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Sat, 23 Mar 2019
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US citizen sentenced to 10 years in Iran for insulting Khamenei, posting image with girlfriend online

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
© Reuters/ TIMA/ Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi
A portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran
A US citizen has been sentenced to 10 years behind bars after a trial in Iran, his lawyer said. The former Navy serviceman violated a lèse-majesté law and a private information law that do not apply in the US.

Michael White, who used to serve in the aviation maintenance administration in the Navy before his retirement, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Monday, the American's lawyer, Mark Zaid, told media. White was arrested in July in the town of Mashhad, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing his family.

Few details are known about the charges he faced and was convicted of. Zaid said that White was facing two separate charges, one of which was insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It's unclear how and under what circumstances White committed the offense.

Another charge was linked to posting private information online, which is punishable in Iran. The 'private information', according to Zaid, is an Instagram photo of White with his girlfriend who lives in Iran.

White is now planning to appeal the sentence, which he can do within 22 days.


New Zealand shooter's worldwide trips investigated

Brenton Tarrant
© AFP/ TRT World
A CCTV video still of Brenton Tarrant at a Turkish airport in 2016 made available by TRT World.
The Australian accused of the deadly shooting at two mosques in New Zealand traveled around the globe, including Eastern Europe, Turkey, Pakistan and probably North Korea. Authorities in several countries are probing his trips.

Before his shooting spree left 50 worshipers dead and 40 people injured in Christchurch on Friday, Brenton Harrison Tarrant published a manifesto where the 28-year-old mentioned visiting Pakistan, North Korea, Turkey, France, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Iceland, Argentina and many other countries. Now, some of these states are investigating what he might have done there and whether he picked up his radical ideas during his travels.


One of those countries is the UK, as the gunman called for the murder of London mayor Sadiq Khan. Tarrant accused Khan of working to "replace" the majority-white British people with Muslims. MI5 is now looking into Tarrant's possible links to far-right radicals in Britain that he might have established during his European visits.

The bodybuilder and personal trainer from a small Aussie town wrote that he was able to fund his many travels after successfully investing in cryptocurrency.

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Sabotage? Venezuelan plane crashes, killing two colonels

A Cessna 206
© Wikipedia
A Cessna 206
Shocking video captured by a passenger shows the moment a Cessna 206 fell from the sky and crashed into a forest in Venezuela. The crash reportedly killed two of the plane's four passengers.

In the footage posted this week, the light aircraft lists to one side before smashing into a thickly-wooded area below. The crew panics, before the video abruptly cuts.

Star of David

ADL's Greenblatt makes absurd claim that 'murdering people in a mosque' has never happened before

Jonathan Greenblatt ADL Israel

Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti Defamation league, September 2017
On NPR this morning, David Greene interviewed Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti Defamation League about the mass murders in the New Zealand mosques and asked how common it is for "hate speech online and in social media platforms" to "turn into an actual mass shooting this terrible?"

Greenblatt said the attack is unprecedented.
Well I think this act of violence really doesn't have a precedent as far as we know, murdering people in a mosque like this, and the social media dimension is something new. However, hate speech on-line is an increasing problem. We've got a big problem on our hands. We need to recognize social media allows white supremacy much like other forms of hate to travel across borders. and we've got to recognize it for the global terror threat that it really is.
Greenblatt failed to remember 1994's rightwing Zionist attack on the Ibrahimi mosque, at the Cave of the Patriarchs, when Baruch Goldstein, a messianic Jewish settler who had moved to occupied territories from Brooklyn, killed 29 Muslims while they prayed.

Comment: Mosques in the vicinity of Israel are always in danger of coming under attack. It's amazing there aren't more deaths.


Italian police investigating death of 'poisoned' key witness in Berlusconi's 'bunga-bunga' trial

Imane Fadil
Model Imane Fadil pictured at Milan's court during the trial of the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute on April 16, 2012.
An investigation has been launched into the death of a model who was a key witness in the trial of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and his so-called "bunga bunga" sex parties.

Moroccan model Iman Fadil, 33, died on 1 March at a hospital in the Italian city of Milan, BBC News reported, citing the Italian media.

The model had been hospitalized for a month before she passed away, after suffering from stomach pains. Fadil claimed to her friends and lawyer that she was poisoned, according to Reuters. Her death was revealed on Friday.

Milan chief prosecutor Francesco Greco said she showed "symptoms of poisoning," the Associated Press reported citing the Italian news agency ANSA.

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#HandsOffVenezuela! Protesters rally against regime change outside White House

protest venezuela washington white house
© Twitter / Anya Parampil
Hundreds of protesters are gathering in Washington DC to demand "No coup! No war! No sanctions!" on Venezuela, and show support for Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro against regime change efforts.

A large sea of demonstrators met at Lafayette Park for a march on Washington Saturday afternoon to show opposition to the Trump administration's effort to overthrow Maduro and replace him with opposition figure Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself president with the support of the US, Canada, many European nations and other leaders.


Video shows historic St. Sulpice church on fire in Paris

paris church fire sulpice
© Twitter / Stephane Larue
A screenshot from footage shot inside the church
Paris' historical Saint-Sulpice church has gone up in flames. Firefighters are extinguishing the blaze, which burst through the doors of the 19th Century building.

Firefighters were sent to deal with the blaze early on Sunday afternoon, Le Parisien reported. According to the newspaper, the wooden doors were on fire, and a stained glass window was damaged. The rest of the damage "seems minor," the daily paper said.

Dramatic footage shared on social media shows the interior of the church in flames, with smoke billowing up to its arched roof. From outside, video footage shows firefighters hosing down the burning doors.

The cause of the fire remains unknown.

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US Congress members weigh giving themselves a raise

Capitol building
© Wikipedia
Living in Washington DC is expensive. For US lawmakers, that means it's time to give themselves a pay raise. But with confidence in politics at a miserable low, selling a raise to the public could be an uphill battle.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) called for the raise on Wednesday, in remarks to the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. A pay raise, he said would ensure that elected representatives who don't come from wealthy backgrounds can live comfortably in Washington DC.

"Americans ought to have our nation's diversity of economic backgrounds better reflected in this House," he said.

Members of Congress have had their salaries frozen since 2009, but still earn considerably more than the average American. Senators and Representatives take home $174,000 per year, with party leaders on both houses earning $193,000, and the Speaker of the House topping the scale at $223,500.


#YangGang: Online support for 2020 presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, grows

Andrew Yang
© Reuters / Scott Morgan
Andrew Yang attends a campaign event in Iowa.
Andrew Yang is a name absent from most cable networks' 2020 discussions. However, the Democratic candidate and universal-income advocate has been steadily building an army of online supporters, including some unlikely names.

Kicking off his campaign in earnest with an appearance on Joe Rogan's podcast last month, Yang has since accumulated 65,000 donors, enough to participate in the Democratic National Committee's first two primary debates this summer.

However, even with the sudden surge in interest, Yang is still polling around one percent. CNN has excluded Yang entirely from its opaque 'Power Rankings,' despite featuring Washington Governor Jay Inslee, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro - all of whom come in behind Yang in the Monmouth University poll.

Yang's signature proposal is the 'Freedom Dividend' - an experiment in Universal Basic Income that would see every adult American given $1,000 per month. The dividend would be funded by increased taxes on tech companies and is intended as both an economic stimulus and a safeguard against automation, poised to wipe out 40 percent of the world's jobs by 2035, according to one expert.

The 44-year-old's anti-robot stance has given rise to his campaign's borderline-dystopian slogan: 'Humanity First.'

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Serbia: Anti-government protestors storm TV station demanding to be put on air

riot police
Riot police officers stand guard to prevent protesters demonstrating against Serbian President to burst inside state-run TV headquarters at the building's second entrance, on March 16, 2019 in Belgrade.
Scuffles broke out between opposition and riot police after protesters forced their way into the offices of a public broadcaster in Belgrade, demanding they be put on the air. Police resorted to force to evict the crowd.

Activists protesting against the government of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stormed the headquarters of the country's public broadcaster, RTS, on Saturday evening. Tensions were running high early in the day when huge crowds of opposition activists swarmed the streets to march to the RTS offices to call for more press freedom.

The protesters initially planned to stage a two-hour sit-in in front of the building. However, the situation soon spiraled out of control. While they were chanting slogans outside, a group of protesters led by the leader of the right-wing Dveri party, Bosko Obradovic, and his ally, prominent opposition politician Dragan Djilas, stormed the officers, occupying several floors.

Comment: Vucic is a 'reformed' Westerner who now wishes to lead Serbia into the European Union.

For many Serbians, however, they remember that the EU/NATO bombed their country just 20 years ago.