Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Special Report: U.S. takes aim at the power behind Venezuela's Maduro - his first lady

Special Report: U.S. takes aim at the power behind Venezuela's Maduro - his first ladyThe man, Yazenky Lamas, worked as a bodyguard for the person widely considered the power behind President Nicolas Maduro's throne: first lady Cilia Flores. Now, with help from Lamas' testimony, the United States is preparing to charge Flores in coming months with crimes that could include drug trafficking and corruption, four people familiar with the investigation of the first lady told Reuters. If Washington goes ahead with an indictment, these people said, the charges are likely to stem, at least in part, from a thwarted cocaine transaction that has already landed two of Flores' nephews in a Florida penitentiary.




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US priest who founded Knights of Columbus to be beatified

US priest who founded Knights of Columbus to be beatifiedThe founder of the Knights of Columbus, the influential U.S.-based lay Catholic organization, is moving a step closer to possible sainthood. Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Rev. Michael McGivney, a Connecticut priest who died at age 38 of pneumonia in 1890 during a pandemic similar to the current coronavirus outbreak. The Vatican said Wednesday that Francis had signed off on the miracle required.




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Watch SpaceX's 1st astronaut launch live

Watch SpaceX's 1st astronaut launch liveSpaceX is readying for a historic launch, and you can watch the whole thing live.On Wednesday, SpaceX will for the first time launch astronauts into orbit. NASA's Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are headed to the International Space Station and will become the first astronauts to launch from the U.S. since 2011, NPR reports.NASA on its website hails the fact that with this launch, a "new era of human spaceflight is set to begin," and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said this week this is a "unique opportunity to bring all of America together in one moment in time and say, look at how bright the future is."The launch will take place at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, and it's scheduled for just after 4:30 p.m. Eastern, although NBC News notes that NASA is "monitoring weather reports at the Florida launch site that may delay proceedings." NASA will live stream the launch below. More stories from theweek.com It only took two hours for Trump's administration to contradict his threat to shut down Twitter Why Biden benefits by disappearing CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin explodes on co-host Joe Kernen: '100,000 people died and all you did was try and help your friend the president'




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‘No Restraint’: Violent Chaos in Minneapolis Could Spark the Next Ferguson

‘No Restraint’: Violent Chaos in Minneapolis Could Spark the Next FergusonMINNEAPOLIS—Jeremy Kocke held up the back of his shirt to show a large bruise forming from a rubber bullet. “I turned around and was shot in the back,” he said Wednesday evening. “I didn’t do anything to get shot.”The 32-year-old was one of several protesters struck by Minneapolis Police projectiles after activists surrounded the department’s embattled Third Precinct. Some threw water bottles and rocks over a hastily constructed police barricade. From the roof, looming police brandished weapons at the crowd below.Earlier on Wednesday, Kocke and a roommate had listened to Minneapolis City Council members “talk about how the police need to be restrained and will show restraint,” he told The Daily Beast. “They asked protesters to show restraint. But they [the police] aren’t. This isn’t restraint. There is no restraint. This is chaos.”Like COVID-19 death rates and social-distancing arrests, a new wave of protests—and their police response—are highlighting racial disparities in the coronavirus era. Tuesday’s initial demonstrations in Minneapolis, which protested the death of 46-year-old black man George Floyd after he was pinned down on the neck by a local cop, likewise saw officers in riot gear crack down on demonstrators, striking at least one protester in the head with a rubber bullet and bloodying a reporter. Meanwhile, right-wing “re-open” protests in Minnesota and elsewhere have generally proceeded without police violence, even as mostly white demonstrators—some with extremist ties—occupied government buildings with semi-automatic rifles.Derek Chauvin, Minneapolis Cop Shown Kneeling on George Floyd’s Neck, Hires Philando Castile Shooter’s Lawyer Activists in Minneapolis say race is a motivating factor in police responses to the protests. It’s why some say they’re coming out to protest—even during a deadly pandemic—in the first place, and why an increasingly volatile landscape in a progressive city began to take on the feel of Ferguson-style unrest.“Throwing tear gas at kids is not going to help,” Leslie Redmon, president of the Minneapolis NAACP,  told The Daily Beast. Redmon said she was among the demonstrators hit with tear gas on Tuesday, and that the heavy-handed response would not improve the police's relationship with protesters.Nekima Levy-Armstrong, Minneapolis-based civil rights attorney and founder of the Racial Justice Network, a racial equality group, described the police response as “excessive and militarized.” Officers were filmed using tear gas, rubber bullets, and what appeared to be stun grenades on demonstrators on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. “There was no communication to protesters that police were going to start shooting projectiles and shooting rubber bullets and spraying tear gas,” Levy-Armstrong told The Daily Beast, echoing activists and journalists who were caught in the crossfire. “They just started doing it. They didn't give people time to leave the area if they didn't want to engage with police on that level.”Monique Cullars-Doty, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Twin Cities, said the police response hindered medical care for at least one person struck in the head with a rubber bullet. “They called 9-1-1 and the protesters were told that the police [on the scene] were the first responders and no medical attention was given. They were trying to get this person to ride to the hospital,” said Cullars-Doty, whose own nephew was killed by police in nearby St. Paul in 2015.After witnessing one night of tear gas, Lisa Grimm brought water and milk to Wednesday night’s protest. “I live less than a mile away from the murder. This is my home,” she told The Daily Beast.“How have the killers not been arrested and held like anyone else? This wouldn’t be happening like this. We wouldn’t have to risk our safety. We wouldn’t be at risk for coronavirus. It’s common logic.” Some of the response might have stemmed from the police department’s unprecedented decision to fire four officers involved in Floyd’s death. A viral video showed Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for at least seven minutes after police apprehended him over an alleged forgery. In the harrowing video, captured by a bystander, Floyd repeatedly states that he cannot breathe and that he is dying. Bystanders plead with Chauvin to get off Floyd, noting that he appears to have died. Although police initially claimed Floyd later died in the hospital after a “medical incident,” a Minneapolis Fire Department report found that he had no pulse when he was placed in an ambulance.The four officers’ brisk firings were a first for the city, and may have motivated police response to protesters, Levy-Armstrong argued. (The Minneapolis Police Department did not immediately return a request for comment.)“They want to retaliate,” she told The Daily Beast earlier Wednesday. “They're angry, they're upset, and that's what we witnessed last night. Why did they need to wear riot gear and treat people like they were serious threats?”Images from re-open protests, including of white militia members lynching an effigy of Georgia’s governor, or armed protesters storming Michigan’s statehouse, have led some protesters to question whether activists of color could get away with the same stunts.“When I look and see the angry white protester with their guns and having the opportunity to celebrate their constitutional rights, then look at black protesters who are peaceful …  getting tear gas and shot with rubber bullets,” said Toya Woodland, a minister and Black Lives Matter activists. “We’ve never been looked at as whole people. We’re still being looked at as animals, by the Three-Fifths Compromise,” she said, referring to the part of the constitution classifying enslaved people as less than fully human.Carmen Perez-Jordan, president of the nonprofit The Gathering for Justice, likewise tied the disparity in police response to America’s centuries-long racial divides.“How is it that an officer feels safe with an armed white person yelling and spitting in their face, but not with an unarmed black person?” she asked. Minneapolis, in particular, has struggled with those narratives. In 2015, Minneapolis police shot and killed Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old black man. When activists staged a days-long occupation outside the police station in protest, white supremacists fired on the crowd, seriously wounding five people.In 2016, a police officer in nearby Falcon Heights shot and killed Philando Castile, a black man during a traffic stop, while Castile’s girlfriend and her young daughter looked on in horror. Chauvin, the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck, has hired the lawyer who defended Castile’s killer.Protests over Castile’s killing were also marked by arrests.“My friend had a bouquet of flowers in her hand, and there’s a photo of her being arrested,” Cullars-Doty said. “How much more peaceful can you be when you’re just standing holding flowers?”She noted that the Castile protests had taken place at the state capitol, where re-open protesters had demonstrated earlier this month, without incident. (The protests took place in neighboring St. Paul, which has its own police force.)Re-open protesters don’t deserve the crackdown Minneapolis protesters experienced, Perez-Jordan noted. But their demands differ. “Black and brown people are asking for their full humanity to be respected. They're asking for the right to live,” she said, as opposed re-open protesters who are demanding “a perceived right to access to privilege, like having a certain haircut or being able to go out to eat in public. That’s very different from what we're seeing online every single day when it comes to police officers who can kill an unarmed black person or an unarmed brown person with impunity.”And while re-open protesters will theoretically go home when the lockdowns end, Minneapolis protesters said the demonstrations might continue.Anika Bowie, an activist who attended the Minneapolis protests on Wednesday, said the demonstrations were building on momentum from the Black Lives Matter protests that touched off after the killing of black teenager Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.“Just since Ferguson, we’ve had this whole backlog of history of police brutality,” she said. “Now, we have more networks to exchange this information and communication.” In spite of the coronavirus, Tuesday night’s protests were the largest Levy-Armstrong had ever seen, she said, with thousands of people RSVPing on Facebook. Cullars-Doty attributed them to the nature of Floyd’s death. It wasn’t the first time a horrific video of a black man who died in police custody went viral. But the deaths are adding up.“That video that we just have is gut wrenching,” she said. “I was getting messages from people who haven't been out protesting ever. They’re saying now that they're either fed up; they sat on the sidelines too long and some people have had their eyes opened. So I think this really is a big one.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.




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Taiwan leader vows 'action plan' for Hong Kong protesters

Taiwan leader vows 'action plan' for Hong Kong protestersTaiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday pledged a humanitarian "action plan" for Hong Kongers pushing for democracy in the financial hub as an influx of activists seek sanctuary on the self-ruled democratic island. Hong Kong was upended by months of often violent pro-democracy protests last year sparked by rising fears that Beijing is chipping away at the city's freedoms. Unrest has returned in recent days after Beijing announced plans last week to impose a sweeping national security law in response to the protests, a move that has alarmed many western governments and Taiwan.




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Zambia probes Chinese clothes factory murders

Zambia probes Chinese clothes factory murdersThe killings of three Chinese nationals come amid a crackdown on firms accused of discrimination.




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As Trump rails against mail-in voting, his campaign tries to make it easier for Pennsylvania supporters

As Trump rails against mail-in voting, his campaign tries to make it easier for Pennsylvania supporters"We have an obligation to our voters to inform them of what the law is in their state and what their options are," the campaign said.




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Woman sacked after calling police on black man

Woman sacked after calling police on black manThe woman, identified as Amy Cooper, called police saying an African-American man was threatening her life.




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US troop pullout from Afghanistan ahead of schedule

US troop pullout from Afghanistan ahead of scheduleThe US military withdrawal from Afghanistan is considerably ahead of schedule, an official told AFP on Wednesday, as President Donald Trump reiterated calls for the Pentagon to bring troops home. The developments came as questions loomed over the next phase of Afghanistan's long war following a historic, three-day ceasefire that led to a major drop in civilian casualties. The truce, which the Taliban called to mark the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Fitr, ended Wednesday, leaving Afghans anxious about whether it would be extended, or when the war might come raging back.




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UK PM Johnson to go to Brussels next month for Brexit talks: The Times

UK PM Johnson to go to Brussels next month for Brexit talks: The TimesBritain's negotiator with the European Union, David Frost, said Johnson will meet the presidents of the European Commission and Council to formally assess the state of the talks, according to the newspaper. Talks on a new pact to cover everything from trade to fisheries to security from 2021 had reached an impasse before a key deadline at the end of June, when the bloc and London are to assess their progress.




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A pharmacist known as 'the Mask Man' has been charged with hoarding $200,000 worth of N95 masks and price-gouging customers

A pharmacist known as 'the Mask Man' has been charged with hoarding $200,000 worth of N95 masks and price-gouging customersThe DOJ said the pharmacist, 66-year-old Richard Schirripa, sold $2,690 of masks to an undercover officer and said he felt "like a drug dealer."




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Monterey County DA to investigate if Biden accuser Tara Reade gave 'false testimony under oath' about expert witness credentials

Monterey County DA to investigate if Biden accuser Tara Reade gave 'false testimony under oath' about expert witness credentialsReade served as an expert witness in domestic violence cases in California, for a decade, but cases where she testified are now under scrutiny.




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Hundreds arrested in Hong Kong as tensions over proposed security law boil over

Hundreds arrested in Hong Kong as tensions over proposed security law boil overProtesters in a downtown shopping mall chanted “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times” and “Hong Kong independence, the only way out."




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