Sanders Scores Decisive Win in Nevada Caucus

Sanders Scores Decisive Win in Nevada Caucus

Bernie Sanders has decisively won the Nevada Democratic caucuses, solidifying his lead for his party’s presidential nomination.  As Mike O’Sullivan reports, it was the first contest in an ethnically diverse state before important party votes in coming weeks. 

your ad here

Eight Dead in Turkey as 5.7 Earthquake Strikes Western Iran

Eight people were killed in Turkey in a magnitude 5.7 earthquake that struck western Iran early Sunday morning, Turkish Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu said.
    
The quake centered west of the Iranian city of Khoy and affected villages in the Turkish province of Van.
    
Soylu told a news conference that three children and four adults were killed in Turkey’s Baskule district. He later said another person had died.
    
No one remained trapped under fallen buildings, Van Governor Mehmet Emin Bilmez said.
    
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said at least 21 people had been injured, including eight who are in a critical condition.
    
Emergency teams have been sent to the remote mountainous region.
    
Iran’s official IRNA news agency said the earthquake affected 43 villages in the mountainous Qotour area. It reported some residents were injured but didn’t say any were in critical condition.
    
According to the European Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC), the quake, which happened at 9:22 a.m. local time (0552GMT), had a depth of 5 kilometers.
    
The region has a history of powerful earthquakes. Last month a quake centered on the eastern Turkish city of Elazig killed more than 40 people.
    
Turkish broadcaster NTV showed images of locals and soldiers digging through the rubble of collapsed buildings as families fearing further tremors sat in snowy streets. The EMSC reported several further quakes that measured up to magnitude 3.9.A man carries a wounded boy to an ambulance after an earthquake hit villages in Baskale town in Van province, Turkey, at the border with Iran, Feb. 23, 2020.The effects of the quake hit four villages in Van. Sevenof the fatalities occurred in Ozpinar village, where Soylu said search and rescue teams had arrived. He added that the quake caused 1,066 buildings to collapse while the Education Ministry said a number of schools were damaged.
    
Koca said 25 ambulances, a medical helicopter and 13 emergency teams had been sent to the region. The Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) said 144 tents for families had been dispatched.

your ad here

Moscow Targets Chinese with Raids Amid Virus Fears

Bus drivers in Moscow kept their WhatsApp group chat buzzing with questions this week about what to do if they spotted passengers who might be from China riding with them in the Russian capital.”Some Asian-looking [people] have just got on. Probably Chinese. Should I call [the police]?” one driver messaged his peers. “How do I figure out if they’re Chinese? Should I ask them?” a colleague wondered.
    
The befuddlement reflected in screenshots of the group exchanges seen by The Associated Press had a common source — instructions from Moscow’s public transit operator Wednesday for drivers to call a dispatcher if Chinese nationals boarded their buses, Russian media reported.
    
A leaked email that the media reports said was sent by the state-owned transportation company Mosgortrans told dispatchers who took such calls to notify the police. The email, which the company immediately described on Twitter as fake, carried a one-word subject line: coronavirus.
    
Since the outbreak of the new virus that has infected more than 76,000 people and killed more than 2,300 in mainland China, Russia has reported two cases. Both patients, Chinese nationals hospitalized in Siberia, recovered quickly. Russian authorities nevertheless are going to significant — some argue discriminatory — lengths to keep the virus from resurfacing and spreading.
    
Moscow officials ordered police raids of hotels, dormitories, apartment buildings and businesses to track down the shrinking number of Chinese people remaining in the city. They also authorized the use of facial recognition technology to find those suspected of evading a 14-day self-quarantine period upon their arrival in Russia.
    
“Conducting raids is an unpleasant task, but it is necessary, for the potential carriers of the virus as well,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in a statement outlining various methods to find and track Chinese people the city approved as a virus prevention strategy.
    
The effort to identify Chinese citizens on public transportation applies not only to buses, but underground trains and street trams in Moscow, Russian media reported Wednesday.
    
Metro workers were instructed to stop riders from China and ask them to fill out questionnaires asking why they were in Russia and whether they observed the two-week quarantine, the reports said. The forms also ask respondents for their health condition and the address of where they are were staying.
    
In Yekaterinburg, a city located 1,790 kilometers (1,112 miles) away from Moscow in the Urals Mountains, members of the local Chinese community also are under watch. Self-styled Cossack patrols in the city hand out medical masks along with strong recommendations to visit a health clinic to Chinese residents.
    
Human rights advocates have condemned the targeting of Chinese nationals as racial profiling, not an effective epidemic control strategy.
    
“Prevention of any serious virus, be it a flu or the new coronavirus, should involve a proper information campaign and not discrimination of other people,” said Alyona Popova, an activist engaged in a year-long court challenge of Moscow’s use of facial recognition technology.
    
The containment measures in the capital came as the Russian government instituted an indefinite ban on Chinese nationals entering the country that could block up to 90% of travelers coming to Russia from China. Weeks before, Russia shut down the country’s long land border with China, suspended all trains and most flights between the two countries.
    
The Moscow Metro confirmed to The Associated Press that the underground system was “actively monitoring the stations” and has a protocol in place for dealing with people who have recently returned from the People’s Republic of China.
    
“We ask to see their documents and to show us documents [proving] that if they have recently returned from the People’s Republic of China, they have undergone a two-week quarantine period,” Yulia Temnikova, Moscow Metro’s deputy chief of client and passenger services, said.
    
If an individual does not show proof of completing the quarantine, Metro workers ask the person to fill out the form and call an ambulance, Temnikova said.
    
Bus and tram drivers contacted their labor union about the instructions to look for Chinese nationals and report them to the dispatch center. The drivers were outraged and didn’t know what to do, Public Transport Workers Union chairman Yuri Dashkov said.
    
“So he saw a Chinese national, and then what?” Dashkov said. “How can he ascertain that he saw a Chinese national, or a Vietnamese national, or a Japanese, or [someone from the Russian region of] Yakutia?”
     
Dashkov showed the AP a photo of the email that officials at Mosgortrans were said to have sent out. He also showed three photos of on-bus electronic displays reading, “If Chinese nationals are discovered in the carriage, inform the dispatcher.”
    
The AP was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the email and the photos. Dashkov shared screenshots of what appeared to be a genuine bus drivers’ group chat in WhatsApp.
    
While Moscow public transit operator Mosgortrans dismissed the email as phony on its official Twitter account Wednesday, the company told the AP in a statement two days later that it does “conduct monitoring” and “sends data to the medics when necessary.”
    
Mosgortrans referred additional questions to the detailed statement from Moscow’s mayor, who on Friday acknowledged the sharp focus on Chinese people in the city’s virus-control plan.
    
Officials ordered everyone arriving from China to isolate themselves for two weeks, and those who skip the quarantine step will be identified through video surveillance and facial recognition technology, Sobyanin said. The systems give authorities the ability to “constantly control compliance with the protocol,” he said in the statement.
    
The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the city’s containment approach and the accusation that it’s discriminatory. But rights activist Popova insists the facial recognition program is unlawful whether the searches are seeking Russian or Chinese faces.
    
“We have a constitutional right to privacy, and citizens of [other countries] have it according to foreign and international legal norms,” she said.
    
Temnikova from the Moscow Metro rejected accusations of racial profiling. Subway workers “mainly look at the passenger’s [health] condition,” she said, and approach “people who need help.”
    
Addressing identification questions like the ones that worried the bus drivers, Temnikova said it should be “clear who could have arrived from China” because “it is obvious.”
    
The Cossacks of Yekaterinburg — men in conservative, often pro-Kremlin groups claiming to be successors of the proud guards who policed the Russian Empire’s frontiers — took fighting the virus into their own hands three weeks ago. They also have a system of sorts for deciding who needs a face mask and advice to see a medical professional.
    
“Mainly [we approach] people from China because it is from them that the coronavirus came. They are the main source,” Igor Gorbunov, elder of the Ural Volunteer Cossack Corps, told the AP during one such patrol Friday.
    
“But not only them,” Gorbunov continued. “There are different nationalities, there are many people of Asian appearance, and they seem to be vulnerable to this disease, the coronavirus, because it is them who are most often affected. Europeans are not yet affected much.”

your ad here

Vietnam, US Cooperate on Arrest in Child Sex Case

Vietnam and the U.S. have announced that cooperation on cross-border crime has led to a U.S. grand jury indictment of an American teacher accused of traveling to the Southeast Asian nation to have sex with minors.The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of California alleged that the teacher, Paul Marshall Bodner, of San Francisco, California, “met Vietnamese boys as young as 11 or 12 years old and engaged in sex acts with them at a hotel located in Ho Chi Minh City when he traveled to Vietnam” in the period from July 2015 to August 2016. If convicted he faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, Daniel J. Kritenbrink, said the investigation was aided by close cooperation between the two nations, which normalized relations in 1995, 20 years after the Vietnam War, and have since become partners on security, trade, and cultural issues.“In this instance, strong collaboration between the Homeland Security Investigations office in Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security have brought multiple child victims one step nearer to finding closure,” said Kritenbrink on Thursday. “This arrest also underscores how the United States and Vietnam can work together effectively to combat child exploitation.”Human trafficking has become a higher priority for Vietnam since October of last year, when 39 of its citizens were found dead in a container truck in the United Kingdom, believed to have suffocated to death after being trafficked from Vietnam. Trafficking victims from the Southeast Asian nation range from workers tricked into bondage abroad, to young women sold as brides, such as to Chinese or Korean husbands.The Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, based in Hanoi, works to help sex trafficking victims, including both those who are sold abroad as well as those forced into sex work domestically. However the new coronavirus has complicated the foundation’s efforts in recent weeks. Vietnam and China have effectively shut down their 1,200 kilometer land border. That makes it harder for traffickers to send Vietnamese to China, but it also makes it harder to rescue victims and return them home.“Blue Dragon has temporarily suspended rescue operations of human trafficking survivors from China, as the current restrictions to travel within and from China prevent our rescue team from conducting operations as usual,” the organization said in a statement. “On the legal front, Blue Dragon will use this pause to work on child sexual abuse cases and prosecutions of traffickers.”The foundation usually assists with prosecutions of traffickers and sex offenders in Vietnam.In contrast, the charges against Bodner, brought by a U.S. federal grand jury, mark a rare instance of joint investigations between Vietnam and the U.S. that lead to an indictment.The 64-year-old was charged with three counts of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, as well as one count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place.The grand jury indictment was unsealed the day of a pre-trial hearing for Bodner on Feb. 14 but a trial date was not announced.In addition to law enforcement, Vietnam and the U.S. have also increased their cooperation in defense. Last year the U.S. conducted its first ever joint naval drills with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a bloc of 10 nations with a rotating chair that is being hosted this year by Vietnam.The U.S. also gave Vietnam’s Coast Guard six patrol boats worth $12 million in 2019, part of ongoing efforts to shore up Hanoi’s defenses in the South China Sea. Vietnam has territorial claims there that are being challenged by China, whose growing power is also pushing the U.S. and Vietnam closer together. 

your ad here

Розведення чи загострення: що зміниться на Донбасі?

Трьохстороння контактна група у Мінську майже погодила розведення в районі КПВВ «Гнутове», а міністр внутрішніх справ України пропонує спільне патрулювання окупованих територій поліцією, миротворцями та представниками ОРДЛО. Та чи можливе на ділі нове розведення на тлі нового загострення на Луганщині? Чи виправдане воно? Радіо Свобода побувало поруч із ділянкою розведення №2 поблизу Золотого, а також порівняло ситуацію із схожою точкою – КПВВ «Гнутове».

your ad here

В евакуйованої до Нових Санжар жінки загострення гастроентерологічної хвороби – МОЗ

В однієї з іноземних громадян, яких розмістили в обсерваторі у Нових Санжарах, виявили загострення гострої гастроентерологічної хвороби, повідомило Міністерство охорони здоров’я.

У відомстві уточнюють, що жінка відчула біль у животі увечері 22 лютого. До військового санаторію, де триває обсервація, прибула екстрена медична допомога.

Читайте також: Евакуйованим з Китаю передали Біблію та настільні ігри – ОДА​

«Лікарі прибули із пересувним апаратом для проведення ультразвукової діагностики та з спеціальними контейнерами для забору проб. Полтавські медики спрацювали оперативно. Зайшли, здійснили медичний огляд та вийшли із приміщення обсерватора із дотриманням всіх протиепідемічних норм», – цитує пресслужба заступника міністра охорони здоров’я Віктора Ляшка.​

 

Лікарі встановили у іноземної громадянки загострення хронічної гастроентерологічної хвороби, призначили лікування та дієтичне меню. У міністерстві стверджують, що зараз вона почувається добре, ані в неї, ані в інших мешканців обсерватора немає ознак гострих респіраторних захворювань.​

21 лютого заступник голови МОЗ Дмитро Коваль повідомив, що їжу для евакуйованих готують за межами санаторію за принципом кейтерингу.

Читайте також: До СБУ звернулися з проханням оцінити заяви політиків через евакуацію з Китаю – депутат​

20 лютого до України прилетів спецрейс із китайського міста Уханю, де зафіксований найбільший спалах нового коронавірусу. У літаку перебували 45 громадян України і 27 іноземців, а також екіпаж і лікарський супровід. За даними української влади, всі здорові.

Водночас евакуйовані впродовж 14 днів будуть на карантині-спостереженні (обсервації) в закритому медичному центрі Національної гвардії в Нових Санжарах на Полтавщині. За повідомленнями влади, небезпеки ймовірного потрапляння коронавірусу за межі закритого медцентру навіть у разі його виявлення немає.

 

your ad here

African Americans Alert to Social Media Disinformation

A study by the Nielsen ratings service says African Americans are among the nation’s top consumers of social media especially about presidential politics. A U.S. Intelligence report says that made them a target of a Russian disinformation campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, an effort Moscow is widely expected to repeat. VOA’s Chris Simkins reports from South Carolina where African Americans say they’re on the lookout for false content on social media.

your ad here

China-Sponsored Exhibit About Tibet Is Shuttered in New York

Tibetans in New York were celebrating Saturday after it was announced an exhibit sponsored by the Chinese Consulate was being shut down in the Queens borough of the city.Two weeks ago, Tibetan activists in New York noticed the Queens Public Library in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens was hosting an exhibition under the theme, “Everyday Life in Tibet,” that was sponsored by the Chinese Consulate.The Tibetans said the exhibit was Chinese government propaganda that misrepresented the situation in Tibet. According to local newspaper QNS and its website, the library responded to the activists that it would not close or suspend the exhibition.The local Tibetan activist groups, including Students for a Free Tibet, Tibetan Youth Congress, Chushi Gandrug, U.S. Tibetan Committee, and Tibetan Association launched a campaign to protest.There are nearly 15,000 Tibetans living in New York City, many of them in Queens.De Blasio weighs inNew York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday at a town hall meeting in Queens he was not aware of the exhibit, but he would address the issue immediately when a Tibetan activist raised the issue. Representatives of Students for a Free Tibet said they subsequently gathered nearly 5,000 signatures for a petition to shut down the exhibit and delivered it to the mayor.“I am exceedingly critical of the Chinese government in the way it has oppressed people and taken away human rights,” de Blasio said. “No one has suffered more than the Tibetan people. So I did not have any reason to believe that any of our library systems would present the Chinese government point of view. I would assume it to be the other way around, and that I’d be getting complaints from the Chinese government.”The Queens Public Library informed the director of Students for a Free Tibet, Dorje Tseten, Friday the “Chinese Consulate and its affiliate made the decision to discontinue the exhibit, which will be removed by tomorrow.”The library announced moving forward it would collaborate with the Tibetan community there.“They showed great interest in working with us and to support the promotion of the Tibetan cause in the future,” Tseten told VOA. “So, it is overall a great victory for Tibetan cause.”Tseten said he thinks the library had asked the Chinese Consulate to withdraw in an effort for Beijing to save face.Library closes exhibitAs the library closed the exhibit Saturday, Tibetan activists gathered outside to acknowledge what they consider a “great victory.” U.S. Congressman Tom Suozzi attended and said he had called the library and expressed his concerns after learning about it from activist Tseten.“This is a big victory because there is lot of money and bureaucracy involved, but in the end the truth prevailed,” Suozzi said.Nyima Lhamo, a former political prisoner and a niece of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche — one of the most well-known Tibetan political prisoners, who died in a Chinese prison in 2015 — praised the exhibit’s shutdown.“Today is a major victory for Tibet, but we must continue fighting to amplify and uplift the voices of those still inside Tibet,” said Lhamo, who also was among the protesters in New York.“This is a library where our children study, and thousands of Tibetans live around here,” said Ngawang Tharchin, president of the regional Tibetan Youth Congress in New York and New Jersey, talking to the crowd gathered Saturday outside the library.The response by the Tibetan community there was loud and clear.

your ad here

New Kosovo Leader Ready to Revoke Tariffs for Serbian Goods

A few years ago, the newly elected Kosovo prime minister overturned Serbian trucks. But Albin Kurti now says he is ready to revoke tariffs introduced by his predecessor on Serbian goods.Kurti, who took office in early February, is backed by most of 1.8 million inhabitants of the former Serbian province for such a move but is nonetheless walking on eggshells.Under intense international pressure to abolish tariffs and resume stalled talks with Serbia, Kurti also faces a fierce backlash from veterans who fought for independence and dominated politics for decades.The former student leader wrote recently on his Facebook account that he was ready to “abolish the 100 percent tariffs” on Serbian goods.A municipality worker hangs Kosovo’s flag to decorate the main street, during the 12th anniversary of the country’s independence in the capital Pristina, Feb. 17, 2020. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.Principle of reciprocityThey were introduced in late 2018 by Ramush Haradinaj as retaliation for a Serbian blockade of Kosovo’s Interpol membership. Belgrade still refuses to recognize the independence declared by the breakaway territory in 2008.The tariffs “will be replaced by the principle of reciprocity between the two states” in political, economic and commercial affairs, Kurti said.The concept, commonly in use in international relations, could mean for example a ban for Serbian license plates in Kosovo, as Kosovar plates are prohibited in Serbia.U.S. envoy for Belgrade-Pristina talks Richard Grenell urged Pristina to abolish tariffs as “it hurts Kosovo and chases businesses away from creating jobs.”‘National pride’But opposition parties that emerged from the guerilla movement that fought Serb forces during the 1998-1999 war that claimed 13,000 lives, are against commercial concessions.To mobilize the public, the opposition is trying to collect a third of the votes in Kosovo’s 120-seat parliament to call an extraordinary session on the issue.Haradinaj urged the new prime minister to refrain from removing tariffs “for some temporary political points you might gain from the international community.“We have to stand united in opposing Serbia until mutual recognition,” he said. His AAK party threatened to hold street protests against the move.The tariffs are a “response to Serbia’s constant attacks against Kosovo,” said Kadri Veseli, leader of the largest opposition party PDK.For Shpetim Gashi, analyst at the American think-thank Council for Inclusive Governance, the issue goes beyond tariffs and is now a question of “national pride.”“Kurti will be walking on a tightrope when replacing it with reciprocity,” Gashi told AFP.The European Union, like Washington, made normalization of ties between Serbia and Kosovo a priority for the sake of economic development and future integration into the EU.FILE – People protest Kosovo’s decision to raise customs tariffs on Serbian and Bosnian goods, in the village of Rudare near Mitrovica, Kosovo, Nov. 23, 2018.‘Not forever’A recent survey by the Kosovar Centre for Security Studies showed that about 60% of those questioned backed the move while 35% were against it.“I supported my government’s decision to retaliate with the tariffs, but it cannot last forever,” Ekrem Hoxha, a 40-year-old technician told AFP.Muhamet Sejdiu, a 32-year-old grocery store owner, echoed his words.“I understand what brought the tariffs. Serbia really has gone too far,” he said. But “I think it is time to return to normalcy. On the shelves I have goods from Bulgaria, (North) Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Europe. … I don’t mind having among them goods from Serbia.”Serbia’s exports to Kosovo amount to around 400 million euros ($433 million) annually and economists like Safet Gerxhaliu call for normalization between the two neighbors.“It is time to think about opening up a dialogue on eliminating barriers and doing business, not just between Kosovo and Serbia, but also in the whole region,” he said.In exchange, Brussels and Washington are asking Belgrade to end its campaign to persuade other countries to withdraw their recognitions of Kosovo’s independence.According to Pristina, Kosovo is recognized by more than 115 states, although Belgrade claims the number is less than a 100.Kurti said he was ready to resume a dialogue “focused on mutual recognition.”The former rebel seems to have turned the page on his tumultuous past when he was prisoner of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime and rioted against Serbia’s rule and later the Kosovo establishment by spraying the parliament with tear gas.“It is clear that Kurti is evolving,” said Agron Bajrami, editor in chief of prominent Koha Ditore daily.“The time for overturning Serbian trucks has passed.”
 

your ad here

AP: DEA Agent Accused of Conspiring With Cartel 

A U.S. federal narcotics agent known for spending lavishly on luxury cars and Tiffany jewelry has been arrested on charges of conspiring to launder money with the same Colombian drug cartel he was supposed to be fighting. Jose Irizarry and his wife were arrested Friday at their home near San Juan, Puerto Rico, as part of a 19-count federal indictment that accused the 46-year-old Irizarry of “secretly using his position and his special access to information” to divert millions in drug proceeds from control of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “It’s a black eye for the DEA to have one of its own engaged in such a high level of corruption,” said Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former chief of international operations. “He jeopardized investigations. He jeopardized other agents and he jeopardized informants.” Federal prosecutors in Tampa, Florida, allege the conspiracy not only enriched Irizarry but also benefited two unindicted co-conspirators, neither of whom is named in the indictment. One was employed as a Colombian public official while the other was described as the head of a drug trafficking and money laundering organization who became the godfather to the Irizarry couple’s children in 2015, when the DEA agent was posted to the Colombian resort city of Cartagena. When The Associated Press revealed the scale of Irizarry’s alleged wrongdoing last year, it sent shock waves through the DEA, where his ostentatious habits and tales of raucous yacht parties with bikini-clad prostitutes were legendary among agents. Once a model agentBut prior to being exposed, Irizarry had been a model agent, winning awards and praise from his supervisors. After joining the DEA in Miami 2009, he was entrusted with an undercover money laundering operation using front companies, shell bank accounts and couriers.  Irizarry resigned in January 2018 after being reassigned to Washington when his boss in Colombia became suspicious. The case has raised concerns within the DEA that the conspiracy may have compromised undercover operations and may upend criminal cases. “His fingerprints are all over dozens of arrests and indictments,” said David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor in Miami. “It could have a ripple effect and cause courts to re-examine any case he was involved in.” Irizarry and his wife posted $10,000 bond each and were released later Friday. Nathalia Gomez-Irizarry declined to comment to AP and closed the door at the house she shares with her husband, saying he wasn’t home. Messages to Irizarry’s attorney were not immediately returned. The DEA referred comment to the Justice Department. A lawyer for the star witness in the case, a former DEA informant who was handled by Irizarry, celebrated the charges. Gustavo Yabrudi was given a 46-month sentence last year for his role in a multimillion-dollar money-laundering conspiracy. “Mr. Yabrudi has been waiting for almost two years for this day,” said Leonardo Concepcion. “It’s time that the puppet masters who pulled his strings and abused their authority over him are made to answer for their actions.” False reportsStarting around 2011, Irizarry allegedly used the cover of his badge to file false reports and mislead his superiors, all while directing DEA personnel to wire funds reserved for undercover stings to accounts in Spain, the Netherlands and elsewhere that he controlled or were tied to his wife and his co-conspirators. He’s also accused of sharing sensitive law enforcement information with his co-conspirators. The DEA has declined to comment on its employment of Irizarry and potential red flags that came up during his screening process. Irizarry was hired by the DEA despite indications he showed signs of deception in a polygraph exam, and despite the fact that he had declared bankruptcy with debts of almost $500,000. Still, he was permitted to handle financial transactions after being hired by the DEA. In total, Irizarry and informants under his direction handled at least $3.8 million that should have been carefully tracked by the DEA as part of undercover money laundering investigations. The indictment was handed up a week after another former DEA agent was sentenced to four years in federal prison for his role in a decadelong drug conspiracy that involved the smuggling of thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York. 

your ad here

Afghan Truce Worry: One Militant Could Threaten Peace Process 

Hopes for ending America’s longest war hinge on maintaining a weeklong fragile truce in Afghanistan that U.S. officials and experts agree will be difficult to assess and fraught with pitfalls. What if one militant with a suicide vest kills dozens in a Kabul market? Or, if a U.S. airstrike targeting Islamic State insurgents takes out Taliban members instead, does that destroy the deal? The agreement, which took effect Friday, calls for an end to attacks around the country, including roadside bombings, suicide attacks and rocket strikes by the Taliban, Afghan and U.S. forces. But in a country that has been wracked by violence for more than 18 years, determining if the agreement has been violated will be a tough task. And there are other groups and elements in the country that would love to see the deal fall through. “The reason this is a challenge is this is a very decentralized insurgency,” said Seth Jones, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an Afghanistan expert. “There are going to be a lot of opportunities for any militia commander, element of the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other local forces who don’t want to see a deal, to conduct violence.” The Haqqani network is an insurgent group linked to the Taliban. Quick analysis is vitalAccording to one defense official, any attack will be reviewed on a “case-by-case” basis. And much will depend on how well U.S. military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan can quickly determine two things: who was responsible for the attack and whether any blame can be traced to the Taliban, particularly the group’s leaders who have been participating in the negotiations. The Taliban issued a statement late Friday saying their military council had instructed commanders and governors to stop all attacks against foreign and Afghan forces. The council has a web of commanders and shadow governors across the country. U.S. officials have made it clear that “spoilers” — such as militants associated with the Taliban who are not in favor of the peace talks — could launch an attack in a deliberate attempt to prevent them from happening. Jones said the U.S. military has tried to get a good layout of where all the insurgent groups are operating so it will be able to determine where any attack comes from and who likely was responsible. And U.S. military officials said they were prepared to make quick assessments. Vendors and shoppers fill a bazaar in Kabul, Afghanistan. Feb. 22, 2020. A temporary truce between the United States and the Taliban took effect Friday, setting the stage for the two sides to sign a peace deal next week.If successfully implemented, the weeklong “reduction in violence” agreement, which began at midnight Friday local time (1930 GMT), will be followed by the signing of a peace accord on February 29. That accord would finally wrap up the 18-year war and begin to fulfill one of President Donald Trump’s main campaign promises: to bring U.S. troops in Afghanistan home. The U.S. will continue to have surveillance aircraft and other assets overhead to monitor events and help to determine who is responsible for any attack. Communications channelOne senior U.S. official also said that the U.S., Afghans and Taliban will have a channel through which they will be able to discuss any issues that arise. Another U.S. official said that communications between the groups will allow the Taliban, for example, to quickly deny involvement with an attack. But in all cases, officials said the U.S. military — led by General Scott Miller in Afghanistan — will be responsible for investigating incidents and figuring out who is at fault. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity. Once Miller reaches a conclusion, officials said it will be up to the White House and State Department to determine whether an attack constitutes a violation of the truce and if it is enough to affect the peace deal. The Pentagon has made it clear that U.S. troops may continue to conduct operations against Islamic State and al-Qaida militants as needed. But officials also noted that all sides want the peace agreement to be successful, so they will try to avoid anything that might scuttle it. The Pentagon has said for months that it is poised to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from the current number of more than 12,000 to 8,600. That reduction is likely to be triggered once the peace agreement is finalized, but officials said Friday that it could take several months for any troop cuts to begin. Jones expressed some skepticism, saying the Taliban have expressed little interest in laying down arms or integrating into a government run by someone other than themselves. Months of talksThe agreement mapping out a plan for peace follows months of negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban that have broken down before. Both parties, however, have signaled a desire to halt the fighting that began with the U.S. invasion after the September 11, 2001, attacks by Osama bin Laden’s Afghanistan-based al-Qaida network. The only other cease-fire the Taliban had agreed to was for three days in 2018 over the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Then fighting ceased completely and Taliban and Afghan security forces were even filmed taking selfies together and laughing. The Taliban military leaders chastised its fighters at the end of the cease-fire for their frolicking with the enemy. 

your ad here

Macron Vows to Defend French Farmers, Fishermen in Uncertain Year

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday promised to safeguard European farm subsidies, secure compensation for wine producers hit by U.S. tariffs and defend fishermen in talks with Britain, as France’s farming world faces an uncertain year. Opening the annual Paris farm show, Macron said France would continue to oppose cuts to agricultural subsidies, a day after discussions broke down on a new European Union budget without Britain. Like his predecessors, Macron vowed to maintain a large budget for the bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), of which France is the main beneficiary. “On the CAP we defend an ambitious budget. CAP cannot be the adjustment variable of Brexit. We need to support our farmers,” Macron told farmers. “We did not yield to those who wanted to reduce the [CAP] budget,” he added. Compensation for tariffsMeeting wine industry representatives, the president pledged to get compensation for U.S. tariffs in place by the spring, Jerome Despey, secretary-general of France’s main farmer union, the FNSEA, said afterward. Macron has previously backed tariff relief for wine producers and said he has raised the issue with the European Commission. The sector fears it could lose 300 million to 400 million euros in annual sales in its main export market if the 25% tariff imposed by Washington in October remains in place, Despey said. French President Emmanuel Macron samples cheese during a visit to the 57th International Agriculture Fair (Salon international de l’Agriculture) at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France Feb. 22, 2020.French wine is among EU products subject to the U.S. tariffs as part of an aircraft subsidy dispute. French wine exporters estimate the duties led to a 40 million-euro drop in sales to the United States in the last quarter. Fishing tensions Macron also voiced support for the fishing sector, which risks losing current access to British waters as the EU negotiates a new relationship with Britain. “Boris Johnson has a card in his hand, and it is fishing,” he told representatives of the French fishing industry, warning it was unclear if the EU and Britain could reach an overall trade agreement before a transition period expires at the end of the year. He reiterated that he would seek compensation for French fishermen for any losses they suffered. Macron spent over 12 hours at the Paris farm show, a major event for politicians in the EU’s biggest agricultural economy. During the customary presidential visit to the weeklong event, which attracts 600,000 visitors, he tasted French specialities like Charolais beef and Cotes de Provence rose wine, and he served draft beer at the French brewers’ stand. PesticidesHe also faced stern questioning from farmers, with whom he has had an uneasy relationship, particularly over pesticide policy. Macron told farmers that the common weedkiller glyphosate would not be scrapped where there were no alternatives, while safety rules on pesticide spraying would be adopted progressively. There were glimpses of wider tensions in France, with a heated exchange with a woman about pension reform and police violence in street protests. Eric Drouet, a leading figure in the “yellow vest” protest movement that rocked Macron’s government a year ago, was expelled from the show when he tried to approach the president. 

your ad here