Still bruised from Clinton loss, left takes aim at Electoral College in court

Still bruised from Clinton loss, left takes aim at Electoral College in court

A liberal-led push to overhaul the Electoral College could be moving from the op-ed pages to the courtroom, as a Harvard professor who flirted with a dark-horse Democratic presidential bid last year vows litigation to change the system.

Criticism of the Electoral College was resurgent in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss. Clinton recently said she wants the system “eliminated.” The latest effort isn’t aimed at dismantling the structure entirely – but rather, the winner-take-all system used by 48 states in awarding electors, which ends up focusing presidential races on a handful of battlegrounds.

“With a winner-take-all, most of America is ignored,” professor Lawrence Lessig said in previewing his legal case – which, like any challenge to the Electoral College, faces a steep uphill climb.

Lessig, though, argues the system violates the 14thAmendment’s one-man-one-vote principle. Currently, all but two states award all electors to the winner of the state’s popular vote. Lessig said 24 people have volunteered to be plaintiffs, though he’s still deciding which states to focus on.

“We are looking for a Republican from a blue state whose vote never counts and a Democrat from a red state whose vote never counts,” he said.

Lessig, who was very briefly a Democratic candidate for president for the 2016 cycle, insists this isn’t a partisan endeavor and will consist of at least two separate lawsuits. If he were to beat the odds and prevail, the kind of overhaul he seeks could have mixed results — theoretically allowing Democrats to pick up electoral votes in deep-red territory and Republicans to win electors in deep-blue states like California and New York.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig speaks at the New Hampshire Democratic Party State Convention in Manchester, New Hampshire September 19, 2015.      REUTERS/Brian Snyder - GF10000212698

Lawrence Lessig, shown in New Hampshire during his stint as a Democratic presidential candidate in September 2015, wants to overhaul the Electoral College.  (Reuters)

While it would require a constitutional amendment to ditch the Electoral College for a national popular vote system, the Constitution does not mandate how states award electors. Maine and Nebraska actually divvy up electors by congressional district. Donald Trump picked up one Maine elector in 2016 and Barack Obama won a Nebraska elector in 2012.

Another alternative—which Lessig prefers—would be a proportional system, where a losing candidate could still get a percentage of the state’s electors based on the popular vote.

Lessig contends other proposals, such as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, could take decades to fully implement. By contrast, a court ruling could force states to move to a proportional system by 2020.

Lessig, meanwhile, warns that election results that defy the popular vote could become more common.

“Two of the last three presidents were inaugurated without winning the popular vote,” he noted, referring to Trump’s victory in 2016 and George W. Bush’s in 2000. It has happened in just three prior elections: 1888, 1876 and 1824. “The number of times the Electoral College doesn’t conform with the popular vote will go up given the demographics,” Lessig predicted.

‘The Supreme Court could knock this out.’

– Election lawyer Roger Austin, casting doubt on an Electoral College court challenge

The current system undoubtedly concentrates campaign spending. Just 14 battleground states saw 99 percent of ad spending and 95 percent of candidate visits for campaign purposes in 2016, according to Equal Citizens.

David Boies, who was the lead counsel for former Vice President Al Gore in the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case in 2000, and Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics attorney under President George W. Bush, are part of the legal team for the case.

But the system has its defenders.

Gary Rose, chairman of the political science department at Sacred Heart University and author of “Haywire: A Chronology of the 2016 Presidential Contest,” said it provides stability.

“Under a district plan, we could see a number of third-party candidates emerge, competing for a narrow portion of the vote by just running in congressional districts,” Rose told Fox News. “A proportional system would be a recipe for France, a multi-party system, with a plethora of small parties that are hardly bigger than an interest group.”

Interestingly, fear of third parties brought Congress to its closest point of scrapping the Electoral College. After third-party candidate George Wallace won 46 electoral votes in 1968, the House of Representatives voted 338-70 in 1969 to abolish the Electoral College and require the winner to a presidential election to carry at least 40 percent of the vote. The proposed constitutional amendment was blocked by a Senate filibuster.

While candidates visit only a handful of swing states now, Rose said, under a national popular vote system, presidential candidates would ignore smaller states.

“A national popular vote would be a detriment to the American people, and many voters would really feel disenfranchised if the campaign moved only to the urban areas,” Rose said.

Proving standing for the litigation could pose a challenge depending on which court hears the cases, added Roger Austin, an election lawyer and former general counsel for the Florida Republican Party who also questions the case’s legal merits.

“The Supreme Court could knock this out as a political question that they do not want to tackle or leave to the political branches,” Austin told Fox News. “The court has ducked a lot of cases this way.”

Trump won 306 electoral votes in 2016 to Clinton’s 232, though Clinton won a plurality of the popular vote, with 48.5 percent to Trump’s 46.4 percent. The irony might be that Trump could still have triumphed under a reformed system.

Under a district plan, Trump would have won 290 electoral votes, according to an analysis by the website The analysis found under a proportional system, Trump would have won 267 votes to Clinton’s 265. A third party would have gained six electoral votes, sending the matter to the House of Representatives.

But Lessig’s own analysis of a proportional system found Clinton winning the needed 270 to Trump’s 267.

While technically looking ahead to future elections, Lessig hasn’t quite given up on the last one. He recently penned a Medium post imagining a scenario where Trump is impeached, eventually leading to House Speaker Paul Ryan becoming president – and then handing the presidency to Hillary Clinton.

“I realize this all sounds crazy right now,” he wrote.

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Behind the dramatic rescue of American-Canadian couple from Haqqani captivity

Article credited to Fox News:

Behind the dramatic rescue of American-Canadian couple from Haqqani captivity

Armed with information from U.S. intelligence, Pakistani soldiers staged a dramatic but successful rescue operation last week to free American Caitlan Coleman, 31, and her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle, 34, and their three young children after five years in Haqqani network captivity.

According to multiple U.S. sources with close connections to the operation, no prisoners were exchanged and ransom money was not paid. The Canadian government also asserted that their longstanding policy of not fulfilling ransom demands remains, and no money was dished out.

Because of information obtained from drone footage, it is believed that the U.S. had long known of their location, as did Pakistan’s military arm ISI, and it was “always a matter of someone pulling the trigger to go over and get them.” A Pakistani official told the press Friday that the car carrying the family was tracked down soon after it crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan, but sources say that the family long had been in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

“Anything inside Pakistan has to be done carefully,” one source with knowledge of the operation told Fox News. “There is still a deep trust issue between the U.S. and Pakistan.”

May 5: Pakistani army troops guard the perimeter of the walled compound of a house where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught and killed by U.S. forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Pakistani army troops guarding the perimeter of the walled compound of a house where Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden was caught and killed by U.S. forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  (AP, File)

So why did the rescue happen now?

Sources say the U.S. government started floating rumors some time ago within the Pakistani high military that a rescue operation was highly probable. It is believed that while the couple was moved around a few times in the early stages of their captivity, their location had remained static for some time and Joint Special Operations Command were getting ready to embark on a rescue, when ultimately the Pakistanis — fearing another national upstaging and embarrassment akin to the bin Laden raid in 2011 which exposed them as harboring major terrorists — took the reign.

“This was presented as an opportunity to clear up their bad name. Trump was about to cut off funding and the Pakistanis knew it,” another source said.

The mission came at a time when U.S.-Pakistan relations had hit a low point, with President Trump threatening to withdraw aid money and accusing the country of harboring militants. On Friday, nonetheless, Trump praised Pakistan for its “cooperation of many fronts,” and tweeted about how the two nations were developing “a much better relationship.” In a video message filmed shortly after her liberation, and posted by the Pakistani military, Boyle profusely thanked them for their “tremendously professional operation.” The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad also publicly expressed their “deep gratitude” to the Pakistani government and its army — and subsequently Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria since has stated that the rescue demonstrates that Pakistan will act against “a common enemy” when the U.S. shares information.

But Bill Roggio, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, pointed out that Pakistan has a “long history of providing a sacrificial lamb to the U.S. during times when relations are at a low point.”

“After Trump’s speech that all but labeled Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism, Pakistan has been desperate to change the narrative. The operation to free Coleman, Boyle and their children gives Pakistani officials all the ammunition they need to claim they are partners with the U.S. against jihadists,” he said. “In the short-term, the Trump administration will be buoyed by the operation, but the real proof will be how the Pakistanis deal with Taliban leaders and fighters based inside Pakistan.”

Joshua Boyle_AP

Joshua Boyle after being rescued last week.  (AP)

However, the U.S. plan is said to have gone somewhat awry following the rescue, after Boyle refused to board a U.S. military aircraft flown out especially to collect the family with a military hostage team onboard. The C-130 was scheduled to stop at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, but Boyle reportedly freaked out, fearing detainee abuse at the hands of the U.S. The rescued family thus were then flown on a commercial airliner from Pakistan to London and then to Canada.

But their refusal to use the military resources and travel to the United States, according to a source familiar with the operation, has broader implications as it also means that they essentially waive their “reintegration” rights.

“The goal was to ensure they were debriefed, information obtained and that they were carefully repatriated into society after all these years with the right psychological help,” the insider explained.

The U.S. has in place a three-phase “reintegration” process for rescued hostages, which involves medical exams, structured operational and intelligence debriefings from officials, and professional psychological help. But in refusing the U.S. help, the source says, it means that not returnees are not subject to providing highly sought-after intelligence pertaining to the inner-workings of the terrorist outfit.

Several other Americans remain in Haqqani captivity in the region, and thus it now remains unclear if and when U.S. officials will be able to glean further intelligence on the status of fellow westerners from the newly released couple.

The Department of Defense declined to comment on the reintegration issue, and the U.S. State Department and FBI did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.



Yet the in wake of his rescue and refusal to board the U.S military aircraft, Boyle’s background and connections, and the reasons why he lead his pregnant wife to a warzone in the first place also has become a source of speculation.

Soon after marrying in 2011, Coleman and Boyle embarked on a hiking expedition, going first to Russia and Central Asia. Although pregnant with their first child, in 2012, the couple decided then to go hiking in Afghanistan’s dangerous, militia-teeming Wardak Province.


Newly married Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman shortly before heading to Afghanistan where they were held captive for five years.  (Coleman family)

Before Coleman, Boyle was married to Zaynab Khadr, the oldest sister of Omar Khadr, a Canadian alleged to have Al Qaeda ties. He was arrested by U.S. forces in 2002 and held at Guantanamo Bay for 10 years. Zaynab’s late father Ahmed Said Khadr is believed to have been a prominent Al Qaeda financier who personally stayed with Osama bin Laden.

But since his release, Boyle has stated that he was a “pilgrim” who was in Afghanistan initially to help villagers “who live deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan where no NGO, no aid worker and no government has ever successfully been able to bring the necessary help.”

FILE - In this June 4, 2014, file photo, from left, Patrick Boyle, Linda Boyle, Lyn Coleman and Jim Coleman hold photo of their kidnapped children, Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman, who were kidnapped by the Taliban in late 2012, Wednesday, June 4, 2014, in Stewartstown, Pa.  Pakistan's military says soldiers have recovered five Western hostages held by the Taliban for years. Pakistan's army did not name those held, only saying it worked with U.S. intelligence officials to track down the hostages and free them after discovering they had been brought into Pakistan.  (AP Photo/Bill Gorman, File)

Patrick Boyle, Linda Boyle, Lyn Coleman and Jim Coleman holding a photo of their kidnapped children, Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman, in 2014.  (AP Photo/Bill Gorman, File)

The U.S. Department of Justice has said that neither Boyle or Coleman are wanted for any federal crime, and sources who worked closely on their release said that there was no reason to suspect them of any terrorist ties.

“Joshua may have thought he had a deeper understanding of these terror groups than he did, he may have thought that if anything bad happened he would have the ability to get them out of it,” a U.S source explained.

Sources located on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border also told Fox News that the family did become known to influential tribesman in the area, and the narrative floated was that they were Christian missionaries who were at first abducted by a criminal enterprise after meeting with Afghan villagers, and were then sold Haqqani. At first the demands for their release were financial, but likely emboldened by the release terms of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in 2014, in which five Taliban prisoners were exchanged for the deserted U.S soldier, the terror outfit then switched tactics and instead insisted on the release of at least five prominent prisoners being detained by the Afghan government, sources in both the U.S. and Afghanistan said.

Dec. 8, 2010: This file image provided by IntelCenter shows a framegrab from a video released by the Taliban containing footage of a man believed to be Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, left. (AP/Intel Center)

Framegrab from a video released by the Taliban containing footage of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was also held captive by the Taliban-linked Haqqani Network.  (AP/Intel Center)

Upon touching down in Toronto on Friday, Boyle claimed that they would have had four children born into captivity, but that their Haqqani captors killed one of their infant daughters and raped his wife during their five-year ordeal.

“The stupidity and evil of the Haqqani network’s kidnapping of a pilgrim and his heavily pregnant wife engaged in helping ordinary villagers in Taliban-controlled regions of Afghanistan was eclipsed only by the stupidity and evil of authorizing the murder of my infant daughter,” he said.

The Taliban, which has become closely linked to the Haqqani operations in the past couple of years, since has denied both the allegations of assault and murder, insisting that Coleman “naturally miscarried” one of the four children. However, a U.S. source told Fox News that they received information several years ago that indicated Coleman was indeed the victim of sexual assault, and may have been forced to undergo an abortion.

“They went through hell,” the source added. “And there are still many more that need to come home.”

The Pakistani Embassy in Washington D.C. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


[Read More]

At least 276 killed in Somalia’s deadliest attack on record

At least 276 killed in Somalia’s deadliest attack on record

The death toll has risen to 276, with more than 300 people wounded, after a truck bombing in Somalia that the U.S. government condemned Sunday as a “cowardly” attack.

“Such cowardly attacks reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism,” the U.S. mission to Somalia said in a statement.

The U.S. military this year has stepped up drone strikes and other efforts this year against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia and often targets Mogadishu, the capital.

None of the roughly 400 U.S. troops in Somalia were hurt in the attack, a spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command told Fox News.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said four volunteers with the Somali Red Crescent Society were among the dead.

A statement Sunday said “this figure may rise as there are a number of volunteers still missing.”

Hospitals in Mogadishu struggled Sunday to cope with the high number of deaths and injuries, security and medical sources said.

Ambulance sirens echoed across the city a day after the blast as bewildered families wandered in the rubble of buildings, looking for missing relatives.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared three days of mourning and joined thousands of people who responded to a desperate plea by hospitals to donate blood for the wounded victims. “I am appealing all Somali people to come forward and donate,” he said.

Many victims died at hospitals from their wounds, said Police Capt. Mohamed Hussein.

Abshir Abdi Ahmed, a senator, announced the number injured, citing doctors at hospitals he has visited in Mogadishu.

Somalia’s government has blamed the Al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab extremist group for the attack it called a “national disaster.” However, al-Shabab, which often targets high-profile areas of the capital with bombings, had yet to comment.

“They don’t care about the lives of Somali people, mothers, fathers and children,” Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said. “They have targeted the most populated area in Mogadishu, killing only civilians.”

Somalia’s information minister, Abdirahman Omar, said the blast was the largest the city had ever seen. “It’s a sad day. This how merciless and brutal they are, and we have to unite against them,” he said, speaking to the state-run radio station.

Overnight, rescue workers with torch lights searched for any survivors trapped under the rubble of the Safari Hotel, which was largely destroyed. The hotel is close to Somalia’s foreign ministry. The blast blew off metal gates and blast walls erected outside the hotel.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

[Read More]

ISIS recruiter ‘White Widow’ believed dead after US strike in Syria

ISIS recruiter ‘White Widow’ believed dead after US strike in Syria

Jones, 50, a mother of two, who used to be a punk rock artist but later converted to Islam and fled to Syria to become a top recruiter for the Islamic State group, was reportedly killed in June during a drone strike near the border between Syria and Iraq.

“The Americans zapped her trying to get away from Raqqa. Quite frankly, it’s good riddance,” a British source familiar with the strike told the Sun, which first reported Jones’ death.

Sally Jones ISIS burka

An alleged photograph of Jones in an Islamic veil and holding AK-47.  (Twitter)

Jones followed the same fate as her husband, Junaid Hussain, who died in an airstrike in 2015 as part of a larger campaign against ISIS. She and her husband were occasionally called “Mr. and Mrs. Terror” and were linked to numerous terror plots.

Jones’ 12-year-old son Jojo was also believed to have been killed in the strike. “The premise that Sally Jones and her son are dead is probably accurate,” an unnamed British official told the Times of London.

Sally Jones ISIS band

Jones once was in a punk rock band.  (YouTube)

The woman reportedly used her son as a human shield during skirmishes with anti-ISIS forces. She was last seen fleeing Raqqa following the liberation by U.S-backed military forces, the Sun reported.

Jones was top ISIS recruiter of female jihadists and was reportedly high on the U.S. “kill list” as she was considered a high-value target. She targeted young girls, trying to lure them into Syria to become jihadi brides, and used social media to threaten attacks on Britain.

Her son was not targeted by the U.S. military strike and was not considered a combatant. According to the Times, his mother, however, used him in a propaganda video, where he was seen shooting an ISIS hostage in the back of the head.

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Democrats condemn Weinstein, breaking silence

Article credits to Politico:
Harvey Weinstein is pictured. | AP Photo
Pressure has been growing with numerous revelations about Harvey Weinstein, including accusations of multiple sexual assaults, hush money and other untoward and demeaning behavior toward women. | Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Democrats condemn Weinstein, breaking silence

Obama, Clinton and Pelosi disavow the producer, a major donor, after Republican criticism.

After days of muted response, top Democrats on Tuesday condemned Harvey Weinstein, the former studio executive and a top donor to their party. [Read More]

North Korea hackers reportedly stole US, South Korea war plans

Article courtesy of Fox News:

North Korea hackers reportedly stole US, South Korea war plans

A plan to assassinate Kim Jong Un and preparations for a potential nuclear showdown with North Korea were among the trove of South Korean military documents reportedly stolen by Hermit Kingdom hackers.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry did not comment on the alleged hack, which reportedly occurred in September 2016 but was only revealed Tuesday, but Rhee Cheol-hee, a lawmaker in South Korea, confirmed the data breach to the BBC. The hack consisted of 235 gigabytes of military documents and about 80 percent of what was stolen hasn’t been identified.


South Korea announced in May a “large amount of data” was stolen during a cyber attack that was possibly orchestrated by Kim Jong Un’s rogue regime. That same month, Yapizon, a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange, announced 3,816 bitcoins — online currency that amounts to about $5.3 million — was taken on April 22. The company did not disclose who it believed to be the culprit, but security firm FireEye noted North Korean hackers were also suspected of targeting online currency providers.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un makes a statement regarding U.S. President Donald Trump's speech at the U.N. general assembly, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 22, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC1A8D600950

Kim Jong Un’s regime is suspected of hacking South Korean military documents.  (Reuters)

North Korea denied stealing the documents, the BBC reported. The country celebrated the anniversary of the establishment of the Worker’s Party Tuesday and Pyongyang’s first nuclear bomb test on Monday.

Pyongyang is suspected of having expert hackers attack South Korean government websites and facilities for years. North Korea has accused its neighbor of “fabricating” the claims, the BBC reported.

News of the hack comes amid increasing tensions in the region.

FILE - In this June 13, 2017 file photo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listens on Capitol Hill in Washington. Mattis is issuing his own sharp threat to North Korea, saying the regime should cease any consideration of actions that would "lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the U.S. has “military options” for dealing with North Korea.  (AP)

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday said the U.S. has “military options that [President Trump] can employ if needed.”

“There’s one thing the U.S. Army can do, and that is you have got to be ready to ensure that we have military options that our President can employ if needed,” Mattis said during an Army conference in Washington, D.C. “We currently are in a diplomatically led effort.”


Trump, meanwhile, has continued his attacks against “little rocket man” Kim Jong Un and his regime, with the president taking to Twitter early Monday to say more than two decades of U.S. policy toward North Korea “didn’t work.”

“Our country has been unsuccessfully dealing with North Korea for 25 years, giving billions of dollars & getting nothing. Policy didn’t work!” Trump wrote.


The weekend tweets came after the president’s Thursday meeting with senior military leaders and their spouses, where he cryptically told reporters “this might be the calm before the storm.” When asked to elaborate on Friday, Trump said, “You’ll find out.”

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a briefing with senior military leaders at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas - RC19203CA580

President Trump in a briefing with senior military leaders at the White House on Thursday.  (Reuters)

North Korean state media announced on Sunday Kim Jong Un promoted his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to become an alternate member of the country’s top decision-making body, the politiburo. The decision came the same weekend Kim declared his country’s nuclear weapons a “powerful deterrent firmly safeguarding the peace and security in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia” against “protracted nuclear threats of the U.S. imperialists.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

[Read More]

Thousands evacuated in Ukraine after ammunition explosions

Thousands evacuated in Ukraine after ammunition explosions

More than 30,000 residents were evacuated from the area near a Ukranian military base Wednesday after ammunition explosions sent a plume of fire and smoke into the air, officials said.

The fire broke out late Tuesday in the town of Kalynivka, 120 miles southwest of the capital, Kiev, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. The warehouse stores multiple rocket launcher systems.

More than 30,000 people were bused out of the area and electricity and gas were turned off in the area as a precaution. Four residential buildings were damaged by fire but no casualties have been reported.

Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who arrived in the area early Wednesday, said the situation was under control during an interview on local television. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Smoke and flames rise over a warehouse storing ammunition for multiple rocket launcher systems at a military base in the town of Kalynivka in Vinnytsia region, Ukraine September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich - RC11D22DBC00

400,000 more passengers to be hit by Ryanair cancellations

400,000 more passengers to be hit by Ryanair cancellations

  • Ryanair plane


Ryanair will cancel another 18,000 flights between November and March, affecting the travel plans of another 400,000 passengers.

It will fly 25 fewer planes to cut the risk of further flight cancellations.

More than 30 routes will be suspended this winter, including Stansted to Edinburgh and Glasgow, Gatwick to Belfast and Newcastle to Faro.

Earlier this month the Irish airline cancelled up to 50 flights a day through to the end of October.

Those passengers affected by the move will be offered alternative flights or full refunds.

They will also be offered vouchers of 40 euro (£35) one way or 80 euros return towards on alternative flights on top of any refund.

Ryanair said passengers affected by the cancellations up to the end of next month have been sent emails advising them of the flight changes.

The airline has blamed the summer cancellations on “messing up” pilot holiday rosters and again denied it had a pilot shortage.

“In the current year less than 100 of over 2,000 captains left Ryanair (mainly retirements or to long haul airlines) and less than 160 F.O’s [first officers] who have mainly left to join long haul airlines,” it said.

It added that it had more than 2,500 pilots on a waiting list and had offered jobs to over 650 new pilots who would be employed by May next year.

In addititon, ten days after saying it was preparing to buy the Italian carrier Alitalia, it today announced that it was dropping its bid in order to “eliminate all management distractions”.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary
Image captionRyanair chief executive Michael O’Leary

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “From today, there will be no more rostering-related flight cancellations this winter or in summer 2018.

“Slower growth this winter will create lots of spare aircraft and crews, which will allow us to manage the exceptional volumes of annual leave we committed to delivering in the nine months to December 2017.”

In total 34 routes across Europe will be suspended during the winter months.

The airline also said the total cost of the flight cancellations to date was less 25m euros (£22m) and expected the cost of the free flight vouchers would be less than £22m.

It said that it has had to scale back its original forecast for passenger numbers in the year to March 2018 from 131m to 129m. but it said that it would not affect profitability.

Ryanair’s share price rose 3.5% in London, bringing the rise this year to 17%.

The Latest: Mexico’s Official Quake Death Toll Rises to 331

The Latest: Mexico’s Official Quake Death Toll Rises to 331

The toll of dead following Mexico City’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake of last week is continuing to rise.

Sept. 26, 2017, at 9:11 a.m.

Workers shovel papers and debris off the top of the rubble of a building that collapsed in last week’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake, at the corner of Gabriel Mancera and Escocia streets in the Del Valle neighborhood of Mexico City, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Search teams were still digging through dangerous piles of rubble Monday, hoping against the odds to find survivors after the Sept. 19 quake.(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) The Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Latest on Mexico’s major earthquake (all times local):

8:05 a.m.

The toll of dead following Mexico City’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake of last week is continuing to rise.

Civil Defense chief Luis Felipe Puente reports by Twitter that 331 are now known dead. Of those, 192 are in Mexico City.

The Sept. 19 quake also killed 74 in Morelos state and 45 in Puebla state, where it was centered. Thirteen died in the State of Mexico, six in Guerrero and one in Oaxaca.

An even stronger earthquake less than two weeks before has caused nearly 100 deaths. That magnitude 8.1 quake was centered off Mexico’s southern Pacific coast.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Strong 7.4 quake hits Mexico on anniversary of deadly 1985 tremor

Russia launches ‘world’s biggest and most powerful’ nuclear icebreaker ship


Russia launches ‘world’s biggest and most powerful’ nuclear icebreaker ship

New ships are biggest military push since fall of Soviet Union

  • sibir1.jpg

Russia has floated out the world’s largest nuclear-powered icebreaker ship as the country moves to reinforce its leadership in the Arctic.

Crowds gathered to watch as the Sibir, designed to transport cargo along the Northern Sea Route, was launched into the water at the Baltic Shipyard in St Petersburg.

She is powered by two nuclear reactors and will be able to break ice fields up to three metres thick, clearing the path for Russian ships delivering gas to Asia.

The Sibir’s displacement, a term for measuring a ship’s size, is 33,500 tons and is 173 metres long.

Along with the Arktika, put into active service last year, and the Ural, the three ships will become the “world’s largest and most powerful nuclear-powered icebreakers”, according to TASS Russian News Agency.

Named Project 22220, the shipbuilding has been described as Russia’s biggest military push since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The monster ships will also carry out rescue work.

Putin watches Russia’s military might on display in war games

“Nuclear energy ensures Russia’s undisputed leadership in the far north,” said Vyacheslav Ruksha, head of Atomflot, a state-owned company that manages the ships.

“But only with nuclear icebreakers can our country fully unveil all possibilities and advantages of the Northern Passage to the world.”

As reported by The Mirror, Alexei Rakhmanov, president of United Shipbuilding Corporation, added: “This means that an all year round navigation along the Northern Sea Route will take place literally tomorrow.

“This means that Russia will consistently carry out its obligations before its foreign clients on delivery of hydrocarbons or special strategic cargo which Russia is famous for.”

Mexico earthquake: Navy official apologizes for report of trapped girl

  • All children who attended the collapsed school have been accounted for

Mexico City (CNN)[Breaking news update, published at 9 a.m. ET]

A Mexican navy official apologized to the public for the confusion over the reports about a young girl trapped in the rubble of a collapsed school in Mexico City after this week’s earthquake.
Angel Enrique Sarmiento, deputy secretary of the Mexican navy, told reporters at the site Thursday the initial reports were based on technical reports and the accounts of civilian and Navy rescuers.
[Original story, published at 12:35 a.m. ET]
The search for a 12-year-old thought to be trapped in a Mexico City elementary school ended Thursday with the news that all students have been accounted for. But rescuers will continue their work, as signs suggest that someone may still be alive in the rubble, officials said.
The news brought an abrupt end to a search that riveted people across the country as they watched it unfold live on television. For days, Colegio Enrique Rebsamen was the site of a massive search and rescue operation offering a glimmer of hope in the chaotic aftermath of Tuesday’s magnitude 7.1 quake.
By Thursday, authorities said they had determined the whereabouts of all the school’s students, both alive and dead, said Angel Enrique Sarmiento, deputy secretary of the Mexican Navy. Authorities confirmed 25 dead — 19 children and six adults — at the school, and 11 more were sent to hospitals, he said. Meanwhile, he said government agencies leading the rescue “had no knowledge” about a report with the girl’s purported name — a statement that raised more questions than answers.
“We are certain that all the children either passed away, are in local hospitals, or are safe and sound in their houses,” he told reporters.

A look at the Enrique Rebsamen elementary school in Mexico City, which collapsed in the earthquake. The after photo on the right is from Wednesday, September 20, when rescuers continued to search through the rubble.

Similar scenes played out across the region as volunteer brigades joined government efforts to reach survivors and clear away rubble. Amid the chaos, some Mexicans took comfort in how the disaster had brought them together.

Two earthquakes in 12 days

The school rescue attempt was one of many searches underway Thursday, after the earthquake turned dozens of buildings in central Mexico into dust and debris, killing at least 286 people, including one in Oaxaca, almost 480 kilometers (300 miles) from Mexico City.
Tuesday’s temblor was the second major one to hit the country in less than two weeks, following an 8.1 magnitude earthquake farther south on September 8, killing nearly 100 people. It hit hours after a citywide drill on the anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that killed an estimated 9,500 people in and around Mexico City.
President Enrique Peña Nieto declared a national emergency, and the country is observing three days of national mourning. An unaccounted number of people are staying at shelters around Mexico City after losing their homes. Schools have closed indefinitely, and millions remain without power.
Despite the president’s request that people stay indoors while rescue attempts continue, residents joined forces with rescue teams to search for survivors.

‘We know he is in there’

Throughout the region, buses carried volunteers from Mexico and beyond to disaster sites, where they bolstered search and rescue efforts. People formed long human chains to pass along supplies and and remove chunks of lumber and concrete.
It reminded some of the last time an earthquake of this scale hit the nation’s capital. One man, who gave his name as Roberto, recalled pulling people out of wreckage in the Mexico City in 1985. It was worse then, he said, crediting enhanced building regulations with minimizing the damage.
“I can remember the feeling of lifelessness in their bodies,” he said. “I remember my hands sinking into their skin. They were decomposing. It was horrible.”
In Mexico City’s Condesa section, a large rescue operation was underway at a collapsed building that had housed an outsourcing company. At least 35 people are believed to still be buried in the in the rubble of the building on Alvaro Obregon.
Marco Antonio Garcia Salsedo believes his cousin is still alive in the building. His family heard that Angel Xavier Sousado Sandovar somehow placed a phone call to a friend in New York from inside the rubble.
The family had been camping out near the rescue site since Tuesday, holding onto hope that Sousado would emerge from the building. They don’t want to miss an announcement and they don’t want the government to raze the site before their loved one is found.
“We know he is in there and we are waiting for him,” Garcia said.
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, police blocked a road leading to the corporate offices of a food processing center that also was damaged. Cristobal Perres Garcia, 59, said police told him that one of his cousins — a worker at the building– was among several who died when it collapsed.
A rescue operation is underway Thursday at a collapsed building in Mexico City's Condesa section.

In Puebla state, southeast of Mexico City, the quake crumbled a church, killing a girl who was being baptized and 11 others attending the event, Gov. Tony Gali said. More than 9,700 homes and 100-plus government buildings were damaged in the state, Gali said.
In all, more than 100 deaths were reported in Mexico City, one of North America’s most populous metropolises with more than 21 million people. Elsewhere, 69 deaths were reported in Morelos state, 43 in Puebla state, 13 in the state of Mexico, four in Guerrero state and one in Oaxaca state.

‘I thought someone was kicking my chair’

About 2,000 public schools were damaged in Tuesday’s quake, Secretary of Public Education Aurelio Nuños said. Sixteen of the 212 affected schools in Mexico City had serious damage, he said.
At the private Colegio Enrique Rabsamen, where rescuers thought they were trying to reach the girl, the temblor caused the school to fold in on itself, sandwiching and collapsing classroom onto classroom.
Crews remained there Thursday the evening, but the sense of urgency of the previous night had dissipated, along with the crowds of onlookers. In their place, well-wishers left bunches of white floral arrangements around the block from the school.
The loss of life weighed heavily on volunteers.
“This is a tragedy,” said volunteer Ivan Ramos. “It’s kids. It will take a long time to heal.”

Hurricane Maria: Dominica ‘in daze’ after storm leaves island cut off from world

Hurricane Maria: Dominica ‘in daze’ after storm leaves island cut off from world

Rescue teams struggle to reach first Caribbean victims, with at least seven dead and population stranded without power, running water or communications


Roseau, the capital of Dominica, suffered devastating damage from Hurricane Maria.
 Roseau, the capital of Dominica, suffered devastating damage from Hurricane Maria. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Dominica – the first island hit by the full category-five force of Hurricane Maria – is “in a daze”, officials have said, cut off from its Caribbean neighbours in the wake of a storm that destroyed properties, silenced communications and cut power and running water.

Hartley Henry, an adviser to the prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, said there had been a “tremendous loss of housing and public buildings”. There was no electricity and virtually no means of communicating with the outside world, he said.

Henry said he had spoken to Skerrit – who had to be rescued from his flooded residence during the hurricane – via satellite phone. “He and family are fine: Dominica is not,” he said.

“The main general hospital took a beating. Patient care has been compromised. Many buildings serving as shelters lost roofs, which means that an urgent need now is tarpaulins and other roofing materials.

The first images from Dominica show the scale of the damage caused by Hurricane Maria.
 The first images from Dominica show the scale of the damage caused by Hurricane Maria. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

“It’s difficult to determine the level of fatalities but so far seven are confirmed as a direct result of the hurricane. That figure, the prime minister fears, will rise as he wades his way into the rural communities.”

Some districts were reporting “total destruction” of homes, roads and crops, Henry said. “In summary, the island has been devastated.”

“The breadth of the destruction is staggering – intact or untouched homes hard to find amid the chaos.”

The airport and sea ports are closed, although Henry said it was hoped a landing strip could be opened within days to allow relief teams and supplies to reach the island. Recovery efforts are being coordinated from the nearby islands of St Lucia and Antigua.

Philmore Mullin, head of Antigua and Barbuda’s National Office of Disaster Services, told CNN the only power available on the island was from emergency generators and car batteries. “Damage is severe and widespread. We know of casualties, but not in detail. We’ve heard of many missing but we just don’t know much at the moment.”

Ross University school of medicine, which is based in Dominica, said it would being to evacuate its students – more than 80% of whom are US citizens, with close to 10% from Canada – by boat to St Lucia on Thursday, “weather permitting”.

Ronald Jackson, the executive director of the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency, said staff had managed to guide helicopters to Dominica to deliver some food, water and shelter materials on Wednesday.

In an interview with Jamaica’s RJR News, Jackson said the agency was planning to drop people into remote communities with satellite phones because many areas were completely inaccessible. Communications towers were snapped by winds of up to 160mph (260km/h).

Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló – who called the hurricane “nothing short of a major disaster” – said one man had been killed when he was struck by a piece of debris in high winds.

“When we are able to go outside, we are going to find our island destroyed,” Abner Gomez, the director of the island’s emergency management agency, was quoted as saying by El Nuevo Dia newspaper.

It was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico for almost a century. In 1928, the San Felipe Segundo hurricane killed more than 300 people.

Maria dipped to category-two strength as it moved away from Puerto Rico towards the Dominican Republic, but the US National Hurricane Center warned it could yet regain strength. The Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the south-eastern Bahamas remain under hurricane warnings.


40 million slaves in the world, finds new report

40 million slaves in the world, finds new report

Protestors march against labor trafficking and modern day slavery, in New York, September 2013.

Story highlights

  • Report estimates number of victims of modern slavery in 2016
  • 25 million people in forced labor, 15 million forced marriage
  • International Labor Organization and the Walk Free Foundation produced the report

London (CNN)More than 40 million people were estimated to be victims of modern slavery in 2016 — and one in four of those were children.

Those are the findings of a new report produced by the International Labor Organization (ILO), a U.N. agency focusing on labor rights, and the Walk Free Foundation, an international NGO working to end modern slavery.
The report estimates that last year, 25 million people were in forced labor — made to work under threat or coercion — and 15 million people were in forced marriage.
It’s impossible to know exactly how many people are living in modern slavery, and different studies have produced different estimates. One reason is that modern slavery is a hidden crime that’s difficult to identify. Another is that different studies use different definitions of slavery, with some including forced marriage, for example, and others not.
In the past, two of the most widely quoted figures have been those produced separately by the ILO and the Walk Free Foundation. But this report, called The 2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, marks the first time the ILO and the Walk Free Foundation have collaborated to produce worldwide slavery figures.
Both organizations describe the report as giving the most reliable slavery figures to date, and the researchers say the numbers show that much work is needed to combat the problem.
“We know that if there are 40 million people in modern slavery, only tens of thousands of victims are being helped, assisted and supported, whether through the criminal justice system or through victim support systems,” Fiona David, Walk Free Foundation’s executive director of global research, told CNN. “It’s a massive gap that we have to close.”

Women and children

According to the report, women and girls accounted for 71 percent of slavery victims, including 99 percent of those in the commercial sex industry and 84 percent of victims of forced marriages.
Children made up around 37 percent of those forced to marry, as well as 18 percent of forced labor victims and 21 percent of victims of sexual exploitation.
freedom project children for sale_00005521

 The CNN Freedom Project: Children for Sale 41:34

The report defines modern slavery as situations of exploitation that a person can’t refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion or deception — which includes forced labor, debt bondage, forced marriage and human trafficking.
It notes that the average length of time victims were in forced labor ranged from a few days in some forms of state-imposed forced labor, to nearly two years for forced sexual exploitation.
An estimated 4.1 million people are victims of forced labor imposed by state authorities. They include people made by their state authorities to participate in agriculture or construction work to boost economic development, young military conscripts forced to perform non-military work, and prisoners forced to work without consent at private prisons.

How they got their numbers

The report combined data collected from 2012 to 2016 and drew on a variety of sources, chiefly, national surveys involving interviews with more than 71,000 respondents across 48 countries.
It also used data from the International Organization for Migration — an intergovernmental organization related to the U.N.
The report found that modern slavery was most prevalent in Africa (7.6 victims per 1,000 people), followed by Asia and the Pacific (6.1 per 1,000).
Forced labor was most prevalent in the Asia and the Pacific region, (4 victims per 1,000 people), and forced marriage was most prevalent in Africa (4.8 per 1,000), followed by Asia and the Pacific (2 per 1,000).
However, the report warns that these regional figures should be interpreted with caution, because of a lack of available data in some regions, notably the Arab States and the Americas.
cfp brazil labor trafficking darlington pkg_00015829

 Exploited workers suffer on Brazilian ranches 04:59

The report identified forced labor in all kinds of industries. In the cases where the type of work was known, 24 percent of adults were domestic workers, 18 percent were in construction, 15 percent in manufacturing, and 11 percent in agriculture and fishing.
An estimated 3.8 million adults were victims of forced sexual exploitation and 1 million children were victims of sexual exploitation.
Michaelle De Cock, senior statistician with the ILO, told CNN that the research on forced labor highlighted a lack of social protection systems. “There is a need for labor and social rights in the informal economy, and a need for collective bargaining and workers’ organizations,” she added.

Child labor

The ILO simultaneously released another report, produced without the Walk Free Foundation, called The 2017 Global Estimates of Child Labor. It found that there are 152 million children around the world engaged in child labor, and 73 million of them are in work that “directly endangers their health, safety and moral development.”
According to the report, 90 percent of all children in child labor are in the Africa and the Asia and the Pacific regions. In Africa, 20 percent of the continent’s children are in child labor, while in the Asia and the Pacific region, 7 percent are in child labor.
More than two thirds of all children in child labor work on family farms or for family businesses. The report noted that “understanding and addressing family reliance on children’s labor will therefore be critical to broader progress towards ending child labor.”
It also found that 71 percent — 108 million — of all those in child labor work in agriculture — generally in subsistence and commercial farming and livestock herding.
The report uses data from 105 national household surveys, covering more than 70% of the world population of children aged 5 to 17 years.
Included in the figures are almost 38 million children aged 15-17. Although 15 to 17-year-olds are above the minimum working age of 15, the ILO considers them to be in child labor if their work may be physically or psychologically injurious to their well-being.
The two reports are intended to help towards achieving target 8.7 of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are 17 broad goals to be achieved by 2030 and target 8.7 calls for effective measures to end forced labor, modern slavery, and human trafficking, as well as child labor in all its forms.
“The SDGs are very much the motivator for this research,” said David. “It’s critical that if you want to end child labor and modern slavery then you have to have some measurement framework, so we’re trying to get a handle on how big the problems are so everyone has the information they need to develop responses.”

Corrupt Brazilian tycoon among applicants for Portugal’s golden visas

Corrupt Brazilian tycoon among applicants for Portugal’s golden visas

Leaked documents also show relatives of an Angolan politician accused of bribery bought access to Europe via Portugal

Construction boss Otávio Azevedo, right, leaves federal police headquarters in São Paulo after his arrest in 2015
 Construction boss Otávio Azevedo, right, leaves federal police headquarters in São Paulo after his arrest in 2015. Photograph: Reuters

Business executives implicated in a Brazilian corruption scandal and relatives of an Angolan politician who has been accused of bribery have secretly bought access to Europe via the government of Portugal.

A businessman sentenced to 18 years under house arrest and the former president of a scandal-ridden construction conglomerate are also among those named in a leaked document as having paid hundreds of thousands of euros in their pursuit of a “golden visa” in Portugal.

The two leaks offer a detailed insight into golden visa schemes, whereby countries trade passports, citizenship or visas for investment from wealthy individuals.

Portugal’s “golden resident permit” programme requires investors to place €500,000 (£440,000) in property in exchange for permanent residency. After five years, residency can be converted to citizenship, granting investors the right to live and work throughout Europe under EU rules.

According to the government, 66% of the “golden visas” issued since 2012 have been to Chinese applicants, despite it being illegal in China to transfer more than $50,000 out of the country in a single year.

For more than two years, Brazil has been racked with scandal resulting from Operation Car Wash, a judicial investigation into a vast network of bribery and corruption permeating the highest levels of public life.

The investigation centres on billions of dollars of corrupt contracts involving the state oil company Petrobras. Hundreds of politicians and businesspeople have been investigated and dozens have been convicted.

Otávio Azevedo.
 Otávio Azevedo. Photograph: Rodolfo Buhrer/Reuters

One of them is Otávio Azevedo, the former president of the country’s second-largest construction company, Andrade Gutierrez. He received an 18-year sentence last year after admitting a string of corruption offences.

Two years before his arrest, Azevedo bought a €1.4m property in Lisbon and subsequently applied for a golden visa in 2014.

A spokesperson for Azevedo said he was yet to be informed as to whether his application had been accepted. They said he had acquired the property in full compliance with Portuguese law and that a plea deal he had signed with Brazilian prosecutors had helped to uncover “numerous” other instances of corruption.

Sérgio Lins Andrade, the chairman and main shareholder of Andrade Gutierrez, acquired a Lisbon property through the golden visa scheme in 2014 for €665,000. He is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1.5bn (£1.1bn).

A spokesperson for Andrade, who earlier this year was summoned to give evidence to the corruption investigation, did not dispute that he had acquired Portuguese residency, but said he did not live in Portugal and had no plans to do so.

Pedro Novis, the former president and CEO of Odebrecht, South America’s largest construction firm, acquired a €1.7m Lisbon property in 2014. The company has been accused of multiple corruption offences across Latin America.

A spokesman for Novis said: “He has nothing to declare and the information concerning his activities in Portugal is known by the Brazilian courts.”

Others named in the document are relatives of the Angolan vice-president, Manuel Vicente, who until 2012 was the chief executive of the country’s state energy firm, Sonangol.

Vicente, once tipped to be the next Angolan president, this year faced allegations that he tried to bribe a Portuguese magistrate in order to suppress an investigation into corruption at Sonangol.

A lawyer for Vicente said he had no comment other than to deny the allegations of the Portuguese authorities.

Other recipients of golden visas named in the leaked document include:

  • Carlos Pires Oliveira Dias, the vice-president of the Camargo Correa construction group, invested €1.5m in Portugal under the golden resident programme in 2014. Camargo Correa has also been linked to the Car Wash scandal, reportedly repaying 700m reais (£168m) to state companies in compensation for corrupt practices. The company was reported to be seeking a plea deal this year. Oliveira Dias confirmed that he had obtained a golden visa.
  • José Mauricio Caldeira sits on the board of the holding company behind Asperbras, a Brazilian conglomerate with interests in sectors from geology to agribusiness. A police investigation, Operation Atlantic Route, is examining the firm’s relationship with José Veiga, a businessman arrested last year on suspicion of corruption offences. A spokesperson for Caldeira confirmed that he acquired a Portuguese apartment in 2014 for €1m under the country’s golden visa programme and had since taken up residence there. They said both he and shareholders of Asperbras were cooperating fully with investigators.
  • João Manuel Inglês is an Angolan colonel and aide to Gen Manuel Helder Vieira Dias, better known as Kopelipa, head of the Angolan military and one of the most powerful figures in Angola. Inglês, who was accused in a US class action lawsuit of being a “figurehead” for Kopelipa and two other Angolan ruling figures, applied for a Portuguese golden visa in 2013. He did not respond to requests for comment.
  • Pedro Sebastião Teta, the Angolan secretary of state for IT, applied for a golden visa in 2013. The following year he was reported to own 30% of a company called Impulso Angola, which was awarded a contract by the government to map the country’s mineral resources. He did not respond to requests for comment.
  • Sebastião Gaspar Martins, the executive director of Sonangol’s Brazilian arm, sought a Portuguese golden visa in 2014. He has been cited as a possible successor to Vicente as vice-president. Martins declined to comment on the golden visa.
  • Another applicant was Mir Jamal Pashayev, the head of one of Azerbaijan’s most powerful families and the director of Pasha Holding. Pashayev’s niece is Mehriban Aliyeva, the wife of the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev. Neither Pashayev nor Pasha Holding responded to repeated requests for comment.

That individuals implicated in corruption have secured golden visas through property purchases will raise particular concern among financial crime experts. Real estate has long been attractive to criminals due to the potential to launder large quantities of cash in a single transaction.

Portugal’s golden visa scheme has previously been at the centre of scandal. In 2014 police arrested 11 people as part of Operation Labyrinth, an investigation into allegations that foreigners had been issued with golden visas in exchange for bribes.

The head of the border agency and the president of the Institute of Registries and Notaries were among those detained and the scheme was briefly closed down. A former minister of the interior was subsequently designated a suspect in the investigation. He denies wrongdoing.

In a statement, the government of Portugal said its golden visa scheme “strictly follows all legally established security procedures” and that authorities had “adequate tools which safeguard lawfulness and security”.

“All applications are subject to review following an evaluation process, by means of criminal records and consultation of national and international databases, as well as the exchange of information in the framework of police cooperation,” it said.

French Olympic Delegation Back in Paris Feting 2024 Victory

French Olympic Delegation Back in Paris Feting 2024 Victory

The French Olympic delegation has been welcomed back in Paris after securing the 2024 Olympic Games at a meeting in Lima, Peru.

Sept. 15, 2017, at 9:43 a.m.

The Associated Press

The Olympic rings are set up on Trocadero plaza that overlooks the Eiffel Tower, a day after the official announcement that the 2024 Summer Olympic Games will be in the French capital, in Paris, France, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. Paris will host the 2024 Summer Olympics and Los Angeles will stage the 2028 Games. (AP Photo//Michel Euler) The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — The French Olympic delegation has been welcomed back in Paris after securing the 2024 Olympic Games at a meeting in Lima, Peru.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo waved a flag Friday as she stepped off the plane, which had been sprayed by a celebratory water-canon.

Hidalgo noted the seriousness of the undertaking for Paris, which has been targeted by extremist attacks. She said she trusts “our police and security forces to help us make these games a celebration.”

2024 is a significant date for Paris as it marks one century since its last Olympics in 1924.

The victory wasn’t a surprise. Paris and Los Angeles had worked out a deal in advance with the International Olympic Committee for Paris to get 2024 and LA the 2028 games.

North Korea threatens to sink Japan and turn US to ‘ashes and darkness’

North Korea threatens to sink Japan and turn US to ‘ashes and darkness’

Tokyo condemns ‘absolutely unacceptable’ provocation, as Pyongyang reacts to imposition of new UN sanctions following missile tests

North Korea’s intermediate-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 lifting off near Pyongyang.
 North Korea’s intermediate-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 lifting off near Pyongyang. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea has threatened to sink Japan and said the US should be “beaten to death like a rabid dog” after the two countries spearheaded fresh UN security council sanctions in response to the regime’s recent nuclear test.

The Korea Asia-Pacific peace committee, which oversees North Korea’s relations with the outside world, described the UN security council, which passed a new round of sanctions on Monday, as a “tool of evil” in the pay of Washington, and called for it to be broken up.

“The four islands of the [Japanese] archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche,” the committee said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency. Juche is the ideology of self-reliance pioneered by Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder and grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un.

“Japan is no longer needed to exist near us,” the committee added.

The 15-member security council voted unanimously in support of a US-drafted resolution condemning the missile test and imposing measures that include a ban on North Korean textile imports and restrictions on oil exports to the country.

In response, the committee said the US should be “beaten to death like a rabid dog” for the “heinous sanctions resolution”.

“Let’s reduce the US mainland into ashes and darkness. Let’s vent our spite with mobilisation of all retaliation means which have been prepared till now,” it said.

Japan’s top government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, described the statement as “extremely provocative and egregious”.

He added: “It is something that markedly heightens regional tension and is absolutely unacceptable.”

A new report has claimed that the detonation on 3 September of what North Korea claimed was a hydrogen bomb involved a device with an estimated yield of 250 kilotons – making it far more powerful than initially thought.

The US-based 38 North website noted that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation had revised upwards the seismic power created by the test from magnitude 5.8 to 6.1.

“Regardless of whether this most recent test was an operational warhead for an ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] or simply a device, the yield of the test clearly shows North Korean progress in increasing the yields of their nuclear weapons.”

After weeks of heightened tensions and threats emanating from Pyongyang and Washington, there are signs that US and other officials may be attempting to engage the regime diplomatically.

 UN Security Council steps up sanctions against N Korea – video

Japan’s public broadcaster NHK claimed on Thursday that US and North Korean officials had met “secretly” on the sidelines of a security forum in Switzerland earlier this month.

The report did not offer details, but said that Choe Kang-il, deputy director general for North American affairs at the North Korean foreign ministry, and Evans Revere, a former senior official at the state department, had raised North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear tests.

While Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has refused to consider negotiations unless Pyongyang abandons its nuclear weapons programme, an MP has claimed that support is rising inside the governing Liberal Democratic party for possible engagement with the regime.

Antonio Inoki, a former professional wrestler, said he had spoken to several unnamed LDP MPs who supported sending a delegation of Japanese parliamentarians to Pyongyang in an attempt to defuse tensions.

The 74-year-old, who has visited North Korea 32 times, said LDP lawmakers had become more receptive to the idea of dialogue. “The political wind has changed direction,” he said, adding that North Korean officials were receptive to the idea. “I made a proposal and was told they would be happy to receive such a delegation.”

In another gesture apparently aimed at lowering the diplomatic temperature, South Korea’s government is considering an $8m (£6m) aid package for North Korea.

Seoul suspended aid to North Korea, provided via UN agencies, after the regime conducted nuclear and missile tests in 2016. But under a proposal that could be approved next week, the South would provide $4.5m to a World Food Programme project to help infants and pregnant women, and $3.5m to Unicef, according to Yonhap news agency.

“The government’s basic stance is that humanitarian assistance to those who are vulnerable in North Korea should be continued regardless of political considerations,” Yonhap quoted a unification ministry official in Seoul as saying.

“Seoul plans to decide the details of the aid and its timing after taking into account the inter-Korean situation,” he added.

Paris Welcomes Morale Boost From 2024 Summer Olympic Games

Paris Welcomes Morale Boost From 2024 Summer Olympic Games

Image: Paris Last light from Montparnasse

A view of Paris at sunset. Chalermkiat Seedokmai / Getty Images

PARIS — Craig Carlson was there when the bad news came.

Packed among thousands of Parisians outside City Hall, Carlson stared up at big screens perched above the historic plaza when the announcement aired live. The host of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games would be — London.

There were gasps, screams, cries of British deceit and trickery, and many tears. Even Carlson, an American who owns a pair of popular restaurants here, shed a few himself.

Image: Paris Wins the Olympics
Craig Carlson welcome customers at Breakfast in America, one of two American-style diners he opened in Paris. Linda Hervieux

“They were really, really hoping to get it,” he said.

That was in July 2005.

After losing its last three Olympic bids, the French capital is set to finally land the prize it has doggedly pursued for 25 years.

In an unusual move, the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday is set to formally name host cities for the next two Summer Olympic Games, Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028.

The IOC doesn’t ordinarily unveil two cities as hosts at once, but says it decided to this time rather than rule out a strong contender. (Tokyo is doing the honors in 2020.)

The announcement in Lima, Peru, following a vote, will make official a deal already struck between the two cities, the last contenders standing in a field that once counted six.

IOC President Thomas Bach in June called it a “golden opportunity” to award the Games to two cities with strong proposals and coffers fat enough to host the quadrennial contest that can cost upwards of $10 billion.

It was also a chance to burnish the Olympic image after the doping and corruptions scandals that tarnished the Rio and Sochi Games.

The decision will return the Summer Games to the U.S. for the first time since 1996. It marks the third time L.A. will play host, after pulling off the much-praised 1984 Games.

 Paris Promises an Olympic Games With ‘Passion’ 1:36

But for the French, the wait has been far longer. Paris last staged the Games in 1924, and it has trying to get them back ever since.

“It’s like a dream,” three-time Olympic canoeing champ Tony Estanguet and local committee co-chairman said. “We’ve been waiting so long.”

State of Emergency

The victory was much appreciated in most quarters in Paris, where camouflage-clad soldiers toting assault rifles patrol the streets.

The country has been under a state of emergency since November 2015, when Islamist militants slaughtered 130 people in coordinated attacks across Paris. The city was already reeling from deadly assaults 10 months earlier on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket.

 Inside France’s Counterterror Units 1:00

For months after, hotel rooms sat empty. People stayed away from café terraces like the ones the gunmen sprayed with automatic-weapon fire in the November rampage. Business owners in the world’s most-visited city fretted over their futures.

Then just as bookings began inching up, suicide bombers struck Brussels, just 90 minutes from Paris by train in Mach 2016. Four months later, a speeding truck plowed into Bastille Day revelers in the southern city of Nice, killing 86 and injuring 458.

The effect on tourism was crushing. The Paris region saw 1.5 million fewer visitors in 2016. The Louvre Museum sold 2 million fewer tickets and lost $12 million. Travel magazines questioned whether it was safe to visit France.

Image: Paris Wins the Olympics
Matthieu Begue looks out over the rooftops of Paris from the rooftop terrace of Les Piaules. Linda Hervieux

After Nice, reservations plunged at Les Piaules, a “boutique” hostel with a cozy bar and rooftop terrace in northeastern Paris with postcard views. It had the bad luck of opening two weeks after the November attacks.

For co-owner Matthieu Bégué, terrorism hit more than the bottom line. His cousin survived the massacre of 89 people inside the Bataclan concert hall.

“It touches us all,” said Bégué, a 34-year-old who bikes to work past a café and a pizzeria shot up in the attacks.

Paris Is Back — and Booming

But since those dark days, marked by memorial services and flower-bedecked shrines on street corners, an unexpected thing happened. Visitors started coming back.

During the first four months of 2017, tourism was up 19 percent from a year earlier, with 2.6 million foreigner travelers logged. The number of people checking into hotels hit a 10-year high.

Gleeful officials who made the announcement in July predicted France could see a record 89 million visitors by the end of 2017.

“The apprehension has disappeared and the tourists of the world are returning to Paris,” said Nicolas Lefebvre, director of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau.

There are other signs the city is rebounding.

Millions cheered in May after the election of a telegenic young president who wants to make Paris the new London. As international corporations debate whether to flee the British capital after Brexit, Emmanuel Macron, 39, wants them to think French. He’s hoping to woo investment in part by pushing a radical overhaul to simplify the country’s notoriously bewildering labor laws.

In June, Macron helped launch Station F, a cavernous incubator housed in a former train station with space for 1,000 startup companies. Backed by Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, the venture has been cited as evidence of a new innovation vibe sweeping a younger generation of French, who used to tell pollsters their goal was to land a civil-service job for life.

Image: Paris Wins the Olympics
Laurent Queige says the non-profit incubator he heads, Welcome Paris Lab, gets 300 applications a year for 30 start-ups focused on tourism. Linda Hervieux

“Confidence is back,” said Laurent Queige, who runs Welcome City Lab, a four-year-old non-profit incubator that fosters tourism-focused start-ups. For 30 spots each year, Queige fields about 300 applications.

“I’m blown away by this wave of entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. “We are seeing a revolution.”

Olivier Magny, 37, who co-owns “O Chateau,” a wine business and tasting bar, said French millennials travel more than their parents did and are open to new ideas. He points to a crush of funky restaurants and night spots that have livened up a city more famous for classic elegance than edgy invention.

“Paris is so much cooler, so much more fun, than it used to be,” added Magny, who has written three books tweaking his sometimes-stodgy countrymen. “If you’re a Parisian or a Paris fan, there’s a lot to rejoice and be excited about.”

Image: : Paris Wins the Olympics
Olivier Magny enjoys a drink outside “O Chateau,” his wine bar in Paris. Linda Hervieux

Beach Volleyball at the Foot of the Eiffel Tower

Although seven years away, the promise that Paris will finally live its Olympic “dream” has already boosted spirits, even among Parisians who pride themselves on being “very cranky,” said Carlson, who wrote a best-selling memoir about his adventures navigating French red tape.

He praised the local committee for featuring in its pitch some of the world’s most beautiful monuments.

Beach volleyball is planned at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, fencing in the Grand Palais, swimming in the Seine River, and equestrian events at Versailles chateau. “People are loving that idea,” he said.

Image: The Eiffel Tower is Lit in the Colors of the Olympic Flag
The Eiffel Tower was lit in the colors of the Olympic flag on Feb. 3. Benoit Tessier / Reuters file

One of the Paris bid’s strengths was its plan to hold 22 sports at mostly existing, eye-catching venues. The two major construction projects planned, a new aquatics center and the Olympic Village housing the athletes, are slated for Saint-Denis, an underprivileged suburb just north of Paris where tensions with police have erupted into riots in recent years.

After the Games, the 86,000-acre village is to be transformed into residential housing, giving the area a lift.

Officials have touted the Games as a means of speeding up Grand Paris, a $31 billion plan to expand metro and rail lines to Paris’ outer suburbs.

If Paris didn’t secure the Games in 2024, it risked losing nearly $2 billion in public funding and pledges from private landowners to keep the tracts open for new construction. Against that backdrop, the local committee pushed for 2024 or nothing, a stance that officials say helped nudge the IOC to broker the agreement with L.A., which needs no new venues and had little to lose waiting until 2028.

Playing up the symbolism of bringing the Games back on the 100th anniversary, Macron told the IOC in July that the centenary was the “best moment” to hand the Games to France, which he said exemplifies Olympic “values of openness, tolerance and justice.”

‘It’s a Waste of Money’

While a June poll showed 73 percent of French public gave a thumbs-up to the Games, not everyone is convinced.

A petition calling for a referendum on the Games has collected more than 30,000 signatures. The man who launched it, Frédéric Viale predicts the games will be “ruinous” for the city.

“There was no public debate,” he said.

Viale, a teacher, contends the Paris committee’s $7.9 billion budget vastly underestimates the true bill and doesn’t include the security tab. (The local committee says it has set aside $216 million for security.) He’s not alone. Critics say cities wooed by dreams of reaping billions in new revenue and investment often lowball their budgets.

2028 Olympics will take place in Los Angeles (Paris gets 2024)0:36

The tab for the London 2012 skyrocketed to $15 billion from $4 billion, making it the most expensive Summer Games in history, according to a 2016 Oxford University study that found the Games since 1968 have blown their budgets by an average of 156 percent. It took Montreal 30 years to pay off its debt from the 1977 Games, which overspent its $1.6 billion by 13 times.

An IOC requirement that cities — meaning taxpayers — guarantee any cost overruns, helped turn public opinion against the Games in Boston, as well as the three other cities vying against Paris that dropped their bids.

“It’s a waste of money for me,” said Chloe Mathieu, 27, an environmentalist, who suggests Olympic billions could be better spent tackling social problems like poverty and France’s perpetually high unemployment rate.

“The Olympics is a way to shine,” she said, adding that the City of Light “is already shining.”

North Korean Threat Highlights NATO Missile Shield ‘Weak Link’

North Korean Threat Highlights NATO Missile Shield ‘Weak Link’

Sept. 12, 2017, at 9:57 a.m.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claps during a celebration for nuclear scientists and engineers who contributed to a hydrogen bomb test, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on September 10, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO has joined world powers’ diplomatic efforts to stop North Korea’s missile program but it cannot yet rely on its U.S.-built shield to defend Europe, experts and diplomats said.

The United States says the shield, more than a decade in the planning, is needed to protect against so-called rogue states, a term U.S. officials have used to refer to North Korea and Iran.

But with Berlin, Paris and London potentially within striking distance of North Korea’s missiles from next year, officials say the U.S.-led alliance’s system needs more radars and special interceptors to destroy a rocket from Pyongyang.

“The NATO shield in its current state lacks the reach and early warning radars to shoot down North Korean rockets. It’s a weak link,” said Michael Elleman, a missile defense analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

“Early tracking is also difficult because North Korean missiles would be flying over Russia, where NATO obviously cannot put radars,” he added.

The sort of interceptor needed to shoot down North Korean ballistic missiles could breach a Soviet-era arms control agreement between the United States and Russia because of its greater range, arms experts say.

Moscow has long objected to U.S. missile shield plans, saying their real aim is to neutralize Russia’s own nuclear arsenal, rather than meet the perceived threat from “rogue states”.

Russia’s strategic concerns would, therefore, make it hard to renegotiate the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, something arms experts say would be required if a North Korean missile shield were to be fully effective.


Alliance planning to confront any threat from Pyongyang is in its infancy. Following North Korea’s country’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, two senior NATO diplomats told Reuters that protection against the North Korean threat was only beginning to be considered at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

That was despite a more forceful diplomatic tone on the crisis and warnings on the scale and immediacy of the threat from U.S. President Donald Trump’s new ambassador to NATO, France’s defense minister and the alliance’s deputy head.

While analysts do not expect North Korea to have a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile until next year at the earliest, NATO’s European allies could become a target as a way of threatening their closest partner, the United States, a third NATO diplomat said, stressing that was only speculation.

The United States switched on its $800 million European missile defense umbrella in May last year at a site in Romania to protect against Iranian rockets.

The system, controlled from a NATO base in Germany, includes radars and interceptors stretching from eastern Europe to the Mediterranean.

A final site in Poland should be ready by late 2018, extending the European umbrella from Greenland and the Azores.

To shoot down a ballistic missile from North Korea would require a new generation of interceptor, the Block II, which is still in development. It is capable of downing ballistic rockets earlier and at a much higher altitude.

However, Elleman said that U.S. missile sites in Alaska and California, as well as in Japan and South Korea, were likely to be given priority before Europe, when they are ready in 2018.

“There will be a lot of competition for the assets,” he said.

Emmanuel Macron’s presidency faces first major street protests

Emmanuel Macron’s presidency faces first major street protests

France’s second biggest union says more than 180 demos planned nationwide against contentious labour law reforms

Protests in Toulouse against the overhaul of French labour laws
 Protests in Toulouse against the overhaul of French labour laws on Monday. On Tuesday, the CGT union is planning to lead 180 demonstrations across France. Photograph: Eric Cabanis/AFP/Getty Image

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, will face the first major street protests of his leadership on Tuesday as one of the country’s biggest trade unions demonstrates against his overhaul of labour laws.

The leftwing CGT, France’s second biggest trade union, is leading scores of protests across France, with public sector workers, train staff and energy sector workers expected to join.

It is the first test of whether opposition to Macron’s pro-business plans to loosen labour rules could translate into a broader street protest movement, which the new president is determined to face down.

The CGT’s secretary general, Philippe Martinez, said more than 180 demonstrations were planned across the country, warning that he sensed “very strong discontent”.

A row broke out this weekend over Macron’s strong language after he said in a speech in Athens that he would “not yield anything, either to the lazy, the cynics or the extremes”.

Many on the left expressed outrage, saying the president was implying workers who opposed him were lazy. Indeed the word “lazy” is likely to become the rallying slogan of the anti-Macron demonstrations. The CGT’s Martinez called Macron’s comments “scandalous”.

Asked on Monday whether he regretted using the word, Macron replied “absolutely not”, saying he had not been referring to workers but to previous French leaders who he said were not brave enough to make sweeping changes in France.

Macron is facing street demonstrations sooner after taking office than any other recent French leader. This is in part because his labour law changes are being fast-tracked and pushed through parliament with record speed using executive orders. The laws include a cap on payouts for unfair dismissals and greater freedom for employers to hire and fire. The labour rules will affect all private sector workers in France. However, state sector employees are likely to make up the largest number of CGT demonstrators on Tuesday.


The prime minister, Edouard Philippe, insisted the street protests would not result in any changes to the proposed laws. He said the new labour laws had been spelled out to voters before the presidential and parliament elections as the solution to France’s mass-unemployment problem. Joblessness, at 9.5%, is about twice that in Britain or Germany.

So far, the Élysée seems confident it can face down protests, in part because opposition is fragmented. Macron’s new political grouping, La République En Marche, controls parliament, while the next biggest party on the right is bitterly divided. Although other trade unions were critical of the labour law changes – despite a consultation period – no other leaders of big unions are joining the CGT street demonstrations on Tuesday. Crucially, the CFDT, which is France’s biggest union, is not taking part.

Separate street demonstrations led by the leftwing MP Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his leftist parliamentary grouping, France Unbowed, will take place on 23 September.

Opinion polls show voters do not like the labour reforms overall but back many of its individual measures, including direct negotiations between bosses and their staff in small firms.

Macron’s popularity has slipped over the summer, with recent polls showing that only about 40% of French voters are satisfied with his performance in office. Analysts attribute the disaffection to a mix of communication problems and political missteps in which his initial measures on tax and reforms were seen as muddled and unfair, benefiting the rich more than the poor.

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