More than 250,000 Americans have died. To put that in perspective, that's enough to fill the seats at Minute Maid Park six times over.
More than 250,000 Americans have died. To put that in perspective, that's enough to fill the seats at Minute Maid Park six times over.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi forces in Yemen carried out a series of air raids on barracks used by the Iran-aligned group in and around the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Friday, according to local residents. The reported air strikes came after a Houthi missile attack on Saudi oil facilities in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on Monday, and damage inflicted to a tanker by an explosion at a Saudi Red Sea terminal on Wednesday. The coalition said on Friday it had pinpointed and destroyed two mines in the south of the Red Sea, Saudi state TV reported, accusing the Houthis of laying the explosives.
An Iranian diplomat and three other Iranians went on trial in Belgium on Friday (November 27) accused of planning a bomb attack in France in 2018. This is the first time an EU country has put an Iranian official on trial for terrorism. Belgian prosecutors charged Vienna-based diplomat Assadolah Assadi and three others with plotting an attack on a rally of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, also known as NCRI. In the event, U.S. President Donald Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, gave a keynote speech. Authorities say the attack was foiled by a coordinated operation between French, German and Belgian security services. Farzin Hashemi is the Deputy Chairman of the NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee: "Today, this is a historical day. After 40 years of export of terrorism and involving in acts of terrorism in Europe and elsewhere, for the first time, an official of the Iranian regime - a so-called diplomat - is put on trial. So we are very happy that finally, justice is being done." Assadi was arrested while on holiday in Germany and handed over to Belgium. He is refusing to appear in court and did not attend the first day of the trial in Antwerp. He has not commented on the charges. Here's his lawyer, Dimitri de Beco: "My client asked me to represent him today. He let me know that he has the fullest respect for these judges but, as he considers that he should benefit from his immunity, they are not allowed to judge him. Also because his defence rights were not respected since the beginning of the procedure." Assadi was the third counsellor at Iran's embassy in Vienna. French officials have said he was in charge of intelligence in southern Europe and was acting on orders from Tehran. The Islamic Republic has repeatedly dismissed the charges, calling the attack allegations a "false flag" stunt by the NCRI, which it considers a terrorist group.
British-Australian lecturer Kylie Moore-Gilbert endured two years of "incredible hardship".
Men plead innocence following arrest in 2017 as State Department demands release
Chinese authorities said on Friday they were set to charge 12 people from Hong Kong with border violations after they were detained in China more than three months ago while trying to flee from the city by speedboat. The 12, who had all faced charges in Hong Kong linked to anti-government protests, have been held virtually incommunicado in a mainland prison since they were detained at sea, apparently while trying to reach the democratic island of Taiwan. "The investigation of 12 Hong Kong people who were found unlawfully crossing the border has ended," authorities in Yantian district of the southern mainland city of Shenzhen said.
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.
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.
OPEC+ is debating whether to ease oil output cuts from Jan. 1, as it previously agreed, or to continue producing at the same rate amid sluggish oil demand and the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The letter from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, seen by Reuters, had initially said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak will attend Saturday's informal consultations of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee's heads. Novak was energy minister until earlier this month, leading Moscow's efforts to forge close ties with OPEC and clinch the deal on output cuts.
In a surprise news conference on Thanksgiving Day, President Trump took questions from the press for the first time since losing re-election—but he doubled down on his “rigged” election claims and appeared to deny the reality that his presidency is ending, saying it will be “very hard” for him to concede to Joe Biden.“I think it’s not right he’s trying to pick a Cabinet,” Trump complained after railing against the supposed “massive fraud” that he claims gave Biden victory.Reiterating his claims of voter fraud in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia despite the fact that state authorities have already certified the election results in those states, Trump appeared to become combative when asked if he would concede if the Electoral College votes for Biden on Dec. 14. Although he eventually did say he would exit the White House if the vote were not in his favor, that answer came after he first repeatedly cast doubt on the Electoral College and election in general. “It’s going to be a very hard thing to concede. Because we know there was massive fraud,” he said when first asked if he would concede. Pennsylvania Certifies Biden as Winner, Driving Stake in Trump’s Legal Effort“Time isn’t on our side … this was a massive fraud, this should never take place in this country, we’re like a third-world country,” he said, suggesting that faulty vote-counting machines gave Biden millions of extra votes.Asked a second time if he would concede if the Electoral College votes for Biden, Trump responded, “Well if they do they made a mistake,” before saying it’s a “possibility” and scolding a reporter who pressed him on the issue: “Don’t talk to me that way, you’re just a lightweight.”Asked by another reporter if he would “leave this building” if the Electoral College elects Biden, he said, “Certainly, I will.”While Trump and his legal team have repeatedly looked to throw out votes in states that Joe Biden carried, none of their challenges have proved successful.Key states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia—all of which Trump carried in 2016, before flipping blue this year—certified their results this week, ensuring they will send a Democratic slate of voters to the Electoral College. Wisconsin and Arizona, two more states that flipped to Biden, are set to certify their results next week.“Massive fraud has been found. We’re like a third world country,” Trump said, before launching back into allegations of voter fraud that have been repeatedly rebuffed in court and by state election officials of both parties.“I did so well ... that they didn’t know what to do,” he said at one point of election results in Georgia, claiming that ballots for him were “thrown away.”“I don’t know what is going to happen. I know one thing, Joe Biden did not get 80 million votes. And I got 74 million but there were many ballots thrown away, so I got much more than that. But I got 74 million, 74 million is 11 million more than I got last time. … And it’s millions more than Hillary Clinton got.”Underneath all of the bravado, Trump at one point slipped up and blasted “the Biden administration,” apparently inadvertently recognizing Biden’s win.While Trump has refused to concede and maintained that somehow, he would win states he had already lost, his administration has relented behind the scenes.Earlier this week, Emily Murphy, the head of the General Services Administrations—a Trump appointee—signed off on a letter officially allowing the presidential transition to begin. Murphy had previously refused to do so, a partisan move from a historically non-partisan agency.Even Trump appeared to have a moment of clarity Thursday regarding a potential COVID-19 cure and his future (or lack thereof) in the White House.“Don’t let Joe Biden take credit for the vaccine,” he said.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.
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.
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.
Miami-Dade mayor Daniella Levine Cava calls decision ‘deeply frustrating’
Trump does not have the power to determine whether Biden can take office, and his campaign has failed to prove in court that there was mass fraud.
Hungary's government will decide in about 8-10 days on restrictions to be applied over the Christmas holidays to curb coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday. Orban said that two weeks after a night-time curfew and restrictions were introduced, infection data "have not shown a significant change" and the number of hospitalised COVID patients would soon reach 10,000, which meant the healthcare system was "under enormous pressure." Orban said Hungarians should not book skiing holidays abroad as they would have to face a very serious quarantine obligation on their return.