62 arrested in Europol-Interpol human trafficking crackdown

62 arrested in Europol-Interpol human trafficking crackdown
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Updated 24 July 2023
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62 arrested in Europol-Interpol human trafficking crackdown

62 arrested in Europol-Interpol human trafficking crackdown
  • It is suspected that the criminal network successfully smuggled around 5,000 Cuban nationals into the EU

AMSTERDAM: Law enforcement from five countries have disrupted an intercontinental criminal network that was smuggling migrants from Cuba to the European Union, with the move leading to the arrest of 62 people, Europol and Interpol, who coordinated the international investigation, said on Monday.
A Europol statement said the criminal network focused on Cubans in vulnerable situations, and that for 9,000 euros ($9,969.30), it would organize their journey to Europe and provide false documentation.
In total, it is suspected that the criminal network successfully smuggled around 5,000 Cuban nationals into the EU.
Besides the arrests, police also seized 18 pieces of real estate, 33 vehicles, and 144 bank accounts, alongside vast sums of cash in various currencies.


New China rules allow detention of foreigners in South China Sea

New China rules allow detention of foreigners in South China Sea
Updated 33 sec ago
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New China rules allow detention of foreigners in South China Sea

New China rules allow detention of foreigners in South China Sea
  • China Coast Guard vessels have used water cannon against Philippine boats multiple times in the contested waters
  • Confrontations between China and the Philippines have raised fears of a wider conflict that could involve the US and other allies
SHANGHAI: New Chinese coast guard rules took effect Saturday, under which it can detain foreigners for trespassing in the disputed South China Sea, where neighbors and the G7 have accused Beijing of intimidation and coercion.
Beijing claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea, brushing aside competing claims from several Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines and an international ruling that its stance has no legal basis.
China deploys coast guard and other boats to patrol the waters and has turned several reefs into militarized artificial islands. Chinese and Philippine vessels have had a series of confrontations in disputed areas.
From Saturday, China’s coast guard can detain foreigners “suspected of violating management of border entry and exit,” according to the new regulations published online.
Detention is allowed up to 60 days in “complicated cases,” they say.
“Foreign ships that have illegally entered China’s territorial waters and the adjacent waters may be detained.”
Manila has accused the Chinese coast guard of “barbaric and inhumane behavior” against Philippine vessels, and President Ferdinand Marcos said last month called the new rules a “very worrisome” escalation.
China Coast Guard vessels have used water cannon against Philippine boats multiple times in the contested waters.
There have also been collisions that injured Filipino troops.
Philippine military chief General Romeo Brawner told reporters on Friday that authorities in Manila were “discussing a number of steps to be undertaken in order for us to protect our fishermen.”
Philippine fishermen were told “not to be afraid, but just to go ahead with their normal activities to fish there in our Exclusive Economic Zone,” Brawner said.
The Group of Seven bloc on Friday criticized what it called “dangerous” incursions by China in the waterway.
“We oppose China’s militarization, and coercive and intimidation activities in the South China Sea,” read a G7 statement at the end of a summit on Friday.
The South China Sea is a vital waterway, where Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims in some parts.
Most recently, however, confrontations between China and the Philippines have raised fears of a wider conflict over the sea that could involve the United States and other allies.
Trillions of dollars in ship-borne trade passes through the South China Sea annually, and huge unexploited oil and gas deposits are believed to lie under its seabed, though estimates vary greatly.
The sea is also important as a source of fish for growing populations.
China has defended its new coast guard rules. A foreign ministry spokesman said last month that they were intended to “better uphold order at sea.”
And the Chinese defense minister warned this month that there were “limits” to Beijing’s restraint in the South China Sea.
China has also been angered in the past by US and other Western warships sailing through the South China Sea.
The US Navy and others undertake such voyages to assert the freedom of navigation in international waters, but Beijing considers them violations of its sovereignty.
Chinese and US forces have had a series of close encounters in the South China Sea.

California schools hold graduation ceremonies without disruption over Gaza war

California schools hold graduation ceremonies without disruption over Gaza war
Updated 15 June 2024
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California schools hold graduation ceremonies without disruption over Gaza war

California schools hold graduation ceremonies without disruption over Gaza war

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and other institutions in the state conducted graduation ceremonies on Friday without the disruption of protests over Israel’s war on Gaza, with proceedings largely undisturbed.
The United States, Israel’s key ally, has seen months of pro-Palestinian protests ranging from marches in Washington and vigils near the White House to the blocking of bridges and roads near train stations and airports in multiple cities, along with encampments on many college campuses.
UCLA commencement ceremonies were “poignant and simply beautiful,” the school said. UCLA’s commencement celebrations had over 60 events scheduled from Friday to Sunday.
The Los Angeles Times reported a number of graduates wore keffiyeh scarves, which have become a symbol of solidarity with Palestinians, at the Luskin School of Public Affairs. The newspaper also said dozens of graduates peacefully walked out of the Luskin ceremony but overall a festive atmosphere prevailed throughout for tens of thousands of graduates and visitors.
Commencement ceremonies were also scheduled at UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis and UC Irvine.
University protests in recent months have seen occasional violence while police have made arrests on campuses to clear encampments. Pro-Palestinian activists encamped at UCLA were violently attacked by a mob weeks ago.
Student protesters have demanded an end to the war, a halt to US support for Israel and divestment by their schools from companies with ties to Israel.
More than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s eight-month-old assault on the Gaza Strip, say health officials in the Hamas-ruled enclave. The war has also displaced nearly the entire 2.3 million population in Gaza, caused widespread hunger there and led to genocide allegations that Israel denies. The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7 , killing 1,200 people and abducting some 250 others, according to Israeli tallies.


Trump marks his 78th birthday by tearing into 81-year-old Biden as frail and confused

Trump marks his 78th birthday by tearing into 81-year-old Biden as frail and confused
Updated 15 June 2024
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Trump marks his 78th birthday by tearing into 81-year-old Biden as frail and confused

Trump marks his 78th birthday by tearing into 81-year-old Biden as frail and confused
  • Even after becoming the first former president to have been convicted of a felony, Trump has tightened his grip on much of his party’s base and elected officials

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida: Donald Trump marked his 78th birthday on Friday night by addressing a fawning crowd in Florida and repeatedly dismissing his opponent in November’s election, 81-year-old President Joe Biden, as too frail to handle a second term.

“Our country is being destroyed by incompetent people,” said Trump, who devoted large swathes of a jovial speech to poking fun at Biden. “All presidents should have aptitude tests.”
The former president addressed “Club 47” fan club members at a convention center in West Palm Beach, a short drive from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence. As part of the festivities, organizers brought out a towering, multi-layered cake as audience members tossed red and blue balloons.
Setting on a gold-colored base, the cake featured separate tiers that included a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap and the Club 47 logo, an American flag, the phrase “Born in the USA on Flag Day,” a depiction of Trump golfing and the Oval Office fitted gold frames common in many Trump properties as well as Trump and Republican logos.
When Trump took the stage, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” and chanted “USA! USA!” The layer cake was just for show. But backstage there was a sheet cake with vanilla icing and a gold hue that was served to some members of the former president’s campaign staff.

The event in Trump’s adopted home state sold out of 5,000 tickets at about $35 apiece, with closer spots to the stage costing $60, according to Club 47 President Larry Snowden.
“This is the biggest birthday party I’ve ever had by far,” Trump said.
The former president elicited strong cheers by listing his now-familiar campaign plans, including discussing immigration in menacing terms and pledging to reduce regulations, scrap environmental protections to stimulate domestic energy production and cut taxes.
Despite so often scoffing at Biden, even declaring that the president often “doesn’t know where the hell he is,” Trump also offered a seemingly contradictory message to his own supporters. He endorsed early voting, casting ballots by mail and also on Election Day in person, only to later note: “I actually tell our people, we don’t need your vote. We’ve got so many votes.”
Before Trump took the stage, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Byron Donalds, both Florida Republicans, helped warm up the crowd, gushing about Trump and his prospects for winning back the White House.
It was yet another strong show of support for Trump and came a day after Republicans in Congress sang their own rendition of “Happy Birthday” and presented the former president with a cake and gifts during a Thursday visit to Capitol Hill — displaying remarkable loyalty for a former president who was shunned by many of the same lawmakers after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
Even after becoming the first former president to have been convicted of a felony, Trump has tightened his grip on much of his party’s base and elected officials. Next month, he is scheduled to accept his party’s presidential nomination for the third time — despite facing sentencing in his hush money case on July 11.
Trump referenced his conviction on 34 felony counts on Friday, declaring, “In the end, they’re not after me. They’re after you and I just happened to be standing in their way.”
Mary Lou and Sue Reardon both came to the event from the Villages near Ocala, about 240 miles (386 kilometers) northwest of West Palm Beach. Both were wearing US flag shirts and matching “Birthday” headbands with candles.
“We just feel like he’s our last hope,” Sue Reardon said of Trump.
Biden will turn 82 shortly after Election Day in November. His campaign marked Trump’s birthday by compiling a listing of “78 of Trump’s historic… ‘accomplishments,’” with links to media coverage of policy proposals including “cutting Social Security and Medicare,” Trump’s presidency during GOP losses in the US House and Senate and several references to his legal cases.
“On behalf of America, our early gift for your 79th: Making sure you are never President again,” Biden campaign spokesperson James Singer added to the birthday wishes.
By contrast, there was no hint of GOP disunity when Trump was in Washington to meet with House and Senate Republicans on Thursday, in his first visit to Capitol Hill since the riot, which was carried out by Trump supporters seeking to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden.
Among those attending was Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who endorsed Trump earlier this year despite not having spoken since 2020.
Club 47 is based in Palm Beach County and says on its website that the club’s goal is to keep Trump’s supporters “in our area connected and engaged.” Trump most recently spoke to the club in October, days after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.
Lydia Maldonado, a local Hispanic activist, said Friday’s event is unique compared to any rally nationwide with the former president and that Trump feels comfortable and familiar with this crowd since it’s his hometown.
“The purpose of having this event is pretty much to let him know how much the community here loves him and how much the community supports him,” Maldonado said.
 


US designates Nordic far-right group as terrorists

US designates Nordic far-right group as terrorists
Updated 15 June 2024
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US designates Nordic far-right group as terrorists

US designates Nordic far-right group as terrorists
  • “The United States remains deeply concerned about the racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist threat worldwide and is committed to countering the transnational components of violent white supremacy,” a State Department statement said

WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday designated the Nordic Resistance Movement and three of its leaders terrorists, saying the Scandinavian neo-Nazis pose a threat to Americans.
The State Department added the movement and the leaders to its Specially Designated Global Terrorist list, meaning that any US-based assets will be frozen and that they will be blocked from using the US financial system.
The State Department said it made its finding based on the group’s history of violence rooted in “its openly racist, anti-immigrant, antisemitic, anti-LGBTQI+ platform.”
“The United States remains deeply concerned about the racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist threat worldwide and is committed to countering the transnational components of violent white supremacy,” a State Department statement said.
The group has carried out or attempted to carry out “acts of terrorism that threaten the security of United States nationals or the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States,” it said.
The leaders blacklisted by the State Department, all Swedes, were group’s chief Fredrik Vejdeland, and two other senior figures, Par Oberg and Leif Robert Eklund.
The group, known by its Swedish acronym NMR, professes Nazism and seeks a united “ethnic Nordic” nation.
Founded in 1997 in Sweden as the Swedish Resistance Movement, it saw sister organizations spring up in other Nordic countries until they were united under NMR in 2016.
The group stages protests and produces media arguing against immigration, but has also been linked to violence.
In 2016, a 28-year old man died after being assaulted by NMR members in Helsinki and, according to watchdog organization Expo, several members have been convicted of a series of bombings in Gothenburg in 2016 and 2017.
Finland’s Supreme Court banned the group in 2020.
After takin office in 2021, President Joe Biden’s administration laid out a strategy to counter domestic terrorism that included identifying foreign groups that provide support.
The State Department first designated a white supremacist group as terrorists in 2020 — the Russian Imperial Movement — after years of largely targeting Islamist and far-left movements overseas.
 

 


US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships
Updated 15 June 2024
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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships
  • The confluence of Russian, Canadian and US vessels in Cuba was a reminder of old Cold War tensions
  • Tensions with the US over communism in its “backyard” peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962

HAVANA: A Canadian navy patrol ship sailed into Havana early on Friday, just hours after the United States announced a fast-attack submarine had docked at its Guantanamo naval base in Cuba, both vessels on the heels of Russian warships that arrived on the island earlier this week.

The confluence of Russian, Canadian and US vessels in Cuba — a Communist-run island nation just 145 km (90 miles) south of Florida — was a reminder of old Cold War tensions and fraught ties between Russia and Western nations over the Ukraine war.
However, both the US and Cuba have said the Russian warships pose no threat to the region. Russia has also characterized the arrival of its warships in allied Cuba as routine.
The Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, half submerged with its crew on deck, sailed into Havana harbor on Wednesday after conducting “high-precision missile weapons” training in the Atlantic Ocean, Russia’s defense ministry said.
Canada`s Margaret Brooke patrol vessel began maneuvers early on Friday to enter Havana harbor, part of what the Canadian Joint Operations Command called “a port visit ... in recognition of the long-standing bilateral relationship between Canada and Cuba.”

A group of Cuban pioneers look at the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, part of the Russian naval detachment visiting Cuba, docked at Havana's harbor on June 14, 2024. (AFP)

Hours earlier, the US Southern Command said the fast-attack submarine Helena had arrived on a routine port visit to Guantanamo Bay, a US naval base on the tip of the island around 850 km (530 miles) southeast of Havana.
“The vessel’s location and transit were previously planned,” Southern Command said on X.
Cuba`s foreign ministry said it had been informed of the arrival of the US submarine but was not happy about it.
“Naval visits to a country are usually the result of an invitation, and this was not the case,” said Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernández de Cossío.
“Obviously we do not like the presence in our territory (of a submarine) belonging to a power that maintains an official and practical policy that is hostile against Cuba.”
A Canadian diplomat characterized the Margaret Brooke`s arrival as “routine and part of long-standing cooperation between our two countries,” adding it was “unrelated to the presence of the Russian ships.”
Russia and Cuba were close allies under the former Soviet Union, and tensions with Washington over communism in its “backyard” peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Moscow has maintained ties with Havana.
When asked what message Moscow was sending, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday the West never appeared to take notice when Russia sent signals through diplomatic channels.
“As soon as it comes to exercises or sea voyages, we immediately hear questions and a desire to know what these messages are about,” Zakharova said. “Why do only signals related only to our army and navy reach the West?“
The Russian warships are expected to remain in Havana harbor until Monday.