Kyiv hampered by limits on using Western arms in Russia: NATO chief

Kyiv hampered by limits on using Western arms in Russia: NATO chief
Ukraine has been pressing its Western backers — especially the United States — to allow it to use the longer-range weaponry they supply to hit targets in Russia. (REUTERS)
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Updated 27 May 2024
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Kyiv hampered by limits on using Western arms in Russia: NATO chief

Kyiv hampered by limits on using Western arms in Russia: NATO chief

SOFIA: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that Western powers should reconsider restrictions on Ukraine using weaponry they supply to strike inside Russia as it is hampering Kyiv’s ability to defend itself.
“The time has come to consider whether it will be right to lift some of the restrictions which have been imposed because we see now that especially in the Kharkiv region the front line and the border line is more or less the same,” Stoltenberg told NATO lawmakers meeting in Bulgaria.
“If (Ukraine) cannot attack military targets on Russian territory then it ties one hand of the Ukrainians on their back and makes it very hard for them to conduct defense.”
Ukraine has been pressing its Western backers — especially the United States — to allow it to use the longer-range weaponry they supply to hit targets in Russia.
Washington, and other allies, have been reluctant to permit Kyiv to strike over the border out of fear that it could drag them closer to direct conflict with Moscow.
Stoltenberg said “some allies have lifted restrictions enabling the Ukrainians to better defend themselves,” without giving details.
“It is clear that Ukraine has the right to defend themselves,” the secretry general of the Western alliance said.
“Self-defense includes the right to also attack legitimate military targets inside Russia.”


Cheers, cake and a fist-bump from GOP as Trump returns to Capitol Hill in a first since Jan. 6 riot

Cheers, cake and a fist-bump from GOP as Trump returns to Capitol Hill in a first since Jan. 6 riot
Updated 6 sec ago
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Cheers, cake and a fist-bump from GOP as Trump returns to Capitol Hill in a first since Jan. 6 riot

Cheers, cake and a fist-bump from GOP as Trump returns to Capitol Hill in a first since Jan. 6 riot
  • Despite pending federal charges against him, Trump arrived emboldened as the party’s presumptive nominee
  • He has successfully purged the GOP of critics, silenced most skeptics and enticed once-critical lawmakers aboard his MAGA-fueled campaign
  • Even Trump's most prominent Republican critic, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, shook hands, and fist-bumped with him

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump made a triumphant return to Capitol Hill on Thursday, his first with lawmakers since the Jan. 6, 2021 attacks, embraced by energized House and Senate Republicans who find themselves reinvigorated by his bid to retake the White House.

Despite pending federal charges against Trump for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, and his recent guilty verdict in an unrelated hush money trial, the Republican former president arrived emboldened as the party’s presumptive nominee. He has successfully purged the GOP of critics, silenced most skeptics and enticed once-critical lawmakers aboard his MAGA-fueled campaign.
A packed room of House Republicans sang “Happy Birthday” to Trump in a private breakfast meeting at GOP campaign headquarters across the street from the Capitol. The lawmakers gave him a baseball and bat from the annual congressional game, and senators later presented an American flag cake with “45” candles — and then “47” — referring to the next presidency. Trump bragged that even his telephone rallies for lawmakers could draw bigger crowds than mega-popstar Taylor Swift, who has yet to make any endorsement.
In one remarkable moment, Trump and his most prominent Republican critic, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, shook hands, and fist-bumped.
“There’s tremendous unity in the Republican Party,” Trump said in brief remarks at Senate GOP headquarters.
Trump spent about an hour each with House and Senate Republicans delivering free-wheeling remarks, fielding questions and discussing issues — including Russia and immigration, tax cuts and other priorities for a potential second term.
During the morning session, Trump said House Speaker Mike Johnson is doing a “terrific job,” according to a Republican in the private meeting and granted anonymity to discuss it. Trump asked Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the speaker’s chief Republican critic, if she was being “nice” to Johnson, another Republican said.
“President Trump brought an extraordinary amount of energy, excitement and enthusiasm this morning,” Johnson said afterward, noting high fund-raising tallies since the guilty verdict. “We’re feeling good.”
The Republican speaker had demurred earlier over whether he’s asked Trump to respect the peaceful transfer of presidential power and commit to not doing another Jan. 6. “Of course he respects that, we all do, and we’ve all talked about it, ad nauseum.”
Many potential priorities for a new White House administration are being formulated by a constellation of outside groups, including Project 2025, laying the groundwork for executive and legislative actions, though Trump has made clear he has his own agenda.
“Anybody who thought that this president was going to be down after the sham trial. it’s only giving him even more energy,” said Rep. Tom Emmer, the GOP whip. “Donald Trump is crushing this election.”
But Trump’s private meetings with House and Senate Republicans so close to the Capitol were infused with the symbolism of his return as the US president who threatened the American tradition of the peaceful transfer of power.
“It’s frustrating,” said former US Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who made his own unsuccessful run for Congress as a Maryland Democrat in the aftermath of Jan. 6, the day when police engaged in hand-to-hand fighting to stop Trump supporters who stormed the building in an effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s election.
Dunn spoke of the “irony” of Trump returning to the area and lawmakers now embracing him. “It just shows the lack of backbone they have when they’re truly putting party and person over country,” he said. “And it’s sad.”
Biden was overseas Thursday attending a summit of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations, but the president’s campaign unveiled a new ad blaming Trump for lighting the “fire” of Jan. 6 and threatening democracy.
Many of those who once stood up to Trump are long gone from office and the Republicans who remain seem increasingly enthusiastic about the possibility of him retaking the White House, and the down-ballot windfall that could mean for their own GOP majorities in Congress.
Thursday afternoon offered the first encounter in years between Trump and McConnell, who once blamed Trump for the “disgraceful” attack that he called an “insurrection” but now endorses the party’s presumptive nominee.
Trump addressed the situation directly, saying he intends to work with everyone and that McConnell had “done his best” as leader, said Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Oklahoma, an ally of the former president.
According to Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, who organized the conference meeting, after Trump addressed the group McConnell gave a thumbs up and the two approached each other and exchanged the fist-bump.
“We had a really positive meeting,” McConnell said. “He and I got a chance to talk a little bit, shook hands a few times.”
As democracies around the world come under threat from a far-rightward shift, some analysts warn that the US system, once seemingly immune from authoritarian impulses, is at risk of populist and extremist forces like those that Trump inspired to sack the Capitol.
“This is just another example of House Republicans bending the knee to Donald Trump,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, the chairman of the House Democratic caucus.
Making Jan. 6 a cornerstone of his reelection campaign, Trump celebrates those who stormed the Capitol as “warriors” and “patriots,” and he has vowed to pardon any number of the more than 1,200 people charged with crimes for the assault on the seat of US democracy.
Moreover, Trump has vowed to seek retribution by ousting officials at the US Justice Department, which is prosecuting him in a four-count indictment to overturn the election ahead of the Jan. 6 attack and another case over storing classified documents at his Mar-A-Largo home.
Republicans, particularly in the House but increasingly in the Senate, are vigorously following his lead, complaining of an unfair justice system. It’s having noticeable results: the House and Senate GOP campaign arms scored some of their highest fundraising periods yet after a jury found him guilty in the New York hush money case.
When former GOP Speaker Paul Ryan on Fox News reiterated this week that he wouldn’t be voting for Trump and wished Republicans had another choice for president, he was immediately ostracized by Trump allies.
“Paul Ryan, you’re a piece of garbage,” said Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas. “We should kick you out of the party.”
Of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over Jan. 6 and convict him on the charge of inciting the insurrection, only a few remain in office.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, had not been expected to attend Thursday’s closed-door session with Trump. But Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, joined as did Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana
Cassidy said he’s attending the Trump meeting expecting “he’s going to be the next president, so you have to work” together.
Asked if he was concerned about the direction of the Trump Republican Party, Cassidy said: “Let the day’s own troubles be sufficient for the day. You can fill yourself up with anxiety about tomorrow, but will it change a thing? No.”
 


Minnesota man who joined Daesh sentenced to 10 years in prison

Minnesota man who joined Daesh sentenced to 10 years in prison
Updated 25 min 46 sec ago
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Minnesota man who joined Daesh sentenced to 10 years in prison

Minnesota man who joined Daesh sentenced to 10 years in prison

MINNEAPOLIS: A Minnesota man who once fought for the Daesh group in Syria after becoming radicalized expressed remorse and wept in open court Thursday as he was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.

Abelhamid Al-Madioum, 27, cooperated with federal authorities ahead of Thursday’s hearing, which prosecutors factored into their recommendation for a lower sentence than the statutory maximum of 20 years.

US District Judge Ann Montgomery said among the cases she has presided over in her 40 years on the bench, Al-Madioum’s was “extraordinary.” She cited his confounding path from a loving Minnesota home to one of the world’s most notorious terror organizations and his subsequent collaboration with the government he betrayed.

When Al-Madioum rose to speak before being sentenced, he thanked the US government for giving him another chance. He then turned to address his parents and two young sons, who were rescued from a Syrian orphanage and brought to America with the help of federal authorities.

“I know I put you through so much, and I did with the belief that it was my religious duty,” Al-Madioum said while fighting back tears. “That’s no excuse. My first duty should have been to you.”

Al-Madioum, a naturalized US citizen, was among several Minnesotans suspected of leaving the US to join the Daesh group, along with thousands of fighters from other countries worldwide. Roughly three dozen people are known to have left Minnesota to join militant groups in Somalia or Syria. In 2016, nine Minnesota men were sentenced on federal charges of conspiring to join Daesh.

But Al-Madioum is one of the relatively few Americans who have been brought back to the US who actually fought for the group. According to a defense sentencing memo, he’s one of 11 adults as of 2023 to be formally repatriated to the US from the conflict in Syria and Iraq to face charges for terrorist-related crimes and alleged affiliations with IS. Others received sentences ranging from four years to life plus 70 years.

Prosecutors had asked for a 12-year sentence, arguing that Al-Madioum’s suffering did not make his crimes any less serious. Assistant US Attorney Andrew Winter said Al-Madioum self-radicalized online and helped daesh, also known as Daesh, carry out its goals.

“Young men just like him all over the world ... allowed Daesh to flourish,” Winter said.

Manvir Atwal, Al-Madioum’s attorney requested a seven-year sentence. She said Al-Madioum was taken in as an impressionable teenager by a well-oiled propaganda machine. He rejected extremist ideology years ago and had helped the government in other terrorism cases, which prosecutors confirmed.

Montgomery opted for a 10-year sentence, weighing sentencing guidelines with Al-Madioum’s cooperation and letters on his behalf, including one from an unnamed former US ambassador. He has already served over five years and might get credit for that time, Atwal said.

Al-Madioum grew up in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park in a loving and nonreligious family, the defense memo said. He joined Daesh because he wanted to help Muslims he believed were being slaughtered by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in that country’s civil war. IS recruiters persuaded him “to test his faith and become a real Muslim.”

Al-Madioum was 18 in 2014 when IS recruited him. The college student slipped away from his family on a visit to their native Morocco in 2015. Making his way to Syria, he became a soldier for Daesh until he was maimed in an explosion in Iraq. His leg was shattered and his arm had to be amputated. Unable to fight, he used his computer skills to serve the group.

While still a member of Daesh, he married and had children with two women.

He had thought his second wife and their daughter had died. But in court Thursday, Al-Madioum said he had heard there is a chance she and their daughter might still be alive. That possibility remains under investigation, Atwal said.

Al-Madioum’s first wife died in his arms after she was shot in front of him by either rebel forces or an Daesh fighter in 2019, the defense said. Al-Madioum said in court that he dug a trench and buried her.

The day after that shooting, he walked with his sons and surrendered to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which held him under conditions the defense described as “heinous” for 18 months until the FBI returned him to the US

He pleaded guilty in 2021 to providing material support to a designated terrorist organization. His sons were eventually found in a Syrian orphanage, the culmination of what he and Montgomery described as a unique effort from US diplomats and other officials.

Al-Madioum’s parents were awarded custody of his sons after they arrived in America. Sitting in the court’s gallery Thursday, his sons, ages 7 and 9, sat on their grandparents’ laps and smiled at their father as he turned to face them.


US, Britain, Canada accuse Russia of plot to sway Moldova election

US, Britain, Canada accuse Russia of plot to sway Moldova election
Updated 27 min 9 sec ago
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US, Britain, Canada accuse Russia of plot to sway Moldova election

US, Britain, Canada accuse Russia of plot to sway Moldova election

KYIV/WASHINGTON: The United States, Britain and Canada accused Russia on Thursday of carrying out a plot to sway the outcome of the Moldovan presidential election in October and incite protests if a pro-Moscow candidate should lose.
Russia is working to exacerbate societal tensions and foment negative perceptions of the West and the incumbent team of Moldova’s pro-Western President Maia Sandu through disinformation and online propaganda, they said in a statement issued by the State Department in Washington.
“We are taking this step to warn our democratic partners and allies that Russian actors are carrying out a plot to influence the outcomes of Moldova’s fall 2024 presidential election,” they said.
The plot, they said, is part of wider attempts by Moscow to subvert democratic elections to “secure results favorable to the Kremlin.”
The threat is especially relevant this year as hundreds of million of voters in Europe and North America cast ballots in national, regional and local elections, the statement said.
The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Moldovan Prime Minister Dorin Recean said on social media platform X that he was grateful for support from the three allies and vowed that the “Kremlin’s attempts to undermine our sovereignty and incite unrest will not succeed.”

Moldova, a former Soviet republic of 2.5 million people, has fiercely condemned Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, accused Moscow of plotting the Moldovan government’s overthrow and expelled Russian diplomats.
Russia, the allies said, is backing presidential candidates in Moldova and unidentified pro-Russia actors are “actively using disinformation and propaganda online, on the air and on the streets to further their objectives.”
These actors are fanning criticism of Sandu and her Party of Action and Solidarity to incite protests and plan to spread lies about her character and “supposed electoral irregularities.”
The allies issued the statement a day after the United States imposed sanctions on Evgenia Gutul, the pro-Russia governor of Moldova’s Gagauzia region.

Yevgenia Gutsul, leader of Moldovia's Gagauzia region. R)EUTERS/File Photo

Gutul faces criminal allegations of channelling funds from Russia to finance the now-banned Shor Party set up by Ilan Shor, an exiled pro-Russia businessman convicted of fraud in Moldova.
She denies the allegations as fabricated.
During a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Chisinau last month, Sandu accused the Kremlin of using criminal groups in Gagauzia to bring in Russian money to finance de-stabilizing activities and attempts “to bribe the elections.”
In the joint statement, the allies said they shared Sandu’s concerns that the Kremlin is using criminal groups to finance political activities.
Moscow’s political interference, they said, dates back years, and they cited as an example “direct support” that employees of Russia’s state-funded RT media network have provided to Shor.

 

 


State of ‘catastrophe’ as downpours hit Chile

State of ‘catastrophe’ as downpours hit Chile
Updated 58 min 33 sec ago
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State of ‘catastrophe’ as downpours hit Chile

State of ‘catastrophe’ as downpours hit Chile

SANTIAGO: Heavy rains battered south and central Chile on Thursday, killing one person and causing damage to hundreds of homes as authorities declared a state of catastrophe in five regions of the South American country.

A person died in the southern city of Linares when a street lamp post fell after hours-long downpours and strong winds, the Senapred disaster response service said.

Chile’s weather service issued the highest level of alarm, covering some 14 million of the 20 million people living in six of the country’s 16 regions, but this was later lifted as authorities said 80 percent of the storm had passed, and was headed for neighboring Argentina.

Prior to the arrival of the flood waters, Chile’s central region had battled severe drought for 15 years.

“We need boats to get people out,” a resident in one of the affected towns, Curanilahue, told national television.

Curanilahue, some 600 kilometers (372 miles) south of the capital Santiago, has been hard hit as the Curanilahue and Las Ranas rivers overflowed after the area received 350 millimeters (13.7 inches) of rain in just hours — more than in 2023 as a whole.

Some 2,000 houses in the area were damaged.

President Gabriel Boric, in a message from Sweden where he was on an official visit, warned that the rains “will continue very strongly,” as he announced the first death.

Interior Minister Carolina Toha, before boarding a plane to visit the affected areas, said a state of “catastrophe” had been declared in five regions to expedite the deployment of resources.

Senapred said the downpours have affected some 3,300 people, down from an initial estimate of 4,300.

In the capital Santiago, which also saw heavy rains, schools were closed for the day and authorities urged people to limit their movements.

In the city of Vina del Mar, experts worked to save a 12-story apartment building at risk of collapse after the rains caused a massive sinkhole underneath it.

The weather service said a cold front over the country was accompanied by something called an “atmospheric river” — a strip of air carrying huge amounts of moisture.


Elon Musk wins back his $44.9 billion Tesla pay package in shareholder vote

Elon Musk wins back his $44.9 billion Tesla pay package in shareholder vote
Updated 56 min 13 sec ago
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Elon Musk wins back his $44.9 billion Tesla pay package in shareholder vote

Elon Musk wins back his $44.9 billion Tesla pay package in shareholder vote
  • The favorable vote doesn’t necessarily mean that Musk will get the all-stock compensation anytime soon
  • The package is likely to remain tied up in the courts for months as Tesla tries to overturn a Deleware judge's rejection

DETROIT: Tesla shareholders have voted to restore CEO Elon Musk’s record $44.9 billion pay package that was thrown out by a Delaware judge earlier this year.

Vote totals weren’t immediately announced at Tesla’s annual stockholders’ meeting on Thursday, but the company said shareholders voted for Musk’s compensation plan, which initially was approved by the board and stockholders six years ago.
But the favorable vote doesn’t necessarily mean that Musk will get the all-stock compensation anytime soon. The package is likely to remain tied up in the Delaware Chancery Court and Supreme Court for months as Tesla tries to overturn the rejection.
Tesla last valued the package at $44.9 billion in an April regulatory filing. It was once much as $56 billion but has declined in value ialong with Tesla’s stock, which has dropped about 40 percent in the last 12 months.
Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick ruled in January in a shareholder’s lawsuit that Musk essentially controlled the Tesla board when it ratified the package in 2018, and that it failed to fully inform shareholders who approved it the same year.
Tesla has said it would appeal, but asked shareholders to reapprove the package at Thursday’s annual meeting.

Tesla's new Model 3 sedan is displayed next to Model X SUV at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, China, on September 2, 2023. (REUTERS/File)

A separate issue to move the company’s legal home to Texas to avoid the Delaware courts also was approved, Musk said Thursday at the meeting in Austin, Texas.
“Its incredible,” a jubilant Musk told the crowd gathered at Tesla’s headquarters and large factory in Austin, Texas. “I think we’re not just opening a new chapter for Tesla, we’re starting a new book.”
Legal experts say the issue of Musk’s pay will still be decided in Delaware, largely because Musk’s lawyers have assured McCormick that they won’t try to move the case to Texas.
But they differ on whether the new approval of the pay package will make it easier for Tesla to get it approved.
Charles Elson, a retired professor and founder of the corporate governance center at the University of Delaware, said he doesn’t think the vote will influence McCormick, who issued a decision based on the law.
McCormick’s ruling essentially made the 2018 compensation package a gift to Musk, Elson said, and that would need unanimous shareholder approval, an impossible threshold. The vote, he said, is interesting from a public perception standpoint, but “in my view it does not affect the ruling.”
John Lawrence, a Dallas-based lawyer with Baker Botts who defends corporations against shareholder lawsuits, agreed that the vote doesn’t end the legal dispute and automatically give Musk the stock options. But he says it gives Tesla a strong argument to get the ruling overturned.
He expects Musk and Tesla to argue that shareholders were fully informed before the latest votes, so McCormick should reverse her decision. But the plaintiff in the lawsuit will argue that the vote has no impact and isn’t legally binding, Lawrence said.
The vote, he said, was done under Delaware law and should be considered by the judge.
“This shareholder vote is a strong signal that you now have an absolutely well informed body of shareholders,” he said. “The judge in Delaware still could decide that this doesn’t change a thing about her prior ruling and doesn’t require her to make any different ruling going forward. But I think it definitely gives Tesla and Musk strong ammunition to try to get her to revisit this.”
If the ruling stands, then Musk likely will appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court, Lawrence said.