listens during an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, March 22, 2019. Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

March 22, 2019

By Sarah Dadouch and Bulent Usta

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – New Zealand on Friday defended its reaction to its worst mass shooting, telling Muslim countries meeting in Turkey that the police response to the killing of 50 people was “instantaneous” and the perpetrator would spend life in prison.

Speaking to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters was responding to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who has said Turkey would make the suspected attacker pay if New Zealand did not.

Erdogan’s comments at a series of election campaign rallies – including calling on New Zealand to restore the death penalty and repeatedly showing video footage of the shootings that the alleged gunman had broadcast on Facebook – triggered a diplomatic dispute between the nations.

“This person will face the full force of New Zealand law, and will spend the rest of his life in isolation in a New Zealand prison,” Peters told the OIC, meeting in emergency session to discuss Islamophobia and the March 15 shootings in Christchurch.

“Our police have started the largest investigation in our history,” said Peters, who had earlier condemned Erdogan’s airing of the footage as risking endangering New Zealanders abroad.

The OIC meeting in Istanbul was also attended by Erdogan, who briefly met Peters on the sidelines. No other heads of state or government attended the gathering. Iran was represented by Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Saudi Arabia by its ambassador to Turkey.

Addressing the conference separately, Erdogan struck a conciliatory tone, saying the empathy and reaction displayed by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern since the incident “should be an example to the world.”

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with one murder following the attack and is likely to face more charges.

Erdogan, who is seeking to drum up support for his Islamist-rooted AK Party in March 31 local elections, again showed footage of the shooting at a rally on Thursday.

For nearly a week he has described the mass shooting as part of a wider attack on Turkey and threatened to send back “in caskets” anyone who tried to take the battle to Istanbul. He has also shown extracts from a “manifesto” posted by the attacker and later taken down, drawing condemnation from New Zealand and Australia.

Ardern has said Peters went to Turkey to “confront” Erdogan’s comments, and she repeated on Friday he was there to “set the record straight.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this week called Erdogan’s comments “deeply offensive” and summoned Turkey’s ambassador for a meeting, though on Thursday he said progress had been made and “we’ve already seen the moderation of the president’s views.”

The OIC groups together Muslim countries to protect the interests of the Muslim world. Peters told the gathering “an attack on one of us observing their beliefs is an attack on all of us.”

(Additional reporting by Daren Butler, Ezgi Erkoyun and Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara, Editing by Jonathan Spicer, William Maclean)

Source: OANN

Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter

New Zealand broadcast the Islamic call to prayer nationwide Friday to honor the Muslim community in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, adorned in a hijab, attended an Islamic service in Hagley Park near the Al Noor mosque, in which thousands of mourners observed the Islamic call to prayer, or adhan, live at 1:30 p.m. local time. The ceremony was one of several conducted throughout New Zealand to honor victims of the March 15 attacks and also included a 2-minute national moment of silence, which people across the country were encouraged to observe as a time of reflection, according to the BBC. (RELATED: New Zealand Attacker Wasn’t Finished When He Was Apprehended, Police Say)

Ardern recited a passage from the Koran just before the recitation of the call to prayer, first in Arabic and then in English.

“According to Muslim faith, the prophet Muhammad …. The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When any part of the body suffers, the whole body feels pain,” she recited

“New Zealand mourns with you. We are one,” she added.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives before Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives before Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

An imam then gave the call to prayer, which was broadcast on both television and radio across the country. A social media campaign also called for non-Muslim women to wear a hijab on Friday in solidarity with the Muslim community.

“I know many New Zealanders wish to mark the week that has passed since the terrorist attack and to support the Muslim community as they return to mosques,” Ardern said prior to Friday’s ceremonies, according to BBC. “How we choose to reflect during the silence will be different for each of us. Everyone should do what feels right for them, wherever they are, at home, at work, at school.”

A mass burial for the 50 people killed in the attacks is expected to take place later on Friday. Government officials reportedly worked to prepare the bodies for burial until 1:30 a.m. local time on Friday.

“All the bodies are washed. We finished around 1:30 a.m. It was our duty,” said one person who helped with burial preparations. “After we finished there was a lot of emotion, people were crying and hugging.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

New information was released on Thursday surrounding Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s resolution condemning anti-Semitism.

Cruz’s office confirmed to The Daily Caller last week that the senator plans to introduce the resolution that would specifically denounce anti-Semitism. Congressional sources also confirmed to the Caller on Thursday that the text of the resolution was sent late last week to all of the Senate offices.

The resolution, which is in response to the anti-hate resolution that passed the House earlier this month, does not mention any names or specific incidents of anti-Semitism; rather, it is meant, more broadly, to reaffirm the Senate’s stance against anti-Semitism of all kinds. (RELATED: Omar Releases Statement After Backlash Surrounding Tweet Accusing AIPAC Of Buying Israel Support)

PITTSBURGH, PA – OCTOBER 29: Mourners comfort each other in front of at a memorial for victims of the mass shooting that killed 11 people and wounded 6 at the Tree Of Life Synagogue on October 29, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

The anti-hate resolution the House passed earlier this month with a 407-23 vote came in response to comments made by Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar that questioned if some members of Congress have a “dual loyalty” to the United States and Israel. She later doubled down on those comments despite backlash.

The resolution eventually ended up condemning the following: “African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and others.”

Many Republicans, such as Florida Rep. Greg Steube, voted against the resolution because he felt the inclusion of all types of bigotry shouldn’t have been the resolution’s objective. (RELATED: Republicans Propose Resolution To Condemn Anti-Semitism And Omar)

He, along with Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and Louie Gohmert of Texas, introduced a follow-up resolution in the House last week specifically to condemn anti-Semitism.

Follow Mike on Twitter

Source: The Daily Caller

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

Alleged mail bomber Cesar Sayoc entered a guilty plea Thursday after being accused of subjecting multiple high-profile Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump to pipe bomb scares in 2018.

Sayoc had previously pleaded not guilty, reported NBC News.

“I know that these actions were wrong and I’m sorry,” Sayoc said as he entered his new plea in front of a federal judge in Manhattan. (RELATED: Woman Who Climbed Statue Of Liberty To Protest Trump Sentenced To 5 Years Probation)

The 57-year-old Florida man could spend the rest of his life in prison after allegedly making more than a dozen IEDs from PVC pipes packed with explosive material and shards of glass. He’s accused of sending them to national figures, including former Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The package scares occurred in October 2018.

Cesar Altieri Sayoc appears in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. in this August 31, 2005 handout booking photo obtained by Reuters October 26, 2018. Hennepin County SheriffÕs Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS

Cesar Altieri Sayoc appears in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. in this August 31, 2005 handout booking photo obtained by Reuters October 26, 2018. Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via REUTERS

A federal grand jury charged Sayoc on a 30-count indictment in November 2018. The charges include five counts of using a weapon of mass destruction, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, and five counts of interstate transportation of an explosive. Each of the latter counts could mean 20 years in prison.

Sayoc was living in a van “plastered with stickers praising Trump and attacking the media” when he was arrested in Florida, reported NBC News.

The intended recipients of the package included:

Follow Evie on Twitter @eviefordham.

Send tips to [email protected].

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

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Cesar Altieri Sayoc appears in a police booking photo
Cesar Altieri Sayoc appears in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. in this August 31, 2005 handout booking photo obtained by Reuters October 26, 2018. Hennepin County SheriffÕs Office/Handout via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Florida man pleaded guilty on Thursday to criminal charges in connection with the mailing of bombs to prominent Democrats and other critics of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Cesar Sayoc, 57, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan federal court.

Among the charges were using a weapon of mass destruction, mailing explosives with an intent to kill or injure, and transporting explosives across state lines.

Sayoc, a part-time pizza deliveryman, grocery worker and former stripper, was arrested in October after a four-day manhunt.

At the time, Sayoc had been living in a white van plastered with pro-Trump stickers, the slogan “CNN SUCKS” and images of Democratic leaders with red cross-hairs over their faces.

Prosecutors accused Sayoc of mailing bombs through the U.S. Postal Service to Democrats such as former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California.

Other targets included actor Robert De Niro and former Central Intelligence Agency directors John Brennan and James Clapper, who have criticized Trump, and Democratic donors George Soros and Tom Steyer, prosecutors said. Trump is a Republican.

The bombs were sent in manila envelopes lined with bubble wrap and consisted of plastic 6-inch pipes packed with explosive material and wired to small clocks and batteries, according to prosecutors. All were intercepted before reaching their intended targets, and none exploded.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

Women attend a vigil for the victims of the mosque attacks during an ecumenical celebration in Christchurch
Women attend a vigil for the victims of the mosque attacks during an ecumenical celebration in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

March 21, 2019

By Tom Westbrook

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – New Zealanders prepared for nationwide prayers on Friday to mark one week since a mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch killed 50 worshippers.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will lead thousands of mourners expected to gather at a park in front of the Al Noor mosque, where most of the victims died, for a prayer followed by two minutes of silence.

Ardern, who has labeled the attack as terrorism, announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles under tough new gun laws on Thursday.

The prime minister is expected to be accompanied in the Christchurch prayers with community leaders and other foreign dignitaries.

The Muslim call to prayer will be broadcast nationally across all free-to-air TV and radio stations.

Armed police have been guarding mosques around New Zealand since the attacks. Police said there would be a “heightened presence” on Friday to reassure those attending weekly prayers.

Candlelight vigils continued until late on Thursday across the country, while government officials worked through the night to prepare the mosque and the bodies of the deceased for a mass burial that expected after the prayers.

“All the bodies are washed. We finished around 1.30 a.m. this morning. It was our duty. After we finished there was a lot of emotion, people were crying and hugging,” said a body washer in Christchurch who gave his name as Mo.

Newspapers across the country ran full-page memorials with the names of the victims, and a call for national mourning.

“A call to prayer…in unity there is strength,” New Zealand Herald said on its front page.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island, has been charged with murder following the attack.

He was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5, when police said he was likely to face more charges.

Twenty-eight people wounded in the attacks remain in hospital, six in intensive care.

Most victims were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand’s population, a 2013 census showed, most of whom were born overseas.

On social media, New Zealanders of all religions were being encouraged to wear headscarves on Friday to show their support for the Muslim community.

The #headscarfforharmony movement was trending on Twitter on Friday, with people posting photos of themselves in the Muslim attire.

(Writing by Praveen Menon; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Source: OANN

Not only is there a national emergency on the border, but there is one in Congress, too, for their inaction on immigration reform, according America First Policies vice chair Kimberly Guilfoyle in The Daily Caller.

"Congress tried to veto reality," Guilfoyle wrote. "Instead, President Trump vetoed Congress.

". . . By any measure of objective reality, there is a national emergency at the southern border. There's also another national emergency. It's in Washington where Congress refuses to recognize reality or do anything about it."

Congress' inaction has invited human traffickers to flood our borders, because they know they ostensibly protected by politics, she claimed.

The mass migration gets released into the United States by court order and the undocumented immigrants compete against Americans for jobs, perhaps even flooding the market and causing wage deflation for those laborers, she added.

"No matter how hard Congress tries to ignore, deny and dodge reality, we have a humanitarian, security, and enforcement crisis at the border," Guilfoyle wrote. "As Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Nielsen said, it is beyond a national emergency — it's a total meltdown of our immigration system.

". . . The president took an oath to preserve and protect our country. He takes that oath seriously. Congress must take off its blindfold and work with President Trump to end the immigration crisis threatening our nation."

Source: NewsMax

FILE PHOTO: Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looks at journalists after casting his ballot during the parliamentary election in Algiers
FILE PHOTO: Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looks at journalists after casting his ballot during the parliamentary election in Algiers, Algeria, May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Lamine Chikhi and Aidan Lewis

ALGIERS/CAIRO (Reuters) – Protests that brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets in Algeria over the past month led President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to scrap plans to run for a fifth term.

He postponed an election originally set for April and announced that experts would oversee a transition to a “new system” in coming months. Protesters say this is not enough.

WHAT CAUSED THE PROTESTS?

The immediate cause was Bouteflika’s candidacy. Calls for protests spread after it was confirmed on Feb. 10. Mass rallies began on Feb. 22, and numbers rose over the following two Fridays. After Bouteflika abandoned plans to stand but stopped short of stepping down — raising the prospect that he would stay in power for the rest of the year — the protests swelled.

More broadly, protests drew on frustration among millions of Algerians who feel politically and economically excluded, and resentment against an aging and secretive elite that has controlled Algeria since independence from France in 1962.

President since 1999, Bouteflika became a symbol of an independence generation that clung to power. He oversaw a return to stability after a civil war in the 1990s but in his second decade in power was incapacitated and mostly absent from public life, fuelling a sense of drift and decline.

Plans to diversify the economy away from oil stalled in a sclerotic system many saw as corrupt and riven with cronyism.

HOW DID BOUTEFLIKA SURVIVE SO LONG?

Major Islamist groups were discredited by the 1990s war and along with a liberal opposition were coopted or excluded when it ended. As the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) reasserted itself, political apathy set in and election turnouts dropped.

When uprisings swept the region in 2011, Algeria used a heavy security and oil money to curtail demonstrations.

There were frequent local protests, but these demanded state resources, not political change. Factional battles played out in the domestic media, relatively free by regional standards. Then, as now, neither ruling elite factions nor Bouteflika and his entourage appeared able to agree on a succession plan.

WHO HAS BEEN RUNNING THE COUNTRY?

Bouteflika has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, but by then he had already sidelined or outlived the generals who brought him to power. General Mohamed “Toufik” Mediene, head of military intelligence and the man widely seen to be the real center of power in Algeria, departed in 2015.

While the army remained Algeria’s most powerful institution, an informal clique around the presidency amassed more influence, including Bouteflika’s younger brother Said. An emerging business elite profiting from surging oil income also benefited.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE SCENARIOS NOW?

Bouteflika announced that an “independent and inclusive” national conference would draft and new constitution and set a date for elections, and should conclude its work by the end of the year. An interim, technocratic government is being formed.

But this plan has been cast into doubt as Bouteflika’s position has weakened. Protesters want him to step down when his five-year term ends in April and say their goal is sustain pressure and prevent infiltration from “Bouteflika’s system”.

Chief of staff Gaed Salah has said the army should take responsibility for solving the crisis but so far it has been waiting in the wings. The army is more reluctant to intervene directly than in the past. Its decision to cancel parliamentary elections in 1992 that Islamists were poised to win triggered the conflict that left up to 200,000 people dead.

Islamism is in decline, and a new leader may come from the political mainstream. Ahmed Benbitour, a former prime minister, and Mustapha Bouchachi, a rights activist and lawyer, are among those emerging as protest leaders.

WHAT CHALLENGES DO PROTESTERS FACE?

Protesters are trying to remain peaceful. From the start, they have worried that factions within the security forces may provoke violence to discredit protesters, or that demonstrations could turn violent when protesters’ demands are not met.

Another challenge is to find leaders with enough experience and broad support — those who served under Bouteflika may be discredited in the eyes of protesters.

Protesters fear that factions holding power and associated patronage networks will look to survive even as they abandon Bouteflika. Most observers believe that while Bouteflika and his clique will leave power, the system around them will remain.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Algeria is Africa’s biggest country by landmass and has a population of more than 40 million. It is a major oil and gas producer and OPEC member, and a top supplier of gas to Europe.

Western states see Algeria as a counter-terrorism partner. It is a significant military player in North Africa and the Sahel, and diplomatically involved in crises in Mali and Libya.

Algeria also backs the Polisario Front independence movement in Western Sahara, in opposition to its neighbor Morocco.

(Writing by Aidan Lewis, Editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: People carry national flags and banners during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers
FILE PHOTO: People carry national flags and banners during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers, Algeria March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) – One of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s few remaining allies in the face of mass protests, business leader Ali Haddad, is facing pressure to quit as head of Algeria’s main business association, a move that would further weaken the embattled head of state.

Bouteflika’s long-time strategic partners, from members of the governing FLN party to trade unionists, have abandoned the president, peeling away layers of his ruling elite.

The 82-year-old president also relied on influential figures like Ali Haddad, who has made billions through public works projects awarded by the government and investments in the media.

He also funded Bouteflika’s election campaigns and heads the FCE, a top business association whose leaders have been long-time supporters of the president.

The forum for entrepreneurs has been hit by a series of resignations from members who have turned their backs on Bouteflika since the protests began on Feb 22.

“Voices inside the FCE exist and they have publicly called for an extraordinary General Assembly to replace Ali Haddad,” said Laid Benamor, former vice president of the organization, who resigned from it after the demonstrations began.

“He is today associated with cronyism and favors. The union must return to its original purpose, an apolitical economic space, to regain credibility.”

Haddad was not immediately available for comment.

A second businessman, Ourahmoune Nabil, described Haddad as one of the symbols of Bouteflika’s system of rule and added that he must go, echoing public sentiment.

“There won’t be a real change if Bouteflika leaves and Haddad stays,” he said.

The FCE was not immediately available for comment.

NO CLEAR SUCCESSOR

Bouteflika, 82, who has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke five years ago, bowed to the protesters last week by reversing plans to stand for a fifth term.

But he stopped short of stepping down and said he would stay in office until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term.

His move failed to placate Algerians, who want veterans of the 1954-1962 independence war against France who dominate the establishment to step aside so a new generation of leaders can create jobs, fight corruption and introduce greater freedoms.

Even if Bouteflika quits, Algerians could face a new crisis. There is no clear successor who has won the backing of the army and is younger than 70.

One option, experts say, is to create a high council of state that will set a date for general elections.

Bouteflika and his inner circle have built a multi-layered network of power over the years that includes the military — which often orchestrates politics from behind the scenes.

On Wednesday, army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah threw his weight behind protesters, saying they have expressed “noble aims”.

The ruling National Liberation Front party, known by its French acronym FLN, has also sided with the demonstrators, leaving Bouteflika more vulnerable than ever.

(Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. ambassador to Yemen on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Matthew Tueller, U.S. ambassador to Yemen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

March 21, 2019

ADEN (Reuters) – The U.S. ambassador to Yemen blamed the Iran-aligned Houthi movement on Thursday for the stalling of a U.N.-led peace deal in the main port of Hodeidah and said the group’s weapons pose a threat to other countries in the region.

The Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Houthis reached a ceasefire and troop withdrawal deal for Hodeidah, which is under Houthi control, at talks in Sweden in December. The pact was the first major breakthrough in efforts to end the four year war.

While the truce has largely held, the troop withdrawal by both parties has yet to materialize with each side blaming the other for lack of progress. The deal aimed to avert a full-scale assault on the port which is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis facing starvation.

“We are greatly frustrated by what we see as delays and stalling on the part of the Houthis in implementing what they agreed to in Sweden, but I have great confidence in the UN envoy and what he is doing,” ambassador Matthew Tueller told a televised news conference in the southern port of Aden, where the internationally recognized government is based.

“We are willing to work with others in order to try to implement these (Sweden) agreements and see whether the Houthis can in fact demonstrate a political maturity and start to serve the interests of Yemen rather than acting on behalf of those who seek to weaken and destroy Yemen,” he said.

Tueller said he had “not given up hope” that the deal would be implemented in Hodeidah, where thousands of Yemeni forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition are massed on the outskirts.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the war which pits the Houthis against other Yemeni factions backed by the Saudi-led coalition loyal to the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The Houthis ousted Hadi’s government from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014.

The conflict is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis, who control Sanaa and most population centers, deny being puppets of Tehran and say their revolution is against corruption.

The United States has sided with the Yemeni government against the Houthis and provides military support to the Saudi-led coalition, including help with targeting for Saudi air strikes.

“SEVERE DANGER” TO REGION

The Sunni Muslim coalition twice tried to seize the port last year in a bid to weaken the Houthis by cutting off their main supply line. The United Nations and aid groups fear a full-on offensive may disrupt operations at the port that handles the bulk of Yemen’s imports and trigger mass starvation.

The alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates accuses Iran of smuggling weapons, including missiles which have targeted Saudi cities, to the Houthis. The group and Tehran deny the accusations.

Tueller said the United States was working with Yemeni authorities to prevent arms smuggling from Iran and to strengthen local security institutions.

“The fact that there are groups that have weapons, including heavy weapons and even weapons that can threaten neighboring countries, and those weapons are not under the control of the institutions of the state – this is a severe danger to the region as well as to Yemen,” he said.

The United States does not support groups that “seek to divide Yemen”, Tueller said, in an apparent reference to southern separatists whose forces have been taking part in coalition operations under the leadership of the UAE.

The complex war has revived old strains between North and South Yemen, formerly separate countries which united into a single state in 1990. A separatist leader warned this month that any peace deal that fails to address the south’s wish for self-determination could trigger a new conflict.

(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli and Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Imam Ibrahim Abdelhalim of the Linwood Mosque holds hands with Father Felimoun El-Baramoussy from the Dunedin Coptic Church, as they walk at the site of Friday's shooting outside the Mosque in Christchurch
FILE PHOTO: Imam Ibrahim Abdelhalim of the Linwood Mosque holds hands with Father Felimoun El-Baramoussy from the Dunedin Coptic Church, as they walk at the site of Friday’s shooting outside the Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Tom Lasseter

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – Ibrahim Abdelhalim was at his mosque last week in the Linwood neighborhood of Christchurch, New Zealand, delivering a prayer as he usually does on Friday afternoons. The 67-year-old grandfather had already spoken about “tasting the sweetness of faith” as a Muslim obedient to God and willing to serve humanity.

He heard a pop-pop-pop in the distance.

The sounds got louder. Abdelhalim realized they were gunshots, but he continued. Abruptly ending the holy words mid-sentence would show a lack of respect in the face of God, he thought.

Abdelhalim immigrated from Egypt to Christchurch in 1995. The small city in a far-away island nation, some 16,000 kilometers from the poverty and corruption of Cairo, gave his family a better life. It sits in a tableau of pristine mountains and rolling fields, a place where he often forgot to lock his front door at night. Whatever was happening outside would probably be okay. Still, there were more than 80 people in the room in front of him and so, he said, “I tried to finish the prayer quickly.”

Then the bullets came crashing through the window of the mosque. They sprayed into bodies. People screamed, diving atop each other in jumbled piles. Abdelhalim saw his son but could not make it to where he lay. Further back, at the partition for women, Abdelhalim’s wife was also pinned down by gunfire, shot in the arm. Bullets thudded into a friend next to her, killing the woman. In the land that had become his sanctuary, Abdelhalim suddenly feared he was about to watch his family be slaughtered.

Police later named Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, as the alleged shooter in the massacre last Friday, which claimed 50 lives and left as many wounded.

Tarrant posted online a screed espousing white supremacist ideology and hatred of immigrants, authorities say. So far charged with one murder, Tarrant was remanded to custody without a plea Saturday, and is due back in court next month, when police say he is likely to face more charges.

The country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, described a very different New Zealand in an address after the carnage. “We represent diversity, kindness, compassion,” she said, her voice at times cracking with emotion. “A home for those who share our values. Refuge for those who need it.”

Many victims in Christchurch had sought just that – leaving Somalia, Pakistan, Syria or Afghanistan for a better life, often with little in their pockets. Abdelhalim spoke of the city as a dream made real.

In Cairo, Abdelhalim said, he’d worked as a judge specializing in inheritance and tenancy cases. He lived in a well-heeled suburb, his parents a teacher and a government employee, his brother an officer in the Egyptian military. But he did not see the future he wanted for his three children in Egypt. Cairo had witnessed a president being assassinated by Islamic militants in 1981, and a string of bombs exploding in and around the city in 1993.

So the family moved to Christchurch, and Abdelhalim took the only job he could find, as a clerk at Work and Income, the government agency for employment services and financial assistance. “I tried to study law, but found it was very hard to begin again,” he said.

Nevertheless, his children were going to good schools and his family moved into a small brick home, where he still lives, with roses in the well-trimmed yard. A neighbor invited him over for tea, he said, “nearly every day.” The family got to know the woman at the post office, a local shopkeeper and just about everyone else.

Far from the chaos of Cairo, Christchurch is a place where men in straw hats and vests take tourists down the placid waters of the Avon River. It is a city of parks with birds chirping and a streetcar clanking past Cathedral Square.

Abdelhalim’s life grew along with the city. He opened a restaurant, named for his old home, Cairo. He became active in the Muslim community, working as the imam at a mosque called Al Noor.

When terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York in September 2001, Abdelhalim was the head of a local Islamic association. At the time, he said, there was a flare up of young people yelling at Muslims and trying to grab women’s headscarves. Abdelhalim responded by organizing community events at the mosque. In 2017, he took part in opening a multi-faith prayer space at the airport. “My only weapon,” he said, “is my tongue.”

He also helped start and agreed to be the imam, the religious leader, of the Linwood mosque as its doors opened early last year, though it was across the city from his house. The building, a former community center, sits amid signs for the Salvation Army, a pawnshop, the Super Liquor and the Value Mart. Its presence was a marker of growth in the city’s still-small Muslim community.

It was at another mosque, Al Noor, that the gunman first began shooting. He shot at men, women and children as he emptied one clip of ammunition and then the next, circling back to shoot once more just to be sure he’d killed as many Muslims as possible. He took more than 40 lives there. The gunman then got into his car and drove to Linwood, where Abdelhalim, a man with a carefully cut white beard, was beginning to pray.

In the back of the mosque, a 27-year-old man from Afghanistan named Ahmed Khan peeked out a window. The plump-faced Khan and his family had arrived in Christchurch 12 years earlier, leaving behind a nation torn by war.

“Someone called ‘help!’ and when I looked out the window, somebody was laying down, bleeding,” he said. Khan’s eyes flitted across the driveway and spotted a strange figure – a man wearing a helmet, standing in broad daylight with a rifle in his hands.

The man squeezed the trigger, Khan said, and a bullet flew through the window. Khan recalls calling out, “There’s someone with a gun!”

In the prayer area, where Abdelhalim had stood reciting holy words just moments before, people flung themselves on the ground in panic. Khan recalls cradling a man in his arms one moment and then, the next, the gunman “shot him when I was holding him, in the head. And he was dead.”

There was another Afghan in the room who rushed toward the door. In the gunfire that followed, seven people were killed. Khan said the toll almost certainly would have been higher if this second Afghan – Abdul Aziz, a short, muscular man who runs a furniture shop – hadn’t confronted the shooter.

Aziz grabbed a credit card machine and hurled it at the gunman, dodging bullets. He later chased the gunman with an unloaded shotgun that the shooter dropped as he went back for another weapon, then hurled it like a spear through his car window. With four of his children in the mosque, Aziz later said, he acted to protect his own piece of adopted homeland. “I didn’t know where my own kids were – if they are alive, if they are dead,” he said.

They’d survived, with one of his sons laid over a younger brother, protecting the smaller boy’s body with his own. Abdelhalim’s wife and son also made it out alive.

Now, in the aftermath of 50 dead in his city, Abdelhalim is trying to keep his family and his people together. They are left to navigate an issue that has confronted communities around the world after mass shootings: How, in the midst of suffering and rage, does normalcy and the peace they once knew return, if at all?

On Saturday afternoon, about 24 hours after the massacre, Abdelhalim walked out of a crisis response center in Christchurch. On the wall, there was a Wi-Fi login and password written on a piece of white paper: youarewelcome. A group of motorcycle club members had parked their bikes on the grass in a show of support. Burly men in black leather jackets milled about. A young man with the club’s name tattooed across the side of his face – “Tribesmen” – chatted with reporters. Police stood by with assault rifles.

Abdelhalim made his way carefully through the crowd in a dark suit with light pinstripes. Everyone was asking, he said, “can the peace of Christchurch come back?”

The gunman’s manifesto, released shortly before the attacks, said he was motivated to fight back against the “invasion” of immigration by non-whites. The actual number of Muslims in New Zealand is small – about one percent of the populace. At the 2013 census, the most recent figures available, the government reported a 28 percent rise in Muslims since 2006, along with jumps in Hindu and Sikh numbers.

On Sunday morning, Abdelhalim opened his front door at 9, wearing board shorts, flipflops and a worn collared shirt, instead of the suits he favors in public. He was exhausted. City authorities released a list of the dead past midnight at the Christchurch Hospital. Abdelhalim was there to speak with the bereaved. He’d gotten home from the hospital at some time after 2 a.m. and had barely slept.

The next day, standing on the other side of police tape from the mosque in Linwood, Abdelhalim was asked by a reporter for details of the shooting. Abdelhalim said he’d rather not say.

“I don’t need to repeat the story of what happened,” he said. “Because it breaks my heart.”

(Reporting by Tom Lasseter; Editing by Philip McClellan and Peter Hirschberg)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Imam Ibrahim Abdelhalim of the Linwood Mosque holds hands with Father Felimoun El-Baramoussy from the Dunedin Coptic Church, as they walk at the site of Friday's shooting outside the Mosque in Christchurch
FILE PHOTO: Imam Ibrahim Abdelhalim of the Linwood Mosque holds hands with Father Felimoun El-Baramoussy from the Dunedin Coptic Church, as they walk at the site of Friday’s shooting outside the Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Tom Lasseter

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – Ibrahim Abdelhalim was at his mosque last week in the Linwood neighborhood of Christchurch, New Zealand, delivering a prayer as he usually does on Friday afternoons. The 67-year-old grandfather had already spoken about “tasting the sweetness of faith” as a Muslim obedient to God and willing to serve humanity.

He heard a pop-pop-pop in the distance.

The sounds got louder. Abdelhalim realized they were gunshots, but he continued. Abruptly ending the holy words mid-sentence would show a lack of respect in the face of God, he thought.

Abdelhalim immigrated from Egypt to Christchurch in 1995. The small city in a far-away island nation, some 16,000 kilometers from the poverty and corruption of Cairo, gave his family a better life. It sits in a tableau of pristine mountains and rolling fields, a place where he often forgot to lock his front door at night. Whatever was happening outside would probably be okay. Still, there were more than 80 people in the room in front of him and so, he said, “I tried to finish the prayer quickly.”

Then the bullets came crashing through the window of the mosque. They sprayed into bodies. People screamed, diving atop each other in jumbled piles. Abdelhalim saw his son but could not make it to where he lay. Further back, at the partition for women, Abdelhalim’s wife was also pinned down by gunfire, shot in the arm. Bullets thudded into a friend next to her, killing the woman. In the land that had become his sanctuary, Abdelhalim suddenly feared he was about to watch his family be slaughtered.

Police later named Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, as the alleged shooter in the massacre last Friday, which claimed 50 lives and left as many wounded.

Tarrant posted online a screed espousing white supremacist ideology and hatred of immigrants, authorities say. So far charged with one murder, Tarrant was remanded to custody without a plea Saturday, and is due back in court next month, when police say he is likely to face more charges.

The country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, described a very different New Zealand in an address after the carnage. “We represent diversity, kindness, compassion,” she said, her voice at times cracking with emotion. “A home for those who share our values. Refuge for those who need it.”

Many victims in Christchurch had sought just that – leaving Somalia, Pakistan, Syria or Afghanistan for a better life, often with little in their pockets. Abdelhalim spoke of the city as a dream made real.

In Cairo, Abdelhalim said, he’d worked as a judge specializing in inheritance and tenancy cases. He lived in a well-heeled suburb, his parents a teacher and a government employee, his brother an officer in the Egyptian military. But he did not see the future he wanted for his three children in Egypt. Cairo had witnessed a president being assassinated by Islamic militants in 1981, and a string of bombs exploding in and around the city in 1993.

So the family moved to Christchurch, and Abdelhalim took the only job he could find, as a clerk at Work and Income, the government agency for employment services and financial assistance. “I tried to study law, but found it was very hard to begin again,” he said.

Nevertheless, his children were going to good schools and his family moved into a small brick home, where he still lives, with roses in the well-trimmed yard. A neighbor invited him over for tea, he said, “nearly every day.” The family got to know the woman at the post office, a local shopkeeper and just about everyone else.

Far from the chaos of Cairo, Christchurch is a place where men in straw hats and vests take tourists down the placid waters of the Avon River. It is a city of parks with birds chirping and a streetcar clanking past Cathedral Square.

Abdelhalim’s life grew along with the city. He opened a restaurant, named for his old home, Cairo. He became active in the Muslim community, working as the imam at a mosque called Al Noor.

When terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York in September 2001, Abdelhalim was the head of a local Islamic association. At the time, he said, there was a flare up of young people yelling at Muslims and trying to grab women’s headscarves. Abdelhalim responded by organizing community events at the mosque. In 2017, he took part in opening a multi-faith prayer space at the airport. “My only weapon,” he said, “is my tongue.”

He also helped start and agreed to be the imam, the religious leader, of the Linwood mosque as its doors opened early last year, though it was across the city from his house. The building, a former community center, sits amid signs for the Salvation Army, a pawnshop, the Super Liquor and the Value Mart. Its presence was a marker of growth in the city’s still-small Muslim community.

It was at another mosque, Al Noor, that the gunman first began shooting. He shot at men, women and children as he emptied one clip of ammunition and then the next, circling back to shoot once more just to be sure he’d killed as many Muslims as possible. He took more than 40 lives there. The gunman then got into his car and drove to Linwood, where Abdelhalim, a man with a carefully cut white beard, was beginning to pray.

In the back of the mosque, a 27-year-old man from Afghanistan named Ahmed Khan peeked out a window. The plump-faced Khan and his family had arrived in Christchurch 12 years earlier, leaving behind a nation torn by war.

“Someone called ‘help!’ and when I looked out the window, somebody was laying down, bleeding,” he said. Khan’s eyes flitted across the driveway and spotted a strange figure – a man wearing a helmet, standing in broad daylight with a rifle in his hands.

The man squeezed the trigger, Khan said, and a bullet flew through the window. Khan recalls calling out, “There’s someone with a gun!”

In the prayer area, where Abdelhalim had stood reciting holy words just moments before, people flung themselves on the ground in panic. Khan recalls cradling a man in his arms one moment and then, the next, the gunman “shot him when I was holding him, in the head. And he was dead.”

There was another Afghan in the room who rushed toward the door. In the gunfire that followed, seven people were killed. Khan said the toll almost certainly would have been higher if this second Afghan – Abdul Aziz, a short, muscular man who runs a furniture shop – hadn’t confronted the shooter.

Aziz grabbed a credit card machine and hurled it at the gunman, dodging bullets. He later chased the gunman with an unloaded shotgun that the shooter dropped as he went back for another weapon, then hurled it like a spear through his car window. With four of his children in the mosque, Aziz later said, he acted to protect his own piece of adopted homeland. “I didn’t know where my own kids were – if they are alive, if they are dead,” he said.

They’d survived, with one of his sons laid over a younger brother, protecting the smaller boy’s body with his own. Abdelhalim’s wife and son also made it out alive.

Now, in the aftermath of 50 dead in his city, Abdelhalim is trying to keep his family and his people together. They are left to navigate an issue that has confronted communities around the world after mass shootings: How, in the midst of suffering and rage, does normalcy and the peace they once knew return, if at all?

On Saturday afternoon, about 24 hours after the massacre, Abdelhalim walked out of a crisis response center in Christchurch. On the wall, there was a Wi-Fi login and password written on a piece of white paper: youarewelcome. A group of motorcycle club members had parked their bikes on the grass in a show of support. Burly men in black leather jackets milled about. A young man with the club’s name tattooed across the side of his face – “Tribesmen” – chatted with reporters. Police stood by with assault rifles.

Abdelhalim made his way carefully through the crowd in a dark suit with light pinstripes. Everyone was asking, he said, “can the peace of Christchurch come back?”

The gunman’s manifesto, released shortly before the attacks, said he was motivated to fight back against the “invasion” of immigration by non-whites. The actual number of Muslims in New Zealand is small – about one percent of the populace. At the 2013 census, the most recent figures available, the government reported a 28 percent rise in Muslims since 2006, along with jumps in Hindu and Sikh numbers.

On Sunday morning, Abdelhalim opened his front door at 9, wearing board shorts, flipflops and a worn collared shirt, instead of the suits he favors in public. He was exhausted. City authorities released a list of the dead past midnight at the Christchurch Hospital. Abdelhalim was there to speak with the bereaved. He’d gotten home from the hospital at some time after 2 a.m. and had barely slept.

The next day, standing on the other side of police tape from the mosque in Linwood, Abdelhalim was asked by a reporter for details of the shooting. Abdelhalim said he’d rather not say.

“I don’t need to repeat the story of what happened,” he said. “Because it breaks my heart.”

(Reporting by Tom Lasseter; Editing by Philip McClellan and Peter Hirschberg)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Firearms are displayed at Gun City gunshop in Christchurch
FILE PHOTO: Firearms are displayed at Gun City gunshop in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo

March 21, 2019

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that military style semi-automatics and assault rifles will be banned under stronger new gun laws following the killing of 50 people in the country’s worst mass shooting.

Ardern said she expects the new law to be in place by April 11 and buy-back scheme will be established for banned weapons.

“Now, six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand,” Ardern said.

“Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines.”

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Michael Perry)

Source: OANN

Burial ceremony of the victims of the mosque attacks in Christchurch
Relatives and other people arrive to attend the burial ceremony of the victims of the mosque attacks, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su

March 21, 2019

By Tom Westbrook and Charlotte Greenfield

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – The bullet-riddled Al Noor mosque in Christchurch was being repaired, painted and cleaned ahead of Friday prayers, as grieving families buried more victims of New Zealand’s worst mass shooting.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that Friday’s call to prayers for Muslims will be broadcast nationally and there will be a two minute silence.

Armed police have been guarding mosques around New Zealand after 50 people were killed last Friday by a lone gunman who attacked worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch.

“We will have a heightened presence tomorrow in order to provide reassurance to people attending the Friday call for prayers,” police said in a statement on Thursday.

“Police have been working relentlessly, doing everything in our power to gather all appropriate evidence from what are active crime scenes so we can allow people to return to the mosques as quickly as possible.”

Both mosques attacked, the Al Noor and nearby Linwood mosque, plan to be reopened. Thousands of worshippers are expected at the Al Noor mosque, where the majority of victims died.

Most victims were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island, has been charged with murder following the attack.

He was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5, when police said he was likely to face more charges.

The first victims were buried on Wednesday and burials continued on Thursday, with the funeral of a school boy.

Families of the victims have been frustrated by the delay as under Islam bodies are usually buried within 24 hours.

A mass burial is expected to be held on Friday. Body washing will go on through the day and night to have the dead ready for burial, said one person involved in the process.

Police have identified and release to the families the bodies of some 30 victims.

Twenty nine people wounded in the attacks remained in hospital, eight still in intensive care.

Many have had to undergo multiple surgeries due to complicated gunshot wounds. The gunman used semi-automatic AR-15 rifles, with large magazines, and shotguns.

Ardern as vowed to change gun laws in the wake of the attack, possibly banning semi-automatic weapons. An announcement will be made before the next cabinet meeting on Monday.

The gunman broadcast his attack live on Facebook and it was quickly distributed to other platforms, prompting Ardern and others to rebuke technology companies and call for greater efforts to stop violence and extremist views being aired on social media.

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Charlotte Greenfield in CHRISTCHURCH, Praveen Menon in WELLINGTON.; Editing by Michael Perry)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Werner Baumann, CEO of Bayer AG poses for a picture during the annual results news conference of the German drugmaker in Leverkusen
FILE PHOTO: Werner Baumann, CEO of Bayer AG poses for a picture during the annual results news conference of the German drugmaker in Leverkusen, Germany February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Tina Bellon

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bayer AG had hoped a new trial strategy focusing jurors on scientific evidence could stem a burgeoning tide of U.S. lawsuits over its glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup, but a second jury finding on Tuesday that the product caused cancer has narrowed the company’s options, some legal experts said.

Bayer shares tumbled more than 12 percent on Wednesday after a unanimous jury in San Francisco federal court found Roundup to be a “substantial factor” in causing California resident Edwin Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The jury decision was a blow to Bayer after the judge in the Hardeman case, at the company’s request, had split the trial, severely limiting evidence plaintiffs could present in the first phase. Tuesday’s defeat on terms considered advantageous to Bayer sets up the second phase to be even tougher and limits the grounds on which the company could appeal any final verdict, the experts said.

“The fact that Bayer lost this trial despite it being set up in the most favorable way for them is a huge setback,” said Thomas Rohback, a Connecticut-based defense lawyer.

Bayer in a statement on Tuesday said it stood behind the safety of Roundup and was confident the evidence in the second trial phase would show that Monsanto’s conduct was appropriate and the company not liable for Hardeman’s cancer.

The company, which bought Monsanto last year, on Wednesday declined to comment beyond that statement.

Tuesday’s finding did not address liability, which will be determined following the second trial phase that began on Wednesday.

Bayer denies glyphosate or Roundup cause cancer. The German company faces more than 11,200 lawsuits over the popular weed killer. Last August, following the first Roundup trial, a California state court jury issued a $289 million verdict against the company.

Two weeks after that verdict, which was later reduced to $78 million and is being appealed, Bayer Chief Executive Werner Baumann reassured analysts that the company had a new legal strategy based on focusing jurors on the scientific evidence.

“Bayer and the joint litigation team are working to ensure that, going forward, this overwhelming science will get the full consideration it deserves,” Baumann said in an Aug. 23 conference call.

A LOT AT STAKE

There is a lot at stake for Bayer, which acquired Roundup maker Monsanto last year for $63 billion. Though Bayer does not break out sales figures for Roundup, glyphosate is the world’s most widely used weed killer, and Roundup is the leading brand.

Bayer’s new strategy was focused on keeping out plaintiffs’ allegations that the company improperly influenced scientists, regulators and the public about the safety of Roundup. Bayer has denied it acted inappropriately and said in public statements following the August verdict that it thought the jury was inflamed by the claims of corporate misconduct.

Vince Chhabria, the San Francisco federal judge overseeing the Hardeman case, agreed with the company’s argument that such evidence was a “distraction” from the scientific question of whether glyphosate causes cancer. He agreed to split the trial in a January order.

Had Bayer had won the first phase, there would have been no second phase looking at company liability. Now that it has lost, almost all of the previously excluded evidence can be presented to the jury.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers hit Bayer with those allegations in their opening statements for the second phase on Wednesday. Aimee Wagstaff, one of Hardeman’s lawyers, said Monsanto influenced the science around Roundup through its “cozy” relationship with regulators.

Bayer could convince the jury in the second phase that, despite their finding that Roundup played a substantial role in Hardeman’s cancer, the company was not liable. Experts said that was unlikely.

“They could present evidence of how careful they were in developing Roundup, but that’s an uphill battle given that the scientific evidence was their strongest argument,” said Alexandra Lahav, a law professor at the University of Connecticut.

A lawyer for Bayer on Wednesday argued that Bayer could not be held liable because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as other regulators worldwide, approved Roundup without a cancer warning.

If the Hardeman trial had not been split and a final verdict went against Bayer, the company might have been able to appeal any damages award to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by claiming the jury had been improperly swayed by inflammatory evidence, said Lori Jarvis, a Virginia-based mass tort defense lawyer. That argument will now be difficult to make.

“It would not be surprising at all for the 9th Circuit to uphold what the jury did in this case, particularly given the great effort Chhabria put into creating a level playing field for Monsanto,” Jarvis said.

Some lawyers said Bayer could still argue on appeal that plaintiffs’ experts and their scientific evidence were insufficient and statistically invalid and should not have been admitted at trial. But they noted the 9th Circuit, which oversees the San Francisco federal court, has generally been permissive in allowing expert testimony.

However, experts said it was probably too soon to write off Bayer’s legal strategy, noting future Roundup cases could result in different outcomes.

“It’s a relatively early phase in this litigation as a whole and we just need to see more trials to understand Bayer’s liability,” said Adam Zimmerman, a law professor at Los Angeles-based Loyola Law School.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Anthony Lin and Bill Berkrot)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Werner Baumann, CEO of Bayer AG poses for a picture during the annual results news conference of the German drugmaker in Leverkusen
FILE PHOTO: Werner Baumann, CEO of Bayer AG poses for a picture during the annual results news conference of the German drugmaker in Leverkusen, Germany February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Tina Bellon

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bayer AG had hoped a new trial strategy focusing jurors on scientific evidence could stem a burgeoning tide of U.S. lawsuits over its glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup, but a second jury finding on Tuesday that the product caused cancer has narrowed the company’s options, some legal experts said.

Bayer shares tumbled more than 12 percent on Wednesday after a unanimous jury in San Francisco federal court found Roundup to be a “substantial factor” in causing California resident Edwin Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The jury decision was a blow to Bayer after the judge in the Hardeman case, at the company’s request, had split the trial, severely limiting evidence plaintiffs could present in the first phase. Tuesday’s defeat on terms considered advantageous to Bayer sets up the second phase to be even tougher and limits the grounds on which the company could appeal any final verdict, the experts said.

“The fact that Bayer lost this trial despite it being set up in the most favorable way for them is a huge setback,” said Thomas Rohback, a Connecticut-based defense lawyer.

Bayer in a statement on Tuesday said it stood behind the safety of Roundup and was confident the evidence in the second trial phase would show that Monsanto’s conduct was appropriate and the company not liable for Hardeman’s cancer.

The company, which bought Monsanto last year, on Wednesday declined to comment beyond that statement.

Tuesday’s finding did not address liability, which will be determined following the second trial phase that began on Wednesday.

Bayer denies glyphosate or Roundup cause cancer. The German company faces more than 11,200 lawsuits over the popular weed killer. Last August, following the first Roundup trial, a California state court jury issued a $289 million verdict against the company.

Two weeks after that verdict, which was later reduced to $78 million and is being appealed, Bayer Chief Executive Werner Baumann reassured analysts that the company had a new legal strategy based on focusing jurors on the scientific evidence.

“Bayer and the joint litigation team are working to ensure that, going forward, this overwhelming science will get the full consideration it deserves,” Baumann said in an Aug. 23 conference call.

A LOT AT STAKE

There is a lot at stake for Bayer, which acquired Roundup maker Monsanto last year for $63 billion. Though Bayer does not break out sales figures for Roundup, glyphosate is the world’s most widely used weed killer, and Roundup is the leading brand.

Bayer’s new strategy was focused on keeping out plaintiffs’ allegations that the company improperly influenced scientists, regulators and the public about the safety of Roundup. Bayer has denied it acted inappropriately and said in public statements following the August verdict that it thought the jury was inflamed by the claims of corporate misconduct.

Vince Chhabria, the San Francisco federal judge overseeing the Hardeman case, agreed with the company’s argument that such evidence was a “distraction” from the scientific question of whether glyphosate causes cancer. He agreed to split the trial in a January order.

Had Bayer had won the first phase, there would have been no second phase looking at company liability. Now that it has lost, almost all of the previously excluded evidence can be presented to the jury.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers hit Bayer with those allegations in their opening statements for the second phase on Wednesday. Aimee Wagstaff, one of Hardeman’s lawyers, said Monsanto influenced the science around Roundup through its “cozy” relationship with regulators.

Bayer could convince the jury in the second phase that, despite their finding that Roundup played a substantial role in Hardeman’s cancer, the company was not liable. Experts said that was unlikely.

“They could present evidence of how careful they were in developing Roundup, but that’s an uphill battle given that the scientific evidence was their strongest argument,” said Alexandra Lahav, a law professor at the University of Connecticut.

A lawyer for Bayer on Wednesday argued that Bayer could not be held liable because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as other regulators worldwide, approved Roundup without a cancer warning.

If the Hardeman trial had not been split and a final verdict went against Bayer, the company might have been able to appeal any damages award to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by claiming the jury had been improperly swayed by inflammatory evidence, said Lori Jarvis, a Virginia-based mass tort defense lawyer. That argument will now be difficult to make.

“It would not be surprising at all for the 9th Circuit to uphold what the jury did in this case, particularly given the great effort Chhabria put into creating a level playing field for Monsanto,” Jarvis said.

Some lawyers said Bayer could still argue on appeal that plaintiffs’ experts and their scientific evidence were insufficient and statistically invalid and should not have been admitted at trial. But they noted the 9th Circuit, which oversees the San Francisco federal court, has generally been permissive in allowing expert testimony.

However, experts said it was probably too soon to write off Bayer’s legal strategy, noting future Roundup cases could result in different outcomes.

“It’s a relatively early phase in this litigation as a whole and we just need to see more trials to understand Bayer’s liability,” said Adam Zimmerman, a law professor at Los Angeles-based Loyola Law School.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Anthony Lin and Bill Berkrot)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Werner Baumann, CEO of Bayer AG poses for a picture during the annual results news conference of the German drugmaker in Leverkusen
FILE PHOTO: Werner Baumann, CEO of Bayer AG poses for a picture during the annual results news conference of the German drugmaker in Leverkusen, Germany February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Tina Bellon

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bayer AG had hoped a new trial strategy focusing jurors on scientific evidence could stem a burgeoning tide of U.S. lawsuits over its glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup, but a second jury finding on Tuesday that the product caused cancer has narrowed the company’s options, some legal experts said.

Bayer shares tumbled more than 12 percent on Wednesday after a unanimous jury in San Francisco federal court found Roundup to be a “substantial factor” in causing California resident Edwin Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The jury decision was a blow to Bayer after the judge in the Hardeman case, at the company’s request, had split the trial, severely limiting evidence plaintiffs could present in the first phase. Tuesday’s defeat on terms considered advantageous to Bayer sets up the second phase to be even tougher and limits the grounds on which the company could appeal any final verdict, the experts said.

“The fact that Bayer lost this trial despite it being set up in the most favorable way for them is a huge setback,” said Thomas Rohback, a Connecticut-based defense lawyer.

Bayer in a statement on Tuesday said it stood behind the safety of Roundup and was confident the evidence in the second trial phase would show that Monsanto’s conduct was appropriate and the company not liable for Hardeman’s cancer.

The company, which bought Monsanto last year, on Wednesday declined to comment beyond that statement.

Tuesday’s finding did not address liability, which will be determined following the second trial phase that began on Wednesday.

Bayer denies glyphosate or Roundup cause cancer. The German company faces more than 11,200 lawsuits over the popular weed killer. Last August, following the first Roundup trial, a California state court jury issued a $289 million verdict against the company.

Two weeks after that verdict, which was later reduced to $78 million and is being appealed, Bayer Chief Executive Werner Baumann reassured analysts that the company had a new legal strategy based on focusing jurors on the scientific evidence.

“Bayer and the joint litigation team are working to ensure that, going forward, this overwhelming science will get the full consideration it deserves,” Baumann said in an Aug. 23 conference call.

A LOT AT STAKE

There is a lot at stake for Bayer, which acquired Roundup maker Monsanto last year for $63 billion. Though Bayer does not break out sales figures for Roundup, glyphosate is the world’s most widely used weed killer, and Roundup is the leading brand.

Bayer’s new strategy was focused on keeping out plaintiffs’ allegations that the company improperly influenced scientists, regulators and the public about the safety of Roundup. Bayer has denied it acted inappropriately and said in public statements following the August verdict that it thought the jury was inflamed by the claims of corporate misconduct.

Vince Chhabria, the San Francisco federal judge overseeing the Hardeman case, agreed with the company’s argument that such evidence was a “distraction” from the scientific question of whether glyphosate causes cancer. He agreed to split the trial in a January order.

Had Bayer had won the first phase, there would have been no second phase looking at company liability. Now that it has lost, almost all of the previously excluded evidence can be presented to the jury.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers hit Bayer with those allegations in their opening statements for the second phase on Wednesday. Aimee Wagstaff, one of Hardeman’s lawyers, said Monsanto influenced the science around Roundup through its “cozy” relationship with regulators.

Bayer could convince the jury in the second phase that, despite their finding that Roundup played a substantial role in Hardeman’s cancer, the company was not liable. Experts said that was unlikely.

“They could present evidence of how careful they were in developing Roundup, but that’s an uphill battle given that the scientific evidence was their strongest argument,” said Alexandra Lahav, a law professor at the University of Connecticut.

A lawyer for Bayer on Wednesday argued that Bayer could not be held liable because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as other regulators worldwide, approved Roundup without a cancer warning.

If the Hardeman trial had not been split and a final verdict went against Bayer, the company might have been able to appeal any damages award to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by claiming the jury had been improperly swayed by inflammatory evidence, said Lori Jarvis, a Virginia-based mass tort defense lawyer. That argument will now be difficult to make.

“It would not be surprising at all for the 9th Circuit to uphold what the jury did in this case, particularly given the great effort Chhabria put into creating a level playing field for Monsanto,” Jarvis said.

Some lawyers said Bayer could still argue on appeal that plaintiffs’ experts and their scientific evidence were insufficient and statistically invalid and should not have been admitted at trial. But they noted the 9th Circuit, which oversees the San Francisco federal court, has generally been permissive in allowing expert testimony.

However, experts said it was probably too soon to write off Bayer’s legal strategy, noting future Roundup cases could result in different outcomes.

“It’s a relatively early phase in this litigation as a whole and we just need to see more trials to understand Bayer’s liability,” said Adam Zimmerman, a law professor at Los Angeles-based Loyola Law School.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Anthony Lin and Bill Berkrot)

Source: OANN

Jon Brown | Associate Editor

The Washington Post offered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a platform to express his opinion Tuesday for the second time in less than five months, despite the unparalleled number of journalists imprisoned by his government.

Sixty-eight journalists are imprisoned in Turkey, more than any other country in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Nevertheless, in an op-ed entitled “The New Zealand killer and the Islamic State are cut from the same cloth,” Erdogan used WaPo as a soapbox from which to scold Western nations for failing to adequately distinguish Islam from terrorism.

Likening the New Zealand mosque shooter to radical Islamic terrorists, Erdogan maintained that the shooter’s motives were a distortion of Christianity and admonished that the world “must establish that there is absolutely no difference between the murderer who killed innocent people in New Zealand and those who have carried out terrorist acts in Turkey, France, Indonesia and elsewhere.” (EXCLUSIVE: A Look Inside Andrew Brunson’s Harrowing Turkish Courtroom Experience)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a ceremony marking the 104th anniversary of Battle of Canakkale, also known as the Gallipoli Campaign, in Canakkale, Turkey March 18, 2019. Cem Oksuz/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

“Unfortunately, Islamophobia and xenophobia, among other practices incompatible with liberal values, were met with silence in Europe and other parts of the Western world,” he continued. “We cannot afford to allow this again. If the world wants to prevent future assaults similar to the one in New Zealand, it must start by establishing that what happened was the product of a coordinated smear campaign.”

Erdogan’s op-ed was a continuation of sentiments he expressed last week at the funeral of a Turkish minister, where he condemned the entire world — and the West, especially — for rising Islamophobia and racism.

“With this attack, hostility towards Islam, that the world has been idly watching and even encouraging for some time, has gone beyond individual harassment to reach the level of mass killing,” he said, according to Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News. (RELATED: Erdogan Uses New Zealand Mosque Shootings To Condemn World For ‘Hostility’ To Islam)

The Post, which uses the slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” also published Erdogan in a Nov. 2, 2018, op-ed that condemned Saudi Arabia for the murder of journalist and WaPo columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

FILE PHOTO: Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Vladimir Putin of Russia hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Ankara, Turkey April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Vladimir Putin of Russia hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Ankara, Turkey April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

“Erdogan makes a solid point that all murderers or terrorists of innocent people should be treated alike and equally condemned,” said Jeffrey McCall, a communications professor at DePauw University who specializes in journalism ethics. “Letting Erdogan come off as all righteous, however, given his track record of curtailing free expression in his own country, is quite unnecessary.”

“It was a curious move when the Post gave Erdogan op-ed space last fall in the wake of the Khashoggi murder, but a case could be made at that time because the assassination took place in Turkey,” McCall continued. “There is no particular need now to give Erdogan a platform to broadly criticize other governments and suggesting the West is normalizing extremism.” (RELATED: Turkey’s Erdogan Wants Twitter To Silence American Critic)

“The Post, in a sense, seems to be giving Erdogan a legitimacy that is undeserved, given his own record on human rights and the many other measured voices that are available to weigh in on such a serious topic,” he added.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 19: Executive editor at The Washington Post, Martin Baron, (L) and Vanity Fair's Sarah Ellison speak onstage during "A Newspaper Editor in the Spotlight" at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 19, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

Executive editor at The Washington Post, Martin Baron, (L) and Vanity Fair’s Sarah Ellison speak onstage … (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, WaPo executive editor Martin Baron used Erdogan as an example of the possible dangers that could befall American journalists under President Donald Trump. In remarks delivered at a Manhattan dinner party upon winning an award, Baron quoted CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, saying:

This is how it goes with authoritarians like Sisi, Erdogan, Putin, the Ayatollahs, Duterte, et al. … First the media is accused of inciting, then sympathizing, then associating—until they suddenly find themselves accused of being full-fledged terrorists and subversives. Then they end up in handcuffs, in cages, in kangaroo courts, in prison — and then who knows?

“When the press is under attack, we cannot always count on our nation’s institutions to safeguard our freedoms—not even the courts,” Baron then warned, adding, “Many journalists wonder with considerable weariness what it is going to be like for us during the next four — perhaps eight — years. Will we be incessantly harassed and vilified? Will the new administration seize on opportunities to try intimidating us? Will we face obstruction at every turn? If so, what do we do?” (RELATED: Koppel: NYT And WaPo Not What They Used To Be Thanks To Trump Vendetta)

Baron went on to emphasize the importance of “holding the most powerful to account,” and that failing to do so raises the question, “If we do not do that, then what exactly is the purpose of journalism?”

WaPo did not respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment.

Follow Jon Brown on Twitter

Source: The Daily Caller

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visits Christchurch
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attends a news conference after meeting with first responders who were at the scene of the Christchurch mosque shooting, in Christchurch, New Zealand March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su

March 20, 2019

(Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday Foreign Minister Winston Peters will travel to Turkey to “confront” comments made by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the killing of 50 people at mosques in Christchurch.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after a lone gunman opened fire at the two mosques during Friday prayers.

Erdogan – who is seeking to drum up support for his Islamist-rooted AK Party in March 31 local elections – said on Tuesday Turkey would make the suspected attacker pay if New Zealand did not.

The comments came at a campaign rally that included video footage of the shootings that the alleged gunman had broadcast on Facebook.

Ardern said Peters would seek urgent clarification.

“Our deputy prime minister will be confronting those comments in Turkey,” Ardern told reporters in Christchurch. “He is going there to set the record straight, face-to-face.”

Erdogan has referred to the mosque shootings several times during public gatherings in recent days.

Turkish Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said comments made by Erdogan on Monday during the commemoration of the 1915 Gallipoli campaign were taken out of context, adding he was responding to the attacker’s “manifesto”, which was posted online by the attacker and later taken down.

“Turks have always been the most welcoming & gracious hosts to their Anzac visitors,” Altun said on Twitter, using the abbreviation for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

“As he was giving the speech at the Canakkale (Gallipoli) commemoration, he framed his remarks in a historical context of attacks against Turkey, past and present.”

During his speech on Monday, Erdogan described the mass shooting as part of a wider attack on Turkey and threatened to send back “in caskets” anyone who tried to take the battle to Istanbul.

Peters had earlier condemned the airing of footage of the shooting, which he said could endanger New Zealanders abroad.

Despite Peters’ intervention, an extract from Tarrant’s alleged manifesto was flashed up on a screen at Erdogan’s rally again on Tuesday, along with footage of the gunman entering one of the mosques and shooting as he approached the door.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he summoned Turkey’s ambassador for a meeting, during which he demanded Erdogan’s comments be removed from Turkey’s state broadcaster.

“I will wait to see what the response is from the Turkish government before taking further action, but I can tell you that all options are on the table,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

Australia’s ambassador to Turkey would meet with members of Erdogan’s government on Wednesday, Morrison said.

Morrison said Canberra is also reconsidering its travel advice for Australians planning trips to Turkey.

Relations between Turkey, New Zealand and Australia have generally been good. Thousands of Australians and New Zealanders travel each year to Turkey for war memorial services.

Just over a century ago, thousands of soldiers from the ANZAC struggled ashore on a narrow beach at Gallipoli during an ill-fated campaign that would claim more than 130,000 lives.

Visitors come to the area to honor their nations’ fallen on ANZAC Day every April 25.

(Reporting by Colin Packham in Sydney and Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul; Editing by Michael Perry and Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

David Krayden | Ottawa Bureau Chief

David Sirota — who joined the presidential campaign of Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders this week as a top communications aide and speechwriter — once wrote an opinion piece that was headlined “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon Bomber is a white American.”

Sirota wrote the article for the liberal outlet Salon in April 2013 in the wake of a terrorist attack at the annual Boston marathon race, and flatly stated that “white male privilege” was a heavy factor in whomever got blamed for the killing.

A jury sentenced Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death in May 2015. Three people died in the attack and hundreds more were injured. Tsarnaev, a Muslim, said the attack was politically motivated.

Sirota’s desire for it to be otherwise is just the latest skeleton to emerge from the writer’s literary closet this week, as he joins Sanders’ in “properly explaining” Democratic Socialism to Americans. (RELATED: Bernie Sanders’ New Speechwriter Lauded The ‘Economic Miracle’ Of Venezuelan Socialism)

FILE PHOTO: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during an event to introduce the "Medicare for All Act of 2017" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during an event to introduce the “Medicare for All Act of 2017” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., Sept. 13, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

The author and speechwriter contended:

The dynamics of privilege will undoubtedly influence the nation’s collective reaction to the attacks … This has been most obvious in the context of recent mass shootings. In those awful episodes, a religious or ethnic minority group lacking such privilege would likely be collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse) if some of its individuals comprised most of the mass shooters. However, white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings — even though most come at the hands of white dudes.

Sirota quickly transitioned from an abstract conception of “white privilege” to the “undeniable and pervasive double standards” in American society that “will almost certainly dictate what kind of governmental, political and societal response we see in the coming weeks.” (RELATED: Mark Steyn: Beto O’Rourke ‘A Parody Of Rich White Privilege)

Christopher Nzenwa wipes his eyes after praying over a memorial to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. (Photo by REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Christopher Nzenwa wipes his eyes after praying over a memorial to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. (Photo by REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

His ultimate point is that America is supposedly so white and so racist that “if the bomber ends up being a white anti-government extremist, white privilege will likely mean the attack is portrayed as just an isolated incident.”

But if the bomber was not white, Sirota predicted a significant backlash.

“It will probably be much different if the bomber ends up being a Muslim and/or a foreigner from the developing world. As we know from our own history, when those kind of individuals break laws in such a high-profile way.”

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Hungary's National Day celebrations in Budapest
FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during Hungary’s National Day celebrations in Budapest, Hungary, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Marton Dunai and Andreas Rinke

BRUSSELS/BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s conservatives floated a compromise in a long-running dispute between Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the EU’s center-right grouping that could avert his party’s expulsion over concerns about Budapest’s authoritarian drift.

Orban, a feisty nationalist, was due in Brussels on Wednesday for a meeting to decide the fate of his Fidesz party after 13 sister organizations in the European People’s Party (EPP) urged its expulsion.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, head of Germany’s Christian Democrats, the largest party in the EPP, said Fidesz should be suspended, but not expelled, for violating the grouping’s values with contested judiciary reforms and anti-immigration campaigns.

“As long as Fidesz does not fully restore trust there cannot be normal full membership,” Kramp-Karrenbauer told Reuters.

A membership “freeze” would be an option, added Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is the frontrunner to eventually replace German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Bavaria’s premier Markus Soeder, both EPP members, supported her position, sources close to Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

But, as Orban’s decision to attend in person what would normally be a routine administrative meeting demonstrates, the stakes are high: EPP membership for Fidesz confers mainstream respectability and influence that other populist parties lack.

The decision poses a particular headache for Manfred Weber, the EPP’s lead candidate in May’s European Parliament elections, whose chances of succeeding Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the executive European Commission would be reduced without the votes of Fidesz’s European lawmakers, of whom there are currently 12.

Juncker, who was the target of a Hungarian government poster campaign depicting him as a proponent of mass immigration into Europe and a puppet manipulated by wealthy Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros, wants Fidesz expelled.

JUNCKER BACKS EXPULSION

On Wednesday Juncker, who is also from the EPP, repeated his call for Fidesz to be kicked out of the grouping.

“I think that Mr Orban is a long way from basic Christian Democratic values,” he told German radio.

The EPP grouping, the largest in the European Parliament, is also concerned over Orban’s campaign against the private Central European University in Budapest that Soros founded.

Sources close to Weber said Orban had at least partially met the German conservative’s conditions for keeping Fidesz in the EPP, including by apologizing to colleagues in the grouping for labeling them immigration-backing “useful idiots”.

The sources said the EPP committee in Brussels would vote on Wednesday on proposals to deprive Fidesz of the right to vote in meetings of the grouping or to propose candidates for posts. Fidesz would also no longer be present at all meetings.

Weber also proposed that former European Council president and Belgian prime minister Herman van Rompuy could head a monitoring committee to evaluate Fidesz’s cooperation with its sister parties, the sources added.

However, some were not sure Fidesz – which has a big majority in Hungary’s parliament – would accept being suspended.

“I think in reality this means that Fidesz will leave the group,” said Swedish conservative Gunnar Hokmark. “I don’t think they will appreciate being suspended. And anyway they will not be able to live up to the conditions.”

(Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers in Berlin, writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Source: OANN

People stand as they look at damaged houses after a flash flood in Sentani, Papua
People stand as they look at damaged houses after a flash flood in Sentani, Papua, Indonesia, March 17, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Gusti Tanati/ via REUTERS

March 20, 2019

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua is planning to hold mass burials for the victims of flash floods, as the death toll from the disaster rose to 104 on Wednesday with nearly 10,000 people displaced, the disaster mitigation agency said.

The floods and landslides injured 160 people, 85 of them seriously, while 79 people were missing, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the agency.

After consulting families and churches, a mass funeral for the victims would be held on Thursday, he said.

The floods and landslide struck at the weekend near the provincial capital of Jayapura after torrential rain fell across the Cyclops mountain range, much of which has been stripped of trees by villagers chopping fire wood and farmers cultivating plantations.

Disaster authorities had warned provincial officials of the danger of flash floods due to deforestation.

Fourteen excavators had been deployed to help clear blocked roads, while temporary bridges were also being built in some areas after access had been cut.

The nearly 10,000 displaced people were scattered across 18 relief shelters and they would be moved to six camps to help streamline aid distribution, the spokesman said.

(Reporting by Ed Davies; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

A vendor sells drinking water to motorists in traffic along the Sudirman business district in Jakarta
FILE PHOTO: A vendor sells drinking water to motorists in traffic along the Sudirman business district in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta

March 20, 2019

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s capital plans to invest 571 trillion rupiah ($40.27 billion) to upgrade its transportation and other infrastructure in the next 10 years, its governor was reported by media as saying on Wednesday.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said he has submitted a list of proposals to President Joko Widodo including plans to expand the city’s new mass rapid transit (MRT) system and build a 120 km-long light transit railway.

Other projects include investments in a clean water pipeline and waste management projects.

“We will extend the MRT. It’s now 16 km (9.9 miles), but later 231 km more will be built,” he said, as reported by media.

The projects will be funded mostly through debt, Baswedan said.

Next week, the traffic-clogged city will open to public its $3 billion MRT system, running from south to central Jakarta along its main thoroughfares.

The project, funded by a loan from the Japanese government, is a centre-piece of an infrastructure boom under Widodo.

Widodo is vying for re-election on April 17 against opposition candidate, retired general Prabowo Subianto.

Delayed for more than 20 years, the MRT was finally launched in 2013, with the first line originally scheduled to open in 2018.

The national government will explore creative financing options to fund the newly proposed projects alongside the Jakarta administration, Luky Alfirman, director general of budget financing at the finance ministry, said.

(Reporting by Maikel Jefriando; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

Students use their mobile phones during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers
Students use their mobile phones during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers, Algeria March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

March 20, 2019

By Lamine Chikhi and Hamid Ould Ahmed

ALGIERS (Reuters) – An influential Algerian party that was a long-time supporter of Abdelaziz Bouteflika has criticized the ailing president for seeking to stay in power, another setback for the ruling elite in the face of mass demonstrations.

The National Rally for Democracy (RND), a member of the ruling coalition, has joined ruling party officials, unions and business tycoons who have abandoned Bouteflika in recent days, after nearly a month of street demonstrations protests.

“The candidacy of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a new term was a big mistake,” RND spokesman Seddik Chihab told El Bilad TV.

“Extra constitutional forces have seized power in the past few years and ruled state affairs outside a legal framework.”

Bouteflika, who has ruled for 20 years, bowed to the protesters last week by reversing plans to stand for a fifth term. But he stopped short of stepping down and said he would stay in office until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term.

His moves have done nothing to halt demonstrations, which peaked on Friday with hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets of Algiers and have continued into this week.

RND leader Ahmed Ouyahia, a former prime minister who had close ties to intelligence agencies, has also switched sides. “The people’s demands should be met as soon as possible,” he told followers in a letter on Sunday.

Leaders have emerged from the protest movement, offering an alternative to Bouteflika’s political roadmap to what he says will be a new Algeria. But they have not built up enough momentum to force the president to quit or make more concessions.

The military, which wields enormous power from behind the scenes, has remained on the sidelines.

Another powerful figure, Bouteflika’s younger brother Said, has kept a low profile. The president has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke five years ago, and the protesters say a shadowy circle of aides, including Said, have been ruling the country in his name.

The protests continued on Tuesday, with students, university professors and health workers rallying in Algiers calling for Bouteflika to quit.

A new group headed by activists and opposition figures told the army not to interfere.

In the first direct public message to the generals from leaders emerging from the protests, the National Coordination for Change said the military should “play its constitutional role without interfering in the people’s choice”.

(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Peter Graff)

Source: OANN

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang says the federal government will punish media companies for the spread of misinformation if he wins in 2020.

Yang’s proposal would introduce “penalties for persistent and destructive misstatements that undermine public discourse,” according to his campaign website.

“We must introduce both a means to investigate and punish those who are seeking to misinform the American public. If enough citizens complain about a particular source of information and news is demonstrably and deliberately false, there should be penalties,” Yang explains on his website.

REUTERS/Scott Morgan

U.S. 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks at Potluck Insurgency, a local democratic activist event, at the home of one of its members in Iowa City, Iowa, U.S., March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Scott Morgan

“I will appoint a new News and Information Ombudsman with the power to fine egregious corporate offenders. One of the main purposes of the Ombudsman will be to identify sources of spurious information that are associated with foreign nationals. The Ombudsman will work with social media companies to identify fraudulent accounts and disable and punish responsible parties,” Yang wrote.

Yang says his information watchdog would be part of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). (RELATED: Yang Warns Unemployed Truckers Will Stage ‘Mass Riots’ Against Driverless Trucks)

(JOSHUA LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)

Entrepreneur and 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks during a campaign stop at the train depot on February 1, 2019 in Jefferson, Iowa. (JOSHUA LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)

“We need a robust free press and exchange of information. But we should face the reality that fake news and misinformation spread via social media threatens to undermine our democracy and may make it impossible for citizens to make informed decisions on a shared set of facts,” he adds on his website.

“This is particularly problematic given that foreign actors, particularly Russia, intend to do us harm and capitalize on our freedom of information. We need to start monitoring and punishing bad actors to give the determined journalists a chance to do their work.”

Yang’s campaign declined to comment on whether he thinks his proposed government crackdown on misinformation is constitutional. He’s already cleared the minimum number of donors required to qualify for the first Democratic debate.

The radical proposal is one of several headline-grabbing policies in Yang’s campaign.

Yang’s federal campaign against misinformation is just one of several radical policies featured in his campaign.

Yang also wants the federal government to distribute $1,000 in cash to Americans every month, and to track Americans’ social behavior and dispense “digital social credits” for positive actions.

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Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Homeland Security Committee Chairman Thompson chairs hearing on border security on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) listens to testimony from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on “The Way Forward on Border Security” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts?

March 19, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Following the live-streaming on social media of the mass shooting in New Zealand, the chair of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security wrote a letter to top executives of four major technology companies urging them to do a better job of removing violent political content.

In a letter dated Monday and released on Tuesday, Representative Bennie Thompson urged the chief executives of Facebook, Alphabet’s Google, which owns YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft to more swiftly remove content that would spawn political extremism.

The letter follows the fatal shootings of 50 worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch last week. The shooter, a suspected white supremacist, live-streamed the killings on social media, where it was widely shared.

“Your companies must prioritize responding to these toxic and violent ideologies with resources and attention,” Thomson wrote. “If you are unwilling to do so, Congress must consider policies to ensure that terrorist content is not distributed on your platforms, including by studying the examples being set by other countries.

“The video was widely available on your platforms well after the attack, despite calls from New Zealand authorities to take these videos down,” he wrote.

Facebook said it removed 1.5 million videos showing the attack in the first 24 hours after it occurred.

Thompson also asked the companies for a briefing on the matter.

A Facebook spokesman said the company “will brief the committee soon.” Google, Twitter and Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has been critical of Facebook for privacy lapses, said on Tuesday that the government should tread carefully in reining in tech companies for fear of aiding dictators and other bad actors.

Wyden warned against revoking protections given in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that specifies tech companies are not responsible for what users say on their platform.

“If politicians want to restrict the First Amendment or eliminate the tools with which much of the world communicates in real time, they should understand they are also taking away the tools that bear witness to government brutality, war crimes, corporate lawlessness and incidents of racial bias,” Wyden said in a statement. 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit that advocates for civil liberties in the digital world, cautioned policymakers last week not to rush to regulate speech on online platforms or else it could “disproportionately silence” the most vulnerable users, such as Egyptian journalist Wael Abbas, who was kicked off YouTube for posting videos on police brutality.

EFF also called for guidelines that urge social platforms to be transparent about how many posts and accounts they remove, and give users notice and a chance to appeal if one of their posts is taken down.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Additional reporting by David Shepardson and Sarah Lynch; editing by Bill Berkrot)

Source: OANN

Kevin Daley | Supreme Court Reporter

  • A deeply divided Supreme Court ruled that immigration authorities can detain noncitizens for possible deportation long after they serve prison sentences for criminal convictions.
  • The ACLU had argued that federal law imposes a strict time limit on when government officials can detain aliens for deportation after they are released from jail.
  • Thousands of noncitizens could be affected by Tuesday’s ruling.

The Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration Tuesday in a dispute over the federal government’s power to arrest certain noncitizens who commit crimes and hold them in immigration jails before a deportation proceeding.

The five to four decision was met with a vigorous dissent from the Court’s liberal bloc led by Justice Stephen Breyer, who said the majority was enabling the detention and possible deportation of foreign nationals for minor crimes they committed in the distant past.

Tuesday’s case arose when green card holders Mony Preap and Bassam Yusuf Khoury were arrested by federal immigration authorities years after they served criminal sentences for drug convictions. Preap and Khoury were detained without bail pending deportation.

A five-justice majority said aliens facing deportation may be held in immigration jails without bond hearings in February 2018.

Preap and Khoury challenged their detention in federal court with two classes of similarly situated migrants. Arguing on their behalf, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the government can only detain noncitizens with criminal records within 24 hours of their release from prison. A provision of federal law directs the secretary of Homeland Security to arrest criminal aliens “when the alien is released.”

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the ACLU and ruled for the plaintiffs. The Court’s conservative majority reversed that decision in Tuesday’s ruling, finding federal law requires the detention of certain classes of aliens before removal.

“As we have held time and again, an official’s crucial duties are better carried out late than never,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority.

The majority connected Tuesday’s case to the ongoing dispute over sanctuary jurisdictions, which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Alito said it is difficult for federal officials to discover when noncitizens will be released from prison, since certain states and localities will not provide that information.

“Under these circumstances, it is hard to believe that Congress made the secretary’s mandatory-detention authority vanish at the stroke of midnight after an alien’s release,” the opinion reads.

Alito elsewhere said the “when…released” language simply establishes when the federal government’s detention duty is triggered while “exhorting the secretary to act quickly.”

A common area and cell room doors are seen inside ICE's Caroline Detention Facility in Bowling Green, Virginia, on August 13, 2018. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

A common area and cell room doors are seen inside ICE’s Caroline Detention Facility in Bowling Green, Virginia, on August 13, 2018. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

The decision was limited in one respect — Alito cautioned that certain noncitizens who are detained long after serving their jail sentences may bring “as applied” constitutional challenges to their arrest by immigration authorities.

The ACLU coupled Tuesday’s decision with the February 2018 ruling on bond hearings, and accused the Court of embracing an extreme view of immigration detention laws.

“For two terms in a row now, the Supreme Court has endorsed the most extreme interpretation of immigration detention statutes, allowing mass incarceration of people without any hearing, simply because they are defending themselves against a deportation charge,” said deputy director Cecillia Wang, who argued Tuesday’s case before the justices. “We will continue to fight the gross overuse of detention in the immigration system.”

In dissent, Breyer feared that the decision will result in extended detention for criminal aliens who will eventually be released from federal custody because they have some exemption from deportation.

“For a high percentage of them, it will turn out after months of custody that they will not be removed from the country because they are eligible by statute to receive a form of relief from removal such as cancellation of removal,” Breyer wrote. “These are not mere hypotheticals.”

That outcome, and other potentially prompted by Tuesday’s decision disregard the “basic promises that America’s legal system has long made to all persons,” Breyer charged.

Breyer read his dissent from the bench Tuesday, a seldom-used procedure meant to signal strong disagreement with the majority.

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Source: The Daily Caller

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

  • One of London’s most prestigious art institutions will not be accepting a grant worth roughly $1.3 million dollars from the Sackler Trust, an organization connected to the family that controls OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma.
  • The agreement comes as numerous U.S. lawsuits against Purdue Pharma allege the company misled doctors and patients about the risks of opioids to increase prescription sales.
  • Stateside museums have faced Sackler-related protests for years.

One of London’s most prestigious art institutions will not be accepting a grant worth roughly $1.3 million dollars from the Sackler Trust, an organization connected to the family that controls OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma.

London’s National Portrait Gallery framed the decision as a joint agreement, while the Sackler Trust said in a statement it had withdrawn the pledged donation in order not to distract from the museum’s “important work,” The Art Newspaper reported Monday. News of the pledge had first leaked in 2017, reported The Guardian.

The potential distraction is numerous U.S. lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and even members of the Sackler family alleging the company misled doctors and patients about the risks of opioids to increase prescriptions. (RELATED: Purdue Pharma Could Face Problem With Bankruptcy As Profits Lined Its Owners’ Pockets)

One of the most high-profile suits is being brought by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office. It is one of many such suits that have been filed against Purdue Pharma in relation to its marketing of opioid products.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaks during a press conference at the office of the New York Attorney General, July 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaks during a press conference at the office of the New York Attorney General, July 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Purdue Pharma has been accused of helping create the opioid crisis through the marketing of its products — and some critics blame the way Purdue Pharma promoted OxyContin for the roughly 200,000 prescription opioid-related overdose deaths since 1999.

“I acknowledge the generosity of the Sackler family and their support of the arts over the years. We understand and support their decision not to proceed at this time with the donation to the gallery,” David Ross, chair of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a statement according to The Guardian.

The Sackler Trust said in a statement that “the giving philosophy of the family has always been to actively support institutions while never getting in the way of their mission … recent reporting of allegations made against Sackler family members may cause this new donation to deflect the National Portrait Gallery from its important work,” according to The Guardian.

“The allegations against family members are vigorously denied, but to avoid being a distraction for the NPG, we have decided not to proceed at this time with the donation. We continue to believe strongly in the gallery and the wonderful work it does,” the statement continued.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visits the 'Victorian Giants' exhibition at National Portrait Gallery on February 28, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Ben Stansall - Pool/Getty Images)

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visits the ‘Victorian Giants’ exhibition at National Portrait Gallery on February 28, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Ben Stansall – Pool/Getty Images)

The Sackler Trust’s grant was awarded to contribute to a multimillion-dollar undertaking by the National Portrait Gallery called the Inspiring People project, which includes a building development and education center, reported The Art Newspaper. The Sacklers had not given the pledged amount yet partly because the gallery was still considering the implications of taking the donation, which some have called “blood money.”

Stateside museums have faced Sackler-related protests for years. Photographer Nan Goldin’s organization Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (PAIN) targeted recipients of Sackler money like The Metropolitan Museum of Art with demonstrations. In March 2018, she and other activists littered The Met’s Sackler Wing with pill bottles and chanted “Sacklers lie, people die.” The Met’s Sackler Wing houses the famous Egyptian Temple of Dendur. The wing was named after the Sackler family in 1974, years before OxyContin hit the markets in 1996.

Goldin had said she would pull out from a proposed exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery if the museum took the grant from the Sackler Trust, reported The Art Newspaper. The Sackler Trust is connected to former Purdue Pharma chief executive Mortimer Sackler, who died in 2010. His third wife Theresa Sackler, a Brit, started the trust.

Goldin had discussed her fight to hold institutions accountable for displaying the Sackler name or taking Sackler family with The Daily Caller News Foundation in January after The Met told TheDCNF it was reviewing its gift acceptance policies after revelations about members of the Sackler family.

“Yes, these organizations do good things, but they have to vet where their money comes from,” Goldin said. “To me, art is kind of holy, so art institutions of all places have to have some kind of belief system, some kind of integrity. Yeah, [the Sacklers] do good things, but it’s a tiny percentage of their money. They can get money from other places.”

The Sackler Trust, Purdue Pharma and National Portrait Gallery did not immediately respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visit the New Zealand House to sign the book of condolence on behalf of the Royal Family in London
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visit the New Zealand House to sign the book of condolence on behalf of the Royal Family in London, Britain March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

March 19, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan paid their respects on Tuesday for the victims of last week’s mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in which 50 people were killed.

The couple visited the High Commission of New Zealand in London, where they signed a book of condolence on behalf of the British royal family. They also laid small bouquets of flowers outside the building, known as New Zealand House.

Harry and Meghan, who married last May and are expecting their first child this spring, visited New Zealand late last year as part of their Pacific tour.

Fifty people were killed and dozens injured when a gunman opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch during Friday prayers.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday.

(Reporting By Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Source: OANN

The Supreme Court on Tuesday endorsed the U.S. government's authority to detain immigrants awaiting deportation anytime – potentially even years – after they have completed prison terms for criminal convictions, handing President Donald Trump a victory as he pursues hardline immigration policies.

The court ruled 5-4 along ideological lines, with its conservative justices in the majority and its liberal justices dissenting, that federal authorities could pick up such immigrants and place them into indefinite detention anytime, not just immediately after they finish their prison sentences.

The ruling, authored by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, left open the possibility that some individual immigrants could challenge their detention. These immigrants potentially could argue that the use of the 1996 federal law involved in the case, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, against them long after finishing their sentences would violate their due process rights under the U.S. Constitution.

The law states the government can detain convicted immigrants "when the alien is released" from criminal detention. Civil rights lawyers argued that the language of the law shows that it applies only immediately after immigrants are released. The Trump administration said the government should have the power to detain such immigrants anytime.

It is not the court's job, Alito wrote, to impose a time limit for when immigrants can be detained after serving a prison sentence. Alito noted that the court has said in the past that "an official's crucial duties are better carried out late than never."

Alito said the challengers' assertion that immigrants had to be detained within 24 hours of ending a prison sentence is "especially hard to swallow."

In dissent, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer questioned whether the U.S. Congress when it wrote the law "meant to allow the government to apprehend persons years after their release from prison and hold them indefinitely without a bail hearing."

Tuesday's decision follows a February 2018 ruling in a similar case in which the conservative majority, over liberal dissent, curbed the ability of immigrants held in long-term detention during deportation proceedings to argue for release.

Cecilia Wang, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued the newly decided case for the challengers, said that in both rulings "the Supreme Court has endorsed the most extreme interpretation of immigration detention statutes, allowing mass incarceration of people without any hearing, simply because they are defending themselves against a deportation charge."

Trump has backed limits on legal and illegal immigrants since taking office in January 2017.

Kerri Kupec, a U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman, said administration officials were pleased with the ruling.

In both of the detention cases, the Supreme Court reversed the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a liberal leaning court that Trump has frequently criticized. In each case, litigation against the federal government started before Trump took office.

In the latest case, the administration had appealed a 2016 9th Circuit ruling that favored immigrants, a decision it said would undermine the government's ability to deport immigrants who have committed crimes.

The appeals court had said that convicted immigrants who are not immediately detained by immigration authorities after finishing their sentences but then later picked by immigration authorities could seek bond hearings to argue for their release.

The plaintiffs included two legal U.S. residents involved in separate lawsuits filed in 2013, a Cambodian immigrant named Mony Preap convicted of marijuana possession and a Palestinian immigrant named Bassam Yusuf Khoury convicted of attempting to manufacture a controlled substance.

Under federal immigration law, immigrants convicted of certain offenses are subject to mandatory detention during their deportation process. They can be held indefinitely without a bond hearing after completing their sentences.

In the most significant immigration-related case recently before the court, the conservative justices were also in the majority in June 2018 when they upheld on a 5-4 vote Trump's travel ban on targeting people from several Muslim-majority countries.

But in April 2018, conservative Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch joined with the court's four liberal justices in a 5-4 ruling that could hinder the administration's ability to step up the removal of immigrants with criminal records, invalidating a provision in another law, the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Source: NewsMax

Derek Hunter | Contributor

On the show today we get into the latest left-wing attempt to grab guns under the guise of what happened in New Zealand and Sen. Elizabeth Warren is desperately pandering on reparations for slavery, only she’s unwilling to say what she’s willing to do about it.

Listen to the show:

Liberals never let a good tragedy go to waste. If someone is harmed, and there is a way to advance one of their agenda items because of it, liberals will be there to exploit it. The opposite holds too, just look at the murder of Americans by illegal aliens. Those deaths might as well not exist, they aren’t going to care enough to do anything to secure the border because they don’t want it secured. But a mass shooting on the other side of the planet with dozens murdered, that’s fertile ground to push again for gun control in the United States.

Emotions run high after tragedies, and, as previously mentioned, liberals are right there to exploit them to their advantage. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is leading the way in exploiting the Christchurch terror attack, trying to bolster her presidential bid on the concept of gun control. At a campaign stop Monday, she went on a tirade against the Second Amendment and got nearly everything she said exactly wrong. It’s like she doesn’t understand the laws that already exist, and we have the audio.

CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, who is supposed to be a straight journalist, gave a moral sermon on her show Monday on the importance of passing gun control legislation in the country. Her colleague Erin Burnett, another alleged straight journalist, allowed a CNN analyst to blame President Donald Trump for the attack a half a world away and call him ‘Hitler,’ using Nazi tactics. We have all the audio insanity.

Elizabeth Warren, on a CNN town hall, reiterated her support of reparations for slavery, but refused to say what that means. Pandering on race, Warren avoided offering any specifics, even when given multiple opportunities to do so. There’s a reason for that, and we get into it.

Cory Booker, another 2020 Democratic hopeful, is getting on board with the latest liberal power grab — changing the Supreme Court to institute the liberal and protect the liberal agenda. The party famous for its members chanting “this is what democracy looks like” are advocating things that look decidedly undemocratic.

Please help spread the word about The Daily Daily Caller Podcast. Please take a minute to rate and review on iTunes, share on social media and be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode:

The Daily Daily Caller Podcast is a daily look and mocking of the news from a conservative perspective. Hosted by Derek Hunter, it is available in audio form Monday-Thursday and will have a video option on Fridays.

Derek Hunter is a columnist and contributing editor for The Daily Caller and author of “Outrage, INC: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood” from HarperCollins, available nowPick Up a copy, or several copies, here. Send compliments and complaints to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @derekahunter.

Source: The Daily Caller

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks about her policy ideas with Anand Giridharadas at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference and festivals in Austin, Texas
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks about her policy ideas with Anand Giridharadas at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference and festivals in Austin, Texas, U.S., March 9, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Flores

March 19, 2019

By Amanda Becker

CLEVELAND, Miss. (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren was walking down a street in the town of Cleveland in the rural Mississippi Delta on Monday when she stopped to examine a small home’s sagging roof.

“You can be sure there’s a lot of love in these homes. They just can’t afford (to fix) it,” state Senator Willie Simmons told Warren during the Democratic presidential candidate’s three-day campaign swing through Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama.

Affordable housing is a chief concern for the senator from Massachusetts, who recently reintroduced a $500 billion housing plan she says will create millions of housing units and reduce rental costs by 10 percent.

But the trip to the deep South, the first extended tour of the region by any of the more than dozen Democrats vying for the party’s 2020 White House nomination, also gave Warren an opportunity to try to set herself apart from the crowded and diverse field.

During meetings with housing advocates in Memphis, Tennessee, and walking tours of small Mississippi towns, Warren, who is white, tested and tailored her central message of combating income inequality to black voters, a critical Democratic voting bloc.

The trip outside the mostly white early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire that are drawing much of the early 2020 campaign focus signaled that Warren, 69, intends to make a play for support in other states that also could prove important to securing the nomination.

“I’m running to be president of all the people, and it’s important to go around the country and have a chance to talk with people face to face,” Warren told reporters after a town hall that drew about 500 people to a high school in Memphis.

Democrats will have to look beyond the traditional early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina for opportunities to pick up voters next year if an obvious front-runner does not immediately emerge.

Alabama and Tennessee are among the states holding their 2020 nominating primaries on the March 3 “Super Tuesday” following South Carolina’s contest. Mississippi is set to host its primary in mid-March. All three states have sizeable black populations.

Being first to those states will not guarantee votes. But it could win local endorsements and help recruit volunteers for Warren, who lags in national 2020 Democratic presidential opinion polls behind Senators Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris.

“Warren’s biggest advantage in making this trip is that she will likely have the attention of a critical mass of African-American Democratic primary voters in a cycle where the black vote will drive the nomination process,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who managed African-American advertising for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

‘VISITING HELPS’

Clinton beat Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential nominating race in large part because his insurgent campaign failed to gain traction with black voters and flamed out when the contest moved to the South from the early voting states.

In the general election, Clinton’s loss to Republican Donald Trump was partly due to the fact that the black turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years, according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

African-American turnout in 2016 dropped 7 points from four years earlier, when Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president, was re-elected.

During her trip, Warren touted how her housing plan was aimed at closing the wealth and housing gap between white and black Americans. Her proposal would give first-time homebuyers who live in low-income, formerly segregated areas grants to use for down payments.

It is specifically tailored to benefit black families whose relatives faced discriminatory housing policies in the years leading up to the U.S. civil rights era.

Many residents said they appreciated Warren taking the time to come and focus on their issues. On Tuesday, she planned to tour historic sites in Selma, Alabama, where the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march marked a turning point in the civil rights movement.

“Visiting helps. It lets the people down here know that somebody in Washington does care about them,” said the Rev. Alice Crenshaw, 75, whose church marked the start of Warren’s walking tour in Cleveland.

The tour of Cleveland on Monday ended at Senator’s Place, the restaurant owned by Simmons, the Mississippi Democratic state senator. Simmons has not endorsed Warren, but like others she spent time with during the campaign swing, he seemed warm to her candidacy.

Sandra Miller-Foster, 68, arrived at Senator’s Place knowing there would be a special visitor but not who. She liked what she heard from Warren.

Asked to assess the Democratic field, which includes two black U.S. senators vying for the nomination, she said policy, not race, would earn her support.

“All people want is a decent job, to own their own home and be able to send their kids to school. We’ve got to know what you’ll do for Mississippi,” Miller-Foster said.

(Reporting by Amanda Becker; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter Cooney)

Source: OANN

Palestinian diorama artist Majdi Abu Taqeya works on miniature figures he carves from remnants of Israeli ammunition collected from the scenes of border protests along the Israel-Gaza border, in the central Gaza Strip
Palestinian diorama artist Majdi Abu Taqeya works on miniature figures he carves from remnants of Israeli ammunition collected from the scenes of border protests along the Israel-Gaza border, in the central Gaza Strip March 11, 2019. Picture taken March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

March 19, 2019

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) – One year on from the start of Gaza’s border protests, the weekly clashes with Israeli soldiers have become part of the texture of life in the Palestinian enclave, providing inspiration and even raw materials for local artists.

Diorama artist Majdi Abu Taqeya spends hours creating three-dimensional miniature replicas of the protest scenes, with figures carved from remnants of Israeli ammunition collected from the landscape along the frontier.

Wool and cotton are turned into the white and black smoke that swirls over the five protest camps that have been set up along the fortified frontier since the protests began on March 30, 2018.

Elsewhere on Abu Taqeya’s wooden boards, Palestinian protesters, ambulances, Israeli troops and tanks and even the wire fence itself are all created in miniature. He uses empty shells of bullets, tear gas canisters and sometimes shrapnel of Israeli missiles.

A bullet triggered the idea, the artist said. At the first day of the protests, Abu Taqeya’s youngest brother was shot in his leg and doctors took out the bullet, which he then brought home.

“I turned it into a small statue of a soldier and I gave it to him,” he told Reuters.

“It was then when I got the idea to start recycling the remnants of the occupation,” said Abu Taqeya, a 38-year-old retired naval policeman.

Gaza health authorities said some 200 people have been killed by Israeli fire since Palestinians launched the protests a year ago. They are demanding the right to return to land from which their ancestors fled or were expelled during fighting that accompanied Israel’s founding in 1948.

An Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper along the frontier.

Israel says it uses lethal force to defend the frontier from militants trying to destroy its border fence and infiltrate under cover of the protests. On Monday, U.N. war crimes investigators urged Israel to rein in its troops at the border. [nL8N21549L]

In Nusseirat refugee camp, where Abu Taqeya lives, some neighbors who had been wounded gifted the artist bullets extracted from their bodies.

“This bullet was taken from a girl’s body, I turned it into a bullet with a butterfly on the top,” said Abu Taqeya.

On Thursday, organizers of the protests called for mass rallies on March 30 to mark the anniversary, raising concerns of possible heavy casualty toll. Abu Taqeya urged demonstrators to steer clear of the fence.

“We must not give the occupation any pretext to open fire. These protests must be peaceful,” he said, using a Palestinian term for Israel.

Israel pulled its soldiers and settlers out of Gaza in 2005. Citing security concerns, it still maintains tight control of the Hamas Islamist-run territory’s borders.

(Writing by Nidal Almughrabi, editing by Stephen Farrell and Alexandra Hudson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrator carries a national flag during protest over President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision to postpone elections and extend his fourth term in office, in Algiers
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator carries a national flag during protest over President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to postpone elections and extend his fourth term in office, in Algiers, Algeria March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/File Photo

March 19, 2019

By Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) – A new group headed by political leaders, opposition figures and activists called on Algeria’s powerful generals to stay out of politics as it pressed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and the government to quit.

In the first direct message to the army from leaders emerging from mass protests against Bouteflika, the National Coordination for Change said the military should “play its constitutional role without interfering in the people choice”.

Generals have traditionally wielded power from behind the scenes in Algeria but have stepped in during pivotal moments.

In 1992, the army canceled elections an Islamist party was set to win, triggering a long civil war that killed an estimated 200,000 people. Soldiers have stayed in their barracks throughout the recent unrest.

In a statement titled “Platform of Change” and issued late on Monday, the organization demanded the Bouteflika should step down before the end of his term on April 28 and the government resign immediately.

Algerian authorities have always been adept at manipulating a weak and disorganised opposition.

But more than three weeks of demonstrations – which peaked on Friday with hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of Algiers – have emboldened well-known figures to lead the drive for reforms in the North African country.

Prominent members of the new group include lawyer and activist Mustapha Bouchachi, opposition leader Karim Tabou and former treasury minister Ali Benouari, as well as Mourad Dhina and Kamel Guemazi, who belong to an outlawed Islamist party.

Zoubida Assoul, leader of a small political party, is the only woman in the group so far.

Bouteflika, rarely seen in public since a stroke in 2013, has failed to ease anger on the streets by reversing a decision to seek a fifth term, postponing an election and planning a conference that will chart a new political future.

But he stopped short of stepping down, and effectively prolonged his fourth term.

“Bouteflika just trampled on the constitution after he decided to extend his fourth term,” said the National Coordination for Change.

(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Source: OANN

People carry their national flags as they protest over President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision to postpone elections and extend his fourth term in office, in Algiers
People carry their national flags as they protest over President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to postpone elections and extend his fourth term in office, in Algiers, Algeria March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

March 19, 2019

ALGIERS (Reuters) – A new Algerian group headed by political leaders, opposition figures and activists has called on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down at the end of his term on April 28, and urged the army not to interfere in the “people’s choice”.

In a statement, the “National Coordination for Change” also called on the government to resign, after more than three weeks of mass demonstrations against Bouteflika’s 20-year rule.

(Reporting by Algiers bureau; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN


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