Ghislaine Maxwell sentenced to 20 years for ‘horrific’ sex trafficking

Sarah Ransome and Elizabeth Stein, victims of Jeffrey Epstein, walk out of court after the sentencing in the Ghislaine Maxwell in New York. (Reuters)
Sarah Ransome and Elizabeth Stein, victims of Jeffrey Epstein, walk out of court after the sentencing in the Ghislaine Maxwell in New York. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 June 2022

Ghislaine Maxwell sentenced to 20 years for ‘horrific’ sex trafficking

Ghislaine Maxwell sentenced to 20 years for ‘horrific’ sex trafficking
  • Maxwell called Epstein a “manipulative, cunning and controlling man” who fooled everyone in his orbit

NEW YORK: Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Tuesday for helping the sex offender and globetrotting financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse teenage girls, in what a judge called a “horrific scheme” that inflicted “incalculable” harm on victims.
The British socialite, 60, was convicted in December of five charges, including sex trafficking a minor, for recruiting and grooming four girls to have sexual encounters with Epstein, then her boyfriend, between 1994 and 2004.
Speaking at her sentencing hearing in Manhattan federal court before learning the sentence, Maxwell called Epstein a “manipulative, cunning and controlling man” who fooled everyone in his orbit. She said she was “sorry” for the pain that his victims experienced.
“It is the greatest regret of my life that I ever met Jeffrey Epstein,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell’s month-long trial in late 2021 was widely seen as the reckoning that Epstein — who killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 at age 66 while awaiting his own sex trafficking trial — never had.
It was one of the highest-profile cases in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which encouraged women to speak out about sexual abuse, often at the hands of wealthy and powerful people.
In imposing the sentence, US Circuit Judge Alison Nathan said Maxwell did not appear to express remorse or accept responsibility.
“Maxwell directly and repeatedly and over the course of many years participated in a horrific scheme to entice, transport and traffic underage girls, some as young as 14, for sexual abuse by and with Jeffrey Epstein,” Nathan said. “The damage done to these young girls was incalculable.”
Bobbi Sternheim, a lawyer for Maxwell, said Maxwell would appeal, arguing the public scrutiny of the case before the trial “left little room for her to be treated fairly.”
“We all know that the person who should have been sentenced today escaped accountability, avoided his victims, avoided absorbing their pain and receiving the punishment he truly deserved,” Sternheim told reporters.

’PATTERN OF DEFLECTION OF BLAME’
Maxwell’s lawyers had proposed she serve no more than 5-1/4 years, arguing she was being scapegoated for Epstein’s crimes. Prosecutors had last week suggested she serve between 30 and 55 years in prison, but on Tuesday said the 20-year sentence would hold Maxwell accountable for “heinous crimes against children.”
“This sentence sends a strong message that no one is above the law and it is never too late for justice,” Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said in a statement.
Nathan said Maxwell’s statements showed a “pattern of deflection of blame.”
“Although Epstein was of course central to this criminal scheme, Ms. Maxwell is not being punished in place of Epstein or as a proxy for Epstein,” Nathan said. “Ms. Maxwell was instrumental in the abuse of several underage girls.”
In often emotional and explicit testimony during the trial, Annie Farmer, a woman known as “Kate,” and two other women testified that Maxwell, who was found guilty on five counts, was a central figure in their abuse by Epstein.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Farmer, now a psychologist, said her experience being exploited by Maxwell “resulted in significant shame” that sometimes left her feeling like she wanted to “disappear.”
Kate said she was proud to help hold Maxwell accountable.
“Today, I can look at Ghislaine and tell her that I became what I am today in spite of her and her efforts to make me feel powerless and insignificant, and I will cast that empowerment on my daughter,” Kate said.


Greece seeks ways to recover migrant girl’s body from border

Greece seeks ways to recover migrant girl’s body from border
Updated 13 min 31 sec ago

Greece seeks ways to recover migrant girl’s body from border

Greece seeks ways to recover migrant girl’s body from border
  • Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi: We will move via the International Red Cross and Red Crescent so that the child’s body can be found on the Turkish islet
  • Greek police said that they had found 38 people — 22 men, nine women and seven children — inside Greek territory and away from the Evros river

THESSALONIKI, Greece: Greece says it will work with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent to seek the body of a child who a group of asylum-seekers said had died of a scorpion sting while they were stranded for days on the Greek-Turkish border.
Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said Tuesday that the islet on the Evros River — which runs along much of the land border — where the group said the young girl’s body was, was Turkish territory.
“We will move via the International Red Cross and Red Crescent so that the child’s body can be found on the Turkish islet and can come to be buried with dignity by her family,” Mitarachi said.
Greek police said on Monday they had found 38 people — 22 men, nine women and seven children — inside Greek territory, away from the river and about four kilometers (2.5 miles) south of where the group had been reported to be stranded. Mitarachi, who on Tuesday visited the migrant reception center where the group were taken in northeastern Greece, said the 35 Syrians and three Palestinians were in good health, and that one pregnant woman among them had been taken to hospital for precautionary reasons.
Greek authorities had come under withering criticism for days after aid organizations had said a group of people was stranded in increasingly precarious conditions on an islet in the Evros river, known as the Meric in Turkish. Greek police said last week that they had chased successive reports of migrants stranded on islets in the river but had found nobody. Greece had said the coordinates given to them placed the group in Turkey, not Greece.
Late Monday, Turkish authorities said a search mission had been launched following media and social media reports that 39 irregular migrants were trapped on an islet in the river.
The governor’s office for the border province of Edirne said nobody was found after a four-day search by Turkey’s emergency agency AFAD, and by border units in the area corresponding to coordinates given for the islet.
“A search activity was carried out and no immigrant or group of immigrants was found,” the statement said.
The head of the Greek Council for Refugees, Vassilis Papadopoulos, said his group first heard about the migrants in mid-July. He said about 50 people had allegedly crossed to the Greek side but were then forced back to Turkey. Migrants also told his organization that Turkish authorities allegedly returned them to one islet after another, until they ended up stuck on a Greek islet mid-river.
Speaking from northeastern Greece on Tuesday, Mitarachi said the group told Greek authorities they had entered Greek territory on Aug. 14 and hid for a day before sending their location details. He said the migrants told Greek authorities they had been taken to the river by Turkish authorities, who had forced them to attempt the crossing to Greece.
“Officially the Turkish authorities arrested these migrants within Turkey, they did not give them the right to apply for international protection, as Turkey is bound to do by international law,” Mitarachi said. “To the contrary, the Turkish gendarmerie brought them to the banks of the Evros and, with the threat of the use of violence, pressured them to come to Greece.”
Thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa try to cross into Greece from Turkey each year, hoping for a better life in Europe. Greece denies that it carries out pushbacks — summarily deporting those who reach its territory back to Turkey without allowing them to request asylum — both at sea and across the Evros River, despite persistent allegations from both rights organizations and migrants themselves. Pushbacks are illegal under international law.


Jill Biden tests positive for COVID-19, ‘mild’ symptoms

Jill Biden tests positive for COVID-19, ‘mild’ symptoms
Updated 16 August 2022

Jill Biden tests positive for COVID-19, ‘mild’ symptoms

Jill Biden tests positive for COVID-19, ‘mild’ symptoms
  • She has been prescribed the antiviral drug Paxlovid and will isolate at the vacation home for at least five days

KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina: First lady Jill Biden tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing “mild symptoms,” the White House announced Tuesday.
She had been vacationing with President Joe Biden in South Carolina when she began experiencing symptoms on Monday. She has been prescribed the antiviral drug Paxlovid and will isolate at the vacation home for at least five days.
Joe Biden tested negative for the virus on Tuesday morning, the White House said, but would be wearing a mask indoors for 10 days in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. He recovered from a rebound case of the virus on Aug.7.


Taliban add more compulsory religion classes to Afghan universities

Taliban add more compulsory religion classes to Afghan universities
Updated 16 August 2022

Taliban add more compulsory religion classes to Afghan universities

Taliban add more compulsory religion classes to Afghan universities
  • Minister for higher education said they are adding five more religious subjects to the existing eight
  • Many conservative Afghan clerics in the hard-line Islamist Taliban are skeptical of modern education

KABUL: Afghan university students will have to attend more compulsory Islamic studies classes, education officials said Tuesday while giving little sign that secondary schools for girls would reopen.
Many conservative Afghan clerics in the hard-line Islamist Taliban, which swept back into power a year ago, are skeptical of modern education.
“We are adding five more religious subjects to the existing eight,” said Abdul Baqi Haqqani, minister for higher education, including Islamic history, politics and governance.
The number of compulsory religious classes will increase from one to three a week in government universities.
He told a news conference that the Taliban would not order any subjects to be dropped from the current curriculum.
However, some universities have altered studies on music and sculpture — highly sensitive issues under the Taliban’s harsh interpretation of sharia law — while an exodus of Afghanistan’s educated elite, including professors, has seen many subjects discontinued.
Officials have for months insisted that schools will reopen for girls, swaying between technical and financial issues as reasons for the continued closures.
Abdulkhaliq Sadiq, a senior official at the education ministry, on Tuesday said families in rural areas were still not convinced of the need to send girls to secondary school.
Under the Taliban’s last regime between 1996 and 2001, both primary and secondary schools for girls never reopened.
“We are trying to come up with a sound policy in coordination with our leaders... so that those in rural areas are also convinced,” he said.
Since seizing power on August 15 last year the Taliban have imposed harsh restrictions on girls and women to comply with their austere vision of Islam — effectively squeezing them out of public life.
Although young women are still permitted to attend university, many have dropped out because of the cost or because their families are afraid for them to be out in public in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, without a secondary school certificate, teenage girls will not be able to sit future university entrance exams.
The international community has made the right to education a key condition for formally recognizing the Taliban government.
Despite being in power for a year, no country has so far recognized the government.


Blasts, fire hits military depot in Russian-annexed Crimea

Blasts, fire hits military depot in Russian-annexed Crimea
Updated 16 August 2022

Blasts, fire hits military depot in Russian-annexed Crimea

Blasts, fire hits military depot in Russian-annexed Crimea
  • Russia blamed the blasts at an ammunition storage facility in Mayskoye on an “act of sabotage”
  • Plumes of black smoke also rose over an air base in Crimea's Gvardeyskoye

KYIV, Ukraine: Massive explosions and fires hit a military depot in Russia-annexed Crimea on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of more than 3,000 people, the second time in recent days that the Ukraine war’s focus has turned to the peninsula.
Russia blamed the blasts at an ammunition storage facility in Mayskoye on an “act of sabotage” without naming the perpetrators. As with last week’s explosions, they led to speculation that Ukraine may be behind the attack on the peninsula, which Russia has controlled since 2014.
Separately, the Russian business newspaper Kommersant quoted local residents as saying that plumes of black smoke also rose over an air base in Crimea’s Gvardeyskoye.
Ukraine has stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility for any of the fires or explosions, including last week’s at another air base that destroyed nine Russian planes. If Ukrainian forces were, in fact, responsible for any of the explosions, they would represent a significant escalation in the war.
Crimea holds huge strategic and symbolic significance for Russia and Ukraine. The Kremlin’s demand that Kyiv recognize the peninsula as part of Russia has been one of its key conditions for ending the fighting, while Ukraine has vowed to drive the Russians from the peninsula and all other occupied territories.
Videos posted on social media showed thick plumes of smoke rising over raging flames in Mayskoye, and a series of explosions could be heard in the background. The Russian Defense Ministry said the fires at the depot caused damage to a power plant, power lines, rail tracks and some apartment buildings. It said in a statement that there were no serious injuries.
Earlier, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported a fire a transformer substation after “a loud thump sound” in what appeared to be a result of the blasts at the depot.
The Dzhankoi district, where the blasts happened, is in the north of the peninsula, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Russian-controlled region of Kherson in southern Ukraine. Kyiv has recently mounted a series of attacks on various sites in the region, targeting supply routes for the Russian military there and ammunition depots.
Last week’s explosions at Crimea’s Saki air base sent sunbathers on nearby beaches fleeing as huge flames and pillars of smoke rose over the horizon. Ukrainian officials emphasized Tuesday that Crimea — which is a popular destination for Russian tourists — would not be spared the ravages of war experienced throughout Ukraine.
Rather than a travel destination, “Crimea occupied by Russians is about warehouses explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves,” Ukraine presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter, though he did not claim any Ukraine responsibility for the blasts.
Crimea’s regional leader, Sergei Aksyonov, said that two people were injured and more than 3,000 evacuated from the villages of Mayskoye and Azovskoye near Dzhankoi following the munitions depot explosions.
Because the explosions damaged rail tracks, some trains in northern Crimea were diverted to other lines.
The Russian military blamed last week’s blasts at the Saki air base on an accidental detonation of munitions there, but it appeared to be the result of a Ukrainian attack.
Ukrainian officials at the time stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility for the explosions, while mocking Russia’s explanation that a careless smoker might have caused the ammunition to catch fire. Analysts also said that explanation doesn’t make sense and that the Ukrainians could have used anti-ship missiles to strike the base.
A British Defense Ministry intelligence update said vessels in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet “continue to pursue an extremely defensive posture” in the waters off Crimea, with the ships barely venturing out of sight of the coastline.
Russia already lost its flagship Moskva in the Black Sea and last month the Ukrainian military retook the strategic Snake Island outpost off Ukraine’s southwestern coast. It is vital for guaranteeing sea lanes out of Odesa, Ukraine’s biggest port.
The Russian fleet’s “limited effectiveness undermines Russia’s overall invasion strategy,” the British statement said. “This means Ukraine can divert resources to press Russian ground forces elsewhere.”
Meanwhile, in the Donbas, which has been the focus of the fighting in recent months, one civilian was killed in Russian shelling, and two others wounded, according to the Ukrainian governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko.
In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, one civilian was killed and nine others were wounded by Russian shelling, regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said. He added that the overnight attack on the city was “one of the most massive shelling of Kharkiv in recent days.”
Officials in the central region of Dniprotpetrovsk also reported shelling of the Nikopol and the Kryvyi Rih districts.
Amid the explosions and shelling, one good piece of news emerged from the region, with a United Nations-chartered ship loaded with 23,000 metric tons of Ukrainian grain setting off for the Horn of Africa.
It’s the first shipment of its kind, and the United Nations’ World Food Program called it “another important milestone” in a plan to assist countries facing famine. Ukraine and Russia reached a deal with Turkey in July to restart Black Sea grain deliveries, addressing the major export disruption that has occurred since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
The worst drought in four decades in the Horn of Africa has led thousands of people across the region have died from hunger or illness this year.
That deal not only protects ships exporting Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea but also assures Russia that its food and fertilizer won’t face sanctions, safeguarding one of the pillars of its economy and helping ease concerns from insurers and banks.


WHO turns to public for monkeypox name change

WHO turns to public for monkeypox name change
Updated 16 August 2022

WHO turns to public for monkeypox name change

WHO turns to public for monkeypox name change
  • Experts warn the name can be stigmatising to the primates it was named after

GENEVA: The World Health Organization, which is looking to rename monkeypox, called Tuesday for help from the public in coming up with a less stigmatising designation for the fast-spreading disease.
The UN health agency has for weeks voiced concern about the name of the disease that emerged onto the global stage in May.
Experts warn the name can be stigmatising to the primates it was named after, but who play little role in its spread, and to the African continent that the animals are often associated with.
Recently in Brazil, for instance, there have been reported cases of people attacking monkeys over disease fears.
“Human monkeypox was given its name before current best practices in naming diseases,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters in Geneva.
“We want really to find a name that is not stigmatising,” she added, saying the consultation is now open to everyone through a dedicated website: https://icd.who.int/dev11.
Monkeypox received its name because the virus was originally identified in monkeys kept for research in Denmark in 1958, but the disease is found in a number of animals, and most frequently in rodents.
The disease was first discovered in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the spread among humans since then mainly limited to certain West and Central African countries where it is endemic.
But in May, cases of the disease, which causes fever, muscular aches and large boil-like skin lesions, began spreading rapidly around the world, mainly among men who have sex with men.
Worldwide, over 31,000 cases have been confirmed since the start of the year, and 12 people have died, according to the WHO, which has designated the outbreak a global health emergency.
While the virus can jump from animals to humans, WHO experts insist the recent global spread is due to close-contact transmission between humans.
The UN health agency announced last week that a group of experts it had convened had already agreed on new names for monkeypox virus variants, or clades.
Until now, the two main variants have been named after the geographic regions where they were known to circulate, the Congo Basin and West Africa.
The experts agreed to rename them using Roman numerals instead, calling them Clade I and Clade II. A subvariant of Clade II, now known as Clade IIb, is seen as the main culprit behind the ongoing global outbreak.