Associated Press

Taliban say unable to attend Pakistan talks; blame blacklist

The Taliban has postponed an unscheduled round of peace talks with the United States set for Monday in Pakistan saying "most" members of their negotiating team are unable to travel because they’re on the U.S. and United Nations’ blacklists.

The statement Sunday offered no other details. It did not explain how several members previously were able to travel to meetings in the United Arab Emirates and Moscow.

The Taliban maintain a political office in Qatar, where members of the negotiating team reside. The Islamabad talks were seen as significant, coinciding with the visit of the Saudi crown prince to Pakistan.

The Taliban 14-member team includes five former inmates of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, and Anas Haqqani, the jailed younger brother of the leader of the militant Haqqani network.

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Sex abuse survivors say Vatican summit must deliver action

Roman Catholics who were sexually abused by clergy are insisting that decisive actions to confront the decades-long problem of pedophile priests and church cover-ups must come out of an upcoming Vatican summit.

A founding member of the advocacy group Ending Clergy Abuse, Peter Isely, contended Sunday that Pope Francis is "facing resistance" from top Vatican officials as he prepares to convene bishops from around the world.

"Let me tell you what it was like to try and have to resist that priest when I was a boy who was sexually assaulting me," Isely said. "So whatever difficulty for him or discomfort this is for anybody in the papal palace, it is nothing compared to what survivors have had to undergo."

Isely offered his perspective in an interview with The Associated Press near St. Peter’s Square shortly before Francis spoke of the importance of the Feb. 21-24 event on protecting children and teenagers in the church,.

Addressing faithful in the square, Francis asked for prayers for the gathering of the heads of Catholic bishops’ conferences worldwide.

Francis said he wanted the summit, to be "an act of strong pastoral responsibility in the face of an urgent challenge of our time."

Revelations in many countries about priests raping and committing other kinds of sexual abuse against children and a pattern of bishops hiding the crimes have shaken the faith of many Catholics.

They also test the pontiff’s ability to ensure the safety of children and punishment for the abusers as well as any complicit superiors.

The Vatican announced Saturday that Francis approved the expulsion from the priesthood for a former American cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, for sexual abuse of minors and adults.

But survivor advocates also have demanded that Francis say what he and other top Vatican officials knew about the prelate’s sexual wrongdoing, which spanned decades.

"You abuse a child, you have to be removed from the priesthood," Isely said. "If you cover up for abusing a child, you have to be removed from the priesthood, and this is the only thing that is going to turn the corner on this global crisis."

Another founding member of the group, Denise Buchanan, a native of Jamaica, said a priest raped and assaulted her when she was 17.

"That rape actually resulted in a pregnancy, and the priest arranged for an abortion," Buchanan said.

Veteran Vatican watcher Marco Politi told the AP he also sees the pope facing inside resistance.

"There is a struggle going on between the pope and his supporters who want a change, and a lot of people among the bishops and among the clergy who don’t want transparency and applying law and order in the abuse issue in the world," Politi said.

Some of Francis’ critics contend that as a product of the Catholic Church’s hierarchical culture, he, too, has been slow to recognize the hierarchy’s role in perpetuating abuse by pedophile priests.

Francis has tried to temper expectations for the summit, saying in January the "problem of abuse will continue" because "it’s a human problem." Isely of Ending Clergy Abuse said the bar should be high and the participants "have to deliver for survivors."

Source: Fox News World

Saudi crown prince arrives in Pakistan for regional visit

Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began his four-day regional visit on Sunday, arriving in Pakistan where Saudi officials signed agreements worth $20 billion to help the Islamic nation overcome its financial crisis.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and top government and military officials greeted him at Islamabad’s airport, where he received a 21-gun salute. Earlier, Pakistan Air Force jets escorted Prince Mohammad’s flight when he entered the country’s airspace.

At the airport, a young boy and girl in traditional Pakistani dress handed the prince flowers. He was greeted by a host of Pakistani Cabinet ministers and the country’s powerful army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Khan himself drove the prince to the prime minister’s residence, where he was met by an honor guard.

During his two-day stay in Pakistan, the crown prince will hold formal talks with Khan to find ways to enhance bilateral cooperation. Saudi Arabia will invest in the energy sector across the country, including setting up an oil refinery in the southwest near the border with Iran. The move will likely irk Tehran as Iran is Saudi Arabia’s regional foe.

Shortly after his arrival, Prince Mohammad, accompanied by a high-powered delegation including leading businessmen and Cabinet ministers, attended a signing ceremony for the investment agreements worth $20 billion.

"This is first phase," he said, at the ceremony, adding that he hoped the future would bring even more Saudi investment in Pakistan.

"Saudi Arabia has always been a fiend of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has been a friend in need," Khan said.

Pakistan is in the grip of a major debt crisis and is seeking a $12 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund but has yet to sign the deal which comes with tough conditions.

Prince Mohammad will later travel to neighboring India amid heightened tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi over this week’s attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 41 troops.

This week also saw an attack in Iran that killed 27 Revolutionary Guard soldiers that was claimed by the Pakistan-based militant Jaish al-Adl group.

Pakistan condemned the attacks, but India and Iran blame it for the violence.

Pakistan enjoys close ties with Saudi Arabia. It maintains a balancing act between Riyadh and Tehran.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday that the visit by the crown prince will take their countries’ bilateral relations "to new heights."

Pakistan voiced support for the prince during the international outcry after the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents. Khan attended an investment conference in Saudi Arabia in October that saw a wave of cancellations linked to the Khashoggi killing.

The crown prince has called the killing a "heinous crime that cannot be justified."

Khashoggi, who had written critically about the prince, went missing on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. After denying any knowledge of his death for weeks, Saudi authorities eventually said that he was killed in an operation aimed at forcibly bringing the writer back to the kingdom.

Saudi prosecutors say the plan was masterminded by two former advisers to the crown prince.

The kingdom denies the crown prince knew of the plot.

Source: Fox News World

Hunt under way for suspect in shooting of officer

Authorities say a Virginia police officer has been shot and seriously wounded after making a traffic stop.

State police say a Bluefield officer was shot after stopping a 2008 Toyota Yaris for an equipment violation on Route 460 shortly before midnight Saturday.

Authorities say a passenger in the vehicle began shooting at the officer.

The officer and another Bluefield officer, who had responded to assist with the traffic stop, returned fire. The Toyota’s driver surrendered but the passenger got into the driver’s seat and drove off.

The Toyota was found abandoned a few hours later in Bluefield, West Virginia. The search for the passenger continued Sunday.

The wounded officer was being treated for serious injuries that were not considered life threatening at Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

Source: Fox News National

Groups: ICE detainees in Boston jail go on hunger strike

Dozens of people detained by federal immigration officials are on a hunger strike at a Boston jail.

Rhode Island-based community groups Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance and the Fighting Against Natural Gas Collective say they’ve been in contact with about 70 detainees at the Suffolk County House of Correction who are participating in a hunger strike that began Friday.

The organizations say the detainees are protesting abuse by jail officials and "inhumane conditions" such as bad food and broken bathroom fixtures. They also challenge the jail’s authority to detain people on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The organizations say the detainees sent jail officials a list of their grievances Feb. 10. Spokespersons for the jail and ICE didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment Sunday.

Source: Fox News National

Vatican defrocks former US cardinal McCarrick over sex abuse

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been found guilty by the Vatican of sex abuse and defrocked, as calls rose Saturday for Pope Francis to reveal what he knew about the once-powerful American prelate’s apparently decades-long predatory sexual behavior.

The announcement Saturday, delivered in uncharacteristically blunt language for the Vatican, meant that the 88-year-old McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., becomes the highest-ranking churchman and the first cardinal to be punished by dismissal from the clerical state, or laicization.

He was notified Friday of the decision, which was upheld upon his appeal and approved by Pope Francis.

The pontiff next week leads a summit of bishops from around the world who have been summoned to Rome help him grapple with the entrenched problems of clerical sex abuse and the systematic cover-ups by the Catholic church’s hierarchy.

Decades of revelations about priests who have sexually preyed on minors and their bosses who shuffled abusive clergy from parish to parish instead of removing them from access to children have shaken the faith of many Catholics. They also threaten the moral authority of Francis and even the survival of his papacy.

McCarrick, who in his prestigious red cardinal robes hobnobbed with presidents, other VIP politicians and pontiffs, is now barred from celebrating Mass or other sacraments including confession and from wearing clerical garb. He is to be referred to as Mr. McCarrick.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Holy See’s guardian of doctrinal purity, issued a decree on Jan. 11 finding McCarrick guilty of "solicitation in the sacrament of confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power," the Vatican said. That commandment forbids adultery.

On Wednesday, Congregation officials considered his appeal and upheld the decree.

The pope "recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accordance with (church) law, rendering it as ‘res iudicata,’" the Vatican said, using the Latin phrase for admitting no further recourse.

The McCarrick scandal was particularly damning to the church’s reputation because it apparently was an open secret in some ecclesial circles that he slept with adult seminarians. Francis yanked McCarrick’s rank as a cardinal in July after a U.S. church investigation found credible an allegation he fondled a teenage altar boy in the 1970s.

McCarrick’s civil lawyer, Barry Coburn, said Saturday that his client had no comment on the defrocking.

Coburn declined to say if McCarrick would stay at the residence in Kansas where he moved after Francis ordered him to live in penance and prayer while the investigation into his actions continued.

But the Salina, Kansas, diocese, said "Mr. McCarrick will continue to reside at the St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria until a decision of permanent residence is finalized."

Besides bishops arriving for the sex abuse summit, victims’ rights advocates are also converging on Rome. They are demanding that Francis, other Vatican officials and bishops elsewhere come clean about how McCarrick managed such a meteoric rise through church ranks despite reports about his sexual life.

"The pope has known from the earliest days of his papacy, or he should have known, that ex-cardinal McCarrick was a sexual predator," said Anne Barrett Doyle, an advocate at BishopAccountability.org.

"He has a resistance to removing bishops and he also has a tolerance for bishops who are sexual wrongdoers," Doyle told The Associated Press on Saturday near St. Peter’s Square.

Of the defrocking, Doyle said: "Let McCarrick be the first of many. I can think of 10 other bishops who are substantively, credibly accused of sexual abuse with minor and sexual misconduct with adults, who should be laicized."

A conservative lay group, The Catholic Association, said in a statement that much more must be done to hold accountable "those in the church hierarchy who looked the other way as McCarrick rose through their ranks" and to ensure that priestly celibacy is restored and youths are safeguarded from sexual abuse.

Walking with Doyle was Phil Saviano, a board member of BishopAccountability.org, and a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest. While calling McCarrick’s defrocking "ultimately a good thing," he said the punishment should have been meted out long ago.

He said he hoped Francis isn’t "throwing a bone to his dissenters in an attempt to quiet everybody down. And then McCarrick will be the one and only, because there are certainly many others who have allegations against them who should face some accountability."

His account of being abused helped the Boston Globe produce a Pulitzer-winning investigation into church cover-ups, which was chronicled in the movie "Spotlight."

When ordained a priest in his native New York City in 1958, McCarrick embraced a vocation that required celibacy. Later on in his career, McCarrick curried cachet at the Vatican as a stellar fundraiser. A globe-trotting powerbroker, McCarrick liked to be called "Uncle Ted" by the young seminarians he courted.

Despite apparent common knowledge in church circles of his sexual behavior, McCarrick rose up through the ranks, even serving as the spokesman for fellow U.S. bishops when they enacted a "zero tolerance" policy against sexually abusive priests in 2002.

One of his accusers, James Grein, the son of a family friend of McCarrick’s, testified to church officials that, among other abuses, McCarrick had repeatedly groped him during confession. He said the abuse, which went on for decades, began when he was 11.

"Today I am happy that the pope believed me," Grein said in a statement issued through his lawyer. He expressed hope that McCarrick "will no longer be able to use the power of Jesus’ church to manipulate families and sexually abuse children."

Grein said pressure must be put on U.S. state attorney generals and senators to change the statute of limitations for abuse cases.

"Hundreds of priests, bishops and cardinals are hiding behind man-made law," he said.

The current archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where McCarrick was posted at the pinnacle of his career from 2001-2006, said it hoped that the Vatican decision "serves to help the healing process for survivors of abuse, as well as those who have experienced disappointment or disillusionment because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done."

Complaints were also made about McCarrick’s conduct in the New Jersey dioceses of Newark and Metuchen, where he previously served.

Francis himself became implicated in the decades-long McCarrick cover-up after a former Vatican ambassador to Washington accused the pope of rehabilitating the cardinal from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI despite being told of his penchant for young men.

Francis hasn’t responded to those claims but he ordered a limited Vatican investigation. The Vatican has acknowledged the outcome may produce evidence that mistakes were made and said Francis would "follow the path of truth, wherever it may lead."

Sexual abuse scandals have threatened to taint the legacy of past papacies, including that of John Paul II, who has since been made a saint.

The Rev. Marcial Maciel, a pedophile, enjoyed John Paul II’s admiration for his success in spurring vocations and for inspiring generous financial donations.

Maciel’s predatory crimes against children were ignored for decades by the Vatican bureaucracy.

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Frances D’Emilio is on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/fdemilio

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News National

France: Syrian suspect accused of crimes against humanity

French authorities have filed preliminary charges of complicity in crimes against humanity against a Syrian suspected of involvement in a bloody secret police crackdown on opposition activists.

A judicial official said Saturday the man is being held in custody pending further investigation, after being detained Tuesday near Paris as part of an international probe. The official was not authorized to be publicly named discussing an ongoing investigation.

Two other suspects were detained in Germany on Tuesday, also suspected of carrying out or aiding crimes against humanity.

Human rights groups hailed the arrests. They mark the first major breakthroughs of international investigators who are trying to track down individuals they think are responsible for atrocities committed on behalf of the Syrian government during the country’s eight-year civil war.

Source: Fox News World

8 miners rescued in Zimbabwe; others remained trapped

Eight artisanal miners who were trapped underground for several days after heavy flooding in Zimbabwe have been rescued, though some of their co-workers are still missing and feared dead.

Rescuers on Saturday pulled the exhausted, muddied survivors from the ground and took them to a tent for medical treatment. Relatives waiting at the scene ululated, cheered and hugged each other.

Dozens of gold miners were caught underground Tuesday on the outskirts of Kadoma, west of the Zimbabwean capital of Harare.

It is unclear how many miners remain trapped. The government has said a total of between 60 and 70 people were working underground at the time of the accident.

Source: Fox News World

Iran: Sabotage may be behind failed satellite launches

Iran’s foreign minister says sabotage by the U.S. is a possible reason for Tehran’s failed attempts to launch two satellites in recent months.

Mohammad Javad Zarif said Friday in an interview with NBC News in Munich, Germany, that it’s possible there is a U.S. sabotage campaign against Iranian satellite launches. He confirmed that Iran suffered two failed attempts to launch satellites over the past two months.

"It’s quite possible. We don’t know yet," he said. "We need to look into it very carefully."

Both attempts took place despite U.S. criticism that Iran’s space program helps the country develop ballistic missiles. Iran denies the charge.

In January, the country launched a satellite, but authorities said it failed to reach the "necessary speed" in the third stage of its launch.

Source: Fox News World

Nigerians wake to find a delayed election, with some angry

Nigerians have awakened to find the presidential election delayed a week from Saturday until Feb. 23 because of what the electoral commission has called unspecified "challenges." The country’s top two political parties condemn the last-minute postponement.

Some bitter voters in the capital, Abuja, and elsewhere who traveled home to cast their ballots say they cannot afford to wait another seven days.

A spokesman for top opposition challenger Atiku Abubakar in Delta state said the electoral commission "has destroyed the soul of Nigeria with this act."

Abubakar is expected to speak to reporters later Saturday from his home in the north.

One ruling party campaign director said it is better to give the electoral commission time to conduct a credible vote.

The commission is to give more details in the afternoon.

Source: Fox News World

Iran threatens retaliation over car bombing that killed 27

The head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard has threatened to retaliate against neighboring Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates over a suicide car bombing this week that killed 27 members of the elite organization.

Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari spoke late Friday at one of two funeral ceremonies for the victims of Wednesday’s attack in the central Iranian city of Isfahan. He claimed without providing evidence that the United States and Israel ordered Saudi Arabia and the Emirates to carry out the attack, which wounded 12.

"We definitely will retaliate," Jafari said in comments reported by the semi-official Tasnim news agency Saturday.

The bombing immediately raised the possibility of Iranian retaliation against the Jaish al-Adl Sunni militant group that claimed responsibility for the attack. It mainly operates near Iran-Pakistan border.

Source: Fox News World

AP Explains: What are India's options after Kashmir attack

With India’s national elections barely months away, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under heavy pressure from his supporters to punish nuclear-rival Pakistan for a suicide attack on an Indian paramilitary convoy that killed at least 41 soldiers in disputed Kashmir.

India placed the blame for Thursday’s bombing squarely on neighboring Pakistan, which India accuses of supporting rebels in Kashmir. Pakistan denies the charge. A look at some of the steps India is likely to consider:

DIPLOMATIC ISOLATION

India’s first public reaction to the attack was to withdraw the most-favored nation trade status given to Pakistan and take all possible diplomatic steps "to ensure the complete isolation from international community of Pakistan." New Delhi insists "incontrovertible evidence is available of (Pakistan) having a direct hand in this gruesome terrorist incident." The Greater Kashmir newspaper reported that a militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, headquartered in Pakistan, claimed responsibility. India’s foreign ministry on Friday briefed New Delhi-based diplomats of key countries, including China, which has in the past blocked India’s proposal to list Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a designated terrorist by the United Nations. The ministry demanded Pakistan take "immediate and verifiable action against terrorists and terror groups operating from territories under its control to create conducive atmosphere in the region free of terror."

MILITARY STRIKES

After a 2016 attack on an Indian army base that killed 19 soldiers, India’s army said it carried out a campaign of "surgical strikes" against militants across the highly militarized frontier that divides the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan. Pakistan dismissed the reports that India’s military had targeted "terrorist launch pads" inside the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir. Islamabad said instead that two of its soldiers were killed in "unprovoked" firing by India across the border. Following the latest attack — the worst in Kashmir’s history — Modi warned that those behind it would pay a heavy price and that security forces have been given a free hand to act against terror. The Times of India newspaper reported Saturday that the military options — short of two nuclear-armed rivals going to war — could range from "shallow ground-based attacks and occupation of some heights along the Line of Control (cease-fire line) to restricted but precision airstrikes against non-state targets in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir." G.Parthasarthy, India’s former high commissioner to Pakistan, said a possible military response can’t be discussed in public. "We have said that Pakistan will pay a price. For obvious reasons we are not going to spell out how that cost would be imposed." Paul Staniland, a political science professor and South Asia expert at the University of Chicago, said that the Pakistan army is assuming it will be attacked and that Indian forces are preparing for a serious incursion of some sort.

DOMESTIC PRESSURE

Indian analysts say no political party could afford to neglect public opinion ahead of Indian elections. Already, protesters chanted "Attack Pakistan" and fiery debates on television channels demanded retaliation. "’I think the situation is extremely tense. The mood in the country is extremely angry at what has happened. And moreover there are elections in the offing. No party could afford to neglect public opinion,’" said Amitabh Mattoo, professor of international studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. Staniland said the stakes were too high for India to do nothing at all. "Modi is in a tricky position. Indian forces are quite capable but it’s not obvious what kinds of strikes would accomplish the core goal. Kashmir and Pakistan are among the few foreign policy topics that have real electoral resonance." Elections are scheduled to be held before May.

US RESPONSE

The U.S. singled out Pakistan in a statement condemning the attack and said it strengthened U.S. resolve to bolster counterterrorism cooperation with India. To improve India’s military capabilities, the U.S. has offered to sell it unarmed Guardian surveillance drones, aircraft carrier technologies and F-18 and F-16 fighter aircraft. There are sticking points, however, including the purchase by India of Iranian oil and the Russian S-400 ground-to-air missile system, which could trigger U.S. sanctions on India.

THE HIMALAYAN PUZZLE

Indian-controlled Kashmir has remained a challenge for India’s policymakers ever since the Himalayan territory was split between India and Pakistan shortly after the two archrivals gained independence in 1947. The territory has been at the heart of India’s two wars out of four the country fought against Pakistan and China. Human rights groups say India has been responding to public protest with disproportionate force while treating the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination as Islamabad’s proxy war against New Delhi. New Delhi initially grappled with largely peaceful anti-India protests. However, a series of political blunders, broken promises and a crackdown on dissent led to Kashmir’s eruption into a full blown armed rebellion against India in 1989 for a united Kashmir, either under Pakistan rule or independent of both. The conflict has intensified since Modi came to power in 2014 amid rising attacks by Hindu hard-liners against minorities in India, further deepening frustration with New Delhi’s rule in the Muslim-majority Kashmir. Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharitya Janata Party-led government has toughened its stance both against Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists. Policy experts say such an approach is intended to project the party as strong and uncompromising. But Modi’s policies have also had the unintended consequence of strengthening the resolve of those fighting for an end to India’s rule in Kashmir.

VIEW FROM PAKISTAN

After Imran Khan took over as Pakistani prime minister last August, he promised to take two steps forward for India’s one step to forge friendly ties. He said Kashmir is at the core of their differences and they have to end the tit-for-tat accusations. But the peace initiative remained a non-starter with violence rising in the Indian portion of Kashmir and India asking Pakistan to stop supporting insurgents. Khan has now proposed to hold talks with India after the Indian elections. The former cricketer is very popular in India. He recently offered to open a Sikh religious shrine for Indian visitors on the Pakistani side of the border in Punjab province as a peace gesture. But in September, India pulled the plug on a rare meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of a U.N. summit — a move that was termed "arrogant" by Khan and unleashed a barrage of insults from both sides. India says it has not seen any constructive approach from Pakistan.

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Associated Press writer Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News World

2nd arrest in robbery that led to NYPD friendly fire death

Police arrested a man Friday suspected of being the lookout during a robbery that led to the friendly fire death of a New York City police detective, an official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press.

The man was taken into custody in Queens hours after NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill revealed on a radio show that police were looking for a second suspect in Tuesday night’s stick-up, the official said.

The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity. The suspect’s name wasn’t immediately available Friday night.

Detective Brian Simonsen was hit once in the chest by crossfire as he and six other officers fired 42 shots at robbery suspect Christopher Ransom, who police say charged at them from inside a T-Mobile store pointing a fake handgun.

Simonsen, 42, will be laid to rest next week.

Ransom, who was wounded eight times, was arraigned Friday by video from his hospital bed on murder, manslaughter and other charges.

A judge ordered him held without bail. His next court date is scheduled for Tuesday. Ransom faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

The Legal Aid Society, which represents Ransom, cautioned people not to "demonize" him.

"The loss of life and the serious injuries suffered by all are tragic," the an indigent defense organization said in a statement. "But we ask the public to respect Mr. Ransom’s right to due process and a presumption of innocence."

Ransom, 27, has a long rap sheet and a habit of bizarre stunts, styling himself on social media as a comedian and prankster in the vein of Sasha Baron Cohen of "Borat" fame.

Ransom has been arrested at least 11 times since 2012, records show, and he was wanted by police in connection with a Jan. 19 robbery at another cellphone store. After one arrest, court papers show, Ransom was taken to a psychiatric ward.

Ransom pleaded guilty to criminal trespass and was sentenced to 20 days in jail in 2016 after allegedly climbing over a gate and walking up to a desk at a Brooklyn police station while wearing a fake SWAT vest and police badge. Police records listed his alias as "Detective."

Four years earlier, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to jail time for pretending to be an intern to gain access to a judge’s chambers.

A funeral for Simonsen, a 19-year veteran of the NYPD, is scheduled for Wednesday in Hampton Bays on Long Island, with viewings on Monday and Tuesday.

Simonsen’s supervisor and partner, Sgt. Matthew Gorman, was wounded in the leg . He was discharged from the hospital on Thursday.

Simonsen, Gorman and six uniformed officers swarmed to the T-Mobile store at around 6:10 p.m. Tuesday after a 911 caller standing outside reported seeing a man take two employees to a back room at gunpoint, police said.

According to a criminal complaint, Ransom ordered the employees to remove iPhones and money from the cash registers and back room safes.

Simonsen and Gorman, who were both in plainclothes and not wearing bulletproof vests, were working on another case nearby when the call came and arrived around the same time as patrol officers, police said.

Gorman and two of the uniformed officers went into the store, but retreated when Ransom emerged from a back room and came at them, police said. The gunshots blew out the store’s doors, showering the sidewalk with glass.

Simonsen stayed outside as Gorman and the uniformed officers went in, police said. Simonsen fired two shots. Gorman fired 11 times. It’s not clear who fired the shots that struck them, police said.

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Follow Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak

Source: Fox News National

Illinois man being fired from job fatally shoots 5 workers

The man who opened fire and killed five co-workers including the plant manager, human resources manager and an intern working his first day at a suburban Chicago manufacturing warehouse, took a gun he wasn’t supposed to have to a job he was about to lose.

Right after learning Friday that he was being fired from his job of 15 years at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora, Gary Martin pulled out a gun and began shooting, killing the three people in the room with him and two others just outside and wounding a sixth employee, police said Saturday.

Martin shot and wounded five of the first officers to get to the scene, including one who didn’t even make it inside the sprawling warehouse in Aurora, Illinois, a city of 200,000 about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Chicago.

After that flurry of shots and with officers from throughout the region streaming in to help, he ran off and hid in the back of the building, where officers found him about an hour later and killed him during an exchange of gunfire, police said.

"He was probably waiting for us to get to him there," Aurora police Lt. Rick Robertson said. "It was just a very short gunfight and it was over, so he was basically in the back waiting for us and fired upon us and our officers fired."

Like in many of the country’s mass shootings, Friday’s attack was carried out by a man with a violent criminal history who was armed with a gun he wasn’t supposed to have.

Martin, 45, had six arrests over the years in Aurora, for what police Chief Kristen Ziman described as "traffic and domestic battery-related issues" and for violating an order of protection. He also had a 1995 felony conviction for aggravated assault in Mississippi that should have prevented him from buying his gun, Ziman said.

He was able to buy the Smith and Wesson .40-caliber handgun on March 11, 2014, because he was issued a firearm owner’s identification card two months earlier after passing an initial background check. It wasn’t until he applied for a concealed carry permit five days after buying the gun and went through a more rigorous background check using digital fingerprinting that his Mississippi conviction was flagged and his firearm owner’s ID car was revoked, Ziman said. Once his card was revoked, he could no longer legally have a gun.

"Absolutely, he was not supposed to be in possession of a firearm," she said.

But he was, and on Friday he took it and several magazines of ammunition to work.

Scott Hall, president and CEO of Mueller Water Products Inc., which owns Henry Pratt, said that Martin came to work for his normal shift Friday and was being fired when he started shooting.

"We can confirm that the individual was being terminated Friday for a culmination of a various workplace rules violations," he told a news conference Saturday. He gave no details of the violations by Martin at the plant that makes valves for industrial purposes.

A company background check of Martin when he joined Henry Pratt 15 years ago did not turn up a 1995 felony conviction for aggravated assault in Mississippi, Hall said.

The employee who survived being shot is recovering at a hospital, Ziman said Saturday. None of the officers who were shot received life-threatening wounds, she said.

Police identified the slain workers as human resources manager Clayton Parks of Elgin; plant manager Josh Pinkard of Oswego; mold operator Russell Beyer of Yorkville; stock room attendant and fork lift operator Vicente Juarez of Oswego; and human resources intern and Northern Illinois University student Trevor Wehner, who lived in DeKalb and grew up in Sheridan.

It was Wehner’s first day on the job, his uncle Jay Wehner told The Associated Press. Trevor Wehner, 21, was on the dean’s list at NIU’s business college and was on track to graduate in May with a degree in human resource management.

"He always, always was happy. I have no bad words for him. He was a wonderful person. You can’t say anything but nice things about him," Jay Wehner said of his nephew.

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Associated Press writers Carrie Antlfinger and Amanda Seitz contributed to this report. Babwin and Rousseau reported from Chicago.

Source: Fox News National

Flamengo soccer club fire in Brazil: bad luck or negligence?

Within hours of a fire at soccer club Flamengo’s training facility that would kill 10 teenage players, the club’s president called it "the worst tragedy" in the team’s 123-year history.

Soccer greats around the world expressed condolences, Rio de Janeiro’s mayor declared three days of mourning and the club, Brazil’s most popular and one of the most recognizable in Latin America, commemorated the boys during its latest home game on Thursday. Club officials repeatedly said the fire was simply a question of bad luck.

"It was not because of lack of attention and care from Flamengo. These boys are our biggest asset," said Flamengo’s CEO Reinaldo Belotti a day after the Feb. 8 blaze. "It was all a succession of events after a catastrophic day for Rio."

But for at least four years before the blaze, the club flouted city and code regulations at the training facility, incurred numerous fines and was the target of a lawsuit by state prosecutors related to the treatment of its academy players and their living quarters, an Associated Press review of city documents and a lawsuit has found. What’s more, a material used in the construction of the dorms, polyurethane, could have fueled the fast-moving blaze that engulfed the players, according to fire experts.

The findings raise questions about whether negligence by the team and a collective failure of authorities to regulate the training grounds ultimately played the largest roles in the tragedy.

"This is an irregular construction," city hall spokesman Tiago Costa told The Associated Press when asked about the container-like structures where 26 players were sleeping when fire struck.

Officials have not given an official cause for the blaze, though they have said they are investigating the possibility that an air conditioning unit caught fire after a power surge.

For years, the club had its academy players, teens between the ages of 14 and 16 identified as potential future professionals, sleeping in quarters that were never approved by the city. In fact, the area that burned was licensed as a parking lot, not a dormitory.

The most recent city license for the club, from April of last year, had no mention of sleeping quarters anywhere on the sprawling complex known as Ninho de Urubu in western Rio de Janeiro.

Since the dormitory didn’t officially exist, firefighting officials said they did not inspect or certify it.

The burned area "was not part of the security plan against fire or panic presented by the club and approved by the Fire Department," state firefighters said in a statement to the AP.

Bernardo Monteiro, a Flamengo spokesman, told the AP that the team had used the containers since 2010. He said there was one exit and the structures had fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, though could not say how many.

The existence of the containers was well known by authorities.

In March 2015, Rio state prosecutors filed a suit against the club demanding the closure of the training facility unless several irregularities were rectified.

Prosecutors demanded the club "address all the inherent peculiarities in the care of children and adolescents, from the pedagogical, social, psychological and medical all the way to the adequacy of accommodation facilities," read the suit.

The suit also called for the facility to be closed until there was "proof of compliance with the conditions imposed by the Fire Department, Civil Defense and City Hall," and any infraction to be met with a $27,000 fine.

Nearly four years later, no decision was made on the case — until Wednesday, five days after the deadly fire.

In a blistering ruling, Judge Pedro Henrique Alves said that Flamengo hadn’t just failed to address the demands in the suit, but also "didn’t even inform the court" of other changes it had made since the suit was filed.

Flamengo "used as lodging for adolescents containers that, unfortunately, caught fire, taking the lives of 10 (players) and injuring three others," he wrote, adding that children and adolescents were barred from entering the facility until further notice. Any infraction would result in a US$2.8 million fine.

The club was also frequently in the crosshairs of city officials: it was fined 31 times over the last few years for licensing violations, and in October 2017 the training facility was temporarily closed.

"If you are fined 30 times, you can’t keep postponing and get 20 more. Something has to be done," Arthur Antunes Coimbra, one of the club’s most famous players known as "Zico," told Globo’s SporTV this week.

Police have opened an investigation and say that criminal charges are possible.

Meanwhile, the company that made the dormitory, NHJ do Brasil, told the AP in a statement that its structures were made in accordance with the latest international standards. It also said the structure that burned was made of a metallic shell and lined on the inside with galvanized thermal acoustic panels that had a polyurethane core that was "self-extinguishing."

"In other words, the modules are made of metal and filled in with anti-inflammable material," said the company, which declined to answer whether the structures came with fire extinguishers, smoke detectors or air-conditioning units.

Polyurethane is an expanded plastic, or plastic injected with air, that is widely used in construction. While it can be treated with retardant, it can also burn very quickly if it catches fire from another source, three fire experts not involved in the investigation told the AP.

"Polyurethane foam used in this way is a cheap technology and dangerous from a fire protection perspective," said David Howitt, an emeritus professor at the University of California at Davis and expert in combustion. "These so-called ‘fire retardant’ foams are not retardants to the degree that the manufacturers suggest and are frequently grossly overstated."

Robert Solomon, a fire engineer with the Quincy, Massachusetts-based National Fire Protection Association, reviewed security camera video of the blaze and pictures of the aftermath. The images show drooping metallic roofs, mangled black panels and many objects so badly charred that they are indistinguishable.

Solomon said he found at least three red flags: only one exit, bars on some of the windows and an apparent lack of basic protective tools like smoke alarms. And the video footage appeared to show "flashover," when every combustible thing in an area is burning, he said. Flashover temperatures, upward of 1,900 Fahrenheit (1,037 Celsius), are so high that a person can become paralyzed, even if the flames are not touching them.

"At that point, it’s like being trapped in a prison with no way to escape," said Solomon.

After the fire, the Rio state prosecutor’s office formed a task force focused on financial compensation of the victims’ families. Many families whose children stay at academies are low income, and sometimes live far from the team.

Some family members and friends of victims have quietly questioned the safety measures the team had in place.

"There should have been an emergency door. There wasn’t," said Severino Fausto Santana, while attending the funeral of 15-year-old nephew Samuel Thomas de Souza Rosa. "That’s why the 10 (boys) died."

But for the most part, families have remained quiet, either declining to speak about Flamengo or lauded the club’s effort at a time of great grief.

"Flamengo is very useful and helping with everything," said Sergio Morikawa, who was not the biological father but was helping to raise 15-year-old Vitor Isaias, one of the kids who died. "I don’t want to judge, work myself up or blame anyone."

____

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Source: Fox News World

Saudi crown prince delays visit to Pakistan by a day

Pakistani officials say the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been delayed by a day.

Without giving any explanation for the delay, the Foreign Ministry says Prince Mohammad will now arrive in Islamabad on a two-day visit on Sunday and that his program remains unchanged.

The crown prince is expected to sign investment agreements worth billions of dollars. He will also travel to neighboring India amid heightened tension between Islamabad and New Delhi over this week’s attack on a paramilitary convoy in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 41 people.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed Pakistan for Thursday’s bombing.

Pakistan rejected the allegation and has lodged a protest over the Indian accusations.

Source: Fox News World

Border declaration protesters arrested at NYC Trump hotel

Some people have been arrested while protesting President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration outside a New York City hotel that bears his name.

The NYPD wasn’t immediately able to say how many people were taken into custody Friday night outside the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Manhattan.

Video shows protesters going peacefully with their hands zip-tied behind their backs as officers lead them to police vans. They’ll likely be charged with disorderly conduct and blocking traffic.

Trump declared a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday in a move to secure more money for his long-promised wall.

Protesters outside the Columbus Circle hotel held signs with slogans such as "Abolish I.C.E." and ‘Trump Is The Emergency."

Trump developed the 44-story hotel, but it is owned by other investors.

Source: Fox News National

Aurora workplace shooter was set to be fired by company, police chief says

The gunman in a deadly shooting spree at a manufacturing warehouse in Aurora, Ill., where five employees were killed and five officers were wounded Friday, was set to be fired by the company, Police Chief Kristen Ziman told reporters at a news conference Friday night.

The suspect, identified as Gary Martin, 45, of Aurora, used a handgun and had worked for the Henry Pratt Co. — one of the largest makers of industrial water valves — for 15 years, she said. He was killed at the scene. The attack lasted 90 minutes.

“We don’t whether he had the gun on him at the time or if he went to retrieve it,” Ziman said, adding that authorities were not sure if Martin planned the shooting. “We can only surmise with a gentleman who was being terminated that this was something he intended to do, I’m not sure.”

MOTIVE UNKNOWN IN FLORIDA BANK SHOOTING, GUNMAN NO CONNECTION TO VICTIMS: POLICE

It was not immediately known if the victims were the managers who were firing Martin. The company employs around 200 people, but authorities were not sure how many were in the 29,000-square-foot warehouse at the time of the shooting.

A woman claiming to be Martin’s mother told the Chicago Sun-Times her son was "stressed out" before the shooting.

“He was way too stressed out,” she said. She declined to tell the paper her name and did not specify why he was stressed. Court records show Martin had a conviction for stabbing a woman in Mississippi in 1994, according to the paper.

In a statement Friday night, Mueller Water Products  – the parent company of Henry Pratt – said it "is shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific tragedy that occurred today at our Henry Pratt Facility."

"Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones, the first responders, the Aurora community and the entire Mueller family during this extremely difficult time. Our entire focus in the health and wellbeing of our colleagues, and we are committed to providing any and all support to them and their families. We continue to work closely with law enforcement, with whom we share our deepest gratitude for their support," the statement continued.

Police conducted a search on Martin’s home, but no weapons were found inside, Ziman said.

Law enforcement officers gather outside the Henry Pratt Co. manufacturing plant Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Aurora, Ill. Police say a gunman killed several people and injured police officers before he was fatally shot. (Associated Press)

Law enforcement officers gather outside the Henry Pratt Co. manufacturing plant Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Aurora, Ill. Police say a gunman killed several people and injured police officers before he was fatally shot. (Associated Press)

Several calls of an active shooter were reported around 1:24 p.m. local time at the manufacturing warehouse and officers arrived roughly four minutes later "and were fired upon immediately," Ziman said.

"Two of the initial four officers entering the building were shot. Additional officers began to arrive and were also fired upon," she said. "A total of five officers were struck by gunfire."

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All of the officers were taken to nearby hospitals and two were later airlifted to trauma centers in the Chicago area, Ziman said, adding that "a sixth officer is being treated for a knee injury."

Five Aurora police officers suffered non-life-threatening injuries, Ziman said. One employee suffered a non-life threatening gunshot wound.

Multiple law enforcement agencies responded to the scene, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

John Probst, a Henry Pratt employee who escaped the building, told WLS-TV in Chicago that he saw a man holding a pistol with a laser sight. He said he recognized the shooter as a co-worker who was firing indiscriminately.

"One of the guys was up in the office, he said this person was shootin’, and, he come running down and he was bleeding pretty bad, and the next thing you know he was walking back and forth, I heard more shots, and we just left the building," he told the station.

Ziman did not know whether Martin was targeting specific employees or if his actions were part of a "classic workplace shooting."

"I hate that we have to use the term classic workplace shooting," she told reporters. "That pains me to do so."

Police were still working Friday to identify those killed.

Several public figures offered their thoughts on Friday’s attacks on Twitter. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said his "heart breaks for Aurora."

President Trump offered his condolences over Twitter as well: "Great job by law enforcement in Aurora, Illinois. Heartfelt condolences to all of the victims and their families. America is with you!"

The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police praised the actions of Aurora police in a statement Friday.

"Every police officer dreads days like this one, yet these four courageous Aurora officers and their colleagues did not hesitate to literally put their lives on the line today to stop further bloodshed. These four heroes willingly ran into harm’s way to protect their fellow citizens and very nearly paid the ultimate price. We Illinoisans should be humbly grateful for their sacrifice, and we ask that you join us in praying that the injured civilians and police officers make a full and speedy recovery."

Source: Fox News National

‘New evidence’ prompts release of two men questioned in Jussie Smollett case, Chicago PD says

Citing “new evidence,” the Chicago Police Department announced Friday night that two men held for questioning in connection with an alleged attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett have been released, with no charges filed against them.

The news came shortly after 10 p.m. ET in a Twitter message from Tom Ahern, deputy director of news affairs and communications for the police department.

“Due to new evidence as a result of today’s interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the #Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” Ahern wrote.

JUSSIE SMOLLETT SAYS HE’S ‘PISSED OFF’ AFTER ALLEGED ATTACK IN CHICAGO

No description of the evidence was disclosed.

The two men — whom police have identified only as Nigerian brothers — were picked up at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Wednesday and taken into custody after returning from Nigeria after police learned that at least one of the men worked on "Empire," according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. He said he did not know what the man’s job was on the television drama.

Guglielmi’s comments followed a furious 24 hours that included local media reports that the attack was a hoax. Police say those reports are unconfirmed. Producers of the television drama also disputed media reports that Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon, was being written off the show, calling the idea "patently ridiculous."

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Smollett, who is black and openly gay, told the Chicago Police Department that he was attacked by two men on Jan. 29 while walking home to his apartment. He alleged the men hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him, beat him and poured an "unknown chemical substance" on him.

Responding officers, according to a police report, found Smollett with a rope hanging from his neck. Chicago police told Fox News it was a “small white rope, like the type you’d buy in a hardware store.”

Fox News’ Matt Finn and Sasha Savitsky and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

Source: Fox News National

2020 Dems hit early voting states; Weld explores GOP bid

Several Democratic presidential candidates are spending the long holiday weekend on the campaign trail, while a Republican has announced he’s creating an exploratory committee for a possible 2020 run.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California are visiting early voting states on Friday that will be critical to securing the Democratic nomination next year.

Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, who ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 2016, said Friday that he was considering challenging President Donald Trump in a 2020 Republican primary.

A look at midterm campaign activities ahead of Presidents Day weekend:

___

GILLIBRAND

Gillibrand, in New Hampshire, participated in a walking tour of downtown Concord before visiting businesses in Dover and meeting members of the LGBT community in Somersworth.

On Friday, she called Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border "inappropriate" and said Trump manufactured a crisis to justify the move.

The only national emergency, she said, "is the humanitarian crisis that President Trump has created at our border from separating family from children and treating people who need our help inhumanely."

Gillibrand visited a coffee shop in downtown Concord before stopping to listen to a homeless man, Kevin Clark, play a song by Cat Stevens called "Father and Son." She praised his singing and gave him a hug before heading off to a consignment shop, where she bought a vase and a small plate.

Later Friday, Gillibrand spoke at Teatotaller, a cafe in Somersworth that refers to itself as an "oasis of queer, hipster, tea, coffee and pastry goodness."

She told the crowd that she would advocate for the rights of the LGBTQ community and called it "an outrage" for Trump to tell transgender people what bathrooms they can use or whether they are qualified to serve in the military. She said she would support the addition of a non-binary or third gender classification.

Gillibrand also spoke out in favor of the Green Neal Deal, a set of proposed programs that aim to address climate change.

___

HARRIS

Harris, who is campaigning in South Carolina, visited Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site of the 2015 shooting that killed nine African-American churchgoers.

Speaking to reporters after a lunchtime stop, Harris said she’d visited the church, known as Mother Emanuel, earlier Friday and called it a "very tragic symbol of failure of people, in particular in the United States Congress, to pass smart gun safety laws."

Mother Emanuel is one of the oldest black churches in the South. During her visit, Harris paid her respects and left flowers. The church has been a pillar of African-American and spiritual life in South Carolina.

At a town hall in North Charleston later Friday, the scoreboard overhead in the gymnasium was changed to reflect the date of South Carolina’s Democratic primary: Feb. 29, 2020. The crowd swelled, and some attendees climbed on top of folded bleachers for makeshift seating.

Harris talked about the bill that the Senate passed this week that would explicitly make lynching a federal crime. Harris, one of three black members of the Senate, introduced the bill with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Booker is also running for president.

Harris says lynchings are "a stain on America’s history."

While in South Carolina, she received an endorsement for president from California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said on MSNBC: "I think the American people could not do better" than Harris.

___

WELD

Weld, who is little-known on the national stage but well-respected among veterans in the GOP established, announced the creation of an exploratory committee for president on Friday.

The move makes Trump the first incumbent president since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992 to face a notable primary challenge.

Weld served as Massachusetts governor from 1991 to 1997 and was popular despite being a Republican in a heavily Democratic state. He held the line on spending and taxes but embraced liberal positions on abortion and gay rights.

Trump remains very popular with Republicans so he faces little risk of losing the GOP nomination.

But primary challenges often foreshadow trouble ahead for incumbent presidents. Bush and Democrat Jimmy Carter lost their bids for a second term after facing challenges from inside their own party.

Source: Fox News National

Explosive device found, disarmed in Mexican mall

Authorities on the outskirts of Mexico’s capital are investigating a homemade explosive device found in a shopping mall bathroom.

The Mexico state security secretary said in a statement Friday that the device discovered inside a mall in Tlalnepantla included a battery detonator and analog clock, as well as nuts and screws. It was housed in a small wooden box.

State police disarmed the device and turned it over to federal prosecutors.

Local press reported that the device was found inside a bathroom and was housed in a cigar box. Janitors allegedly found it about an hour before it was set to detonate.

Source: Fox News World

Trump Says Japan's PM Nominated Him for Nobel Peace Prize

President Donald Trump said Friday that Japan's prime minister had nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize for opening a dialogue with North Korea.

Trump also complained about President Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize and doubted he would be similarly honored.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe "gave me the most beautiful copy of a letter that he sent to the people who give out a thing called the Nobel Prize," Trump said at a White House news conference when asked about his late February summit in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "He said, 'I have nominated you, respectfully, on behalf of Japan. I am asking them to give you the Nobel Peace Prize.'"

The Associated Press could not immediately confirm Trump's claim.

Japan's Foreign Ministry said Saturday that it was aware of Trump's remark but cannot comment on details of the exchanges between Trump and Abe.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who also has credited Trump with starting negotiations with the reclusive North, has endorsed the U.S. leader for the Nobel Peace Prize as well.

Trump said early exchanges with Kim were filled with "fire and fury," but that the two have established a good relationship since their first meeting last year in Singapore. He said claimed Abe nominated him because he was worried about North Korea conducting missile tests over Japan.

Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, his first year in office, for laying out the U.S. commitment to "seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."

Trump complained Friday that Obama was there "for about 15 seconds" before he was awarded the prize.

"I'll probably never get it, but that's OK," Trump said. "They gave it to Obama. He didn't even know what he got it for."

Source: NewsMax Politics

Mueller claims to have evidence Roger Stone communicated with WikiLeaks

Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday claimed in a new court filing that prosecutors have evidence that former Trump adviser Roger Stone communicated with WikiLeaks, the organization that released hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign.

Stone – who was indicted last month on charges of obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering – denied to Fox News that evidence of such communications exists.

JUDGE IMPOSES PARTIAL GAG ORDER IN ROGER STONE CASE

“There is no such evidence,” Stone said in a text message.

In a Friday motion, Mueller’s team said that “search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone’s communications” with an organization widely believed to be WikiLeaks.

Last month’s indictment does not charge Stone with conspiring with WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website that published the emails, or with the Russian officers Mueller says hacked them. Instead, it accuses him of witness tampering, obstruction and false statements about his interactions related to WikiLeaks’ release.

The indictment says Stone spoke to Trump campaign officials during the summer of 2016 about WikiLeaks and information the organization had that might be damaging to the Clinton campaign. It also says Stone was contacted by “senior Trump campaign officials” to inquire about future WikiLeaks releases of hacked Democratic emails.

ROGER STONE VOWS TO FIGHT CHARGES IN MUELLER PROBE, CALLS INDICTMENT ‘POLITICALLY MOTIVATED’

Stone has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Earlier Friday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the federal court for the District of Columbia instituted a partial gag order, ordering that Stone “refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.”

Jackson further ordered that any participants in the case, including witnesses and counsel, “refrain” from making any statements to the media or public when they are near the courthouse that could “influence any juror, potential juror, judge, witness or court officer or interfere with the administration of justice.”

Fox News’ Eben Brown, Brooke Singman and Bill Mears and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Graham: US should be stronger on Canadians detained in China

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham says the response by the United States to China detaining two Canadians in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a Chinese Huawei executive has not been strong enough.

Graham also told Munich Security Conference delegates Friday the international reaction to China’s arrest of ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor hasn’t been enough to persuade China that its apparent use of hostage diplomacy won’t be tolerated.

Graham says President Donald Trump "has been tough on China but this is one area where I think we need to make a more definitive statement, because the two people arrested in China had nothing to do with the rule of law. It was just grabbing two Canadians."

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland mouthed the words "thank you" to Graham.

Source: Fox News World

Graham: US should be stronger on Canadians detained in China

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham says the response by the United States to China detaining two Canadians in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a Chinese Huawei executive has not been strong enough.

Graham also told Munich Security Conference delegates Friday the international reaction to China’s arrest of ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor hasn’t been enough to persuade China that its apparent use of hostage diplomacy won’t be tolerated.

Graham says President Donald Trump "has been tough on China but this is one area where I think we need to make a more definitive statement, because the two people arrested in China had nothing to do with the rule of law. It was just grabbing two Canadians."

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland mouthed the words "thank you" to Graham.

Source: Fox News World

Kentucky House passes bill banning abortions if Roe v. Wade overturned

Lawmakers in Kentucky’s House of Representatives on Friday overwhelmingly passed a bill that would ban most abortions in the state – if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

The bill passed 69-20 in the House, and now heads to the state’s Senate. It would ban abortions except for cases when it is necessary to save the life of the mother.

The legislation would take effect if Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion across the country, is reversed and states have the authority to outlaw abortion.

Lawmakers staked out their views on abortion during the emotionally charged debate.

"Not one of us, man or woman, has the moral authority to take the life of an unborn," said Republican Rep. James Tipton. "There is no other medical procedure that I know of that the goal is to intentionally take the life of an unborn child."

OUTRAGE AS VIDEO SHOWS VIRGINIA ABORTION BILL SPONSOR SAYING PLAN WOULD ALLOW TERMINATION UP UNTIL BIRTH

Democratic Rep. Mary Lou Marzian said if the bill were to take effect, it would amount to government intrusion into the private medical decisions of women.

"It’s none of our business," she said. "If you want to go have a colonoscopy, should we get ourselves involved in that? If you want to take Viagra, should we get ourselves involved in that?"

Kentucky is among states enacting strict abortion laws in hopes of triggering a legal challenge to the high court. Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota have similar laws on the books triggering abortion bans if the Roe v. Wade decision is struck down.

Anti-abortion legislators and activists around the country believe President Trump has strengthened the push to topple the Roe v. Wade ruling with his appointments of conservatives Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, liberal states, including New Mexico, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington, have been making efforts to pass bills that loosen restrictions on abortion.

VIRGINIA GOV. NORTHAM FACES BACKLASH FOR COMMENTS ON 3RD-TRIMESTER ABORTION BILL

Controversy has erupted in Virginia, where the Democratic sponsor of a Virginia abortion proposal acknowledged it could allow women to terminate a pregnancy up until the moment before birth, for reasons including mental health.

Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam came under after he waded into the fight, with critics saying Northam indicated a child could be killed after birth.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Maduro alleges secret meetings with U.S. special envoy, invites him to Venezuela

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 6:31 AM PT — Friday, February 15, 2019

Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is inviting a U.S. special envoy to the country, following alleged “secret talks” with the U.S.

During an interview Thursday, Maduro claimed US. Special Envoy Elliott Abrams privately met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza in two separate meetings. He went on to allege the U.S. threatened military action and severe sanctions during the talks, however, his claims have not been confirmed.

Maduro said he would gladly meet with Abrams, and even said he hopes to meet with President Trump in the near future to discuss America’s recognition of Juan Guiado as Venezuela’s leader.

“I can tell you that we have had two meetings already with Mr. Elliott Abrams in New York, our Chancellor has met twice with Elliott Abrams — the first meeting lasted two hours, the second three hours, a few days ago,” claimed Maduro. “I invited Elliott Abrams to come to Venezuela in private, in public, in secret or if he wants to meet, let him say when, how, where, and I will be there.”

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

The embattled Venezuelan president continued by reaffirming he would not step down from power despite increasing pressure from across the globe.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Juan Guaido has said humanitarian aid will enter the country despite Maduro’s efforts to block it. At a rally this week, Guaido”said he will organize relief so supplies can be brought into the country next week.

Truck loads full of food and medicine arrived last week, but Maduro has continued to resist foreign efforts to help the country’s people who are suffering from rising hunger. More than two million people have fled Venezuela over the past two years due to soaring hyperinflation and severe food and medical shortages.

“Because the humanitarian crisis, the humanitarian aid…it’s not a box, it’s not a blister. It is a mother in Anzoategui who lost her baby boy to dehydration. It is a grandfather who can’t get his medicine. It is a mother who doesn’t have anything to give her son for lunch, and we say enough already, enough already.”

— Juan Guaido, self-proclaimed interim President – Venezuela

Venezuelans living in Colombia protest the government of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, and its blocking the entry of humanitarian aid in Cucuta, Colombia, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, on the border with Venezuela. The sign reads in Spanish “Urgent. The entry of humanitarian help is needed now. There are Venezuelans at risk of dying.” (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

Source: OANN Top News

Trump Org Scraps Plans for 2 Hotel Chains, Blaming Politics

President Donald Trump's company is scrapping plans for two new hotel chains announced two years ago, casting blame in part on a hostile political environment.

The Trump Organization said Thursday that it will no longer try to open hotels under its Scion and American Idea brands catering to budget and mid-priced travelers, a departure from its focus on luxury hotels. The announcement comes as the company has posted losses at a few of its golf properties and brand experts say it has lost some of its appeal.

"We live in a climate where everything will be used against us, whether by the fake news or by Democrats who are only interested in presidential harassment and wasting everyone's time, barraging us with nonsense letters," the president's son, Eric Trump, said in an emailed statement. "We already have the greatest properties in the world and if we have to slow down our growth for the time being, we are happy to do it."

The rollout began with promises of fast success. The company said in March 2017 that nearly two dozen developers had already signed letters of intent to open mid-priced Scion hotels, and was enthusiastic about the future prospects.

"It's full steam ahead," said Eric Danziger, who oversees the hotel business for the family. "It's in our DNA."

But the avalanche of deals never materialized, as was the case for its budget-priced American Idea, which was launched a few months later at a party at the Trump Tower in New York.

The only developer willing to strike a deal was Chawla Hotels of Mississippi. It planned to open as many as four hotels in the state — but now that is off, too.

"In today's politically charged environment," hotel consultant Lee Hunter told The Associated Press recently, "everyone is cautious."

The company is also struggling with some self-imposed restraints on expanding its business.

When Trump became president, he handed day-to-day control of the company to Eric and his other adult son, Donald Jr. He also agreed his company would not pursue new deals abroad and that domestic deals would be vetted by a lawyer hired to make sure they posed no conflicts with Trump's presidency.

"We walked away from billions of dollars' worth of deals and ceased virtually all expansion," said Eric Trump in his statement. "We continue to make tremendous sacrifices and understand the bigger picture more than anyone — our father has the most important and powerful job in the world."

The Trump Organization did not dismiss the possibility that it could revive the new brands someday, perhaps when Trump leaves the presidency.

The end of the rollout follows bad news for the company in other areas.

Charities have canceled events at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, his Scottish clubs lose millions of dollars each year and several buildings have stripped the Trump names off their facades.

The Trump Organization owns or has licensed its name to 17 golf clubs and more than two dozen hotels and residential buildings around the world.

The Trump Organization has also drawn scrutiny in federal probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Michael Cohen's campaign finance violations. More recently, it is facing blowback from Democrats in Congress for firing long-time workers at several of its U.S. golf clubs for being in the country illegally, raising doubts about its hiring practices amid the president's vow to crack down on such workers and build a wall to keep more from coming in.

The company has said it had no choice but to fire workers once it discovered they were in the country illegally.

Source: NewsMax America

Trump Org Scraps Plans for 2 Hotel Chains, Blaming Politics

President Donald Trump's company is scrapping plans for two new hotel chains announced two years ago, casting blame in part on a hostile political environment.

The Trump Organization said Thursday that it will no longer try to open hotels under its Scion and American Idea brands catering to budget and mid-priced travelers, a departure from its focus on luxury hotels. The announcement comes as the company has posted losses at a few of its golf properties and brand experts say it has lost some of its appeal.

"We live in a climate where everything will be used against us, whether by the fake news or by Democrats who are only interested in presidential harassment and wasting everyone's time, barraging us with nonsense letters," the president's son, Eric Trump, said in an emailed statement. "We already have the greatest properties in the world and if we have to slow down our growth for the time being, we are happy to do it."

The rollout began with promises of fast success. The company said in March 2017 that nearly two dozen developers had already signed letters of intent to open mid-priced Scion hotels, and was enthusiastic about the future prospects.

"It's full steam ahead," said Eric Danziger, who oversees the hotel business for the family. "It's in our DNA."

But the avalanche of deals never materialized, as was the case for its budget-priced American Idea, which was launched a few months later at a party at the Trump Tower in New York.

The only developer willing to strike a deal was Chawla Hotels of Mississippi. It planned to open as many as four hotels in the state — but now that is off, too.

"In today's politically charged environment," hotel consultant Lee Hunter told The Associated Press recently, "everyone is cautious."

The company is also struggling with some self-imposed restraints on expanding its business.

When Trump became president, he handed day-to-day control of the company to Eric and his other adult son, Donald Jr. He also agreed his company would not pursue new deals abroad and that domestic deals would be vetted by a lawyer hired to make sure they posed no conflicts with Trump's presidency.

"We walked away from billions of dollars' worth of deals and ceased virtually all expansion," said Eric Trump in his statement. "We continue to make tremendous sacrifices and understand the bigger picture more than anyone — our father has the most important and powerful job in the world."

The Trump Organization did not dismiss the possibility that it could revive the new brands someday, perhaps when Trump leaves the presidency.

The end of the rollout follows bad news for the company in other areas.

Charities have canceled events at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, his Scottish clubs lose millions of dollars each year and several buildings have stripped the Trump names off their facades.

The Trump Organization owns or has licensed its name to 17 golf clubs and more than two dozen hotels and residential buildings around the world.

The Trump Organization has also drawn scrutiny in federal probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Michael Cohen's campaign finance violations. More recently, it is facing blowback from Democrats in Congress for firing long-time workers at several of its U.S. golf clubs for being in the country illegally, raising doubts about its hiring practices amid the president's vow to crack down on such workers and build a wall to keep more from coming in.

The company has said it had no choice but to fire workers once it discovered they were in the country illegally.

Source: NewsMax America


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