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The Father Of The SEAL Slain In Yemen Demands An Investigation

2 hours 1 min ago

The father of the Navy SEAL killed in a botched Yemen raid last month wants an investigation into the White House-ordered operation that claimed his son’s life. 


Bill Owens, the father of Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, the Navy SEAL who died in the operation, accuses the Trump administration of using his son as a political prop in an interview published Sunday in The Miami Herald.


“Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation,” he said of the mission, which was intended for servicemen to gather laptops, cellphones and intelligence about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula but morphed into a fiery battle that killed Owens and several civilians.


“I want an investigation. … The government owes my son an investigation,” he told The Herald, adding that he couldn’t bear to meet President Donald Trump when he came to pay his respects as Ryan’s casket was carried off the military plane. 




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Earlier this month, White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted that the raid was “highly successful” and snapped back at critics who argued that Trump should not have approved such a dangerous mission. 



“Anyone who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology to the life and service of Chief Owens,” Spicer said.



Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is among the detractors.


“I don’t believe you can call it a success,” he told reporters shortly before Spicer gave his remarks. 


White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested Trump may be open to a White House investigation into the raid, which was the first high-risk military operation under his watch.


“I haven’t had the chance to speak with him directly about that, but I would imagine that he would be supportive of that,” Sanders told ABC on Sunday.


Read the full interview with the elder Owens at The Miami Herald.

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Categories: News Monitor

In Famine-Hit South Sudan, Women And Children Eat Water Lilies To Survive

2 hours 28 min ago



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THONYOR, South Sudan, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Like thousands of other South Sudanese families caught up in famine, Sara Dit and her 10 children are hiding from marauding gunmen in the swamps and islands of the river Nile.


The refuge has a steep price: families cannot farm crops or earn money to buy food. They eat water lily roots and the occasional fish. Dit’s family members have not eaten for days.


Last week the United Nations declared that parts of South Sudan are experiencing famine, the first time the world has faced such a catastrophe in six years. Some 5.5 million people, nearly half the population, will not have a reliable source of food by July.


The disaster is largely man-made. Oil-rich South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, plunged into civil war in 2013, after President Salva Kiir fired his deputy Riek Machar. Since then, fighting has fractured the country along ethnic lines, inflation topped 800 percent last year and war and drought have paralyzed agriculture.



 


Dit and her children are among more than 100,000 people that the United Nations says face imminent starvation in the counties of Leer and Mayendit in greater Unity state, which borders Sudan.


“The children are sick but what can I do? There are no hospitals near us and we can’t move far from where we are hiding. My older children go fishing but we can’t get enough because we don’t have tools,” Dit told Reuters on Saturday, cradling her four-year-old son in a temporary nutrition clinic set up by UNICEF, the U.N. agency dedicated to children.


Staff said her son will die without immediate help. 



Nyaluat Chol, a mother of six, said her family had survived on water lilies and palm fruit for the past year.


“We have been running from fighting for a long time. We settled in the island because it’s much better there. But we can’t leave to go buy food. We eat the weeds floating on the river, sometimes we get fish,” the 31-year-old said.


The women were among a crowd of 20,000 people that emerged from the swamps and assembled at the rebel-held village of Thonyor, in Leer county, when they heard the United Nations was registering people for emergency rations.


Some families received fishing nets and rods from aid workers to keep them going until food arrived. 



It was the U.N.’s first trip to Thonyor in a year. Many parts of the country are inaccessible due to fighting. Others are just very remote. South Sudan, the size of Texas, has only 200 km (120 miles) of paved roads, nearly six years after independence from neighboring Sudan.


“What we’ve seen is a lot of people coming from the islands,” said George Fominyen, a spokesman for the World Food Programme. “They have been living on water lilies, they have been living on roots, from weeds in the Nile, at most they eat once in a day.”



County commissioner Majiel Nhial said when villagers received food aid last year, they were attacked. Men in uniform looted and burnt their homes, he said.


“We lost all our properties, cows and our houses were looted. We were attacked, women were raped and girls abducted,” he said.


(Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Ros Russell)

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Categories: News Monitor

Swedes Stumped By Swedish 'National Security Adviser' On Fox

2 hours 39 min ago

Americans have left the Swedes scratching their heads — again.


Fox featured a Swedish “defense and national security adviser” on Thursday discussing the refugee situation in the country, but military and foreign affairs officials in Sweden had no idea who he was.


A man identified as Nils Bildt appeared on “The O’Reilly Factor” to link crime in Sweden to immigrants. “We are unable to socially integrate these people,” he said.


Sweden’s Defense Ministry and its Foreign Office told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that they didn’t know who Bildt was. 


“He is ... not in any way a known quantity in Sweden and has never been part of the Swedish debate,” Swedish Defense University professor Robert Egnell said in an email to The Associated Press on Saturday. Swedish officials, backed up by statistics, say that crime has been relatively flat for years in the country (and a fraction of U.S. crime) even though Sweden accepted record numbers of refugees in 2015. 


Egnell, who went to college with Bildt, said he moved to Japan over 12 years ago. Bildt is also known as Nils Tolling, according to the AP. Dagens Nyheter reported that he had served time in prison, according to The Washington Post, which Bildt denied.



So @FoxNews This is Nils G Tolling and he's not known in our circles as an expert. Not on National Security anyway. pic.twitter.com/2MVu85mhWr

— Johan Wiktorin (@forsvarsakerhet) February 24, 2017



Fox News is totally out of hand! First Nils Bildt and now this?? pic.twitter.com/Jja99wGtD7

— Adam Friesendorff (@Farbrokado) February 24, 2017


Bildt founded a security consulting business with offices in New York, Brussels and Tokyo — but not in Sweden. His resume cites his work as a naval officer.


Sorry for any confusion caused, but needless to say I think that is not really the issue. The issue is Swedish refusal to discuss their social problems and issues,” Bildt said in a statement to Mediaite. Bildt said he is an “independent political adviser,” and that the description given to him on “The O’Reilly Factor” was chosen by Fox. 


The executive producer of “The O’Reilly Factor” told The Washington Post that Bildt had been recommended to the program and that he went through a “pre-interview.” 


Bildt’s appearance followed an uproar over President Donald Trump’s call at a rally last Saturday to “look at what’s happening last night in Sweden” as he mentioned European nations hit by terrorism. After stumped Swedish officials contacted the White House to find out what had happened, Trump clarified that he had been watching Fox the previous night and listened to a conservative filmmaker talk about rising crime rates and immigrants. Twitter went wild.


Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven scolded Trump, saying leaders should “take responsibility for verifying any information that we spread.”


Trump then attacked the “fake news” media for covering up problems with immigrants in Sweden. And he was emboldened after a riot broke out in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood following a drug arrest last Monday.


But Sweden’s Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson again countered that the president should be “better informed about what the conditions really are here” before he speaks, Reuters reported. Johansson said that Sweden has “very, very few cases” of asylum seekers committing crimes.


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Categories: News Monitor

Kim Jong Un's Brother Died Within 20 Minutes Of Poisoning

4 hours 26 min ago

Kim Jong Un’s half brother died just 15 to 20 minutes after he was poisoned, Malaysia’s health minister said Sunday. 


Health Minister Subramaniam Sathasivam revealed that Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of the North Korean leader, began showing symptoms within minutes after two women wiped a poisonous liquid on his face at Kuala Lumpur’s airport on Feb. 13. He fainted in the airport clinic and died in the ambulance traveling to a hospital.





“It did it so fast and all over the body, so it affected the heart, it affected the lungs, it affected everything,” Subramaniam told reporters at a press conference Sunday. 


“I would think it was about, from the time of onset, from the time of application, 15-20 minutes,” he estimated, according to The Associated Press.


Malaysian authorities confirmed Friday that the poison used in the attack was VX nerve agent, an incredibly deadly and rarely seen chemical classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.


“This is one of those agents that absorbs well through the skin,” Subramaniam said Sunday.


Malaysia has not implicated North Korea in the attack, and the hermit kingdom has denied any involvement. However, Malaysian officials say four North Korean men provided the poison to the two women, one of whom was from Indonesia and one of whom was from Vietnam. The men fled Malaysia the day of the attack, and the women were arrested.

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Categories: News Monitor

If Trump Implodes, Republicans Have A Silver Lining In Mike Pence

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 17:47

WASHINGTON ―For Republicans on Capitol Hill, Vice President Mike Pence was supposed to be the calm, steadying hand in the White House, the seasoned former Indiana governor and congressman who would be their ears and mouth in the neophyte Trump administration.


Then Pence went on national television last month, before Donald Trump was even sworn in, to assure America that the man selected to be the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, never discussed sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador.


It wasn’t true, of course. But Pence didn’t know that it was false, and that Flynn had discussed sanctions with the ambassador the very day the Obama administration leveled them in retaliation for Russia’s attempts to manipulate the U.S. election.


Pence and his many GOP supporters didn’t find out he’d been misled until mid February, although other top officials in the White House were warned of Flynn’s dishonesty weeks earlier, in late January. Flynn was forced to resign.


Now, imagine being a Republican on Capitol Hill, and learning that sequence of events involving the man the GOP establishment sees as a sort of safety blanket in the volatile administration.


“Um,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), pausing a full five seconds before offering an uncomfortable laugh and trying to answer whether he was reassured that Pence was not part of the deception, or concerned that the GOP’s voice in the White House was entirely out of the loop.


“Let me say, I think Mike Pence is very much in the thick of things, and policy, in the administration,” Wicker said.


He never really answered whether he was reassured or concerned. But he was clear that he still had confidence in Pence, who served with Wicker when they were both members of the House.


Indeed, all the Republicans HuffPost spoke to just before Congress went on its current recess expressed similar strong support for Pence, while struggling with the implications of a White House that kept him in the dark for two weeks.


“Um... Well…,” said Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), another former House colleague of the vice president, who professed he was not up to speed on the reports of Pence being left out.


Still, it didn’t sound good, in theory, to Boozman.


“As a general rule, you’d always want the vice president in the middle of what’s going on,” Boozman said ― especially Pence.


“He’s a strong personality, he’s a thoughtful guy, he understands Congress, so he really is a natural in regards to going forward,” Boozman said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him. So I’d like very much for him to be a major part of the decision-making process, whatever it is.”



“Mike Pence has been the indispensable player. Yeah, he’s a huge value added for us."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell


Some Republicans who have been critical of Trump in the past were willing to express alarm.


“Of course it’s concerning,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.


“We don’t know what was going on in the White House, as far as the decision-making process is concerned,” McCain added. “When we have things like the immigration order ― and we have the vice president saying things, given information, telling the American people ― that are not true, there is a certain lack of coherence there.”


One thing they all agreed on ― Pence is not the problem.


“Mike obviously is a good guy and a good friend,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). “I’m kinda glad he wasn’t part of it, but I’m sure he’s not seeking to be excluded. He’ll be fine. and I’m sure they’ll correct the issues they have.”


Perhaps the White House will correct the dysfunction, but over the past week, fresh reports have highlighted Russian ties to Trump’s campaign.




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One report revealed a possible attempt to blackmail  former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who resigned after documents surfaced suggesting he was secretly paid millions by Russia-backed Ukrainians.


Other reports revealed that Trump White House officials attempted to influence the FBI, which is investigating aspects of Russian influence on the election. The officials, including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, tried to get officials in the agency ― as well as overseers on Capitol Hill ― to deny news that Trump campaign contacts with Russian intelligence officials were near constant for a year.


Whether the federal or congressional investigations end up implicating Trump or any of his aides in attempts to collude with a foreign power to sway an American election is not a question that can be answered yet.


But for all the talk of chaos in the White House for the first month of Trump’s reign, Senate Republicans were clear in expressing confidence in the person who would be first in line to replace the president.


“He’s been actively involved in the political process and also the governmental process of making political decisions, but also the how-do-you-govern-day-to-day,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). “So that’s something that’s very valuable.”


Asked directly if the administration had treated Pence well in cutting him out of the loop on Flynn, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made clear the value Republicans see in Trump’s No. 2.


“Mike Pence has been the indispensable player,” McConnell told reporters just before the recess, which ends Monday. “Yeah, he’s a huge value added for us. We all know him. He has, I think we’ll all stipulate, a very different kind of personality from the president.”

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Categories: News Monitor

U.S. Surf Champ Kelly Slater Calls For Shark Cull After Boogie-Boarder Death

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 12:13


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U.S. champion surfer Kelly Slater has called on the French government to cull the population of sharks crowding the seas off Reunion island in the wake of the death of a boogie-boarder.


Alexandre Naussac, 26, was killed last Tuesday in the 20th shark attack since 2011 off the French island in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar. Eight of the attacks have been fatal.



The 20th shark attack on Reunion Island kills a surfer.

RIPhttps://t.co/WyJ5eK5Vv5

/© Getty Images pic.twitter.com/ot3c03CYOO

— SurfingLife Magazine (@SurfingLife) February 21, 2017


The area is known for world-class surfing waves but also as one of the globe’s deadliest spots for shark attacks. All of the island beaches but two are off limits to swimmers and surfers. The remaining two are protected by shark nets.


Signs warning of shark attacks at the beach where Naussac entered the water had all been vandalized so he may have had no idea what dangers he faced.


Naussac bled to death when an attacking shark severed his femoral artery, Agence France Presse reported. Naussac had once worked as a shark spotter for local surfers.


In one of the most tragic deaths on the island, 13-year-old surfing champ and Reunion native Elio Canestri was killed in a shark attack in 2015.


Now surfers are demanding that something be done about the attacks.


Honestly, I won’t be popular for saying this but there needs to be a serious cull on Reunion and it should happen everyday,” Slaters wrote on an Instagram tribute to Naussac. “There is a clear imbalance happening in the ocean there. If the whole world had these rates of attack nobody would use the ocean and literally millions of people would be dying like this. The French government needs to figure this out ASAP. 20 attacks since 2011!?”


Reunion has banned hunting sharks for food since 1999 because of concerns that their flesh is contaminated with a toxin.


Slater, who has a reputation as a conservationist, later told Surfline.com that Reunion attacks are “unprecedented.” 


“There’s no natural reason that many people should be getting attacked in such a small area,” he said. “Sharks are a healthy part of any ocean and when not interfered with, the ocean creates a good balance. People should feel safe in most situations to swim and surf but Reunion obviously has an out of control situation that we don’t totally understand.” 


But U.S. surfer Mike Coots, who lost a leg in a shark attack, disagrees.


“I think culling a species is fundamentally wrong,” he told Surfline. “Science has shown that it doesn’t work. It actually can make the situation worse. I think we need to focus more on coexistence between humans and sharks.”


It’s not clear why so many attacks are occurring at Renuion. Some ecologists believe ocean warming may be creating new congregations of fish near certain shorelines which draws sharks closer to swimmers and surfers. Others believe as more and more people enter the water as the population increases they create feeding grounds for sharks.


There has been a significant increase in shark attacks in southern California since 2004, and attacks worldwide are generally on the rise.


Some Australian beaches have begun using drones for shark spotting. Earlier this month Ballina released a drone video view of its beach, including a close encounter with a great white shark.





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Categories: News Monitor

Iraqi Forces Push Deeper Into Western Mosul As Civilians Flee

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 01:17


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MOSUL, Iraq, Feb 25 (Reuters) - U.S.-backed Iraqi forces pushed deeper into western Mosul on Saturday, advancing in several populated southern districts after punching through the defenses of Islamic State’s last major urban stronghold in Iraq a day earlier.


About 1,000 civilians walked across the frontlines, the largest movement since the new offensive launched last week to deal the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim group a decisive blow.


In the capital Baghdad, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in the first such visit in more than a decade between Sunni Muslim-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite-led Iraq.


The new push in Mosul comes after government forces finished clearing Islamic State from the east of the city last month, confining the insurgents to the western sector across the Tigris river.


Commanders expect the battle there to be more difficult, in part because tanks and armored vehicles cannot pass through the narrow alleyways that crisscross ancient districts.


But Iraqi forces have so far made quick advances on multiple fronts, capturing the northern city’s airport on Thursday, which they plan to use as a support zone, and breaching a three-meter high berm and trench set up by Islamic State.


The advancing forces are less than three kilometers (two miles) from the mosque where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate spanning Iraq and Syria in 2014, sparking an international military campaign to defeat the group.


Losing Mosul would likely deal a hammer blow to the militants’ dream of statehood, but they still control territory in Syria and patches of northern and western Iraq from where they could fight a guerrilla-style insurgency in Iraq, and plot attacks on the West.


Federal police and an elite Interior Ministry unit known as Rapid Response have recaptured Hawi al-Josaq along the river and begun clearing the Tayyaran district north of the airport, said Brigadier General Hisham Abdul Kadhim.


Islamic State resisted with snipers and roadside bombs, he said. A Reuters correspondent saw two militants’ corpses outside a mosque in Josaq.



FOREIGN FIGHTERS

Counter-terrorism forces also pushed on two fronts towards Wadi Hajr and Mamoun districts, said Lieutenant General Abdelwahab al-Saadi, a senior commander.


“Clearing operations are ongoing and our forces have entered those areas,” he told Reuters on a hill overlooking the battle. Saadi said a suicide car bomb had been destroyed before reaching its target. The militants also launched mortars.


A Mamoun resident reached by phone said militant fighters had flooded the area in recent days while moving their families to relative safety in other districts.


Islamic State broadcast messages via mosque loudspeakers in some areas encouraging locals to resist the “infidels’ attack” while elsewhere they threatened to kill anyone who refused to retreat deeper into the city, according to several residents.


A woman forced to leave Wadi Hajr district said the militants had climbed to her roof and knocked holes in the walls in order to move undetected.


Several thousand militants, including many who traveled from Western countries to join up, are believed to be holed up in the city with practically nowhere to go, which could lead to a fierce standoff amid a population of 750,000.


Ziyad, a 16-year-old living in Hawi al-Josaq, told a Reuters correspondent he had seen foreign IS militants withdraw as Iraqi forces advanced, leaving only local fighters behind.


“They were really scared,” he said. “They were calling to each other and saying, ‘Let’s go’.”


Abu Laith, 49, said he overheard disagreements between local and foreign fighters.


“(The locals) said, ‘Tomorrow you will withdraw and we will be under the hammer’. (The foreigners) said, ‘That’s your problem. We are not in charge, the order is from the caliph’.”


Iraq’s counter-terrorism service put a statement online last week offering leniency to local fighters who killed foreigners, though the legal framework for such a deal was unclear.


A police spokesman said a Russian member of Islamic State had been captured on Wednesday near Mosul airport.


The Iraqi campaign involves a 100,000-strong force of Iraqi troops, Shi’ite militias and Sunni tribal fighters backed by a U.S.-led coalition that provides vital air support as well as on-the-ground guidance and training.


Western advisors are increasingly present close to the frontline, helping coordinate air strikes and advising Iraqi forces as the battle unfolds.


Kurdish journalist Shifa Gardi was killed by a roadside bomb on Saturday while covering the battle.



CIVILIANS START TO FLEE

About a thousand civilians, mostly women and children, walked out of southwestern parts of Mosul on Saturday and climbed into military trucks taking them to camps further south.


The United Nations says up to 400,000 people may have to leave their homes during the new offensive as food and fuel runs out in western Mosul. Aid groups warned on Friday that the most dangerous phase of the offensive was about to begin.


Some of the people fleeing Mamoun said they were originally from Hammam al-Alil, south of Mosul, but were forced to move as Islamic State retreated north into the city four months ago.


“They began shelling us arbitrarily, so we hid in the bathrooms. When the security forces came, they yelled to us so we fled to them,” said civilian Mahmoud Nawwaf.


The government is encouraging residents to stay in their homes whenever possible, as they did in eastern Mosul where fewer people fled than expected.


A Reuters correspondent near the airport saw nine families living in a house where residents with full beards served trays of tea to security forces. Some said Islamic State had forced them to move from Samarra, 250 km (160 miles) south of Mosul.


Abu Naba, 37, said he was surprised how quickly the militants had been driven out.


“We could hear their voices outside and 15 minutes later they were gone,” he said.


A woman with a baby wrapped in a blanket on her lap said she had given birth in the house 22 days ago because it was too dangerous to reach a hospital.


 


(Additional reporting by Reuters TV south of Mosul; writing by Stephen Kalin; editing by David Clarke and Ros Russell)

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Categories: News Monitor

Malaysia Says It Will Issue Arrest Warrant For North Korean Diplomat In Kim Jong Nam Murder

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 01:10


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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Malaysia said on Saturday it would issue an arrest warrant for a North Korean diplomat wanted for questioning over the murder of Kim Jong Nam if he doesn’t voluntarily cooperate with the police.


“Reasonable” time will be given for the diplomat to come forward before police take further action, said Abdul Samah Mat, the police chief for Selangor state.


On Wednesday, Malaysia said 44-year-old Hyon Kwang Song, a second secretary at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, was wanted for questioning over the death of the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.


Samah said if the person concerned did not cooperate the police would issue a notice under Malaysian law, “compelling” them to appear before the investigation team.


“And if he failed to turn up upon given this notice, then we will go to the next step by getting a warrant of arrest from the court,” he told reporters.


Eight North Koreans are wanted in connection with the case, including the diplomat. One has been detained by the Malaysian police, four are believed to have fled to North Korea, while two others are still in Malaysia.


Kim Jong Nam was murdered on Feb. 13 at the Kuala Lumpur international airport by VX nerve agent, classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction, Malaysian police said on Friday.


Two women - one Indonesian and one Vietnamese - have also been detained. Police had said on Friday that one of them had suffered from the effects of VX and had been vomiting.


Samah also confirmed that authorities raided an apartment in an upscale Kuala Lumpur suburb on Wednesday in connection with the killing.


Investigators were still looking for any traces of chemicals in the apartment, he added.


 


(Reporting by Christophe Van Der Perre in KUALA LUMPUR, Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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Categories: News Monitor

French President Hollande Fires Back At Trump Over Paris Comments

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 00:55


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PARIS, Feb 25 (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande fired back at Donald Trump on Saturday after the U.S. president remarked in a speech that a friend thought “Paris is no longer Paris” after attacks by Islamist militants.


Hollande said Trump should show support for U.S. allies.


“There is terrorism and we must fight it together. I think that it is never good to show the smallest defiance toward an allied country. I wouldn’t do it with the United States and I’m urging the U.S. president not to do it with France,” Hollande said.


“I won’t make comparisons but here, people don’t have access to guns. Here, you don’t have people with guns opening fire on the crowd simply for the satisfaction of causing drama and tragedy,”Hollande said, responding to questions during a visit at the Paris Agric fair.


During a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Trump repeated his criticism of Europe’s handling of attacks by Islamist militants saying a friend “Jim” no longer wanted to take his family to Paris.


More than 230 people have died in a series of assaults in France since the beginning of 2015, and the country has been under a state of emergency rules since November the same year.


Trump’s comments also drew a rebuke from the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo.


(Reporting by Bate Felix and Pascale Antonie; Editing by Ros Russell)




 

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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Throws 'Africa's Biggest Party' For His 93rd Birthday

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 00:35

As millions of Zimbabweans grapple with food shortages and malnutrition, President Robert Mugabe is throwing himself an extravagant party on Saturday to celebrate his 93rd birthday. 


Local media say at least 100,000 people are expected to attend the lavish event in the Bulawayo region, which has been ranked the “worst city in Africa.” 


Organizers have promised the celebrations will be “Africa’s biggest party,” according to a BBC radio report. Some 150 cattle have been slaughtered as a feast for celebrants, and numerous cakes have been prepared. Some schools in the region have been shut down. Costs of the party have been estimated at near $1 million.


Just last year, the president declared a national state of emergency after an extreme drought left 5 million people ― half the country’s rural population ― enduring severe food shortages. The United Nations said Zimbabwe faced its worst malnutrition rates in 15 years.



The ruling ZANU-PF party reportedly forced several schools and impoverished families in the area to provide donations for Mugabe’s grand party. Earlier in the month, ZANU-PF lawmaker Never Khanye was quoted saying that farmers who received a letters “must donate a beast each for this event, and those that will fail [to do so], we will take it [to mean] that they don’t appreciate what the president has done for them.”


A joint letter from three Zimbabwean civil society groups called the party’s actions a “disturbing if not unconstitutional” abuse of power. 


People also are angry that the celebration is taking place near the graves of thousands of people killed by forces loyal to Mugabe in the early 1980s.


Regional security has been heightened to quash anti-Mugabe protests during the festivities.



#Mugabe93 it took several men to lift President Mugabe's birthday cake. He is 93. I wonder how much it weighs? pic.twitter.com/AcAxROjw90

— harumutasa/aljazeera (@harumutasa) February 25, 2017


The elderly leader, whose actual birthday was on Tuesday, has been in power since white-minority rule ended in 1980, and has vowed to stand for re-election next year despite growing concerns about this health. 


Speculation has grown over who will replace him after his death, but Mugabe announced Saturday that his party will choose a successor when the time comes. He has also said that he wishes to live until he is 100 and rule for life.


Jesselyn covers world news for The Huffington Post. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Muhammad Ali's Son Detained At Airport, Asked 'Are You Muslim?'

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 00:15


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The son of the late boxing great Muhammad Ali was detained at a Florida airport this month and asked about his religious preferences, a family friend says.


Muhammad Ali Jr., 44, was returning to the U.S. from Jamaica with his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, when customs pulled them aside at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Feb. 7 for questioning, Chris Mancini, a family friend and lawyer, told the Courier-Journal Friday.


Customs officials let Camacho-Ali proceed once she produced a photo of herself with her former husband Muhammad Ali, but since Ali Jr. did not have such a photo, they detained him for almost two hours. During his detention, he says officials asked him questions like “Where did you get your name from?” and “Are you Muslim?”


Ali Jr., who like his late father is Muslim, is an American citizen with no criminal record. He was carrying a U.S. passport with him at the time of his detention.


“This is an outrage,” said Mancini, who is a former federal prosecutor. “I don’t know what is going on with Mr. Trump’s claim that his ban is not religion-based. We do not discriminate in this country based on religion.”



Muhammad Ali's son was questioned twice about his religion, and then held for at about two hours at #FLL. https://t.co/y7SBEBQq49

— Miami New Times (@MiamiNewTimes) February 24, 2017


President Donald Trump has repeatedly contended that his executive order banning refugees and people from seven predominantly Muslim countries is “not a Muslim ban.” A federal judge blocked the order was blocked days before Ali Jr. was detained. 


What right does the United States have to inquire about somebody’s religion when they enter the country?” Mancini said. “This is an instance where the ban has been enforced even though it has been thrown out. The government is still trying to find grounds to keep Muslims out.”


Multiple outlets have reached out to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for comment, which has simply said, “Due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, U.S. Customs and Border Protection cannot discuss individual travelers; however, all international travelers arriving in the U.S. are subject to CBP inspection.”


The Ali family is considering filing a federal lawsuit. 


To the Ali family, it’s crystal clear that this is directly linked to Mr. Trump’s efforts to ban Muslims from the United States,” Mancini added.

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These Beautiful Photos From Around The World Are Elevating Global Trans Identity

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 22:28


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On Wednesday, President Donald Trump’s administration rescinded an Obama-era directive requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.


It was a devastating, if unsurprising, blow to a community that has had to adjust to an even more uncertain future under Trump. So HuffPost Queer Voices wanted to provide visibility to the spectrum of transgender identity on a global level in solidarity.


In this 25-photo series from Reuters, we get a look at over two dozen different people from many different cultures, regions and walks of life who identify along the spectrum of trans identity.


Check the photos out for yourself below and keep your eyes peeled for more info about the upcoming SCOTUS case surrounding transgender rights.



For more ways to combat bigotry, don’t miss the Queer Voices newsletter.

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Saudi Arabia Is Changing

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 21:01

Something is happening in Saudi Arabia. The country is undergoing real change. Many commentators have written about it, but in some instances their observations have been based on a one-off visit comparing what they’ve just seen with the biases they’ve learned—without context or history.


I am by no means an expert on Saudi Arabia, but as someone who has visited the country over four dozen times in the past four decades and who has been able to conduct polling across the Kingdom for the past decade and a half, I want to share some conclusions from my just completed visit as well as some of my most recent public opinion polls.


In a real sense, Saudi Arabia is a new country that has always been changing. In the early 1950’s, for example, the population of Riyadh, the capitol, was in the tens of thousands. By 1980, when I made my first visit, it had grown to one million. Today Greater Riyadh is approaching seven million souls. There have been times when the city looked like a massive construction site with buildings or other infrastructure projects going up everywhere. Saudis have joked that their national bird was the crane.


Rapid urbanization came with a price. As rural people flooded into newly expanded urban areas, many experienced culture shock feeling a need to cling to the purity of the “old ways”—a not unexpected response.


With each passing year subtle but real changes have occurred. Some were the result of the tens of thousands of Saudis who studied abroad; others flowed from the transformations in daily life and social and economic relations that resulted from urbanization; still others reflected the impact globalization especially on Saudi youth. In any case, today’s Saudi Arabia is not the one I first visited a generation ago, with many Saudis living lives and connecting to the outside world in ways unimaginable to their grandparents. Traditions, however, remain and this is enough for some in the West to dismiss the country’s culture as frozen. It appears that if change doesn’t come at our pace, dressed in Western garb, and isn’t done “our way”—it’s not real change.


But even beyond this slow and steady evolution there is something new and significant taking place in the Kingdom. There is today a conscious and deliberate effort by Saudi leadership to speed up this process of transforming their society and to challenge some elements of the traditional culture that stand in the way of moving the country forward. Some of the impetus behind this effort is, no doubt, due to the need to move beyond dependence on oil revenues and government subsidized employment. Another important factor is the coming of age of a new generation of leaders who want to modernize their country, but to do so while being respectful of its traditions. Threading this needle is important since a significant segment of the population remains conservative and the young leadership is not inclined to totally upend the social order creating disruptive instability.



Today’s Saudi Arabia is not the one I first visited a generation ago, with many Saudis living lives and connecting to the outside world in ways unimaginable to their grandparents.



As part of this national effort at social and economic transformation, the number of Saudis studying abroad has increased to over two hundred thousand youngsters from all segments of Saudi society and all parts of the country. There are currently more women than men in college and women graduates are entering the workplace in ever increasing numbers. There has been a determined effort, working with international specialists, to modernize the education curriculum with changes on every level. On my most recent visit to Saudi Arabia, I received a briefing at the Ministry of Education, I was struck by: reforms in early childhood and elementary education; the new emphasis being given to math and science; the training programs that have been developed for teachers and aides preparing them to mainstream children with disabilities; and efforts to provide online and interactive educational opportunities for Saudis of all ages. These changes combined will no doubt produce even greater transformations in the years to come.


But what do Saudis think of their country and their own personal circumstances in this evolving social reality. There are dissidents, to be sure, both those who say change is not coming fast enough and those disgruntled souls who are repulsed by modernity and who condemn any threats to the old order. This is to be expected in any society experiencing change. But what our polling shows is that most Saudis are quite satisfied with their lives and are optimistic about the future. In a “quality of life” survey we conducted a few years ago in 22 countries, Saudi Arabia scored quite well—higher than the United States and most Western countries. More recent polling, since the launching of the national transformation program, have shown dramatic increases in both optimism and satisfaction ratings. There are concerns, to be sure, but on the whole, men and women, young and old, educated and less educated alike give life in their country good grades and have high expectation for the future. This confounds some American observers because they can only see Saudi Arabia through their own eyes, without paying attention to how the majority of Saudis see their own reality.


As ambitious and promising as the national transformation program is, it is also a risky undertaking. On the one hand, there are the expectations that promised change has created. This must be weighed against the backlash of Saudi conservatives who are already expressing concern with this orchestrated movement toward modernizing their society. I referred to it as “threading a needle” and it surely is.


Then there is the impact of the disastrous and costly war in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is deeply troubled by Iran’s aggressive ambitions and concerned with the destabilization of their southern neighbor. But their efforts to restore the legitimate government of Yemen that was deposed by an Iranian-backed movement, have not been successful. Reports of heavy civilian casualties have taken a horrific human toll on Yemenis and have contributed to tarnishing Saudi Arabia’s image in the West. And then there’s the cost—especially given declining oil revenues and the price tag associated with the national transformation effort.


Only a hardened cynic or a dyed-in-the-wool bigot would want to see the Saudi national transformation program fail. At the same time, it would naïve to assume that the coast is clear and all will inevitably work out in the end. Success is not assured, real problems remain and there will serious challenges in the future. But it should recognized that Saudis have taken their future in their own hands and are making change their way. They should be supported.


Follow @jjz1600 for more.

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Tech Consultant Arrested For Murder After Wife Vanishes During Cruise

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 16:41

Italian officials have detained a German tech consultant at Rome’s Ciampino airport after his wife vanished from their vacation cruise and he didn’t tell anyone, police say.


Daniel Belling, 45, his wife Li Yinglei, 36, and their two young children began a 10-day Mediterranean cruise Feb. 10 on the Magnifica cruise ship in Civitavecchia, Italy, the Irish Times reports. Li disappeared at some point but it didn’t come to light until cruise workers did a head count of disembarking passengers on Monday. 


Maritime authorities alerted police, who arrested Belling on suspicion of murder. He was charged with murder and faced a preliminary investigative judge Friday for a hearing in the Rome prison of Regina Coeli. The judge said just before midnight local time that he should remain in custody because of his “suspect” behaviour and concerns that he would try to leave the country, according to the Irish Times.


His lawyer indicated to The Telegraph Wednesday that there’s a perfectly good explanation for what happened, though he didn’t provide one. He says Belling would have behaved differently had he been a killer.


“He simply headed to Ciampino airport with his children [ages 4 and 6] to catch the flight that he had booked when he first organized the cruise,” said defense lawyer Luigi Conti. He added that his client would explain what happened in court.


The lawyer expects the investigative procedure to be brief and expects the case to come to court within less than a year, the Irish Times reports.


The last time anyone remembers seeing Belling’s wife was in a shop with her family on Feb. 10, according to La Stampa. 


The Magnifica was stopped mid-cruise Wednesday evening so investigators could examine the room where the couple was staying, the Irish Sun reports.


Belling works as a tech consultant whose clients include Apple, according to the Telegraph. He’s a German citizen but lives in the Irish capital of Dublin. Italian authorities stopped him as he was about to board a flight to Dublin Monday.


The couple’s children are in the care of Italian social services.


This article has been updated to include details of Belling’s hearing Friday.


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U.S. Blocks Young Syrian 'White Helmets' Cinematographer From Oscars

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 15:36


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The Department of Homeland Security at the last minute has decided to bar a young Syrian cinematographer from entering the U.S. to attend The Oscars Sunday. The civil-war documentary he risked his life to work on has been nominated for an award.


Khaled Khatib, 21, had obtained a visa and was due to fly to Los Angeles via Istanbul Saturday. But U.S. officials suddenly said they’d found unspecified “derogatory information” linked to Khatib, The Associated Press reported Saturday. Khatib was detained in Turkey, and he now needs a passport waiver to enter the U.S., which he will not be able to obtain, according to internal Trump administration documents seen by the AP. “Derogatory information” is a broad category that can be something serious to passport irregularities. It’s not clear why Khatib was detained in Turkey.


Khatib was a cinematographer on the 40-minute Netflix documentary “White Helmets,” which has been nominated for Best Documentary, Short Subject. It follows rescue workers for the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, who have saved tens of thousands of lives during the nation’s bloody civil war. The group was founded in 2012 after a Syrian Air Force attack on civilians. It was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2016. Khatib, who started filming the workers when he was just 16, is also a volunteer with the group. 


Some 120 White Helmets have been killed in recent years, including Khaled Omar, known as the “miracle baby rescuer” in Aleppo, after pulling an infant out alive from the rubble of the baby’s home in 2014. Omar was killed in an airstrike in 2016. 





“White Helmets” director Orlando von Einsiedel had made a plea to the U.S. to allow those who had worked on and been featured in the film to attend the Oscars. The experience would not only be rewarding for them, he said, but with the world “so divided we could all learn from the White Helmets’ message od compassion and dignity.” After a court halted President Donald Trump’s travel ban, the filmmakers revived plans to bring Khatib and White Helmets leader Raed Saleh to Los Angeles.


Saleh will also not be attending now because of the demand of work in Syria.



Regretfully we won't be at the OSCARS due to intensity of work, our priority continues to be helping civilians & rescue operations in #Syria

— Raed Al Saleh (@RaedAlSaleh3) February 24, 2017


Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, whose movie “The Salesman” is up for Best Foreign Language Film, said last month that he would not attend the awards ceremony because of Trump’s controversial ban.


But Farhadi and the directors of the other four movies in the foreign language category issued an angry statement on Friday blasting America’s “climate of fanaticism and nationalism.” It’s unlikely the directors yet had word that Khatib would not be allowed to attend the Oscars.


“The fear generated by dividing us into genders, colors, religions and sexualities as a means to justify violence destroys the things that we depend on — not only as artists but as humans: the diversity of cultures, the chance to be enriched by something seemingly ‘foreign’ and the belief that human encounters can change us for the better,” their statement reads


“These divisive walls prevent people from experiencing something simple but fundamental: from discovering that we are all not so different.”


Regardless of “who wins the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film on Sunday, we refuse to think in terms of borders,” they wrote. “We believe there is no best country, best gender, best religion or best color. We want this award to stand as a symbol of the unity between nations and the freedom of the arts. Human rights are not something you have to apply for. They simply exist — for everybody.”


Khatib was looking forward to traveling to the Oscars. “If we win this award, it will show people across Syria that people around the world support them,” he said when he announced his plans to attend this month. “It will give courage to every volunteer who wakes up every morning to run towards bombs.” 


“If I cannot enter the U.S., I will not give up,” he added. “We know that we have many friends in the U.S., that there are people that share our humanitarian values. I look forward to meeting them all one day.”


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CPAC Crowd Duped Into Waving Russian Flags During Trump Speech

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 09:37

A pair of progressive moles with a sense of humor were apparently responsible for a grand — although short-lived — prank at the Conservative Political Action Conference that had members proudly waving tiny banners emblazoned with the name “Trump” that were actually Russian flags.


The pranksters passed 1,000 red-white-and-blue Russian flags before Donald Trump’s speech at the conservative confab in Maryland on Friday. Audience members scooped them up and waved them enthusiastically as Trump railed against the media. He also tweeted a series of attacks earlier against the FBI, accusing it of leaking information that the White House had pressured the bureau to publicly dispute reports of contact between Trump’s aides and Russia.


The flag tricksters identified themselves as Jason Charter and Ryan Clayton with the self-described “resistance” group Americans Take Action. They purchased tickets to the conference shortly before Trump was to take the podium and handed out the flags, Charter told The Huffington Post.


Charter, 22, said that the gag was intended to mock Trump’s admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin and highlight concerns about Trump administration ties to Russia. “Donald Trump is selling out the U.S.,” he said. 


The prank went surprisingly smoothly, he added. “I asked people if they wanted a Trump flag and they took it,” Charter said. “There were only about five people who said, ‘Wait a minute, this is the Russian flag.’”



Activists prank CPAC attendees into waving Russian flags at Trump https://t.co/RRzCRhnHGK pic.twitter.com/xmEGEHwuOt

— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) February 24, 2017


Politico’s Tim Alberta tweeted that the crowd “gave no thought” to the Russian flag. They just saw “red, white & blue” with Trump printed on it.



They saw red, white & blue - with "TRUMP" stamped across it - and started to wave them. Gave no thought to Russian flag, they all said. 2/2

— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) February 24, 2017


Charter said that pranks can be “fun and still effective in shedding light on a serious situation.” He said Americans Take Action has several other events planned. “I, of course, can’t go into details, but we’re not stopping until Donald Trump is impeached.”


Clayton, 36, using a mock Russian accent in an interview with Atlantic, called the prank a “true-flag” operation. “It show how Trump and Russia are so connected, they like peas in pod,” he said.



Trump's #CPAC Speech:

An abject nightmare come-to-life where Americans proudly wave Russian flags pic.twitter.com/tlC4i8RcQt

— LiNCOLN PARK (@linc0lnpark) February 24, 2017



Someone handed out Trump Russian flags on the #CPAC2017 floor before Trump's speech pic.twitter.com/uf1ADMt6ZL

— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) February 24, 2017



This is not a joke: Trump's CPAC flags look EXACTLY like little Russian flags.

Coincidence? pic.twitter.com/I2IapEEXej

— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) February 24, 2017



Do these people even realize they are cheering another country? Make America Russian? https://t.co/TzfRIUhGLj

— Terry Kalb (@teka21bat) February 24, 2017



A section of people in the back of #CPAC2017 waving Russian flags -- a staffer just came and demanded they all be handed over. pic.twitter.com/mZVoVUqudn

— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) February 24, 2017


CPAC organizers finally got a clue and quickly collected the flags, and warned that anyone who continued to wave or hold one would be ejected, The Hill reported. But some wanted to save the flags as souvenirs.



Organizers confiscating the flags and threatening anyone caught holding one https://t.co/swfMYsYCKu #CPAC2017 pic.twitter.com/PCYfBCi3d3

— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) February 24, 2017


Clayton was quickly kicked out, but Charter managed to dodge organizers for a time, according to the men. Charter says he was finally booted when he called Trump a “fascist” and “Putin’s puppet.”


Trump has come under fire since the campaign for his strangely laudatory statements about Putin and for appearing to call on the Russian government to hack into campaign rival Hillary Clinton’s emails. Michael Flynn stepped down as Trump’s national security adviser earlier this month after it was revealed that he discussed easing sanctions against the country with Russia’s ambassador before Trump was sworn in as president. Trump has also expressed skepticism about intelligence officials’ findings that Russia was responsible for hacking Democrats’ emails and spreading fake news harmful to Clinton in a bid to sway the election toward Trump.


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Kung Fu Master With Iron Crotch Is One Ballsy Martial Artist

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 08:46


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There may be better martial artists than Master Wei Yaobin, but few are ballsier.


Where other fighters take it on the chin, he takes hits in the crotch. Repeatedly.



via GIPHY



Master Wei is considered one of the world’s best practitioners of “Iron Crotch Kung Fu.”


It’s a relatively obscure form of martial arts in which combatants learn to build strength and endurance by subjecting themselves to strong blows in the groin area, according to AsiaOne.com.


“I have learned this Kung Fu skill since I turned 67 years old,” he says in the video above. “I think it’s good for my health.”


Here he is whacking himself with a brick. Repeatedly.



via GIPHY



Master Wei has been practicing his ball-bashing form of martial arts for 10 years in the city of Luoyang. 


“I insist on doing it every day,” he says in the video. “I believe it builds up resistance and I have [gotten] less fever and colds than before.”


Getting smacked in the crotch usually makes guys testy, but the master claims it helps men overcome issues like erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.


However, there is no scientific evidence to back up that theory.


As nutty as it sounds, the master claims “Iron Crotch Kung Fu” is the next big thing. “More and more masters are opening studios to teach it, and attracting an increasing number of people to learn it,” he says in the video.


Here’s one of his students practicing having his privates smashed with a battering ram. Repeatedly.



via GIPHY


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Viral Tiger Drone Video Reveals A Grim Reality In China

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 07:43



This week, the Chinese state-run media introduced to the world a streak of chubby tigers, adorably chasing a drone out of the sky.


Set to playful music, the video shows Siberian tigers, including a few surprisingly fat ones, stalking a drone and eventually knocking it out of the air.


Staff at this tiger park in China’s Heilongjiang province were reportedly using the drones to give the overweight tigers a workout before spring, China Central Television explained on its news site.


Chubby cats, snow, drone footage: It was internet gold that even had its own segment on Friday’s “Today” show on NBC.


That is until animal rights activists came forward to expose where they believe the viral Siberian tigers actually are: a slaughter farm.


“This is not a secret,” Susan Bass, spokeswoman for the Florida-based Big Cat Rescue, told The Huffington Post. “They have them all over China.”



Bass told HuffPost that her rescue organization tracks tiger slaughter farms in China, and they are quite familiar with the one in the video, which she recognized as the Harbin Siberian Tiger Park. Vice’s Motherboard also identified the park as the one in Harbin.


While Trip Advisor reviews for the park suggest that it’s a popular tourist attraction with “healthy” and “happy” animals, Bass says the facility is actually used to farm and harvest tiger parts.


“This is the kind of stuff we follow,” Bass said of the tiger park. “The kind of situations where captured tigers are being exploited.” Her organization is an accredited animal sanctuary that rescues abused exotic cats.


“This is sad. These tigers are doomed,” she told HuffPost. “You’re watching tigers that are going to be slaughtered for their parts.”



These tiger farms, according to EcoWatch, breed and kill tigers so their parts can be made into traditional medicines, decorations or tiger bone wine. The wine is believed to give the drinker energy and a strong sex drive. Tiger penises are sold as an aphrodisiac, according to National Geographic.


Although China banned tiger breeding in 1993 and promised the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that it had banned internal trade in tiger parts, the country is believed to have 200 working tiger farms, The Guardian reported in 2016. China allows these farms to hold an estimated 6,000 tigers for slaughter.


According to estimates by the Environmental Investigation Agency, at least one tiger is killed daily for its use in traditional Chinese medicine. But parts of the endangered animal are reportedly sold in markets throughout the world, from China, Taiwan and Japan, to South Korea, the U.S. and Britain. 


As for the Siberian tigers in the now-viral drone video, Bass believes that their fates may already be sealed.


“They’re pretty large tigers,” she told HuffPost. “They’re probably going to be slaughtered pretty soon.”

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Australia Reverses Its Decision To Deport Teen With Autism

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 05:57

Australia’s immigration department has overturned a “heartless” decision that left a Sydney teen who has autism facing imminent deportation.


Australian media report that 16-year-old Sumaya Bhuiyan, who has been living in the country with her family since 2009, was granted permanent residency Friday. Her mother, Dr. Nasrin Haque, who is originally from Bangladesh, had submitted a family application in 2013, but it was initially denied because Bhuiyan was found to have “mild to moderate” developmental delays, which were deemed a burden to Australian taxpayers.



Assistant Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke intervenes to stop deportation of Sydney girl with autism https://t.co/aTz2VcYNCF pic.twitter.com/KHruAiVnFJ

— Breaking News Sydney (@SydneyBrk) February 24, 2017


Australia’s Migration Act specifies that “if any members of the family unit should fail to meet the Health Requirement ... no family member will be granted a visa,” meaning that, as a result of Bhuiyan’s condition, the family would have to move to Hungary, where Bhuiyan and her 14-year-old brother were born and have citizenship. Neither of them speak Hungarian, and Haque would have to leave two medical practices in Sydney.


The Department of Immigration and Border Protection had given the family until Friday to purchase plane tickets out of Australia ― and just two weeks to leave ― or they would be deported. The decision triggered outrage and was called “appalling and heartless” by autism awareness advocates. 


Haque insisted that her daughter was not a financial burden to taxpayers in any way. Bhuiyan has never received financial support from the government and does not attend a special school, according to a Change.org petition Haque created to garner public support to appeal the decision.


“My full-time position as a [doctor] allows me to financially support my family without assistance from the Australian state,” she explained online. “Deportation would tear our family apart.”


Haque’s children have a very close relationship with their family members in Australia, she added. Their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are all Australian citizens.


Assistant Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, just a month after he had rejected public pressure to do so, intervened Friday.


In granting Bhuijan permanent residency, Hawke said cases like hers are “always complex.” He is reportedly working toward granting the same status to Haque and her son.


I feel better, much better today,” Haque said upon receiving the good news, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. “Really, I have been going through a stressful situation for so many months, it has been terrible. But this is great news.” 


Jess covers world news for The Huffington Post. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Beloved Swimming Pigs Of The Bahamas Found Dead

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 05:22


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Several of the famous swimming pigs that draw tourists to the Bahamas’ Big Major Cay were found dead over the weekend from an undetermined cause.


Wayde Nixon, one of the pigs’ owners, told the Nassau Guardian that seven of the pigs had died, and about 15 were still alive.



“The pigs were given the wrong food,” Nixon told the news outlet. He didn’t specify who gave the passel of pigs the food, or what it was. But he did say there have been problems with tourists acting inappropriately.


“Right now, it’s blowing out of proportion with people, anybody bringing food there, anybody doing what they [want to] do,” Nixon said. “We have people coming there giving the pigs beer, rum, riding on top of them ― all kind of stuff.”


Kim Aranha, president of the Bahamas Humane Society, told Tribune 242 it’s not clear if the pigs’ deaths were accidental or intentional.


“It could just be a horrible accident, where they ate something poisonous,” Aranha said. “It could be malicious, but I don’t really see why someone would go out of their way to hurt those lovely animals.”


The results of a humane society investigation into the deaths will be available by next week, according to Tribune 242.


As a result of the deaths, tourists will no longer be permitted to feed the pigs, though they will still be able to visit them, V. Alfred Gray, minister of agriculture and marine resources, told the Nassau Guardian.


Popular legend attributes the pigs’ presence on the island to sailors who abandoned them, or to pigs swimming to the island after a shipwreck.


But Nixon and his business partner, Don Rolle, have told multiple media outlets that they brought a few pigs to the island in the 1990s in a scheme to start a farm. That failed, but the charm of free-roaming, swimming pigs ended up being a major tourist attraction.



The world-famous pigs have been repeatedly celebrated in the media, and even made an appearance on the reality dating show “The Bachelor” last year. However, some animal advocates have expressed concern for the pigs’ well-being.

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