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Roy Siemens

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Roy likes politics. Knowledge is power, Roy constantly says, so he spends nearly all day gathering information and writing articles about the latest events around the globe. He likes history and studying about war techniques, this is why he finds writing his articles a piece of cake. Another hobby of his is horse – riding.

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North Korea has unveiled a new submarine-launched ballistic missile, described by state media as “the world’s most powerful weapon”.

According to state media, several of the missiles were displayed at a parade overseen by leader Kim Jong-un.

The new weapon’s actual capabilities remain unclear, as it is not known to have been tested.

The show of military strength comes days before Joe Biden’s inauguration.

It also follows a rare political meeting where Kim Jong-un decried the US as his country’s “biggest enemy”.

Images released by North Korean state media showed at least four large black-and-white missiles being driven past flag-waving crowds.

Clad in a leather coat and fur hat, Kim Jong-un is pictured smiling and waving as he watched the display in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square, which also included infantry troops, artillery and tanks.

The official Korean Central News Agency said: “The world’s most powerful weapon, submarine-launch ballistic missile, entered the square one after another, powerfully demonstrating the might of the revolutionary armed forces.”

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The event on January 14 did not showcase North Korea’s largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). That colossal weapon is believed to be able to deliver a nuclear warhead to anywhere in the US, and its size had surprised even seasoned analysts when it was put on show last year.

North Korea’s latest display of its arsenal comes at the end of a five-yearly congress of the ruling Workers’ Party.

In his address to members last week, Kim Jong-un had pledged to expand North Korea’s nuclear weapons and military potential, outlining a list of desired weapons including long-range ballistic missiles capable of being launched from land or sea and “super-large warheads”.

He also said that the US was North Korea’s “biggest obstacle for our revolution and our biggest enemy… no matter who is in power, the true nature of its policy against North Korea will never change”.

Under Kim Jong-un’s leadership North Korea has made rapid progress in its weapons program, which it says is necessary to defend itself against a possible US invasion.

According to experts, the unveiling of the new missiles appears designed to send the incoming Biden administration a message of North Korea’s growing military prowess.

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Image source: Dolcefino

Press release

Internal emails and damaging photographs detail evidence that huge chemical plants in Brazoria County intentionally diverted floodwaters into neighborhoods in Sweeny during Hurricane Harvey.

Documents obtained by Dolcefino Consulting show the massive Phillips 66 plant placed Tiger Dams around the plant, blocked culverts along Highway 35 with chunks of concrete and threw large containers into Linville Bayou, ignoring warnings that what they were doing was illegal.

A 2017 email from the general manager of the Phillips plant reveals the Old Ocean Volunteer Fire Department blamed the “increased flooding of residents in Old Ocean” on intentionally blocked culverts.

The president of West Brazoria County Drainage District #11 warned Phillips officials that what they were doing was illegal, inundating the community with water. An email shows the head of Phillips Corporate Strategy thought the plan was “great.”

The Sweeny Refinery General Manager during the hurricane was David Erfert. Erfert admitted in a sworn deposition that the plant didn’t notify the drainage district, the Army Corps of Engineers or the Coast Guard.

Image source: Dolcefino

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Hundreds of Sweeny residents have filed a lawsuit against Phillips 66 and Chevron Phillips Chemical next door after the storm, but three and a half years later the chemical plants haven’t paid for the damages to homes and pastureland.

“It is the same thing you hear over and over. Production and profit over people,” said Jason Gibson, the Houston attorney battling the chemical plants in court.

Damaging photographs show Phillips employees pumping oily water out of the plant and into surrounding neighborhoods. Phillips told the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that no contaminated water escaped the plant.

Image source: Dolcefino

“They just basically said we’re going to keep the plant running for revenue, and at the end of the day we’re going to flood the community,” said Sweeny resident Marc Smyth.

The Phillips plant is the second largest taxpayer in Brazoria County. Brazoria County officials have refused to talk to Dolcefino Consulting. So have the Phillips 66 officials.

“This is a story of arrogance,” said Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “Three and a half years after the hurricane, we know Phillips made a conscious decision that changed the lives of people in Sweeny. It is shocking that they are trying to avoid responsibility.”

Emails show the plan to permanently change the flow of water around the two Sweeny plants began long before the hurricane, when the plants joined to build an elevated rail line along Linville Bayou.

An email sent from the general manager of Phillips to the plant manager of CP Chem next door three weeks after Hurricane Harvey admitted, “there are many issues with the drainage through the Sityard and how it affects drainage outside and inside the plant.”

The new photographs and emails raise growing questions about possible contamination of the neighborhood surrounding the plants.

Sweeny ranch owner Mark Smyth told Dolcefino Consulting he could smell the hydrocarbons in the water.

“Absolutely you could smell it, you could smell it for months afterward,” Smyth said.

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President Donald Trump has pardoned four former Blackwater security guards convicted over their involvement in the killing of 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007.

Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough opened fire in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square while escorting an American diplomatic convoy.

According to the White House, the pardons were supported by the public and lawmakers.

However, the father of a boy who died called them “indescribable” and a rights group said President Trump had hit a “new low”.

There was no immediate response from the Iraqi government.

Heard, Liberty, Slatten and Slough were among 19 Blackwater private security contractors assigned to guard a convoy of four heavily-armored vehicles carrying US personnel on September 16, 2007.

According to the DoJ, at about noon that day several of the contractors opened fire in and around Nisoor Square, a busy roundabout that was immediately adjacent to the heavily-fortified Green Zone.

When they stopped shooting, at least 14 Iraqi civilians were dead – 10 men, two women and two boys, aged nine and 11. Iraqi authorities put the toll at 17.

Ex-Blackwater guards jailed over 2007 Iraq killings

US prosecutors said Nicholas Slatten was the first to fire, without provocation, killing Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubiay, an aspiring doctor who was driving his mother to an appointment.

The contractors said they mistakenly believed that they were under attack.

The incident caused international outrage, strained relations between the US and Iraq, and sparked a debate over the role of contractors in warzones.

In 2014, a US federal court found Nicholas Slatten guilty of murder, while Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were convicted of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and other charges. Nicholas Slatten was sentenced to life in prison, and the other three were handed 30-year terms.

However, the Court of Appeals reversed Nicholas Slatten’s conviction and ordered that the three others be resentenced for their roles in the crime.

Nicholas Slatten was retried in 2018, but a mistrial was declared after the jury was unable to reach a verdict. The second retrial began later that year and he was found guilty of committing first-degree murder. Nicholas Slatten was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2019.

Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard subsequently had their sentences reduced to 15, 14 and 12 years respectively.

A White House statement said Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard had a “long history of service to the nation” as veterans of the US Army and US Marine Corps, and that their pardons were “broadly supported by the public… and elected officials”.

The statement added that the Court of Appeals “ruled that additional evidence should have been presented at Mr. Slatten’s trial”, and that prosecutors recently disclosed “that the lead Iraqi investigator, who prosecutors relied heavily on to verify that there were no insurgent victims and to collect evidence, may have had ties to insurgent groups himself”.

Image source Wikimedia

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s most senior nuclear scientist, has been assassinated near Tehran, the country’s defense ministry has confirmed.

He died in hospital after an attack in Absard, in Damavand county.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, has condemned the killing “as an act of state terror”.

Western intelligence agencies believe Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was behind a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Iran insists its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.

However, news of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s killing comes amid fresh concern about the increased amount of enriched uranium that Iran is producing. Enriched uranium is a vital component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons.

A 2015 deal with six world powers had placed limits on its production, but since President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, Iran has been deliberately reneging on its agreements.

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President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to reengage with Iran when he takes over the US presidency in January, despite longstanding opposition from Israel .

Between 2010 and 2012, four Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated and Iran has accused Israel of complicity in the killings.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s name was specifically mentioned in Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation about Iran’s nuclear program in May 2018.

There has been no comment from Israel on the news of the assassination. The Pentagon has also declined to comment, according to Reuters.

In a statement on November 27, Iran’s defense ministry said: “Armed terrorists targeted a vehicle carrying Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the ministry’s research and innovation organization.

“After a clash between the terrorists and his bodyguards, Mr. Fakhrizadeh was severely injured and rushed to hospital.

“Unfortunately, the medical team’s efforts to save him were unsuccessful and minutes ago he passed away.”

Iranian media reports said the attackers opened fire on the scientist in his car.

Fars news agency earlier reported there was a car explosion in Absard town, with witnesses reporting that “three to four individuals, who are said to have been terrorists, were killed”.

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Photo Reuters

337 military officers and others have been given life sentences by a court in Turkey, in one of the biggest trials linked to the 2016 coup attempt.

Air force pilots and army commanders were among the nearly 500 defendants accused of trying to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

They allegedly directed the plot from the Akinci air base near Ankara.

President Erdogan says US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen masterminded the plot, which led to mass arrests.

Fethullah Gulen has denied any involvement in the attempted coup in July 2016 that killed 251 people and injured more than 2,000. Presidnet Erdogan was on vacation at the time at a resort.

Thousands of civilians rallied in support of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a night of turmoil, confronting rogue soldiers and preventing the plotters from seizing power.

The trial began in August 2017, and the charges included seeking to kill President Erdogan and seize key state institutions. Turkey’s biggest court – in Sincan near Ankara – was packed for the verdicts.

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Officers who conspired against President Erdogan seized aircraft at the Akinci base, taking then chief of staff Gen Hulusi Akar and some other officers hostage.

Former air force commander Akin Ozturk was jailed for life last year for his role in the plot.

The indictment states that 25 pilots in F-16s bombed targets in Ankara, including parliament, which was hit three times, as well as key security buildings. The bombing killed 68 people in Ankara and injured more than 200.

Twenty-five of those in the dock were generals and 10 were civilians.

More than 10 of the military officers – including F-16 fighter pilots – and four civilians got 79 “aggravated” life sentences each. The “aggravated” sentence requires harsher prison terms than for a normal life sentence.

Six were put on trial in absentia, including Fethullah Gulen and Adil Oksuz, a theology lecturer accused of being a key coordinator in the coup plot.

Among those receiving “aggravated” life terms was businessman Kemal Batmaz, accused of assisting Adil Oksuz.

The Hizmet movement led by Fethullah Gulen has been branded a “terrorist” organization by Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He was once an ally of the president, but since the coup attempt the 79-year-old cleric has remained a fugitive in Pennsylvania and Turkey wants his extradition.

President Erdogan carried out a sweeping purge of state institutions after the plot, sacking or suspending more than 100,000 public sector employees, including teachers and judges, who were accused of links to Fethullah Gulen.

There have been many trials of alleged plotters and courts have issued more than 2,500 life sentences.

Image source Wikimedia

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made an unprecedented visit to Psagot, a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank – the first such visit by a top US official.

The trip to Psagot came a year after Mike Pompeo said the settlements did not contradict international law, reversing a long-held US position.

The declaration outraged Palestinians, who oppose settlements on land they claim for a future independent state.

Mike Pompeo later paid a similar visit to the occupied Golan Heights.

Last year, President Donald Trump officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in 1981.

President Trump is a close ally of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and analysts say Mike Pompeo’s actions could be seen as a valedictory gesture before he and the president leave the world stage.

The secretary of state arrived in Israel on November 18 for what is likely to be his last trip to Israel before leaving office in January.

After meeting PM Netanyahu in Jerusalem on November 19, he announced that the state department would declare as anti-Semitic the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which campaigns for a complete boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians.

Israel says that BDS opposes the country’s very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism. BDS rejects the charge, saying Israel is using it as a cover for its actions.

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Mike Pompeo also told reporters that “for a long time the state department took the wrong view of settlements” in the West Bank.

He said: “It took a view that didn’t recognize the history of this special place and instead now today the United States department of state stands strongly to the recognition that settlements can be done in a way that’s lawful and appropriate and proper.”

Mike Pompeo then travelled by helicopter to the Psagot winery, in a Jewish settlement close to Ramallah.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. Most of the international community considers the settlements illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

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Police are searching for at least one suspect after a multiple gun attack in the Austrian capital, Vienna, that killed four people.

Seventeen other people were wounded – some seriously – after gunmen opened fire at six different locations in Vienna center on November 2.

According to officials, one attacker was shot dead by police.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer described the assailant killed by police as an “Islamist terrorist”.

Two of those who died in the shooting were women and two were men. One of the women was reportedly a waitress. The second woman died of her wounds in hospital overnight, reports said.

The victims were in a city center area busy with people in bars and restaurants, near Vienna’s central synagogue, but it is not yet clear if that was the target.

The interior minister advised people to stay away from the center, as police cordoned off some streets and brought in reinforcements. Parents were told to keep their children home on November 3 if they could.

Seven of the wounded have life-threatening injuries, Austrian media report.

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Addressing a news conference, Karl Nehammer described the heavily armed gunman killed by police as an ISIS sympathizer. His home had been searched and video material seized, the minister said. He had been wearing a fake explosive belt, police tweeted.

Earlier, the interior minister said at least one “heavily armed and dangerous” attacker was believed to be still at large. Officials were quoted as saying there could have been as many as four attackers.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called it a “repulsive terror attack”. The government called it “an attack on freedom and democracy”.

The attack came hours before Austria imposed new national restrictions to try to stem rising cases of coronavirus. Many people were enjoying drinks and eating out before a midnight curfew.

The government has announced three days of national mourning, starting immediately, with flags to fly at half-mast and a minute’s silence at midday. Schools will also have a minute’s silence for the victims on Wednesday morning.

European leaders strongly condemned the shooting.

The Vienna shooting comes after a spate of Islamist attacks in France.

Police in the neighboring Czech Republic said they were carrying out random checks on the border with Austria in case the gunman fled in that direction.

A large-scale police operation is under way in Vienna following a shooting incident in the Austrian capital.

According to police, several people have been injured in the shooting.

However, state broadcaster ORF TV is reporting that several people were killed.

The interior minister described the incident as a “terror attack” and said that one attacker had been killed.

Another attacker was “on the run” in the Austrian capital after the shooting.

Police have urged people to avoid all public spaces in the area and not to take public transport.

Road blocks have been set up around the city center. Footage posted on social media showed people running as what was reported to be gunshots could be heard.

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The shooting took place in the center of the city, hours before the midnight start of a nationwide lockdown, one of several being imposed in Europe to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The area where the shooting took place is packed with bars and Vienna’s main temple, the Seitenstettengasse synagogue, but it was not clear if they had any connection to the violence.

Jewish community leader Oskar Deutsch tweeted that it was unclear if the Vienna synagogue was targeted in the attack as it was closed at the time.

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Photo: AP/Michel Euler

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has called the beheading of a teacher in a north-western suburb of Paris an “Islamist terrorist attack”.

The teacher of history and geography is said to have shown controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils. The attacker was shot dead by police.

President Macron said the as yet unnamed victim was murdered because he “taught freedom of expression”.

“They won’t win… We will act,” the president said from the scene.

The attack occurred on October 15, at about 17:00 local time, near a school. Anti-terror prosecutors are investigating.

The knife-wielding attacker was shot as officers tried to arrest him in the aftermath of the attack. Police have not released any personal details about him, although French media report he was an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin who was born in Moscow.

A trial is currently under way in Paris over a 2015 Islamist assault on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was targeted for publishing the cartoons.

Three weeks ago, a man attacked and wounded two people outside Charlie Hebdo‘s former offices.

A man wielding a large knife attacked the teacher in a street in the town of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, cutting off his head. A police source said that witnesses had heard the attacker shout “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is Greatest”, the Reuters reported.

The attacker then ran off, but local police alerted by the public were quickly at the scene.

The officers confronted the man in the nearby district of Éragny.

When they shouted at him to give himself up, he is said to have threatened them. The officers shot him and he died a short time later.

The scene is now sealed off, as the investigation continues.

Nine people, including a minor, have been arrested, judicial sources have told French media. They reportedly include relatives of the attacker and parents of a child at the school where the teacher worked.

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According to Le Monde newspaper, the victim had been talking in class about freedom of expression in connection with the Muhammad cartoons, which caused uproar among some Muslims when Charlie Hebdo published them.

He had reportedly advised Muslim students to leave the room if they thought they might be offended.

Earlier this month, some Muslim parents complained to the school about the teacher’s decision to use one or more of the cartoons as part of a discussion about the Charlie Hebdo trial, French media report.

Reacting to the attack, Charlie Hebdo tweeted: “Intolerance just reached a new threshold and seems to stop at nothing to impose terror in our country.”

France has seen a wave of Islamist violence since the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead, including famous cartoonists.

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Image source Wikimedia

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been discharged from a Berlin hospital where he was being treated for Novichok nerve agent poisoning.

The Charité Hospital in the German capital said it was ending acute medical care because his condition had sufficiently improved.

Alexei Navalny, 44, posted a picture of himself standing unaided with a message saying doctors had given him every chance of a full recovery.

His team alleges he was poisoned on the orders of President Vladimir Putin.

However, the Kremlin strongly denies any involvement.

Alexei Navalny collapsed on a flight in Siberia on August 20. The Russian activist was later transferred to the Charité hospital in Berlin.

A statement from the hospital said that Alexi Navalny had spent 32 days there, including 24 days in intensive care.

“Based on the patient’s progress and current condition, the treating physicians believe that complete recovery is possible. However, it remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning,” it said.

Earlier this month the hospital revealed that Alexei Navalny had begun to recover, saying that he had been removed from a ventilator and could leave his bed.

At the time, the German government said that laboratories in France and Sweden had reconfirmed German tests showing that the poison used on Alexei Navalny was a Novichok agent.

The Kremlin has said there is no proof of that.

Alexei Navalny’s supporters initially believed that his tea had been spiked at Tomsk airport in Siberia before he caught a flight to Moscow. However, they later said that traces of Novichok had been found on a water bottle in the hotel room where he had been staying.

Alexei Navalny became ill during the flight and the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk. Russian officials were persuaded to allow him to be airlifted to Germany two days later.

After tests confirmed poisoning with a Novichok nerve agent, the EU demanded a “transparent” investigation by the Russian government.

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Russia: Alexei Navalny In Coma After Allegedly Being Poisoned

In an Instagram post on September 22, Alexei Navalny rubbished suggestions – purportedly from President Putin – that he had poisoned himself.

French newspaper Le Monde reported that in a telephone call with President Emmanuel Macron on September 14, President Putin had spoken “with contempt about Alexei Navalny, considering him a simple internet troublemaker who had simulated diseases in the past”.

“Putin has outsmarted me,” Alexei Navalny wrote on Instagram, mocking the Russian president.

“He is nobody’s fool. As a result, I, like a fool, spent 18 days in a coma but failed to achieve what I wanted. The provocation has failed!”

A nerve agent from the Novichok group was also used to poison Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England in 2018. They both survived, but a local woman, Dawn Sturgess, died after coming into contact with the poison.

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According to Alexei Navany’s team, traces of the nerve agent allegedly used to poison the Russian opposition leader were found on a bottle in the hotel room where he stayed before falling ill.

Alexei Navalny collapsed on a flight in Siberia last month. Germany says he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

It was previously thought that he may have been targeted at the airport.

A post on his Instagram account says: “Now we understand: It was done before he left his room to reach the airport.”

Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most high profile opposition figure and a leading critic of President Vladimir Putin, is currently receiving treatment in the German capital Berlin.

His team alleges he was poisoned on the orders of President Putin.

However, the Kremlin denies any involvement in the case and says there is no evidence that a nerve agent was used.

A video posted on Alexei Navalny’s Instagram account on September 17 shows members of his team in a hotel room in the Siberian city of Tomsk after news of his poisoning emerged.

The post says they were there to gather potential evidence from the hotel to send to Alexei Navalny’s medical team in Germany because they did not trust the Russian authorities.

Several empty water bottles can be seen in the clip. They are among a number of items bagged by individuals wearing gloves.

“It is precisely on the bottle from the Tomsk hotel room that a German laboratory found traces of Novichok,” the post says.

The German authorities have not commented on the alleged finding.

President Trump Refuses to Condemn Russia over Alexei Navalny Poisoning

Russia: Alexei Navalny In Coma After Allegedly Being Poisoned

Earlier this week, Alexei Navalny posted once for the first time since he fell ill. He said he was now able to breathe unaided. His spokeswoman said he intended to return to Russia.

Alexei Navalny became ill during the flight from Tomsk to Moscow on August 20, and the plane made an emergency landing in the city Omsk. Russian officials were persuaded to allow him to be airlifted to Germany two days later.

After carrying out tests, Germany said there was “unequivocal proof” that Alexei Navalny had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

According to the German government, labs in Sweden and France later confirmed the findings. A nerve agent from the Novichok group was also used to poison Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, in England, in 2018. They both survived, but a local woman, Dawn Sturgess, died after coming into contact with the poison.

Image source: AP

President Donald Trump has hailed the “dawn of a new Middle East”, amid Israel’s landmark deals with the UAE and Bahrain.

The president spoke as the two Gulf states signed agreements fully normalizing their relations with Israel.

The three countries hailed the deals as historic, as did President Trump, whose administration helped broker them.

The UAE and Bahrain are just the third and fourth Arab countries to recognize Israel since its founding in 1948.

President Trump hopes other countries will follow suit, but the Palestinians have urged them not to while their conflict remains unsolved.

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President Donald Trump: Israeli Settlements Could Complicate Peace Process with Palestinians

For decades, most Arab states have boycotted Israel, insisting they would only establish ties after Israel’s dispute with the Palestinian was settled.

“After decades of division and conflict we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” President Trump told a crowd of hundreds gathered at the White House on September 15.

“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” he added.

Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the deals, saying: “This day is a pivot of history; it heralds a new dawn of peace.”

However, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said only an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories could bring peace to the Middle East.

“Peace, security and stability will not be achieved in the region until the Israeli occupation ends,” he said in a statement after the signing of the deals, AFP reports.

The Israeli army said that two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel while the ceremony was under way.

Before the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the only other Arab countries in the Middle East to recognize Israel officially were Egypt and Jordan, who signed peace treaties in 1978 and 1994 respectively.

Mauritania, a member of the Arab League in north-west Africa, established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1999 but severed ties in 2010.

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been moved to Germany from Siberia for medical treatment.

The prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin is in a coma after drinking what his supporters suspect was poisoned tea; they accuse the authorities of trying to conceal a crime.

Doctors treating Alexei Navalny in Omsk had insisted on August 21 that he was too ill to be moved.

However, they later said his condition was stable enough for the flight. His wife Yulia Navalnaya is traveling with him.

On August 22, Alexei Navalny’s medical evacuation flight – paid for by the German non-governmental organization Cinema for Peace – landed at Tegel airport in Berlin. He is being treated at the Charité hospital in the German capital.

The founder of the Cinema for Peace Foundation, activist and filmmaker Jaka Bizilj, told reporters outside the hospital that Alexei Navalny’s condition was “very worrying”.

“It’s not only about the question if he will survive this,” Jaka Bizilj said.

“It’s a question what kind of damage there is, if he will survive this and come back to normal fully.”

Alexei Navalny’s personal doctor, Anastasia Vasilieva, was not allowed to see him while he was in hospital in Russia. But she said she was hopeful he could recover now that he was in Germany.

She said: “I’m sure that they can treat him and do everything to eliminate this toxic agent from his body.”

Medical staff treating Alexei Navalny at the hospital in Omsk said before his flight that his life was not in immediate danger.

His spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, earlier tweeted: “Massive thanks to everyone for their support. The struggle for Alexei’s life and health is just beginning.”

Kira Yarmysh said it was a pity that doctors had taken so long to approve his flight as the plane and the right documents had been ready since August 21.

Alexei Navalny fell ill during a flight from Tomsk to Moscow on August 20, and his plane made an emergency landing in Omsk.

A photograph on social media appeared to show the Russian opposition leader drinking from a cup at a Tomsk airport cafe before the flight. His team suspects a poisonous substance was put in his tea.

Disturbing video appeared to show a stricken Alexei Navalny howling in agony on the flight.

Russia: Alexei Navalny In Coma After Allegedly Being Poisoned

The head doctor at the hospital where Navalny was being treated in Omsk, Alexander Murakhovsky, warned late on August 21 that doctors did not recommend flying “but his wife insists on her husband being transferred to a German clinic”.

“The patient’s condition is stable,” deputy chief doctor Anatoly Kalinichenko was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

“As we’re in possession of a request from relatives to permit him to be transported somewhere, we have now taken the decision that we do not object to his transfer to another in-patient facility,” he added.

Doctors said earlier that no poison had been found in Alexei Navalny’s body, suggesting his condition might be the result of a “metabolic disorder” caused by low blood sugar.

Health officials then indicated that traces of an industrial chemical had been found on his skin and hair. The local interior ministry told the Rapsi legal news agency that the chemical was usually included in polymers to improve their elasticity, but its concentration was impossible to establish.

Alexei Navalny has consistently exposed official corruption in Russia. He has served multiple jail terms.

Foreign leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President Emmanuel Macron have expressed concern for him.

In the US, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has described the incident as “unacceptable” and vowed that, if elected, he would “stand up to autocrats like Putin”.

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Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has received more responsibilities in the government, South Korea’s spy agency claims.

Kim Jong-un still maintains “absolute authority”, but handed various policy areas to others to reduce his stress levels, the spy agency reportedly said.

Kim Yo-jong is now “steering overall state affairs”, the National Intelligence Service added.

However, South Korea’s spy agency has been wrong about North Korea in the past.

The claims were reportedly made during a closed-door briefing on August 20 to South Korea’s National Assembly.

Lawmakers then discussed the assessment with journalists.

The agency was quoted as saying: “Kim Jong-un is still maintaining his absolute authority, but some of it has been handed over little by little.”

Kim Yo-jong now has responsibility for Pyongyang’s policy towards the US and South Korea, among other policy issues, and is “the de-facto number two leader,” it added, although it stressed that Kim Jong-un had “not selected a successor.”

The North Korean leader’s decision to delegate was in part to “relieve stress from his reign and avert culpability in the event of policy failure,” it said.

However, some analysts have been skeptical of the intelligence, with website NKNews noting that Kim Yo-jong appeared to have missed two important meetings this month, leading to speculation from some observers that she may have been demoted.

Image source EPA

PyeongChang 2018: Kim Jong-un’s Sister, Kim Yo-jong, to Visit South Korea for Olympics

Kim Yo-jong: Kim Jong-un’s Sister to Take up Important Role in North Korea’s Core Leadership

Kim Yo-jong is the younger sister of Kim Jong-un and the only one of his siblings considered a close and powerful ally.

Born in 1987, she is four years younger than Kim Jong-un. The two of them lived and studied in Bern, Switzerland, at the same time.

Kim Yo-jong first gained international attention in 2018, when she was the first member of the Kim dynasty to visit South Korea.

She was part of the delegation to the Winter Olympics, where North and South competed as a joint team.

Kim Yo-jong also worked alongside her brother at international summits, including his meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, China’s Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta has stepped down, after being detained by soldiers on August 18.

In a TV address, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta said he was also dissolving the government and parliament, adding: “I want no blood to be spilled to keep me in power.”

The president and PM Boubou Cissé were taken to a military camp near the capital Bamako, drawing international condemnation.

A spokesman for the soldiers called for “a civil political transition leading to credible general elections”.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta won a second term in elections in 2018, but there has been anger over corruption, the mismanagement of the economy and a dispute over legislative elections. It has prompted several large protests in recent months.

There has also been anger among troops about pay and over a continuing conflict with jihadists.

Wearing a surgical mask amid the coronavirus pandemic, President Keïta resigned in a brief address on state TV.

“If today, certain elements of our armed forces want this to end through their intervention, do I really have a choice?” he asked.

“I hold no hatred towards anyone, my love of my country does not allow me to,” he added.

“May God save us.”

A televised statement was read out early on August 19 on behalf of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People.

Air force deputy chief of staff Col-Major Ismaël Wagué said: “Civil society and political social movements are invited to join us to create together the best conditions for a civil political transition leading to credible general elections for the exercise of democracy through a roadmap that will lay the foundations for a new Mali.”

He added: “As of today, all air and land borders are closed until further notice. A curfew is in place from 09:00 to 17:00 until further notice.”

Flanked by soldiers, Col. Wagué said: “Our country is sinking into chaos, anarchy and insecurity mostly due to the fault of the people who are in charge of its destiny.”

It remains unclear who began the mutiny, how many soldiers took part or who will now take charge.

It appears to have started when mutinying soldiers took control of the Kati camp, where the president and PM were later taken.

After taking over the camp, about 9 miles from Bamako, the mutineers marched on the capital, where they were cheered by crowds who had gathered to demand President Keïta’s resignation.

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On August 18, they stormed his residence and arrested the president and his prime minister – who were both there.

The president’s son, the speaker of the National Assembly, the foreign and finance ministers were reported to be among the other officials detained.

Kati camp was the focus of a mutiny in 2012, also by mid-ranking soldiers, who were angry at the inability of the senior commanders to stop jihadists and Tuareg rebels taking control of northern Mali.

When news first broke of the mutiny, the UN and African Union both called for the release of those held by the soldiers.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), a regional body, also said its 15 member states had agreed to close their borders with Mali, suspend all financial flows to the country, and eject Mali from all Ecowas decision-making bodies. In recent months, Ecowas has been trying to mediate between President Keïta’s government and opposition groups.

The UN Security Council is to meet on August 19 to discuss the latest developments in Mali.

Mali’s former colonial ruler, France, was also quick to condemn the president’s detention, and Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian urged the soldiers to return to barracks.

Mali is a key base for French troops fighting Islamist insurgents across the Sahel region.

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Russia has agreed to offer security assistance to Belarus in the case of external military threats, President Alexander Lukashenko has said.

President Lukashenko also voiced concerns over NATO military exercises taking place in neighboring Poland and Lithuania.

The news comes as the embattled Belarusian president faces mass protests over the disputed August 9 election.

Thousands of Belarusians gathered outside state television on August 15, demanding full coverage of the demonstrations.

The unrest erupted after Alexander Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in last week’s election, the result of which has been condemned amid widespread allegations of vote-rigging.

The Central Election Commission says Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, won 80.1% of the vote and the main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya 10.12%.

However, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya insists that where votes were properly counted, she won support ranging from 60% to 70%.

As the unrest continued on August 15, President Lukashenko sought help from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

President Lukashenko said President Putin had promised to provide what he called comprehensive assistance in the event of external military threats to Belarus.

The announcement came the day after EU foreign ministers agreed to prepare new sanctions against Belarusian officials responsible for “falsification”. The US has also condemned the election as “not free and fair”.

Image source: kremlin.ru

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In a joint statement on August 15, the prime ministers of three Baltic republics – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – “expressed deep concern at the violent crackdown… and the political repression of the opposition by the authorities”.

Latvia and Lithuania have previously said they are prepared to mediate in Belarus, provided the authorities stopped violence against protesters and formed a national council with members of civil society. They warned that the alternative was sanctions.

The Baltic leaders said the Belarusian presidential election was “neither free nor fair” and called for a “transparent” vote “with the participation of international observers”.

“The prime ministers urge the Belarusian authorities to refrain from violence against peaceful demonstrators [and to] release all political prisoners and those that have been detained,” the statement added.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya left for Lithuania following the election after she publicly denounced the results. She had sent her children to Lithuania for safety before the vote.

Some 6,700 people were arrested in the wake of the election, and many have spoken of torture at the hands of the security services.

Amnesty International said accounts from released detainees suggested “widespread torture”.

Demonstrations have continued following Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s call for further peaceful rallies on August 14.

Some 100 staff came out of the state television building to join August 15 protests, saying they planned a strike on August 17, AFP reports. Others have signed a letter in support of a strike.

On election day, Belarusian state channels aired the voices of Lukashenko supporters and did not cover the demonstrations. State TV later showed footage of violence to blame protesters and warn people not to participate.

Several journalists have resigned over the coverage.

A “March for Freedom” is also planned in the center of Minsk on August 16, a week after the contested election.

The death toll of August 4 devastating explosion in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, has exceeded 200, according to officials.

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud said dozens were still missing, many of them foreign workers.

On August 9, there was a second night of violence in Beirut, as police clashed with protesters angry with the government’s response to the disaster.

The resignation of three members of the cabinet, including the justice minister on August 10, has not quelled the fury.

Fresh protests have been called for August 10 when PM Hassan Diab is due to chair a cabinet meeting.

PM Diab has said the blast was the result of the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored unsafely at Beirut’s port for six years.

The decision to keep so much hazardous material in a warehouse near the city center has been met with disbelief by many Lebanese, who have long accused the political elite of corruption, neglect and mismanagement.

Marwan Abboud was quoted by the al-Marsad Online news website as saying the death toll from the explosion had risen to 220, and that 110 people remained missing.

The governor told the Al Jadeed TV channel that many foreign workers and lorry drivers were among the missing, which he said had made identifying them more difficult.

The Lebanese army, meanwhile, said it was calling off the rescue phase of the search operation at the port because no survivors had been found.

Elsewhere in Beirut, hundreds of thousands of people are living in severely damaged homes, many without windows or doors.

STR/AFP via Getty Images

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Officials have estimated that the explosion caused more than $3 billion of damage and that Lebanon’s collective economic losses may amount to $15 billion.

Lebanon was already suffering a major economic downturn before the explosion, with families pushed into poverty and hunger, and UN agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis unless food and medical aid are delivered swiftly.

International donors pledged $297 million in aid for Lebanon at a virtual summit on August 9 hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

A joint statement underscored their concerns about corruption, saying that the assistance should be “directly delivered to the Lebanese population, with utmost efficiency and transparency”.

The donors said further assistance was dependent on Lebanese authorities fully committing to “timely measures and reforms expected by the Lebanese people”.

On August 9, world leaders will hold talks to raise aid for Beirut, five days after the massive explosion which devastated the Lebanese capital.

The virtual conference – set up by France and the United Nations – starts at 14:00 Lebanon time.

President Donald Trump has said he plans to join the call.

Officials estimate the explosion at the warehouse, which stored 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, caused up to $15 billion in damage.

The blast left at least 158 people dead, 5,000 injured and 300,000 homeless.

On August 8, thousands of people protested in Beirut. Police fired tear gas at stone-throwing protesters and some demonstrators storming government ministries.

In a TV address, Lebanese PM Hassan Diab said he would ask for early elections as a way out of the crisis. The issue will be discussed in cabinet on August 10.

Lebanon was already mired in a deep economic crisis and struggling to tackle the coronavirus pandemic before the explosion tore through Beirut.

An anti-government protest movement erupted last October, fuelled by the financial situation and a collapsing currency.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut on August 6, and announced he wanted to co-ordinate international aid for Lebanon.

A statement from France’s presidential palace says August 9 conference “will aim to mobilize Lebanon’s main international partners and to organize and co-ordinate emergency support from the international community”.

STR/AFP via Getty Images

Beirut Explosion: Rescuers Search for Survivors as 113 People Are Confirmed Dead

Beirut Explosion: At Least 27 Killed And More Than 2,500 Injured

Representatives from EU member states, the UK, Russia, China, Egypt and Jordan will all take part, with many others invited to attend.

In a series of tweets, President Trump said he had discussed the “catastrophic event” in Beirut with President Macron and would himself join the call.

He tweeted: “We will be having a conference call on Sunday with President Macron, leaders of Lebanon, and leaders from various other parts of the world. Everyone wants to help!”

A number of countries have already pledged millions of dollars worth of aid and sent ships, health workers and materiel to assist Beirut.

However, UN agencies have called for more help and warned about the massive challenge ahead. Many homes are without water or electricity, there are growing worries about food shortages, and cases of Covid-19 are spiking in the country – an additional challenge for hospitals which are already overwhelmed.

Rescue teams in Lebanon are searching rubble for dozens of people missing a day after a huge explosion devastated the port area of the capital, Beirut.

The explosion, which shook the whole city, killed at least 113 people and injured more than 4,000 others. A two-week state of emergency has been declared.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said the blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely in a warehouse.

All port officials have been put under house arrest pending an investigation.

According to local media, customs chief Badri Daher claims his agency had repeatedly called for the ammonium nitrate to be removed, but “this did not happen, and we leave it to the experts to determine the reasons”.

Ammonium nitrate is used as a fertilizer in agriculture and as an explosive.

Opening an emergency cabinet meeting, President Aoun said: “No words can describe the horror that has hit Beirut last night, turning it into a disaster-stricken city.”

The blast occurred just after 18:00 on August 4 after a fire at the port, and it was felt 150 miles away on the island of Cyprus, in the eastern Mediterranean.

Security forces have sealed off a wide area around the blast site, and rescuer workers have been looking for bodies and survivors under rubble while boats searched the waters off the coast.

However, the overnight rescue effort was hampered by a lack of electricity.

Public Health Minister Hamad Hassan said the country’s health sector was short of beds and lacked the equipment necessary to treat the injured and care for patients in critical condition.

He said a “large number of children” had been rescued but added that he feared that the number of dead would rise further.

The Saint Georges hospital near the site of the blast was badly damaged and several members of staff were killed. Three Beirut hospitals were closed with two others only partially operational, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. The WHO said it would airlift medical supplies to Lebanon on August 5.

Three French planes are due to arrive carrying 55 rescuers, medical equipment and a mobile clinic equipped to treat 500 people. French President Emmanuel Macron will visit on August 6. The EU is sending 100 firefighters with vehicles, dogs and equipment. Russia is sending five planes carrying rescuers, doctors and equipment.

According to Beirut’s governor Marwan Aboud, many buildings and homes have been reduced to an uninhabitable mess of glass and as many as 300,000 people have been left homeless.

STR/AFP via Getty Images

Beirut Explosion: At Least 27 Killed And More Than 2,500 Injured

Beirut explosion kills four people in Haret Hreik district

Beirut car bomb kills at least 5 people in Hezbollah stronghold

The ammonium nitrate had reportedly been in a warehouse in Beirut port for six years after it was unloaded from a ship impounded at the port in 2013.

The head of Beirut port and the head of the customs authority both told local media that they had written to the judiciary several times asking that the chemical be exported or sold on to ensure port safety.

The port’s General Manager Hassan Koraytem told OTV that they had been aware that the material was dangerous when a court first ordered it stored in the warehouse, “but not to this degree”.

Lebanon’s Supreme Defense Council has vowed that those found responsible will face the “maximum punishment” possible.

The ammonium nitrate arrived on a Moldovan-flagged ship, the Rhosus, which entered Beirut port after suffering technical problems during its voyage from Georgia to Mozambique, according to Shiparrested.com, which deals with shipping-related legal cases.

The Rhosus was inspected, banned from leaving and was shortly afterwards abandoned by its owners, sparking several legal claims. Its cargo was then removed and stored in a port warehouse for safety reasons, the report said.

At least 27 people have been killed and more than 2,500 injured in a large blast in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, the health minister says.

It is not yet clear what caused the explosion in the port region. Videos posted online showed a column of smoke followed by a large mushroom cloud.

Hospitals are said to be overwhelmed and many buildings have been destroyed.

According to Lebanon’s internal security chief, the blast happened in an area housing highly explosive materials.

The explosion comes at a sensitive time for Lebanon, with an economic crisis reigniting old divisions. Tensions are also high ahead of August 7 verdict in a trial over the killing of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

Image source: STR/AFP via Getty Images

Beirut explosion kills four people in Haret Hreik district

Beirut car bomb kills at least 5 people in Hezbollah stronghold

Some reports suggest the explosion may have been an accident. Lebanon’s National News Agency reported a fire breaking out at what it called an explosives depot at the port before the explosion.

Local media showed people trapped beneath rubble. A witness described the first explosion as deafening, and video footage showed wrecked cars and blast-damaged buildings.

President Michel Aoun called for an emergency meeting of the Supreme Defense Council, the presidency said on Twitter.

August 5 has been declared a day of mourning, the Lebanese prime minister said.

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The Department of Justice has accused China of sponsoring hackers who are targeting labs developing Covid-19 vaccines.

US officials have charged two Chinese men who allegedly spied on American companies doing coronavirus research and got help from state agents for other thefts.

The indictment comes amid a US crackdown on Chinese cyber espionage.

The US, UK and Canada last week accused Russia of seeking to steal research related to Covid-19.

The accusations against former electrical engineering students Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi released on July 21 include charges of trade secret theft and wire fraud conspiracy.

Prosecutors said the two men spied on a Massachusetts biotech company in January which was known to be researching possible cures for Covid-19. They also hacked a Maryland company less than a week after it said it was researching Covid-19.

Officials called the Chinese men private hackers who occasionally received support from Chinese intelligence agents, including an officer from the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS).

Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi previously stole “hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of trade secrets, intellectual property, and other valuable business information” beginning in 2009, prosecutors alleged.

The indictment unsealed in Washington state said Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi – who reside in China – recently “researched vulnerabilities in the networks of biotech and other firms publicly known for work on Covid-19 vaccines, treatments, and testing technology”.

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Countries where companies were targeted include Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

According to the indictment, the hackers were able to infiltrate a British artificial intelligence firm, a Spanish defense contractor, and a Australian solar energy company.

Prosecutors said the men at times acted in their own self-interest – including one occasion when they demanded a ransom from a company in exchange for not releasing its private information – but at other times “were stealing information of obvious interest” to the Chinese government.

According to the indictment, the hackers “worked with, were assisted by, and operated with the acquiescence of” the MSS.

Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi allegedly stole military data and provided the Chinese government with the passwords of a democracy activist in Hong Kong and a former Tiananmen Square protester.

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The trial of 20 Saudi nationals accused of killing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has begun in absentia in Turkey.

Jamal Khashoggi, 59, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

Those being tried include two former top aides to Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Jamal Khashoggi was a vocal critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia carried out a separate trial over the killing that was heavily criticized as incomplete.

The trial in Istanbul follows an international outcry over the murder, which tarnished the prince’s reputation.

Turkish prosecutors accuse the former deputy head of Saudi intelligence, Ahmed al-Asiri, and the royal court’s media adviser Saud al-Qahtani of having led the operation and instructed a Saudi hit team.

The other 18 defendants are accused of having suffocated Jamal Khashoggi, whose remains have not been found. Turkish officials say his body was dismembered and removed to an unknown site.

Jamal Khashoggi, who was resident in the US, had entered the consulate seeking papers for his impending wedding.

The journalist’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz is attending the trial alongside the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnes Callamard, who has directly linked the crown prince to the killing, AFP news agency reports.

The Saudi authorities initially denied any involvement in the case, but later called it a “rogue operation”.

In December 2019, a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death and three to jail for Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, but the trial was secretive and the defendants were not named.

Image source www.alaraby.co.uk

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The CIA and some Western governments believe the murder was ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – something he denies. The crown prince is de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.

UN special rapporteur Callamard says Jamal Khashoggi was “the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible”.

At the time of his death Jamal Khashoggi worked for the Washington Post.

The prosecutors have charged Ahmed al-Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani with “instigating the deliberate and monstrous killing, causing torment”.

Hatice Cengiz is hoping that the trial will reveal significant new evidence and finally reveal what happened to Jamal Khashoggi’s remains.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has suspended plans for “military action” against South Korea, state news agency KCNA reported.

Recent weeks saw a rising tide of angry rhetoric from North Korea over activist plans to send leaflets with anti-North Korean messages over the border.

Last week, North Korea blew up the joint liaison office with South Korea and also threatened to send troops to the border area.

At a meeting chaired by leader Kim Jong-un, state media said the decision was taken to suspend military action.

The Central Military Commission made its decision after taking what it called the “prevailing situation” into consideration.

Image source Wikimedia

North Korea Bombs Joint Liaison Office with South Korea

North Korea Cuts All Official Communication Channels with South Korea

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North Korea also began to dismantle loudspeakers it had erected only last week, traditionally used to blast anti-South Korean messages over the border, Yonhap reported.

The move represents a notable de-escalation in rhetoric after Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong’s orders to the army to “decisively carry out the next action” – in part because of what Pyongyang said was Seoul’s failure to stop activists floating balloons with anti-regime leaflets over the border.

The meeting also discussed documents outlining measures for “further bolstering the war deterrent of the country,” KCNA reported.

Tensions between North and South Korea appeared to be on the mend when in 2018, leaders of both countries met for the first time at the border.

The historic summit saw both sides pledge to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons – and in the months that followed, there were efforts to improve ties and maintain dialogue.

However, the relationship has been on a downward spiral after a failed summit between Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump.

And the past few weeks saw relations deteriorate especially rapidly – prompted by defector groups in South Korea sending propaganda across the border,

South Korean activists typically send balloons that carry objects like leaflets, USB sticks or DVDs with criticism of the Pyongyang regime, as well as South Korean news reports or even Korean dramas.

All of this is aimed at breaking North Korea’s control on domestic information with the hope that people might eventually topple the regime from within.

The South Korean government has already tried to stop groups sending leaflets across the border, arguing their actions put residents near the border at risk. The move prompted North Korea to renew threats of military action – and shortly afterwards it blew up a joint liaison office that it had established with South Korea in 2018.

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North Korea has blown up a joint liaison office with South Korea near the border town of Kaesong.

The incident comes just hours after North Korea renewed threats of military action at the Korean border.

The site was opened in 2018 to help the Koreas – officially in a state of war – to communicate. The joint liaison office had been empty since January due to Covid-19 restrictions.

In a statement, South Korea warned it would “respond strongly” if North Korea “continues to worsen the situation”.

The destruction of the office, the statement said, “abandons the hopes of everyone who wanted the development of inter-Korean relations and peace settlement in the Korean Peninsula”.

“The government makes it clear that all responsibility of this situation lies in the North.”

Image source Wikimedia

North Korea Cuts All Official Communication Channels with South Korea

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Russia expressed concern at the renewed tensions between the Koreas.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said on June 16: “We call for restraint from all the sides.”

Tensions between North and South Korea have been escalating for weeks, prompted by defector groups in the South sending propaganda across the border.

Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong – considered a close and powerful ally – threatened at the weekend to demolish the office.

There were hopes for improved relations between North Korea and South Korea and its close ally the US after President Donald Trump met Kim Jong-un at the North-South border last June, but nothing materialized and the atmosphere has since deteriorated.

North Korea is under crippling US and UN economic sanctions over its militarized nuclear program. Washington has not yet commented on the North’s latest action.

In recent weeks, North Korea has repeatedly condemned South Korea for allowing propaganda into its territory.

Defector groups regularly send such material via balloons, or even drones, into North Korea.

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The Met Police clashed with demonstrators in London, where thousands, including some far-right activists, gathered despite warnings to avoid protests.

Groups gathered in the center of the capital on June 13, claiming they were protecting statues from anti-racism activists.

UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel described the violence as “thoroughly unacceptable thuggery”.

Some anti-racism protests have taken place in London and across the UK.

The Met Police had placed restrictions on several groups intending to protest, including having to finish at 17:00 BST, following violent scenes last weekend.

However, several groups remained on the streets of central London after the official cut-off.

As of 17:00 BST, Scotland Yard said they had arrested five people for offences including violent disorder, assault on police, possession of an offensive weapon, being drunk and disorderly and possession of Class A drugs.

Image source Sky News

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As some protestors moved towards Waterloo Station around 18:00 BST, both the underground and mainline station were temporarily closed due to the protests – but later reopened.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan urged protesters to leave to prevent further violence and the spread of coronavirus in London.

Various groups from around the country, including some far-right activists, said they had come to London to protect symbols of British history.

Hundreds of mostly white men gathered around the Cenotaph war memorial in Whitehall and the boarded-up statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square.

There were a number of clashes with police in riot gear as crowds – chanting “England” and raising their arms – surged towards lines of officers.

Some protesters managed to break metal barriers around the Cenotaph on Whitehall while hurling flag poles, a smoke flare and a traffic cone towards police who were striking them back with batons.

Large groups of right-wing protesters then moved to Trafalgar Square, where fireworks were thrown across the crowds.

A statement from the London Ambulance Service said it had treated 15 patients, including two police officers, for injuries at the protests.

Police attempted to stop protesters getting to Hyde Park where an anti-racist demonstration, which had largely been peaceful, was taking place.

Organizers from the Black Lives Matter movement had urged people not to join any anti-racism rallies planned for the weekend over fears there could be clashes with far-right groups. One demonstration planned for June 13 in London was brought forward by a day.