The Junior League of Raleigh's "A Shopping Spree!" goes virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Junior League of Raleigh's "A Shopping Spree!" goes virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.”
Robert O'Brien's airplane crew was also not allowed to enter Vietnam and had to spend the night in Thailand, Bloomberg reported.
A leading Saudi women’s rights activist who’s been imprisoned for 2 1/2 years and drawn attention to the kingdom’s hard limits on dissent will be tried by a court established to oversee terrorism cases, her family said Wednesday. The referral of Loujain al-Hathloul's case to the Specialized Criminal Court is a setback for efforts to push for her swift release and means she will face charges related to terrorism and national security. According to a 53-page report released earlier this year by Amnesty International, the court has been used as “a weapon of repression” to imprison peaceful critics, activists, journalists, clerics and others.
Cordless? Handheld? Robotic? We have you covered with all the best vacuum deals that you need to know aboutOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will announce his economic team and other key nominees next week, officials for his transition team said on Wednesday, after formal recognition of his election win this week allowed a transition to move forward. Biden communications director Kate Bedingfield told reporters on a call that the transition team was encouraged by the “professional and welcoming response” of civil servants who they were getting in touch with to enable a smooth transfer of power. Transition officials downplayed the impact of the three-week delay in formally beginning the transition, and dismissed President Donald Trump's continued efforts to cast doubt on the results as a "sideshow."
Miami-Dade mayor Daniella Levine Cava calls decision ‘deeply frustrating’
A controversial former White House official is helping the Trump administration use its waning days to carry out a contentious reorganization that gives the Pentagon’s civilian leadership greater control over U.S. Special Operations Command.
Stop taking Zoom into the bathroom. A New Jersey school board member accidentally broadcast her bathroom break during a board meeting and resigned.
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.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has warned the international community to stay out of his country's internal affairs as the deadline for regional forces in Tigray to surrender approaches. Hundreds have been killed since fighting began on November 4 and more than 41,000 have escaped the violence to Sudan. Tanks and artillery reportedly surround Tigray's capital, where Abiy is threatening a "final push" if the region's ruling TPLF does not lay down its arms by Wednesday evening (November 25). Three former African presidents are due to arrive in Addis Ababa as envoys from the African Union, and the European Union's foreign policy chief warned that the conflict is destabilizing the wider region. They add to a chorus of international voices that have been urging restraint and mediation. But in a statement on Wednesday, Abiy said that while Ethiopia welcomes the "well-meaning concerns" of our friends, the country rejects what he called "unwelcome and unlawful" interference in "our internal affairs".
The U.S. State Department has informed staff that the transition process has begun and a team had been assigned inside the agency to support a handover to the incoming Biden administration, according to an internal email seen by Reuters on Wednesday. The guidelines, sent on Wednesday, came after the General Services Administration (GSA), the federal agency that must sign off on presidential transitions, notified President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that he could formally begin the handover. "Following the November 3 election, representatives of President-elect Biden's Transition Team have arrived at the Department of State to support preparations for the transition," the email said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered at least two people executed, banned fishing at sea and locked down the capital, Pyongyang, as part of frantic efforts to guard against the coronavirus and its economic damage, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers Friday. Kim's government also ordered diplomats overseas to refrain from any acts that could provoke the United States because it is worried about President-elect Joe Biden’s expected new approach toward North Korea, lawmakers told reporters after attending a private briefing by the National Intelligence Service. One of the lawmakers, Ha Tae-keung, quoted the NIS as saying Kim is displaying “excessive anger” and taking “irrational measures” over the pandemic and its economic impact.
It is one of the first major rulings since conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court.
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.
Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has cost the seaside territory as much as $16.7 billion in economic losses and sent poverty and unemployment skyrocketing, a U.N. report said Wednesday, as it called on Israel to lift the closure. The report by the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development echoed calls by numerous international bodies over the years criticizing the blockade. Israel imposed the blockade in 2007 after Hamas, an Islamic militant group that opposes Israel’s existence, violently seized control of Gaza from the forces of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.
Donald Trump admitted it was a "very hard thing to concede" electoral defeat but committed to leaving the White House if the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden, the Democrat president-elect as he attended a Thanksgiving event on Thursday. "It's going to be a very hard thing to concede because we know there was massive fraud," Mr Trump said, refusing to say whether he would attend Mr Biden's inauguration in January. In the nearest he has come to a concession, Mr Trump said he would leave the White House if Mr Biden is certified the election winner by the Electoral College - the process by which presidents are elected - on December 14. However, Mr Trump appeared to suggest he still held hopes of retaining the presidency. Asked about his plans for his last Thanksgiving in the White House, the president told reporters that the occasion might be the “first one of a second term”. The president added there were "a lot of things happening between now and January 20th [inauguration day]" and the election results have a "long way" to go. "I know one thing Joe Biden did not get 80 million votes," he said. "The only way he got 80 million votes is through massive fraud." During his annual Thanksgiving call with US troops overseas, Mr Trump also claimed the US will begin delivering Covid-19 vaccines "next week and the week after" as he insisted the country had "rounded the curve" on the pandemic. "We are rounding the curve [on the virus]. The vaccines are being delivered - literally it will start next week and the week after," he said during his address. Mr Trump suggested that medical workers, other frontline staff and elderly people would be the first to receive the vaccinations. It is unclear which vaccine Mr Trump was referencing, or whether he was referring to a specific federal government policy for a vaccine distribution. Two US companies, Moderna and Pfizer, have so far announced that their vaccines are effective at protecting people against coronavirus. Earlier this week US government officials said the administration planned to distribute around 6.4 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine to Americans as soon as the jab received emergency approval from the federal government, expected to be around mid-December. Officials say that by the end of the year they expect to have enough doses of vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna to vaccinate around 20 million people. However, it is likely to be April before the vaccines are distributed to the wider American public. In his address on Thursday, Mr Trump praised the speed with which a vaccination had been created, saying "two companies already announced [successful vaccines]" adding that several others were "coming up soon". "Some people have called it a medical miracle," the president said adding that the hunt for a vaccination "could have taken four or five years".
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.
British-Australian lecturer Kylie Moore-Gilbert endured two years of "incredible hardship".
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.
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.