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Wed, 24 May 2017
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Trial of alleged Turkey coup ringleaders begins amid criticism from Amnesty International

Turkish soldiers who are accused of participating in an attempted coup d'etat in 2016 are escorted to trial at a court inside Sincan prison in Ankara on May 22.
Turkey has begun the trial of more than 220 suspects accused of being among the ringleaders of the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016.

Twenty-six former generals are among the defendants in the trial, which started in May 22 at a vast courtroom at a prison outside Ankara.

Erdogan's government claims that the July 15 coup attempt was orchestrated by the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a claim he strongly denies.

Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, is one of the 221 suspects named in the indictment. He is one of nine who are not in custody, with the others appearing in court.

Star of David

Israeli Jews not interested in Trump deal-making for peace

© CNN.com
Israeli Jews have two big concerns about Donald Trump's visit here today and tomorrow. First that he will shut down traffic in the city. Second, that he will push for a peace deal and the creation of a Palestinian state. They're not interested.

"We are afraid more than we hope," said Elhanan, 71, a retired teacher. "If Trump pushes, after the blah blah blah and the etcetera and the hot air, everyone will find that the Israeli maximum is much lower than the Palestinian minimum. Nothing good will come of it. This is a 100-years war."

These ideas were echoed again and again in interviews I had with 20 Jewish Israelis in Jerusalem. Israeli Jews fear the Palestinians far more than they trust them, and though they want little to do with them, the answer is not a Palestinian state.

"I don't know if their own state is the solution," Oded, a 32-year-old lawyer, told me on King George Street in Jewish West Jerusalem. "I don't know what they [the Palestinians] are fighting for. They have a good life with us. They don't want to vote.... I know there are problems with water, and facilities. But I think if they try to open themselves.... they can manage to live with us."

Donald Trump will surely envy Benjamin Netanyahu. He has achieved what Trump has not: he has unified Israeli Jews of right and left in a fearful nationalism on an ethnic basis. He has helped create a broad Jewish center to which there is no real opposition.


Terror attack in Times Square? Car plows into pedestrians in New York City - dozens reported injured (UPDATES)

© Mike Segar
A vehicle that struck pedestrians in Times Square and later crashed is seen on the sidewalk in New York City, US, May 18, 2017
New York City Police have declared a "mass casualty incident" after a speeding car drove onto the sidewalk in Times Square, killing one and injuring at least a dozen people. The incident does not seem to be a terrorist attack, police said.

Seven people were loaded onto stretchers, while one person has died, a witness told Reuters. The New York Fire Department said that one person was killed and 19 others were injured in a "motor vehicle incident."

Comment: Update 19 May

Footage of the incident has been posted on Facebook:

That does not look like someone fleeing a robbery. It looks more like someone who just snapped.

Comment: What they're downplaying is the fact that the driver, Richard Rojas, served in the US Navy from 2011 to 2015.

Furthermore, he doesn't appear to have been drunk:
Rojas was calm and quiet as police later led him out of the precinct hours later - a marked difference from just a few hours earlier. He was seen in a crosswalk moments before the crash as looking completely crazed before he was taken into custody.

Police sources tell CBS2 that Rojas passed the breathalyzer test.
In fact, he sounds very much like the guy who mowed down people in Nice, France last year:
Officials said Rojas told police he was "hearing voices" and investigators believe he may have been under the influence of drugs, with an alcohol test coming back negative.

"You were supposed to shoot me! I wanted to kill them," he shouted after being detained, a source told Reuters.
Another eyewitness, a Planet Hollywood employee named Ken Bradix, who helped subdue the raving Rojas after he got out of the car, told Associated Press:
"He began screaming, no particular words but just utter screaming. He was swinging his arms at the same time. There was something wrong with him."
So, the question is: why is this one not a 'terror attack'?

Update: According to the criminal complaint, Rojas "had glassy eyes, slurred speech and was unsteady." Rojas also allegedly told an officer "I smoked marijuana. I laced the marijuana with PCP". RT adds:
A childhood friend of Rojas's says he seemed to become emotionally disturbed after a stint in the Navy from 2011 to 2014.

"That's my friend," Harrison Ramos told WINS. "I'm concerned for him. It hurts."

Just last Thursday, Rojas was arrested for menacing, accused of pulling a kitchen knife on a visitor to his Bronx home.

In April 2015, he was arrested for DWI in Manhattan and later pleaded guilty to operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol. In August 2008, he was also arrested for DWI in Queens.

He was also arrested on suspicion of battery in 2012 at the Mayport Naval Base in Jacksonville, Florida, where he was stationed at the time.
Update (May 21): Speaking from jail, Richard Rojas told the New York Post that he cannot remember last Thursday's events, and made emotional pleas for forgiveness. He says he had sought help and attempted to "fix his life", unsuccessfully:
Rojas says he attempted to consult a mental health counselor at a local veterans' center, but the specialist was not available until Monday, May 22.

"I was trying to get help. I wanted to fix my life. I wanted to get a job. Get a girlfriend," Rojas told the Post, speaking from Rikers Island. "He [the counselor] said he'd call me on Monday...Monday hasn't come yet."

Rojas claims that the last thing he remembers doing Thursday was driving his vehicle in an attempt to unwind.

"It was just a normal morning. I had a sandwich ... I wanted to clear my head. I told my mom, I said I was just going around," he says, adding that later he "woke up in the precinct" and was "terrified."

At the time of his arrest following the shocking ramming of pedestrians in Times Square, which resulted in an 18-year-old woman being killed and serious injuries to several of the two dozen other people hit, the violent Rojas was recorded to be saying to police: "You were supposed to shoot me! I wanted to kill them." Prosecutors says he also shouted that he smoked marijuana and laced it with Phencyclidine, a dissociative drug known as PCP or "angel dust" with hallucinogenic side effects.

However, speaking to the New York Post on Saturday, Rojas appeared less certain about what he smoked, saying: "I guess it was laced with something."

Not directly accepting his guilt and saying that he still wants to "verify that I'm the person" behind the rampage, Rojas apologized to the victims of his crazed drive.

"I just want to apologize to all the victims' families ... I want to apologize to my mom," he said.


Sorry, Time Magazine, but Putin doesn't work in a cathedral

© Screenshot from time.com
Russians have long been dismayed at how foreign media characterizes their homeland. This week's Time cover gaffe, in which the magazine mistakes a cathedral for the Kremlin, is the latest addition to a collection of confusion.

One of the primary reasons for the creation of RT almost twelve years ago was Russian exasperation at the dreadful Western press coverage of this country - a problem caused by a reliance on poorly trained correspondents in Moscow and willful ignorance from news desks back home. Not to mention a sort of hive mentality where individual outlets and reporters present stereotype as fact.

This sad state of affairs has produced many low points, from 'experts' helping inspire rumors of Vladimir Putin's death, to makey-uppy pieces on what he allegedly eats for breakfast. We've also had hacks suggest Russia is about to implode or take over the world, often in the same week. That said, I don't recall anything as dumb as what Time magazine has pulled off on the cover of its latest edition.

Cell Phone

Russian smartphone hacker ring busted after stealing 50 million rubles from bank customers

© Michael Weber / Global Look Press
The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) has announced the arrest of a hacker group, which installed viruses on smartphones to steal money from customers' bank accounts.

To steal the money, the hackers used the SMS-banking system, with money transfers taking place without notification. The police did not specify which banks were involved but said over a million smartphones were hacked smartphones and over 50 million rubles (about $900,000) stolen.

Twenty people have been detained, and four have been arrested. The alleged ringleader is a 30-year-old man living in Ivanovo, an industrial city 300 km northeast of Moscow.

Reuters reported that the banks which came under cyber attack were Russia's largest bank Sberbank and the country's largest private bank, Alfa Bank along with the Qiwi payment system.

Arrow Up

Bitcoin soars: $100 investment now worth almost $73 million

© Pawel Kopczynski / Reuters
After soaring nearly 65 percent in the last month, the digital currency bitcoin smashed the historic $2,000 mark on Saturday. The total market cap of the asset has likewise climbed to $32.92 billion.

The cryptocurrency has reached a new high on Monday, trading at $2,167.24 as of 10:15 am GMT.

The world's most popular virtual currency first broke the $1,000 valuation four years ago, but later dropped in price as a result of factors, including the implosion of the major exchange Mt. Gox.

Since then bitcoin has regained lost ground, more than doubling its value since the beginning of the year partly due to global political uncertainty and increased interest in Asia. Investors turned to the asset as a "safe haven" against geopolitical risks.

Early investors in bitcoin would stand to benefit the most if they held on to the currency. Those who bought $100 of bitcoin at the 0.003 cent price on May 22, 2010, would now be sitting on around $72.9 million.

While some market observers think the rally will continue, others express concerns the asset may have entered a speculative bubble.


Will they deliver? Labour Party promises to waive first year university tuition fees

© PA Wire/PA Images
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Angela Rayner, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary
Students starting university this September will have their first year fees written off if Labour wins the election, the party has announced.

Jeremy Corbyn's party's pledge goes further than its existing promise to scrap tuition fees from 2018 under a Labour government.

Corbyn, launching the policy in tandem with Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, says the plan will save 400,000 students an average of around £27,000.

The move, to discourage students deferring until after tuition fees are abolished, is part of a £38 billion promise on fees, which is to be paid for by increasing income tax paid by the wealthiest and reversing Tory cuts to corporation tax.

The Conservative Party pointed to Brexit negotiations having the biggest impact on students, and warned their future would be "under threat" if Corbyn was leading the talks.


Indonesian police arrest 141 people in gay party raid; private details leaked online

© Antara Foto Agency / Reuters
A police raid on a suspected gay party in Indonesia's capital Jakarta on Sunday resulted in dozens of men being arrested. A dozen are facing criminal charges for prostitution and pornography, while others were allegedly harassed and humiliated.

The party was targeted after an undercover investigation tipped off police about an upcoming event at the Atlantis Gym and Sauna in the northern part of Jakarta, police spokesperson Argo Yuwono told journalists on Monday.

Called "the Wild One," it featured strip dancing and other entertainment for gay guests, the head of one of Jakarta's Police Crime Investigation Units said, as cited by the local Merdeka.

According to Yuwono, police "detained 141 people who violated pornography laws," with most of them wanted as potential witnesses.

Ten people, including the club's owner and staff, as well as several exotic dancers, have been charged with crimes related to prostitution and pornography, for which they are facing prison terms or heavy fines.

Gay sex itself is not criminalized in Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim nation, except for in the province of Aceh, which adopted Sharia Law in 2014. However, LGBT activists say the country's authorities persecute gay people, creating a hostile environment and exposing gays to vigilantism.

Comment: Indonesia: Couple faces 100 cane strokes in Sharia court for having gay sex


Exposed: Facebook's internal rulebook on sex, violence and terrorism

© Guardian
Facebook's secret rules and guidelines for deciding what its 2 billion users can post on the site are revealed for the first time in a Guardian investigation that will fuel the global debate about the role and ethics of the social media giant.

The Guardian has seen more than 100 internal training manuals, spreadsheets and flowcharts that give unprecedented insight into the blueprints Facebook has used to moderate issues such as violence, hate speech, terrorism, pornography, racism and self-harm.

There are even guidelines on match-fixing and cannibalism.

The Facebook Files give the first view of the codes and rules formulated by the site, which is under huge political pressure in Europe and the US.

They illustrate difficulties faced by executives scrabbling to react to new challenges such as "revenge porn" - and the challenges for moderators, who say they are overwhelmed by the volume of work, which means they often have "just 10 seconds" to make a decision.


Dubai: World's first 'robocop' to begin patrolling the streets

© Ruptly
The world's first robot policeman has officially joined Dubai's police force. While it's not exactly the Robocop from the movie, officers in the United Arab Emirates may want to get used to them, as the bots may soon account for a quarter of their colleagues.

The autonomous Robocop entered the line of duty on Sunday by greeting guests and patrolling the halls at the three-day Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference (GISEC). Plans are in place to have the machine on the streets in popular Dubai areas when the expo ends on Tuesday evening.

Comment: They've done it. Dubai to put 'robocops' on the streets in two years