Russian chemist says he's worked on Novichok, despite Moscow's denial

A man takes the flag off the flagpole outside the consular section of Russia’s Embassy in London. (Reuters)
Updated 20 March 2018
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Russian chemist says he's worked on Novichok, despite Moscow's denial

MOSCOW: A Russian scientist told state media Tuesday he worked on an official program to produce the nerve agent Britain says was used on ex-spy Sergei Skripal, contradicting Moscow’s claims it never developed Novichok. Leonid Rink told RIA Novosti state news agency he worked on a state-backed program up to the early 1990s, adding that the former double agent and his daughter would be dead had Moscow been involved in his poisoning. “They are still alive. That means that either it was not the Novichok system at all, or it was badly concocted, carelessly applied,” he said. “Or straight after the application, the English used an antidote, in which case they would have to have known exactly what the poison was,” he said. Rink said he worked at a state laboratory in the closed town of Shikhany for 27 years, where the development of Novichok formed the basis of his doctoral dissertation. “A large group of specialists in Shikhany and Moscow worked on ‘Novichok’,” he said. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov last week said Moscow never had any programs to develop Novichok. Moscow meanwhile is awaiting the arrival of two dozens diplomats ordered to leave Britain as part of a standoff over a nerve agent attack on British soil.
Britain ordered the 23 diplomats to leave by Tuesday, and they’re expected in Moscow tuesday, according to Russian media reports.
Russia retaliated by expelling 23 British diplomats, who are expected to leave Moscow in the coming days.

Russia denies involvement in the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the British city of Salisbury earlier this month. They remain in critical condition.
Britain accuses Russia of the poisoning, which Western powers see as an example of increasingly aggressive Russian meddling abroad.
International chemical weapons experts took samples Monday of the nerve agent used, which Britain says is the Soviet-developed Novichok. The experts said that they are expecting to have full results in three weeks time.


Bill Cosby convicted of drugging and molesting a woman

Updated 26 April 2018
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Bill Cosby convicted of drugging and molesting a woman

NORRISTOWN-PENNSILVANIA: Bill Cosby was convicted Thursday of drugging and molesting a woman in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era,
completing the spectacular late-life downfall of a comedian who broke racial barriers in Hollywood on his way to TV superstardom as America’s Dad.
Cosby, 80, could end up spending his final years in prison after a jury concluded he sexually violated Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He claimed the encounter was consensual.
Cosby stared straight ahead as the verdict was read, but moments later lashed out loudly at District Attorney Kevin Steele and called him an “a--hole” after the prosecutor asked that Cosby be immediately jailed because he might flee. Cosby denied he has an airplane and shouted, “I’m sick of him!“
The judge decided Cosby can remain free on bail while he awaits sentencing.
Shrieks erupted in the courtroom when the verdict was announced, and some of his accusers whimpered and cried. Constand remained stoic, then hugged her lawyer and members of the prosecution team.
“Justice has been done!” celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who represented some of Cosby’s accusers, said on the courthouse steps. “We are so happy that finally we can say women are believed.”
The verdict came after a two-week retrial in which prosecutors put five other women on the stand who testified that Cosby, married for 54 years, drugged and violated them, too. One of those women asked him through her tears, “You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?“
The panel of seven men and five women reached a verdict after deliberating 14 hours over two days, vindicating prosecutors’ decision to retry Cosby after his first trial ended with a hung jury less than a year ago.
Cosby could get up to 10 years in prison on each of the three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He is likely to get less than that under state sentencing guidelines, but given his age, even a modest term could mean he will die behind bars.
Constand, 45, a former Temple women’s basketball administrator, told jurors that Cosby knocked her out with three blue pills he called “your friends” and then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay immobilized, unable to resist or say no.
It was the only criminal case to arise from a barrage of allegations from more than 60 women who said the former TV star drugged and molested them over a span of five decades.
“The time for the defendant to escape justice is over,” prosecutor Stewart Ryan said in his closing argument. “It’s finally time for the defendant to dine on the banquet of his own consequences.”
Another prosecutor, Kristen Feden, said Cosby was “nothing like the image that he played on TV” as sweater-wearing, wisdom-dispensing father of five Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.”