Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Opposition leader Navalny targets Kremlin in European court

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is at the European Court of Human Rights for a hearing into whether Russian authorities violated his rights through numerous arrests.

The court ruled last year that seven of those arrests were unlawful and ordered Russia to pay 63,000 euros (about $67,000) in compensation, but the case was appealed.

Navalny appeared in the European court Wednesday in the French city of Strasbourg for the appeals hearing. A final ruling is expected at a later date.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most serious political foe, Navalny wants to mount a boycott of March presidential elections after he was barred from running.

Navalny has faced fraud charges viewed as political retribution for investigating corruption and leading protests. A Moscow court this week ordered the closure of a foundation that he used for his failed election campaign.

Refugees more than once, Rohingya fear return to Myanmar

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Mohammad Younus is a refugee for the second time.

The 30-year-old Rohingya Muslim, who has been slowly rebuilding a shadow of a normal life in a sprawling and squalid refugee camp in Bangladesh, is no mood to return home to Myanmar.

After Myanmar expressed readiness to start receiving an estimated 680,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled incredible violence over the last five months, Younus said he would rather die in the camp than go back again to the land of his birth.

“They have been killing Muslims for a long time now,” he said. “We run and come to Bangladesh. Then we go back. We come back to Bangladesh, and go back again. They continue the killings.”

Younus first fled with his family in 1991 as a 4-year-old, when his parents joined a wave of 250,000 Rohingya escaping forced labor, religious persecution and attacks from Buddhist mobs in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, where most Rohingya live. Three years later, the family returned home, fooled, he says, by the promises made by the U.N. refugee agency and Myanmar’s government.

Sixteen years later, Younus found himself again fleeing for his life as Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs unleashed a brutal retaliation after a Rohingya insurgent group attacked dozens of police posts on Aug. 25.

Under heavy international criticism of what U.N. and U.S. officials labeled “ethnic cleansing,” Myanmar signed a repatriation deal with Bangladesh to start sending the refugees back this Tuesday.

According to the deal, those who return will first live in transit camps before eventually going back to their villages. But the plan has been delayed after a last-minute announcement by Bangladesh officials, who said they still have to draw up lists of refugees and complete the process of verification. They have not said how long the delay will last. They also reiterated that all returns would be voluntary.

On Tuesday, Myanmar again promised it was ready to begin accepting the Rohingya. But the refugees say they have been on this road before.

“I kept going back because I still have love for my country in my heart,” said Abdul Gaffar, a 50-year-old who fled spasms of violence in Myanmar in 1978, 1991, and last year.

“They take us back saying they will give us everything, but don’t give us anything,” he said. “They say they will meet our demands, but they don’t. The government cheats us after taking us back.”

The Rohingya trace their history before modern borders were drawn, and have long lived and traded on both sides of what is now the Myanmar-Bangladesh frontier. They have also long been a persecuted minority in Myanmar.

While the recent exodus of Rohingya has spawned one of the largest refugee crises in the world, smaller groups of Rohingya have been fleeing earlier waves of violence since the late 1970s. They are widely derided in Myanmar as “Bengalis,” illegal migrants from Bangladesh, and have long been treated as outsiders by the Buddhist majority. In 1982, nearly all Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship rights.

Even if some Rohingya are able to return home, many probably won’t recognize what they left behind. Rights groups have described how hundreds of villages across Rakhine state were set on fire after troops and mobs descended to chase out the residents. Homes and crops in the fields were reduced to ashes.

“They gave us back our land but didn’t rebuild our home. This is how we have been living,” said Younus, recalling when he and his family returned to Myanmar in the mid-1990s. The extended family lived in a small hut that they pooled resources to build, he said, only to abandon it when the attacks started last year.

“When the massacre began this time, when they started shooting and killing everyone, they were chasing after me as well,” he said. “But somehow I managed to escape and come here. So I have experienced this ordeal twice. I have been in grief all my life.”

North Korea's nuclear program 'ever closer' to putting US at risk, CIA boss says

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North Korea’s nuclear program is believed to be aimed coercion rather than defense and is moving “ever closer” to putting the U.S. at risk, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Tuesday.

Pompeo, speaking at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said the next logical step for Pyongyang would be to develop its program to be able to fire multiple weapons toward the U.S., according to Reuters.

“I want everyone to understand that we are working diligently to make sure that a year from now I can still tell you that they are several months away from having that capacity,” he said.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaks on intelligence issues at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Jan. 23, 2018: CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaks on intelligence issues at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.  (AP)

Pompeo said he believed that North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un would use the weapons to not only stay in power, but for the possibility of reuniting the Korean Peninsula. He said the hermit kingdom’s nuclear program has developed at a “very rapid clip,” but Kim is still hoping for more than just a parade showpiece.

The CIA chief declined to comment on whether there were options for strikes on North Korean weapons facilities that would not lead to a nuclear war, according to Reuters.

He said the CIA was working to prepare a full slate of options for President Trump to choose from and insisted the president was “laser-focused” on solving the nuclear crisis by diplomatic means.

“The president is intent on delivering a solution through diplomatic means. We are equally, at the same time, ensuring that if we conclude that is not possible, that we present the president with a range of options that can achieve his stated intention,” Pompeo said.

The Trump administration has reportedly said that all options were on the table in dealing with North Korea. The debate over possible military options has slowed because of the upcoming Olympics in South Korea, Reuters reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ryan Gaydos is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @RyanGaydos.

Rivers keep swelling in France, disrupting services

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Rivers across France are still swelling despite some improvement in the weather, disrupting train services and metro lines in Paris.

Meteo France, the national weather agency, placed 23 departments on orange alert, the second highest level of vigilance.

West of Paris, the Seine River burst its banks in some spots and spread to almost twice its usual breadth between the towns of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Le Pecq. The area is well downstream from Paris.

Forecasters said Wednesday that the Seine levels should keep rising until the weekend. The river is expected to reach a peak last reached in June 2016, when authorities were forced to close several Parisian monuments including the Louvre museum.

California beaches reopen after raw sewage spill, investigation for cause ensues: report

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Eight beaches on California’s Central Coast reopened this week after nearly 5 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into the Pacific, while an investigation has opened to find the cause, officials said Tuesday.

Lab results Monday from samples taken from the beaches south of San Francisco showed a safe contaminant level, officials said.

Paul Sciuto, Monterey One Water general manager, said 4.9 million gallons of sewage water spilled into the ocean on Friday night after a filter at the water treatment plant was clogged and the computer system failed to sound an alarm.

“A number of alarms did not get to the operator because of a computer communications’ failure, but we still don’t know what caused it,” he said.

The untreated wastewater from area toilets, showers and washing machines flowed into Monterey Bay for more than eight hours until early Saturday morning, the Mercury News of San Jose reported.

Contact with contaminated water may cause gastroenteritis and other water-borne illnesses, the report said

Sciuto told the newspaper that an investigation started Monday to determine the root cause was being conducted by the consulting firm Pinnacle ART.

He said the goal is to take a “hard look” at the incident. He expects at least a preliminary report by the end of the week, the report said.

The plant had dumped sewage into the ocean through an outfall discharge pipe, which extends into the ocean 2.5 miles at a depth of 130 feet. 

The beaches — with silvery sands, rocky outcrops, and beautiful vistas — are popular with surfers, day visitors, dog walkers and picnickers, prompting evironmental health officials to close the beaches as a precaution.

Shawn Johnson, director of veterinary science at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, told KSBW that young mammals were at the greatest risk from the raw sewage, but harbor seals won’t give birth in the area until May. The area also is home to sea otters, the report said.

“We’re keeping an eye out for any marine mammals that might be affected by this spill, and at this point, we haven’t recovered or rescued any,” he said.

Karen Smith, Monterey County Health Department spokeswoman, said people are advised to stay away from ocean water and the beaches at least through Friday in case of runoff brought to the ocean by rain.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

It’s time for Senate to put Americans and their dreams first

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The just-paused Schumer Shutdown of the federal government brought to mind one of the most surprising headlines I’ve ever read. Last September, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., joined with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to pen a CNN.com op-ed headlined “Dreamers Are as American as Apple Pie.”

If that pie came into the country illegally, I guess they’d be right. But I don’t think that was their point. Instead, Schumer and Pelosi were trying to convince readers that the term “American” no longer means being a legal U.S. citizen.

Doubtless, many readers chuckled at the headline and moved on. But given the federal government shutdown that just transpired because of this issue, the joke’s no longer funny.

The shutdown is over – for now. In exchange for Schumer’s support, the Senate will vote on whether to let as many as 800,000 illegal immigrants stay in the U.S. And if that vote doesn’t go his way, there’s no guarantee Schumer may not again prevent the federal government from being funded.

Meanwhile, members of our military are on the front lines defending our liberty. Cities and towns all across America are challenged by stretched resources. Families are working hard to put the Obama recession behind them. And parents are praying a wall will soon be built to keep their kids safe from criminals coming across our border.

America has always had a great tradition of opening its arms to others in need. But that tradition never meant opening its borders.

But instead of helping them, Schumer and his liberal colleagues seem to prefer asking Americans to defer their dreams for those of illegals.

Right now, there’s a teenage girl in Appalachia who dreams of a great education but sits in a school that isn’t delivering. A factory worker who dreams of regaining work that went overseas earlier this decade. An urban mom who dreams of health care for her son but has to wait in an overcrowded emergency room.

These are dreamers all. And they’re Americans.

Our leaders used to know the difference. Take former Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-Texas, for example. One of America’s great civil rights leaders, Jordan was the first African-American elected to the Texas Senate since Reconstruction. She was also the first Southern black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and an eminently worthy recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Jordan also served as chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, where she said some things that Schumer would benefit from considering. “For our immigration policy to make sense,” she said, “it is necessary to make distinctions between those who obey the law, and those who violate it.” She also said: “One thing is very clear: Illegal immigrants are not entitled to benefits.”

Today, however, Jordan’s words seem to be forgotten by liberals who oppose deportation of illegal aliens, support government-paid lawyers for illegals in immigration courts, and call for more money to be spent on services for illegal immigrants.

All of these costs are being borne by Americans. And those extra costs make it harder for Americans to realize their own dreams.

Such is the impact when politics is prioritized over the America people. Just in my own community, African-Americans who are working to get back on their feet are finding it harder than ever, due to the huge number of illegal immigrants who are competing for some of the same jobs.

The impact is particularly harmful to young Americans who depend on low-skilled work to earn a living and get their start up the economic ladder. Similarly, many of those who have found work are discovering they’re being paid less because of the competition they now face from illegal immigrant laborers.

America has always had a great tradition of opening its arms to others in need. But that tradition never meant opening its borders. Instead, America’s decisions about who to let in historically revolved around what was in the nation’s best interests. And it is clear that America’s interests have not been served by amnesty and open borders.

Americans are best served when our leaders uphold the rule of law, honor the process of legal immigration, protect our borders, and base all policy decisions on the impact they will have on America’s citizens and our future.

So when the Senate returns to this issue in the coming days, I hope senators will keep in mind one thing: our nation has always been happy to help – and has always put Americans and their dreams first.

Kay Coles James is the president of The Heritage Foundation.

Liz Peek: Schumer’s mistakes pile up, endangering Democrats’ prospects for 2018

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., made a mistake shutting down the government. It isn’t his first. He made an even more egregious error when he convinced every single Democrat to vote against the GOP tax bill, which is gaining in popularity and impact, giving Republicans a mighty weapon in upcoming congressional races.

Schumer’s biggest error, though, is allowing progressives in his party to dominate his playbook. With Democratic Senators Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey and – heaven help us – Democratic Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (among others) all eager to square off against President Trump in 2020, the Senate minority leader has his hands full.

But Schumer cannot allow Democrats’ most extreme voices – on immigration or other policies – to run the show. They may represent a fired-up wing of the Democratic Party, but they are not in tune with most of the country.

If Chuck Schumer had been paying better attention to voters, he might have noticed that most Americans actually do care about border security, in addition to the fate of the so-called Dreamers.

The extremism exhibited in the debate over immigration, in which progressives opposed any attempt to beef up border security, pushed Schumer to the untenable position of holding the U.S. government hostage to some 700,000 young people in the country illegally. That was a losing proposition.

More broadly, Democrats’ leftward lurch has contributed to the election of Donald Trump and to an unprecedented collapse of Democratic Party officeholders.

As Mara Liasson observed in a 2016 column posted by NPR: “During Obama’s eight years in office, the Democrats have lost more House, Senate, state legislative and governors’ seats than under any other president.”

Liasson notes that President Obama’s legacy includes an unparalleled demolition of his own party: “Democrats currently hold fewer elected offices nationwide than at any time since the 1920s.”

Schumer and his colleagues appear unmoved by the long downward slide of their party. Liberals are so busy celebrating President Trump’s low approval ratings that they are blind to the popularity of much of the president’s agenda. This willful ignorance will not help Democrats regain their mojo, or gain control of Congress.

If Chuck Schumer had been paying better attention to voters, he might have noticed that most Americans actually do care about border security, in addition to the fate of the so-called Dreamers.    

A Washington Post-ABC poll that came out in September indicated that while 86 percent of respondents support President Obama’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program to protect young people in the country illegally, 79 percent said that “employers must verify” that their workers are here legally and 65 percent wanted DACA approval tied to increased spending for border security.

These views should not come as a shock to Schumer since he himself, and well as many of his colleagues, have endorsed similar provisions in the past.

Schumer painted his party into a corner on DACA, just as he did by refusing to allow any of his caucus to vote in favor of the tax bill. He (and his colleagues in the liberal media) did an excellent job of misrepresenting the tax package to voters, even before it was written, memorably calling it a “punch in the gut” to the middle class.

Polling showed Schumer’s success, with the bill quite unpopular as it headed to passage. A Monmouth University poll on Dec. 18 showed half the country disapproved of it while only about one quarter favored the proposed legislation.

About the same time, a different survey from CNBC indicated that 70 percent of the country expected their taxes would either stay the same or increase in coming years.  That’s an amazing conclusion, given that some 80 percent of taxpayers will see their payments go down.

More recently, as more than 220 companies have announced bonuses or pay hikes for over 2 million employees – and as giant companies like Apple have announced significant new investments in the U.S., citing the tax bill – Americans are climbing aboard.

The most recent good news is from JP Morgan Chase, which just announced it would spend some $20 billion over the next five years to hand out bonuses, raise pay for 22,000 workers, add jobs and open 400 new branches in the U.S. These moves on the part of American corporations are gathering momentum, adding to the bright economic forecast.

In part because of such measures stemming from the GOP tax bill, Americans are feeling better about the economy and their prospects than they have in decades. They should.

The economy’s growth continues to accelerate, with economists across the board upbeat about the outlook for the next couple of years. The International Monetary Fund, for instance, has just lifted its forecast of U.S. growth to 2.7 percent this year, from an earlier forecast of 2.3 percent, citing the Republican tax plan. For next year the organization is estimating growth of 2.5 percent against an earlier forecast of 1.9 percent.

Will Schumer lead Democrats to endanger that optimism by uniformly blocking President Trump’s other agenda items, such as an infrastructure program? That will be another mistake.

As we entered the year, Democrats were gaining confidence that they would enjoy a blow-out victory in November. Polls showed them with a double-digit lead in the so-called generic ballot over the GOP, suggesting a “wave” election win. CNN’s polling shows that lead has now shrunk to five points, down from 18 points a month ago.

The improving economy and the success of the tax cuts are linked to that shift. Come the fall, every Republican will ask voters: do you like paying lower taxes? Elect a Democrat and kiss those tax cuts goodbye. They can thank Sen. Schumer for the opportunity.

A rare media win for Trump as Schumer gets slammed over the shutdown

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The media consensus is in: The Democrats got their butt kicked.

Even liberal columnists are saying so.

Chuck Schumer overreached on the government shutdown, and he’s wound up with the worst of both worlds. Left-wing groups are furious with him for caving in, and he barely got anything from the Republicans in exchange for stopping the shutdown.

The headline on liberal New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg’s piece captures the sentiment: “Schumer Sells Out the Resistance.”

Talking Points Memo slapped this headline on an AP story, calling Schumer “The Face of Retreat” and saying he has become a “punching bag.”

That’s not how it looked during the countdown to the closure. The conventional wisdom heading into the shutdown was that President Trump and the Republicans would take the lion’s share of the blame because they control everything in Washington.

But the Senate Democratic leader thought that because the DACA program is popular, he could use a shutdown as leverage to win concessions and win plaudits from the party’s left-wing base.

What Schumer failed to anticipate was that the public didn’t think an immigration dispute was worth closing down much of the federal bureaucracy and furloughing millions of workers. It’s the same lesson that Republicans learned in 2013 when they shut down the government over an effort to repeal ObamaCare. In both cases, the minority party simply didn’t have the power to deliver.

Maybe that’s why Schumer yesterday said he was taking his part of the deal off the table, the Democrats voting for wall funding as part of a DACA compromise. That was part of his one-on-one offer to Trump when he thought they could avert a shutdown, but he now complains that the president and his staff kept shifting their position.

A look at the coverage in the New York Times is instructive. A news analysis by veteran Carl Hulse says that “over the weekend it became clear that using the shutdown to insist on protections for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants was a serious miscalculation. By abandoning the strategy on its third day, Democrats believe they limited whatever damage there may be and gave the public time to forget about the disruption before the crucial November election.”

And, he writes, “by supporting the government’s reopening, they provoked a surge of outrage from the party’s left as progressive activists and lawmakers assailed the deal as a capitulation based on a mere promise by Mr. McConnell, a longtime foe known for his obstruction of the Democratic agenda.

On the op-ed page, Michelle Goldberg writes that “it’s hard to overstate how disgusted many progressive leaders are.” She says that “political cowardice carries its own risk. It emboldens your enemies and disheartens your allies … 

“Democrats reinforced their reputation for fecklessness. ‘Make no mistake: Schumer and Dems caved,’ tweeted Fox News’s Brit Hume. ‘What a political fiasco.’ It makes me sick to say it, but he’s right.”

I’m sure she doesn’t agree with Brit all that often.

The op-ed page also features moderate conservative David Brooks, who can’t stand Trump and is supportive of the dreamers. But he offers a checklist of all the things the Democrats did wrong:

“It’s not that people don’t like DACA. They do. It’s that they just don’t recognize themselves in a party that thinks it’s worth closing the government, destabilizing the economy and straining the military for it.”

Brooks mocks the party’s “superb messaging”: “We bravely shut down the government to save the Dreamers even though Donald Trump is responsible for shutting down the government … 

“The problem was not that the leadership capitulated on Monday. It was that the Democrats talked themselves into this crazy position on Friday.”

And it’s the damning quotes from pro-immigrant groups that shows the pressure Schumer was under.

So it’s a rare media win for Trump, but the problem hasn’t gone away. The funding for the government will run out again soon and the impasse over the wall and the dreamers will be even harder to solve. One thing seems virtually certain: The Democrats won’t be playing the shutdown card again.

Youth wing's member drive irks German Social Democrat chiefs

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The leadership of Germany’s Social Democrats has reacted with annoyance to efforts by the party’s youth wing to recruit new, short-term members in a bid to scuttle a coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Union bloc.

The Young Socialists and the left wing of the party launched a campaign Monday offering two months’ membership for 10 euros ($12.25) and expressly urged new recruits to oppose a possible renewal of the “grand coalition.”

According to German news agency dpa, the party registered 1,700 news members within the first day of the membership drive.

The party’s secretary-general, Lars Klingbeil, told public broadcaster rbb-Inforadio on Wednesday that he welcomed new members but it would be wrong to let people join only for the purpose of voting against a coalition deal.

Russia accuses US of trying to derail Syria peace initiative

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A top Russian diplomat has accused the United States of promoting unverified reports about chemical weapons attacks in Syria in order to cloud Russia’s peace initiatives.

Russia is hosting Syria peace talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi next week that some Syrian opposition figures said will run counter to U.N. peace initiatives.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with the Interfax news agency on Wednesday that the U.S. is promoting “rigged, unverified reports” of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria to hamper Russia’s peace efforts.

Ryabkov’s remarks came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Moscow “ultimately bears responsibility for the victims” of a new suspected chemical attack outside the Syrian capital Damascus.

Threat against Trump gets Florida inmate more prison time

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A federal prison inmate in Florida who previously received five years for threatening to kill then-President Barack Obama and others has been sentenced to another four years and three months for threatening to kill President Donald Trump.

Richard Jeremy Ware, 42, wrote a letter in March announcing his plan to “murder the United States president Donald Trump,” following his scheduled release from Coleman Correctional Institute in 2018.

Guards at the federal prison in central Florida say they intercepted the threatening letter that Ware allegedly tried to send out last March. Ware was nearing the end of his sentence and confirmed the letter was his.

He pleaded guilty in October to making threats against the president. Court records show Ware was sentenced Monday.

In November 2011, court records show Ware mailed a letter threatening to kill Obama, then-first lady Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and George Bush. Ware also threatened to sexually assault the Obamas’ two daughters.

After completing his sentence, Ware will be on probation for three years, the Star-Banner reported, citing court documents.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Terror trial likely to be disrupted by prison guards strike

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The trial of a man accused of providing assistance to the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks could be disrupted by prison guards protesting their working conditions.

Jawad Bendaoud is scheduled to appear in a Paris court Wednesday. He is accused of lodging Islamic State-linked extremists hiding from police after the 2015 attacks.

Cedric Boyer, representing the Force Ouvriere union at the Fresnes prison south of Paris where Bendaoud is being held, told The Associated Press that he is still inside the jail.

Boyer said about 200 guards are protesting outside the prison, adding that only “a handful” of workers crossed the strike picket line and went to work.

Bendaoud’s trial is the first one linked to the attacks on Paris cafes, the national stadium and the Bataclan concert hall, which killed 130 people.

US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says US 'absolutely' believes in free and fair trade

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US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin: 'not particularly concerned' about reports China preparing to ease purchases of US bonds

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Groups call for shutdown of brutal Indonesia animal markets

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Campaigners are calling for the closure of Indonesian animal markets touted as tourist attractions where dogs are bludgeoned by the thousands and blow-torched alive.

One of the markets on the island of Sulawesi, known as Tomohon Extreme Market, was previously listed on TripAdvisor as a must-see attraction until animal welfare groups complained. Local tour operators and officials continue to promote the markets as destinations.

Indonesian animal welfare groups filmed two notorious markets in Sulawesi that sell dog meat and say the treatment of the animals was “brutally cruel.”

The footage shows dogs cowering in cages as workers pull the howling animals out and bludgeon their heads with wooden batons. Often still moving, the animals are then blasted with blowtorches to remove their hair and make them ready for sale.

US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says US 'open for business' and strong US economy is beneficial to the world economy

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Pennsylvania couple beat 4-year-old to death over spilled cereal, authorities say

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A Pennsylvania mother and her boyfriend were arrested Tuesday night, accused of beating their 4-year-old son to death because he spilled his cereal, authorities said.

Lisa Smith, 19, and her boyfriend Keiff King, 26, of Willow Grove, face charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault and other crimes in connection with the death of their son, Tahjir, FOX 29 reported.

After the child admitted spilling his breakfast, Smith and King disciplined Tahjir by punching him in the back of the head, before stripping him naked from the waist down and taking turns smacking his buttocks with a sandal, Philly.com reported, citing Smith’s statement to police.

After Tahjir urinated on himself and became unresponsive from the beatings, King placed him in the shower and blasted him with cold and hot water, Smith told police.

The little boy was “severely punished and beaten and then burned in a shower,” Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said, according to the station.

Smith put clothes on her son and the couple took the child outside where they called 911 and fabricated a story about why the boy wasn’t responsive, the station reported.

Police said the home was filthy, and crawling with roaches, according to the station.

According to the coroner, the child had previous injuries including broken ribs, the station reported.

“Unfortunately, it looks like the child didn’t go through this the first time last night,” Steele said. “It’s gonna be our time to stand up for a child who can’t speak for himself anymore.”

The couple could face a murder charge depending what the final autopsy results reveal, the DA said. King and Smith were being held on a $500,000 bail each, and have a preliminary hearing scheduled for Jan. 31, according to the station.

Smith is also currently eight months pregnant, the station reported. 

Benjamin Brown is a reporter for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bdbrown473.

Export figures, Turkish tanks fuel German arms sales debate

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Newly released figures show Germany’s centrist coalition approved more weapons exports over the past four years, fueling debate over the country’s weapons sale policy.

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Public broadcaster ARD reported Wednesday that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats approved exports worth 25.1 billion euros ($30.7 billion) between 2014 and 2017, an increase of 21 percent compared with the previous four years under a more right-leaning government.

Figures contained in a government response to the opposition Left party show exports to countries outside the European Union and NATO rose even more steeply, by 47 percent to almost 15 billion euros.

The issue of arms exports has risen to the fore again after photos emerged in recent days allegedly showing Turkey using German-made tanks against Kurds in northern Syria.

Belgian minister says Afghan shot at station not radicalized

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Belgium’s interior minister says a man with a knife shot by police in a Ghent train station was an Afghan refugee with mental problems and was not a known extremist.

Jan Jambon told broadcaster RTBF Wednesday that “there is no link to any terrorist motive. He is a known refugee, of Afghan nationality who is not thought to be radicalized.”

Police shot the 28-year-old man, who was yelling outside and in the busy Ghent St. Pieters station late Tuesday, when he approached them and refused to drop a small knife he was carrying.

Ghent prosecutors’ spokeswoman An Schoonjans said he was seriously injured.

Jambon said the incident does not call into question Belgium’s decision on Monday to lower its terrorism threat level after more than two years on high alert.

Mattis thanks Vietnam for supporting sanctions on N. Korea

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U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis praised Vietnam on Wednesday for supporting U.N. sanctions against North Korea and expressed hope that Washington and Hanoi can build closer defense ties despite being former enemies.

“They’ve stepped up and aligned themselves with U.N. sanctions,” he told reporters flying with him from Jakarta, Indonesia, where he held high-level talks and observed a colorful display of combat skills by Indonesian commandos.

The Pentagon chief’s visit comes just days before the 50th anniversary of the Tet offensive, a turning point in the American war against communist North Vietnam. Mattis, who did not serve in that war, said it is not an impediment to current relations.

“This is in our past,” he said.

The Tet offensive, named for the Lunar New Year holiday on which it was launched in 1968, was a battlefield failure for the North Vietnamese but a political victory in the sense that it punctured American hopes of winning the war.

Mattis noted Vietnam’s proximity to the South China Sea makes the country a key player in disputes with China over territorial claims to islets, shoals and other small land formations in the sea. Vietnam also fought a border war with China in 1979.

“Because of the coastline they have and the position they occupy, they are going to be a foundation for any kind of prosperity” in the region, which is one reason to push now for closer defense relations, he said.

During his visit, Mattis also planned to meet with representatives of a Pentagon organization, the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency, that carries out searches for remains of American service members still unaccounted for from the Vietnam war, which ended in 1975.

Later in the week Mattis plans to fly to Hawaii for talks with U.S. commanders and to meet with his South Korean counterpart to discuss the situation with North Korea.

Before he left Jakarta on Wednesday morning, Mattis was treated to a demonstration of counter-terrorism skills by an Indonesian commando group. The commandos showed off their hand-to-hand combat skills and performed a range of exotic moves including lopping off the heads of live snakes and drinking their blood.

Mattis said during his visit to Jakarta that he hoped the U.S. could develop closer ties to the Indonesian military.

Myanmar building, but no sign Rohingya are returning

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Workers were laying bricks, digging ditches and drilling holes for building frames at a temporary camp in Myanmar where Rohingya Muslims would stay when they return from Bangladesh refugee camps.

Journalists were allowed to watch the work at the transition camp being prepared for the refugees Wednesday but saw no sign of the nearly 700,000 Rohingya chased out by Myanmar security forces and Buddhist mobs since August.

Myanmar says it’s ready for a gradual repatriation. Bangladesh says it needs more time to prepare for the transfer.

Rohingya in Bangladesh are frightened of returning and say they haven’t seen any evidence Myanmar is preparing for them to return safely to their burned-out home villages in Rakhine state.

Gay couple sues after 1 twin's US citizenship denied

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A gay binational couple filed a lawsuit Monday against the U.S. State Department on behalf of their 16-month-old who, unlike his twin brother, has been denied U.S. citizenship. 

Ethan and Aiden Dvash-Banks are toddler twins of Elad Dvash-Banks, an Israeli national, and Andrew Dvash-Banks, an American citizen. Ethan, the biological son of Elad, does not have a U.S. citizenship.

Ethan Dvash-Banks became a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the State Department that seeks the same rights his brother, Aiden, has as an American citizen.

An LGBTQ immigrant rights lawyer filed the suit on behalf of the family, arguing that the U.S. is discriminating against the couple by denying their child citizenship at birth.

The State Department’s website says there must be a biological connection to a U.S. citizen to become a citizen at birth.

Andrew Dvash-Banks was studying in Israel when he met his future husband, Elad, an Israeli citizen. Because they couldn’t marry at the time in the U.S. or in Israel, they moved to Canada, and wed in 2010.

Ethan and Aiden are legally the exclusive parents of Andrew and Elad, who shared a surrogate, The Guardian reported.

The couple brought their infants to the American consulate in Toronto to apply for citizenship. The consular official told them a DNA test was required to show who the biological father was of each boy and without those tests neither son would get citizenship.

After submitting the DNA test results that proved who fathered each boy, the couple received Aiden’s passport and a letter notifying Andrew that Ethan’s application had been denied.

“The message is that you’re not fully equal. Your family is less than other families,” said Andrew Dvash-Banks. “My son has been wronged here by the government.”

The family has since moved to Los Angeles to be closer to Andrew Dvash-Banks’ family. Ethan’s tourist visa expired last month, and he is currently applying for a green card, Andrew Dvash-Banks said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

ICE agent accused of sending police info, sexts to Kansas TV anchor

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A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent accused of sending sensitive law enforcement information and sexual text messages to a Kansas news anchor is facing federal charges, court documents say.

The Wichita Police Department interviewed KAKE-TV anchor Deb Farris in March and photographed about 185 screenshots of text messages allegedly sent to her by ICE Agent Andrew J. Pleviak, according to an affidavit.

Farris said Tuesday that Pleviak had come to her and asked to be her source, saying he could give her information for future stories.

When the text messages turned inappropriate, Farris said, she got scared and contacted Wichita police. They advised her to put up security cameras and file a police report. She then agreed to be interviewed by police.

KAKE News Editor Anthony Maisel said the station held the story at the time because it had concerns for Farris’ safety.

“There is a difference between being a source and providing information for the good of the public and for a source to go off the rails and become a threat,” Maisel said. He added that the station needs to look out for the welfare of their reporters should a source become unstable.

The probable-cause affidavit was made public Monday after authorities filed the executed search warrant in court and sent it to Apple, which granted authorities access to Pleviak’s iCloud storage account.

That account contained information that Pleviak allegedly deleted from his government-issued cellphone.

Federal prosecutors indicted Pleviak in July on two counts of exceeding authorized access to a government computer intended for accessing information from the National Crime Information Center and one count of destruction of records in a federal investigation.

It is not clear if authorities are still investigating the alleged harassment.

Pleviak was jailed after allegedly violating his bond conditions and faces a competency hearing Feb. 5.

ICE declined to comment on whether Pleviak was still an employee. The agency issued a statement saying all Department of Homeland Security employees are held “to the highest standards of behavior and ethics.”

Pleviak’s defense attorney, Stephen Ariagno, declined to comment.

According to Homeland Security Investigations Agent Brian Beach, in November 2016 Pleviak had provided Farris with copies of suspects’ computerized criminal history regarding murder cases under investigation that involved illegal immigrants.

“We never used a single thing he gave — nothing was really relevant,” Farris said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Philippine troops capture suspected Spanish terror supporter

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Philippine army troops have captured a Spanish man they say was carrying grenades and bomb parts and is believed to be supporter of Islamic State group-linked Abu Sayyaf militants on southern Basilan island.

Capt. Exequel Panti and two other army special forces officers filed complaints of illegal possession of explosives Wednesday against Abdelhakim Labidi Adib before Department of Justice prosecutors. Adib denied he owned the two grenades and bomb parts the army officers said belonged to him.

They say they captured Adib on Monday in the hinterlands of Basilan’s Maluso town, where the Abu Sayyaf has a presence, and a local militant with him managed to escape.

Adib, 20, told prosecutors he “came from the jungle” in Basilan but refused to say why he traveled there and who he met.

Chung's stunning run continues into Australian Open semis

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Serving for a spot in the Australian Open semifinals and with the score at 40-love, Hyeon Chung started thinking how he might celebrate being the first Korean to reach the last four of a Grand Slam.

Not so fast. He hadn’t let up when upsetting No. 4 Alexander Zverev or six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic en route to the quarterfinals, but he let his guard down for a few points against No. 97-ranked Tennys Sandgren.

He missed four match points in the last game and had to fend off two break points, including one in a 31-shot rally dominated by slice backhands, before finally beating Sandgren 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-3 at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday.

“In last game, I think at 40-love … if I win one more point, I make history in Korea. I have to think about the ceremony, something,” he said, explaining how he got slightly ahead of himself. “After deuce, break point. I was like, no, nothing to do with ceremony. But just keep playing — keep focused.”

Then he fully embraced the moment, joking with Jim Courier in an on-court TV interview, introducing the audience to his parents and his coach, and taking the microphone to speak in Korean to millions of new tennis fans back home.

“I think all the people is watching Australian Open now because we make history in Korea,” he said.

The No. 58-ranked Chung is the lowest-ranked man to reach the Australian Open semifinals since Marat Safin in 2004. At 21, he’s also the youngest to reach the last four at a major since Marin Cilic did it here in 2010.

With Chung already through, and Kyle Edmund playing No. 6 Marin Cilic in the other half of the draw, it’s the first time since 1999 that multiple unseeded players have reached the Australian Open semifinals.

Two women who’ve been to this stage at a Grand Slam before will meet in the last four. One has two major titles, the other still seeks a breakthrough. Top-ranked Simona Halep recovered from an early break to win nine straight games in a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 6 Karolina Pliskova and set up a semifinal match against 2016 champion Angelique Kerber, who routed U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys 6-1, 6-2.

Kerber has been the only Grand Slam singles champion in the women’s draw since her third-round win over Maria Sharapova. Two-time French Open finalist Halep has had a tougher road — having to save match points in a third-round win over Lauren Davis that finished 15-13 in the third — to reach the semifinals at Melbourne Park for the first time.

Not that Chung’s run has been routine. After taking out Zverev and Djokovic, Chung could next face defending champion Roger Federer for a spot in the final. Federer was playing Tomas Berdych later Wednesday in the quarterfinals.

Until the last game, Chung had been simply too consistent for Sandgren, a 26-year-old American who had never won a match at a Grand Slam tournament or beaten a top 10 player until last week.

Sandgren’s unexpected surge to the quarterfinals — he beat 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka and No. 5 Dominic Thiem en route to the quarterfinals — was overshadowed by heavy scrutiny of his Twitter account and his follows and retweets of far-right activists.

Kerber has had no serious distractions on a 14-match winning streak, and is hoping to emulate her breakout year in 2016.

She won the Australian and U.S. Open titles two years ago and reached the No. 1 ranking, but slipped into the 20s last year. She didn’t win a title between the 2016 U.S. Open and the Sydney International earlier this month.

Seeded 21st, her first three wins were in straight sets but a fourth-round struggle against No. 88 Hsieh Su-wei had commentators wondering if Kerber was in 2016, or 2017 form.

She responded with six service breaks against the No. 17-seeded Keys, finishing off the match in 51 minutes and improving her record to seven wins in eight matches against the American.

“I am just trying to find the feeling back that I had, like 2016, and just enjoying my time,” Kerber said.