Journalist Eli Lake, an aggressive critic of the government’s handling of the investigation into Trump and Russia, said that while there was a “scandal” in how the FBI conducted parts of its investigation, there was not a “deep state conspiracy.”
British-Australian lecturer Kylie Moore-Gilbert endured two years of "incredible hardship".
A South Korean court has sentenced the operator of a vast online sex trafficking ring to 40 years in prison in a case that outraged the nation. Cho Ju-bin, 25, oversaw a group of 38 accomplices who befriended and then blackmailed at least 74 women into sharing explicit videos that were then posted in pay-per-view internet chat rooms. Sixteen of the victims were less than 16 years old, the age of consent in South Korea. The Seoul Central District Court on Thursday found Cho guilty of violating laws to protect minors from sexual abuse and of making a profit from producing and selling abusive footage, Yonhap News reported. Indicted on 14 criminal charges, including inducing another person involved in the trafficking ring to rape a teenage girl and concealing more than £70,000 in criminal proceeds, prosecutors had initially demanded a life sentence on the grounds of the “irreperable damage” Cho had caused his victims. They had also requested that he be obliged to wear an electronic monitoring device for 45 years. In a petition to the court, one of the women said Cho, who had worked in an orphanage and adopted the online name “The Doctor”, was “evil” and deserved a 2,000-year prison term. Passing sentence, the judge said: “The accused has widely distributed sexually abusive content that he created by luring and threatening many victims.” Media reports have suggested that some of the video clips showed a group of men raping a teenage girl in a motel room, while others included images of the word “slave” cut into a woman’s body. One video showed girls “barking like dogs”, the Kookmin Ilbo newspaper reported. Cho operated the chat room on the Telegram messenger service, with at least 10,000 people accessing the site and paying as much as £1,000 for access. Authorities have been tracing people who used the site and have identified serving police officers and teachers as among the users. Cho’s arrest in March sparked fury across South Korea after prosecutors initially refused to name the suspect before his trial opened. Within days, more than 5 million people had signed petitions on the home page of Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, demanding that the authorities withdraw his right to anonymity. A committee of senior judicial officials, a psychologist and a psychiatrist weighed the public’s right to know and took the unprecedented step of naming Cho. He was then brought out in handcuffs from a police station in central Seoul to face the public. “I apologise to those that I hurt”, Cho said. “Thank you for putting a brake on the life of a devil who could not be stopped.” South Korea’s Ministry of Justice has been the target of criticism for its failure to deal with the growing use of technology to carry out sex crimes, with one ministry official admitting that the case had been “a disaster” and apologising for its “lukewarm response” to online sexual abuse cases.
French authorities have suspended police officers accused of assaulting and racially abusing a Black man in Paris, after CCTV footage of the incident was released and caused an outcry. The music producer, who has identified himself as Michel, was beaten at the entrance to his studio. French President Emmanuel Macron was quoted by France's BFM TV as being "very shocked" by the CCTV and mobile phone images, which were obtained by the LoopSider news outlet and made headline news on French channels. The officers involved were suspended pending investigation at the interior minister's request. Michel told reporters he'd been walking in the street without a face mask, against French COVID-19 rules. When he saw a police car he went into his studio to avoid getting a fine. But the police followed him inside and arrested him, violently. The video purports to show them kicking and beating him, and he says they hurled racial abuse at him too. They then leave, and throw a tear gas canister into the studio. As anger grew, French soccer stars added to the chorus of condemnation. Kylian Mbappe tweeted that the video was "intolerable" and his fellow Les Bleus striker, Antoine Griezmann wrote: "My France is hurting." The alleged attack on Michel risks inflaming racial tension, and fuelling criticism of a draft law that would limit journalists' ability to show images of French police officers at work. The prime minister's office said on Thursday (November 26) it would set up an independent commission to propose a new draft of the legislation. Some "BlackLivesMatter" protests broke out in Paris in June, a month after the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in the United States. The movement resonates in France, in particular in deprived city suburbs, where rights groups say accusations of police brutality, often against people with immigrant backgrounds, remain largely unaddressed. And Paris police were already under fire this week after social media photos and videos showed officers hitting protesters as they cleared out an illegal migrants campsite in a central Paris square.
The European Parliament urged the EU on Thursday to impose sanctions on Turkey after President Tayyip Erdogan this month paid a visit to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of Cyprus. With 631 votes in favour, three against and 59 abstentions, the parliament agreed a non-binding resolution in support of EU member Cyprus urging EU leaders to "take action and impose tough sanctions in response to Turkey's illegal actions". The resolution is likely to bolster support for France's push for EU sanctions on Turkey next month, following through on a threat made by the bloc in October over a dispute between Ankara and EU members Greece and Cyprus over natural gas rights.
Democrats once dominated Koochiching County in the blue-collar Iron Range of northern Minnesota. “We’ve got to see if we can get the Democratic Party to moderate and accept the fact that rural Minnesota is not getting more conservative,” said Bakk, who announced last week that he would become an independent after serving 25 years as a Democrat. The party lost House seats in the Midwest, and Democratic challengers in Iowa, Kansas, Montana and North Carolina Senate races, all once viewed as serious threats to Republican incumbents, fell, some of them hard.
Men plead innocence following arrest in 2017 as State Department demands release
One of the first challenges Joe Biden will face as president is how to deal with Vladimir Putin, leader of the country that Biden has labelled the biggest threat to the United States. In contrast to the impetuous and inconsistent Donald Trump, Putin is generally seen as a resolute leader, who unflaggingly pursues his country's foreign policy goals, however malign. But the cases of three Americans who are currently detained in Russia belie this image of Putin, portraying instead a leader who is dysfunctionally beholden to the interests of his security services and the corrupt clans who form his power base.The case of American investor Michael Calvey, which should be decided by a Moscow court within the next few weeks, offers a particularly striking example of how Putin has allowed a corrupted legal and financial system to undermine Russia’s broader interests. Calvey, arrested along with five others in February 2019 on bogus fraud charges, founded the highly successful private equity firm Baring Vostok, which since 1994 has brought over $3.7 billion of capital into Russia. A fluent Russian-speaker with a Russian wife, Calvey always played by the rules, never criticizing Putin, and was highly respected in the Russian business community. As Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg News noted after the arrests: “Calvey became a legend in the Russian market, in part because of his reputed aversion to any kind of foul play and focus on industries and companies unlikely to attract the attention of Russia’s authorities.” Russian billionaire Leonid Boguslavsky said in an interview last week that Calvey had been his inspiration and teacher when he, Boguslavsky, was advancing his investment career in the 1990s.Americans Paul Whelan and Michael Calvey Are Not the Only ‘Hostages’ Held By The KremlinCalvey’s downfall came as a result of a 2017 merger between Vostochny Bank, in which Baring Vostok had a majority stake, and a bank called Uniastrum, owned by an avaricious 44-year-old businessman named Artem Avetisyan, who is a Putin favorite. When Avetisyan and his partners attempted to exercise an option on 9.9 percent of Vostochny Bank’s shares in 2018, Baring Vostok refused, because of evidence that assets worth billions of rubles had been withdrawn from Uniastrum Bank before the merger. Baring Vostok then filed claims of fraud against Avetisyan for 17.5 billion rubles (around $276 million) in the London International Arbitration Court.In apparent retaliation for the London lawsuit, Avetisyan’s partner Sherzod Yusupov went to the FSB in February 2019 with a claim that Calvey and five associates from Baring Vostok had defrauded Vostochny Bank of 2.5 billion rubles ($38 million at the time). According to the claim, Calvey and his colleagues had repaid a bank loan for that amount with shares from a Luxembourg company called IFTG that were worth only 600,000 rubles. In fact the transaction was approved by all the bank’s shareholders, including Avetisyan and Yusupov, and a September 2019 re-evaluation of the IFTG shares established their worth, with restrictions on them lifted, at more than 3 billion rubles. Significantly, officials from the Economic Security Department of the MVD (regular police) had earlier conducted an audit of the bank transactions that later formed the basis for the criminal case, but found no illegalities.After his arrest, which sent shockwaves throughout the Russian investment community, Calvey spent several weeks in Moscow’s notorious Matrosskaya Tishina Prison (where Sergei Magnitsky died) before being transferred to house arrest in April 2019. Two months later, a Russian arbitration court in the Far Eastern region of Amur forced Baring Vostok to sell 10 percent of Vostochny Bank stock to Finvision, a holding company owned by Avetisyan, thus awarding him and his partner Yusupov control of the bank, which has continued to show significant losses.Calvey and his partners had come up against a powerful lobby. Avetisyan, a skilled self-promoter, heads the New Business Division of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, a Kremlin-sponsored project that puts him in regular contact with Putin, who chairs the agency’s advisory board, where Avetisyan serves. Also on the board is Putin's top economic advisor, Andrei Belousov, who in June 2020 was appointed first deputy prime minister of Russia. Although he and Avetisyan are known to have a close friendship, Belousov denied reports that he was Avetisyan’s go-between with Putin on the Calvey affair: “I have known Artem Avetisyan for a long time. He is my friend, we go to the mountains together…But over my long years of service, I have learned to separate personal and official relationships.”Also useful for Avetisyan is his close acquaintance with Dmitry Patrushev, son of former FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev, head of Putin’s National Security Council. Avetisyan served with Dmitry on the board of the Russian Agricultural Bank, which Dmitry ran prior to becoming Russian Minister of Agriculture in 2018. In addition to membership on the boards of several Russian companies, Avetisyan is a member of the FSB’s Public Advisory Council, an exclusive body that presumably gives him direct access to FSB officials.As if Avetisyan’s personal and business ties were not enough to promote his vendetta against Calvey and Baring Vostok, in June of this year, the media company bne Intellinews claimed to have obtained a tranche of letters that Avetisyan had sent to Putin, the FSB and the Russian Central Bank, in which he falsely accused Baring Vostok of a series of illegalities, including bribing a former chief of the Russian security services, Vadim Bakatin, a born-again Russian democrat who once served as adviser to the firm. Avetisyan did not respond to requests for comments about the letters.On Oct. 28, just after Deputy Prosecutor-General Viktor Grin approved the indictment against Calvey and his associates, Vostochny Bank and the defendants reached a settlement of their civil dispute. In exchange for a payment of 2.5 billion rubles by Baring Vostok, the bank agreed to drop the civil charges that give rise to the original criminal case. Presumably as a result of this settlement, the Supreme Court on Nov. 12, the date that the arrest orders expired, ordered the release (with some restrictions) of Calvey and the others from house arrest.Despite the hopes expressed by lawyers for Calvey, Russian legal experts doubt that the Calvey case, which is due to be heard sometime before Jan. 12, 2020, will end in an acquittal. “[Exonerating Mr. Calvey] would mean explaining to Putin the case was a mistake and nobody wants to do that,” a source who was involved in the legal negotiations said earlier this fall.According to one prominent lawyer, “in Russia, procedurally agreeing to compensate for damage does not mean that the defendant has admitted guilt. But in practice, courts and investigators often perceive it this way.” More likely is that the judge will consider the paid compensation as a mitigating factor and impose a more lenient sentence (the maximum being 10 years) so that with the time served, the defendants will be released.Barron’s recently quoted a top Russia financial analyst on the Calvey case: “This has been one of the most damaging events in Russia's economic history and has directly led to foreign investment decisions in Russia being cancelled or suspended.” Many members of the Russian business elite, including Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Yandex CEO Arkady Volozh and Anatoly Chubais, head of a state technology fund, have spoken out strongly in Calvey’s defense. Billionaire Boguslavsky called the prosecution of Calvey and his partners “a case of blatant injustice and cruelty” that should be stopped immediately.In fact, what happened to Calvey happens to Russian businessmen on a regular basis. Just in October, Mikhail Khabarov, first deputy chairman of Trust Bank, was arrested for large-scale fraud following a complaint by a former partner. The phenomenon of “raiding” (reiderstvo)—whereby entrepreneurs are criminally charged and forced to relinquish their assets to other businessmen, with law-enforcement officers getting a cut—has become so widespread that Putin has even complained about it publicly. But he has done nothing to stop it.In contrast to Calvey, former U.S. Marines Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed face the possibility of years behind bars in Russia. Whelan, who was arrested by the FSB in his Moscow hotel room on espionage charges in December 2018, is an unlikely CIA spy. Not only was he dishonorably discharged from the Marines in 2008 for theft, he had for years openly pursued a close friendship with a Russian, Ilya Yatsenko, who worked for the FSB. (Last week, in his first interview since his arrest, Whelan insisted that his friend Yatsenko worked for the border guard, not the FSB. Whelan was apparently unaware that the Russian border guard has been an integral part of the FSB since 2003.) After accepting a thumb drive from Yatsenko that allegedly contained FSB secrets—Whelan thought it was holiday photographs—he was tried and sentenced to 16 years in a strict regime penal colony located 300 miles east of Moscow, in Mordovia, home of the former Stalinist gulag.Reed, 29, was arrested during a May 2019 visit to Moscow to see his Russian girlfriend. After Reed got uncontrollably drunk at a party, his friends called the police because they were worried about his safety. He was later accused, with no proof, of assaulting two police officers on the way to station. (It is unclear whether the police had handcuffed Reed or had a video camera in their car.) In July of this year, Reed was sentenced to nine years imprisonment—an extremely harsh sentence by any standards. The Moscow City Court is currently considering an appeal against the sentence that Reed filed in late October. Russia’s aim in what appears to be blatant hostage-taking of these two Americans is apparently to get the U.S. to agree to a prisoner exchange for two Russians in U.S. prisons—the notorious arms trader Viktor Bout, currently serving a 25-year sentence for terrorism, and Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was sentenced in 2010 to 20 years behind bars for drug smuggling.In his recent interview with ABC from his prison camp, Whelan expressed optimism that he would soon be released as part of a swap, which his captors have suggested might happen. (This may be one reason why prison authorities allowed Whelan this unprecedented interview.) But although Trump has reportedly urged Putin to release Whelan and Reed, along with Calvey, there has been no progress. Whelan’s Russian attorney, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said in October that no decisions would be made until after the U.S. elections, so clearly the Kremlin will be recalculating its position now that Biden has been elected president.Putin has pretended to remain above the fray. In a March 2020 interview with TASS, he said of the Calvey case: “We need to proceed from our country’s legislation and the supremacy of Russian law… I cannot say if he is guilty or not until there is a well-founded [court decision].” But Putin is doubtless consulted before any key decisions are made. According to a top Putin aide, Calvey’s French partner, Philippe Delpal, was transferred from prison to house arrest in August 2019 because of upcoming talks between Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron. And the release of Calvey and the other defendants from house arrests just days after U.S. presidential elections suggest that Putin might have been extending an olive branch to Biden.Russian Media Is Angry and Desperate Over Biden WinA source familiar with the Calvey case told me that “having Trump tweet or ask Putin for a favor would not be helpful.” But Biden, who has criticized Trump for not speaking out about the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, has a more clear-eyed view of Putin. With Antony Blinken, a known advocate of a tough stance against Russia, as his secretary of state, Biden will be in a strong position to negotiate successfully with the Kremlin over the detained Americans. (Russia’s Kommersant reported Tuesday that foreign policy experts in Moscow have been sending each other the link to Blinken’s 2017 interview with PBS, in which he accused Putin of establishing a kleptocracy.)As former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said last April, it would set a dangerous precedent if Washington would agree to exchange either Bout or Yaroshenko for Whelan or Reed: “There’s a real asymmetry swapping an innocent American for a real convicted criminal who just happens to have Russian citizenship.” And such an exchange might encourage the FSB to engage in further entrapments of innocent foreigners in Russia.But the Biden administration would have other strategies available to address the three cases, including threatening the Kremlin with harsher economic sanctions. Although sanctions against Russia are often criticized for being ineffective, they have been a powerful tool when used in coordination with European allies. Also, in addition to Russian officials who are directly responsible for the Kremlin’s misdeeds, sanctions could target, with travel bans and asset freezing, more of those wealthy Russian businessmen who gain financially from Putin's corrupt system. Calvey’s enemy Avetisyan might be first on the list. In a 2011 interview, Avetisyan said he could not imagine living abroad because he had a strong “Russian mentality.” But that has not stopped him from acquiring over 20 million Euros worth of luxury properties in Tuscany, along with an Italian residence permit.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Zella Linklater, 3, has since been found.
Iran blamed Israel for the killing of one of its top Iranian nuclear scientists in an assassination near Tehran yesterday that threatens to provoke a military confrontation during the final months of the Trump presidency. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh succumbed to injuries in hospital after gunmen fired on his car in Damavand county, Iranian media reported. Western and Israeli intelligence had long identified Mr Fakhrizadeh, 59, as the head of a covert Iranian project to develop a nuclear weapon that was shelved in 2003. He was subject to UN sanctions and named by the International Atomic Energy Agency in its 2015 "final assessment" of questions about Iran's nuclear programme. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack but Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said there were “serious indications” of Israeli involvement. “Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today,” he tweeted. “This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators.” He called on the international community and particularly the European Union to condemn the killing "as an act of state terror".
The European Union and Britain said on Friday there were still substantial differences over a Brexit trade deal as the EU chief negotiator prepared to travel to London in a last-ditch attempt to avoid a tumultuous finale to the five-year Brexit crisis. With just five weeks left until the United Kingdom finally exits the EU's orbit on Dec. 31, both sides are calling on the other to compromise on the three main issues of contention - fishing, state aid and how to resolve any future disputes.
Miami-Dade mayor Daniella Levine Cava calls decision ‘deeply frustrating’
1.Black Friday is taking a different shape this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Several retailers like Saks and Macy's that closed during the spring have since reduced their inventories, which has led them to scale back on the traditional discounts associated with the post-Thanksgiving shopping event. Health and safety measures will also be in place at many stores. Best Buy, for instance, is employing contactless self-checkout and doubled the number of parking spots available for its pick-up service. When all is said and done, though, sales are expected to be made. The National Retail Federation expects November and December sales, excluding autos, gasoline, and restaurants, to rise somewhere between 3.6 and 5.2 percent. Last year, sales jumped 4 percent, and the average year-over-year increase the past five years is 3.5 percent. Online sales are expected to shoot up from 20 percent to 30 percent. [Reuters, The Wall Street Journal] 2.The S&P 500 added 0.3 percent after it opened Friday, while the Nasdaq increased 0.7 percent, putting both indexes on pace to eclipse their previous closing highs, which were set earlier this week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was also trading higher, but it fell short of hitting a new milestone. Markets have rallied this week despite a rising number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. as encouraging news about COVID-19 vaccine candidates roll in. President Trump also said he would "certainly" leave the White House if the Electoral College, as expected, votes for President-elect Joe Biden, likely further solidifying Wall Street's belief in a smooth presidential transition. [The Wall Street Journal] 3.A Venezuelan judge found six American executives guilty Thursday, sentencing them to lengthy prison terms three years after they were arrested on corruption charges. The defendants are all employees of the Houston-based refining company Citgo, which is owned by Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA. They maintain their innocence. Five of the men, all U.S. citizens —Gustavo Cárdenas, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano and Alirio Zambrano — were sentenced to eight years and 10 months, while Jose Peireira, a permanent resident of the U.S., received 13 years. In November 2017, the so-called Citgo 6 arrived in Caracas for what they told was a business meeting. Once they were in the boardroom, however, Venezuelan military intelligence officers entered, demanded their passports, and arrested them. They were charged with embezzlement tied to a never-executed proposal to refinance $4 billion of Citgo bonds, NPR notes. Appeals will be made for the defendants. [The Associated Press, NPR] 4.Thomas Cueni, the director-general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, said Friday that as many as 10 COVID-19 vaccines could be available by the middle of next year, as long as they are granted approval by regulatory agencies. Cueni noted that the vaccine developers that have already released info from late-stage trials — Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, and the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca — have all showed promising results (although the later is amending its trial after confusing results), and he expects similar data from Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Sanofi Pasteur, GSK, and Merck. "But all of them need to be submitted by rigorous scientific scrutiny by the regulators," he said. [Reuters] 5.For the first time in decades, India has entered a recession as the coronavirus pandemic takes a toll on the world's second most populous nation. Official data published Friday showed India's third quarter gross domestic product dropped by 7.5 percent from the same period last year when the economy grew by 4 percent. The downturn is a result of coronavirus restrictions, many of which have been lifted in recent months. Still, the affects of initial shutdown have appeared to carry over. Analysts expect the Indian economy to approve, but the road to recovery will likely be long [CNN, CNBC]More stories from theweek.com 7 cartoons about America's COVID Thanksgiving Our parents warned us the internet would break our brains. It broke theirs instead. South Korean intelligence believes North Korea is nervous about dealing with Biden administration
President Donald Trump on Wednesday baselessly claimed anew that he had won the election and uttered repeated falsehoods when he called into an event held by Pennsylvania Republicans to investigate unproven allegations of voter fraud. Trump, in fact, lost the election to President-elect Joe Biden. Biden won Pennsylvania by about 80,000 votes and the state certified him as the winner on Tuesday.
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong told a German newspaper he was doing well despite being held in solitary confinement and having trouble sleeping because of bright lights after he was remanded in custody this week. Wong, who on Monday pleaded guilty to charges of organising and inciting an unauthorised assembly near police headquarters in last year's anti-government protests, also said he does not expect a fair trial on Dec. 2.
France and the U.N. will host a new conference next week about aid to Beirut after its devastating port explosion in August, amid political deadlock and a worsening economic crisis in Lebanon, the French presidency said Friday. Thousands of Lebanese are struggling to repair homes damaged in the blast, and there is no government initiative to rebuild what has been destroyed. French President Emmanuel Macron and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will co-preside over the video conference Dec. 2, which will also include Lebanese nongovernmental groups and other organizations seeking to help, according to Macron’s office.
"On to SCOTUS!" wrote Jenna Ellis, a Trump campaign attorney, on Twitter after the ruling, referring to a planned appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. "The activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania continues to cover up the allegations of massive fraud." Pennsylvania certified Biden, who won the state by 80,000 votes, as its winner this week.
The 22-year-old "Wonder" singer told British GQ that girlfriend Camila Cabello helped him to change his perspective on his body.
Robert O'Brien's airplane crew was also not allowed to enter Vietnam and had to spend the night in Thailand, Bloomberg reported.
Turkish prosecutors launched an investigation Friday into the search of a Turkish commercial freighter by the crew of a German frigate participating in a European Union mission to enforce an arms embargo on Libya. Turkey has protested the incident on the Mediterranean Sea, insisting personnel from the German frigate Hamburg illegally searched the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A on Nov. 22.. Germany has rejected Turkey’s complaints, arguing the frigate's crew acted correctly.