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President Vladimir Putin hosts dozens of African leaders next week as Russia seeks to reassert its influence on the continent and beyond. The heads of some 35 African countries are expected for the first Africa-Russia Summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi next Wednesday and Thursday. For Putin, the summit is a chance to revive Soviet-era relationships and build new alliances, bolstering Moscow's global clout in the face of confrontation with the West.
A woman who went public with claims she was a teenage victim of Jeffrey Epstein's sex trafficking ring can move toward trial with her defamation lawsuit against Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a judge ruled Wednesday as she disqualified a law firm from representing her. U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska rejected Dershowitz's effort to toss out the lawsuit, but she granted his request to disqualify Boies Schiller Flexner LLP from the case. Dershowitz had sought to toss out the case on several grounds, including that the statute of limitations had passed.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/GettyPresident Donald Trump invited Democratic Party leaders to the White House on Wednesday and proceeded to have what those leaders described as a “meltdown” in front of them. Before the lawmakers left early, Trump managed to rail against communists, his own former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and House speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom he called “a third-rate politician,” according to the Democratic leaders and sources’ descriptions of the meeting.Shortly after the brief, cross-partisan meeting with the president in the Cabinet Room—which was convened to discuss Syria and Turkey-related matters—Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) emerged to give a readout to reporters on what was, in Schumer’s words, Trump’s “nasty diatribe.”“What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown—sad to say,” Pelosi told reporters. “I think that vote, the size of the vote—more than 2-to-1 of the Republicans voted to oppose what the president did [on troops in Syria]—it probably got to the president, because he was shaken up by it [and] that’s why we couldn’t continue in the meeting because he was just not relating to the reality of it.”Schumer asserted that Pelosi “kept her cool completely” even while Trump sniped that “there are communists involved [in Syria] and you guys might like that.”The president even took a shot at his former defense secretary—who quit late last year over policy disagreements—when the conversation on Wednesday afternoon touched on foreign policy and a potential rejuvenation of ISIS fighters in Syria. According to a Democratic source familiar with what happened in that meeting, Schumer at one point pulled out a piece of paper featuring quotes from Mattis’ interview on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. The Democratic leader began reading to the president the statement that Mattis made on that Sunday show, that “if we don't keep the pressure on, then ISIS will resurge. It's absolutely a given that they will come back.”Trump, this source said, then interrupted Schumer, and insisted that Mattis was “the world’s most overrated general.”“You know why?” the president continued, according to the source. “He wasn’t tough enough. I captured ISIS. Mattis said it would take two years. I captured them in one month.” Trump also repeatedly claimed that of the ISIS prisoners who escaped when Turkish forces invaded northeast Syria (an invasion Trump all but greenlit), only the “least dangerous” individuals got out.Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, asked to confirm the president’s assertion that those ISIS prisoners who escape were the “least dangerous,” told Schumer he didn’t know, according to the source. At one point, Trump is said to have claimed that “someone wanted this meeting so I agreed to it,” despite the White House having called the meeting.Pelosi, for her part, told Trump that Russia has long wanted a “foothold in the Middle East,” adding that because of the president’s actions, the Russian government now has it. “All roads with you lead to Putin,” the House speaker jabbed, according to one senior Democratic aide.“I hate ISIS more than you do,” Trump shot back at Pelosi, this aide noted, with Pelosi replying, “You don't know that.”Later in the day, Pelosi, in the escalating round of insults hurled between the West Wing and Capitol Hill, told reporters, “I think now we have to pray for [Trump’s] health. Because this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president.”There was even a point in this meeting, the Democratic aide said, that President Trump distributed to attendees the October 9 letter he sent to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the one that read, “You don't want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don't want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy—and I will.” Trump’s letter also includes the lines, “Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool! I will call you later.”This was taken as an attempt by the president to demonstrate to all the Republicans and Democrats in the room that he was being sufficiently tough on Erdoğan, and as an effort to convince those present that he did not greenlight the Turkish invasion, which is currently causing political backlash at home, and slaughter and mayhem abroad.The president’s aides, meanwhile, sought to place the blame for the derailed meeting on the Democratic leaders’ decision to walk out over Trump’s “nasty” words directed at Pelosi.“Her decision to walk out was baffling, but not surprising,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham emailed The Daily Beast shortly after the Democrats’ comments to White House press. “Speaker Pelosi had no intention of listening or contributing to an important meeting on national security issues. While Democratic leadership chose to storm out and get in front of the cameras to whine, everyone else in the meeting chose to stay in the room and work on behalf of this country.”Trump later tweeted a flurry of photos from the meeting that he claimed showed the Democrats had tanked the meeting, including one in which he accused Pelosi of having an “unhinged meltdown.” This wouldn’t be the first time this year that a meeting at the White House involving Trump, Pelosi, and Schumer completely degenerated so quickly. Early this year, during a Friday meeting on the government shutdown, President Trump started the gathering by launching a 15-minute, profanity-encrusted rant that included him demanding his border wall, and, unprompted, complaining about Democratic lawmakers who want to impeach him. At the time, Trump told attendees that he was, simply put, too popular a president to impeach.Today, Trump and his administration are currently fighting back against an ongoing, rapidly accelerating impeachment inquiry, with Democrats on Capitol Hill hoping to hold a vote on his impeachment before the end of the year. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get 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.
The shaking of the sea floor during hurricanes and nor'easters can rumble like a magnitude 3.5 earthquake and can last for days, according to a study in this week's journal Geophysical Research Letters. A stormquake is more an oddity than something that can hurt you, because no one is standing on the sea floor during a hurricane, said Wenyuan Fan, a Florida State University seismologist who was the study's lead author. "This is the last thing you need to worry about," Fan told The Associated Press.
Senate Republicans are preparing for a speedy impeachment trial that concludes before the end of the year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell surmised that the Senate could deal with the trial by Christmas, concluding the impeachment proceedings before the Democratic presidential primaries begin.
Romania's former anti-graft chief Laura Codruta Kovesi has been confirmed as the European Union’s first top fraud prosecutor, the European Parliament announced on Wednesday in an appointment that comes despite opposition from Bucharest. Kovesi can now head the new European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO)for a seven-year term after a majority of EU member states, including the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, backed her nomination in September.
In a story Oct. 15 about the resignations of organizers of a popular Iowa bike ride, The Associated Press reported that Gannett, the Des Moines Register's parent company, didn't immediately respond to inquiries. IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Organizers of the popular summer bike ride across Iowa are cutting ties with its longtime sponsor, the Des Moines Register, amid backlash over the newspaper's handling of a story.
U.S. Supreme Court justices on Wednesday questioned whether a lower court sufficiently considered that a man convicted in the deadly 2002 "D.C. Sniper" shooting spree in the Washington area was a minor at the time of the crimes when he was sentenced to life in prison. The nine justices heard arguments in an appeal by the state of Virginia objecting to the lower court's decision ordering that Lee Boyd Malvo's sentence of life in prison without parole be thrown out. The most likely contender based on questions he asked during the argument would be Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
A British teenager who says she was gang raped by Israeli tourists in a beach resort in Cyprus told a court today that she was forced to sign a retraction by Cypriot police after they wrote it for her. During a three-hour cross-examination, the 19-year-old said the statement was in such broken English that “there is not one sentence that an English person would write. It does not make grammatical sense.” “It isn’t in proper English, it’s in Greek English. I'm a very well-educated person, I got into university with an unconditional offer so there’s no way I would write something like this. Marios (the investigating police officer) wanted me to write that I had made it all up." The teenager repeatedly offered to read out to the court the bad spelling and poor grammar that she said was in the retraction statement, but the judge presiding over the case refused to let her. The young woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claimed in July that she was raped by up to a dozen Israeli men in a hotel room in the party resort of Ayia Napa, which draws tens of thousands of holidaymakers each summer. Ten days later she signed a retraction, which her legal team insist was made under duress after she was questioned by Cypriot police for eight hours without a lawyer. But she is on trial for “causing public mischief” by allegedly fabricating the gang rape claim, with the Israeli men threatening to sue her if she is convicted. The British teenager being led into the court in Paralimni, Cyprus Credit: AFP She told the court in Paralimni, a town a few miles from Ayia Napa, that police had promised her that she would be released and allowed to return to the UK if she signed the retraction. “The officer said he had spoken to the Israelis and he had agreed that they would go home and I would go home and that would be the end of it.” But instead of being set free she found herself being arrested and taken to a prison in Nicosia, the island’s capital, where she spent more than a month in a cell with other women before being bailed. Shortly after signing the statement on July 27, she had a panic attack in the police station, brought on by the PTSD that psychologists say she is suffering from as a result of the alleged gang rape. “I was really, really stressed and I was crying. I was in a state. I was 18 years old and I was suffering from PTSD. I was trapped in there. They made me sign things I didn’t understand,” she said. She accused one of the investigating officers, Detective Sergeant Marios Christou, of shouting at her and intimidating her. Ayia Napa and surrounding resorts are hugely popular with young holidaymakers from Britain, Europe and Israel Credit: AFP “He was not going by the law. Immediately I assumed corruption and conspiracy. I would not have put it past him at that moment to have kidnapped me or something. I can 100 per cent say that I was terrified for my life when I was in that police station.” The young woman, who had come to Cyprus on a working holiday, broke down in tears after the prosecutor, Adamos Demosthenous, accused her of lying to her mother on the night she signed the retraction when she sent a message saying “calm down, I’m OK,” even though she was in deep distress. The teenager said she had simply tried to avoid alarming her mother, a single parent. “I said I was OK even though I wasn’t just so she would not freak out,” the British woman told judge Michalis Papathanasiou. “If your child had just been raped by 12 Israelis and can’t get out of bed in the morning and had a throat so swollen she could hardly breathe and was taken to a police station for eight hours after saying she would only be gone for half an hour, I can tell you, you would be worried about your child.” The court heard from a British friend of the teenager, who said that on the night of the retraction she received “very alarming” text messages from the alleged rape victim. “She’s been arrested and they’ve got her to change her statement so it looks like she lied,” the woman, a psychology graduate from Yorkshire, told a mutual friend. The friend said police had also altered a statement that she gave them. “(An officer) wrote something in the statement that I didn’t say. It was in reference to how much we had been drinking.” The 19-year-old faces up to a year in prison if convicted. The Israelis all returned home after being released from custody. The trial was adjourned until Thursday, when the judge will decide whether to hear video evidence from a British psychologist who is currently in Ireland and who diagnosed the teenager with PTSD.
Two non-Kashmiris were shot dead by suspected militants and three alleged rebels were killed by security forces, police said Wednesday, the deadliest day in the Indian-administered Kashmir valley since New Delhi revoked its autonomy. Ahead of the autonomy decision, the head of Kashmir's largest militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, Riyaz Naikoo, had warned that Indians in the territory would become legitimate targets if the valley's status were changed. In a separate shooting earlier Wednesday, suspected militants killed a migrant labourer in the southern Rohmo village of Pulwama district, police said.
House Republicans took steps on Wednesday to force a floor vote on a measure formally condemning Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who is leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, filed the censure resolution as “privileged,” meaning the House now has to act within the next two legislative days. While Democrats will likely just move to table the symbolic measure, it represents the GOP’s most aggressive offensive yet as the party tries to coalesce around a strategy to beat back Democratic impeachment efforts.
* Russian foreign ministry says trio ‘obviously got lost’ * August explosion caused radiation levels to surgeA Russian navy official works on the Akula nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine at the Severodvinsk site in July. The August explosion there killed at least five people. Photograph: Sergei Bobylev/TassThree American diplomats were briefly detained in Russia near the military test site where a mysterious explosion released radiation in August, several Russia state news agencies have reported.The US embassy has confirmed the incident, the Interfax news service reported, but said the three diplomats had filed the proper paperwork to travel in the area.The Russian foreign ministry said the diplomats had named a different city as their destination and had “obviously got lost”.The report comes just days after the United States said the accident was caused by a nuclear reaction when Russia tried to retrieve a nuclear-powered cruise missile from the Barents Sea.The diplomats were detained on Monday on a train in the city of Severodvinsk, near where Russian authorities said they had been testing a rocket engine with a nuclear component before the accident took place.The diplomats, who have been identified by Interfax as military attaches, were later released, but could face administrative charges for traveling in a restricted military area, agencies reported.In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry confirmed that the diplomats were on an official trip and had informed the Russian defence ministry of their plans.“Only, they said their intention was to visit Arkhangelsk and they ended up en route to Severodvinsk,” the ministry said.“They obviously got lost. We are ready to give the US embassy a map of Russia,” the ministry added.The blast at the military test site in August killed at least five people and caused panic after radiation levels jumped to 16 times their normal levels in nearby Severodvinsk.Russian authorities have given little information about the accident. But a US diplomat this week said that the accident took place when Russia attempted to retrieve a nuclear-powered cruise missile called Burevestnik from the Barents Sea.“The United States has determined that the explosion near Nyonoksa was the result of a nuclear reaction that occurred during the recovery of a Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile,” Thomas DiNanno, the diplomat, said during a speech at the UN.Russia’s plans for a nuclear-powered cruise missile that could in theory fly indefinitely were first revealed by Vladimir Putin during a speech last year. The missile is still undergoing testing, and some weapons experts doubt if it can ever be made operable.Russia’s military was attempting to retrieve the missile from another failed 2017 test when the accident took place.It was not immediately clear whether the diplomats were traveling to or from Nyonoksa, the village near the military testing site, when they were detained. But train timetables would indicate they were returning from the village when they were arrested close to 6pm in Severodvinsk.Russia has maintained a shroud of secrecy around the incident, closing off waters in the White Sea to foreign ships to prevent them from collecting information about the explosion.
REUTERSJoe Biden’s presidential campaign is bleeding cash. And a big reason why appears to be an antiquated, higher-end approach to electoral politics that the former vice president has adopted. Biden’s team spent more than $923,000 on private jets during the third quarter of 2019, according to recently filed Federal Election Commission data. The expenses, all made to the company EJCR, LLC Dba Advanced Aviation Team, represented a major chunk of change—accounting for roughly one out of every 16 dollars the campaign raised. It’s not uncommon for candidates to lean on private jets as they crisscross the country in an effort to keep a schedule packed with speeches, rallies, and debates. But a review of Biden’s expenditures suggest that a good deal of what he’s spending money on currently involve efforts to simply raise more money. The former vice president spent more than $230,000 on “fundraising consultants” during Q3; nearly $500,000 on direct mail; and major chunks of change on high-end hotels in cities that serve as donor hubs but aren’t centrally located in early-voting states. During the third quarter period, the Biden campaign spent more than $20,000 at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City; more than $14,000 at the Coronado Island Marriott in San Diego; more than $4,400 at the Hotel Jerome Auberge in Aspen; more than $10,500 at the W Hotel in Los Angeles, and more than $3,000 at the Sun Valley Resort in Sun Valley, Idaho. While the campaign’s major expenses involved traditional campaign functions like payroll (which was nearly $9 million), office rentals, and digital advertising, the campaign also spent heavily on consultants—including several big-named aides. During Q3, the Biden campaign spent $228,378 on research consultants and $150,400 on “strategic consultants.” The firm Anzalone Liszt Grove Research Inc., run by longtime Biden pollster John Anzalone, received more than $122,000 for polling. And two well-known Biden advisers, Bruce Reed and Anthony Blinken, received $35,000 and $10,500 respectively for “policy consulting.” Asked what type of policy work he was doing, Reed told The Daily Beast only: “Domestic.” Collectively, the expenditures have taken a toll on the Biden campaign’s bottom line and raised questions about its long-term viability. Overall, Biden currently has less than $9 million cash on-hand after taking in roughly $15.7 million during Q3 and spending $17.6 million during that same period.Asked for comment, a Biden aide noted that some of the cost of the private jet travel was for carbon offsets. As for the broader financial picture, Biden, standing outside of the IBEW Electrical Trade Center in Columbus, Ohio, told reporters that he was not worried about his campaign’s financial situation. “We are doing fine. Fundraising is building, we’ve raised a lot of money online, and we’ve raised money offline as well. So we feel confident we're going to be ready,” said Biden.But Democrats who have worked on past campaigns that bled cash recognize some similarities. “When you are a candidate running for president, the other thing to keep in mind is, it is a difficult and rigorous schedule, and to the extent there are creature comforts that people have, they are going to do whatever they can to make the person comfortable,” said Phil Singer, who worked as a press hand for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, which also ended up in difficult financial straits. “But it is something they will have to solve fairly soon. Money, after all, doesn’t grow on trees.”—With additional reporting from Jackie Kucinich.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.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) deleted from her Twitter and YouTube accounts a now-infamous video announcing the results of her DNA test on Wednesday, one year after its initial unveiling was met with heavy bipartisan criticism.A story titled “Happy Anniversary to Elizabeth Warren’s DNA Test!” by Jim Treacher, a columnist at PJ Media, revisited the reveal by Warren on Tuesday, a year to the day after the initial video was posted. Treacher then later went to look for the tweet, but found it deleted.“My family (including Fox News-watchers) sat together and talked about what they think of @realDonaldTrump’s attacks on our heritage. And yes, a famous geneticist analyzed my DNA and concluded that it contains Native American ancestry,” the text of the tweet read.The test, which was analyzed by Stanford professor Carlos D. Bustamante, found Warren to be between 1/64th and 1/1024th Native American and prompted further criticism from President Trump, who began calling Warren “Pocahontas” during the 2016 campaign.Following Warren’s announcement, Trump mocked the Massachusetts Senator after the Cherokee Nation criticized Warren’s use of the test as "making a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven.”“Now Cherokee Nation denies her, “DNA test is useless.” Even they don’t want her. Phony!” Trump tweeted.Though Warren had initially said in March 2018 that she would not undergo a DNA test, she responded to criticism in the aftermath by saying “I believe one way that we try to rebuild confidence [in government] is through transparency.”In February, Warren apologized to Bill John Baker, the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, for her public advertising of the test. “The chief and secretary of state appreciate that she has reaffirmed that she is not a Cherokee Nation citizen or a citizen of any tribal nation,” Cherokee Nation spokeswoman Julie Hubbard said in the aftermath.
The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday indicted Turkey's second-largest bank on charges of fraud and money laundering, accusing it of helping Iran evade sanctions implemented to curb its nuclear program.Halbank was reportedly involved in the largest Iran sanctions violation to date, sending billions of dollars in gold and cash to Iran in exchange for oil and gas."This is one of the most serious Iran sanctions violations we have seen, and no business should profit from evading our laws or risking our national security," Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in a statement released by the Justice Department. The statement further alleged that senior Turkish government officials received tens of millions of dollars in bribes to hide the violations from U.S. regulators.Earlier this month it was reported that Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in 2017 pushed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to ask the Justice Department to drop a case against his client Reza Zarrab. An Iranian-Turkish gold trader who himself evaded Iran sanctions, Zarrab went on to testify against Halbank head of international banking Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who was convicted of helping Iran evade sanctions through money laundering and served 28 months in U.S. prison.Zarrab had also alleged that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan knew of Atilla's laundering operation, which Erdogan has denied.The charges against Halbank came as the Trump administration is trying to negotiate its relationship with Turkey, which recently launched an invasion of northeastern Syria after Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region. The invasion is in part intended to combat Kurdish groups that Turkey considers terrorist organizations, some of which were instrumental in the U.S.-led fight against ISIS in Syria.Trump authorized sanctions on the Turkish economy on Monday, however the impact of the sanctions was less damaging than initially assumed.
Since U.S. and South Korean authorities busted one of the world's largest child pornography sites in 2018, more than 300 site users in 11 countries -- and more than two dozen U.S. states -- have been arrested, while at least 23 minor victims in the U.S., U.K., and Spain who were actively abused by the site's users have been rescued, Bloomberg reports.The site was shuttered in March 2018 and its founder, 23-year-old South Korean national Jong Woo Son, was indicted in August of that year. Son remains in custody in South Korea where he was convicted, while his indictment was unsealed Wednesday.Son operated a Darknet, or encrypted online content, market that was hidden from traditional search engines to distribute more than 1 million explicit videos involving children, while accepting Bitcoin as currency. Agents from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division reportedly were able to determine the location of the Darknet server, which led to Son's arrest. They were then able to "de-anonymize" the Bitcoin transactions on the site to unmask many of the site's users.Bloomberg notes that child pornography is a crime that's increasing at a rapid rate around the globe in part because of the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which allow transactions to remain anonymous. Read more at Bloomberg.
Law enforcement officials said on Wednesday they had arrested hundreds of people worldwide after knocking out a South Korea-based dark web child pornography site that sold gruesome videos for digital cash. Officials from the United States, Britain and South Korea described the network as one of the largest child pornography operations they had encountered to date. Called Welcome To Video, the website relied on the bitcoin cryptocurrency to sell access to 250,000 videos depicting child sexual abuse, authorities said, including footage of extremely young children being raped.
Abu Dhabi's giant Etihad Airways and Sharjah's low-cost carrier Air Arabia announced Wednesday an agreement to launch a new low-cost airline based in the United Arab Emirates capital. Etihad Airways posted a loss in 2018 for the third year running, it said earlier this year, blaming investment losses and challenging market conditions. The new Air Arabia Abu Dhabi will be launched in "due course", Tony Douglas, CEO of Etihad Aviation Group, said in a statement issued by the two Emirati carriers.
A man who paid the rent on a Dutch farmhouse where six members of a family were found locked away in a secret room will appear in court on Thursday on charges of unlawful detention and harming others' health, prosecutors said. Five siblings, estimated to be aged between 18 and 25, and a man they identified as their ailing father were found at the farm near Ruinerwold, a village in the province of Drenthe where they had apparently lived in isolation for years. "The man is suspected at this stage of the investigation of involvement in unlawful detention and injuring the health of others," the statement said.
Fall has only just arrived, but wintry weather is already here, as a “bomb cyclone” is currently hitting parts of the US.The winter storm is expected to bring high winds, blizzard-like conditions, and heavy flooding where it hits the Northeast of US, including New York City, Boston, and parts of Maine over Wednesday and Thursday.
In early August, the United States and Turkey announced they had agreed to jointly patrol a strip on the Syrian side of the Syrian–Turkish border, after repeated Turkish threats to invade the area where American, British, and French troops operate. Turkey had consistently said that Kurdish-led forces in the area, the YPG (People’s Defense Units), were terrorists, given their historical relationship with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), a guerrilla group that has fought against the Turkish government since the late 1970s. The YPG, however, were not focused on targeting the Turkish government. They are the backbone of the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), the primary partner of the United States and its allies in defeating ISIS after a long, bloody battle that stretched into a vast swathe of northeastern Syria. Two months later, the U.S. has acquiesced to a Turkish invasion of its closest partner in the fight against ISIS, causing a political and humanitarian disaster.Without U.S. help, the YPG and the SDF would not have expanded as they did, and Turkey probably would not have been perceived them as such a threat. It was because the U.S. asked them to take over the Arab-majority areas of Manbij, Raqqa, and Deir al-Zour that they allied with Arabs, Christians, and others to take back the territory that formed ISIS’s caliphate. ISIS was formally defeated on March 23, 2019, and the fight against it moved into a second phase, of rooting out the many sleeper cells that remained under the surface. Thousands of Syrian, Iraqi, and foreign fighters and their families, many of them committed to ISIS’s ideology, were put in prisons and camps, which became overstretched and under-resourced. Many nations refused to take back their fighters, leaving them in the hands of the SDF, who struggled to deal with the burden. The work to eradicate ISIS for good was being done through the continued partnership of the U.S. and the SDF.Looking through the lens of America’s strategic interests, the decision to withdraw undermines the efforts to eliminate ISIS. This is so in both the short and the long terms. In the short term, U.S. special-operations forces will not be tracking down and capturing ISIS sleeper cells, as they had been doing since the caliphate was formally defeated. The camps and prisons holding ISIS fighters and sympathizers will be at grave risk of a prison break, which has already begun to occur. It is hard to know exactly what will happen to those in the SDF’s custody.In the long term, the U.S. withdrawal will undermine a political project that was making progress in addressing deadly cycles of violence in the Middle East. In the long (now set to be longer) Syrian civil war, no actor in the region had done better than the SDF and their civilian counterparts had done at getting buy-in from the communities that eventually came under their charge. Since ISIS’s defeat, many journalists who came to northeastern Syria were looking for cracks and fissures in the governance of the area. To be sure, they found plenty. It is inevitable in a society built on the distrust of others’ intentions after eight years of civil war and decades of dictatorship. But finding discontent is not the same as identifying its causes and effects. If the wise use of American military force is when it is the one element needed to create success, this was the perfect example. Here we were not trying, as we tried in Iraq, to remake a Middle Eastern society into something it wasn’t. We were supporting, effectively, local partners who were addressing the most basic problems of their own society.A poignant example can be found in the province of Deir al-Zour, which is divided by the Euphrates River. The areas northeast of the river are under the control of the SDF. Areas southwest of the river are controlled by the Syrian government, with Russian and Iranian forces present. Because Western journalists were able to access the SDF-controlled areas, we were well aware of local discontent northeast of the Euphrates. Less was known about the other side of the river. News coverage had been focused either on the increasing Iranian presence in the area or on the continuing ISIS attacks against the Syrian government there. About a month ago, however, protests broke out in areas under government control. The protesters called for, among other things, having the SDF and the U.S.-led international coalition to take over the area. To have Sunni tribes in the deserts of eastern Syria calling for the United States to intervene on their behalf shows how much the region has changed since 2003. It also shows that, although the discontent in areas under SDF control was considerable, those on the other side of the dividing line, under control of the Syrian government, believed their situation to be worse.Analysts and commentators looking at the Middle East often point out an obvious conundrum in the region: Poor governance and untenable social conditions lead to grievances against the regimes in power; uprisings upend the structures in place and reshuffle the deck without addressing the underlying concerns; the chaos exacerbates sectarian and ethnic tensions, leading to further conflict. To the extent that analysts talk about these problems, however, they rarely propose practical solutions that could be implemented on the ground. The tone tends to be: Well, the governments just need to do x, y, and z, because that’s what they do in developed countries. Then people will be happy!The SDF, on the other hand, and its civilian governing body, the Autonomous Administration, have made significant progress in addressing the fundamental issues of governance that plague other parts of the region. To its critics, the SDF is merely a disguise for a Kurdish nationalist project, but that view fails to reflect changes in Syria’s Kurdish community since the war began. To be sure, many Kurds have dreamt of an independent state, and will continue to. But in Syria that was never a realistic possibility, given the demographics of the “Kurdish” regions of Syria. More so than in neighboring Iraq, Syria’s northeast is a patchwork of overlapping religious and ethnic groups. In significant parts of the region, Kurds are not the majority. So the idea of forming a Kurdish state there is not realistic and would be met with popular disapproval. The SDF and YPG know this. In areas under their control, they have made it clear that Kurdish separatism was not their aim and that the Arab, Christian, Turkmen, Circassian, and other non-Kurdish communities there were equal partners in a political project that could reshape the area. And so there evolved an effort to realize the cultural and political ambitions of Syria’s Kurdish community while establishing a pact with other communities to ensure their rights and interests as well. It was a truer reflection of the society than the Arab nationalism that has prevailed in Syria more or less since its founding as a modern country, and especially since the Arab-nationalist Baath party rose to power in 1963.Rather than trade Arab nationalism for Kurdish nationalism, however, the Kurdish powers-that-be in northeast Syria set out to guarantee their community’s rights and integrity by guaranteeing those of their neighbor as well. Of course, the idea of an independent Kurdish state remained strong in the Syrian Kurdish popular imagination, but it was not a goal that the SDF seriously pursued. Rather, the Autonomous Administration, together with the SDF, set out to create a pluralistic society that involved all communities in the governance of the area. To a large degree it was working. Again, protests in the largely Arab province of Deir al-Zour, calling for governance by the SDF, is demonstrative. The shift in Arab public opinion in favor of the SDF was striking. A few months after returning to Raqqa, and just as the Turkish invasion began, Marwan Hisham, an Arab activist and journalist from Raqqa, wrote for Amnesty International:> I’ve never experienced a freer Raqqa than in the last two months: seeing people go about their lives, expressing their allegiances comfortably. The religious, the anti-Assad, the pro-Assad and even the anti-SDF. . . . As an Arab, I say: when I looked at the Syrian map before today, I saw no hope of an inclusive future except in this part of the country. Now that hope is gone.Is it? There’s a cliché often repeated by those writing about the Kurds: They have no friends but the mountains. But it’s not entirely true; they have many friends in Washington as well. In Congress, in other corridors of power, and in public opinion, the reaction against the Turkish invasion and against the U.S. betrayal of the Kurds has been swift and passionate. The problem that the Kurds face now is that President Trump seems unwilling to change course and restore the highly effective U.S. alliance with them. The U.S., having worked hard to assure Turkish leaders about their border security, thought it had come to an agreement that could work for Turkey, the SDF, and the U.S. In what must seem like a parody (or a conspiracy) to those now under Turkish attack, the U.S. spent the past two months tearing down the SDF’s defenses along the Turkish border, saying that the move would appease the Turks and reduce the likelihood that they would invade. Instead, it facilitated the invasion, as the U.S. stepped aside from the newly unprotected border to watch its NATO ally, Turkey, whose porous border policy contributed significantly to ISIS’s rise in Syria, attack a group that had lost 11,000 lives fighting ISIS.Instead of standing aside for Turkey to invade, the U.S. could have told the Kurds that American troops would leave in a year, so make the best deal you can with the Syrian government — if it breaks the deal, we’ll support you. The U.S. could have simply stayed the course and told Turkey to live with it. Instead, the U.S. stood in the way of any reconciliation between the SDF and the government, as a condition of continued American partnership with the former. The U.S. made the worst possible “deal” it could have, folding in the face of pressure from a country whose military depends on our technology and that would have been crazy to launch an invasion against strong U.S. resolve to prevent it. In general, American disengagement from the Middle East would be a good thing, but if this is the model for how to achieve it, its proponents who would try to persuade anyone of its wisdom have their work cut out for them.I was in northeastern Syria about a month ago, listening to and participating in a spirited debate, in a mixed group of Kurds and Arabs, about America’s intentions in Syria. On the question of the America’s commitment to stay in the area, views ranged from optimistic to pessimistic. The most pessimistic voice, a Kurd, was adamant that the only way forward was a deal with the Syrian government, because America would inevitably leave someday. Someone else chimed in that America wouldn’t abandon the Kurds, and the pessimist replied that of course the U.S. wouldn’t leave the area on a whim but that it needed to usher them toward a deal with the Syrian government. I know he takes no satisfaction that he was even more right than his caveat would allow: America did indeed abandon the Kurds — and all people of goodwill in northern Syria — on a whim, jeopardizing years of progress in defeating ISIS in both the short and the long terms.
GAZIANTEP, Turkey—After eight years of Syrian civil war, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and the displacement of half the Syrian population, U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s decisions have created conditions for Bashar al-Assad’s regime to re-assert control over nearly one-third of the country that had been outside its grip since 2012. Far from reining in U.S. adversaries, Trump’s presidency will likely be remembered as one through which Assad, this century’s greatest mass murderer, managed finally to claw his way back to a position of undisputed authority. Trump Just Enlisted America in a New Axis of EvilThis is the way that’s playing out on the ground in what is, admittedly, still a complicated situation.The news began Tuesday morning with Russian pro-Kremlin journalist Oleg Blokhin streaming a live video from inside the recently abandoned American al-Sa’idi’a base in Syria on the western outskirts of the Manbij countryside. “Good morning to everyone from Manbij,” exclaimed Blokhin. “I’m at the American military base right now, where they were until yesterday morning. Already, we’re here [instead]. We’re going to examine now how they were living here, what they were so busy with, and what’s going on.” A second video would show Blokhin as he mockingly played with a boom barrier at the entrance to the base, appearing to check whether or not it worked. “It’s in good condition,” he assured the cameraman, with a slight grin. Blokhin, who works for the pro-Kremlin ANNA news network, previously covered the activities of Russian private military contractor Wagner as it trained pro-Assad militiamen in January, and later accompanied Russian and pro-Assad forces during the latter’s successful August campaign to take back the town of Khan Sheikhoun. Now, he stood gloating on a former U.S. military base. Other pro-Assad media soon conducted similar tours of other U.S. bases abandoned by American soldiers. Reports throughout the day Tuesday would also claim U.S. troops pulled out of two new additional locations including the eastern town of Tal Baydar and the Kharab Ashak base west of Ain Aissa. Shortly before U.S. troops withdrew, ISIS families still being detained at a nearby prison facility in Ain Aissa reportedly set fires throughout the camp in a renewed attempt to try to escape. In addition to exemplifying the momentous shift underway as Assad’s vital ally Russia finally replaces the United States as the primary party in northern Syria capable of liaising with most all of the parties to the conflict, Blokhin’s livestream carried a special significance for locals in Manbij. Over the past week, including several days after Trump’s shock announcement that U.S. troops would withdraw from Syria, American soldiers at the al-Sa’idi’a base actually continued carrying out near-daily patrols in the western and northern Manbij countryside that helped successfully ward off previous attempts by Syrian regime forces to set up positions in the area. That offered hope to those in Manbij who oppose the regime—that U.S. military institutions might be capable of coercing the Turkish president to adopt a compromise that saw U.S. troops remain in the area until Turkish-backed forces were capable of assuming control. But those hopes along with more than 16 months of U.S.-Turkish diplomacy were dashed Tuesday as the American troops made their final withdrawal from the area, paving the way for Russian and Syrian regime forces to roll in free and unopposed. Elsewhere, in Ain Aissa and Tal Tamr, towns located along the M4 highway, northern Syria’s main artery and transportation route, Russian and regime forces established permanent checkpoints and bases to ensure control of the strategic route in the face of oncoming Turkish assaults. Those reinforcements appeared to have helped the SDF capture three villages from Turkish-backed forces in the immediate vicinity north of Tal Tamr later that night. While the arrival of regime forces undoubtedly has provided much needed relief for the SDF on several fronts, doing so will come with a cost. As the SDF welcomes more Syrian regime reinforcements into its territory, the group undoubtedly will lose future leverage it would need in order to preserve a role for itself within civil governing institutions throughout northeast Syria. On Monday, the SDF’s largely toothless civil wing, the Syrian Democratic Council, issued a directive to local councils in the area to continue to perform their duties “as previously,” insisting that “nothing has changed” and that the agreement with the regime constituted no more than a temporary military alliance to protect Syria’s borders. However it’s unlikely that the SDF, the Syrian Democratic Council, or other SDF-backed institutions within the group’s self-proclaimed “Autonomous Administration” will be able to preserve any modicum of independence as their reliance on the Assad regime becomes more solidified. And, following the failure of Russian-Turkish negotiations throughout Tuesday to reach a ceasefire between the warring parties, that reliance looks set to intensify. Negotiations between Moscow and Ankara began Tuesday morning following condemnation of Turkey’s campaign by the Kremlin’s special envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev. A high-ranking Free Syrian Army military source in Manbij told The Daily Beast that Turkey gave orders Tuesday morning to its FSA proxies to halt temporarily their assault while both sides attempted to reach a solution. During that time, numerous pro-regime demonstrations were held in Manbij as the Syrian army sent several armored tanks into the city. According to local sources on the ground, some of these demonstrations were led by pro-regime figures that previously had been arrested by the SDF but were recently released following the Russian and Syrian regime entrance to the city. The Russian-Turkish talks come one day after the official Facebook page for the Russian defense ministry’s Hmeimim base issued a stern warning for Turkey and its allies not to “behave recklessly in entering an open war with government troops.” That was issued shortly after the Russians allegedly concluded an agreement with the SDF to allow Russian and regime troops to enter the cities of Kobani and Manbij. Yet despite the repeated warnings and attempts to hold talks, by Tuesday night Turkish-backed forces re-launched their assault. Thousands of civilians fled the border city of Kobani as a result of renewed Turkish assaults on the city in an attempt by the latter to capture the site of a former U.S. base recently abandoned nearby. Shortly after, our military source would claim renewed orders had been given by Ankara to re-launch operations in Manbij by dawn. Speaking to Reuters while returning from the Azerbaijaini capital Baku, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared undeterred by recent U.S. sanctions imposed on Ankara, by the arrival of regime reinforcements into the area, or by international condemnation of his country’s assault. “They say ‘declare a ceasefire.’ We will never declare a ceasefire,” Erdogan said. “They are pressuring us to stop the operation. They are announcing sanctions. Our goal is clear. We are not worried about any sanctions.”Shortly after, local media and activists would report a Turkish airstrike on the strategic town of Aun al-Dadat, the site of a former U.S. base in the north Manbij countryside along the al-Sajur River that has since been occupied by SDF and regime units. Nawaf al-Mustafa, an activist living several miles away in Manbij city, said he could hear the explosion from his home. “I heard an explosion and thought it might have been an ISIS suicide attack,” he said. “But it wasn’t, news came in shortly after that Turkish forces instead were bombing Aun al-Dadat.”Look Who’s Back! Trump Handed Terrorists a Free Pass.Ahmed Qalqali, another anti-regime activist, would send out an alert to the families of FSA fighters to several WhatsApp groups used by locals to follow the news. “Any young man in Manbij who has a brother fighting on the front lines with the FSA should avoid sleeping at home tonight,” hinting at the possibility of SDF-regime house raids in response to the attacks. “Try to stay with a friend or someone to whom you’re not blood related.” Despite the Turkish insistence to continue fighting, in reality the tide seems to be turning against Ankara and its proxies. Despite managing to gain control of the strategic border town of Tal Abyad, after nearly one week of fighting Turkish-backed forces have been unable to capture Ras al-Ain, a city of just over 30,000 that has managed to put up stiff resistance and ward off Turkish incursions. Manbij, a city of nearly 100,000, will require much greater strength and political will in order to be captured.Recent U.S. sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on key Turkish ministers and cabinet officials will also likely further hamper Ankara’s ability to freely wage war against the SDF, while significantly raising the cost of doing so. Nonetheless, these factors are unlikely to push Erdogan to end the campaign, as domestic pressures to create space to resettle Syrian refugees that have proven a burden to the Turkish economy threaten to destabilize his government. What will likely ensue will be a committed, albeit slow and protracted campaign to achieve Ankara’s goal of carving out a safe zone in Manbij and along the entirety of Turkey’s border with Syria. However, the likely delay in achieving further Turkish gains will also give the Syrian regime a larger window to calmly mobilize and deploy its forces throughout the region while still being able to exploit the threat posed to the SDF by Ankara in order to slowly grab more power in northeastern Syria. Further, the expansion of Syrian regime troops throughout the area doesn’t seem to be a prospect that much bothers the Turkish president, so long as they don’t mix with SDF and other armed Kurdish elements. Also while speaking to reporters in Baku, Erdogan stated, “The regime entering Manbij is not very negative for me. Why? It’s their lands after all,” he said. “But, what is important to me is that the terrorist organization does not remain there… I told this to Mr. Putin as well. If you are clearing Manbij of terrorist organizations, then go ahead, you or the regime can provide all the logistics. But if you are not going to do this, the people there are telling us to save them.” By “terrorist organizations,” Erdogan means primarily the Kurds who were backed by the United States in the fight against ISIS.Such a statement from a head of state who for eight years has been among the most enthusiastic supporters of the Syrian revolution to topple Assad is indicative of the extent to which international calculus surrounding the Syrian issue has changed. It will likely encourage the Assad regime to consider the possibility of going after and eliminating the SDF itself if doing so may once and for all put an end to the activities of their meddlesome Turkish neighbor. Such a prospect may occur as part of a broader swap or deal whereby Turkey would also agree to withdraw its troops from the broader Idlib region, where Ha’it Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an offshoot of al Qaeda’s former Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other FSA groups have been engaged in a bloody standoff with the Syrian regime for over a year.Erdogan’s statements make perfectly clear that, following Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops, the cards increasingly lie in the hands of the Assad regime and its Russian ally. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get 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.
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta is due to open a new $1.5 billion Chinese rail line on Wednesday linking the capital Nairobi to the Rift Valley town of Naivasha, despite delays in establishing an industrial park there to drive freight traffic. The development of Kenya's railways has been part of China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative, a multi-billion dollar series of infrastructure projects upgrading land and maritime trade routes between China and Europe, Asia and Africa. Kenya had planned to open an industrial park in Naivasha, offering companies tax breaks for investing in manufacturing, and preferential tariffs for electricity generated in the nearby geothermal fields.
To celebrate its self-proclaimed title the town hosts an annual festival, now in its second year, that draws hundreds of sets of twins from around the country. Donning different traditional clothes and costumes, the twins -- male and female, old, young and even newborns -- sang and danced at the latest edition this weekend to the appreciation of an admiring audience.
Puerto Rico's governor called an emergency meeting Tuesday after six people were killed in a mass shooting in a San Juan housing project and gunfire left two people dead a day earlier in the island's north. A police statement said the violence left five men and one woman dead. The brazen murders led Gov. Wanda Vázquez to convene a gathering of her security team, led by public security chief Elmer Román and justice secretary Dennise Longo Quiñones.
If the video depicting a fake President Trump massacring members of the media -- which was condemned by the White House -- wasn't too much to handle already, ProPublica and WNYC released more disturbing audio from the conference where the footage was originally shown.While speaking at the pro-Trump conference in Miami, Florida, at the Trump National Doral Miami, Mark Burns, a pastor, told the crowd multiple times that "we've come to declare war." As he continued, he reportedly asked if anybody was "read to go to war for Donald J. Trump, this nation?" as the audience reportedly cheered him on.Additionally, radio host Wayne Allyn Root reportedly boasted about a time in his childhood when, as one of the few white students at a predominantly black high school, he knocked one classmate unconscious and shattered another kid's teeth. "My buddies and I were high-fiving and laughing," Root reportedly said during his speech. "Man, it was funny."Root reportedly went on to say that "you've got to be a natural-born killer" to win in politics. Listen to the audio clips at ProPublica.
An Oklahoma judge on Tuesday acknowledged making a nearly $107 million miscalculation in determining how much drug maker Johnson & Johnson must pay the state to help address the state's opioid crisis. Following a hearing in Cleveland County, District Judge Thad Balkman acknowledged making the error in his August judgment in which he ordered the consumer products giant to pay the state $572 million to address the opioid crisis. Balkman said the actual amount he should have included in his judgment was $107,000 to help the state develop a program for treating babies born addicted to opioids.
Joe Raedle/GettyThe U.S. Constitution protects the separation of church and state—but evidently not church and State Department, which came under fire for promoting a “Being a Christian Leader” speech Monday on its website.The speech, delivered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a meeting of American Association of Christian Counselors on Friday, saw Pompeo discuss the influence of his faith on his work as a U.S. official. On Monday, the State Department shared the speech at the top of its website, ahead of more pressing department issues, like U.S. involvement in Turkey’s invasion of Syria. The speech and the State Department’s promotion of the video breached the divide between church and state, leaders from secular and atheist communities say.“Secretary Pompeo’s speech was pure proselytization,” Sarah Levin, director of governmental affairs at the Secular Coalition for America told The Daily Beast. During the speech, which he gave in his capacity as Secretary of State, Pompeo stated that “I know some people in the media will break out the pitchforks when they hear that I ask God for direction in my work.”His personal faith isn’t the problem, Levin said. It’s when it dictates his actions as Secretary of State, or when those beliefs top the State Department website.“To be clear, we don’t judge Secretary Pompeo for being a Christian or for connecting what he’s achieved to his faith, but it’s unacceptable and a violation of separation of church and state for him to take those beliefs and apply them to policy that affects the American public,” Levin said, “and it’s just as wrong from him to elevation Christianity above other faiths as it is to elevate Christianity above non-faiths.”Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, echoed Levin. “It’s perfectly fine for Secretary Pompeo to be a leader who is Christian,” Laser said in a statement. “But he cannot use his government position to impose his faith on the rest of us—that is a fundamental violation of the separation of religion and government. Secretary Pompeo’s speech on how being a Christian leader informs his decision-making and the posting of the speech on the State Department website send the clear message that U.S. public policy will be guided by his personal religious beliefs.”Pompeo has previously indicated that his religious beliefs factored into his policy decisions as a government official. In a March interview with Christian Broadcasting Network, Pompeo was asked whether President Donald Trump had been raised by God “to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace.”“As a Christian, I certainly believe that's possible,” Pompeo answered.The secular website Patheos has tracked Pompeo’s comments for years, including a 2015 speech in which he opposed same-sex marriage and stated that “we will continue to fight these battles, it is a never ending struggle… until the rapture.”In a 2014 speech at a Kansas church, Pompeo cast Islam as the greatest “threat to America” and urged that “we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ our savior is truly the only solution for our world.”Nick Fish, president of American Atheists said Pomeo’s Friday speech wasn’t surprising, given his record.“As disappointing as it is to see the State Department parroting Christian nationalist talking points, it isn't a surprise. But this goes above and beyond the obvious problem of Secretary Pompeo promoting one religious worldview on taxpayers' dime,” Fish told The Daily Beast. “The bigger issue is that the State Department is being led by a man who genuinely believes that politics is ‘a never-ending struggle... until the rapture.’”Levin said the Trump administration has consistently pushed at the boundary between church and state. “This administration has pursued an agenda of Christian nationalism,” she said. She pointed to two other questionable incidents this weekend. On Friday, Attorney General Bill Barr gave a speech blaming “the growing ascendancy of secularism” for depression, mental illness, violence, and the opioid epidemic. On Saturday, Trump gave a speech to religious leaders proclaiming that “forever and always, Americans will believe in the cause of freedom, the power of prayer, and the eternal glory of God.”Levin called the trio of speeches a “triple threat.”“This is not unusual rhetoric we’ve seen from officials,” she said, “but it is unusual to see Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, clear-cut abuse, these officials violating the separation of church and state.”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.
For two weeks in August, a multimillion-dollar search from air, land and sea sought to solve the 80-year mystery of Amelia Earhart's disappearance.Robert Ballard, the ocean explorer famous for locating the wreck of the Titanic, led a team that discovered two hats in the depths. It found debris from an old shipwreck. It even spotted a soda can. What it did not find was a single piece of the Lockheed Electra airplane flown in 1937 by Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, which vanished during their doomed voyage around the world.Ballard and his crew don't consider it a failure. For one thing, he says, they know where the plane isn't. And in the process, they may have dispensed with one clue that has driven years of speculation, while a team of collaborating archaeologists potentially turned up more hints at the aviator's fate."This plane exists," Ballard said. "It's not the Loch Ness monster, and it's going to be found."Ballard had avoided the Earhart mystery for decades, dismissing the search area as too large, until he was presented with a clue he found irresistible. Kurt Campbell, then a senior official in President Barack Obama's State Department, shared with him what is known as the Bevington image -- a photo taken by a British officer in 1940 at what is now known as Nikumaroro, an atoll in the Phoenix Islands in the Republic of Kiribati. American intelligence analysts had enhanced the image at Campbell's request and concluded a blurry object in it was consistent with landing gear from Earhart's plane.Motivated by this clue, and by 30 years of research on Nikumaroro by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, Ballard and his crew set a course for the island in August. They were joined by archaeologists from the National Geographic Society, which sponsored and documented the journey for "Expedition Amelia," which will air on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday.Ballard and Allison Fundis, the Nautilus' chief operating officer, coordinated an elaborate plan of attack. First, they sent the ship five times around the island to map it with multibeam sonar and deployed a floating autonomous surface vehicle to map shallower areas off the island's shore. They also used four aerial drones for additional inspections of the surrounding reef.Nikumaroro and its reef are just the tip of a 16,000-foot underwater mountain, a series of 13 sheer escarpments that drop off onto ramps, eventually fanning out at the base for 6 nautical miles.If Earhart crashed there, they believe, rising tides would have dragged her plane over the reef and down the escarpments. Fragments should have collected on the ramps, especially heavier components like the engine and the radio.In deeper water the team deployed the Hercules and the Argus, remotely operated vehicles equipped with spotlights and high-definition cameras. These robots descended 650 feet around the entire island and found nothing.At that point, the crew focused on the northwest corner of the island near the S.S. Norwich City, a British freighter that ran aground on the island in 1929, eight years before Earhart's disappearance. That is the area where the Bevington photo was taken.While they searched there, crew members found so many beach rocks consistent in size and shape with the supposed landing gear in the Bevington image that it became a joke on the ship."Oh look," Ballard would chuckle, "another landing gear rock."Fundis said, "We felt like if her plane was there, we would have found it pretty early in the expedition." But she said they kept up their morale because Ballard reminded them that it took four missions to find the Titanic and that one of those expeditions missed the ship by just under 500 feet.The crew mapped the mountain's underwater drainage patterns and searched the gullies that might have carried plane fragments down slope, to a depth of 8,500 feet. Crew members even searched roughly 4 nautical miles out to sea in case the plane lifted off the reef intact and glided underwater as it sank.Each time a new search tactic yielded nothing, Ballard said, he felt he was adding "nail after nail after nail" to the coffin of the Nikumaroro hypothesis.Still, Ballard and Fundis confess that other clues pointing to Nikumaroro have left them with lingering curiosity about whether Earhart crashed there. For instance, Panamerican Airway radio direction finders on Wake Island; Midway Atoll; and Honolulu, Hawaii; each picked up distress signals from Earhart and took bearings, which triangulated in the cluster of islands that includes Nikumaroro.For years, many Earhart historians have been skeptical of the Nikumaroro theory. And Ballard, Fundis and their team's return to the island will now depend on whether the archaeologists from the National Geographic Society came up with evidence that Earhart's body was there.Fredrik Hiebert, the society's archaeologist in residence, has some leads. His team awaits DNA analysis on soil samples taken at a bivouac shelter found on the island.The camp, known as the Seven Site for its shape, was first noticed by a British officer in 1940. Thirteen bones were gathered then and sent to a colonial doctor in Fiji, who determined they belonged to a European man. The bones were subsequently lost.Decades later, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, or TIGHAR, tracked down the doctor's analysis. Richard Jantz, director emeritus of the Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee, determined that the bones most likely belonged to a woman and that Earhart's build was "more similar to the Nikumaroro bones than 99% of individuals in a large reference sample."Since the 1980s, Tighar has conducted 12 expeditions to Nikumaroro in an effort to find more skeletal remains. It turned up other items from a castaway's existence at the camp but never any bones or DNA.Hiebert's team is hoping to use new techniques to identify evidence of mitochondrial DNA with similarities to Earhart's living relatives in the 22 soil samples they collected.Before the expedition, Hiebert and Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist, visited the National Museum in Tarawa, Kiribati's capital. On an unmarked shelf, Kimmerle spotted remnants of a female skull. The team now awaits DNA analysis of the specimen.In 2021, the Nautilus will be in the South Pacific fulfilling a contract to map underwater U.S. territories. That will bring the ship to the area around Howland Island, Earhart's intended destination for refueling before her plane disappeared. Ballard and Fundis plan to make time to explore the alternate theory favored by some skeptics of the Nikumaroro hypothesis: that Earhart crashed at sea closer to Howland.Fundis considers Earhart a role model, which gives her the "fuel to keep going," she said.And Ballard explained his own motivation to continue the search."In many ways, I'm doing this for my mother," he said, describing her as a "brilliant woman" who grew up in Kansas, like Earhart, but dropped out of college to raise three children and care for her sister.His mother, Hariett Ballard, admired Earhart and hoped she might pave the way for her children, or perhaps grandchildren, to pursue adventurous careers. Robert Ballard's daughter, Emily Ballard, was among the crew of the Nautilus, hunting for Earhart's plane."I'm not giving up," he said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company
(Bloomberg) -- The black-clad protesters pushing back against China’s influence in Hong Kong aren’t just focusing on Carrie Lam and the police. They’re also targeting mainland-based brands such as Bank of China Ltd., China Mobile Ltd. and Huawei Technologies Co. with fire bombs, metal bars and spray paint.A walk down the primary route used by Hong Kong’s anti-government marchers shows how big a chunk of the city China owns. Mainland-affiliated supermarkets, drugstores, hotels, Pacific Coffee stores and McDonald’s outlets -- both franchises are operated by state-owned firms -- pepper the vicinity of skyscraper-lined Hennessy Road, the downtown artery connecting the Causeway Bay shopping district with government headquarters in Admiralty. Some of the businesses also occupy property owned by Chinese developers.These perceived outposts of President Xi Jinping’s government expanded their operations after the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, adding heft to Beijing’s political goal of integrating the semi-autonomous territory with the motherland. Their deepening presence stokes fears among protesters that Hong Kong soon will become just another Chinese city, deprived of the autonomy former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping guaranteed until 2047.“Mainland Chinese companies are forming a group of entities which can be both economically and politically influential,” said Heidi Wang-Kaeding, who’s done research on mainland investment in Hong Kong and now teaches international relations at Keele University in Staffordshire, England. “That’s why this is shaking the local interest very much.”Hong Kong police said Monday a radio-controlled improvised explosive device was detonated near a police car on Sunday evening, the first time the use of such a device has been reported during months of unrest.The use of explosives marks a significant escalation in pro-democracy protests that started out peacefully in June, with hundreds of thousands of residents marching in the streets in opposition to a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.In recent weeks, protesters have set fires near police stations, hurled makeshift petrol bombs at riot police, and bashed in glass kiosks at train stations and storefronts tied to mainland Chinese businesses.As Chinese Communist Party leaders focus on solidifying control over the rebellious city, companies taking direction from the state likely will play an even bigger role in Hong Kong’s $363 billion economy. The city is sinking into a recession amid the riots, and Lam, the chief executive, may propose remedies during her annual policy address on Wednesday.In the past decade, the total amount of loans given by the Hong Kong-based unit of state-owned Bank of China in the special administrative region has more than doubled to $175 billion, and so have deposits to $257 billion.China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier by subscribers, is among the four operators in the city, having cemented its position since buying a local provider more than a decade ago to gain entry into the market.Mainland-based developers such as Poly Property Group Co. and China Overseas Land and Investment Ltd. successfully bid for 11% of the land for sale last year in the world’s most-expensive real estate market, compared with about 5% in 2013. They bought almost 60% of residential land sold by the local government in the first six months of this year.In one high-profile deal, state-owned Poly Property and China Resources Land Ltd. successfully bid HK$12.9 billion ($1.6 billion) in June for a 9,500-square-meter parcel at Kai Tak, the former airport in the Kowloon district.Beijing-based Citic Ltd., a state-owned conglomerate, is part of a consortium that runs McDonald’s outlets in the city, and unit Dah Chong Hong Holdings operates car dealerships and Food Mart stores.With forays into retail, telecommunications and property development, mainland-based companies are also altering the city’s traditional business landscape. Homegrown tycoons such as Li Ka-shing and Lee Shau Kee, who built their empires by forging close ties with authorities in Beijing, may see that influence erode. Li, for instance, saw the writing on the wall some time ago and has been steadily reducing exposure to his home base.Over time, the economic balance of power will tilt more in favor of state enterprises and away from the local billionaires, said Michael Tien, a pro-Beijing member of Hong Kong’s legislature and a deputy to China’s National People’s Congress.“It will be very difficult for Hong Kong Chinese companies to fight mainland Chinese companies,” he said. “They are capital-rich and powerful.”But it isn’t just state-owned companies that are building a bigger presence in Hong Kong. In 2015, billionaire Jack Ma’s e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. agreed to buy the South China Morning Post newspaper and related assets for HK$2.06 billion. Prominent Chinese smart-phone makers such as Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi and electronics retailer Suning have retail stores in the city.Mainland-based companies with consumer-facing businesses have been particular targets in the latest phase of the four-month-long protests, which were sparked by opposition to a proposed law allowing extraditions to China.Bank of China branches and ATMs have been firebombed and vandalized, including this past weekend and on the Oct. 1 anniversary of Communist Party rule in the mainland. Huawei and Lenovo stores also were ransacked during the weekend at a mall in suburban Sha Tin.At least two China Mobile stores were attacked Oct. 1 and 2, and a Xiaomi outlet had anti-China graffiti spray-painted on its walls. The local unit of China Construction Bank, which has more than 50 locations, suspended service at two branches because of protest-related damage, including smashed glass doors.At least one local-run business has lost its immunity. Maxim’s Caterers Ltd., which operates bakeries and some Starbucks outlets, is seeing stores vandalized after the founder’s daughter called the protests “riots” and supported the Hong Kong government in comments at the U.N. Human Rights Council last month.Maxim’s tried to distance itself from the comments and a spokeswoman said the group has never taken any political stance. Representatives for China Resources, Citic, the local units of Bank of China and China Construction Bank didn’t respond to requests seeking comments, while a spokesperson for China Mobile said the carrier is focusing on resuming services at the damaged stores.“Anything with a star on it is vulnerable,” Gavin Greenwood, an analyst with A2 Global Risk, a Hong Kong-based political-risk consultancy, said of mainland-affiliated businesses. He was referring to the Chinese flag.“They are extremely soft targets.”(Updates with report on radio-controlled explosive from fifth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Chloe Whiteaker, Demetrios Pogkas and Alfred Liu.To contact the reporters on this story: Bruce Einhorn in Hong Kong at email@example.com;Shirley Zhao in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Emma O'Brien at email@example.com, Sam Nagarajan, Michael TigheFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
A Fort Worth, Texas, police officer who shot and killed a woman inside her home early Saturday was charged with murder on Monday, shortly after he resigned from the force.The former officer, Aaron Dean, is being held at the Tarrant County Correction Center, Fort Worth Police Sgt. Chris Daniels said. The woman, 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson, was playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew when she was shot. A neighbor had noticed Jefferson's front door was slightly open and called the police department's non-emergency line, asking them to do a wellness check. Body-camera footage released by the police department shows an officer shining a flashlight into the house, then yelling, "Put your hands up, show me your hands," before firing one shot.The white officer shooting a black woman inside her home caused immediate outrage in Fort Worth, and Daniels had a message for all concerned. "To the citizens and residents of our city, we feel and understand your anger and your disappointment and we stand by you as we work together to make Fort Worth a better place for us all," he said. Jefferson's older sister, Ashley Carr, said Atatiana was "simply going on along with her life, living a law-abiding citizen's peaceful life, and she was killed by a reckless act of a Fort Worth police officer. There is simply no justification for his actions."