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Cambridge Analytica files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation after debilitating scandal

Cambridge Analytica, the political intelligence firm whose tactics came under fire and sparked a whirlwind of scrutiny over Facebook data, has submitted papers in the U.S. to begin liquidating. The company filed late Thursday to enter Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It was a widely expected decision after the firm had already started similar proceedings in United Kingdom courts. The move comes less than three weeks after Cambridge Analytica announced it would shut down, citing the debilitating controversy over its handling of some 87 million Facebook users' data and its aggressive political maneuvers, including past ties to the Trump campaign. The company is also said to be under investigation by U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller as he probes Russian meddling in the presidential election. That will continue. Cambridge Analytica said earlier this month that it had "unwavering confidence that its employees have acted ethically and lawfully," but "the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers." The company had 107 full-time employees and offices in London, New York and Washington as of earlier this month. In a court filing, Cambridge Analytica listed assets of about $100,000 to $500,000 and debts of about $1 million to $10 million. The company said it had no more than 49 creditors. More: Cambridge Analytica shutting down in wake of Facebook data crisis

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10 dead in Texas school shooting, suspect identified as Dimitrios Pagourtzis: What we know

Witnesses described the shooter firing inside a classroom about 7:40 a.m., sending students running out of the building, hopping over fences and taking shelter in a nearby car wash. Tyler Turner, a student, told KTRK-TV in Houston, his friends saw the gunman with a shotgun. The gunman, Turner said, pulled the fire alarm, bringing students out of their classrooms. One student, who identified herself as Paige to KRTK-TV, said she hid backstage in an auditorium as the first shots rang out. She called her mom on her cellphone, who told her to remain calm, breathe and follow the teachers' directions. "I was very, very scared," she said.

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Trump Russia investigation: What new Trump Tower documents tell us

A Senate panel has released documents on a June 2016 meeting between top Trump campaign aides and a Russian delegation promising political "dirt". The 2,500 pages of transcripts include interviews with Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, who met a Russian lawyer ahead of the 2016 election. The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, denies working on behalf of Moscow. The meeting is a part of an ongoing probe by the US Department of Justice into alleged Russia meddling in 2016. What are the key things the documents tell us? Donald Trump Jr confirmed he said 'I love it' After the British music publicist who arranged the meeting, Rob Goldstone, suggested he had access to "official documents and information that would incriminate" Democrat Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump Jr replied in an email saying "if it's what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer". In his Senate interview, Mr Trump Jr called his use of the phrase a "colloquial term" to say "great, thank you" for "potential information about an opponent" - namely, Hillary Clinton. The BBC's Anthony Zurcher: Mr Trump Jr's "If it's what you say, I love it" email was one of the most explosive revelations when news of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was first made public. He says he doesn't recall how he felt about being told that Russia and its government wanted to support his father's campaign. He also doesn't go into detail about why he would love it "especially later in the summer". Details of the emails and documents hacked from the Democratic National Committee server would first start becoming public, through Wikileaks and similar channels, later in the summer. All you need to know about Trump Russia story Russia-Trump: Who's who in the drama to end all dramas? Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES Image caption Donald Trump Jr's June meeting with the Russians has been a key event in the investigation of alleged Russian collusion The blocked number question Donald Trump Jr received a call from a blocked number on 6 June, three days before the meeting. It lasted four minutes and came sandwiched between two phone calls Mr Trump Jr had with Emin Agalarov, an Azerbaijani-Russian businessman and music star who was pushing for the Trump Tower meeting. When asked whether the call might have been the president, who is known to use a blocked number, Mr Trump Jr replied: "I don't know." AZ analysis: Mr Trump Jr denies any communications with his father about the meeting before or after it took place. But the day after the blocked call - and two days before the Trump Tower meeting - the elder Mr Trump announces that he would be making a "major speech" the following week "discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons". That speech never happened. Trump Jr said his father may have influenced misleading statement Mr Trump Jr has repeatedly said he did not know of any direct involvement by his father in drafting an explanation for the meeting that subsequently turned out to be untrue. But he did say "he may have commented through Hope Hicks", his former spokeswoman. AZ analysis: Trump Jr's memory once again fails him, this time when it comes to exactly how involved his father was in helping craft the original - misleading - explanation that the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was to discuss adoption policy. That, certainly, was one of the topics - but as Trump Jr's email chain revealed, the presidential son was initially more interested in learning what dirt the Russians might have on Mrs Clinton. Trump Jr doesn't completely close the door on Mr Trump's involvement in the White House damage control operation, however, suggesting that he may have offered edits on the original statement through his long-time communications aide, Hope Hicks. The reason this is relevant is that it could be evidence that the president was engaging in a cover-up to hide the nature of the Trump Tower meeting. Mr Mueller is reportedly reviewing the actions taken as part of his investigation into whether anyone in the White House - including the president himself - took actions that could constitute obstruction of justice. Misleading the public or the media itself is not illegal, but attempts at deception could be evidence of a larger effort to conceal potentially incriminating actions. Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES Image caption The June meeting at Trump Tower involved Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort Paul Manafort's notes are now available Mr Manafort, who was the campaign manager at the time of the meeting, took brief notes during the meeting, which included words like "Offshore - Cyprus", "133m shares" and "Illici". AZ analysis: What is "Illici"? Is it a typo? A super-secret society? Who or what are the "active sponsors of RNC" - and does RNC stand for the Republican National Committee? The island nation of Cyprus pops up twice in the list, which is where American-born financier Bill Browder - also named on the list - conducted much of his Russia-related business. Browder, who renounced his US citizenship and currently lives in the UK, was a leading advocate for the Magnitsky Act through which the US Congress imposed sanctions on Russia for human rights violations. Sergie Magnitsky was a Browder accountant who died in a Russian prison under questionable circumstances. Manafort's list is cryptic, and he declined an opportunity to speak to Senate investigators. The former Trump campaign chair is currently under indictment by Robert Mueller on charges of money laundering and unregistered foreign lobbying conducted before he joined the Trump team. Goldstone was pressured to set up the meeting Mr Goldstone said his client Emin Agalarov, Azerbaijan's biggest pop star and son of Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov, pressured him into setting up the meeting with Mr Trump Jr - even after Mr Goldstone said it was "a really bad idea". "He said, 'it doesn't matter. You just need to get the meeting.'" AZ analysis: One of the things that comes through in the committee documents is exactly how eager the Agalarovs were to set up this meeting with the Trump campaign's senior staff. Emin Agalarov exchanged voicemails with Mr Trump Jr. They may have actually spoken (Mr Trump Jr says his memory is fuzzy.) The Agalarovs also pushed Mr Goldstone to make the meeting happen. Did that cause Mr Goldstone to exaggerate what the Russians had to offer Mr Trump Jr as far as information on Hillary Clinton went? Perhaps. On the other hand, it seems like the Agalarovs - and Mr Goldstone - went through an awful lot of work to set up a meeting where Natalya Veslinstkaya and her associates only wanted to talk about adoption policy and sanctions imposed by the Magnitsky Act. Related Topics Donald Trump JrRussiaDonald TrumpUnited StatesRussia-Trump inquiry Share this story About sharing Email Facebook Messenger Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn US & Canada Nassar abuse victims get $500m settlement 16 May 2018 From the section US & Canada Full article Nassar abuse victims get $500m settlement CIA data leak suspect named by media 16 May 2018 From the section US & Canada Full article CIA data leak suspect named by media Canada protects largest coniferous forest 16 May 2018 From the section US & Canada Full article Canada protects largest coniferous forest More Videos from the BBC Playing fantasy football with AI Gaza's deadliest day of violence in years The body collectors of Mosul 'Hollywood comes to Halesworth' How to dress a Royal groom Jockey to ride first race as a woman Recommended by Outbrain Elsewhere on BBC BBC News Second rugby player dies in Sri Lanka BBC News Council will not chase cricket club debt BBC.com #MyDubai - Live the culture of innovation with Joy Recommended by Outbrain Top Stories US 'still hopeful' about N Korea summit North Korea says it may cancel the meeting after a top Trump aide's "reckless" remarks. 52 minutes ago What new Trump Tower documents tell us 1 hour ago Europe to press Zuckerberg over privacy 1 hour ago Features

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The U.S. Embassy in Israel isn't the only reason for violence. Here are the key issues

The formal dedication of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday outraged Palestinians, but it's not the only reason for the deadly, weeks-long demonstrations along Israel's border with Gaza. Protest leaders call for the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the areas they fled or were driven from during the creation of Israel in 1948. The demonstrations, dubbed the Great March of Return, are a response to the control of goods entering Gaza by Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. Scores of Palestinians were killed and hundreds more wounded by the Israeli military in clashes along the boundary fence Monday, the most violent day of the protests. More than 100 have died since the protests began in March. The unrest is likely to continue Tuesday. May 15 is Nakba Day, the Day of Catastrophe, when Palestinians commemorate their ouster. The Israeli military blamed Gaza's ruling Hamas for the violence, saying the Sunni-Islamist political organization encouraged protesters to breach the fence. Great March spokesman Ahmad Abu Artema told Al Jazeera that the effort along the fence is designed to "send a message: The Palestinian people have not, and will not, adapt to 70 years of being refugees, estrangement and difficult conditions." More: Scores killed as violence greets dedication of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem More: U.S. Embassy to open in Jerusalem amid Palestinian outcry How did the Great March begin? The march was sparked by a Facebook post months ago by Artema, who suggested thousands of unarmed Palestinians walk toward the border fence. Artema rejects Hamas’ notion of eliminating Israel but wants to end the separation between Palestinians and Israelis. “I don't believe in liberation," Artema told Israel’s Ynet News, an online newspaper. "I want to live alongside Israelis." What do the Palestinians want? Palestinian leaders demand the "right of return." About 750,000 Palestinians were displaced by the creation of Israel in 1948. About 70% of Gaza's 2 million population are descendants of those refugees, living in an area about the size of Philadelphia, according to the International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza. The committee is an association of groups that oppose the control of goods entering Gaza by Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. Are the protests non-violent? Thousands of men, women and children gathered in tent encampments at a safe distance from the fence. But militants joined the protest movement and urged participants to burn tires close to the fence and hurl stones and gasoline bombs toward Israeli soldiers on the other side. According to Israeli authorities, Hamas detonated two bombs near a border patrol passing along the fence, and demonstrators were shot trying to cut the fence and enter Israel. There have been no Israeli injuries associated with the protests. What does Israel say? Israel says it has the right to defend its borders, protect its citizens and prevent illegal infiltration. “Responsibility for any clashes that may arise will thus lie solely with Hamas and the other Palestinian organizations who have manufactured this entire campaign,” according to a statement by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Trump administration ends special immigration protections for 57,000 Hondurans

The Trump administration on Friday ended a special immigration program for 57,000 Hondurans who have legally lived and worked in the U.S. for two decades, giving them 18 months to leave the country. The announcement is the latest step by the administration to phase out Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which is granted to foreign nationals whose countries are decimated by hurricanes, earthquakes and civil wars. By cutting off TPS for Hondurans, the administration has now ended the program for 98% of the roughly 317,000 immigrants from six countries who had been legally residing in the U.S., some for nearly 30 years. Honduras was first granted TPS in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch devastated the Central American nation. The Department of Homeland Security concluded that conditions in Honduras have improved to the point that the country is ready to absorb the return of tens of thousands of citizens.

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Rotten durian causes Melbourne university evacuation

More than 500 students and teachers were evacuated from a university in Melbourne, Australia, as a result of a smell initially suspected to be gas. But it turned out the "gas" that students smelt at the RMIT's library was a rotting durian that had been left in a cupboard. The durian is a tropical fruit known for its strong, stinky smell. Firefighters said the smell had moved through the building via the air conditioning system. The building has now been reopened, Melbourne's Metropolitan Fire Brigade said in a statement. 'Turpentine and onions' After staff and students at the university reported a smell they thought to be gas in a library building, they were evacuated by the local police force. The fire brigade said the building stores potentially dangerous chemicals, triggering an investigation into the source of the smell. After what the fire brigade described as a "comprehensive search", they discovered that the smell was not a chemical gas but rather that it came from a durian that was going off. Durians are a prized fruit in South East Asia with a sweet and creamy flesh, but their smell can take some getting used to.

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Trump campaign used 'poor judgment' in dealing with the Russians, House Intel report says

WASHINGTON – The House Intelligence Committee released a final report on its Russia investigation Friday that criticized Donald Trump's presidential campaign for "poor judgment and ill-conceived actions" in dealing with the Russians but concluded that there is no evidence it colluded with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. The Republican majority announced its "no collusion" finding last month. It released the actual 243-page report detailing its conclusions Friday. The report cites as "poor judgment" the meeting in June 2016 at the Trump Tower in New York between members of the campaign — including Donald Trump Jr.; Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law; and campaign chairman Paul Manafort — and a Russian attorney "who falsely purported to have damaging information on the Clinton campaign." "The Committee also found the Trump campaign's periodic praise for and communications with WikiLeaks — a hostile foreign organization — to be highly objectionable and inconsistent with U.S. national security interests," the report said. WikiLeaks published emails stolen by Russian hackers from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee before the election in November. The GOP committee members found that "when asked directly, none of the interviewed witnesses provided evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government." The report found "no evidence that President Trump's pre-campaign business dealings formed the basis for collusion during the campaign." The Republican majority criticized Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee for trying to obscure their role in paying for opposition research on Trump. That research resulted in the "Steele dossier," which contained salacious and unsubstantiated allegations that Trump met with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room. Trump tweeted that the "witch hunt" of the Russia investigation "must end now!"

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USA Hockey Arena finally hosts USHL playoff game -- and it's a 3-0 winner

For the first time since the OHL Whalers left town, there was playoff hockey in Plymouth. On Saturday at USA Hockey Arena — formerly Compuware — area fans were treated to Game 1 of the United States Hockey League Clark Cup Playoffs. Team USA, behind a sparkling performance from goalie Cameron Rowe and two shorthanded goals, defeated the Chicago Steel 3-0. Game 2 of the best-of-5 series was slated for 3 p.m. Sunday (instead of the original time of 2 p.m.). Rowe (34 saves) was on his game all night, snagging hard point shots with ease and playing positionally strong. And his team gained important momentum thanks to his clutch stops. With about 14:30 left in the game and Team USA up 1-0, Rowe kicked out a dangerous shot taken from the right circle. Moments later down in the Chicago end, defenseman Drew Helleson surprised Steel goaltender Oskar Autio with a wrister from the right half-wall to put the home team up 2-0 with 14:13 left. Forward John Beecher then padded the lead with a shorthanded tally at 10:30, Team USA’s second of the game. Beecher cut in from the left wing and flipped a low shot past Autio (24 saves). Opening the scoring at 5:53 of the middle stanza was forward Owen Lindmark, also during the penalty kill. Lindmark took an outlet pass from Helleson and streaked up-the-gut before sniping a shot over Autio’s trapper. There were several other similar breakouts from Team USA, with players picking off Chicago passes like low-hanging fruit and launching dangerous rushes as a result. The National Team Development Program Under-17 team is playing all USHL postseason games while the U-18 team is in Russia at the 2018 IIHF Under-18 World Championships.

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How to get coaches to view your highlights video

USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Kyle Winters was a standout high school pitcher who tossed seven scoreless innings in a major tournament during his senior year. That performance against some heavy-hitting future MLB draft picks helped Kyle earn a full-ride scholarship to the University of New Mexico. However, Kyle opted to play professional baseball and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the fifth round and played seven seasons for various minor league teams. Kyle is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.

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Chargers and USA Football Host Youth Football Summit

On Saturday, during the last weekend before the Chargers kicked off phase one of the offseason program, Hoag Performance Center was buzzing as the team hosted a leadership summit alongside USA Football for youth football commissioners, presidents and coaches. The purpose of the summit was to assemble leaders from Southern California youth football leagues and affiliate organizations to share information, discuss relevant issues and develop strategies to ensure the future of the game. USA Football Regional Manager Josh Huber presented programs, products, resources and tools designed to assist youth coaches and leaders, while Chargers representatives such as Special Teams Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach George Stewart, former tight end/fullback Kris Wilson and sports nutritionist Karen Freeman spoke and addressed key topics relating to youth football. Other features of the summit included a presentation from Huntington Beach Union High School District’s Athletic Director Jim Perry in his role with Positive Coaching Alliance – Los Angeles, equipment fitting instructions from Brad Ross of Riddell, and a Q&A session with Dr. Eugene Yim from Hoag Medical Group. Legendary Mission Viejo HS Coach Bob Johnson and CIF-Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod also shared their knowledge and experience in the game of football with attendees.

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Mission accomplished? Easier said than done, Mr President

Donald Trump finally had something positive to say on Twitter. After nearly a week of dithering, the president made a decision and announced it, to a fair amount of surprise, on national television on Friday night: The United States, in concert with the United Kingdom and France, would launch targeted strikes on Syrian chemical weapons facilities, in response to a heartbreaking attack a week earlier in a Damascus suburb that killed dozens of civilians, including children. “A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!” Trump tweeted on Saturday morning. Those last two words gave many pause. Is Trump unable to use his favourite medium without being a little controversial, without needling the Establishment just a bit? Or is the president unaware of one of the worst presidential PR moments of recent history? In May 2003, George W. Bush famously—infamously might be the better word—gave a televised speech from an aircraft carrier that had just returned from the Persian Gulf. Saddam Hussein had been pushed out of power and the president declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq underneath a banner reading “Mission Accomplished.” The image came back to haunt him months later, when an anti-American insurgency started in the country that tied up U.S. forces for years. After Trump tweeted, former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer took the opportunity to try to set the record straight about that moment. “It was the crew’s message from start to finish,” he tweeted. “After our advance crew boarded the ship in Hawaii days prior to Bush’s landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln, the Navy crew told us they were returning from the longest deployment of any ship in Naval history. They were proud of what they had done.” And they asked the White House for permission to display a “Mission Accomplished” banner, which remained on the carrier until it returned to its home port in Washington state. “In his remarks, Bush stated the danger was not over and that difficult missions lay ahead, particularly in the Sunni triangle. The nuance of his remarks, however, couldn’t compete with the message of this banner.” Fleischer noted that the press didn’t criticize the pennant at the time. “By the Fall, the shot of Bush with the banner became a symbol of what went wrong.”

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Oprah, Rupert Murdoch, Harvard: Saudi Prince’s U.S. Tour

LOS ANGELES — He talked about the movie business with Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Dwayne Johnson over dinner at Rupert Murdoch’s house. He discussed space travel with Richard Branson in the California desert, and philanthropy with Bill Gates and technology with Jeff Bezos in Seattle. He visited Harvard and MIT, brokered arms deals with President Trump and sat down with Wall Street financiers. He even met with Oprah Winfrey. For nearly three weeks, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne, has crisscrossed the United States, on an ambitious, choreographed journey through modern American life, while under heavy guard because of his many enemies in the Middle East. The prince, who arrived in America with a reputation as an aggressive consolidator of power back home and a zealous interventionist abroad, is seeking to change the perception of Saudi Arabia from an opaque and conservative kingdom, where mosques promote extremist ideology and women are relegated to second-class status, to a modernist desert oasis. Prince Mohammed also has sought to attract American investors for industries going well beyond Saudi Arabia’s Aramco petroleum giant. He is pressing what he has described as a transformative economic agenda, to wean the kingdom from reliance on oil and diversify its economy through public infrastructure investments and development of an entertainment industry — including theme parks along the lines of Six Flags and Disney. “I think it’s brilliant and I will tell you why,” said Adam Aron, the chief executive of the movie theater chain AMC, who has met with the prince. “The crown prince is aware that Saudi Arabia has had a difficult image in the United States, because it’s been such a conservative country for so many decades. He wants to transform Saudi society in ways that will be very appealing to Americans.” Continue reading the main story Advertisement Continue reading the main story Mr. Aron spoke this week in a reception area of the Four Seasons in Los Angeles, as attendees of a Saudi conference on the entertainment business ate from a spread of Middle Eastern dishes — lamb kebabs, hummus, tabbouleh. They were entertained by an oud player. Officials spoke about plans to open up the country to concerts, jazz festivals and movies, all an attempt, in the words of one Saudi official, to “drive happiness” in the kingdom, where 70 percent of the population is under 30, and many are glued to their smartphones. Photo Prince Mohammed ordering coffee with Michael R. Bloomberg, a former New York mayor, at a coffee shop in New York. Credit Bandar Al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Mr. Aron has been a beneficiary of the crown prince’s economic plan, called Vision 2030. On Wednesday, Mr. Aron and the Saudis announced a deal to open the first movie theater in Saudi Arabia in decades. “Black Panther,” the Marvel blockbuster, will be the first film shown at the April 18 gala opening in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Mr. Aron said men and women would be able to attend films together, a revolutionary step in Saudi Arabia, where public space has long been strictly segregated by gender. He said Hollywood films would be censored in the same way they were in other places across the Middle East: sex out, violence in. The trip, in its scale and the range of American luminaries on the itinerary, is an undertaking of extravagant ambition, say analysts. One historical parallel occurred in 1943, when the king of Saudi Arabia sent Prince Faisal, his son, to the United States to meet with President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II and tour the United States, according to Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. official who is now a Saudi expert at the Brookings Institution. “Even then, the scope wasn’t what you see today,” said Mohammed K. Alyahya, a Saudi expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington. “This is really across the board. It signals that there is deep cooperation beyond just security for oil.” “For the longest time the Saudis wouldn’t explain themselves, and explain why things were happening in their country,” Mr. Alyahya added. “That is changing dramatically.”

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Oprah, Rupert Murdoch, Harvard: Saudi Prince’s U.S. Tour

LOS ANGELES — He talked about the movie business with Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Dwayne Johnson over dinner at Rupert Murdoch’s house. He discussed space travel with Richard Branson in the California desert, and philanthropy with Bill Gates and technology with Jeff Bezos in Seattle. He visited Harvard and MIT, brokered arms deals with President Trump and sat down with Wall Street financiers. He even met with Oprah Winfrey. For nearly three weeks, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne, has crisscrossed the United States, on an ambitious, choreographed journey through modern American life, while under heavy guard because of his many enemies in the Middle East. The prince, who arrived in America with a reputation as an aggressive consolidator of power back home and a zealous interventionist abroad, is seeking to change the perception of Saudi Arabia from an opaque and conservative kingdom, where mosques promote extremist ideology and women are relegated to second-class status, to a modernist desert oasis. Prince Mohammed also has sought to attract American investors for industries going well beyond Saudi Arabia’s Aramco petroleum giant. He is pressing what he has described as a transformative economic agenda, to wean the kingdom from reliance on oil and diversify its economy through public infrastructure investments and development of an entertainment industry — including theme parks along the lines of Six Flags and Disney. “I think it’s brilliant and I will tell you why,” said Adam Aron, the chief executive of the movie theater chain AMC, who has met with the prince. “The crown prince is aware that Saudi Arabia has had a difficult image in the United States, because it’s been such a conservative country for so many decades. He wants to transform Saudi society in ways that will be very appealing to Americans.” Continue reading the main story Advertisement Continue reading the main story Mr. Aron spoke this week in a reception area of the Four Seasons in Los Angeles, as attendees of a Saudi conference on the entertainment business ate from a spread of Middle Eastern dishes — lamb kebabs, hummus, tabbouleh. They were entertained by an oud player. Officials spoke about plans to open up the country to concerts, jazz festivals and movies, all an attempt, in the words of one Saudi official, to “drive happiness” in the kingdom, where 70 percent of the population is under 30, and many are glued to their smartphones. Photo Prince Mohammed ordering coffee with Michael R. Bloomberg, a former New York mayor, at a coffee shop in New York. Credit Bandar Al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Mr. Aron has been a beneficiary of the crown prince’s economic plan, called Vision 2030. On Wednesday, Mr. Aron and the Saudis announced a deal to open the first movie theater in Saudi Arabia in decades. “Black Panther,” the Marvel blockbuster, will be the first film shown at the April 18 gala opening in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Mr. Aron said men and women would be able to attend films together, a revolutionary step in Saudi Arabia, where public space has long been strictly segregated by gender. He said Hollywood films would be censored in the same way they were in other places across the Middle East: sex out, violence in. The trip, in its scale and the range of American luminaries on the itinerary, is an undertaking of extravagant ambition, say analysts. One historical parallel occurred in 1943, when the king of Saudi Arabia sent Prince Faisal, his son, to the United States to meet with President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II and tour the United States, according to Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. official who is now a Saudi expert at the Brookings Institution. “Even then, the scope wasn’t what you see today,” said Mohammed K. Alyahya, a Saudi expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington. “This is really across the board. It signals that there is deep cooperation beyond just security for oil.” “For the longest time the Saudis wouldn’t explain themselves, and explain why things were happening in their country,” Mr. Alyahya added. “That is changing dramatically.”

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'Grab Him by the Mid-terms': Women's marches push power of the vote

Hundreds of thousands of marchers flooded streets across the country Saturday to criticize President Trump, vowing to protect women’s rights, the environment and American ideals of free speech, religious freedom and tolerance. From Boston to Denver to Reno, and at the nation’s capital where Congress struggled to restart the federal government, marchers waved signs and chanted “This is what democracy looks like!” The marches, held in hundreds of cities and towns across the country, came a year after the inaugural Women’s March and Trump’s swearing in. Wearing the now-familiar pink pussy hats — which this year were available in a rainbow of colors to be more inclusive to all races — women and their families promised to use their votes to shift the course of American government during the mid-term elections this year. People take part in the Women's March took in Seneca People take part in the Women's March took in Seneca Falls, N.Y. (Photo: OLIVIA LOPEZ, Democrat and Chronicle) In Denver, Betsy Kidnay, 56, carried a sign declaring that “women are the wall” as she marched with friends. “Hopefully, we are going to stop Trump,” said Kidnay, of Wheat Ridge, Colo. “His disregard for women is what’s going to sweep Republicans out of power.” More: Government shutdown 2018: What we know now, what happens next More: Polls suggest Trump and GOP could bear the shutdown blame More: Trump's one-year anniversary marked by shutdown instead of celebration Trump ignored the marchers’ criticism, and in a Tweet cast their rallies as victory marches to mark a booming economy and declining unemployment among women. His Twitter comment drew eye rolls from marchers. Hillary Clinton added her voice to those of the marchers, tweeting that while the 2017 rallies were a "beacon of hope and defiance...," the 2018 marches were "testament to the power and resilience of women everywhere. Let’s show that same power in the voting booth this year. #PowerToThePolls." And Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, tweeting in both English and French, called the rallies "incredibly inspiring and motivating," adding, "We see you, we hear you..." Marchers took to the streets in Oklahoma City; Logan, Utah; Asheville, N.C.; Chicago; Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles; and Houston, as well as in Beijing; Buenos Aires; Nairobi; and Rome, under the banner of the #WeekendofWomen on social media. Other large events were planned for Sunday. In Washington, D.C., the rally began at the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial in brisk, 50-degree weather under clear skies. Marchers turned up with a forest of creative signs, ranging from the humorous to the vulgar. One said simply: "Grab Him by the Mid-terms." Others expressed support for health care, immigration and reproductive rights. Organizers said the goal was to solidify the movement and use that clout in 2018 elections, which could shift the balance of power in Congress. In Virginia's statewide races last year, women turned out in huge numbers at the polls and on the ballots as Democrats made gains in state legislative races.

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U.S. Strikes on Taliban Opium Labs Won't Work, Say Afghan Farmers

By Mohammad Stanekzai and Girish Gupta LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan/KABUL (Reuters) - As U.S. and Afghan forces pound Taliban drug factories this week, farmers in the country's largest opium producing-province and narcotics experts say the strategy just repeats previous failed efforts to stamp out the trade. U.S. Army General John Nicholson, who heads NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, announced on Monday a new strategy of attacking opium factories, saying he wanted to hit the Taliban "where it hurts, in their narcotics financing". Critics say the policy risks further civilian casualties and turning large swathes of the population dependent on poppy cultivation against the Afghan government. "The Taliban will not be affected by this as much as ordinary people," said Mohammad Nabi, a poppy farmer in Nad Ali district in the southern province of Helmand, the heartland of opium production. "Farmers are not growing poppies for fun. If factories are closed and businesses are gone, then how will they provide food for their families?" Opium production in Afghanistan reached record highs this year, up 87 percent, according to the United Nations. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said last week that output of opium from poppy seeds in Afghanistan, the world's main source of heroin, stood at around 9,000 metric tons in 2017, worth an estimated $1.4 billion on leaving the farms. In Helmand, cultivation area increased 79 percent. Publicizing the new strategy, which he said was open-ended, Nicholson showed one video of an F-22 fighter jet dropping 250-pound bombs on two buildings, emphasizing that a nearby third building was left unscathed. U.S. troops have long been accused of causing unnecessary collateral damage and civilian deaths. The United States says it takes every precaution to avoid civilian casualties. The four-star general emphasized that farmers were not the targets. "They are largely compelled to grow the poppy and this is kind of a tragic part of the story," said Nicholson. "WHACK-A-MOLE" Experts, however, question whether the new strategy will have an impact on Taliban financing. "All these things have been tried before and not produced effective results. If they had, we wouldn't be where we are now," said Orzala Nemat, director of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, which has been researching the country's drug trade for a decade and a half. Another analyst said it was simply a futile game of "whack-a-mole." Those familiar with the drug industry in Afghanistan said it would only take three or four days to replace a lab, which generally has a low sunk-cost. They also say it was not just the Taliban involved in Afghanistan's drug trade. "Drugs are elemental to the political economy of Afghanistan, to those who rule and to those who oppose that rule," said one analyst, asking not to be named. Prior to being ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001, the Taliban virtually eliminated the trade, saying it was forbidden by Islam. The United States and its Western allies, the Afghan government and United Nations have made repeated efforts since to eradicate poppy cultivation, including encouraging farmers to cultivate alternatives such as saffron, spraying poppy fields with herbicide, and destroying labs. However, they have not made any serious headway in stemming the rise in drug production. The issue underlines problems faced by the Afghan government and its allies, as they seek to cut off a major source of financing for the Taliban and stem the flow of drugs to Europe. The Taliban said that U.S. forces were mistaken in their targeting and were hitting civilians. "There are no drug producing factories in these areas. Invading Americans are carrying out these attacks based on false information and to make propaganda, which most of its victims are civilians," said Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi on Wednesday. Although World Bank projections show Afghanistan's economy picking up modestly, the improvement is more than offset by population growth, leaving many in rural areas saying they have no alternative to growing poppies. "The government must provide jobs so people can feed their families and survive," said poppy farmer Haji Daoud in Sangin, Helmand. "It should provide security and infrastructure." (Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by James Mackenzie and Alex Richardson)

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The Latest: GOP Congressman Calls for Ban on Elephant Hunts

A Republican congressman is praising President Donald Trump's decision to delay a new policy allowing trophies of African elephants shot for sport to be brought into the country but says more needs to be done to protect the animals from extinction. WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump's decision to delay new policy on importation of elephant trophies from two African countries (all times local): 11:30 a.m. A Republican congressman is praising President Donald Trump's decision to delay a new policy allowing trophies of African elephants shot for sport to be brought into the country. But Rep. Vern Buchanan, who co-chairs the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, says more needs to be done to protect African elephants from extinction. He says sport hunting of the endangered species is "shameful" and calls for a permanent ban. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday it would allow the importation of elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe, arguing that encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill the animals would help raise money for conservation programs. After animal rights advocates and environmental groups criticized the decision, Trump said late Friday he was delaying the new policy until he can review "all conservation facts." ___ 11:20 a.m. President Donald Trump says he's delaying a new policy allowing trophies of African elephants shot for sport to be imported until he can review "all conservation facts." He announced the delay late Friday following criticism from several quarters, including environmentalists, animal rights activists and some lawmakers from his own party. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday it would allow such importation, arguing that encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill the threatened species would help raise money for conservation programs. Animal rights advocates and environmental groups criticized the decision. California Rep. Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urged the administration to reverse the policy, calling it the "wrong move at the wrong time." Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Women accusing Trump of sexual harassment are lying, says White House

Administration asked to clarify its official position on women whose allegations surfaced during campaign and which president has called ‘fake news’ The White House’s “official position” on the sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trump that came out during the presidential campaign is that all of the women were lying, a spokesperson said. At a briefing on Friday, which came amid a series of sexual harassment scandals across the country, a CBS News reporter noted that Trump has called the allegations from at least 16 women “fake news”, and asked: “Is the official White House position that all of these women are lying?” Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded: “Yeah, we’ve been clear on that from the beginning, and the president has spoken on it.” She did not comment further and quickly moved on to another question. Trump has repeatedly brushed aside the accusations of sexual harassment and assault that emerged during the presidential race last year after the leak of a 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which he bragged about kissing women without their consent and saying stars like him could “grab them by the pussy”. The allegations against the president have received renewed attention in recent weeks following an avalanche of sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The scandal has rippled in a wide range of industries, inspiring survivors of sexual violence to share stories and call out predators under the hashtag #MeToo. Sanders’ comment came days after Mark Halperin, a prominent political journalist, was accused of sexual harassment by five women who worked with him while he was an executive at ABC News. MSNBC suspended Halperin, who has apologized for inappropriate behavior. Weinstein was recently fired from his company and expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. A number of powerful men have also faced consequences this month in the wake of a stream of harassment and misconduct allegations, including the publisher of Artforum magazine and a prominent editor at the New Republic. Advertisement Trump’s accusers and others have pointed out that the president, however, has faced no consequences for the public allegations of misconduct that women raised last year. Some of the women who came forward with claims against Trump during the campaign spoke to the Guardian this month about watching Weinstein and others fall. “Mr Trump was able to slough off the whole thing and that was very disappointing,” Jessica Leeds said in a recent interview. (She had accused Trump of assaulting her on a plane in the early 1980s). “I wish personally that the Weinstein story would have some effect on the Trump story, but to some degree Hollywood and the glamor machine is kind of a different category.” Cathy Heller, who told the Guardian last year that Trump forcibly kissed her when they first met, said: “Many of the women who accused Weinstein are famous actresses and I think because of that, their stories had more heft. Ordinary women put up with this all the time.” Asked about the recent revelation that the Trump campaign had been subpoenaed over a sexual assault allegation, the president said: “All I can say is it’s totally fake news. It’s just fake. It’s fake. It’s made-up stuff, and it’s disgraceful.”

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Hillary Clinton: Brexit vote was precursor to US election defeat

Hillary Clinton has said the vote for Brexit, and specifically the false claims made in the EU referendum campaign, were a forerunner of her defeat to Donald Trump in last year’s US presidential election. During an interview for BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, she said: “Looking at the Brexit vote now, it was a precursor to some extent of what happened to us in the United States.” Referring to “the amount of fabricated, false information that your voters were given by the leave campaign,” she said: “You know, the big lie is a very potent tool, and we’ve somewhat kept it at bay in western democracies, partly because of the freedom of the press. Obviously there have always been newspapers who leaned right or leaned left and they kind of counterbalanced each other. But given the absolutely explosive spread of online news and sites that have sprung up that are very effective at propagating false stories, we’ve got some thinking to do ... there has to be some basic level of fact and evidence in our politics. Well, frankly, in all parts of our society.” The EU referendum and the US presidential election campaigns last year were both marked by a slew of dubious claims calibrated to appeal to key sections of the electorate, and targeted social media advertising. Fingers have been pointed at the role allegedly played by Russia, but domestic actors are also implicated. Clinton noted that Nigel Farage had campaigned for Trump as well as for Britain leaving the EU. Questions have been raised about the role of Cambridge Analytica, a data mining and analysis company, in both the US election and the EU referendum. The same firm, of which Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was a board member, earned £5m from the Trump campaign for a contract trying to swing voters. Clinton’s campaign and those of Barack Obama in previous years also employed behavioural profiling companies.

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FBI terrorism unit says 'black identity extremists' pose a violent threat

Leaked report, citing concerns of retaliation over ‘perceptions of police brutality against African Americans’, prompts fears of crackdown on activists The US government has declared “black identity extremists” a violent threat, according to a leaked report from the FBI’s counter-terrorism division. The assessment, obtained by Foreign Policy, has raised fears about federal authorities racially profiling activists and aggressively prosecuting civil rights protesters. The report, dated August 2017 and compiled by the Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit, said: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.” Incidents of “alleged police abuse” have “continued to feed the resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity within the BIE movement”. The FBI’s dedicated surveillance of black activists follows a long history of the US government aggressively monitoring protest movements and working to disrupt civil rights groups, but the scrutiny of African Americans by a domestic terrorism unit was particularly alarming to some free speech campaigners. “When we talk about enemies of the state and terrorists, with that comes an automatic stripping of those people’s rights to speak and protest,” said Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It marginalizes what are legitimate voices within the political debate that are calling for racial and economic justice.” The document has emerged at a time of growing concerns about Donald Trump’s links to the far right and white nationalists, and increasing anxieties about his administration’s efforts to further criminalize communities of color and shield police from scrutiny. Anti-Trump protesters and Black Lives Matter activists have continued to face harsh prosecutions and close federal monitoring. The FBI did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment on Friday, but defended its tracking of “black identity extremists” in a statement to Foreign Policy, claiming the “FBI cannot initiate an investigation based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or the exercise of First Amendment rights”. Advertisement The FBI’s report noted specific cases of recent violence against police, most notably Micah Johnson, a 25-year-old shooter in Dallas who killed five officers and said he was targeting white people and law enforcement. Black Lives Matter – a movement protesting the disproportionate killings of black citizens by police in the US – had no ties to Johnson or other targeted killings of police and has condemned those shootings. The number of police officers killed on the job also remains a fraction of the number of citizens killed by officers each year, and statistics suggest that more white offenders than black offenders kill officers. The new FBI report said “BIE violence” peaked in the 1960s and 1970s “in response to changing socioeconomic attitudes and treatment of blacks”, adding that possible indicators today for “BIEs posing a violent threat to law enforcement” include “violent anti-white rhetoric” and “attempts to acquire illegal weapons or explosives”. BIE appears to be a very new term within law enforcement, Foreign Policy noted. Elsa Waithe, a comedian and activist with Black Lives Matter, said she feared the FBI’s classification could deter people from joining protests and further “criminalize anyone who is already in the movement”. She noted that she often wears a “black power” button and could easily see the FBI labeling her as a threat as a result: “The term ‘black identity extremist’ is so vague on purpose … If I wanted to do a picnic for black folks, is this now some sort of terrorist activity?” But law enforcement threats would not discourage her, she said. “This changes nothing. For some people, this means we fight harder.” Some reports have suggested that the Trump administration has also pushed to focus counter-terrorism efforts solely on Islamist extremism and no longer target white supremacist groups. The president further faced significant backlash in August for saying there were “very fine people” on both sides of a neo-Nazi rally where a civil rights activist was killed by an alleged white nationalist. Advertisement The FBI document seemed to be aligned with far-right figures who have increasingly called Black Lives Matter a terrorist group, some comparing it to the Ku Klux Klan, noted Tajsar. DeRay Mckesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist, likened the “black identity extremist” monitoring to the FBI’s highly controversial domestic counterintelligence program known as Cointelpro, which was used to target political groups and activists like the NAACP, Martin Luther King Jr, socialist and communist groups and anti-war protesters. “We knew that we were likely being watched,” said Mckesson, who has spoken out about being monitored by the US government and FBI. “This is confirmation that the work of social justice continues to threaten those in power.”

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NRA breaks silence after Vegas shooting to call for 'additional regulations' on bump stocks

The National Rifle Association has broken its silence four days after the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history to call for “additional regulations” on bump-fire stocks, which the Las Vegas shooter used to turn his semi-automatic rifles into rapid-fire weapons. But alongside the rare concession, the NRA also suggested it was time for further relaxation of laws permitting Americans to carry concealed firearms. Bump stocks sell out across US as ban looms after Las Vegas shooting Read more “The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, the group’s two leading figures, said in a joint statement. The NRA pair blamed the Obama administration for approving the devices for sale “on at least two occasions”, and called on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law”. The NRA’s suggestion comes after Republican lawmakers indicated they might support a ban on the devices. Firearms enthusiasts called bump-fire stocks a novelty device that made guns hard to fire accurately, and said they had no real self-defense value. But in the same statement, the NRA claimed gun control laws would not stop further attacks, and called on Congress to pass a law that would make it easier for owners to carry weapons across state lines – a measure that would gut local restrictions on gun carrying and might make it legal for tourists to carry their firearms on the New York City subway. Passing this “right-to-carry reciprocity” law, the NRA argued, “will allow law-abiding Americans to defend themselves and their families from acts of violence”. The NRA said banning guns “will do nothing to prevent future attacks – a fact that has been proven time and again in countries across the world”. Researchers who study the effects of major gun restrictions – including in Australia, which saw a decline in murders and no further large-casualty mass shootings after buying back hundreds of thousands of guns in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 – would probably disagree. Moves in Congress In Washington, Republican leaders said they would consider restrictions on bump stocks, raising the prospect of the first US gun control legislation for years. “Fully automatic weapons have been banned for a long time,” the House speaker, Paul Ryan, told MSNBC on Thursday. “Apparently, this [the bump stock] allows you to take a semi-automatic and turn it into a fully automatic. So clearly that’s something we need to look into.” The mass shooting on Sunday night in Las Vegas that left 58 victims plus the gunman dead and wounded nearly 500 has reopened debate around the need for tougher gun laws. Officials said 12 of the rifles authorities recovered from the hotel suite used by gunman Stephen Paddock were fitted with bump stocks. “I didn’t even know what they were until this week,” said Ryan, a frequent hunter. “I think we’re quickly coming up to speed with what this is.” He offered no other details about what action the Republican-controlled House might take or what the timeline would be. But the remarks signalled a shift for a party that has thwarted legislative reform even as the horrors of Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Orlando have piled up. Nevertheless, for many anti-gun activists, curtailing these devices would be the minimum Congress could do. If that’s the only action we take after 58 Americans are shot and killed, we should be ashamed of ourselves Shannon Watts, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said: “Of course bump stocks should be prohibited, but if that’s the only action we take after 58 Americans are shot and killed and hundreds more injured, we should be ashamed of ourselves. “We’ll work with legislators interested in prohibiting bump stocks, but we’ll also demand other laws to help save American lives. Now is the time to demand that lawmakers prioritise people over gun manufacturers’ profits.” Ryan’s comments followed a call on Wednesday by the Senate’s No 2 Republican, John Cornyn, for an examination of bump stocks. “I own a lot of guns and as a hunter and sportsman I think that’s our right as Americans, but I don’t understand the use of this bump stock, and that’s another reason to have a hearing,” he said.

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