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Sen. Graham: Russia can expect hard-hitting sanctions

Author: 
Associated Press
Wed, 2016-12-28
ID: 
1482939668689749600

RIGA, Latvia: Sen. Lindsey Graham says “bi-partisan sanctions … will hit Russia hard, particularly (President Vladimir) Putin as an individual.”
Graham says the US Congress “will investigate the Russian involvement in our elections,” but he didn’t elaborate on possible sanctions.
The Kremlin has been accused of interference in the campaign that propelled Donald Trump to power.
Graham said Wednesday that “Russia is trying to break the back of democracies all around the world,” adding that Latvia is “constantly bombarded” with “Russian aggression and interference.”
Graham told a news conference that “it is now time for Russia to understand — enough is enough.”
Graham is touring Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania this week with fellow Republican John McCain and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar. McCain called Russia’s behavior “unacceptable.”

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Sen. Graham: Russia can expect hard-hitting sanctions

Author: 
Associated Press
Wed, 2016-12-28
ID: 
1482939668689749600

RIGA, Latvia: Sen. Lindsey Graham says “bi-partisan sanctions … will hit Russia hard, particularly (President Vladimir) Putin as an individual.”
Graham says the US Congress “will investigate the Russian involvement in our elections,” but he didn’t elaborate on possible sanctions.
The Kremlin has been accused of interference in the campaign that propelled Donald Trump to power.
Graham said Wednesday that “Russia is trying to break the back of democracies all around the world,” adding that Latvia is “constantly bombarded” with “Russian aggression and interference.”
Graham told a news conference that “it is now time for Russia to understand — enough is enough.”
Graham is touring Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania this week with fellow Republican John McCain and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar. McCain called Russia’s behavior “unacceptable.”

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Berlin attacker took bus from Netherlands to France: probe sources

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Wed, 2016-12-28
ID: 
1482934735989337300

PARIS: Suspected Berlin truck attacker Anis Amri traveled by bus from the Netherlands to France before heading to Italy where police shot him dead, sources close to the investigation said Wednesday.
Two days after the December 19 attack on a Christmas market in Berlin left 12 dead, the 24-year-old Tunisian boarded an overnight bus at the Dutch city of Nijmegen, near the German border, that took him to Lyon in central France, one of the sources said, confirming a French media report.
Amri got off the bus at the Lyon-Part-Dieu rail station, the source said.
Surveillance cameras filmed Amri at the station last Thursday.
From there, he took a train to the French Alpine town of Chambery before heading to Milan, in northern Italy.
Italian police shot Amri dead in the early hours of Friday after he fired at officers who had stopped him for a routine identity check.
A train ticket from Lyon to Milan via Turin was found on his body.
Investigators are still trying to determine how Amri was able to leave Berlin and traverse most of Germany to reach the Netherlands.
Wim de Bruin, spokesman for the Dutch public prosecution service told AFP: “I can confirm that the Dutch police are investigating whether he traveled through The Netherlands after the attack in Berlin.”
De Bruin declined however to give further details.
The Berlin rampage was claimed by the Daesh group, which released a video on Friday in which Amri is shown pledging allegiance to Daesh chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
German authorities are probing whether Amri had help before or after the attack and on Wednesday police detained a 40-year-old Tunisian on suspicion of having ties with him.
In Tunisia, authorities Friday arrested Amri’s nephew and two other suspects, aged between 18 and 27, who they said were members of a “terrorist cell” connected to Amri.
But the interior ministry made no direct link between the trio and the Berlin assault.
Meanwhile Dutch lawmakers including anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders demanded an explanation over reports that Amri may have traveled through the Netherlands.
An attempt however by Wilders to convene the lower house of parliament for an urgent debate on the matter was turned down after he failed to get the approval of a majority of lawmakers.

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Berlin attacker took bus from Netherlands to France: probe sources

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Wed, 2016-12-28
ID: 
1482934735989337300

PARIS: Suspected Berlin truck attacker Anis Amri traveled by bus from the Netherlands to France before heading to Italy where police shot him dead, sources close to the investigation said Wednesday.
Two days after the December 19 attack on a Christmas market in Berlin left 12 dead, the 24-year-old Tunisian boarded an overnight bus at the Dutch city of Nijmegen, near the German border, that took him to Lyon in central France, one of the sources said, confirming a French media report.
Amri got off the bus at the Lyon-Part-Dieu rail station, the source said.
Surveillance cameras filmed Amri at the station last Thursday.
From there, he took a train to the French Alpine town of Chambery before heading to Milan, in northern Italy.
Italian police shot Amri dead in the early hours of Friday after he fired at officers who had stopped him for a routine identity check.
A train ticket from Lyon to Milan via Turin was found on his body.
Investigators are still trying to determine how Amri was able to leave Berlin and traverse most of Germany to reach the Netherlands.
Wim de Bruin, spokesman for the Dutch public prosecution service told AFP: “I can confirm that the Dutch police are investigating whether he traveled through The Netherlands after the attack in Berlin.”
De Bruin declined however to give further details.
The Berlin rampage was claimed by the Daesh group, which released a video on Friday in which Amri is shown pledging allegiance to Daesh chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
German authorities are probing whether Amri had help before or after the attack and on Wednesday police detained a 40-year-old Tunisian on suspicion of having ties with him.
In Tunisia, authorities Friday arrested Amri’s nephew and two other suspects, aged between 18 and 27, who they said were members of a “terrorist cell” connected to Amri.
But the interior ministry made no direct link between the trio and the Berlin assault.
Meanwhile Dutch lawmakers including anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders demanded an explanation over reports that Amri may have traveled through the Netherlands.
An attempt however by Wilders to convene the lower house of parliament for an urgent debate on the matter was turned down after he failed to get the approval of a majority of lawmakers.

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Bangladesh arrests five suspected Islamists “plotting New Year attack“

Author: 
Reuters
Wed, 2016-12-28
ID: 
1482923068828734200

DHAKA: Police in Bangladesh have arrested five suspected Islamist militants believed to be plotting to attack New Year celebrations, a counter-terrorism police chief said on Wednesday. 
The five were believed to be members of a faction of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) group, which was blamed for an attack on a cafe in Dhaka in July in which 22 people were killed, most of them foreigners.
“They planned to attack on New Year’s Eve,” Monirul Islam, head of the counter-terrorism police unit, told a news conference.
Islam declined to elaborate when asked about the militants’ target and how they planned to attack but said police had also seized 60 kg (132 lb) of explosives, when the five were detained in overnight raids in the capital.
The five were paraded before the media but did not speak to reporters.
Authorities have already banned all outdoor gatherings in Dhaka from dusk on Dec. 31 to dawn on Jan. 1 on security grounds.
Militant attacks have increased in mostly Muslim Bangladesh, a country of 160 million people, over the past few years with several prominent liberal writers and members of religious minorities killed.
The JMB has pledged allegiance to Daesh, which police believe was involved in organizing the attack on the cafe in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter on July 1.
Daesh claimed responsibility for what was the worst militant attack in Bangladesh.
Police have killed more than 40 suspected militants in raids since the cafe attack, including the man police said was the mastermind, Bangladesh-born Canadian citizen Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury.

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On Pearl Harbor visit, Abe pledges Japan will never wage war again

Author: 
Reuters
Wed, 2016-12-28
ID: 
1482920058888636700

PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a symbolic visit to Pearl Harbor with President Barack Obama on Tuesday, commemorating the victims of Japan’s World War Two attack and promising that his country would never wage war again.
The visit, just weeks before Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office, was meant to highlight the strength of the US-Japan alliance amid concerns that Trump could forge a more complicated relationship with Tokyo.
“I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place,” Abe said.
“We must never repeat the horrors of war again. This is the solemn vow we, the people of Japan, have taken.”
Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor with torpedo planes, bombers and fighter planes on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, pounding the US fleet moored there in the hope of destroying US power in the Pacific.
Abe did not apologize for the attack, a step that would have irked his conservative supporters, many of whom say US economic sanctions forced Japan to open hostilities.
“This visit to Pearl Harbor was to console the souls of the war dead, not to apologize,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo, adding the trip had showed that the allies would contribute to world peace and prosperity.
Obama, who earlier this year became the first incumbent US president to visit Hiroshima, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb in 1945, called Abe’s visit a “historic gesture” that was “a reminder that even the deepest wounds of war can give way to friendship and a lasting peace.”
Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, built over the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona, although three others including his grandfather had made quiet stops in Pearl Harbor in the 1950s.
The two leaders stood solemnly in front of a wall inscribed with the names of those who died in the 1941 attack and took part in a brief wreath-laying ceremony, followed by a moment of silence.
“In Remembrance, Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan” was written on one wreath and “In Remembrance, Barack Obama, President of the United States” on the other.
They then threw flower petals into the water.
After their remarks, both leaders greeted and Abe embraced US veterans who survived the Pearl Harbor attack.
In China, which has repeatedly urged Japan to show greater repentance for World War Two and Japan’s invasion of China, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said real reflection was needed, not show.
“Reconciliation between inflictor and victim must and can only be established on the basis of sincere and deep reflection by the inflictor,” Hua told a daily news briefing.

DISPLAY OF ALLIANCE STRENGTH
Japan hopes to present a strong alliance with the United States amid concerns about China’s expanding military capability.
During a meeting ahead of the Pearl Harbor visit, Abe and Obama agreed to closely monitor moves by China’s aircraft carrier, recently spotted on a routine drill in the Western Pacific for the first time, and to strengthen the US-Japan alliance, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.
The leaders’ get-together was also meant to reinforce the US-Japan partnership ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration of Trump, whose opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and campaign threat to force allied countries to pay more to host US forces raised concerns among allies such as Japan.
Obama has sought to provide a smooth transition for Trump, but he made his opposition to the Republican’s policies, including his proposal to ban Muslims temporarily from entering the United States, clear during the 2016 campaign.
“It is here that we remember that even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward,” Obama said at Pearl Harbor. “We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different.”
Abe met with Trump in New York in November and called him a “trustworthy leader.”
Obama called for a world without nuclear arms during his visit to Hiroshima. Trump last week called for the United States to “greatly strengthen and expand” its nuclear capability and reportedly welcomed an international arms race.
Some Abe critics noted the Japanese leader’s visit, and the reconciliation with the United States that it symbolized, underscored the stark contrast in its relationship with China and South Korea, where the bitter wartime legacy still plagues ties with Tokyo.
Abe’s cabinet minister for reconstruction of disaster-hit regions, Masahiro Imamura, paid his respects later in the day (Wednesday, Tokyo time) at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine for war dead, seen in China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, Kyodo news agency said. Abe angered Beijing and Seoul and upset Washington with his own visit to the shrine three years ago this month.
“A symbolic gesture of contrition to your closest ally is easy,” said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University’s Japan campus in Tokyo.
“If he (Abe) really is sincere about reconciliation diplomacy and overcoming lingering enmities he needs to visit similar symbolic sights (in China and Korea) … and make similar remarks of remorse that are more specific about Japan’s responsibility.”

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Death toll from Pakistan toxic liquor incident rises to 34

Author: 
AFP
Wed, 2016-12-28
ID: 
1482918680118593000

ISLAMABAD: Thirty-four people have now died after drinking toxic home-made liquor on Christmas Eve in central Pakistan, officials said Wednesday, one of the deadliest cases of mass alcohol poisoning in the country.
The incident happened in a Christian neighborhood in the town of Toba Tek Singh, 338 kilometers (210 miles) south of Islamabad.
“The death toll has risen to 34 as 10 more people affected by toxic liquor died overnight,” doctor Asif Mehmood Saleemi, the administrator of state-run District Headquarters hospital, told AFP.
Saleemi said 105 people sickened by toxic liquor have so far reported to hospital. Some have been sent to bigger hospitals in the town of Gojra and the city of Faisalabad. 
Though legal breweries exist in Pakistan, alcohol sales and consumption are banned for Muslims and tightly regulated for minorities and foreigners.
While wealthy Pakistanis buy foreign alcohol on the black market at heavily inflated prices, the poor often resort to home brews that can contain methanol, commonly used in anti-freeze and fuel.
Eleven Christians died in October after consuming toxic liquor at a party in Punjab province.
In October 2014 29 drinkers were killed after consuming methanol-tainted liquor over the Eid public holidays.

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Trump names Bush-era veteran and policy newcomer to posts

Author: 
VIVIAN SALAMA | AP
Wed, 2016-12-28
ID: 
1482898944238295400

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida: President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday appointed an experienced hand from the George W. Bush era to his national security circle and a figure from the Trump Organization to make international deals.
Thomas Bossert will become an assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. A statement from Trump’s transition team said Bossert will advise the president on issues related to homeland security, counterterrorism and cybersecurity, and coordinate the Cabinet’s process for making and executing policy in those areas.
The position notably “is being elevated and restored to its independent status alongside the national security adviser,” the statement said. Policymakers have long debated whether such national security jobs should operate independently from the White House.
Bossert will work closely with Trump’s pick for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Bossert is currently president of the risk management consulting firm CDS Consulting. He previously served as deputy assistant to the president for homeland security under Bush.
The president-elect also appointed one of his main advisers on US-Israel relations as special representative for international negotiations. Jason Greenblatt has worked for the Trump Organization for over two decades and currently serves as its executive vice president and chief legal officer.
In the statement, Trump said Greenblatt “has a history of negotiating substantial, complex transactions on my behalf,” and has the expertise to “bring parties together and build consensus on difficult and sensitive topics.”
Trump recently named his other top adviser on Israel, David Friedman, as his pick for US ambassador to Israel.
Trump’s West Wing is shaping up to have multiple power centers. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and senior adviser Steve Bannon will work as “equal partners,” according to Trump, and counselor Kellyanne Conway is also expected to have autonomy. Trump’s influential son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will also have a direct line to the president.
Trump has long stoked rivalries among his staff in business and during his presidential campaign. But doing so in the White House could sow confusion and slow decision-making.
In New York Tuesday afternoon, police hastily cleared the lobby of Trump Tower to investigate an unattended backpack, only to find that it contained children’s toys. Video taken by a bystander and posted on Twitter showed people running through the lobby for the exits.
The bomb squad checked out the package and gave an “all clear” just after 5 p.m.
Trump lives in the tower and has his offices there, although he is spending the holidays at his Florida resort, where he’s held a steady stream of meetings with senior staffers, advisers and business executives. A number of key posts in his government remain; his transition team says he will fill those positions in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Trump’s plan to dissolve his charitable foundation before he takes office to eliminate any conflicts of interest appears to be harder than he thought.
The New York attorney general’s office said Tuesday that Trump cannot move ahead with his decision to dismantle his charitable foundation because state prosecutors are probing whether the president-elect personally benefited from its spending.
“The Trump foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete,” said Amy Spitalnick, spokeswoman for state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The statement came after Trump announced that he wanted to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation, part of what his presidential transition team says is an effort to erase any potential conflicts of interest before he takes office Jan. 20.
But the foundation’s inner workings have been the subject of Schneiderman’s investigation for months and could remain a thorny issue for Trump’s incoming administration. Democrats nationally have said they are ready to raise any legal or ethical issues from Trump’s global business empire during his presidency.
Trump’s charity has admitted that it violated IRS regulations barring it from using its money or assets to benefit Trump, his family, his companies or substantial contributors to the foundation.
Trump asserted on Twitter late Monday that his foundation was run efficiently.
“The DJT Foundation, unlike most foundations, never paid fees, rent, salaries or any expenses,” the president-elect tweeted. “100% of the money goes to wonderful charities.”
For a second day, Trump also pointed to economic indicators as evidence of a positive response to his Election Day victory.
In a tweet late Tuesday, Trump said, “The US Consumer Confidence Index for December surged nearly four points to 113.7, THE HIGHEST LEVEL IN MORE THAN 15 YEARS! Thanks Donald!“
The Conference Board said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index was up from 109.4 in November and the highest since it reached 114 in August 2001 — a sign consumers are confident in the aftermath of a divisive election campaign.
The index measures consumers’ assessment of current conditions, which dipped from November but was still very positive, and their expectations for the future, which hit a 13-year high.

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Indian police say 2 killed, 38 injured in train accident

Author: 
BISWAJEET BANERJEE | AP
Wed, 2016-12-28
ID: 
1482898944248295500

LUCKNOW, India: At least two people were killed and 38 others injured when 14 coaches of a train derailed in northern India early Wednesday, two of them falling into a dry canal bed, police said.
Superintendent of Police Prabhakar Chaudhary said the accident happened near Kanpur, a city in Uttar Pradesh state. The area is nearly 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of New Delhi.
The cause was not immediately known.
Police officer Zaki Ahmed two of the eight critically injured passengers died later in a hospital. All of the other injured have been hospitalized.
Ahmed Javed, the state’s top police officer, said all of the passengers have been evacuated from the derailed coaches. Television images showed some coaches lying on their sides.
Manish Mishra, a rail official, said two coaches toppled off a bridge and fell into the dry canal bed.
Rizwan Chaudhary, a passenger, said a loud bang woke him up. “Our coach tilted to one side. I jumped out and saw a few coaches were derailed,” he said.
It was the second recent rail accident in the region. In November, 127 people were killed and 150 injured when 14 coaches of a passenger train slid off the track.
Accidents are relatively common in India’s sprawling rail network. It is the world’s third-largest network but lacks modern signaling and communication systems. Most accidents are blamed on poor maintenance, outdated equipment and human error.

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Polish truck driver shot long before Berlin attack: Report

Author: 
Reuters, AFP
Wed, 2016-12-28
ID: 
1482876372585545200

BERLIN: A Polish truck driver whose hijacked vehicle was used to crash into a Berlin Christmas market was shot in the head several hours before the attack and could not have attempted to foil it as previously thought, Bild newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The newspaper quoted a confidential coroners report that said driver Lukasz Urban, 37, had suffered not only knife wounds in a battle in the truck cabin but also a gun shot wound to the head some 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours before the 8 p.m. attack.
There was no confirmation to the Bild report available.
A total of 12 people were killed in the attack last Monday. The Tunisian assailant, 24-year-old Anis Amri, was shot dead by Italian police in shootout on Friday after a European-wide manhunt. In a video released after his death, he is seen pledging his allegiance to militant group Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
The Berlin state interior minister Andreas Geisel had said on Friday that Urban had “quite probably” tried to disrupt the attack by seizing control of the steering wheel before being shot in the head after the truck veered to the left. It came to a halt after driving for just 60 meters into the market that extended more than 400 meters, averting further deaths.
This helped start a crowdfunding campaign that raised over $170,000 for the family of Urban. The campaign was started by British truck driver Dave Duncan a day after the assailant attacked Lukasz and hijacked his truck.
Meanwhile, calls grew in Germany on Monday for the government to posthumously honour the driver who is believed to have saved many lives during the Christmas market attack.
More than 33,000 people had signed an online petition at Change.org by Monday afternoon, demanding that Lukasz Urban be awarded the Federal Cross of Merit, the highest civilian honour, by German President Joachim Gauck.
Opposition Greens party lawmaker Omid Nouripour meanwhile called on Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to honour Urban with the national Order of Merit.
The Change.org petition said that “according to current reports, the autopsy shows that he struggled with the perpetrator and was severely injured and eventually killed by him”.
“With this heroic act, he probably saved many lives … For this bravery, he deserves Germany’s highest decoration.”

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