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  1. Veteran rockers become first western band to play open-air free concert in Havana after visit by Barack Obama this week opened up country again Jonathan Watts in Havana Saturday 26 March 2016 09.59 GMT “Finally, the times are changing,” proclaimed Mick Jagger to a vast, euphoric crowd in Havana on Friday night, as the Rolling Stones completed their Latin American tour with a concert that may well prove a pivotal moment for a generation of Cubans. Hundreds of thousands thronged to the Ciudad Deportiva stadium to see the British rockers, who follow hard on the heels of a visit by Barack Obama, in a week that few on this island are ever likely to forget. Amid growing hopes of reform and further opening, the Stones frontman emphasised how far the country has already come in cultural opening from the 1960s, when their songs were considered ideologically divergent. “We know that years ago, it was difficult to listen to our music in Cuba, but now here we are in your beautiful land,” Jagger said in Spanish. “I think that, finally, the times are changing. That’s true, no?” The crowd roared their agreement. It was the closest to an overt political statement in the two-hour concert, which some democracy activists feared would be used by the one-party state to perpetuate its hold on power. The Stones – who long ago made the transition from youth rebels to rock aristocrats – avoided any hint of criticism of the current government of Raúl Castro. Instead, they largely let their music – and spectacular special effects – speak for themselves about the benefits of greater engagement. Their fans had still bigger expectations. “This will be one of those weeks that people will use to measure other events. In the future, they’ll ask, was it before or after the Stones played,” predicted Tania Livia, a businesswoman attending the concert. “This is the biggest moment in my life,” said tattooed club owner Ferrer Castillo, who had travelled 200km by bus and taxi to see his heroes. “For me, this is a historical moment on the same level as Nelson Mandela walking out of prison,” suggested Francoisse Fraissenet, a French woman who said she has seen at least 25 gigs by the Stones. Another fan from Brazil pushed her way to the front to ask: “Where do I get a concert T-shirt?”, but it wasn’t that kind of gig. This was a free concert, rushed into being in just a few months. There were no seats, no refreshment kiosks and only a handful of rusty metal portable toilets. With no turnstiles, estimates of the crowd size were largely guesswork. Some said 200,000. Others more than half a million. All this observer can report is that it was dense, stretched in all directions as far as the eye could see, and was extremely good natured. When it came to the staging, no expense was spared. Even before the music started, the lighting and video displays were breathaking. While many Cubans have to make do with small, old grainy televisions in their homes, here they were suddenly in a field staring up at giant high-definition screens. Considering the paucity of time that the team had to unpack the 85 container loads of equipment, set up the stage and erect the lighting rigs and screen towers, there were remarkably few glitches. Bureaucracy did not appear to have slowed the process, though shortly before the start an overdiligent security guard briefly denied entry to Gregory Elias – the businessman who bankrolled the concert – because he did not have a backstage wristband. Celebrity-spotters had a field day in the VIP section, where supermodel Naomi Campbell rubbed shoulders with actor Richard Gere and billionaire Warren Buffett. A separate section for Cuba’s leading figures was said to include at least two ministers, several members of the Castro family (though not, it seems, Fidel or Raúl) and the five prisoners released by the US in 2014, when the two former cold war adversaries announced they would restore relations. A glowing sea of mobile phone lights greeted the arrival of the band on stage for the opening song – Jumpin’ Jack Flash – with tens of thousands trying to record the moment for posterity. It was a moment that sent a shiver down this correspondent’s spine – not for the last time during the concert. This was the band’s first show in Cuba and the finale of their tour. Given the recent deaths of David Bowie and Lemmy, it was impossible not to wonder whether it might also be the last they will ever play together. Jagger, though, gave no sign that he will ever let up. The band’s frontman was a whirl of energy – strutting like a peacock one moment, shivering like a man possessed the next, he played the audience as if it were just another instrument. Between almost every song, he buttered up the crowd, sharing anecdotes in Spanish and declaring: “I knew this would be an unforgettable night”. Playing on the host nation’s recent history, Jagger introduced the Stones’ guitarist and drummer as “Revolutionary Ronnie Wood” and “Charlie Che Watts”, then he gave up the microphone for “mi compadre Keith Richards” who stuck to English, but also appeared in his element. “Havana, Cuba and the Rolling Stones. This is amazing, It’s really good to be here,” he drawled. “I’m gonna live here … maybe.” Reflecting just how open Cuba has become to foreign visitors, many in the the audience had flown in from overseas. Several union jacks were held aloft, as was the stars and stripes and the banners of Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Canada and Panama. However, it was the Cuban flag that Jagger – the diplomat as well as the showman – draped over his shoulders to loud applause during Brown Sugar . Although many in the predominantly young audience struggled before the gig to name a single Stones track, they made up for a lack of knowledge with an abundance of enthusiasm. Angie, Paint It Black, Honky Tonk Women, Gimme Shelter, Start Me Up and Brown Sugar were met with rapturous applause. There was awe for Sympathy for the Devil when Jagger revealed himself as the prince of darkness, haunting the stage and possessing the audience while serpents, pentagrams and other satanic symbols flashed across black screens in blood red. And there was surrender during a superb, 20-25 minute version of Midnight Rambler, when Jagger’s manic dancing was reminiscent of Iggy Pop, and his command of the crowd brought to mind a gospel preacher. In between, Wood and Richards took it in turns to have what looked very much like mutually gratifying guitar sex with the audience. “Rolling, Rolling, Rolling,” chanted the crowd. By the time the British rockers wrapped up the two-hour show with Satisfaction, the sports field had become a mosh pit, with hundreds of thousands of people jumping up and down right up until the final crash of Watts’s drum stick. Then, bows, smiles (even from Watts, who’d been impassive throughout), more bows, more smiles and a final “Buenas noches” from Jagger before the band wandered off stage together for the first and last time in Havana. The afterglow lasted long after they left. “It was amazing. Awesome,” said Sofia Fernandez de Cossío, an art history student at the University of Havana, who said that even a year ago it was impossible to imagine such a week ending with a concert by the Stones. “How much better could it get? Only if the Beatles were able get together and come, but that’s impossible,” she said. “People will be talking about this for weeks.” Jagger’s comments, she said, showed his optimism at the change now taking place on the island. “You can notice it in our country. It’s weird, but everyone knows that something good is going to happen sooner or later.” Pressed on what that might mean, she talked of economic reform and further improvements in ties with the US. There was no mention of politics and an end to the one-party state. There was wariness too about overstating the significance of the past week. “We have already changed. The fact that the Stones are here is proof of that,” said dancer Andres Enoa. “But a lot of the change has been superficial. It puts Cuba at the top of the news every day but there is still so much going on underneath that is not being dealt with.” For democracy activists, this has been the problem with the visits by Obama and the Stones. “They should be aware that their performance is being used by a totalitarian regime as a symbol of an opening that isn’t really taking place,” said Rosa María Paya, who is campaigning for a plebiscite that would allow the Cuban people to decide their own fate. She said at least one activist punk musician had been detained before the concert and another was being watched by police. “I don’t put my hope in Mick Jagger. He should have made a statement of solidarity.” That there was nothing explicitly critical from the band was of little surprise to those who helped organise the show. This was always intended as a feelgood event. The good vibes, it is hoped, will create their own momentum. “It’s all about the future, not the past,” said Tim Cole, the British ambassador in Havana. “As Mick said, ‘the times are changing.” 2 4 Rolling Stones fans sporting US and Cuban flags at the Ciudad Deportiva ground. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images 3 4 Hundreds of thousands of fans listened to the Rolling Stones play for the first time – the music was once banned by the Cuban government. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images 4 4 ‘In the future, they’ll ask: “Was it before or after the Stones played?”’ Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  2. Victims say 40-year sentence is too lenient while many Serbs continue to support man who oversaw 1995 massacre at Srebrenica Julian Borger in The Hague Thursday 24 March 2016 20.12 GMT At the end of it all, 21 years since he was first charged, after 11 years on the run, a five-year trial and the 18 months the judges took to deliberate over a verdict, Radovan Karadžić’s moment of judgment came. The Bosnian Serb leader was convicted of genocide for the 1995 slaughter at Srebrenica, and nine other counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, terror and extermination. It was a conviction that ranks as the most serious handed down in Europe since Nuremberg. The judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia were definitive about Karadžić’s key involvement in the Srebrenica massacre, in which more than 7,000 men and boys were rounded up, executed and pushed into mass graves. The presiding ICTY judge delivering the ruling, O-Gon Kwon, said: “Karadžić was in agreement with the plan of the killings”, and had given a coded message to an underling for the doomed Muslim captives, which he referred to as “the goods”, to be moved to a warehouse, from where they were taken out and executed. During the 100-minute verdict and sentencing, Karadžić sat impassively, dressed in a dark blue suit, not in the dock but on the defence bench, as he opted throughout the five-year trial to act as his own lead counsel. He smiled and nodded to one or two familiar faces from the Serbian press in the gallery, but hardly glanced at the public gallery which was packed with survivors and victims’ family members, mostly women grieving lost sons and husbands. They obeyed the tribunal instructions to stay quiet throughout the proceedings, but there were quiet grunts of disappointment when Karadžić was acquitted of a second charge of genocide for the 1992 killings in Serbian municipalities around Bosnia. The only time he appeared nervous was when he stood to receive sentence, his arms stiff by his side, but as soon as the judges had gone, he called a huddle of his legal advisers to immediately begin planning his appeal. “He was surprised at the reasoning that the trial chamber used to convict him, so that was basically the first thing he said: ‘I can’t believe they convicted me like this,’” Peter Robinson, his chief legal adviser, said afterwards. Karadžić will now have 30 days to file an appeal and it will take three years to hear. The legal marathon will continue and Karadžić will stay in The Hague for the time being. The trial of his military commander, Ratko Mladić, is still under way. The experiment in international justice represented by the ICTY, created in 1993 as an exercise in western penance for failing to stop the killing in Bosnia, will go on for a few more years. For the survivors and victims’ families packed inside the courtroom, justice was served in a glass half-full. Karadžić was acquitted of a second genocide charge, concerning the massacres that marked the start of the Bosnian war in 1992. The tribunal said it was not beyond a reasonable doubt that he had genocidal intent when those killings took place. It meant that when the full verdict on all the charges were finally summed up, its first words were “not guilty”. That jarred for many. That and the fact he was given a 40-year sentence, not life. In practice, with time already served deducted, that will mean about 19 years in jail. So it was possible to imagine the 70-year-old former psychiatrist and still aspiring poet emerging alive from incarceration. “This judgment is a reward for Karadžić. We have no more faith in prosecutors and judges,” complained Hatidza Mehmedovic, a bereaved mother and widow from Srebrenica. Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor since 2007, who kept up the hunt for Karadžić until the fugitive was finally found disguised as a New Age healer in Belgrade, could not hide his frustration that the failure to get a second genocide conviction was being seen as a defeat for the prosecution and an escape for the defendant. “Sometimes I find it a little bit disappointing that the word genocide is receiving a totally different importance than war crimes and crimes against humanity, where in fact for the individual person ... the suffering for the family is similar, the same,” Brammertz told the Guardian. That was the law, but not the politics. The term genocide has become politically toxic on all sides of the ethnic divides, which remain as profound as ever more than 20 years after the conflict. The one thing the former warring nationalist parties could agree on is that they had been unfairly treated by the vagaries of international justice. In Karadžić’s home village of Petnjica, in the Montenegrin mountains, where all the residents share his surname, his cousin Vucko said the verdict “proved we were right to think that the UN court was set up only to punish one people – the Serbs”. Vucko, his wife, Dusanka, and son, Ranko, huddled to watch the verdict live on television in a small room decorated with Serbian flags, coats of arms, symbols of the Serbian Orthodox church, photos of Radovan and a drawing of a Karadžić family tree. They softly mumbled and grumbled to each other after each charge was read. “What about others? What about those who committed the same crimes against Serbs?” they asked. Despite the overwhelming evidence presented by the prosecution and accepted by the court, they remained defiant. “There is no justice,” Vucko said. Nedzad Avdic, in Srebrenica, agreed with the sentiment, but for very different reasons. As a teenager, he had survived a mass execution after the fall of Srebrenica by lying motionless and wounded in a tangle of bodies of his friends and relatives until the killers moved away. “Honestly, after 20 years it means nothing to me. I read his latest interview on some website, that he gave from prison, and now it seems to me that a bigger punishment would be if he had stayed a fugitive, running away, hiding in forests,” Avdic said by email. “Whatever punishment he gets, there is no punishment severe enough for people like that, given the horrors they put us through. They ruined our lives, us survivors, and as a community we are completely ruined.” For Avdic, the greater injustice is that the division of Bosnia into two halves, a Muslim-Croat Federation and a Serbian republic, meant the practice of ethnic cleansing had been legitimised. “Karadžić’s work remains in place here in Srebrenica and there’s no way a judgment can change that. If we look at things now, 20 years later, Karadžić fulfilled his goals, and those that were in his way were killed. The judgment would make sense only if it would somehow address his legacy here in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In any other case, the judgment, for me, is completely pointless. “I have nothing to lose, I lost so much already, my family is gone, and I have hoped the world would be a bit fairer and a bit less cruel.” Additional reporting by Ana Bogavac in Petnjica Radovan Karadžić was convicted of genocide for the 1995 slaughter at Srebrenica. Photograph: Imago / Barcroft Media
  3. At least 11 killed and 81 injured in Zaventem airport blasts 15 dead and 55 injured in metro station blast ‘We face a tragic moment,’ says Belgian PM Matthew Weaver and Haroon Siddique Tuesday 22 March 2016 13.05 GMT 13m agoOne British national injured 28m agoReport: 34 dead 36m agoCameron says 'we absolutely stand' with Belgium 1h agoTrump and Ukip blame 'lax' border controls 2h ago15 killed in metro blast 2h agoBelgian PM: 'What we feared, has happened' 4h agoReport: 10 dead in metro blast Live feed
  4. In his first comments since protests interrupted two rallies in Arizona on Saturday, Donald Trump rejected any responsibility: ‘We don’t condone violence’ Edward Helmore Sunday 20 March 2016 17.57 GMT In his first comments since protests and violence interrupted two rallies in Arizona on Saturday, Donald Trump rejected any responsibility, saying the protesters involved were “very disruptive people”. The Republican presidential frontrunner singled out one demonstrator who was punched and kicked by a Trump supporter as he was being led out of a rally in Tucson. Film showed a female protester following behind, wearing what appeared to be Klu Klux Klan-style white hood. “Well, you know he or his partner was wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit,” Trump said in an interview with ABC’s This Week on Sunday, when asked if he would disavow the attack on the male protester. “These are not really protesters, they’re agitators.” Of the supporter who punched the protester, he said: “This happened to be an African American man who was very, very incensed that a protester would be wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit.” The exchange came three weeks after Trump stoked controversy by refusing to immediately disavow an expression of support from David Duke, a former KKK grand wizard. Trump denied condoning Saturday’s violence. “That was a tough thing to watch,” he said. “We don’t condone violence. And we have very little violence.” He repeated: “These are professional agitators. I think that somebody should say that when a road is blocked going into the event.” Protesters blocked a road in Phoenix earlier on Saturday, before a rally attended by Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County who became famous thanks to his hardline stance on immigration. Trump also defended campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who at the Tucson rally on Saturday appeared to physically pull a protester by his collar. Police in Florida are investigating a recent incident in which Lewandowski is alleged to have assaulted a reporter. Trump said Lewandowski had merely been trying to take down signs held by some protesters. “They had signs up in that area were horrendous,” he said. “I will give him credit for having spirit.” Violent confrontation at Trump events threatens become a feature of this election season. The candidate has been pressed repeatedly on what could happen at the Republican convention in Cleveland in July, if he is denied the nomination despite having the greatest number of delegates. On ABC, George Stephanopoulos asked Trump if he would tell his supporters not to riot. “I would certainly tell them that,” he said. “But look, these people are fervent, they want to see positive things. I don’t want to see riots, I don’t want to see problems, but you have millions of people you’re talking about.” Senior Republicans continue their efforts to find ways to block Trump. On Sunday Senator Lindsey Graham, a former presidential candidate, told CBS: “Trump is a demagogue of greatest proportions.” Trump, he said, “would be an absolute, utter disaster for the Republican party, and destroy conservatism as we know it”. The question of what may happen in Cleveland in the event that Trump does not amass a clear majority of delegates in the primary elections continues to vex party leaders. On Sunday, national committee chairman Reince Priebus said a contested convention would simply be part of the selection process. “This is the first time in a long time people actually care about delegate count,” he said, on CNN. “When someone’s a little bit short you let the process play out.” Priebus seemed to rule out a scenario in which a candidate with a low number of delegates, such as the Ohio governor John Kasich, could win out over a candidate with a greater number, even if that candidate was Trump. “The minority of delegates doesn’t rule for the majority,” Priebus said. Still, he refused to rule out convention rule changes, pointing to his own election as party chairman. “I had to fight and fight and fight,” Priebus said “but that’s how it works.” Having won only his home state so far, Kasich’s only hope of securing the nomination rests with a contested convention. The governor has been accused of running the risk of splitting remaining delegates with the Texas senator Ted Cruz, thus ensuring that Trump remains the decisive frontrunner. Kasich said he believed he was still in with a shot. “This isn’t a parlor game,” he said on NBC. “The convention is an extension of the process of nominating someone. Nobody is going to the convention with enough delegates. I can win in the fall and I have the experience and record to lead this country.” But even Kasich supporters, including Graham, have doubts. “John Kasich is the most electable Republican,” Graham said, “but I don’t think he has a chance to win. Kasich is an insider and most of the delegates are looking for an outsider.” Graham, who previously said a choice between Trump and Cruz was “like being shot or poisoned”, is now backing Cruz.
  5. Online retailer delivered age-restricted product, similar to weapon bought by teenage killer of schoolboy Bailey Gwynne, without age-verification Simon Bowers Tuesday 15 March 2016 08.30 GMT Amazon is selling age-restricted folding knives, similar to one used by the 16-year-old killer of schoolboy Bailey Gwynne, without checking they are safely delivered to adults, a Guardian investigation has found. Last week, a teenager who killed Gwynne in a school in Aberdeen was cleared of murder but convicted of culpable homicide. He had paid £40 ($56.61) on Amazon for a folding knife with an 8.5cm blade. It is illegal to sell a folding knife to a buyer aged under 18 if the blade is more than three inches (7.62cm) long. But the 16-year-old had been able to get around Amazon’s age-verification checks by pinning a note to his front door rather than accepting delivery in person. The Guardian posted a similar note on the door of a family home over the weekend and was also able to receive delivery of an age-restricted knife from Amazon without any checks. On Monday, the home secretary, Theresa May, met online and high street retailers, including Amazon, to discuss how better to enforce age restrictions on the sale of certain knives. Meanwhile, backbench Conservative MP David Burrowes called for an amendment to the policing and crime bill, proposing a “triple lock” that would force retailers to make tougher age checks. Burrowes told the Sun newspaper: “The law against selling knives to children is barely enforced and largely ignored. However online sales to children are taking place with fatal and tragic consequences. It is time to bring the knife sales law up to date so we can catch reckless online retailers. “Amazon and other retailers should not be able to hide behind an old law which is not fit for purpose.” The Guardian ordered two folding knives on Amazon, each with a blade of 9.5cm. The website made clear: “This bladed product is not for sale to people under the age of 18. A signature may be required on delivery.” Order-tracking details on the website said the knives would be delivered by Amazon Logistics – one to a family home, the other to Guardian offices – in a package marked “Age 18”. In fact, Amazon Logistics has no drivers and contracts out deliveries to many small- and medium-sized couriers across the country. A note attached to the front door of the family home asked the delivery driver to drop off the parcel without knocking. Post room staff at the Guardian, meanwhile, declined to sign for the knife. In both instances, the knife was nevertheless delivered. A note on the door of the residential house was similar to one that had been left for an Amazon courier by the 16-year-old who killed Gwynne in order to get around the online retailer’s age checks. The boy who carried out the stabbing explained to police how he had bought the knife online “because they don’t check if you’re 18 or not”. He said: “You just leave a note on the door saying there’s no one in and asking for the package to be left in the shed.” The teenager, who was said to be preoccupied with weapons, was also convicted last week of carrying knives and knuckledusters in school. His internet search history showed he had looked up “knife merchant”, “illegal knives UK” and “knuckleduster UK”. Gwynne died in hospital after being stabbed at his school in Aberdeen last October. He had been attacked during a row over a biscuit. His killer was also convicted last week of carrying knives and knuckledusters in a school. Amazon has refused to comment on the sale of the knife used to kill Gwynne. It is now looking into the circumstances around the Guardian’s knife purchases, but again declined to comment. It believes sufficient age restriction checks were made on the knife delivered to the Guardian’s post room. In December, the Guardian was also able to buy on Amazon a 1m volt stun gun almost identical to a weapon that weeks earlier had featured in another murder trial. Nathan Matthews, who was eventually convicted of the murder of his step sister Becky Watts, last year told a jury in Bristol how he had bought two stun guns, disguised as torches, on the internet for £18 ( $25.47) using his mobile phone. He told the court he had not known they were illegal, but Matthews explained he had intended to use them on Watts until she passed out as part of a kidnap attempt — an attempt that was botched, ending in her death. The stun gun bought by the Guardian also doubled as a torch. The Amazon seller — a company in Missouri, America — said in an email: “We are technically not supposed to sell these in the UK”. The weapon was sent anyway. It was promptly handed over to police. The Guardian has raised concerns that large numbers of illegal weapons are regularly being sold on Amazon and four months ago seven banned items were removed from the UK site. They including a pair of knuckledusters hidden inside gloves, a keychain that doubles as a martial arts weapon, a high-strength pepper spray pistol, and a blade concealed in the peak of a baseball cap. Pepper spray is marketed in some countries as a self-defence product but is illegal in the UK under the firearms act, and has been used in several violent attacks. In 2014, a 21-year-old bus passenger was sprayed and beaten by a man on a journey in Birmingham after asking that the attacker stop his children throwing sweets at him. Over the weekend, the Guardian alerted Amazon to nine further pepper spray products illegally sold on its UK website. In a statement, Amazon said it had removed these listings, adding: “All Marketplace sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who don’t will be subject to action including potential removal of their account.” In December, the Guardian found that Amazon itself had been selling a pepper spray product on its UK site. The company has refused to comment on this or to apologise for such sales. In 2008, BBC2’s Watchdog investigated illegal pepper spray products sold by traders on The website’s then UK boss Brian McBride told the programme the sale of illegal weapons would not be tolerated, and that any offending items identified would be “removed within the hour”. Since then, pepper spray and other dangerous and illegal weapons have reappeared on Amazon. Most nationwide retailers, including eBay to Tesco, stay in regular contact with trading standards officials through a “primary authority”. This relationship is designed to make it easier to comply with trading standards laws and improve intelligence about regulatory issues. Amazon ended its relationship with a primary trading standards authority five years ago. 1 4 Bailey Gwynne, above, died at school in Aberdeen last December after being stabbed by a 16-year-old who had purchased the knife used online, despite age restrictions. Photograph: PA 2 4 Knife bought by the Guardian and delivered without age-verification checks. Illustration: Screengrab from More pics in link
  6. Calls secretly recorded by investigating judge suggest president gave her predecessor a government role to avoid prosecution on corruption charges Bruce Douglas in Rio de Janeiro Thursday 17 March 2016 02.19 GMT In the latest of a series of explosive revelations that could bring down the Brazilian government, a secretly recorded phone call between former president Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, suggests his appointment to a ministerial position on Wednesday was motivated by a desire to avoid prosecution in Brazil’s worst-ever corruption scandal. Judge Sergio Moro, the lead prosecutor in Operation Lava-jato, a two-year investigation into corruption at the state-run oil company, Petrobras, released nearly 50 audio recordings to the media on Wednesday evening, prompting chaotic scenes in congress as opposition deputies demanded Rousseff’s resignation. On Wednesday night tens of thousands of Brazilians began gathering in São Paulo, Brasília, Belo Horizonte and other major cities to demand the president’s resignation. In the capital Brasilia, riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades at more than 5,000 demonstrators outside the presidential palace and Congress building. Many waved banners calling for Lula’s arrest. Thousands more demonstrators packed the main Avenue Paulista in São Paulo. Earlier in the day, Lula was appointed cabinet chief in a controversial move that Rousseff said would strengthen her government, but which critics argued was an attempt to shield the former president, who is under investigation for corruption and money-laundering, from prosecution. Under Brazilian law, government ministers can be tried only in the “privileged forum” of the supreme court. Opposition activists believe any trial in Brazil’s highest court is likely to progress much more slowly than in the federal court. They also believe that the supreme court justices – many of whom were appointed by Lula and Rousseff – may prove far more sympathetic than Moro. The judge, from the southern city of Curitiba, has already handed down a number of severe sentences for some of Brazil’s top businessmen who have been found guilty of involvement in the Petrobras scandal. In the most damaging conversation, recorded on Wednesday afternoon, Rousseff tells Lula that she is sending him over his ministerial papers “in case of necessity”. The Brazilian media and opposition have interpreted the remarks to mean that she was giving him the papers quickly so that Lula could show them to police to avoid detention. A note published on the presidential palace website late on Wednesday disputed the opposition’s interpretation of the call. It states that Rousseff sent Lula the terms of office for him to sign in case he was unable to attend the swearing-in ceremony, due to take place in Brasília at 10am on Thursday. It also said that the presidency would be pursuing legal action against Moro. The former president is accused of receiving benefits-in-kind from construction companies involved in the Petrobras scandal. Prosecutors allege he is the real owner of two luxury properties registered in the names of others. Lula denies the charges. On 4 March, he was briefly detained by police in São Paulo and taken in for “coercive questioning”, along with his wife, Marisa Letícia, and his eldest son, Fábio Luiz. On his release, a highly emotional Lula told supporters he had felt he had been “kidnapped” and questioned why Moro had used such an aggressive tactic when he had repeatedly offered to testify over the case. That same day he also vented his frustrations to Rousseff, in another phone call that was secretly recorded by investigators and released by Moro to the press on Wednesday evening. In that recording Lula lambasted Moro’s actions as “an unprecedented firework display”, after Rousseff noted the coincidence of damaging revelations being leaked to the press the day before his detention. Lula added that the prosecutors in charge of the case “think that with the press leading the investigative process they are going to re-found the republic. We have a totally cowardly supreme court, a totally cowardly high court, a totally cowardly parliament … a speaker of the house who is fucked, a president of the senate who is fucked, I don’t know how many legislators under threat, and everyone thinking that some kind of miracle is going to happen.” Notably, however, in that same conversation Lula also said “he would never enter government to protect myself”. Moro’s decision both to record the phone conversations between the former and current president and to release them to the press has come in for severe criticism, even by those appalled by Lula’s decision to join the government. The judge justified the decision by stating that the conversations were in the public interest. “Democracy in a free society requires that the governed know what their governors are doing, even when they try to act in the dark,” he wrote. Moro also said he believes Lula had advance warning of the raid on 4 March and may have known his phone was tapped. The latest revelations will intensify yet further the political polarisation in the country. By midnight on Wednesday there were reports of demonstrations against the government in at least 17 of Brazil’s 26 states. In the southern city of Curitiba, where Moro is based, hundreds gathered in front of the court to show support for the judge and his investigation. In Rio de Janeiro, Adriana Balthazar, from the Vem Pra Rua protest movement, told the newspaper Folha de São Paulo that if Rousseff did not resign, there would be further protests on Thursday. Other opposition activists want to organise a general strike starting next week. Last Sunday, millions of Brazilians took part in the largest anti-government protests the country has ever seen. A pro-government rally is planned for Friday. On top of the corruption allegations, Brazil is suffering from its worst recession in at least 25 years, with the economy shrinking 3.8% last year, and the forecast for 2016 similar. Rousseff is also facing separate impeachment proceedings, accused of illegally using state banks to plug budget deficits. Another case against her, in the supreme electoral court, claims her presidential campaign in 2014 was financed with cash from the Petrobras scandal. Last week, Rousseff insisted to the press she had no intention of resigning. Brazil’s entire political class is now in the firing line. Opposition politicians who attempted to join Sunday’s anti-government protests were booed and forced to leave. Alongside Lula and Rousseff, Brazil’s vice-president, speaker of the house, president of the senate and main opposition leader have all been accused of involvement in the Petrobras corruption scandal. Transcript of call between Rousseff and Lula, 16 March Rousseff: Hello. Lula: Hello. Rousseff: Lula, let me tell you something. Lula: Tell me, my love. Rousseff: It’s this, I am sending Messias [Jorge Rodrigo Araújo Messias, deputy head of legal affairs at the cabinet office] round with the papers, so that we have them, just in case of necessity, that is the terms of office, right? Lula: Uh-huh. Ok, ok. Rousseff: That’s all, wait there, he is heading there. Lula: OK, I’m here. I’ll wait. Rousseff: Right? Lula: OK. Rousseff: Bye. Lula: Bye, my love. 3 3 The judge’s decision to to record and release the phone conversations between Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva has come in for criticism. Photograph: Andre Penner/AP
  7. Russian president says soldiers should begin pulling out of country as military intervention has largely achieved its aims Patrick Wintour in Geneva and Shaun Walker in Moscow Monday 14 March 2016 19.57 GMT The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has abruptly declared that he is withdrawing the majority of Russian troops from Syria, saying the six-month military intervention had largely achieved its objective. The news on Monday, relayed personally to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, in a telephone call from Putin, followed a meeting in the Kremlin with the Russian defence and foreign ministers. He said the pullout, scaling back an intervention that began at the end of September, is due to start on Tuesday. His move was clearly designed to coincide with the start of Syrian peace talks in Geneva and will be seen as a sign that Russia believes it has done enough to protect Assad’s regime from collapse. Putin said he had ordered his diplomatic staff to step up their efforts to achieve a settlement to end the civil war which has cost at least 250,000 lives and is due to enter its sixth year on Tuesday. Western diplomatic sources were both sceptical and startled by Putin’s unexpected and mercurial move. “We will have to wait and see what this represents. It is Putin. He has announced similar concessions in the past and nothing materialised,” a diplomat at the talks in Geneva told the Guardian. Syrian activists and rights groups have accused the Russian campaign of indiscriminate attacks and causing enormous civilian casualties, something Russian officials have repeatedly denied. Moscow has also come under fire for targeting moderate opposition groups, while claiming to be fighting Islamic State. The Syrian opposition delegation had been given no notice of Putin’s announcement but said it hoped it was a potential signal that the Russian president was demonstrating that he, and not Assad, would decide any endgame in Syria. “If there is seriousness in implementing the withdrawal, it will give the talks a positive push,” said Salim al-Muslat, spokesman for the rebel high negotiations committee. “If this is a serious step, it will form a major element of pressure on the regime, because the Russian support prolonged the regime. Matters will change significantly as a result of that.” The talks are likely to be deadlocked on the extent to which Assad will be allowed to remain in power during any political transition and after any fresh UN-supervised presidential elections due in 18 months. In a statement announcing the withdrawal, the Kremlin said Putin and Assad agreed that the actions of Russia’s air force in Syria had allowed them to “profoundly reverse the situation” in connection to fighting terrorists in the region, having “disorganised militants’ infrastructure and inflicted fundamental damage upon them”. “The effective work of our military created the conditions for the start of the peace process,” Putin added. “I believe that the task put before the defence ministry and Russian armed forces has, on the whole, been fulfilled. With the participation of the Russian military … the Syrian armed forces and patriotic Syrian forces have been able to achieve a fundamental turnaround in the fight against international terrorism and have taken the initiative in almost all respects.” Moscow will, however, maintain a military presence in Syria, and a deadline for complete withdrawal has not yet been announced. Putin said that the existing Russian airbase in Hemeimeem in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia and a naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartous would continue to operate. The Russian air force has been capable of running 100 sorties a day from the base and would be able quickly to re-equip it if it felt the military balance required it to do so. The Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said on Monday the intervention had led to the death of 2,000 rebels fighting against the Syrian government and the killing of 17 field commanders. He added that more than 200 oil installations had been attacked, 400 settlements taken and the chief route to supply rebel fighters from Turkey had been cut off. Russian airstrikes killed 4,408 people including 1,733 civilians between September 2015 and early March 2016, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Given that Russia-backed separatists launched one of their biggest offensives in Ukraine in February 2015, just as Putin joined other world leaders in negotiating a ceasefire, there will undoubtedly be scepticism over whether the announcement of the end of the Syrian mission can be taken at face value. However, Russia’s overarching goal of securing a lead seat at the table over the fate of Syria has clearly been achieved. A withdrawal will prevent the inevitable “mission creep” that appeared to be on the cards. “Essentially, they’ve achieved their goals,” said Mark Galeotti, professor of global affairs at New York University and currently based in Moscow. “They’ve stabilised the regime, turned momentum round on the battlefield so the regime has the upper hand, and now we’ve got a ceasefire and political talks.” As the talks opened in Geneva, Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, reminded negotiators that a whole generation of Syrian children – more than 3.5 million under the age of five – had never experienced anything but war. De Mistura will brief the UN security council meeting in New York in a closed session from Geneva and his aides were making no initial response to the Russian move. Western governments, along with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have repeatedly accused Putin of deploying his air force not to bomb Isis targets but rebel forces including the moderate Free Syrian army, often hitting schools and hospitals. Earlier this month, Nato’s military commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, accused Putin of “deliberately weaponising” the refugee crisis from Syria in an attempt to overwhelm Europe. Muslat, meanwhile, has denied the Russian intervention has seriously weakened the opposition’s negotiating hand. Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “We are closer to a solution now more than ever. We have been patient and we hope to see something in the coming few days, at least some light at the end of the tunnel that says at this, or that, time there will be something for the Syrians. “Before, we saw all doors closed; now we see some doors open. We want to see an end to the nightmare. We want to see it today and before tomorrow. The future of Syria should be decided here and decided very soon.” He claimed the shaky two-week ceasefire and the start of humanitarian convoys was changing the atmosphere inside Syria. But in a sign of how perilous the talks are likely to become, the Syrian foreign minister, Walid Muallem, set out the government’s determination to keep Assad’s future out of the talks. “We will not talk with anyone who wants to discuss the presidency ... Bashar al-Assad is a red line.” Muslat countered: “The political transition process has to be without Assad. You do not want to keep a murderer who has killed half a million people and destroyed a country. There is no place for Assad in Syria. He is not acceptable to the Syrian people.” Significantly, he added that it might be possible for Assad to remain for a period if there was a clear guarantee that he would stand down. “At the least, we have to see something that Assad will go and we do not want to hear from Russia that nobody should discuss the future of Assad.” He stressed Assad “could not be a member of any transitional governing body”. 1 3 Some Syrian children have known nothing but war, said UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura. Photograph: Abd Doumany/AFP/Getty Images 3 3 Rubble of a hospital supported by Médecins Sans Frontières in Idlib after it was hit by suspected Russian airstrikes. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
  8. March 11, 2016 6:40 pm Geoff Dyer in Washington The military campaign to topple Muammer Gaddafi in 2011 was Barack Obama’s own intervention, the one time he embraced a recommendation to pursue regime change. Five years later, he considers the decision a “mistake”. The US president provided the unprecedented insight into his foreign policy views in a series of long interviews given to The Atlantic, in which he acknowledges that the Libya experience played a big role in shaping his world view. The country is, he is quoted as saying, now a “**** show”. “It didn’t work,” he admits. Libya is re-emerging as a major topic in American political life in part because Isis has used the continued chaos in the country to gain territory, sparking a new debate about western intervention, and because of the presidential campaign of Hillarious Clinton, as one of the main supporters of military action. The Libyan intervention also crystallised many of the ideas that, for better or for worse, have come to define his presidency — a belief in the limitations of American power to shape societies, irritation at “freeriding” by allies, frustration with a Washington conventional wisdom that always wants to take action and a deep aversion to new entanglements in the Middle East. “There is no way we should commit to governing the Middle East and north Africa,” he is quoted as saying about the Libyan intervention. “That would be a basic, fundamental mistake.” His frustration at how the situation in Libya played out, where the death of Mr Gaddafi soon led to a country dominated by armed militias, prompts some of Mr Obama’s most withering criticisms of US allies. David Cameron, the British prime minister, soon became “distracted by a range of other things”, while Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, was more interested in “trumpeting” France’s role in the air campaign. “I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up,” he said. With 10 months still in office, Mr Obama may be using the sorts of barbed reflections normally reserved for memoirs to get his personal argument across early. They also anticipate the political attacks that will surround the Libyan action in the November election, where Mrs Clinton is likely to be criticised for both the decision to attack Mr Gaddafi and for not doing more to prevent the country from unravelling afterwards. Yet, as Mr Obama makes clear, the events in Libya are one of the essential prisms for viewing the subsequent controversies of his foreign policy — the decision not to bomb the Assad regime in 2013 over its use of chemical weapons, his response to Russian intervention in Ukraine and the rise of Isis. “Libya is a mess,” he admits. Mr Obama says that without the failures in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, he might have been willing to take more risks in Syria. “A president does not make decisions in a vacuum. He does not have a blank slate.” For critics of the Obama administration, the original sin was the 2013 decision to use Russia to negotiate a deal to get chemical weapons out of Syria, rather than take military action as Mr Obama had threatened. Mrs Clinton is quoted as giving the warning: “If you say you’re going to strike, you have to strike. There’s no choice.” But Mr Obama describes the decision as both a success and a defining moment when he was able to step out of what he sees as Washington groupthink. “There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow. It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment . . .[that] tends to be militarised responses,” he says. “But the playbook can also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions.” To critics, much of this rationalisation is an exercise in “straw men” arguments. In Syria, they say, the objective has never been to topple Bashar al-Assad, but to use US military power to force the regime to the negotiating table. The Atlantic article reveals that John Kerry, secretary of state, has put forward a series of proposals over the past year for targeted air strikes against the regime that would “send a message”. However, the president has rebuffed the suggestions, commenting once: “Oh, another proposal.” Behind all these decisions, Mr Obama reveals a stark view of Middle Eastern society which is far removed from the optimism of his famous Cairo speech in his first year in office. He admits he enjoys meeting young people in Asia and Latin America because “they are not thinking about how to kill Americans . . . What they’re thinking about is ‘How do I get a better education? How do I create something of value?’ “If we’re not talking to them [young Asians and Africans and Latin Americans] because the only thing we’re doing is figuring out how to destroy or cordon off or control the malicious, nihilistic, violent parts of humanity, then we’re missing the boat.”
  9. "Keith was a gentle soul whose love for music and passion for his performance as a keyboard player will remain unmatched for many years to come," Carl Palmer says of ELP bandmate By Daniel Kreps March 11, 2016 Keith Emerson, founding member and keyboardist of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and a prog rock legend, died Friday. He was 71. His bandmate Carl Palmer and the trio's official Facebook confirmed Emerson's death. TMZ reported that police found Emerson with a single gunshot wound to the head, though they could not confirm that Emerson died by suicide. "We regret to announce that Keith Emerson died last night at his home in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, aged 71. We ask that the family’s privacy and grief be respected," the band wrote. "I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend and brother-in-music, Keith Emerson," Palmer wrote in a statement. "Keith was a gentle soul whose love for music and passion for his performance as a keyboard player will remain unmatched for many years to come. He was a pioneer and an innovator whose musical genius touched all of us in the worlds of rock, classical and jazz. I will always remember his warm smile, good sense of humor, compelling showmanship and dedication to his musical craft. I am very lucky to have known him and to have made the music we did together." After discovering the Hammond and Moog in his teenage years, Emerson grew into one of the greatest keyboardists of his generation, first as a member of the Nice before founding the prog supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer. ELP formed in 1970 after Emerson, guitarist Greg Lake (formerly of King Crimson) and drummer Carl Palmer, a veteran of the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, joined together for a project that would better showcase their musicianship. After a breakout performance at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970, the trio signed with Atlantic Records' Ahmet Ertegun; 37 years later, Emerson and other prog all-stars would open for Led Zeppelin at the Ertegun tribute concert at London's O2 Arena. ELP's self-titled debut arrived in 1970, the first of four albums the trio would release in their first four years together. Following the release of 1971's Tarkus – the album's title track serves as a highlight of Emerson's keyboard prowess – and 1972's Trilogy, the group unleashed their landmark 1973 album Brain Salad Surgery; Emerson served as co-writer on that album's most enduring track, "Karn Evil 9." After a brief hiatus to work on solo projects, ELP reunited for 1977's Works Volume 1 and Volume 2, which was followed soon after by 1978's Love Beach. ELP disbanded for the first time in 1979, although soon after Emerson, Lake and Palmer morphed into Emerson, Lake and Powell with Rainbow and Jeff Beck drummer Cozy Powell on sticks. Emerson briefly reunited with Palmer for their 1988 project 3 before ELP reunited in 1991 and recorded their 1992 comeback album titled Black Moon; In the Hot Seat, their last studio album together, followed in 1994. After splitting again in the late-Nineties, ELP remained separate for nearly a dozen years until reuniting for one last tour together in 2010. Their final gig together came at London's High Voltage Festival in July 2010. In addition to his time with ELP, Emerson also enjoyed a long musical career that featured both solo albums and film scores, including Dario Argento's 1980 horror film Inferno and the 1981 Sylvester Stallone thriller Nighthawks. Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer during rehearsals for the band's 'Works' tour, at the Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Canada, February 1977. Michael Putland Umb's humble comment...An awesome Musician with an astounding Classical background which he (so greatly and with very good taste and class) combined with modern music..
  10. Police say at least two gunmen are at large after ‘ambush-style attack’ at a party in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Staff and agencies Thursday 10 March 2016 10.40 GMT Police say five people have been shot dead in an “ambush-style attack” in suburban Pittsburgh and at least two gunmen are at large. Allegheny County police said four women and a man were killed late on Wednesday during a backyard party in the borough of Wilkinsburg. At least three others are in hospital, where two men are in critical condition and one woman is stable. Police said people scrambled toward the house as bullets began flying. Four of the victims were found dead on the back porch. The other died at a hospital. At least two suspects fled on foot. No suspects are in custody and a motive was not immediately known. Officials said Wilkinsburg police officers were called to the scene at 10.54pm to find eight people with gunshot wounds. “It would appear from early examination of the scene that a backyard party/cookout was being held at the rear of the home,” an official press release said. “The ballistic evidence on the scene leads police to believe that two different weapons were discharged from two different people.” Lt. Andrew Schurman of the Allegheny County homicide unit said the gunmen had barged into the party and opened fire in an ambush-style attack. He said police do not believe anyone at the party fired back. “It looks like right now they were all fleeing toward the back door of the residence when the second gunman fired from the side of the yard,” Schurman said. “They all seemed to get caught on the back porch.” Resident Kayla Alexander told WPXI-TV that she heard a barrage of gunshots – more than 20 – in the neighborhood, which usually is quiet. Groups of residents were reported to be gathered on the street, some of them sobbing and saying they had lost family members. Dozens of shell casings littered the pavement of an alleyway near the site, where police were gathering evidence and talking to witnesses. Vehicles from the medical examiner’s office arrived in the early hours of Thursday to remove the victims’ bodies. Wilkinsburg is a residential neighborhood of around 16,000 people, 13 km (8 miles) east of Pittsburgh. Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
  11. For the last eight years, Gift and her husband, Augustine, have spent most of their married life on the road fighting FGM in south-east Nigeria Hajra Rahim in Agwagune Tuesday 8 March 2016 09.38 GMT
  12. More than 200 people were travelling on the train when it left the tracks near the town of Sunol, near San Francisco Guardian staff Tuesday 8 March 2016 04.47 GMT A passenger train carrying 214 people has derailed and overturned in a river in California after hitting a tree that had fallen on to the line, according to US media. The Alameda County fire department said on Twitter that all of those on board had been rescued and were being assessed by paramedics. The department later said 14 people had been injured, four seriously, but that none of the injuries was life-threatening. Ten people have been taken to hospital. The incident took place at 7.45pm near the town of Sunol, 45 miles south-east of San Francisco. The first carriage of the express commuter train, which was travelling from San Jose to Stockton, reportedly left the tracks and came to rest partially submerged in the Alameda Creek. The fire department tweeted images from the scene showing one car on its side in the water. Alameda County sheriff’s Sgt Ray Kelly said a large tree that fell into the tracks during heavy rain caused the train to derail, adding that it was “a miracle” no one was killed in the accident. Altamont Corridor Express train official Steve Walker said the first car was carrying six passengers and one crew member when it fell into Alameda Creek. Walker told San Jose television station KNTV the second car also derailed but remained upright. Three more cars behind, including the locomotive, stayed on the tracks. The Bay Area was recently hit by a big storm and officials say it was raining heavily in the area at the time of the accident. Associated Press contributed to this report
  13. Draft of summit conclusions says EU ready to double aid to €6bn, as leaders discuss plan to resettle one Syrian refugee in Europe for every Syrian returned to Turkey from Greek islands Jennifer Rankin in Brussels Monday 7 March 2016 18.36 GMT A proposal to exchange Syrian refugees has been debated at an emergency EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, as Ankara demanded an extra €3bn to help manage Europe’s migration crisis. Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, outlined proposals to resettle one Syrian refugee in Europe for every Syrian returned to Turkey from the Greek islands. The EU was ready to double aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey, as it bargained with Ankara to do more to stop migrants and refugees arriving on Greece’s shores. EU leaders promised Turkey €6bn (£4.6bn...$6.605B) over three years, twice the €3bn offered last November, according to a draft version of the summit conclusions. Turkey has given shelter to almost 3 million refugees, while almost 363,000 Syrians claimed asylum in Europe last year. Up to 2,000 refugees are arriving on Greek shores every day, many from Syria, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan. Davutoğlu also promised to tackle people smuggling: “With these new proposals we aim to rescue refugees, discourage those who misuse and exploit their situation and find a new era in Turkey-EU relations.” He told European leaders Turkey wanted more for its citizens in exchange for helping the EU. He called for visa-liberalisation for 75 million Turks by 1 June, an advance on the October deadline proposed last year, as well as re-starting Turkey’s long-stalled EU accession talks. European officials are investigating whether a one-for-one resettlement programme is “legally and logistically possible”, said a source. Questions will also be asked about whether all EU member states would take part in a resettlement scheme, with some countries, notably Hungary, refusing to take part in an EU relocation scheme. Ahead of the summit, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said his country had already spent $10bn (£7bn...$11B) helping those living in Turkey who have fled the war in Syria. Last year, the EU promised €3bn ($3.302B) to feed and house refugees in Turkey, in exchange for more action from Ankara to tackle people-smuggling and reduce the flow of people arriving on European shores. Erdoğan, who is not at the summit, voiced his frustration at the EU’s failure to deliver the money promised last November. “They promised to give us €3bn, four months have passed since then,” Erdoğan said. “The prime minister is in Brussels right now. I hope he returns with that money.” The summit comes at an awkward moment for EU-Turkey relations, after the Turkish government seized control of Zaman, the country’s biggest daily newspaper, which had been critical of Erdoğan and his Justice and Development party. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, urged Turkey “to respect the highest standards” on democracy, the rule of law and freedom of expression. She also called on Turkish authorities to engage with peaceful Kurdish groups to restart stalled peace talks. A bigger priority for Turkey at the summit is breathing new life into talks on joining the EU. Arriving at the meeting, Davutoğlu said the EU and Turkey were at a turning point in their relations: “Turkey is ready to be a member of the EU.” The summit agenda was torn up after Davutoğlu arrived with a list of “new elements” for tackling the migration crisis. Over a lunch of celery soup, carrot flan and sole fillet, Davutoğlu called for more funding for refugee aid projects, as well as progress on Turkey’s EU membership talks. Talks with Turkey will resume over dinner on Monday, after the EU 28 hold a separate discussion on tackling the refugee crisis inside Europe. “It will not be a short summit,” said one diplomat. Turkey is expected to announce it will take back people who do not qualify for asylum in Europe, following an agreement struck last week. But human rights groups have said these arrangements could be in conflict with the Geneva convention. Miltiadis Kyrkos, a Greek MEP who is vice chair of the European parliament’s joint committee with Turkey, compared Ankara’s diplomacy to “an eastern bazaar”, as it seeks to extract the maximum from the talks. “The crucial point is on Monday to know if Turkey is a player on our side, because up to now they declare they are on our side but they don’t do anything to prove that.” He also criticised Europe for failing to deliver last year’s €3bn. EU leaders signed off the money last month, but aid projects have not arrived on the ground. The EU executive announced last Friday it will spend €95m ($104.5M) on providing food and schooling for Syrian refugees in Turkey, from a different pot of money. In the background to the Turkey talks, EU leaders were at loggerheads over managing refugees in Europe. Germany objected to an early draft of the summit communique that declared the closure of the western Balkan route, used by refugees and migrants travelling from Greece to northern Europe. According to German media, the chancellor, Angela Merkel, thought it wrong to announce the closure of the route when Syrians and Iraqis are entitled to asylum under EU law. In reality, the vast majority of refugees and migrants in Greece are already barred from using the route, with at least 35,000 stuck in Greece. Conditions at the Idomeni camp near the Greek-Macedonian border, where 13,000 are stranded, are increasingly desperate, with limited supplies of food and water. EU leaders are expected to declare they will “stand by Greece in this difficult moment”, according to the summit communique, which states the crisis is “a collective EU responsibility”. But European unity has been stretched to breaking point, with countries taking unilateral action to reintroduce border controls across the passport-free Schengen zone. EU leaders will call for all controls to be lifted by the end of the year. The western Balkans migration route (see link) Arriving at the EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, David Cameron said there was no prospect of the UK joining a common European asylum policy. The UK is not in the passport-free Schengen zone, although it is signed up to the EU’s Dublin regulation, which obliges member states to take responsibility for refugees who arrive in their country first. The Dublin system is on the brink of collapse, after more than a million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe in 2015, while up to 2,000 continue to land in Greece every day. In the coming days the European commission will outline plans to overhaul EU asylum policy, with the aim of stopping people being waved through border checkpoints and travelling to a country of their choice. The UK can choose whether it joins the new system. Arrivals by sea to Greece (see link) The prime minister said the British opt-out underlined the UK’s “special status” in the EU, a phrase he has used heavily since securing a reform deal with other EU leaders earlier this month. “We have an absolutely rock-solid opt-out from these things, so there is no prospect of Britain joining a common asylum process in Europe. We will have our own approach, our own way of doing things, keeping our own borders. It underlines the best of both worlds, the special status we have.” Cameron added that it was “important that we help the continent of Europe to secure its external border” and “that is why we are sending British ships to do just that”, referring to a Royal Navy deployment in the Aegean announced on Monday. 2 2 People at Greece’s border with Macedonia on Monday wave a German flag. Photograph: Kay Nietfeld/EPA
  14. The knife was in the possession of a retired LAPD officer, who was given it a number of years ago by a construction worker and kept it as a memento Nicky Woolf in Los Angeles and Maria L La Ganga in San Francisco Friday 4 March 2016 20.45 GMT Los Angeles police are examining a knife that may have been found in a now-demolished house once owned by OJ Simpson, the former football player who was acquitted of the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, in 1995. In a bizarre twist to a decades-old case that has long captivated the US, the LAPD confirmed on Friday that it was investigating the knife, which is said to have been discovered by a construction worker and handed to a police officer working on a movie set in the late 1990s. Remarkably, the police officer, who is now retired, appears to have kept the knife ever since as a memento. Appearing at a press conference, LAPD captain Andrew Neiman said the retired police officer claims he working off duty for a film crew across the road from Simpson’s former Rockingham property when he was given the knife by the construction worker. Nieman would not specify precisely when the knife was handed in, however Simpson’s estate was demolished in 1998. Police obsessed for years over finding the knife used to kill Simpson’s ex-wife and Goldman. Detectives are now testing this knife to see where it may have come from, Neiman said, and the inquiry is still in its early stages. Neiman said the knife had been sent to the LAPD’s laboratory, where it will now be tested for forensic evidence including bodily fluids, hair samples, and DNA. He stressed investigators were still looking into the evidence and the “story” to determine whether it was accurate. Simpson is currently serving a 33-year prison sentence at the Lovelock Correctional Centre in Nevada for a 2007 armed robbery in Las Vegas. He was granted limited parole in July 2013, and is currently set to be released in 2017. The existence of the knife was first reported by celebrity news website TMZ, which reported that it came to light after the retired officer wanted to get it framed. Neiman declined to describe the knife, saying that its description would be part of efforts to verify its veracity, though he said that it was “not a machete.” The 1995 OJ Simpson trial became a national sensation and brought racial tensions bubbling to the surface. It was estimated that 100 million people tuned in when jurors reached their “not guilty” verdict. Although he was acquitted in the criminal trial, Simpson was later found liable for the deaths in a civil suit. Neiman told reporters that the police officer who took possession of the knife was either retired at the time or retired soon thereafter. This means he will not face administrative charges, but Neiman told reporters that there would be an investigation as to whether criminal charges would be appropriate. “I would think an LAPD officer would know that any time you come into contact with evidence you should submit that to investigators,” Neiman said. Neiman said the officer who took possession of the knife “believed the case was closed ... [but] any case where we don’t have a conviction on all of the charges, or we are not able to prove to our satisfaction, remains an open case, and that’s the case here.” “It was brought to our attention that this retired officer had an item,” Neiman also said, that “was possibly recovered from or taken from the Rockingham estate in the 90s ... we discovered it and our investigators immediately followed up on it.” He did, however, say that even if the knife is proven to be the murder weapon and could link Simpson to the two killings, it was his understanding that “double jeopardy would be in place here”, meaning the former football player and movie star could not be indicted on charges for which he has already been acquitted. “We could not charge Mr Simpson,” Neiman said. Norman Pardo, Simpson’s longtime publicist and friend, said that Simpson “watches the news in prison, so I’m sure he is [aware of the discovery] now.” However, Pardo said that Simpson “to be blunt, probably wouldn’t care, because he’s already in prison ... I’m sure he takes it with a grain of salt.” Pardo added that “it’s all going to depend on where the knife came from, what area of the house they found it in ... if it’s relevant.” Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor and member of Simpson’s original defense team, said that he viewed the discovery “with great skepticism.” “There is no chain of custody; [the knife] was held on to for a long period of time, wasn’t handed over, wasn’t announced,” Dershowitz said. “Then it was announced in the middle of the OJ series on television, so one has to have a little bit of skepticism.” Dershowitz said that even if both Simpson’s and the victims’ DNA was found on the knife, “that would be pretty powerful evidence” against Simpson, but still, he said, not enough to re-open the criminal case because of constitutional protections against double jeopardy. However, he said it could change the “verdict of history”. Garson & Wright Public Relations, the firm which represents Fred and Kim Goldman, father and sister of Ronald Goldman, released a statement on their behalf. “Until the LAPD completes its investigation of the recovered knife, the validity of the knife as it relates to Ron and Nicole’s murder is purely speculative,” the statement read. “It is not a shock to our family that stories like this are making headlines again. Being a victim/survivor is an ongoing process for all those impacted. We cannot validate every claim with a discussion, as it only creates more unnecessary hype and encourages the media circus.” The discovery of the knife came just as the FX series American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson has put the trial back into the forefront of public consciousness. The critically-acclaimed show, which stars Cuba Gooding Jr as Simpson, is now halfway through its 10-episode run.
  15. In an exclusive interview, Rosa Isela Guzmán Ortiz says Mexican officials helped him evade US patrols and that he bankrolled the election of senior politicians José Luis Montenegro in Mexico City and Rory Carroll in Los Angeles Friday 4 March 2016 12.00 GMT The drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán bankrolled the election of senior Mexico politicians and twice secretly entered the United States to visit relatives, according to his eldest daughter. Rosa Isela Guzmán Ortiz said that shortly after an interview with Hollywood star Sean Penn last year, her father dodged a massive manhunt with the complicity of corrupt Mexican officials and evaded US border controls to sneak into California – despite being one of the world’s most wanted fugitives. She also accused senior Mexican politicians of accepting donations from El Chapo when they ran for office, and said that in return officials turned a blind eye to his escapes from prison. “My dad is not a criminal. The government is guilty,” she told the Guardian. The explosive allegations made by Guzmán Ortiz could not be independently verified and are likely to be vigorously contested by Mexican and US authorities. Guzmán Ortiz, 39, made the claims in a series of interviews which she said were given in consultation with her father. El Chapo was recaptured in January after seven months on the run, and sent back to the Altiplano security jail near Mexico – the same prison from which he escaped in July 2015 through a tunnel which opened into his shower stall. Earlier this week, he instructed his lawyers to drop their attempts to fight extradition to the United States in the apparent hope of negotiating a lighter sentence. Guzmán Ortiz said the drug lord had planned to hand the reins of the Sinaloa cartel to her half-brother, Iván Archivaldo, but was betrayed by a cartel colleague, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada – and by the Mexican government, which she said had broken an agreement to protect El Chapo. It is the first time the cartel leader’s daughter has spoken to the media. The Guardian has seen several documents confirming her identity, including her birth certificate and Mexican voting card. Guzmán Ortiz’s identity was also confirmed by Francisco Villa Gurrola, an evangelical minister in El Chapo’s hometown of Badiraguato, who is a close friend of the drug lord’s 87-year-old mother Consuela Loera. Her claims about El Chapo’s visits to California will raise questions about US intelligence and border security. As head of the world’s biggest and richest criminal syndicate he was the drug war’s most prized target. Guzmán Ortiz said her father crossed the border in late 2015 to visit relatives and to view her home, a five-bedroom house with a large garden which he bought for her and her four children. She granted the interview on condition its location not be disclosed. “My dad deposited the money in a bank account with a lawyer and a while after he came to see the house, his house. He came twice.” She declined to specify how he criss-crossed the heavily guarded frontier, saying only: “I asked him the same, believe me.” El Chapo has other family ties to the US: his third wife, the former beauty queen Emma Coronel, is a US citizen and in 2011 gave birth to twin daughters in southern California. At the time, El Chapo had been on the run for a more than decade, and then president Felipe Calderón speculated that the fugitive drug kingpin could be hiding north of the border. “He’s not in Mexican territory, and I suppose El Chapo is in US territory,” he told the New York Times. José Reveles, the author of a string of books about the Mexican underworld, said that “nothing is impossible” for El Chapo, pointing out that Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel pioneered the use of sophisticated tunnels to smuggle drug shipments – and cartel members – into the US. “Everything indicates that El Chapo would be able to visit the US: he’s very smart, he has well-trained operatives and he has experts in building tunnels,” said Reveles. El Chapo’s rise from impoverished orange seller to Forbes-listed billionaire funnelling vast quantities of marijuana, cocaine and other drugs to the US has long been the subject of intense speculation. Guzmán Ortiz’s explanation is that he bought protection at the highest official level, dispatching representatives to meetings with senior politicians and their representatives. “All I know is that my dad told his lawyer to deliver some cheques to [a politician’s] campaign, and asked that he respect him.” She said the family was considering releasing copies of the cheques along with names of officials and politicians who accepted his support. Guzmán Ortiz is not the only member of El Chapo’s family to have approached the media, suggesting a concerted attempt by the capo to promote his version of events – or exert pressure on Mexican authorities. El Chapo’s meeting with Penn was enabled by the actress Kate del Castillo, who hoped to produce a biopic of the drug lord, and his lawyers contacted at least two authors over a possible biography. In recent weeks his third wife, Emma Coronel, has granted a string of television interviews. El Chapo earned worldwide notoriety with his dramatic jailbreaks from high-security prisons: in 2001 he reportedly left Puente Grande prison near Guadalajara hidden in a laundry basket, and in July 2015 he left Altiplano on a modified motorbike which carried him through a mile-long tunnel. The second breakout was widely seen as an especially humiliating blow to the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto, but according to his daughter, senior officials had already given the green light for the escape. “My dad’s escape was an agreement,” she said. At least 34 people have been charged with helping El Chapo escape, including the former director of Altiplano prison and the head of Mexico’s federal prison system. Towards the end of last year, the net appeared to be closing in on El Chapo after he arranged a meeting with del Castillo and Penn, who were under surveillance by intelligence agents. In October, the Mexican military launched a massive operation in the mountainous region between Sinaloa and Durango states, but failed to capture the cartel boss. The following month, another attempt to capture El Chapo – during a planned family reunion at the home of El Chapo’s mother in the village of La Tuna, Sinaloa – was also foiled after a high-placed source in the secretariat of national defence tipped off the family, said Guzmán Ortiz. El Chapo’s luck finally ran out in January, when he was cornered in the coastal town of Los Mochis. The daughter attributed her father’s capture to a betrayal by senior Mexican officials and politicians. “If there’s a pact, they don’t respect it. Now that they catch him they say he’s a criminal, a killer. But they didn’t say that when they asked for money for their campaigns. They’re hypocrites.” A US citizen, Guzmán Ortiz runs a chain of small businesses in California and speaks fluent English. She compared herself to narco juniors – a Mexican term for the privileged offspring of the country’s drug lords – but said any money she received from her father was clean. “My businesses are the result of my own efforts,” she said. El Chapo’s daughter Rosa Isela Guzmán Ortiz said her father crossed the border in late 2015 to visit relatives and to view her home. Photograph: Henry Romero/Reuters Rosa Isela Guzmán Ortiz. Photograph: Courtesy of Rosa Isela Guzmán Ortiz
  16. After meeting with Greek PM in Athens, president of European council issues warning to would-be migrants Jennifer Rankin in Brussels Thursday 3 March 2016 11.51 GMT One of the EU’s most senior leaders has warned would-be economic migrants not to undertake a life-threatening journey to Europe. In a dramatic appeal aimed at “potential illegal economic migrants”, the president of the European council, Donald Tusk, said: “Do not come to Europe. Do not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing.” Tusk was speaking after meeting Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens, where he pledged support for Greece, the country on the frontline of the migrant crisis, where up to 2,000 people are arriving each day, many fleeing conflict and violence in Syria and Iraq. At least 10,000 people are stuck near Greece’s northern border with Macedonia at Idomeni, with the vast majority barred from travelling north in the hope of reaching Germany and other countries. The EU, which on Wednesday announced €700m (£544m...$765M) in emergency aid, is scrambling to avert a humanitarian catastrophe as it confronts the largest movement of refugees since the end of the second world war. Tusk’s visit to Greece is part of an intensive three-day trip around the western Balkans that included a visit to the Dobova refugee camp in Slovenia on Wednesday. He is now travelling to Ankara to meet the Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, before an EU-Turkey summit on Monday. Tusk, who will spend a further 24 hours in the Turkish capital waiting for an audience with president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, hopes to persuade Ankara to take more steps to reduce the number of people travelling to Europe. Last year the EU and Turkey signed a deal in which Europe offered to spend €3bn on helping some of the 2.5 million refugees in Turkey in exchange for help in reducing numbers travelling to Europe and reviving Turkey’s long-stalled EU membership talks. But Europe has expressed impatience with the continued high number of people making the perilous crossing over the Aegean sea. Turkey has been unimpressed with the many weeks it took Europe to find the money, which has yet to translate into projects on the ground. “Our joint action plan with Turkey is and will remain a priority,” said Tusk. “This ultimately means that the high numbers [of arrivals] we are still witnessing have to go down and quickly.” Tsipras, who has previously warned that Greece is unable to cope and cannot become “a warehouse of souls”, on Thursday called for sanctions on EU countries that refuse to take in their share of refugees. He also demanded that the practically dormant procedure for relocating refugees stranded in Greece to other EU members should be drastically speeded up. EU authorities in Brussels echo Greece’s calls for a European approach, but have proved powerless to stop unilateral decisions by member states. Since September 2015, eight countries in Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone have reintroduced border controls. Hitting out against such unilateral action, Tusk said: “We have to avoid an illusion that instead of the full respect for Schengen rules, there might be another, easy and convenient European solution.” As the Guardian revealed on Wednesday, EU authorities want all internal border controls to be ended by November 2016. The European commission is set to announce its action plan to “save Schengen” on Friday, to prepare the way for Monday’s meeting with Turkey, as well as an EU summit in mid March where EU leaders will attempt to forge new rules on asylum and migration. But the commission’s wish for “a return to normalcy” seems like a tall order, as thousands continue to arrive on Europe’s shores each day. 1 2 People protest on rail tracks near a camp for refugees and migrants on the Greece-Macedonia border, blocking a train. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images Donald Tusk during a meeting at the Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece Photograph: Alexandros Vlachos/EPA
  17. Five Republicans and two Democrats await the verdict of voters in a dozen states (and one territory) – with Donald Trump and Hillar-y Clinton leading the polls Super Tuesday cheat sheet: everything you need to know Scott Bixby Tuesday 1 March 2016 21.42 GMT
  18. Holy See-owned L’Osservatore Romano hails Tom McCarthy’s best picture Oscar winner, which shows systemic abuse and cover-ups by Catholic church Ben Child Tuesday 1 March 2016 11.25 GMT The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, has praised the 2016 best picture Oscar winner Spotlight for its convincing attempt to show abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic church. The newspaper published a front-page editorial on Monday hailing Tom McCarthy’s film and calling it “not anti-Catholic”. The editorial said Spotlight, which centres on the work of a group of Boston Globe reporters to uncover abuse by Roman Catholic priests, faithfully presented the church’s attempts to defend itself in the face of “horrendous realities”. “Not all monsters wear cassocks. Paedophilia does not necessarily arise from the vow of chastity,” wrote the editorial’s author, Lucetta Scaraffia. “However, it has become clear that in the Church some are more preoccupied with the image of the institution than of the seriousness of the act.” Spotlight paints a picture of widespread abuse by members of the Catholic church in Boston and elsewhere, with officials turning a blind eye to the molestation of hundreds of children by priests over a period of decades. The reporters responsible won the 2003 Pulitzer prize for public service. Accepting the best picture prize on Sunday night, producer Michael Sugar said he hoped the film had given a voice to the survivors of the abuse that would “become a choir that would resonate all the way to the Vatican”. He continued with a direct call to the pontiff: “Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith.” L’Osservatoire Romano’s editorial insisted such pleas “should be seen as a positive sign,” adding: “There is still trust in the institution, there is trust in a Pope who is continuing the cleaning begun by his predecessor.” In February, the film was screened privately for staff working for a new commission set up by Pope Francis to fight sex abuse within the Catholic church. L’Osservatore Romano has been owned by the Holy See since 1861 but is no longer as conservative as it once was. In 1960, it launched a full-scale attack on La Dolce Vita, labelling Federico Fellini’s classic of Roman indolence and debauchery an “incitement to evil crime and vice”, deploring its effect on “unsafe minds” and rebuking Fellini for trying to “moralise through immorality”. More recently, the newspaper has taken a more liberal approach to cinema, complaining last year that the villains in Star Wars: The Force Awakens were not evil enough and even praising 2012’s Skyfall for its “extremely beautiful Bond girls”.
  19. Felipe Calderon and Vicente Fox said the outspoken presidential candidate was stirring up hate like the Nazi dictator Martin Farrer and agencies Sunday 28 February 2016 04.07 GMT Two former Mexican presidents have compared Donald Trump’s to Adolf Hitler as the cross-border war of words over the Republican presidential frontrunner’s immigration rhetoric intensified. Felipe Calderon, a conservative who was president of Mexico from 2006 to 2012, told reporters at an event in Mexico City on Saturday that Trump’s political rhetoric was “racist” and evocative of the Nazi dictator. “This logic of praising the white supremacy is not just anti-immigration,” Calderon said. “He is acting and speaking out against immigrants that have a different skin color than he does, it is frankly racist and [he is] exploiting feelings like Hitler did in his time,” Calderon said. Calderon added that Trump’s discourse was “sowing hate” against the United States around the world and that was “not in Washington’s interest”. Trump has accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug runners across the US border and has vowed to make Mexico pay for a wall on the border. Calderon’s predecessor, Vicente Fox, also compared Trump to Hitler in an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN. “He’s going to take the US back to the old days of conflict, war and everything. I mean, he reminds me of Hitler. That’s the way he started speaking,” Fox told Cooper in a phone interview. “He has offended Mexico, Mexicans, and immigrants. He has offended the Pope. He has offended the Chinese. He’s offended everybody.” It is the second time Fox has hit out at Trump. Last week he said in another TV interview that he would “not pay for that ******* wall” and also called Trump “crazy,” a “false prophet” and an embarrassment to his party. During a visit to Mexico’s capital, Vice President Joe Biden apologised for the inflammatory rhetoric about Mexico in the campaign. “Some of the rhetoric coming from some of the presidential candidates on the other team are I think dangerous, damaging and incredibly ill-advised,” Biden said on Thursday. “But here’s what I’m here to tell you: They do not, they do not, they do not represent the view of the vast majority of the American people.” Donald Trump has been accused by Felipe Calderon of ‘exploiting feelings like Hitler did in his time’. Photograph: Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images
  20. Speaking in Berlin, Facebook boss calls Germany’s handling of European refugee crisis ‘inspiring’ and says site must do more to tackle anti-migrant hate speech Associated Press Friday 26 February 2016 19.00 GMT Mark Zuckerberg conceded Friday that Facebook didn’t do enough until recently to police hate speech on the social media site in Germany, but said that it has made progress and has heard the message “loud and clear”. German authorities, concerned about racist abuse being posted on Facebook and other social networks as the country deals with an influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants, have been pressing social media sites for months to crack down. Facebook CEO Zuckerberg talked personally about the issue in September with German chancellor Angela Merkel, and met her chief of staff during a visit to Germany this week. The Merkel meeting “really highlighted how much more we needed to do in this country,” he said at a town hall event in Berlin. “Hate speech has no place on Facebook and in our community,” he said. “Until recently in Germany I don’t think we were doing a good enough job, and I think we will continue needing to do a better and better job.” Zuckerberg pointed to efforts including funding a team to work with police to combat hate speech on Facebook. He said that learning more about German law has led the company to expand its view of “protected groups” there, and “to now include hate speech against migrants as an important part of what we just now have no tolerance for.” “There’s still work to do,” he said. “We want to do that, but I think we hear the message loud and clear and we’re committed to doing better.” Zuckerberg offered praise for Germany’s approach to Europe’s refugee crisis. Merkel so far has maintained an open-door policy for refugees, seeking an elusive diplomatic solution to reduce an influx that has prompted an increasing number of countries to impose national restrictions. “German leadership in the refugee crisis, I think, has been inspiring and is a model for the world,” he said. “I hope that more countries follow Germany’s lead on this,” he added. “I hope the US follows Germany’s lead on this.”
  21. Rampage at multiple Hesston locations, including Excel Industries Sheriff said shooter was an employee of Excel, but did not identify him Sam Levin in San Francisco Friday 26 February 2016 07.13 GMT A gunman killed three people in a workplace shooting in Hesston, Kansas on Thursday afternoon, before being shot dead by an officer, the local sherrif said. The shooting rampage, which also left 14 people injured, happened at multiple locations, including Excel Industries, a manufacturer of turf care products in Harvey County, 35 miles north of Wichita, Sheriff T Walton told reporters at early evening news conferences. Walton said the shooter was an employee of Excel but declined to identify him or say how long he had worked for the company. “Gunfire was exchanged ... and law enforcement shot and killed the shooter,” Walton said. “The shooter was actively firing at any target ... This is a horrible situation – just terrible, terrible.” The officer who killed the gunman “saved a whole lot of lives,” he added. Walton said there may be as many as “five crime scenes”, noting that one person was shot while driving, another was shot in a parking lot and that police eventually responded to an “active shooter” situation inside Excel Industries. “There’s so many crime scenes and so many people,” Walton said, adding: “I understand how hard it is for everybody ... I don’t have a lot of answers ... There are a lot of shot victims.” “Right now, it all looks random ... He’s just shooting at people driving their car.” Walton said it appeared that the gunman was armed with an assault rifle and that once he was inside the Excel Industries building he shot 15 people, including the three victims who died. Paul Mullet, president and CEO of Excel, told reporters late Thursday that the gunman was a current employee, but declined to offer further details. “We’re really saddened by this horrific event. Our heart goes out to all of our employees and all of the families whose loved ones got injured and killed.” Friends and relatives of employees were gathering near the shooting early Thursday evening. “We’re waiting until I can see my daughter come out,” one woman told local news station KSN live just after 6pm local time. “We couldn’t understand her a whole lot. She was like, ‘Mom, I need you here. There’s been a shooting.” The nearby Hesston College campus was on lockdown early Thursday evening with a note on its website saying: “Lockdown will continue until shooter is in custody.” Hesston is a small town of about 3,700 residents. Excel was founded in 1960 and is a third-generation family-owned business, according to the Kansas City Star. Ron Johnson, who said he works in the weld shop at the plant, told local news station KAKE during a live interview that he was in the building when he started hearing shots. “I thought I was hearing explosions. I see a mob of people just running out, and then ‘pop, pop, pop, pop, pop’.” Johnson continued: “A guy that I work side by side with got one through the arm,” noting that he saw eight or nine people with injuries. “In a little town like Hesston, who would’ve ever guessed? I’m thankful to be alive.” Walton told reporters that the sheriff’s office just recently had a meeting about how to respond to an active shooter situation. “Everybody thinks it can’t happen here, but it’s in those places that it can’t happen that it happens ... You’ve got to wake up, because it can happen.”
  22. Jury in Missouri orders pharmaceutical company to pay damages to family of deceased woman who claimed talcum powder caused her cancer Associated Press Wednesday 24 February 2016 00.32 GMT A Missouri jury has awarded $72m to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer, which she said was caused by using Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and other products containing talcum. The civil suit by Jackie Fox of Birmingham, Alabama, was part of a broader claim in the city of St. Louis circuit court involving nearly 60 people. Her son took over as plaintiff following his mother’s October 2015 death at 62, more than two years after her diagnosis. Marvin Salter of Jacksonville, Florida, said his late mother, who was a foster parent, used the brand of talcum powder as a bathroom staple for decades. “It just became second nature, like brushing your teeth,” he said. “It’s a household name.” An attorney for Fox said the jury verdict Monday night, which came after nearly five hours of deliberations at the conclusion of a three-week trial, was the first such case among more than 1,000 nationally to result in a jury’s monetary award. The jury said that Fox was entitled to $10m in actual damages and $62m in punitive damages. Attorney James Onder said he “absolutely” expects Johnson & Johnson – the world’s biggest maker of healthcare products – to appeal the verdict. The New Jersey-based company previously has been targeted by health and consumer groups over possibly harmful ingredients in items including in its Johnson’s No More Tears baby shampoo. In May 2009, a coalition of groups called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics began pushing Johnson & Johnson to eliminate questionable ingredients from its baby and adult personal care products. After three years of petitions, negative publicity and a boycott threat, the company agreed in 2012 to eliminate the ingredients 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, both considered probable human carcinogens, from all products by 2015. A bottle of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder. Photograph: Sean Gibson for the Observer
  23. Residents of Michigan city targeted by Jason Dalton call for action on mass shootings at ceremony honouring the six victims Ryan Felton in Kalamazoo, Michigan Tuesday 23 February 2016 07.35 GMT Inside a packed church, hundreds of residents from the Kalamazoo area of Michigan carried white candles and gathered to mourn the loss of six people who were killed on Saturday in a seemingly random act of murder. Just hours after Jason Dalton, 45, was arraigned on Monday for multiple counts of murder and assault in connection with the shooting spree, clergy members from several churches led the congregation in song and prayer. Residents described it as an effort to begin a healing process in response to the violent outburst over the weekend by Dalton, a situation unlike anything the community has ever imagined happening in their backyard. “It’s something that we’ve seen across the United States,” said Steven Chamberlin, a comparative religion professor at nearby Western Michigan University. “I think we need to start addressing ... why this is happening with alarming regularity.” In wake of the shooting, the nation needs to have “all sorts of conversations” about gun violence that “we should’ve been having all along,” he added. “This is an awful, awful thing that happened,” Chamberlin, 53, said at the vigil. “And I’m reeling from it.” Earlier on Monday, Dalton sat emotionless throughout a brief video arraignment held at the courthouse next door to the church, as a district court judge rattled off the list of charges filed against him: sixteen felony charges, including six counts of murder and two for assault with intent to commit murder. Dalton declined to address the court when prompted by the judge, but his family, in a statement issued Monday evening, said “this type of violence has no place in our society.” Across the community, several vigils had been held to remember the six fatal victims, all targeted at random, authorities said, without any clear motivation. At the vigil inside the First Congregational Church on Monday, the Rev Sara Dorrien-Christians told the attendees: “Our primary objective here is to surround those closest to these people with love.” The victims ranged in age from 17 to 74 years old; a 14-year-old girl was shot at a Cracker Barrel restaurant and she remained in critical condition on Monday following surgery. Four women were fatally shot at the restaurant on Saturday evening after attending a show in Kalamazoo. Minutes later, at a nearby Kia auto dealer, a father and son were shot and killed while looking at a vehicle. Ann Sweaney, 66, moved to Kalamazoo four years ago and said she didn’t learn of the rampage until waking up on Sunday morning. She said it was important to attend the vigil to “let the families know that we care.” “We’re concerned about violence … and we need to find solutions,” she said. Jeff Chamberlain, Kalamazoo deputy city manager, said the “horrible” aspect of the shootings was the apparent randomness of it all. “There seems to be no connection between the shooter and the victims, the victims to one another,” he said. “It’s just completely random.” Chamberlain, 48, has worked for the city of Kalamazoo over two decades, and said it’s a “solid, hard working community” that’s comprised of “good people.” “You don’t know how to prepare, you don’t know how to respond, except with love for one another,” he said. “That’s what the community is doing tonight.” “These mass shootings, unfortunately, are happening all over the country, and you just never know where the next one is going to be,” he continued. “Unfortunately, the Kalamazoo area was the next one on the list. We pray that we’re the last, but we’re probably not.” Members of the First Congregational Church attend a candlelight vigil in remembrance of victims of the mass shooting. Photograph: Bryan M. Bennett/AP
  24. Roberto Di Bella’s programme to interrupt the influence of the ‘Ndrangheta in Reggio Calabria appears to be working Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Reggio Calabria Tuesday 23 February 2016 12.24 GMT When Judge Roberto Di Bella returned to Reggio Calabria in 2011 – the home of one of the most powerful criminal networks in the world – he noticed that the minors standing before him in court were the children of the mafiosi he had put away years earlier. It was “a kind of enlightenment” for the 52-year-old judge, who has spent most of his career, save for five years in Sicily, in this mountainous and somewhat isolated region of Italy, where the ‘Ndrangheta mafia has proven to be stubbornly immune to law enforcement tactics that have helped to stem the culture of organised crime in other mafia strongholds. “The youth of the ‘Ndrangheta is an endemic phenomenon that has been underestimated for far too long,” Di Bella said. “We needed to interrupt this downward spiral.” The judge adopted a new approach: since 2012, about 30 “at risk” minors have been removed from their ‘Ndrangheta families by the juvenile court over which Di Bella presides. In some cases, they have been placed with families in northern Italy, and in others, have been put in youth homes or in the care of anti-mafia organisations. In each case, Di Bella said, the goal is straightforward: to show the teenager, who the court believes has in some way been groomed for a life of criminality, that there is another way. “The objective is to safeguard these children, to give them an opportunity to have cultural and social opportunities that are far away from their realities,” he said. “To take them away from an inevitable destiny of imprisonment and [early] death.” It is a novel approach against a criminal organisation that is notoriously ruthless; a reliable partner of narco-traffickers in South America; and the biggest source of cocaine in Europe. The ‘Ndrangheta is believed to have infiltrated businesses, political parties and organisations across Italy and is known to have a presence in other countries, including Germany and the US. The fact that it operates largely based on family ties makes it especially difficult for law enforcement to persuade members to turn on one another. At first, the judge’s initiative was heavily criticised in local media – Di Bella said he was called a Nazi – and he is quick to point out that the programme is not an attempt to “ethnically cleanse” or “deport” children of the mafia. Di Bella said he looked at certain indicators, such as whether the minor was being “indoctrinated” to join the criminal syndicate, and whether his criminal activity – they are primarily male – was escalating. The court also considers feuds between family clans to be a risk to minors. “Sometimes we hear on wiretaps that a father says of his 13- or 14-year-old, when you enter [the ‘Ndrangheta] this is the rank you will have,” he said. The judge insists that minors can still be “moulded” and that the results of this judicial experiment so far have been “extremely satisfying”. Only one of the returning teenagers has committed a crime since the programme started, and it was not mafia-related. Girls, in particular, have asked for help from the court even after they turn 18. In some cases, Di Bella said, the young women have been spared forced marriages into families that are designed to expand their own family’s influence. “The initial phase of uprooting them is very difficult,” he added. Psychological studies of the youngsters show they are damaged in many ways: they suffer from nightmares and physical ailments, and have extreme difficulty showing emotions. “The rigidity of the structure of the ‘Ndrangheta suffocates their needs for liberty and to express themselves,” Di Bella said. He recalled asking one teenager who was sent away – a boy who appeared very “straight” and who wore glasses – about his taste in music. “He said he only listened to [the traditional Calabrian folk music]. This is crazy for a normal 16-year-old. After a year-and-a-half he had contact lenses and a crazy hairstyle and was listening to all the recent music. I was invited to his 18th birthday party,” Di Bella said with a hint of pride. “They begin to show great potential, which has been squashed by the families. They start studying again, they do volunteer work, and of course they experience relationships of affection which would not be possible here. But they need good psychologists and good social workers who have specific training.” Enrico Interdonato is a 31-year-old psychologist who has worked as a volunteer on three cases in nearby Messina, Sicily, a short boat ride away. “It is true that if you take a potential killer away you are weakening the criminal agency, but this is not the point,” he said. “All we want to do is save lives. If you see a father who gives his son whisky or a syringe, that is seen as abuse. In this region we know that a father puts a Kalashnikov in their hands or takes his son to a meeting of the ‘Ndrangheta. This, too, is abuse and mistreatment.” The therapist, who says he becomes like a big brother to the patients, said it was important to take the children out of their normal environment, and even brings them “incognito” to anti-mafia events. “Usually we have stories of people who have infiltrated the ‘Ndrangheta [like undercover agents] but now we have people undercover with the victims, and they hear their stories,” he said. While he does not believe it is possible to change them, he said his main task was to show the minors an alternative life and instil in them a belief that they have choices. In some cases, minors who have been temporarily moved – the programmes last for up to three years – have never had a glimpse of life outside of crime. Their parents, grandparents and siblings have been in jail, been killed, or are on the run. Lately, Di Bella has seen another phenomenon emerge: more mothers are showing active interest in having their children sent away. Pulling sheets of notes off his desk, Di Bella said one mother recently approached him asking for the judge to intervene in her own family, telling him that she was worried about her 14-year-old son, who was growing increasingly fascinated by guns and the ‘Ndrangheta culture. “She told me that he thinks going to prison is an honour, but that he has no idea of the suffering it would provoke,” he said. Di Bella acknowledges that it is not clear whether the programme can put a dent in the ‘Ndrangheta, but he is hopeful that it could if it received adequate support. He wants the Italian government – the justice and interior ministries – to support a programme that would support social workers and therapists in the field, as well as help finding foster homes. He also wants the minors to get more assistance after they turn 18. At that point, they are no longer under the oversight of his court. “In 100 years nothing has changed here,” he said. “The kids that have been taken away, they are the seeds. In the long term, this can have an affect, because the families disintegrate.” An alleged member of the ‘Ndrangheta gives a thumbs-up to his relatives after his arrest in Reggio Calabria. Photograph: Adriana Sapone/AP
  25. Suspected arson comes three days after protesters blocked bus carrying asylum seekers in east German state Philip Oltermann in Berlin and agencies Sunday 21 February 2016 14.57 GMT A fire that destroyed a hotel being converted into a shelter for refugees in Saxony was cheered and celebrated by onlookers, German police have said. The blaze at the building in Bautzen, eastern Saxony, began in the early hours of Sunday morning. Police are treating the incident as suspected arson. No one was injured. Locals had cheered as the building caught fire, police said. “Some people reacted to the arson with derogatory comments and undisguised joy.” While the majority of Germans have been welcoming toward refugees, a vocal minority has staged protests in front of refugee homes, especially in the east, and there has been a surge in violence against such lodgings in the past year. Saxony is home to the anti-Islam and anti-immigration group Pegida. The fire happened just days after about 100 protesters screamed “We are the people!” and “Go home!”as they blocked a bus carrying asylum seekers to a shelter in Saxony. Two videos of the incident in Clausnitz emerged on social media on Friday, with one of them showing a police officer dragging a visibly distressed boy from the coach into a nearby building. Police insisted the move was necessary to prevent the situation from escalating. Saxony’s chief of police, Uwe Reißmann, said the use of “simple direct force” had been absolutely necessary and appropriate to remove three passengers, including a minor, who had refused to leave the vehicle after being asked to do so via an interpreter. At a press conference in Chemnitz, Reißmann said the refugees were partly to blame for the incident after escalating the situation with provocative gestures, such as showing the middle finger. “We will certainly extend the investigations to include one or two of the bus’s passengers,” he said, adding that police were already following up 14 charges, including breach of assembly rules and use of duress. Some German politicians, such as the co-chair of the Green party, Cem Özdemir, have called for the suspension of the officer in charge of police operations during the incident. “We were scared to get off the bus because we thought the people wanted to kill us or tear us to pieces,” one of the refugees told the newspaper Die Welt. “We wanted to stay inside the bus and return to Chemnitz, where we were beforehand. We were just scared.” Witness reports describe protesters throwing snowballs at the bus and shouting “Let’s see what kind of vermin will get off here” and “asylum scum”. According to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, the boy manhandled by police is a 15-year-old from Lebanon called Luai, who had fled the country with his father and brother. The group of asylum seekers inside the coach also included four Syrians, two Afghans and six Iranians. The group are the first asylum seekers to be allocated to Clausnitz, a town of about 800 residents. It emerged that the man in charge of supervising the shelter in the town is a member of the local branch of anti-refugee party Alternative für Deutschland. Engineer Thomas Hetze gave a speech in front of the rural district office in November in which he said that while he supported humanitarian aid for people fleeing war zones, “unrestrained invasion by 100,000 of economic migrants” represented “a crime against the German nation”. In his speech Hetze referred to the existence of an “American masterplan” aimed at destabilising North Africa and the Middle East in order to “weaken Europe”. The governor of Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich, said the two incidents were appalling and shocking, and described the perpetrators as criminals. “This is abhorrent and disgusting,” he said in an interview with the Funke newspaper group. Tillich pledged that authorities will investigate and “bring everyone responsible to account”. Germany’s justice minister, Heiko Maas, tweeted that anyone who applauds as buildings burn or who intimidates refugees “acts abominably and abhorrently”.
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