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US drops 40 tonnes of bombs to ‘wipe out’ ISIS-infested island

An island “infested” with ISIS fighters was annihilated by almost 40 tonnes of bombs dropped from US warplanes.

Dramatic aerial footage shows explosions as bombs hit Qanus Island followed by huge mushroom clouds billowing into the air over the Tigris River in Iraq.

The island had become a “safe haven” and “major transit hub” for the terrorists, who hid within thick vegetation, as they moved into Iraq from neighbouring Syria, the US-led coalition said.

But the hideout was obliterated and an unknown number of jihadists were killed as US Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle and F-35A Lightning II aircraft, alongside Iraqi warplanes, launched airstrikes this week.

Bombs were dropped on Qanus – located near the US military base in Qayyarah – amid a series of ground attacks by Iraqi troops.

The US-led coalition said the island, north of Baghdad, was a hideout for terrorists moving from Syria and the Jazeera desert into Mosul, Makhmour, and the Kirkuk region of Iraq.

Major General Eric T Hill, a commander with Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led anti-ISIS campaign, said: “We’re denying Daesh the ability to hide on Qanus Island.

“We’re setting the conditions for our partner forces to continue bringing stability to the region.”

A spokesperson for the coalition added: “Coalition Forces used 80,000 pounds of munitions on the island to disrupt Daesh the ability to hide in the thick vegetation.

“CTS Forces continue to conduct ground clearance operations to destroy any remaining Fallul Daesh on the island.”

US-backed forces have driven ISIS out of its strongholds in Iraq and Syria following months-long offensives.

The terror group has become so desperate to kill its enemies or innocent civilians that it has been strapping suicide vests to cows.

Many of its fighters have ended up dead or captured, and thousands of jihadi brides and children – including some who left Britain to join the terror group in the Middle East – are stuck in refugee camps.

But US and Iraqi officials told the New York Timeslast month that ISIS was gathering new strength, carrying out guerrilla attacks and trying to recruit people at the notorious Al Hol camp in north-east Syria.

The camp was home to British ISIS bride Shamima Begum – who has been stripped of her UK citizenship – before she was moved to a different one, reports mirror.co.uk.

The report said ISIS still had as many as 18,000 remaining fighters in Iraq and Syria, and a hidden war chest of as much as $400million (£325million).

Donald Trump has announced plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Syria despite concerns that it would mean less support for local troops or militia fighting terrorism.

General Mazloum Kobani Abdi, commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US ally, in the fight against ISIS, warned that the terror group was resurging in Syria after the US president’s announcement.

In an interview with CNN he asked for increased US support for his troops to stop ISIS from re-establishing itself.

On Tuesday – the eve of the September 11 terror attacks – the US announced sanctions on “terrorists and their supporters”, including the Islamic State.

Audio reveals details of Khashoggi’s gruesome killing

Audio recordings between Jamal Khashoggi and the hit squad that killed him have been revealed.

Kashoggi, a Saudi dissident and journalist with Washington Post who was in exile in the US, was killed, with his body allegedly dismembered on October 2, 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Turkey where he had gone to get documents for his marriage.

In one of the recordings obtained by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) and made available by Turkish daily Sahbah, Salah Muhammed Al-Tubaigy, the head of forensic evidence at the Saudi general security department and one of the 15 man hit squad was heard saying he listens to music when he cut cadavers.

Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, the number two man of the hit squad had asked Al-Tubaigy if it was possible to put Khashoggi’s body in a bag.

Responding, Al-Tubaigy said, “No. Too heavy, very tall too. Actually, I’ve always worked on cadavers. I know how to cut very well. I have never worked on a warm body though, but I’ll also manage that easily. I normally put on my earphones and listen to music when I cut cadavers. In the meantime, I sip on my coffee and smoke. After I dismember it, you will wrap the parts into plastic bags, put them in suitcases and take them out (of the building).”

The newspaper reported that Khashoggi, according to the recording, was greeted by a familiar face or someone he knows, gauging from his reaction when he arrived at the consulate.

He was then told that Mohammad al-Otaibi, the consul-general was present in the building. He was first politely invited into the consul’s office on the second floor, and when he started getting suspicious, he said, “let me go, what do you think you’re doing?”

Responding, Mutreb said, “please sit. We have to take you back [to Riyadh]. There is an order from Interpol. Interpol demanded you be returned. We are here to take you.”

This, Khashoggi also responded, asking if there were any lawsuits against him.

“My fiancée is waiting outside for me,” he said.

During the interrogation, the paper reported that another unidentified hit squad member, repeatedly, told Khashoggi to “cut it short.”

The journalist was asked to leave a message for his son that he was in Instabul, but he refused, asking how such a thing could take place at a consulate.

“I’m not writing anything,” he insisted.

He was later drugged, and the newspaper reported that his killers had already put on a plastic bag on his head, and he would eventually be suffocated to death.

Scuffling and struggling, reportedly, dominate the recordings, with occasional questions and directives from the hit squad heard in between.

Then the postmortem phase begins, which include sounds of dismembering Khashoggi’s body.

Mutreb and Al-Tubaigy are among the five suspects now facing death penalty in Saudi Arabia over the murder.

Khashoggi’s death had sparked international outrage with many pointing accusing finger at Mohammed bin Salam, Saudi’s crown prince.

Saudi authorities had earlier denied knowledge of his death, saying he might have been killed in a fistfight, but the authorities later announced that after an investigation, they found that the order to kill the journalist had come from one of the leaders of the Saudi team in Istanbul.

Trump sacks national security adviser John Bolton

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he had asked John Bolton, his national security adviser, to resign, citing strong differences of opinion with his hawkish assistant.

“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration,” Trump tweeted.

“I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning,” the president said, adding that he was aiming to announce a replacement next week.

Bolton seemed to take a parting shot at his boss, immediately responding on Twitter: “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.’”

Bolton also texted U.S. media outlets to say he resigned on his own.

The move came as a surprise, with the White House putting out an advisory just an hour before the Trump announcement saying that Bolton would be taking part in a media briefing along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Bolton also continued to post administration policy on social media right up until the Trump announcement.

However, Trump has previously hinted at his disagreements with Bolton on foreign policy, and observers had regularly noted that the two made an odd couple, with the president more isolationist and the national security adviser an interventionist.

“John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him, he’d take on the whole world at one time.

“But that doesn’t matter because I want both sides,” Trump told broadcaster NBC in June.

Bolton, Trump’s third national security adviser, appeared to be waging numerous battles within the White House, most recently over Afghanistan and North Korea, that seemed at odds with the president’s wishes.

Bolton was also behind the hard-line approach to countries such as Iran and Venezuela.

The national security advisor comes from the wing of the Republican Party more aligned with the policies of the George W Bush administration, in which he also served. He is often seen as a proponent and even an architect of the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

When not in government, Bolton has worked for conservative think tanks.

While Trump himself has led recent policies on Iran, and to some extent Venezuela, he is more reluctant to deploy U.S. troops abroad and is actively seeking to reduce the military’s presence in places like Afghanistan and Syria.

U.S. media reported in recent weeks that Bolton and Trump were bitterly fighting over the approach to Afghanistan, as the president tried to work out a peace deal with the Taliban.

That process has since broken down, with Trump calling it “dead”.

Trump has also sought better relations with Russia, against the advice of establishment figures, though ties with Moscow are tense and the current administration has actually increased sanctions on the rival power.

Mira Ricardel, who served as a deputy to Bolton until late last year, was also sacked from her job after she got into a disagreement with first lady Melania Trump, in a highly unusual public spat between the wife of the president and a top-level security official.

The Trump administration’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is currently tied up in legal battles over lying to the FBI about contacts with Russian officials and is due to face sentencing in December.

Bolton is the latest figure to exit the White House amid disputes with the president.

Notably, Jim Mattis quit as defence secretary last year over disagreements on Syria, and Trump abruptly fired Rex Tillerson as secretary of state as well as his attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

The president is on his seventh communications chief and has also pushed out two chiefs of staff. The current chief of staff is only in an acting role.

Trump, John Legend, wife, Chrissy Teigen fight on Twitter

US president, Donald Trump on Sunday called the model Chrissy Teigen “filthy-mouthed” and her husband, musician, John Legend “boring” in tweets on Sunday night, while lauding his achievements in criminal justice reform, prompting them to fire back.

Mr. Legend called on the First Lady, Melania to intervene, tweeting, “Imagine being president of a whole country and spending your Sunday night hate-watching MSNBC hoping somebody–ANYBODY–will praise you. Melania, please praise this man. He needs you. Your country needs you, Melania.”

His wife laced her tweets with vulgarities.

The couple, who are married, are both frequent critics of the president.

By Monday morning, the expletives used by Ms. Teigen — including one that Mr. Trump famously used in a recording that surfaced shortly before his election in 2016 — were part of a trending hashtag on Twitter. A related hashtag, #filthymouthedwife, was also trending, reports The New York Times.

In his tweets shortly after 11 p.m. on Sunday, Mr. Trump appeared to be responding to Mr. Legend’s appearance at a criminal justice town hall that was hosted by the “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt at the Sing Sing prison in Ossining, N.Y., and aired on MSNBC at 10 p.m. that night.

The president began by pointing to the criminal justice reform legislation he passed last year.

“Now that it is passed, people that had virtually nothing to do with it are taking the praise,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Guys like boring musician @johnlegend, and his filthy mouthed wife, are talking now about how great it is — but I didn’t see them around when we needed help getting it passed.”

He did not name Ms. Teigen, which she noted in her response. “Tagged everyone but me,” she wrote. “An honor, mister president.” She added that she had not been mentioned in the MSNBC special that Mr. Trump appeared to have watched.

Mr. Legend also jumped into the fray, and he called on the first lady to intervene.

“Imagine being president of a whole country and spending your Sunday night hate-watching MSNBC hoping somebody — ANYBODY — will praise you,” he said. “Melania, please praise this man. He needs you.”

UK seizes record N54bn heroin haul

The United Kingdom authorities have seized a record amount of heroin from a containership at the Felixstowe Port following an international investigation.

Nearly 1.3 tonnes of the class A drug were recovered from the Maersk-operated containership Maersk Gibraltar in an operation on August 30.

The UK National Crime Agency (NCA) said the intercept represented the largest ever seizure of heroin in the country.

Maersk confirmed to World Maritime News that the drugs were recovered from the 10,000 TEU Maersk Gibraltar.

“We cooperate openly and proactively with all relevant authorities,” a Maersk spokesperson said adding that there has been “no operational impact from the recovery operation.”

The seized narcotics are estimated to be worth around GBP 27 million (USD 32.9 million) at wholesale and in excess of GBP 120 million (USD 146.4 million) at street level.

The boxship arrived at Felixstowe on August 30 and was searched by officers from the UK Border Force and the NCA. They found a total of 1,297kg of the substance concealed among a cover load of towels and bathrobes.

After officers removed the drugs, they returned the container to the vessel, which continued on to Antwerp and docked in the Belgian port city on September 1.

Under surveillance by Dutch and Belgian law enforcement agencies, the container was driven by lorry to a warehouse in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Upon arrival, officers moved in and arrested four people who were in the process of unloading the consignment.

“This is a record heroin seizure in the UK and one of the largest ever in Europe,” Matt Horne, NCA Deputy Director, Investigations, said.

“It will have denied organised crime tens of millions of pounds in profits, and is the result of a targeted, intelligence-led investigation, carried out by the NCA with international and UK partners.”

“The smugglers had hidden the drugs within a coverload of towels, stitching the 1kg blocks of heroin inside some of the towels,” Jenny Sharp, Border Force Assistant Director at Felixstowe, said.

“In total it took my officers nearly six hours, working in the early hours of Saturday morning, to remove the drugs.”

Opponents of ‘no-deal’ Brexit defeat PM Johnson, who promises an election

British lawmakers defeated Boris Johnson in parliament on Tuesday in a bid to prevent him taking Britain out of the EU without a divorce agreement, prompting the prime minister to announce that he would immediately push for a snap election.

The government was defeated by 328 to 301 on a motion put forward by opposition parties and rebel lawmakers in Johnson’s party – who had been warned they would be kicked out of the Conservative Party if they defied the government.

More than three years after the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the European Union, the defeat leaves the course of Brexit unresolved, with possible outcomes still ranging from a turbulent ‘no-deal’ exit to abandoning the whole endeavor.

Tuesday’s victory is only the first hurdle for lawmakers, enabling them to take control of parliamentary business.

On Wednesday they will seek to pass a law forcing Johnson to ask the EU to delay Brexit – for a third time – until Jan. 31 unless he has a deal approved by parliament beforehand on the terms and manner of the exit.

It puts Johnson in a similar bind to that faced by his predecessor Theresa May, who failed three times to get the backing of lawmakers for the Withdrawal Agreement that she had negotiated with the EU. Johnson took over from her six weeks ago with a promise that his more robust approach would force a better deal out of the EU that would satisfy parliament.

The 21 Conservative rebels who now face expulsion from the party include Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Britain’s World War Two leader Winston Churchill, and two former finance ministers – Philip Hammond and Kenneth Clarke.

“I don’t want an election, but if MPs vote tomorrow to stop negotiations and compel another pointless delay to Brexit, potentially for years, then that would be the only way to resolve this,” Johnson told parliament after the vote.

“I can confirm that we are tonight tabling a motion under the Fixed Term Parliament Act.”

In an historic showdown between prime minister and parliament, Johnson’s opponents said they wanted to prevent him playing Russian roulette with a country once touted as a confident pillar of Western economic and political stability.

They argue that nothing can justify the risk of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit that would cut economic ties overnight with Britain’s biggest export market and inevitably bring huge economic dislocation.

Johnson cast the challenge as an attempt to force Britain to surrender to the EU just as he hopes to secure concessions on the terms of the divorce, helped by the threat to walk out without one. Ahead of the vote, he said would never accept another delay to Brexit beyond Oct. 31.

“Parliament is on the brink of wrecking any deal we might be able to strike in Brussels,” Johnson said. “Because tomorrow’s bill would hand control of the negotiations to the EU.”

Johnson’s government will now seek to hold a vote on Wednesday to approve an early election, most likely on Oct. 14. This would pit the avowed Brexiteer against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran socialist.

In the Brexit maelstrom, though, it was unclear whether opposition parties would support such a move – which requires the support of two-thirds of the 650-seat House of Commons.

Corbyn has long demanded an election as the best way out of the crisis, but many of those seeking to prevent a ‘no-deal’ Brexit say Johnson could time the poll to ensure that parliament cannot prevent an Oct. 31 departure – with or without a deal.

After the vote, Corbyn told Johnson that he must get the Brexit delay bill that will be discussed on Wednesday passed before trying to call an election.

The 2016 Brexit referendum showed a United Kingdom divided about much more than the European Union, and has fueled soul-searching about everything from secession and immigration to capitalism, empire and modern Britishness.

It has also triggered civil war inside both of Britain’s main political parties as dozens of lawmakers put what they see as the United Kingdom’s fate above that of party loyalty.

Just as Johnson began speaking, he lost his working majority in parliament when one of his own Conservative lawmakers, Phillip Lee, crossed the floor of the House of Commons to join the pro-EU Liberal Democrats.

The pound, which has gyrated to the twists and turns of Brexit since the 2016 referendum and is highly sensitive to the prospect of a ‘no-deal’ exit, had briefly dipped as low as $1.1959 GBP=D3 before the vote in parliament. Barring a minutes-long “flash crash” in October 2016, sterling has not regularly traded at such low levels since 1985.

Fears of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit were rising elsewhere.

The European Commission said such a scenario was a “very distinct possibility” and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said it was the most likely scenario.

In a document seen by Reuters, the European Commission set out proposals to be published on Wednesday to provide financial help for EU businesses, workers and farmers if Britain crashes out of the bloc without any agreement.

It restated its view that a ‘no-deal’ divorce would hit the British economy much harder than that of the EU.

The U.N. trade agency UNCTAD said it would cost Britain at least $16 billion in lost exports to the EU, plus a further substantial sum in indirect costs.

The U.S. investment bank JPMorgan said an election would make a no-deal Brexit more likely.

UK: Suspension of Parliament sparks nationwide protests

Hundreds of people blocked London’s normally busy Whitehall road on Saturday to protest Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of the British parliament.

They gathered outside the gates protecting the prime minister’s London residence at 10 Downing Street and chanted “Boris Johnson, shame on you,” “Trump’s puppet, shame on you,” “Liar Johnson, shame on you,” the Press Association (PA) reports.

The protesters also rang a bell, blew whistles and beat a drum, PA reported, adding that they carried placards and European Union flags.

A small crowd gathered in Belfast, more than 1,000 gathered in York and 1,000 in Manchester, according to PA.

Organizers had been expecting hundreds of thousands of people to turn out in London, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Oxford and York, among other cities, and in Aberdeen and Glasgow in Scotland, as well as Belfast.

The anti-Brexit initiative “Another Europe Is Possible” had issued the call to protest.

It was joined by, among others, the leader of the main opposition Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour grassroots organization Momentum and environmental activists from the YouthStrike4Climate campaign.

Johnson on Wednesday successfully petitioned Queen Elizabeth II to prorogue, or suspend, parliament in London from mid-September to mid-October, when he plans to submit his government programme in a new parliamentary session.

“The public outrage at Boris Johnson shutting down democracy has been deafening,” Labour leader Corbyn tweeted on Friday. “People are right to take to the streets – and I encourage everyone to join the demonstrations in London and across the country tomorrow.”

Corbyn did not seem to have turned up on Saturday, but his colleague and shadow home secretary Diana Abbott addressed the crowd in Whitehall, saying that he sent his support for the demonstration.

“We cannot allow Boris Johnson to shut down parliament and to shut down the voice of ordinary British people,” PA quoted her as saying.

Many in the crowd shouted “Where is Jeremy?” PA reported.

Parliament is in fact routinely prorogued, but the move is highly controversial shortly before Britain’s planned exit from the European Union by the deadline of Oct. 31.

The suspension has greatly shortened the time in which members of parliament could debate possible legislative procedures to prevent Brexit happening without a deal. (dpa/NAN)

Rape: Indonesian man to face castration

An Indonesian man named Muh Aris bin Syukur from the city of Mojokerto in East Java was sentenced with chemical castration for the rape of nine children in a landmark ruling for the country.

In 2016, President Joko Widodo signed a Perppu (Presidential Regulation In Lieu of Law) introducing the death penalty and chemical castration for convicted child molesters, which was ratified into law that same year by the House of Parliament (DPR).

Three years on, Aris has become the first convicted child molester to be given the sentence in court.

Aris was found guilty of raping nine girls from 2015-2018 in Mojokerto. He was arrested in October 2018 after he was caught by a CCTV camera molesting his latest victim.

As reported by CNN Indonesia, documents from Aris’ court case showed that, on July 18, the Mojokerto High Court upheld a 12-year prison sentence and IDR100 million (US$7,012) fine given to Aris by the Mojokerto District Court in May.

While that sentence is more lenient than the 17 years demanded by prosecutors, the District Court judges handed Aris an additional punishment for his crimes.

“We hereby give the additional sentence in the form of chemical castration to the convicted,” the court ruling reads

The case prosecutors did not demand that Aris be chemically castrated in their indictment.

Given that the punishment has no precedent in Indonesia, the Mojokerto Prosecutors Office say they have no means yet to chemically castrate Aris so no date for the execution of the sentence has yet been announced.

Chemical castration as a punishment was ratified into law in Indonesia after the shockingly brutal gang rape and murder of a teenage girl in Bengkulu in 2016.

Activists say that the threat of severe punishment has not been as successful a deterrent as the government hoped, as sexual assault against children continue to be a serious problem in Indonesia.

A lack of means has been one of the main barriers preventing the punishment from being rendered to convicted child molesters thus far.

Soon after the punishment was introduced, the government controversially sought the help of The Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) to chemically castrate convicted child molesters, but the country’s medical professionals refused on the grounds that the procedure violates medical ethics.

Climate: UK university bans beef consumption

Students at a University of London college are saying goodbye to lunchtime pies, mid-lecture beef jerky snacks, and post-exam burgers – for the climate.

UK college Goldsmiths has removed beef products from all campus retailers as part of efforts to fight climate change, the school announced in a media release.

But that wasn’t the only shake-up.

The changes, introduced by the school’s new warden, Professor Frances Corner, would also see students charged a £0.10 levy for bottled water and single-use plastic cups in a bid to discourage use.

Why? Because “declaring a climate emergency cannot be empty words”, Corner said in a statement.

Along with a number of schools in the UK, Goldsmiths officially announced a climate emergency and began implementing changes to cut carbon use and become a carbon neutral organisation.

In addition to the beef ban and plastic levy, it would also be investing in more solar panels across campus, planting more trees, adding more climate change subjects to the curriculum, and switching to 100 per cent clean energy when it was practical to do so.

“I truly believe we face a defining moment in global history and Goldsmiths now stands shoulder to shoulder with other organisations willing to call the alarm and take urgent action to cut carbon use,” Corner said.

“The growing global call for organisations to take seriously their responsibilities for halting climate change is impossible to ignore.”

The college also announced its investment fund would remove its money from companies “that generate more than 10 per cent of their revenue from the extraction of fossil fuels”, the statement explained. It had already removed £2.5 million.

The changes would take effect next month.

US billionaire Jeffrey Epstein commits suicide

Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced billionaire who was facing federal sex trafficking charges, died by suicide early Saturday in his Lower Manhattan prison cell, three law enforcement officials told ABC News.

Epstein hanged himself, law enforcement sources said. He was transported in cardiac arrest at 6:39 a.m. from Metropolitan Correctional Center to New York Downtown Hospital, according to sources.

Epstein, 66, was set to stand trial next year for allegedly sexually abusing dozens of minor girls in New York and Florida.

His death came less than three weeks after he was found unresponsive in his cell at the federal prison in Lower Manhattan, with marks on his neck that appeared to be self-inflicted, sources told ABC News.

He had been on suicide watch since the July 23 incident.

Epstein was arrested in July of this year for alleged sex trafficking of minor girls at his Upper East Side mansion and his home in Palm Beach, Florida. Some of the charges date back to the early 2000s.

Epstein, 66, pleaded not guilty to the charges. He faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

His alleged crimes were thrown back into the spotlight amid renewed scrutiny of the plea deal Epstein reached with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami in 2007, led by then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta. A non-prosecution agreement allowed Epstein, a hedge-fund manager, to plead guilty to two state charges and avoid federal charges for an allegedly broad pattern of similar sexual misconduct. He would serve just 13 months of an 18-month sentence in county jail in Florida.

The alleged victims in that case told ABC News they were not made aware of the details of the plea agreement while it was being negotiated.

The deal is currently under review by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Acosta was serving as President Trump’s Labor Secretary amid the controversy over his role in the deal. He later resigned from that position.

On Friday, a federal appellate court in New York unsealed around 2,000 pages of documents from a now-settled civil defamation case between Virginia Roberts Giuffre, an alleged Epstein victim, and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, a longtime Epstein associate.

Giuffre accused Maxwell of recruiting her while she was working as a locker-room attendant at Mar-A-Lago in 2000 and bringing her to Epstein’s home for a massage. She claims that she eventually became a teen sex slave to Epstein, and a victim of sex trafficking, beginning at age 17, at the hands of both Epstein and Maxwell.

The newly-unsealed documents showed that Giuffre alleged that Epstein and Maxwell directed her to have sex with, among others: Prince Andrew; criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz; former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson; former Senator George Mitchell; a well-known prime minster, who she wouldn’t name; and a foreign man who was introduced to her as a “prince.”

Maxwell has consistently denied Giuffre’s claims.

“Ghislaine Maxwell did not participate in, facilitate, manage or otherwise conspire to commit sex trafficking” as alleged by Giuffre, her attorney wrote in a 2016 court filing.

Maxwell’s attorneys also contend in the newly unsealed court filings that Giuffre had “utterly failed” to substantiate her allegations that Maxwell facilitated her abuse. Giuffre’s claims about having been trafficked to other prominent men, Maxwell’s lawyers wrote, are “patently incredible.”

Mitchell called the allegations “false.”

“I have never met, spoken with or had any contact with Ms. Giuffre,” he said in a statement issued Friday. “In my contacts with Mr. Epstein I never observed or suspected any inappropriate conduct with underage girls. I only learned of his actions when they were reported in the media related to his prosecution in Florida. We have had no further contact.”

Richardson denied the claims.

“These allegations and inferences are completely false. Governor Richardson has never even been contacted by any party regarding this lawsuit,” Maddy Mahony, a spokeswoman for Richardson, said in a statement. “To be clear, in Governor Richardson’s limited interactions with Mr. Epstein, he never saw him in the presence of young or underage girls. Governor Richardson has never been to Mr. Epstein’s residence in the Virgin Islands. Governor Richardson has never met Ms. Giuffre.”

Giuffre’s allegations were never tested in court because the case was settled prior to trial.

During a detention hearing in July, Epstein came face-to-face with two other accusers. Annie Farmer said she was 16 when Epstein had her sent to New Mexico where he was allegedly “inappropriate” with her. Courtney Wild told the judge she was 14 when Epstein allegedly sexually abused her in Palm Beach, Florida. Both women spoke in support of keeping Epstein locked up without bail.

Epstein appeared to watch them address the judge, but his face showed no emotion.

A federal judge later denied bail for Epstein, after deciding he was too great a flight risk to release from custody.

JUST IN: Major power cut hits UK after National Grid failure

Victoria Station in London

Large parts of the UK are without electricity following a large scale power cut.

Blackouts have been reported in London and the South East, as well as the Midlands and the North East.

UK Power Networks, who control power lines for London and the South East, and Western Power Distribution in Midlands, the South West and Wales both confirmed widespread outages.

The company tweeted on Friday evening: “We’re aware of a power cut affecting large parts of London and South East.

“We believe this is due to a failure on National Grid’s network, which is affecting our customers.”

Northern Power Grid has posted a list of postcodes affected by the power cut. They said they are “aware of an unexpected issue affecting the above postcodes and are working hard to restore power by 1830”.

Kingsbridge Police wrote on Facebook: “There are significant power cuts in Kingsbridge and many surrounding villages. Western Power are aware. Please view their website for up to date information.”

The drop in power is also affecting traffic lights in the capital, Transport for London confirmed.

Radio Clyde News said that “at least 30 sets of traffic lights are out across Glasgow after a number of power spikes caused by the bad weather.”

The drop in power is affecting travel.

Train services in and out of London, including Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express are facing delays and cancellations.

 

Traffic lights in the capital are also experiencing some problems and the Victoria Line on the London Underground is suspended, Transport for London confirmed.

They tweeted on Friday evening warning people to be cautious when using the roads.

Thameslink confirmed that the power cut “train services running across the whole network may be cancelled or delayed”.

They added: “Trains are currently at a stand between Farringdon & Bedford. This is having a wider impact to services across the whole network.”

Meanwhile, photos on social media show the Victoria line in complete darkness with one user tweeting “love being stuck on the Victoria line during a power surge” while passengers on train services have been left at a standstill.

Russian president, Putin’s 20-year stint upstaged by long-serving leaders

Vladimir Putin has held power for 20 years but he is still well behind the record terms of Cuba’s late Fidel Castro and North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung.

He is also far from achieving the lengthy stints of many living leaders, with Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema the longest-serving president at 40 years.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning monarch at 67 years.

Putin first came to power as prime minister of Russia in 1999, being elected president the following year.

In 2008, after two presidential terms, he handed the role to Dmitry Medvedev and stepped back to become prime minister again.

He returned to the Kremlin in 2012, triumphing at the polls in 2018 for a fourth term as president.

To mark his 20 years in office, here are other world leaders who have managed to stay at the top for more than two decades.

Leading the pack is Cuba’s revolutionary hero Fidel Castro, with 49 years in power. When he handed over in 2008, ill and aged in his early 80s, it was to his brother Raul.

Taiwan’s first president Chiang Kai-shek was in charge on the island and in mainland China for a total of 47 years until his death in 1975.

North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung ran the reclusive state for 46 years before dying in office in 1994, remaining revered as the “eternal leader”.

Moamer Kadhafi ruled Libya with an iron fist for almost 42 years but was ousted and then slaughtered in 2011 at the height of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Omar Bongo Ondimba governed oil-rich Gabon for more than 41 years until his death from cancer in 2009.

Albania’s communist dictator Enver Hoxha was in power for 40 years until he died in 1985.

Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang became the world’s longest-serving living leader on August 3, 2019, having siezed power in a 1979 coup.

Monarchs aside, others still adding up their time in the top job are:

– Cameroon’s President Paul Biya who has already ruled for 37 years

– Congo-Brazzaville’s Denis Sassou Nguesso now at 35 years, excluding a five-year pause after he lost a 1992 election

– Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, 34 years

– Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, 33 years

– Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been supreme leader since the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989

– Chad’s Idriss Deby Itno, 28 years

– Tajikistan’s Emomali Rakhmon, 27 years

– Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki, 26 years

– Belarussian Alexander Lukashenko, 25 years

– Djibouti’s Ismail Omar Guelleh, 20 years

– Gabon’s Ali Bongo will have been in power for 20 years in October 2019.

Tariffs: China hits back, halts purchase of U.S. produce

China has asked its companies to stop purchasing U.S. farm products in response to Washington’s latest round of tariffs on its exports.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce made this known in a statement.

The ministry added that Beijing would not rule out hiking imports duties on farm products dating back to August 3.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday announced he would hike tariffs on 300 billion dollars’ worth of Chinese goods to 10 per cent from Sept. 1.

The tariffs are to come on top of the 25-per-cent levies already imposed over the past year on 250 billion dollars’ worth of Chinese products.

When they take effect, all Chinese goods coming into the U.S. will be subject to punitive tariffs.

The Chinese ministry called the latest tariffs a “serious violation” in the ongoing trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Zuckerberg, Arnault, 8 other billionaires lose $23bn in one day as stock market falls

Monday was the worst day in 2019 for stock markets, and some of the world’s richest people took the biggest hit.

Eighteen billionaires saw their net worth drop by $1 billion or more on Monday. Stocks plummeted as China devalued its currency reportedly to its lowest level against the dollar since 2008. The change followed President Donald Trump’s announcement on Thursday that he would continue to impose tariffs on Chinese imports.

The day’s biggest loser was LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault of France, whose net worth fell by $4 billion, to $91.7 billion. The weakened Chinese currency will make foreign goods, like LVMH’s luxury handbags and perfumes, more expensive to Chinese consumers.

LVMH has otherwise enjoyed a positive year. Shares are up 11% in the last 12 months, in part because Chinese markets have boosted sales at several of its brands, including Givenchy cosmetics and Berluti menswear, according to the company’s half-yearly report. In July, Arnault briefly became the world’s second-richest person, before Bill Gates reclaimed the position.

Other big losers Monday include Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Ellison, whose net worths dropped $2.7 billion and $2.5 billion, respectively.

Even Chinese billionaires are affected, as investors are anxious about an impending trade war. Tencent chairman Ma Huateng’s net worth dropped $1.6 billion in the past day; his conglomerate owns WeChat, the social messaging app used by more than 1 billion people. Meanwhile, Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma saw his net worth drop by $966 million.

Below are some of the billionaires whose net worth plunged the most on Monday:

Bernard Arnault

Source: LVMH

Down: $4 billion

New net worth: $91.7 billion

Mark Zuckerberg

Source: Facebook

Down: $2.7 billion

Net worth: $67.6 billion

Larry Ellison

Source: software

Down: $2.5 billion

Net worth: $65.4 billion

Warren Buffett

Source: Berkshire Hathaway

Down: $2.1 billion

Net worth: $78.3 billion

Larry Page

Source: Google

Down: $1.7 billion

Net worth: $53 billion

Sergey Brin

Source: Google

Down: $1.6 billion

Net worth: $51.9 billion

Ma Huateng

Source: internet media

Down: $1.6 billion

Net worth: $38.3 billion

Mukesh Ambani

Source: petrochemicals, oil & gas

Down: $1.6 billion

Net worth: $46.2 billion

Francoise Bettencourt Meyers & family

Source: L’Oreal

Down: $1.5 billion

Net worth: $50.7 billion

Bill Gates

Source: Microsoft

Down: $1.4 billion

Net worth: $102 billion

 

Putin warns Trump: We’ll develop new nuclear missiles if you do

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday warned that Moscow would be forced to start developing short and intermediate-range land-based nuclear missiles if the U.S. started doing so after the demise of a landmark arms control treaty.

The U.S. formally left the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia on Friday after determining that Moscow was violating the treaty and had already deployed at least one banned type of missile, an accusation the Kremlin denies.

The pact banned land-based missiles with a range of between 310 miles and 3,400 miles (500-5,500 km), reducing the ability of both countries to launch a nuclear strike on short notice.

Putin on Monday held a meeting with his Security Council after which he ordered the defence and foreign ministries and Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service to closely monitor any steps the U.S. took to develop, produce or deploy missiles banned under the defunct treaty.

“If Russia obtains reliable information that the U.S. has finished developing these systems and started to produce them Russia will have no option other than to engage in a full-scale effort to develop similar missiles,” Putin said in a statement.

In the meantime, he said Russia’s arsenal of air and sea-launched missiles combined with its work on developing hypersonic missiles meant it was well placed to offset any threat emanating from the U.S.

It was now essential, he added, for Moscow and Washington to resume arms control talks to prevent what he described as an “unfettered” arms race breaking out.

“In order to avoid chaos with no rules, restrictions or laws, we need to once more weigh up all the dangerous consequences and launch a serious and meaningful dialogue free from any ambiguity,” Putin said.

Boris Johnson appoints 39-year-old British-Nigerian as minister

Boris Johnson, British  prime minister, has named Kemi Badenoch, a UK-born Nigerian, a minister in his cabinet.

Badenoch was appointed minister of children and family affairs.

Born in London to Nigerian parents, the 39 year old spent part of her childhood in Lagos.

She was elected to parliament in 2017, having previously served for the conservatives in the London assembly.

At the parliament, Badenoch talked about her experiences of poverty in Nigeria, including living without electricity or functioning water supply.

She also narrated how she had to do her homework using candles.

Returning to the UK at 16, she studied systems engineering at Sussex University, she also later got a degree in law, and has worked in the IT and banking sectors.

In a tweet, she said her appointment is a huge privilege to make a positive difference.

“I’m humbled to have been appointed a junior minister at the DfE.  A huge privilege to be able to serve and make a positive difference on a number of issues close to my heart. I look forward to working with the ministerial team and everyone at @educationgovuk,” she tweeted.

Kemi Badenoch MP

@KemiBadenoch

I’m humbled to have been appointed a junior minister at the DfE. A huge privilege to be able to serve and make a positive difference on a number of issues close to my heart. I look forward to working with the ministerial team and everyone at @educationgovuk …(1/3)

223 people are talking about this

 

US Supreme Court approves funding for Trump’s border wall

The US Supreme Court has said that President Donald Trump can use $2.5 billion (£2 billion) of Pentagon funds for a section of wall on the southern border.

The court ruled by five votes to four to block a ruling by a federal judge in California that barred the president from spending the money on the wall.

The wall, dividing the US and Mexico, was Mr. Trump’s major campaign promise during the 2016 election.

It is fiercely opposed by Democrats.

The decision by the Supreme Court means that the money will be used for wall projects in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

The court in California had argued that Congress had not specifically authorised the funds to be used for constructing the wall.

In a tweet, Mr. Trump described the ruling as a “big victory”.
On Friday, the US and Guatemala signed a deal, under which migrants from Honduras and El Salvador who pass through Guatemala will be required to stop and seek asylum there first, rather than continuing and trying to enter the United States.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “This evening’s Supreme Court ruling allowing Donald Trump to steal military funds to spend on a wasteful, ineffective border wall rejected by Congress is deeply flawed. Our Founders designed a democracy governed by the people – not a monarchy.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, has vowed to seek an expedited decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals “to halt the irreversible and imminent damage from Trump’s border wall.”

Gloria Smith, an attorney with environmental group the Sierra Club, which sued to block the funds said: “Today’s decision to permit the diversion of military funds for border wall construction will wall off and destroy communities, public lands, and waters in California, New Mexico, and Arizona.”

Mr. Trump declared an emergency earlier this year, saying he needed $6.7bn to build the wall as a matter of national security. However this figure is far short of the estimated $23bn cost of a barrier along the whole 2,000 miles (3,200km) of border.

Democrats claimed Mr. Trump’s decision to declare an emergency exceeded his powers under the US constitution.

About 20 states, along with groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed lawsuits to try and stop the president using the emergency declaration to bypass Congress.

Environmental groups have also campaigned against building the wall claiming that it could have a negative impact on wildlife.

British PM Johnson names Sajid Javid as finance minister

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson named former interior minister Sajid Javid to take over from Philip Hammond as finance minister in his first cabinet appointment, the government said in a statement on Wednesday.

Javid, a former banker from a modest background, was a contender for the premiership but endorsed Johnson when he failed to get enough support from fellow Conservative MPs.

(AFP)

UK finance minister vows to quit if Johnson becomes PM

British finance minister Philip Hammond said Sunday he would make a point of resigning before Boris Johnson became prime minister, saying he could never agree to his Brexit strategy.

Johnson is widely expected to win the governing, centre-right Conservative Party’s leadership contest on Tuesday and be named as prime minister once Theresa May resigns the premiership on Wednesday.

Hammond has become an increasingly fierce critic of Johnson’s Brexit strategy — leaving the European Union with or without a deal on October 31 — and would never have expected to remain as chancellor of the Exchequer in a Johnson government.

But the fact that the second-most senior figure in the government is making a point of resigning rather than wait to be moved on in the incoming prime minister’s reshuffle is a significant gesture — and an indicator of the opposition Johnson could face in pursuing his Brexit strategy.

“I’m sure I’m not going to be sacked because I’m going to resign before we get to that point,” Hammond told BBC television.

“Assuming that Boris Johnson becomes the next prime minister, I understand that his conditions for serving in his government would include accepting a no-deal exit on the 31st of October. That is not something that I could ever sign up to.

“It’s very important that the prime minister is able to have a chancellor who is closely aligned with him in terms of the policy, and I, therefore, intend to resign to Theresa May before she goes to the palace to tender her own resignation on Wednesday.”

May will head to Buckingham Palace in London on Wednesday to see Queen Elizabeth II, the head of state, and relinquish her office.

Johnson’s rival for the premiership is Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has said that Britain should prepare for a no-deal Brexit if a deal seems unlikely by the end of September.

Hunt would be prepared to delay Britain’s departure date if a deal seemed within reach but is also prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a divorce deal.

Hunt has not said who he wants running the Treasury should he win the leadership contest.

 

Johnson bracing to become Britain’s Brexit PM

Boris Johnson is expected to become Britain’s next prime minister this week, vowing to deliver Brexit on October 31 come what may, in the face of fierce opposition in parliament.

The former London mayor is the runaway favourite to win the governing Conservative Party’s leadership contest and replace Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday.

The postal ballot of 160,000 grassroots party members is expected to return Johnson, 55, as the new Conservative leader over Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt when the result is announced on Tuesday.

Any remaining ballots must be delivered by the Monday 5:00 pm (1600 GMT) deadline. Bookmakers give Hunt around a one in 15 chance of victory.

While Johnson spent a relatively trouble-free Saturday, Hunt, his successor in the Foreign Office, was dealing with Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker in the Gulf.

– Threat to majority –

The centre-right Conservatives command a razor-thin majority in parliament’s lower House of Commons and Johnson’s opponents — both within and outside the party — are keen to scupper his leadership.

Johnson has vowed to take Britain out of the European Union on October 31, with or without a divorce deal.

Opponents of Brexit, and especially of a no-deal departure, are plotting moves against Johnson.

Some Conservatives have hinted they are prepared to bring down their own government rather than accept leaving the EU without a deal.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said he would quit the government if Johnson became prime minister.

He told The Sunday Times newspaper that a no-deal Brexit would trigger national “humiliation”.

The broadsheet reported that up to six europhile Conservative MPs were considering defecting to the centrist, pro-EU Liberal Democrats should Johnson win — leaving him without a Commons majority.

– ‘Right side of history’ –

Pro-EU protesters rallied in central London on Saturday in anticipation of Johnson taking office.

The “No to Boris, yes to Europe” protest saw a giant balloon of Johnson — inspired by the similar blimp of US President Donald Trump — flying outside parliament.

“I want to be on the right side of history. I think anybody who considers Brexit to be a good solution, really hasn’t considered the facts,” demonstrator Tamara Bishop told AFP.

Claire Payton said of Johnson: “He’s going to be absolutely appalling.”

Michael Fowler, wearing an EU-flag beret, added: “He is a chancer that will say anything, promise anything and then do whatever suits him. Which might be completely the opposite to what he’s promised.”

– ‘Good relationship’: Trump –

Trump said he spoke to Johnson on Thursday.

“He is going to do a great job,” the president said Friday.

Trump renewed his criticism of May, saying she had done “a very poor job” with Brexit and predicted that Johnson would fix the “disaster”.

“He’s a different kind of a guy, but they say I’m a different kind of a guy too. We get along well. I think we’ll have a very good relationship,” Trump told reporters.

After a month-long campaign, the winner of the contest will be announced on Tuesday as the new Conservative Party leader.

May will answer questions in parliament as prime minister for the final time on Wednesday before heading to Buckingham Palace to tender her resignation to Queen Elizabeth II, the head of state.

The sovereign will then invite the new Conservative leader to form an administration.

May, who took office following the seismic 2016 Brexit referendum, has vowed to be “absolutely” loyal to her successor.

She will remain in parliament as the MP for her Maidenhead constituency in southern England.

“It is important that we have a Conservative government, particularly given the nature of the opposition we have,” she told the Daily Express newspaper.

The Labour main opposition is riven with in-fighting over Brexit, anti-Semitism and veteran leftist Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

“I will be doing everything I can to make sure that we have a Conservative government,” said May.

The 62-year-old added that initially she would “take some time off, have a holiday and adjust to the new world”.