Man who carried Confederate flag into Capitol heads to trial

Man who carried Confederate flag into Capitol heads to trial
Kevin Seefried, left, walks on a hallway after a confrontation with police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington. (AP)
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Updated 13 June 2022

Man who carried Confederate flag into Capitol heads to trial

Man who carried Confederate flag into Capitol heads to trial
  • US District Judge Trevor McFadden will hear testimony without a jury for the Seefrieds’ bench trial

A federal judge’s acquittal of a New Mexico man in April was a rare blemish on the Justice Department’s record of securing convictions in US Capitol riot cases. More than two months later, a Delaware father and son hope the same judge will clear them, too.
Widely published photographs showed Kevin Seefried carrying a Confederate battle flag inside the Capitol after he entered the building with his son, Hunter. The Seefrieds were “early, aggressive and active participants” in the Capitol breach and among the first rioters to enter the bulling on Jan. 6, 2021, prosecutors have said.
US District Judge Trevor McFadden will hear testimony without a jury for the Seefrieds’ bench trial, which is scheduled to start Monday. They waived their right to a jury trial, which means McFadden will decide their cases.
McFadden, whom President Donald Trump nominated in 2017, has criticized prosecutors’ handling of Capitol riot cases. He suggested that the Justice Department has been unjustly tougher on Capitol riot defendants compared to people arrested at protests against police brutality and racial injustice after George Floyd’s 2020 murder by a Minneapolis police officer.
McFadden also has criticized prosecutors for seeking jail time for some nonviolent Capitol riot defendants but not for left-wing activists who protested Trump’s nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, The Washington Post reported.
In April, McFadden acquitted New Mexico resident Matthew Martin of misdemeanor charges that he illegally entered the Capitol and engaged in disorderly conduct after he walked into the building.
Martin testified that a police officer waved him into the building. A prosecutor rejected that testimony as “nonsense,” but McFadden said it was reasonable for Martin to believe that outnumbered police officers allowed him to enter the Capitol through the Rotunda doors.
In March, McFadden acquitted a New Mexico elected official of engaging in disorderly conduct but convicted him of illegally entering restricted Capitol grounds. The judge said there was ample evidence that Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin knew he was in a restricted area and didn’t leave. However, McFadden concluded prosecutors didn’t meet their burden to prove that Griffin engaged in disorderly conduct.
McFadden is the only judge to a hold a bench trial for a Capitol riot case so far.
On Tuesday, US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is scheduled to preside over a bench trial for Jesus Rivera, a Pensacola, Florida, man charged with four riot-related misdemeanors. President Bill Clinton nominated Kollar-Kotelly to the court in 1997.
At least four other Capitol riot defendants have bench trials scheduled for this year.
Juries have unanimously convicted five Capitol riot defendants of all charges, a perfect record for prosecutors so far. More than 300 others have pleaded guilty to riot offenses, mostly misdemeanors punishable by no more than one year in prison. Approximately 100 others have trial dates in 2022 or 2023. More than 800 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Jan. 6 attack.
The Seefrieds traveled to Washington from their home in Laurel, Delaware, to hear Trump’s speech at the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6. After the rally, they stopped by their car before joining the mob that stormed the Capitol, prosecutors say.
The Seefrieds climbed over a wall near a stairwell and scaffolding in the northwest section of the Capitol and were among the first rioters to approach the building near the Senate Wing Door, according to prosecutors. After watching other rioters use a police shield and a wood plank to break a window, Hunter Seefried used a gloved fist to clear a shard of glass in one of the broken windowpanes, prosecutors said.
“The defendants and scores of other rioters entered the Capitol building through that window,” prosecutors wrote.
The Seefrieds joined other rioters in confronting Capitol police officer Eugene Goodman and in looking for members of Congress and the location where they would be counting the Electoral College votes for the 2020 presidential election, according to prosecutors.
Goodman, who is expected to testify at the Seefrieds’ trial, has been hailed as a hero for leading a group of rioters away from Senate chamber and up a set of stairs to an area where other officers were waiting. Goodman also directed Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to turn around and head away from the mob.
Kevin Seefried told the FBI that he threatened Goodman with violence, saying: “And then I threw my stick down. I said, ‘You can shoot me, man, but we’re comin’ in,’” according to prosecutors.
Kevin Seefried brought a Confederate battle flag from home and was photographed displaying it on a large flagpole as he walked through the Capitol.
“Indeed, the flag that Kevin Seefried carried itself served to signal his intent: the Confederate Battle Flag, a symbol of violent opposition to the United States government,” prosecutors wrote.
The charges against both Kevin and Hunter Seefried include a felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding, the joint session of Congress for certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
Hunter Seefried told the FBI that he went to Washington because he was concerned about “fraud” tied to the election, prosecutors said.


Russian army maps show lost ground in key Kherson region

Russian army maps show lost ground in key Kherson region
Updated 17 sec ago

Russian army maps show lost ground in key Kherson region

Russian army maps show lost ground in key Kherson region
MOSCOW: Russia’s forces occupying Ukraine’s southern Black Sea region of Kherson have suffered serious territorial losses to Kyiv’s troops over recent days, maps published by Moscow’s defense ministry showed Tuesday.
The maps included in Tuesday’s daily military briefing showed that Russian forces were no longer in control of the village of Dudchany on the west bank of the river Dnieper, where Ukraine’s forces have been pushing to reclaim territory captured at the start of Moscow’s offensive.
In the northeastern Kharkiv region, defense ministry maps showed that Russian forces have left positions on the west bank of the Oskil river, in the aftermath this month of a counter-offensive by Kyiv’s army.
The Ukrainian military claimed in a statement Tuesday that Russian forces in Kherson are “demoralized” and were falling back on their positions, destroying ammunition depots and bridges in their wake.
“All this in order to slow down the offensive of our troops,” the defense ministry said in their statement.
Ukraine’s deputy interior minister Yevhen Enin said Tuesday that Ukraine’s forces had recaptured 50 towns and villages in Kherson, without specifying when.
Kyiv’s forces have been slowly clawing back territory in Kherson for several weeks but the advance has accelerated in recent days.
With a population of one million before the war, Kherson is a key agricultural area and forms the gateway to the Crimean peninsula.
Its main city, also named Kherson, was one of the first to fall to Russian forces after they launched what the Kremlin calls its “special military operations” in February.
The Kremlin last week formally annexed the region along with three others even though Russian troops do not fully control it.

Blackouts hit 130 million in Bangladesh after grid failure

Blackouts hit 130 million in Bangladesh after grid failure
Updated 04 October 2022

Blackouts hit 130 million in Bangladesh after grid failure

Blackouts hit 130 million in Bangladesh after grid failure
  • Bangladesh has suffered a major power crisis in recent month as a result of higher global energy prices
  • It remained unclear what caused Tuesday's unscheduled blackout, which hit more than 80 percent of the country shortly after 2 pm local time

DHAKA: At least 130 million people in Bangladesh were without power on Tuesday afternoon after a grid failure caused widespread blackouts, the government’s power utility company said.
Bangladesh has suffered a major power crisis in recent month as a result of higher global energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and has imposed regular service cuts to conserve electricity.
But it remained unclear what caused Tuesday’s unscheduled blackout, which hit more than 80 percent of the country shortly after 2 p.m. local time (0800 GMT), according to the Power Development Board.
Apart from some locations in Bangladesh’s northwest, “the rest of the country is without power,” Power Development Board spokesman Shamim Ahsan told AFP.
Ahsan said 130 million people or more were without electricity and it remained unclear what had caused the fault.
“It is still under investigation,” he said, adding that a technical malfunction was the probable cause.
Junior technology minister Zunaid Palak said on Facebook that power would be restored by 8 p.m. in the capital Dhaka, itself home to more than 22 million people.
Soaring energy prices have wrought havoc on the South Asian nation’s electricity grid in recent months, with utilities struggling to source enough diesel and gas to meet demand.
A depreciating currency and dwindling foreign exchange reserves left Bangladesh unable to import sufficient fossil fuels, forcing it to close diesel plants and leave some gas-fired power stations idle.
The government imposed lengthy power cuts to conserve existing stocks in July, with outages lasting up to 13 hours each day at their peak.
Tens of thousands of mosques around the country have been asked to curtail the use of air conditioners to ease pressure on the electricity grid.
The blackouts sparked widespread public anger and helped mobilize large demonstrations on the streets of the capital Dhaka.
At least three protesters were killed by security forces during the rallies, partly motivated by rising cost-of-living pressures.
Around 100 others were injured during a police crackdown on one demonstration, according to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
Consumer inflation has hit household budgets hard and the government recently pledged to cap the price of several staple foods, including rice, to quell public discontent.
Bangladesh last witnessed a major unscheduled blackout in November 2014, when around 70 percent of the country went without power for nearly 10 hours.


WHO warns Haiti cholera toll likely to rise

WHO warns Haiti cholera toll likely to rise
Updated 04 October 2022

WHO warns Haiti cholera toll likely to rise

WHO warns Haiti cholera toll likely to rise
  • Fresh fears of a resurgent epidemic nearly three years after Haiti’s last confirmed case
  • WHO: The world was now witnessing a ‘worrying upsurge’ in cholera outbreaks

GENEVA: Haiti’s cholera outbreak death toll is likely “much higher” than reported and cases are expected to rise, the WHO said Tuesday, warning the country’s multiple crises would complicate response efforts.
The crisis-wracked Caribbean nation said Sunday that at least seven people had died from cholera, raising fresh fears of a resurgent epidemic nearly three years after Haiti’s last confirmed case.
Multiple suspected cases have been detected in Carrefour-Feuilles on the edge of the capital Port-au-Prince, and in the coastal neighborhood of Cite Soleil.
The areas are entirely controlled by gangs and access to them has been very difficult since the end of July.
Conditions in Haiti have worsened in recent weeks with blockades, fuel shortages, protest marches, looting and general strikes.
“This situation greatly complicates the humanitarian response,” World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.
“The situation is evolving rapidly, and it is possible earlier cases have been undetected.”
He said the death toll figures could be “much higher.”
“With the humanitarian situation as it is, the sanitary situation, and the gang-controlled areas where there’s hardly any access to control, to test or even to bring in assistance, we should expect, unfortunately, cases to be higher, and to rise,” he said.
Lindmeier said a request was being prepared to be submitted to the international coordination group for the procurement of oral cholera vaccines.
However, global vaccine availability is limited with demand outstripping supply.
Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection in the small intestine causing sometimes fatal dehydration. It is generally contracted from food or water contaminated with vibrio cholerae bacteria.
In February this year, Haiti celebrated three years without a single confirmed cholera case and was preparing to submit its case for cholera-free status certification at the end of 2022.
Cholera killed nearly 10,000 people in the wake of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, when United Nations workers helping with the response introduced it to the country.
The outbreak affected at least 820,000 people, the WHO said.
The first infections were detected around the Artibonite River, where UN peacekeepers had dumped fecal matter.
It was not until August 2016 that the UN officially acknowledged its role in the epidemic.
Lindmeier said there was no information yet on where the current outbreak originated, but said roughly 80 percent of people carrying vibrio cholerae could be asymptomatic, making it difficult to detect.
The United Nations said it stood ready to deploy emergency response teams as soon as safe access is assured and fuel supplies are unblocked.
On Friday the WHO warned that after years of decline, the world was now witnessing a “worrying upsurge” in cholera outbreaks.
In the first nine months of this year alone, 26 countries have reported cholera outbreaks, the WHO said.


Belarus’s Lukashenko accuses Ukraine of border provocations

Belarus’s Lukashenko accuses Ukraine of border provocations
Updated 04 October 2022

Belarus’s Lukashenko accuses Ukraine of border provocations

Belarus’s Lukashenko accuses Ukraine of border provocations
  • Lukashenko allowed his close ally Russia in February to use Belarus as a staging post for its invasion of Ukraine
  • Belarus is not a party to the conflict and that its own forces are not involved

LONDON: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accused neighboring Ukraine on Tuesday of sending 15,000 troops to the border area to build defenses and conduct reconnaissance, actions that he called “provocations.”
Lukashenko allowed his close ally Russia in February to use Belarus as a staging post for its invasion of Ukraine. However, he has said Belarus is not a party to the conflict and that its own forces are not involved.
In comments carried by the state news agency BelTA, Lukashenko said the Ukrainian unit brought up to the border had blocked roads and was setting up checkpoints and firing positions.
“In a word, has not only barricaded itself, but built a wall. Constantly conducting optical, radio-electronic and radio-technical reconnaissance of our territory, troops and objects,” Lukashenko said.
“Often with their drones violating the line of the state border. And at the same time, they worry and worry: ‘Oh, don’t let Belarus enter the war’. And there are constant provocations at the border.”
Ukrainian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lukashenko said his country was involved in the conflict only to prevent it spreading into Belarus and to “prevent an attack on Belarus under the guise of a special military operation from Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.”
“As I have said, nobody will shoot the Russians in the back from the territory of Belarus,” he said.
Belarus’s three western neighbors are all part of the NATO transatlantic alliance, which is helping Ukraine to defend itself against Russia with weapons and intelligence but says it will not take a direct part in the conflict.


Merkel wins UN refugee agency award over welcome of Syrians

Merkel wins UN refugee agency award over welcome of Syrians
Updated 04 October 2022

Merkel wins UN refugee agency award over welcome of Syrians

Merkel wins UN refugee agency award over welcome of Syrians
  • Under Angela Merkel’s leadership, Germany welcomed over 1.2 million refugees in 2015 and 2016

GENEVA: The UN refugee agency said Tuesday it’s giving its highest award to former German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her efforts to welcome more than 1 million refugees — mostly from Syria — into Germany, despite some criticism both at home and abroad.
Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said Merkel had been selected as the latest recipient for the Nansen award, which is handed out annually by the Geneva-based UN agency.
“Under the then-Federal Chancellor Merkel’s leadership, Germany welcomed more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum-seekers in 2015 and 2016, which, as you will remember, was the height of the conflict in Syria, and there was deadly violence in other parts of the world,” Saltmarsh told reporters. “Dr. Merkel helped to highlight the plight of refugees globally.”
Merkel’s decision to let in so many migrants boosted the far-right Alternative for Germany party and resulted in protests by a vocal minority. She was also blasted by some governments for being too friendly to refugees, when some European Union partner states were closing borders to refugees and asylum-seekers.
The award includes a $150,000 prize. Merkel is expected to travel to Geneva next Monday to receive the award, Saltmarsh said. Four regional winners were also announced.
The UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award honors individuals, groups or organizations that go “above and beyond the call of duty” to protect refugees, other displaced and stateless people, the agency says.
More than 60 laureates have received the award since it was founded in 1954 to celebrate Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian scientist, explorer and diplomat who was the first commissioner for refugees in the League of Nations — the predecessor of the the United Nations
The recipient in 2021 was the Jeel Albena Association for Humanitarian Development in Yemen, for its support for displaced Yemenis.