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  • Rep. Cummings: 'No doubt' about President Trump being racist

    Rep. Cummings: 'No doubt' about President Trump being racistRep. Elijah Cummings said on Sunday said he has “no doubt about it” that President Trump is racist.

  • Lawmaker describes 'unacceptable' border detention conditions, meets with US citizen in Border Patrol custody

    Lawmaker describes 'unacceptable' border detention conditions, meets with US citizen in Border Patrol custodyA U.S. lawmaker described 'unacceptable' border detention facilities while meeting with a U.S. citizen in Border Patrol custody.

  • Booker Says He Could Confront Biden on Race at Detroit Debate

    Booker Says He Could Confront Biden on Race at Detroit Debate(Bloomberg) -- Presidential Democratic candidate Cory Booker on Sunday suggested he could confront former Vice President Joe Biden on racial issues during the second round of debates next week.Booker, a New Jersey senator, said it would be “fair” to bring up the 1994 crime bill, which Biden supported in the Senate and has called the “Biden crime bill.” Booker said the measure put “mass incarceration on steroids” for African Americans.“Yeah, it is fair,” Booker said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” when asked by host Margaret Brennan whether he would be more aggressive on race at the forums in Detroit on July 30-31. “I want people like Joe Biden, which he finally did, thank God, to stand up and say, ‘I was wrong, that bill did a lot of harm.’”Booker was among Biden’s most vocal critics last month when the former vice president spoke about the “civility” in the Senate that allowed him to work with segregationist lawmakers in the 1970s. Another Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris, seized the spotlight at the first set of debates last month in Miami by confronting Biden on his opposition to busing as a senator.Biden will face off against Harris, Booker and seven other Democratic candidates on July 31, the second night of the debates in Detroit.To contact the reporter on this story: Max Berley in Washington at mberley@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Max Berley, Mark NiquetteFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • 90% of Border Crossers Aren’t Referred for Asylum Interviews

    90% of Border Crossers Aren’t Referred for Asylum InterviewsThe government is implementing a new proposal that would ban asylum for immigrants coming to the United States through Mexico. It pins the uptick in border crossers on the asylum process, but the government’s statistics reveal that 90 percent of crossers in 2019 were not referred for an asylum interview at the border, and the highest share ever referred was just 19 percent in 2018.In fact, the rate of referral was just 7 percent in March 2019. This strongly indicates that the asylum ban will not have its intended effects. Figure 1 compares the rate at which undocumented immigrants at the southwest border were referred for asylum interviews at the border—called credible fear interviews—for each year from 2010 and 2019 as well as March 2019—the most recent month available. In no year has more than one in five immigrants stopped either at or between ports of entry entered the asylum process from the border.The pattern is not significantly different for immigrants from Central America’s Northern Triangle—Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The highest percentage of credible fear claims was just 30 percent in 2016, and the rate for 2019 is 9 percent. March 2019 was actually just 6 percent. In other words, at the border at least, the asylum ban will have very little effect on most Central American crossers.

  • Kenyan finance minister arrested on graft charges

    Kenyan finance minister arrested on graft chargesKenyan Finance Minister Henry Rotich was arrested on Monday on suspicion of financial misconduct related to the construction of two dams, an unprecedented detention of a sitting minister for corruption in a country notorious for graft. Rotich denied any wrongdoing in a large newspaper advertisement in March. Rotich and his co-accused face eight charges, ranging from conspiring to defraud and financial misconduct, Noordin Haji, the director of public prosecutions, said.

  • Crew capsule designed to take US astronauts back to moon completed

    Crew capsule designed to take US astronauts back to moon completedA space capsule designed to carry US astronauts back to the moon in five years’ time is ready, vice-president Mike Pence has revealed on the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 landing.NASA’s new Artemis lunar operation is aimed at returning humans to Earth's satellite, following in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969 – but this time to set up camp, rather than just pay a flying visit.The new mission, scheduled for 2024, is itself designed as a springboard for a subsequent crewed spaceship to be sent to Mars for the first time.NASA said in a statement that Artemis 1 would launch its Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket around the moon in an initial test phase, after which a crew containing at least one female astronaut would touch down on the surface to establish a lunar base.“Thanks to the hard work of the men and women of NASA, and of American industry, the Orion crew vehicle for the Artemis 1 mission is complete and ready to begin preparations for its historic first flight,” Vice-President Pence told the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, standing alongside Mr Pence with Aldrin and Armstrong’s son Rick, said: “Similar to the 1960s, we too have an opportunity to take a giant leap forward for all of humanity.“NASA is calling this the Artemis program in honour of Apollo’s twin sister in Greek mythology, the goddess of the moon. And we are well on our way to getting this done.”A module manufactured by Airbus in Bremen, Germany, that will power Orion during the mission, is in the process of being attached ready for a September flight to test its spaceworthiness.Mr Pence announced in March that NASA should return astronauts to the moon by 2024, halving the agency’s previous deadline to get there by 2028, and requested an extra $1.6bn funding from Congress.However, President Donald Trump on Friday indicated he was not interested in a mission going back to the moon.Mr Trump instead repeated his interest in a NASA mission that would take astronauts directly to Mars, a vastly more challenging and costly endeavour.“To get to Mars, you have to land on the moon, they say. Any way of going directly without landing on the moon? Is that a possibility?” the president asked Mr Bridenstine during an event in the Oval Office.Mr Bridenstine responded: ”Well, we need to use the moon as a proving ground, because when we go to Mars, we’re going to have to be there for a long period of time, so we need to learn how to live and work on another world.”The Artemis program’s objective is to conduct a series of manned and unmanned missions to the moon, using its surface as a proving ground for technologies that could lay the groundwork for the longer and more complex missions to Mars as soon as 2033, Mr Bridenstine has said.Agencies contributed to this report

  • Vatican college space holds bones of dozens, expert says

    Vatican college space holds bones of dozens, expert saysThe expert, Giorgio Portera, said the "enormous" size of the collection under the Teutonic College was revealed when Vatican-appointed experts began cataloguing the remains, which were discovered last week . "We didn't expect such an enormous number" of bones and other remains which "had been thrown into a cavity," Portera said. "We want to know why and how" the bones ended up there.

  • Britain urges Iran to free seized tanker

    Britain urges Iran to free seized tankerBritain on Saturday urged Iran to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf by releasing a UK-flagged ship it said had been illegally seized in Omani waters in an "utterly unacceptable" gambit. Tehran was defiantly ignoring mounting European appeals to free the captured oil tanker and its mostly Indian crew, as the United States prepared to redeploy troops to Iran's regional arch-rival Saudi Arabia. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it seized the Stena Impero ship on Friday for breaking "international maritime rules" in the Strait of Hormuz, a Gulf choke point for about a third of the world's sea-borne oil.

  • Shares Soar on First Day of Trading for China's Nasdaq Rival

    Shares Soar on First Day of Trading for China's Nasdaq RivalThe launch comes amid high tensions with the U.S. over a damaging trade war

  • Fox’s Chris Wallace Confronts WH Adviser Stephen Miller: ‘No Question’ Trump’s ‘Stoking Racial Divisions’

    Fox’s Chris Wallace Confronts WH Adviser Stephen Miller: ‘No Question’ Trump’s ‘Stoking Racial Divisions’Making his first major television interview in months, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller found himself grilled relentlessly by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on Sunday over President Trump’s repeated racist taunts of Democratic congresswomen of color.Miller, the chief architect of the Trump administration’s hardline anti-immigration policies, appeared on Fox News Sunday and immediately defended both the president’s week-long racist tirade against the so-called Squad and a Trump rally crowd’s “Send Her Back!” chant. After saying the audience members behind the chant were like other “patriotic members” who are “tired of being beat up” by left-leaning members of Congress, Miller went on to claim that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)—a member of the Squad—had “profoundly outraged” him as an American Jew by calling border detention centers “concentration camps.”Stephen Miller Keeps His Head Down as Trump Makes His Nativist Dreams Come TrueWallace, meanwhile, noted that both before and after his election, the president has been even more critical of America than the four progressive congresswomen, highlighting a series of comments in which Trump said the country has a “lot of killers” and that “nobody respects” the United States.“Why is what those congresswomen have said, in general, any worse than what you just heard Donald Trump say—President Obama is ignorant, this country is killers, on and on?” Wallace asked the White House aide.Miller insisted the difference was that Trump wanted to “strengthen America’s core values” with his remarks while the Squad believed the country should turn “into Venezuela,” prompting the Fox News anchor to push back and point out we “are not talking about constitutional rights” but Trump’s own sharp criticisms of the United States.Wallace then went on to confront Miller on the overarching theme of the president targeting the congresswomen.“Nobody has any problem with what the president’s policies have been, it’s when he goes into stoking racial fears,” the Fox host declared. “I’ve never called any of his tweets racist, but there’s no question that he is stoking racial divisions.”Miller contended that the “core element of the president’s philosophy is ‘America First’” before pivoting to Ocasio-Cortez, accusing her of saying undocumented immigrants are “more American than Americans.” AOC, however, has never actually said this. The New York lawmaker has noted that immigrants historically commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans, She's also said that asylum-seeking refugees "are acting more American than any person who seeks to keep them out ever will be."Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

  • Universal Orlando reopens after police respond to report of a gunman in parking garage

    Universal Orlando reopens after police respond to report of a gunman in parking garageUniversal Orlando went under temporary lockdown Saturday night after police received a report of a gunman spotted in a parking garage.

  • Two Delta Air Lines planes clip wings at Boston Logan International Airport

    Two Delta Air Lines planes clip wings at Boston Logan International AirportTwo Delta Air Lines planes touched wings at Boston Logan International Airport as a flight was arriving to its gate Friday night.

  • U.S. Army Invests In Studying ‘Hyperfit’ Women Who Pass Its Hardest Tests

    U.S. Army Invests In Studying ‘Hyperfit’ Women Who Pass Its Hardest TestsThe U.S. Army is investing in studying the “hyperfit” women who pass some of the military’s most grueling tests.“This is a unique historical time,” research physiologist Julie Hughes, who is assisting with the study at the base in Natick, Massachusetts, told The Associated Press. “There’s this group of women who made it through the training so we want to get them to at least do these observational investigations to explore what makes them unique.”She and Holly McClung, a nutritional physiologist at the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, have already begun preparing to run tests, like measuring how much oxygen a person uses while exercising, on volunteers. McClung said she was notified July 12 that the tests were given the green light.The Pentagon lifted all combat job bans for women in December 2015. Since then, roughly 35 women have reached the elite levels of Army Ranger, graduating Marine infantry school or passing the initial assessment phase of Green Beret training, according to the AP.All of the women participating in the study will do so voluntarily, but McClung and Hughes said they already expect plenty of military women to raise their hands, metaphorically speaking. They plan to have groups of two or three women at a time undergo the testing — which includes mental, physical and psychological elements — to discover why they are able to do what so many men and women cannot.

  • Turkey will launch operation in Syria if safe zone not established: minister

    Turkey will launch operation in Syria if safe zone not established: ministerTurkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that if a planned safe zone in northern Syria is not established, and if threats continue against Turkey, Ankara will launch a military operation east of the Euphrates river. Turkey has been in talks with the United States over the establishment of a safe zone across its border in northeast Syria, where the United States supports the Kurdish YPG militia.

  • Explosion in popularity of hemp products leaves Texas unable to bust marijuana users

    Explosion in popularity of hemp products leaves Texas unable to bust marijuana usersTexas politicians thought they were clear: the bill they overwhelmingly passed allowing the growth and sale of hemp had nothing to do with legalising cannabis.“This is no slippery slope towards marijuana,” Charles Perry, a Republican state senator who sponsored the bill, said in May, according to The Dallas Morning News.But since Greg Abbott signed the measure into law in June, county prosecutors around Texas have been dropping some marijuana possession charges and declining to file new ones, saying they do not have the time or the laboratory equipment needed to distinguish between legal hemp and illegal marijuana.Collectively, the prosecutors’ jurisdictions cover more than 9 million people — about a third of Texas’ population — including in Houston, Austin and San Antonio.The accidental leniency represents one of the unintended consequences states may face as they race to cash in on the popularity of products made with or from hemp.Interest has surged in oils, gummies and other goods infused with CBD, or cannabidiol, which is processed from cannabis plants but does not produce a psychoactive effect.The police and prosecutors in Florida are facing the same problem as their Texan colleagues after the Sunshine State legalised hemp in July.“This is not just Texas,” said Peter Stout, president of the Houston Forensic Science Centre, which runs tests for the Houston Police Department and other agencies.“Everybody is struggling with this.”In Texas, prosecutors have already dropped scores of possession cases, and they’re not just throwing out misdemeanours.The Travis County district attorney, Margaret Moore, announced this month that she was dismissing 32 felony possession and delivery of marijuana cases because of the law.Ms Abbott and other state officials, including the attorney general, pushed back on Thursday, saying prosecutors should not be dropping cases because of the new legislation, known as H.B. 1325.“Marijuana has not been decriminalised in Texas, and these actions demonstrate a misunderstanding of how H.B. 1325 works,” the officials, all Republicans, wrote in a letter to prosecutors.Kim Ogg, the Harris County district attorney and a Democrat, shot back by saying that laboratory confirmation “has long been required” to prove someone’s guilt.Before the legislation went into effect, laboratories had to identify hairs on marijuana flowers and test for the presence of cannabinoids, a process that required just a few minutes and a test strip that turned purple when it was positive.Because the new law distinguishes between hemp and illicit marijuana, prosecutors say labs would now be required to determine the concentration of THC in the seized substance.Mr Stout said he has been able to identify only two labs in the country that can make the fine distinction necessary and that are accredited in Texas. Both of them are private.Prosecutors would need to pay the labs to run the tests — sometimes hundreds of dollars for each sample — and to testify about the results at trial.Sending all of the state’s suspected marijuana to a small number of labs would likely overwhelm them, prosecutors have said, and would result in severe backlogs.Still, many prosecutors agree with the governor and are continuing to charge and prosecute marijuana cases as usual.The district attorney in El Paso, Jaime Esparza, a Democrat, said this month that the law “will not have an effect on the prosecution of marijuana cases in El Paso” and a spokeswoman confirmed that he had not thrown out any cases because of the law.The sudden dismissals in other districts have been a welcome surprise for those who had been facing charges.Brandon Ball, a lawyer, said one of his clients in Fort Bend County had been distraught about the possession charge she faced until it was unexpectedly dismissed.She kept thanking him, but it wasn’t her lawyer who beat the case.“I was trying to explain, it wasn’t me, it was this law,” Mr Ball said, referring to the hemp legislation.Mr Ball, now an assistant public defender in Harris County, explained that test results are vital for prosecutors trying to prove that someone had an illegal substance.“The law is constantly changing on what makes something illegal, based on its chemical makeup,” Mr Ball said.“It’s important that if someone is charged with something, the test matches what they’re charged with.”New York Times

  • South Korea detains 6 for illegally entering Japan consulate

    South Korea detains 6 for illegally entering Japan consulateSouth Korean police on Monday detained six people for allegedly illegally entering a Japanese diplomatic facility in South Korea and staging an anti-Tokyo demonstration there. The incident came amid growing anti-Japanese sentiments in South Korea as the two countries are locked in trade and political disputes. The six men and women were given temporary passes to enter the Japanese consulate in the southeastern city of Busan earlier Monday after they told staff there they would visit a library inside the building, according to Busan police officers.

  • Compton boy loses arm after neighbor hands him firework on 10th birthday

    Compton boy loses arm after neighbor hands him firework on 10th birthdayA man is in custody after handing his young neighbor a firework that blew up, causing the boy to lose his arm on his 10th birthday.

  • Biden Leads in CBS Democratic Poll but Faces Enthusiasm Gap

    Biden Leads in CBS Democratic Poll but Faces Enthusiasm Gap(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden remains the top choice among Democratic voters in states that will hold early presidential primary and caucus contests in 2020, as four main contenders emerged as the top tier of the large field, a new CBS News poll showed on Sunday.Biden had 25% support as voters’ first choice for the Democratic nominee, with Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts at 20% and Kamala Harris of California at 16% gaining ground on the former vice president. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont was fourth in the survey with 15% support. No other candidate reached double-digit support in the poll.Biden continued to benefit from his perceived electability against President Donald Trump in the general election, with 75% of likely voters considering voting for him because they think he could beat Trump. Meanwhile, 85% of those considering Biden cited his time as former President Barack Obama’s vice president as a reason for choosing him.Still, there’s an enthusiasm gap for Biden among some primary voters, the poll found. A majority of those surveyed, 56%, said Warren would fight “a great deal” for people like them, and 54% said the same of Sanders. Only 38% described Biden that way.When asked who has been the most “passionate” so far, Warren and Sanders each had 28%, while Biden had just 14%. Warren, who has touted her policy proposals, was seen as the most specific candidate, with 42%, while Harris was seen as the strongest with 32%.Despite recent criticism of Biden by other candidates, 68% of respondents in the poll said they considered his record on race relations good or excellent, with 76% of black voters rating his career positively in that regard. Biden and Harris clashed in the first presidential debates over the former Delaware senator’s opposition to busing in the 1970s.Debate BoostThat debate appeared to have boosted Harris, with 63% of those considering her in the poll saying her performance was a reason they were taking a look at her, while 49% said the same for Warren. Harris and Biden will next face off with eight other candidates on the second night of the presidential primary debates in Detroit on July 31, while Sanders and Warren will be among those appearing on the first night July 30.Harris and Biden are also neck-and-neck in the former’s home state of California, which will award a hefty delegate total. Biden is the first choice of 24% in the most-populous state, with 23% favoring Harris. Biden had a much more comfortable lead in South Carolina, where he has courted the state’s heavily black Democratic voters and focused on his relationship to Obama, the first black president. Biden is the first choice of 39% of respondents in South Carolina, followed by Sanders at 17% and Harris at 12%, the poll showed.Biden also led Sanders as voters’ first choice in both Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two voting states, according to the CBS poll.The survey also showed ideological splits within the party, even as 61% of respondents described themselves as somewhat or very liberal. Warren is winning among liberal voters, taking 26%, while Biden is carrying moderates and conservatives, according to the poll.According to the survey, 59% would prefer someone who agrees with them on policy, even if that person must forgo civility. Biden does best with those who prefer civility, CBS said.The CBS poll was conducted July 9-18 by YouGov. A sample of 18,550 registered voters were polled in 18 states that will hold Democratic primaries or caucuses before and on March 3, known as Super Tuesday. The sample included 8,760 self-identified Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, and the margin of error was about plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.(Adds additional details from third paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Ros Krasny in Washington at rkrasny1@bloomberg.net;Ben Brody in Washington at btenerellabr@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Craig Gordon at cgordon39@bloomberg.net, Mark Niquette, Kevin MillerFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Is a new US-led war looming with Iran?

    Is a new US-led war looming with Iran?The United States is deploying troops in Saudi Arabia as tensions soar with its arch-rival Iran raising concerns over navigation in the Gulf's strategic Strait of Hormuz. It will be the first deployment of its kind since 2003, when American forces withdrew from the kingdom after a 12-year presence and two US-led wars with Iraq that culminated with the toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein. Separate statements from Riyadh and the US Central Command, or CENTCOM, say the Saudi deployment aims to ensure stability in the turbulent Gulf.

  • Parents blame Royal Caribbean for toddler's death after 11-story fall

    Parents blame Royal Caribbean for toddler's death after 11-story fall"I never want another mother to see what I had to see, or to scream how I had to scream," Kimberly Wiegand said in a TV interview Monday.

  • School Board Votes to Paint Over George Washington Mural In San Francisco

    School Board Votes to Paint Over George Washington Mural In San FranciscoThe San Francisco Board of Education unanimously voted last month in favor of painting over a George Washington mural series on a school wall depicting Washington standing over a Native American’s corpse and another in the company of slaves on his Mount Vernon estate.“This is reparations,” Education Board Commissioner Mark Sanchez said in a KQED report when asked about the estimated $600,000 price tag for its removal. It could reportedly take a year to complete.  The 1,600-square-foot mural series titled “Life of Washington” was painted on San Francisco’s George Washington High School in 1936 by a Russian-American artist and Stanford University art professor Victor Arnautoff.It was funded by the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration and shows a variety of scenes from Washington’s life. School district spokeswoman Laura Dudnick confirmed that although only two mural pieces stand out as offensive to members of the community, the board’s decision would apply to all 13 panels of the mural. School board members had to decide whether to cover and preserve the painting using panels or textile, or completely erase it by painting over it. Buckling under pressure from those who find the images offensive to certain members of the school community, the board decided to paint over it. Advocates for removing the mural included local high school students, George Washington High School graduates, and Native Americans.

  • France braces for second heatwave amid fears of pollution spike

    France braces for second heatwave amid fears of pollution spikeAs France braces for its second heatwave this summer, with air pollution expected to spike again, Marseille has imposed speed limits on ships entering its port in an effort to curb emissions. Cruise liners cause more nitrogen dioxide pollution in the Mediterranean city than cars, according to a recent survey by a government-approved air quality monitoring organisation.  Marseille has lowered the speed limit for ships entering its port from 10 to 8 knots. Jean-Marc Fornieri, the head of the port authority, claimed: “A reduction of two knots is equivalent to one third less pollution.” However, he acknowledged that in practice it would be difficult to measure the impact of the lower speed limit.   France’s second-largest city is also investing €20 million (nearly £18m) on a plan to offer all ships electrical connections from the quayside, so they do not keep their engines running to supply onboard power while docked.  Hundreds of cruise liners visit Marseille each year, carrying 1.7 million passengers, compared to only 19,000 in 1996. It is an increasingly popular destination for cruise passengers on Mediterranean tours. Tourists visit its spectacular calanques, or narrow inlets along the coast, and travel on to historic towns elsewhere in Provence such as Avignon and Arles. Heatwaves exacerbate air pollution because intense sunshine produces higher levels of ozone, a pollutant. Scientists say there is a direct correlation between extremely high temperatures and respiratory problems. Last month a record temperature of 46 degrees Celsius was recorded in Vérargues, a southern village. This week most of France will again swelter in temperatures of at least 40 degrees Celsius. Brittany alone will be spared, with relatively balmy temperatures in the high 20s.

  • Huawei secretly helped North Korea build, maintain wireless network: Washington Post

    Huawei secretly helped North Korea build, maintain wireless network: Washington PostHuawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL], the Chinese company put on a U.S. black list because of national security concerns, secretly helped North Korea build and maintain its commercial wireless network, the Washington Post reported on Monday, citing sources and internal documents. The Chinese telecommunications giant partnered with a state-owned Chinese firm, Panda International Information Technology Co Ltd., on a number of projects in North Korea over at least eight years, the Post reported. Such a move would raise questions of whether Huawei, which has used U.S. technology in its components, violated American export controls to furnish North Korea with equipment, according to the Post.

  • Vigilante Armies Are Fighting Mexican Drug Cartels, but Whose Side Are They Really on?

    Vigilante Armies Are Fighting Mexican Drug Cartels, but Whose Side Are They Really on?Jorge Lopez/ReutersFILO DE CABALLOS, Mexico—The assault force rolls through this small mountain town not long after dark. Traveling in a fleet of pick-ups with about 15 men in each truck, they are dressed in pixelated camouflage uniforms and ballistic vests and at first glance they look like official army units, but their weapons give them away. Many of these commandos carry AK-47 model assault rifles, which aren’t used by the Mexican armed forces.The logo stamped on the doors of the trucks shows a figure from the Mexican Revolution wearing a sombrero and brandishing a rifle astride a charging horse. Below that are the words Policia Comunitaria, or community police, and a phrase which, roughly translated from Spanish, reads: “Death before surrender or humiliation.”The men in the trucks are members of the United Front of Community Police of Guerrero State, better known by its Spanish acronym of FUPCEG. Tonight FUPCEG’s shock troops are on their way to assault the nearby town of El Naranjo, which is currently held by the forces of an organized crime group called the Cartel del Sur.“We fight to free communities that have been isolated by the criminals,” says a squad leader who asks to be identified only as “El Burro” in an interview with The Daily Beast. “Everyone has a right to security. And to economic freedom. Campesinos [small farmers] and their children shouldn’t suffer under the rule of bandits,” Burro says. “The people of this town have asked us for help, and so that’s what we’re going to do.”El Burro says he got his nickname, which means “the donkey,”  because he can bear heavy loads a great distance despite his slight stature. In his backpack he carries several cans of tuna and crackers and canteens of water. His battle harness holds some 300 rounds of ammunition for his AK-47. Later tonight he’ll lead his squad on foot through the dense pine forests that surround El Naranjo, until they reach the pre-assigned rendezvous point. From there the coordinated strike force will crawl on their bellies until they’re in sight of the cartel stronghold, then wait for dawn to attack.Burro is a veteran of a dozen such engagements with the comunitarios and says he’s personally registered 20 confirmed kills of sicarios, the cartels’ contract killers. A former farmer, he joined the movement “because I was tired of hearing the people’s cries for help go unanswered.”The Cartel del Sur is known for its brutal tactics, including torturing prisoners, and for that reason Burro says he prefers death on the battlefield to being captured by los contras,  as he calls members of the Cartel del Sur.“Will I come back from where I go tonight?” he asks rhetorically. “And if I don’t,” he says, “will my family understand what I died for?”  * * *‘We Have To Protect Ourselves’* * *FUPCEG is an alliance of civilian autodefensas, or self-defense groups, that boasts about 11,700 fighters across 39 municipalities in Guerrero, meaning they’re now present in about half the state. Similar communitario movements have sprung up across Mexico over the last decade, but FUPCEG is by far the largest of its kind.The spike in vigilante militias has polarized public opinion. Some observers see them as noble freedom fighters who succeed where traditional law enforcement has failed. Critics claim the autodefensas and comunitarios (the words are often used interchangeably in Mexico) are at best undisciplined mobs and at worst cartel patsies who do the criminals’ grunt work for them. Either way, their power is growing. A new study by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission suggests vigilante activity is up by more than 300 percent since the start of 2018, and blames the increase on “insecurity, violence, and impunity.”Mexico’s Game of BonesIn fact, violence in Mexico has reached historic levels this year, with the country averaging an all-time high of 94 killings a day through the first half of 2019. Both 2017 and 2018 also broke previous murder records. As one autodefensa fighter put it, repeating what has become a kind of mantra, "If the government can't protect us, then we have no choice left but to protect ourselves."FUPCEG’s founder and leader is 40-year-old Salvador Alanis. A Guerrero native, Alanis is something of a polymath. An economist by training, he’s also worked as an electrical engineer in North Carolina, and at one time owned several successful fruit and cattle ranches in his home state. Those ranches are gone now. Some were sold off to help fund Alanis’s crime-fighting endeavors, while others have been seized by the mafia groups he opposes.“I spent 12 years working in the U.S.,” Alanis says during an interview in the FUPCEG base in the strategically vital town of Filo de Caballos, high in the sierra of central Guerrero. “In the States I came to know a better life, a better world. I came to take safety for granted,” he says, “but there’s no security like that in Mexico.”The lack of security is even more pronounced in Guerrero, which is Mexico’s leading exporter of opium and heroin, and perennially listed as one of the country’s most dangerous and politically corrupt regions. It doesn’t help that government law enforcement here is undermanned.“We have an insufficient number of police officers to go around,” says Roberto Álvarez Heredia, the state’s security spokesperson. “We need about three times as many cops and public prosecutors as we have,” he says, “and the ones we do have need better salaries.”Recently elected President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, has touted his newly created Guardia Nacional as a solution to peacekeeping efforts in places like Guerrero, but Alanis remains unimpressed:“So they just sent 3,500 Guardias to Guerrero,” he says, when asked about the new policing initiative. “The last president sent 5,000 soldiers and they couldn’t do anything against the cartels, because the criminals just paid them off. Everyone has a price,” he adds.Still, Alanis is willing to give the Guardia a chance.“We’re going to let them in [to our territory] and see if they behave themselves. See if they’re corrupt, or if they abuse their power. In the past the soldiers used to enter and search any house they pleased, and that’s why we had to run them out. We’re glad to be friends [with the Guardia], but we won’t be their slaves.”* * *A Question of War* * *As protection against a cartel counter thrust, FUPCEG troops man fortified checkpoints at regular intervals all along State Road 196. Here in Filo, Alanis and his command crew are headquartered in what used to be the largest hotel in town. The long, two-story building was abandoned when FUPCEG occupied Filo after a prolonged firefight back in November of 2018. Pocked by bullet holes inside and out, the building no longer has running water, and electricity is intermittent, but the community kitchen in the lobby is always full of gossip and the smell of spicy cooking. During this interview, Alanis sits in what was once the hotel’s main office. He’s stockily built, dressed in a sky-blue Oxford shirt left open at the throat and wearing square-rimmed photochromic glasses. Clear mountain sunshine drifts in through the shot-up windows. In one corner of the room stands a derelict arcade game titled, coincidentally enough, Streetfighter II.When he came back in 2010, Alanis says he found his home town of Ocotito overrun by organized crime.“Murder, kidnapping, extortion, theft. The cartels ruled the state and they’d packed the government and police forces with corrupt officials, so there was no one to challenge them,” he says. After surviving two kidnapping attempts, Alanis decided to take matters into his own hands to “restore justice” to Guerrero.At first it was just himself and a handful of other ranchers, but slowly the movement gathered support. By 2015 their forces numbered several hundred comunitarios operating out of a string of liberated communities around the state capital of Chilpancingo. But he’d made a number of powerful enemies in the process, including capos from the Rojos, Tequileros, and Guerreros Unidos cartels. When those crime groups launched a series of counter-attacks aimed at taking back the newly freed townships, Alanis’ civilian militias were quickly overwhelmed. “We had an army of shop owners and farm workers,” he says in the office of the ramshackle hotel. He unholsters a chrome-plated 10 mm pistol to make himself more comfortable and sets it on the desk before him. “Many of our men didn’t really know how to use their weapons. Meanwhile, we were facing off against experienced and well-armed sicarios, and we couldn’t beat them in battle. It was a question of war, and we weren’t up to the task. We were weak and lacking strategy.”Those factors—along with the defection of some of his most trusted officers, one of whom ran off with his wife—combined to spell defeat for Alanis. His forces scattered and, still hunted by the cartels, he fled to the mountains and went into hiding.“They took everything from him,” says Jackie Pérez, an independent journalist based in Chilpancingo, and an expert on the state’s autodefensa groups. “Salvador lost his livestock, his farmland, even his wife,” she says. “But he’s very intelligent and very patient. He was able to persevere, and come back stronger than ever.”Pérez goes on to compare Alanis to Mexican freedom fighters of the past like Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa, at least in terms of tactics. “He doesn’t want to overthrow the government,” she says. “But he is willing to go outside the system to fight for the people’s right to freedom from certain forms of oppression.”In order to continue that fight after being drubbed by the contras, Alanis knew he’d have to change his game plan.“We’d been outnumbered and defeated,” he says. “Now it was time to change strategies.” Part of that strategic shift involved developing a broad network of spies and informants, many of them women, to keep him informed of his enemies’ movements and activities.“Know your enemy as you know yourself,” he quotes Sun Tzu from memory, “and in a hundred battles you will never be defeated.”* * *Controlling The Sierra* * *Alanis isn’t the first comunitario leader forced to revamp his approach after an initial setback. Many other grassroots vigilante groups have cropped up in Mexico to oppose organized crime, only to find they lack the manpower and budget to keep up the fight over time. Unfortunately, that often leads to alliances with well-heeled drug lords, who then use the militias as proxy groups to wage war on their rivals.Guerrero expert Chris Kyle, a professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says that pattern has been in play for years.“Since 2013 there’s been an explosion of community policing groups in Guerrero,” says Kyle in a phone interview with The Daily Beast. While villages with native indigenous populations that pre-date the Spanish conquest are legally allowed to form such units under Mexico’s constitution, the proliferation of non-indigenous figures “claiming to be community police has baffled authorities.”The swift spread of the comunitarios is related directly to a lack of effective security measures, according to Kyle.“If the state would provide security, many of these groups would likely stand down,” he says. In the absence of state power, however, and due to a lack of sufficient resources to operate long-term on their own, many vigilante squads become co-opted.“The drug trafficking organizations take advantage of them,” Kyle says, because the community police provide the cartels with “a semi-legitimate wing that extends their reach.”Alanis’s FUPCEG umbrella group includes both indigenous and mestizo, or mixed race, cells from all over the state, including the Regional Coordinator for Community Authorities  (CRAC), the oldest and most respected such organization in Mexico. Even so, Alanis admits that part of his revised strategy involved aligning with certain deep-pocketed backers. He claims that instead of working on behalf of a crime syndicate, he’s merely defending free enterprise.This may strike drug enforcement authorities in the United States as a distinction without a difference, but here in Guerrero such distinctions matter.Alanis says that in fact he is not opposed to campesinos growing poppies, since that's the only crop that pays enough to support many families in the sierra. What he's opposed to, as he puts it, is how the Cartel del Sur seeks to drive out competitors, keep prices low, and control poppy farmers through violence and intimidation."The people should be able to grow [poppies] if they want to. Or not, as they see fit. That's up to them. But nobody should be forced to sell [opium gum] at an unfair price to a single buyer. Nobody should be threatened or forced to worry about their family’s safety. All we want is for the people to live in peace,” he says, back in his bullet-riddled HQ.“The Cartel del Sur wants to control the whole sierra,” he adds. “They want to own a monopoly on poppy gum and heroin production, and also extort from shop owners, taxi drivers, you name it. Other businessmen I know want an open market for poppies up here, and they understand that requires healthy local economies. So that’s why they help us fight the contras.”To launch a full-scale assault like the one that liberated Filo would be impossible without outside financial support, according to Alanis. The Filo battle involved some 3,000 comunitarios and hundreds of trucks to ferry them, he explains. When the cost of ammunition, gas, and fighters’ salaries are factored in, a single campaign can cost about 300,000 pesos [about $15,700] per hour. And the Filo firefight alone last for more than seven hours.“We need their help,” he says, referring to those independent opium gum buyers who help fund FUPCEG’s efforts, “but they need us too. If part of the money to liberate the people must come from opium, I’m willing to accept that equation,” the economist by training says.* * *Terrorizing The Resistance* * *During a series of independent interviews conducted in Filo de Caballos and surrounding communities it becomes clear that, prior to liberation by Alanis and his cohorts, local citizens had suffered greatly under rule by the Cartel del Sur.Run by Isaac Navarette Celis, one of Mexico’s most wanted men, the Cartel del Sur specializes in the production and northbound transport of China White, a particularly potent  form of heroin. Navarette is a relative newcomer to Guerrero’s populous criminal underworld, first announcing his arrival back in 2016. Younger drug lords like Navarette often are especially bloodthirsty as they attempt to carve out a competitive niche against established rivals. Residents in the swath of towns and villages formerly under Navarette’s control describe a reign of terror that included kidnappings for ransom, forcing young people to work as sicarios under threat of death, mass killings, crippling extortion rates, and random violence that caused schools, clinics, and small businesses to be shuttered indefinitely.“We denounced the criminals to the police many times but they never did anything to help us,” says Reina Maldonado, 53. Maldonado was married to the comisario, or sheriff, of a village called Corralitos. Last June several sicarios from the Cartel del Sur kidnapped Reina’s husband from their home and brought him to a local safehouse. “He wouldn’t back down from them. He defied their orders and bribes, so they took him,” she said. When Maldonado’s husband’s body was found, she explains, he showed signs of having been tortured and had been shot multiple times.“They killed him to terrorize the village against resistance,” the sheriff's widow says, “but that didn’t work.” Hours after the comisario was reported missing, Alanis arrived with hundreds of comandos to battle it out with those responsible for his murder. Four cartel members were killed in the ensuing firefight, and the rest fled in armored vehicles. According to Maldonado, they haven’t been back to Corralitos since.“Life here is much better now,” she says, as she walks around the ruins of the house where her husband’s body was found. Many of the families that had fled Corralitos under cartel rule have since returned, and the shops and fruit stands that line the small main street are again open for business.“We’re still poor,” Maldonado says, “but at least now we’re safe.”* * *Government Silence* * *Ruperto Pacheco Vega, 44, the mayor of Filo de Caballo, agrees with Maldonado’s assessment:“Many businesses were completely shut down under [Navarette’s] cartel,” he says. “There was no commerce, nobody could move. The store owners couldn’t make a profit due to extortion, and many people were out of work.”Even worse, Vega says, was the cartel’s habit of impressing young men into its service. “They wanted our boys to join them, put on their colors, and fight against Salvador and the comunitarios.” To decline the cartel’s “invitation,” he says, was punishable by death. In contrast, the mayor explains that Alanis has helped local communities diversify their economies. The financial backbone of the region has long been poppy cultivation to produce opium gum to sell to the cartels to make heroin. But a recent drop in the price of heroin (apparently due to U.S. users preferring synthetic opioids like Fentanyl) has caused a backlash among growers. According to Vega, Alanis has been instrumental in helping the farmers develop detailed crop substitution plans in order to replace illicit poppy plots with legal alternatives like avocado, peaches, pears, and lemons.“The government says we mustn’t grow poppies, and that’s fine with us. So we sent them precise and detailed petitions asking for basic subsidies until the [fruit] trees reach maturity,” says Vega, riffing through signed and stamped copies of the official documents addressed to various politicians in Mexico City, including President López Obrador. As with local authorities who ignore cartel malfeasance, it seems the bid for federal assistance to produce legal crops has also fallen on deaf ears.“Their offices acknowledged receipt of our requests,” Vega says, “but we never heard anything back from them.”* * *A Question Of Ethics* * *For all the careful planning put into it, El Burro’s assault on the cartel-held town of El Naranjo didn’t go as expected.“Somebody must’ve talked because they were waiting for us,” says El Burro, in the aftermath of the failed offensive. “They had a damned mortar and belt-fed machine guns. We killed a few of them but we then we had to pull back.”Now rumors are swirling around town that Navarette’s men are planning a counter-attack to retake Filo. Comunitarios run in and out of the lobby of the bombed-out hotel, fetching weapons and ammunition from stockpiles in the armory. Meanwhile Alanis sits surrounded by cell phones and a half-dozen radios, diligently coordinating with units in the field and his mysterious financial backers.In answer to a question about the ethics of his current line of work, Alanis waxes philosophical.“I used to have a different idea about ethics,” he says, putting down his phone. “I never accepted any drug money back when I first began to oppose [the cartels].” But, he adds, that’s also why he lost the first time around. “You see suffering like this,” and he waves his hand as if to take in the whole sierra: “You see people without work. People without health care. Children starving. Kids with no future. And you ask me about ethics?”In Alanis’s estimation, “Our worst enemy is the state, due to their alliance with organized crime. There is no democracy in Guerrero” because the cartels “rig elections” and “control the politicians,” he says.“We came up with a plan to eliminate 65 percent of the poppy plants in our territories and replace them with legal orchards, but the politicians never even answered our letters.” Alanis picks up his phone again. “Why don’t you ask them about ethics?” he says.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

  • 5 shot dead, 6 wounded in Acapulco bar near beach

    5 shot dead, 6 wounded in Acapulco bar near beachGunmen killed five men and wounded six other people at a popular bar in Acapulco on Sunday, the latest in a string of violent incidents for the once-glamorous Pacific Coast resort city that has fallen on hard times. The Guerrero state prosecutor's office said the shootings took place in the morning at a watering hole called Mr. Bar, which is on the city's broad coastal avenue across the street from high-rise beachside hotels. Acapulco is full of summer vacationers, and days earlier authorities launched a security operation for the tourist season.

  • Man Who Can't Afford Tropical Vacation Does the Normal Thing By Faking the Best Trip Ever and a Lot of People Can Relate

    Man Who Can't Afford Tropical Vacation Does the Normal Thing By Faking the Best Trip Ever and a Lot of People Can RelateFaced with financial constraints, a man who couldn't afford a trip to Hawaii made a wacky video that is spreading laughter across the internet.

  • Hong Kong Tempts China’s Ire as Protests Take More Violent Turn

    Hong Kong Tempts China’s Ire as Protests Take More Violent Turn(Bloomberg) -- From stick-wielding mobs who attacked activists to one pro-independence group accused of stockpiling explosives, the latest unrest in Hong Kong has prompted new fears that protesters and the China-backed government are heading toward a violent confrontation.In one case, Hong Kong residents -- many wearing the black shirts favored by protesters -- were attacked in a train station near the mainland border by groups of men wearing white shirts. In a separate episode, police arrested three men after finding volatile explosives and separatist campaign material in a raid on an industrial area.Elsewhere, police fired tear gas at protesters who had surrounded China’s local government headquarters, defaced the national emblem, declared a provisional legislature and spray-painted the exterior with slogans like “Liberate Hong Kong” and “Revolution of our time.”The incidents were part of the seventh-straight weekend of protests in the former British colony, and illustrate the fact that there is no simple solution to the ongoing political chaos. On Sunday, as a peaceful rally of more than 100,000 people Sunday devolved into running street battles on opposite sides of the city. The developments not only increased the risk that bystanders could be swept into the escalating political disputes, they drew the harshest warnings yet from Beijing, which said that protesters were testing its “bottom line.”“It’s definitely a turning point in Hong Kong politics and history,” said Alvin Yeung, an opposition lawmaker who heads the city’s Civic Party. Yeung noted that Hong Kong, despite years of dissent over Beijing’s rule, was one of Asia’s safest big cities. “Last night was an exception. And that’s why it’s so shocking. It’s completely out of control,” he said.The events showed that positions hardening on both sides as the city’s embattled leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, resists calls to resign despite protests exceeding 1 million participants. What began as a largely leaderless effort to block legislation allowing extraditions to the mainland has expanded into a list of demands including investigations into police tactics to a direct vote to replace Lam.With more rallies planned for as early as this weekend, and little sign that either side will accede to the others’ demands, activists and government supporters alike have been warning that the further unrest could lead to ever greater injuries. A handful of suicides by protesters in recent weeks have already added life-and-death stakes to the debate.The financial hub is also starting to grapple with the economic cost of continued unrest, which already risks keeping local shoppers away and deterring mainland visitors. Last week, police clashed with protesters inside a shopping mall in suburban Sha Tin.The attacks Sunday on passengers and bystanders at a train station in Yuen Long by unidentified groups of men further raised alarm that the unrest could begin to effect regular people. “Clashes might be expected during a protest, but no one expected the elderly, children, pregnant women and former news reporter that had not joined the protest, might be attacked by pro-Beijing gangs,” democracy advocate Joshua Wong told Bloomberg News.The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, which says it represents businesses employing a third of the local workforce, called for a formal withdrawal of the extradition bill and the setup of a commission of inquiry to examine the facts surrounding the ongoing tensions and their escalation.“Protests are becoming increasingly confrontational while factions are being created that pit citizen against citizen,” the chamber said in a statement on Monday. “The situation is also raising concerns in Hong Kong and internationally about our commitment to the basic law and the rule of law.”Lam’s efforts to resolve the crisis, including declaring the extradition bill “dead,” have so far only prompted further protests. At a news conference Monday, she condemned the vandalism at the Liaison Office while promising to investigate the attacks on activists, warning that “the whole of Hong Kong and its people will suffer as a result of the loss of order.”The South China Morning Post newspaper reported last week that Chinese officials in charge of Hong Kong were working to present leaders with a comprehensive strategy to resolve the crisis. Authorities have ruled out any military intervention and saw the police as key to maintaining stability and exposing the intentions of protesters, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the discussions.China’s PresenceA broader solution appears increasingly out of reach as protesters turn their ire from the local government to China. President Xi Jinping has warned that challenges to Beijing’s sovereignty over Hong Kong won’t be tolerated and efforts to allow direct elections have been stalled since pro-democracy lawmakers blocked Beijing’s proposed system for choosing candidates in 2015. Demonstrators ransacked the city’s legislature building on July 1, the anniversary of its return to Chinese rule.Protesters risked further provoking Xi by bringing the chaos directly to the doorstep of Communist Party authority in Hong Kong, the central government Liaison Office. Riot police pursued the protesters past high rises and across highways to outside the ferry terminal, where they fired tear gas after some activists hurled projectiles.China’s top representative in the city, Wang Zhimin, denounced the protesters’ acts as “villainous and wicked” in a news briefing. The party’s flagship People’s Daily warned in an editorial Monday that protesters at the liaison office “openly challenged the authority of the central government.”Some lawmakers warned that the growing focus on Beijing risked jeopardizing the delicate framework that have allowed Hong Kong to exist as a pocket of free expression and free markets in China.“The violent attacks on the liaison office have gone way beyond the protests against the rendition bill,” said Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing lawmaker and member of Lam’s Executive Council. “These rebels must stop these provocative actions, which will seriously damage the relationship between the central government and Hong Kong.”(Updates to add Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce’s statement from 10th paragraph.)\--With assistance from Natalie Lung, Kari Lindberg, Ben Sharples and Fion Li.To contact the reporter on this story: Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Karen LeighFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Trump has not built single mile of new border wall since taking office

    Trump has not built single mile of new border wall since taking officeIt was the controversial campaign promise that Donald Trump built his 2016 electoral success on: to build what he called a “big beautiful wall” on the US border with Mexico.But, two and half years after he took office, supporters – who were so enamoured by the idea, they regularly chanted in favour of the structure – may be forgiven for wondering where exactly it is.Now, it has emerged that not a single new stretch of border wall has been built since Mr Trump took office in January 2017.A statement released by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency confirmed the 51 miles of fencing completed since Mr Trump took power has simply replaced barriers that already existed.No original wall or fencing has been created in areas that previously did not have any, it said.That is despite the fact that a total of 205 miles of both new and replacement wall and fencing has already been budgeted for since Mr Trump took office – including via the Treasury Forfeiture Fund which the president redirected through controversial executive action in February.Speaking anonymously to the Washington Examiner, a senior official in the Trump administration said engineers could move faster on so-called replacement projects than entirely new stretches of fence because the approval process for environmental and zoning permits was less extensive.Another official blamed Democrats for obstructing progress. He told the newspaper: “The wall projects are moving along as quickly as practicably possible given the unprecedented obstruction from Democrat lawmakers to protect and prolong open borders.”Yet it seems the lack of progress will not deter Mr Trump from making the wall a central part of his 2020 election campaign.When crowds took up their now familiar refrain of “build that wall" at a recent rally in El Paso, Texas, Mr Trump responded by telling them: “Now, you really mean 'finish that wall,' because we've built a lot of it.”The CBP recently said it will be continuing to build the approximately 205 miles of wall that have been funded so far this year, using Treasury Forfeiture Fund money that Mr Trump seized in February after the partial government shutdown.The Trump administration was sued for taking $6.6bn from the military and other departments to be used for building the border wall after Congress refused to grant the president the money he had requested.

  • 5 family members on vacation killed in 3-vehicle crash that injured 7

    5 family members on vacation killed in 3-vehicle crash that injured 7Five people have been killed and seven have been hospitalized after a three-vehicle crash in South Texas.

  • Oil spikes on Iran tensions, Libya woes

    Oil spikes on Iran tensions, Libya woesLondon (AFP) - Oil prices jumped Monday after Iran seized a British tanker in the Gulf, fuelling fresh concerns about supplies and a possible conflict in the crude-rich Middle East.

  • Why Pakistan Should End Its Alliance with China

    Why Pakistan Should End Its Alliance with ChinaPakistan has made several major grand strategic mistakes since its creation in 1947, including the attack on India in 1971, which led to Pakistan’s dismemberment. However, Pakistan is in the midst of making another grave mistake, and it is one seldom discussed. This is the high cost of its alliance with China. Due to the poverty in its long-term, strategic planning, Islamabad’s conception that the Sino-Pakistani alliance is key to Pakistani security introduces dependence on Beijing and creates the avenue for Beijing’s exploitation and manipulation of it—with the result that Pakistan finds itself less secure and alone in the world. We argue that Pakistan should reverse course. The alliance with China ultimately serves China’s ambitions above Pakistan’s. Islamabad should extricate itself from its alliance with China, and improve its position by aligning with other, democratic states.The rise of China has had profound impact on Pakistan’s strategic calculations. A more powerful and outwardly amicable China causes a natural reaction in Pakistan to align itself more closely with China in order to balance against India, its long-term adversary. Pakistan’s leadership believe that an alliance with China will somehow replace the long-term Pakistani dependence on the United States in mediating its relations with India. They also think that this relationship will help improve Pakistan’s poor economic situation.

  • UPDATE 1-Libyan warplane makes emergency landing on road in southern Tunisia

    UPDATE 1-Libyan warplane makes emergency landing on road in southern TunisiaA Libyan warplane made an emergency landing on a road in the southern Tunisian town of Beni Khadash on Monday and its pilot has been detained, according to Tunisia's state news agency TAP. The Tunisian Ministry of Defence said the pilot informed the authorities that he was forced to make the landing due to damage to his plane. Tunisia's air force prepared to intercept the L-39 warplane but it landed before it could be reached, the ministry said in a statement on its website.

  • 'Outrageous': Convicted criminals serve as Alaskan police amid public safety crisis, investigation finds

    'Outrageous': Convicted criminals serve as Alaskan police amid public safety crisis, investigation findsDozens of police officers with criminal records have worked in Alaska, despite state law that should have disqualified them, an investigation finds.

  • Horse kicks man in groin at popular Maryland beach

    Horse kicks man in groin at popular Maryland beachA tourist was kicked in the crotch by a wild horse on the beach of Assateague Island, located off the coast of Maryland, after the man attempted to pet the animal.

  • British Airways, Lufthansa suspend Cairo flights

    British Airways, Lufthansa suspend Cairo flightsBritish Airways and Lufthansa both said Saturday they were suspending flights to Cairo for unspecified reasons related to safety and security. The British carrier said it was canceling flights to the Egyptian capital for a week. Lufthansa said it was suspending its flights as a precaution, mentioning "safety" but not "security" as its concern.

  • Iran crisis: How a British oil tanker was seized by Iran's balaclava-clad Revolutionary Guards

    Iran crisis: How a British oil tanker was seized by Iran's balaclava-clad Revolutionary Guards“Allahu akbar”, or God is great, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard marine was heard shouting off camera as the group took control of the British-flagged Stena Impero. Scaling down ropes onto its bow, the balaclava-wearing hijackers made a daring - and seemingly well-rehearsed - raid of the oil tanker, as seen in alleged footage released by Fars news agency last night.  The wind was choppy, the skies overcast. With no navy escort, the Stena stood little chance. Minutes later, at 4.19pm on Friday afternoon, the Stena Impero would “go dark” - not something normally done by commercial oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. The first clue as it what happened was its abrupt change of course, which was picked up by marine tracking services. Its destination was a port in Saudi Arabia, but it had taken a sharp turn and was heading into Iranian waters. Minutes earlier it had been boarded by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who had hijacked the vessel using speedboats and a helicopter and turned off its communication systems. Approximately 40 minutes later, a British-owned, Liberian-flagged ship Mesdar also went dark. The trackers picked it up following the same route as the Stena Impero. The crew onboard was questioned for an hour before the vessel was released, unlike the Stena which was escorted on to the coast of Bander Abbas in southern Iran. British authorities were alerted back home and quickly called a meeting of Cobra to figure out their response. This image grab taken from a video provided by Iran's Revolutionary Guard official website via SEPAH News The capture of one of their ships was something they had been dreading,though not something that had come entirely as a surprise. Tensions have been heating up in recent weeks in the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil chokepoint. At the start of the month, Gibraltar authorities - aided by a detachment of Royal Marines - detained a tanker which was suspected to be carrying Iranian oil destined for a refinery in Syria in breach of European Union sanctions. "If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, it is the authorities' duty to seize a British oil tanker," an Iranian official tweeted on July 5, the following next day, in response to the news. Revolutionary Guards issued similarly direct threats. Fearing they would make good on them, the Navy sent Type-23 frigate HMS Montrose to shadow its tankers through the strait and dispatched another, HMS Duncan, for support. The Montrose sped to help Stena from Omani waters on Friday, but was an hour too late. Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary, had tried to defuse the situation last weekend by suggesting the UK was willing to release the supertanker, but a court in Gibraltar on Friday ruled to hold it for another 30 days. The decision would have further angered Tehran, which has denied the oil was bound for Syria and accused the UK of acting in bad faith. Rising tensions between UK, US and Iran The legality of Britain’s impounding of the Grace 1 has been questioned, however sanctions lawyers say that as it had been travelling through British overseas territory it was subject to EU laws. Revolutionary Guards yesterday tried to justify their seizure of the Stena with alternating claims, including that it had “violated maritime law”, had been driving on the wrong side of the water, risking an accident, and had in fact collided with an Iranian fishing boat whose distress call it ignored. No such distress call was picked up by any other ship in the area. Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, spokesman of Iran's Guardian Council, which rarely comments on state matters, said they did not need an excuse to take the Stena and spelled out that it had been a tit-for-tat response. "The rule of reciprocal action is well-known in international law and Iran's moves to confront the illegitimate economic war and seizure of oil tankers is an instance of this rule and is based on international rights," he said. There is now something of a Mexican stand-off in the Gulf, with both countries seemingly unwilling to hand over the other’s ship. “Iran has responded in a way that presents the UK with a problem,” Michael Stephens, Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in London, told the Sunday Telegraph. “The ball is now in our court. “The UK could choose to detain more Iranian ships, or look to gather a group of states around the table, such as France, Germany and the US, to see how, and in what ways, more pressure can be placed on Iran both economically and strategically,” he said. However, he believed no major decision would be agreed on until Prime Minister Theresa May’s handover to Boris Johnson later this week. The Foreign Office has stressed it is keeping separate the issues of Iranian threats in Gulf waters, EU sanctions policy on Syria, and the nuclear deal. But inevitably they have all become intertwined. The latest Iranian aggressions can be tracked back to last year, when President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord and reimposed sanctions. The Islamic Republic has legitimate frustrations over the American withdrawal to the deal - which it had been adhering to - that was supposed to swap limiting its nuclear programme for an end to sanctions crippling its economy. At the same time as ratcheting up tensions, however, Mr Trump has made it clear he wants to avoid all-out war with Iran, as has the UK. Iran tensions | Read more Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, on Thursday offered an olive branch to Mr Trump - a deal which would see Tehran accept enhanced inspections of its nuclear programme in return for the permanent lifting of sanctions. Mr Trump has sent Senator Rand Paul, rather than John Bolton, his hawkish anti-Iran national security adviser, for meetings with Mr Zarif, who is in New York on United Nations business. Neither has publicly responded to Mr Zarif's proposal. However, hardliners and the Revolutionary Guard back home want out of the deal, saying the US’s pullout only proved what they always knew - that it cannot be trusted.   "I suspect Stena is a bargaining chip,” Charles Hollis, a former British diplomat in Iran, told the Telegraph. “It came only days after Zarif showed some willingness to open negotiations, which may have led some hardliners to want to disrupt things a little.  “I still don’t think any side is looking for a conflict,” said Mr Hollis, who is now managing director of risk management company Falanx Assynt. “The fact that there are some people on both sides were seeking a deescalation means there may be a deal to be found.” He warned however, that Friday’s incident showed the margins for manoeuvre are “shrinking” and “the risks of unintended consequences growing.”

  • 'Let me guess, you want to nuke them all': Trump constantly baiting John Bolton in front of officials, report says

    'Let me guess, you want to nuke them all': Trump constantly baiting John Bolton in front of officials, report saysDonald Trump likes to goad his national security adviser John Bolton about his lust for military action, according to officials who have spoken out on their relationship.As Iran claims to have captured spies working for the US and accuses Mr Bolton of trying to start “war of the century”, new details have emerged of the president’s fondness for baiting his adviser in the company of top officials – including foreign dignitaries.During a White House Situation Room meeting last year, Mr Trump reportedly said to his hawkish national security chief: “Ok, John, let me guess, you want to nuke them all?”According to the report by the Axios website, Mr Trump turned to Mr Bolton in an Oval Office meeting with Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar and said: “John, is Ireland one of those countries you want to invade?”Quoting unnamed senior administration officials, the account claimed the president recently joked that “John has never seen a war he doesn’t like”, repeating sentiments made in public. “If it was up to him he’d take on the whole world at one time, okay?” Mr Trump recently told NBC’s Meet the Press.Yet the president is said to get “quite touchy” if critics of Mr Bolton complain the national security adviser could pull the US into unnecessary conflict against Mr Trump’s will. “He doesn't want anyone to believe he’s anybody’s pawn.”Sources said Mr Trump likes to keep Mr Bolton on his team because his aggressive reputation gives the president the opportunity to play “good cop” to his adviser’s “bad cop” routine.“He thinks that Bolton’s bellicosity and eagerness to kill people is a bargaining chip when he’s sitting down with foreign leaders,” said one official. “Bolton can be the bad cop and Trump can be the good cop. Trump believes this to his core.”On Sunday Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif tweeted about the White House hawk as Tehran’s dispute with both the UK and US threatened to escalate over the seizure of a British oil tanker.“Make no mistake. Having failed to lure Donald Trump into a War of the Century, and fearing collapse of his B Team, John Bolton is turning his venom against the UK in hopes of dragging it into a quagmire.”> Make no mistake: > > Having failed to lure @realDonaldTrump into War of the Century, and fearing collapse of his B_Team, @AmbJohnBolton is turning his venom against the UK in hopes of dragging it into a quagmire. > > Only prudence and foresight can thwart such ploys.> > — Javad Zarif (@JZarif) > > July 21, 2019On Monday Iran announced it had arrested 17 people allegedly recruited by the CIA to spy on the country’s nuclear and military sites.Intelligence chiefs said some of the group have already been sentenced to death following arrests made over the past few months. Iranian media published pictures purportedly showing intelligence “officers” working for the US.“The identified spies were employed in sensitive and vital private sector centres in the economic, nuclear, infrastructure, military and cyber areas ... where they collected classified information,” read a ministry of intelligence statement.The US has yet to respond to the claims.

  • Amid Dangerous Heat Wave, Hundreds of Thousands of Michigan Homes Are Without Power After Severe Storms

    Amid Dangerous Heat Wave, Hundreds of Thousands of Michigan Homes Are Without Power After Severe StormsDTE Energy says it hopes to restore power to 80% of affected customers by Monday

  • More Basra water crises unless Iraq govt fixes 'failures': HRW

    More Basra water crises unless Iraq govt fixes 'failures': HRWNearly 120,000 people were hospitalised last summer after drinking polluted water, in a mass health crisis that sparked deadly protests against the dire state of public services. In a damning report, HRW found the generally poor state of water quality was likely compounded by algae that rapidly spread last year in the Shatt al-Arab waterway that runs through Basra and provides it with its primary water source.

  • Why the New York Times Is In Love with Communism

    Why the New York Times Is In Love with CommunismEditor’s note: In its coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, The New York Times published a series of pieces critical of the U.S. space program, including an article titled “How the Soviets Won the Space Race for Equality.” Promoting that article, the Times tweeted, “America may have put the first man on the moon, but the Soviet Union sent the first woman, the first Asian man, and the first black man into orbit—all years before the U.S. would follow suit.”Unfortunately, this is far from the only time the Times has been a cheerleader for communism. The following article was first published in 2017.It seems communism is back in vogue at The New York Times.The liberal Left continue to push their radical agenda against American values. The good news is there is a solution. Find out more >>A sad but common issue in the modern West is that progressives have created a fanciful and distorted picture of socialism to make it seem like an intriguing alternative to American-style capitalism.Ikea socialism—with Sweden as the model—is an utterly distorted, but at least understandable, example for leftists to trot out as a demonstration of success.

  • Murders in Mexico surge to record in first half of 2019

    Murders in Mexico surge to record in first half of 2019Murders in Mexico jumped in the first half of the year to the highest on record, according to official data, underscoring the vast challenges President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador faces in reducing violence in the cartel-ravaged country. There were 14,603 murders from January to June, versus the 13,985 homicides registered in the first six months of 2018, according to data posted over the weekend on the website of Mexico's national public security office. Mexico is on course to surpass the 29,111 murders of last year, an all-time high.

  • Father of 6 dies after wave breaks his neck in 'freak accident' on North Carolina coast

    Father of 6 dies after wave breaks his neck in 'freak accident' on North Carolina coastA Raleigh man was killed Friday after he was hit by a strong wave at Oak Island, his family said.

  • Thousands without power after explosion, fire at Madison Gas and Electric

    Thousands without power after explosion, fire at Madison Gas and ElectricTwo fires are burning at downtown Madison properties of the Madison Gas and Electric company.

  • Funeral service held for 86 Muslims killed by Serbs

    Funeral service held for 86 Muslims killed by SerbsPRIJEDOR, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Several thousand people attended a funeral service in Bosnia on Saturday for 86 Muslims who were slain by Serbs in one of the worst atrocities of the country's 1992-95 war. Relatives of the victims, religious leaders and others gathered at a soccer stadium near the eastern town of Prijedor, standing solemnly behind lines of coffins draped with green cloths. The Serbs later threw bombs onto the bodies, which made identifying the victims difficult.

  • Millions of Barrels of Iranian Oil Are Piled Up in China’s Ports

    Millions of Barrels of Iranian Oil Are Piled Up in China’s Ports(Bloomberg) -- Tankers are offloading millions of barrels of Iranian oil into storage tanks at Chinese ports, creating a hoard of crude sitting on the doorstep of the world’s biggest buyer.Two and a half months after the White House banned the purchase of Iran’s oil, the nation’s crude is continuing to be sent to China where it’s being put into what’s known as “bonded storage,” say people familiar with operations at several Chinese ports. This supply doesn’t cross local customs or show up in the nation’s import data, and isn’t necessarily in breach of sanctions. While it remains out of circulation for now, its presence is looming over the market.The store of oil has the potential to push down global prices if Chinese refiners decide to draw on it, even as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies curb production as growth slows in major economies. It also allows Iran to keep pumping and move oil nearer to potential buyers.“Iranian oil shipments have been flowing into Chinese bonded storage for some months now, and continue to do so despite increased scrutiny,” said Rachel Yew, an analyst at industry consultant FGE in Singapore. “We can see why the producer would want to do so, as a build-up of supplies near key buyers is clearly beneficial for a seller, especially if sanctions are eased at some point.”See also: Iranian Oil Tanker Daniel Enters Chinese Port: Ship TrackingThere could be more of the Persian Gulf state’s oil headed for China’s bonded storage tanks, Bloomberg tanker-tracking data show. At least ten very large crude carriers and two smaller vessels owned by the state-run National Iranian Oil Co. and its shipping arm are currently sailing toward the Asian nation or idling off its coast. They have a combined carrying capacity of over 20 million barrels.The bulk of Iranian oil in China’s bonded tanks is still owned by Tehran and therefore not in breach of sanctions, according to the people. The oil hasn’t crossed Chinese customs so it’s theoretically in transit.Some of the crude, though, is owned by Chinese entities that may have received it as part of oil-for-investment schemes. For example, one of the Asian nation’s companies could have helped fund a production project in Iran under an agreement to be repaid in kind. Whether this sort of transaction is in breach of sanctions isn’t clear, and so the firms are keeping it in bonded storage to avoid the official scrutiny it would if it’s registered with customs, according to the people.Nobody replied to a faxed inquiry to China’s General Administration of Customs.Lack of ClarityThe build-up of Iranian oil in Chinese bonded storage has yet to be clearly addressed by Washington. The White House ended waivers allowing some countries to keep importing Iranian oil on May 2.There are currently no exemptions issued to any country for the import of Iranian oil, and any nation seen importing cargoes from the Persian Gulf producer will be in breach of sanctions, according to a senior Trump administration official, who asked not to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter.“The U.S. will now need to define how it quantifies the infringement of sanctions,” said Michal Meidan, director of the China Energy Programme at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. There’s a lack of clarity on whether it would look at “financial transactions or the loading and discharge of cargoes by company or entity,” she said.See also: China Buying Iran LPG Despite Sanctions, Ship-Tracking ShowsChina received about 12 million tons of Iranian crude from January through May, according to ship-tracking data, versus about 10 million that cleared customs over the period. The discrepancy could be due to the flow of oil into bonded storage. China will release June trade data that will include a country-by-country breakdown of oil imports in the coming days.One of the Iranian tankers that appears to have loaded oil after the U.S. waivers ended is VLCC Horse. It discharged at Tianjin in early-July after sailing from the Middle East, where shipping data showed it signaling its destination as Iran’s Kharg Island on May 4.Several other Iran-owned tankers offloaded in China or were heading there, according to ship tracking data. VLCC Stream discharged at Tianjin on June 19, while Amber, Salina and C. Infinity offloaded crude at the ports of Huangdao, Jinzhou and Ningbo. Snow, Sevin and Maria III were last seen sailing in the direction of China.Putting crude into bonded tanks in China also means Iran can avoid having to tie up part of its tanker fleet by storing the oil at sea for months at a time. The Islamic Republic used floating storage in 2012 to 2016 and again in 2018 as buyers shunned its crude due to U.S.-imposed trade restrictions.Should the Iranian crude leave bonded storage and end up in the market, it could pressure oil prices, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. West Texas Intermediate plunged more than 20% from late April to mid-June as the U.S.-China trade war intensified. It’s since recovered some of those losses, partly as a result of the rising tension between Washington and Tehran, and is trading near $57 a barrel.“A further escalation in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods could jointly drive global economic growth a lot lower and encourage Iran-China cooperation,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a June note. “If Chinese refiners start to purchase Iran oil in large volumes on a sustained basis as U.S. tariffs rise again, WTI could drop to $40 a barrel.”(Updates with mention of June trade data in 12th paragraph.)\--With assistance from Nick Wadhams.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Serene Cheong in Singapore at scheong20@bloomberg.net;Sarah Chen in Beijing at schen514@bloomberg.net;Alfred Cang in Singapore at acang@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Serene Cheong at scheong20@bloomberg.net, Andrew JanesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • New German defence chief pledges to speed up race to Nato 2pc spending target

    New German defence chief pledges to speed up race to Nato 2pc spending targetGermany’s new defence minister has picked an early fight inside the country’s troubled coalition, pledging to beef up military spending against the will of junior partners the Social Democrats. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer will make it a priority to allocate a budget equivalent to 2 percent of the German economy to the Bundeswehr, the 56-year-old told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper in an interview published on Sunday. The woman known as “mini-Merkel” due to her loyalty to the Chancellor, took over as leader of the Christian Democrats from Angela Merkel at the end of 2018 and is set to take a run at the Chancellery in 2021 at the latest. “We made a clear commitment to NATO’s two percent goal. I know that we can’t get there from one day to the next, but I’m just as clear on the fact that we must get there in the end,” she said. Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, who took over as defence minister on Wednesday, is likely to ignite yet another fire under Berlin’s tinder-dry coalition with her first concrete pledge in the role. After she struggled for popularity and recognition early on though, Ms Merkel parachuted her into the defence ministry after it was vacated by new European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen last week. Nato defence expenditure and major annual exercises involving US troops The defence ministry is a notoriously tricky portfolio in Germany. Chronic under-spending on equipment has left the Bundeswehr overstretched, while the army has been dogged recently by allegations it has done too little to tackle extremism in its ranks. Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer appears to have come to the conclusion that a bigger budget is the only way to avoid embarrassing headlines about malfunctioning helicopters while also appeasing the US over defence targets. Germany committed itself to spending 2 percent of GDP on defence at a Nato conference in 2014. But its actual spending stills lags back at 1.3 percent with the Social Democrats reluctant to support a significant increase. Berlin’s foot dragging has been a source of fury for Donald Trump, the US president, who has repeatedly lambasted his NATO ally on Twitter. The Social Democrat-run treasury has set out the defence budget up until 2023 and plans to lower spending by a billion euros to €44 billion at the end of that timeline. Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer said she would use her influence “as party leader and defence minister” to fight for more spending at an autumn debate in the Bundestag on the budget.

  • Meet the woman who ties Jeffrey Epstein to Trump and the Clintons

    Meet the woman who ties Jeffrey Epstein to Trump and the ClintonsHeiress Ghislaine Maxwell paved the way to presidents.

  • Over 20,000 rally in Moscow as election anger boils over

    Over 20,000 rally in Moscow as election anger boils overMore than 22,000 people packed a Moscow square Saturday to demand free and fair local polls, incensed by the authorities' refusal to put popular opposition candidates on the ballot. Staging their largest protest in years, opposition leaders such as President Vladimir Putin's top opponent Alexei Navalny and ordinary Muscovites rallied after authorities refused to register independent candidates seeking to contest the September vote for the capital's parliament. "This is my city!" the crowd chanted during the two-hour-long sanctioned rally.

  • B-1Bs Around the World Nonstop at Mach 0.92: The Legendary 1995 Operation Coronet Bat

    B-1Bs Around the World Nonstop at Mach 0.92: The Legendary 1995 Operation Coronet BatOver the course of the 36-hour mission, the B-1s took on some 2.5 million pounds (1.13 million kilograms) of fuel, hit all of their designated targets (within 15ft/4.6m at Pachino) and set three world records in the C1.Q (330,000-440,000lb or 149,685-199,581kg) Class.Curtis LeMay first flew KC-135A 55-3126 to Buenos Aires in November 1957 to demonstrate the operational capability of American airpower in the face of Soviet ICBM potential. For most observers, however, Operation Long Legs was a publicity flight. Some 15 years later, Americans had become jaded by multiple moon-walking missions, the quagmire in Vietnam, and the self-destruction of a president. There was little public interest in notable aviation accomplishments. Military fliers, however, understood the practical applications of record-setting flights and pursued them without expectation of public accolades. In March 1980, for example, two B-52Hs from K I Sawyer AFB, MI, flew around the world non-stop, loitering over the Gulf of Arabia to monitor Soviet naval developments there. Hardly a grandstanding stunt, the flight showed that even without basing rights in a newly anti-American Iran, the United States could still keep tabs on the Soviet presence in the oil rich Straits of Hormuz. Strategic airpower trumped local weakness.

  • Zimbabwe increases fuel prices again, but pumps remain dry

    Zimbabwe increases fuel prices again, but pumps remain dryZimbabwe hiked fuel prices on Monday for the second time in a week but most pumps remained dry, with no end in sight to shortages that are helping drive inflation rapidly higher and which have led to protests about the cost of living. The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority said a litre of petrol would now cost 7.45 Zimbabwe dollars, up 22% from 6.10 dollars. With inflation soaring, economic analysts say increases in fuel prices are adding to price pressures, especially as rolling electricity cuts are forcing businesses to use expensive diesel generators to power their operations.


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