November 22, 2019

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Ninth family member dies after Israeli strike: ministry

Ninth family member dies after Israeli strike: ministryA Palestinian wounded in an Israeli strike that killed eight members of his family has died, the health ministry in the Hamas-run strip said on Friday. Mohammed Abu Malhous al-Sawarka, 40, succumbed after being wounded in "the massacre in which eight members of a family died when they were targeted in their homes," ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said in a statement. It said he was the brother of Rasmi Abu Malhous who was killed when his home was hit by an air strike on November 14.


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Former FBI Lawyer Under Criminal Investigation for Altering Document in Russia Probe: Report

Former FBI Lawyer Under Criminal Investigation for Altering Document in Russia Probe: ReportA former FBI lawyer is under criminal investigation for allegedly altering a document pertaining to the 2016 surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser.The document will likely factor into Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz's review of the FBI's attempts to obtain a FISA warrant to surveil former Trump campaign official Carter Page, CNN first reported.At the time, the FBI was looking into allegations that the Trump campaign worked with Russian operatives to influence the 2016 presidential election. The Mueller investigation later concluded that those allegations were based on insufficient evidence. During an April Senate hearing, U.S. attorney general William Barr said he believed "spying did occur" during the FBI's Russia probe, possibly in the case of Page.Horowitz has also shared the document with federal prosecutor John Durham. Durham was appointed this year by Barr to investigate intelligence gathered by the FBI as part of its Russia probe. According to the Washington Post, the altered document did not affect the basic validity of the FISA warrant obtained to investigate Page.The Justice Department declined to comment to CNN on the matter. The lawyer under investigation no longer works at the FBI.Horowitz's probe into the origins of the FBI's Russia investigation was upgraded to a criminal probe in October. Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said on Wednesday he expects the probe's findings to be released on December 9."I look forward to reviewing the report and hearing Mr. Horowitz’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he will deliver a detailed account of what he found regarding his investigation, along with recommendations as to how to make our judicial and investigative systems better," read a statement from Graham's office.


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Prince Andrew Was ‘Given’ ‘Beautiful Young Neurosurgeon’ by Epstein, Says Ex-Housekeeper

Prince Andrew Was ‘Given’ ‘Beautiful Young Neurosurgeon’ by Epstein, Says Ex-HousekeeperChristopher FurlongIf you love The Daily Beast’s royal coverage, then we hope you’ll enjoy The Royalist, an all-new members-only series for Beast Inside. Become a member to get it in your inbox on Sunday.Prince Andrew was “given” a “beautiful young neurosurgeon” by Jeffrey Epstein when he stayed at the predator’s New Mexico ranch, according to a former housekeeper at the property.Deidre Stratton worked at Epstein’s notorious Zorro Ranch, and she told a podcast, Epstein: Devil in the Darkness, that Andrew was “kept company” by the woman for three days when he stayed at the ranch on his own.How Palace Fear of U.S. Epstein Probe Forced the Queen to Fire Prince AndrewStratton said her main job was to procure Epstein with a “stable” of young female masseurs, maintaining a list of women that “didn’t have tattoos or piercings” who were willing to drive out to the ranch and massage him.“Massages being in air quotes. I don’t see how his guests wouldn’t know that,” Stratton said.Prince Andrew’s Daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, Are ‘Deeply Distressed,’ but Standing by HimStratton said Andrew came to stay at the Zorro Ranch on his own, and was put up in a self-contained three-bedroom guest property on the estate. Epstein was not there, but he arranged for Andrew to be accompanied by the young medic, according to the former housekeeper.Stratton said: “At the time, Jeffrey had this, she supposedly was a neurosurgeon, quite young, beautiful, young and brilliant, and she stayed in the home with him... At one point we had all these different teas and you could pick the teas that you wanted and she asked me to find one that would make Andrew more horny.”“I’m guessing she understood her job was to entertain him because I guess, the fear, I don’t know; the fear would be that Andrew would say, ‘No I didn’t really find her that attractive.’ ... He would tell Jeffrey that and then she would be on the ropes.”“I’m guessing that, another theory is, that Jeffrey probably had her on retainer and she knew what her job would be, should be, to make these people happy... Sex was all they thought about. I mean, I know for sure that Jeffrey would ideally like three massages a day.”Stratton said she asked Andrew what he would like for breakfast, and the royal said he wanted to try and cook some bacon for himself.“I offered to come up and fix his breakfast and he said, ‘No I want to try.’  ... When I got up there later to tidy up, you could smell burnt bacon and he was like, ‘I didn't do so well.’ ... He had a croissant and green tea or something. I remember him trying to cook his own breakfast. Isn’t that cute? He couldn’t even fry bacon.”Prince Andrew was this week ordered to step down from royal life by his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in the aftermath of a disastrous interview he gave to the BBC about his friendship with Epstein.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


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Christian group wrote legislation eerily similar to Ohio religious liberty bill

Christian group wrote legislation eerily similar to Ohio religious liberty billCritics suspect hand of Project Blitz in draft passed by Ohio house which they fear could let students’ religious beliefs trump scienceThe draft law says a teacher ‘shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work’ – language strikingly similar to Project Blitz’s model legislation. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPAAn Ohio state bill which could allow students’ religious beliefs to trump science-based facts is almost identical to model legislation backed by an evangelical, anti-gay Christian group.The Student Religious Liberties Act, which passed the Ohio house last week, instructs schools to neither “penalize or reward” students on the basis of their religious speech. It also stipulates schools must provide opportunities for religious expression “in the same manner and to the same extent” as secular speech. Critics argue the bill would provide protect students from bad grades based on religion.The bill’s backers deny it is connected to the group, called Project Blitz but the bill has nearly identical language to the model legislation backed by Project Blitz in their 2018-2019 “playbook”.While student religious liberties bills existed before Project Blitz, its inclusion in a playbook by groups whose goal is to inject religion into law shows the priority they place on the matter. By contrast, many mainstream civil rights groups have lined up against the bill.Project Blitz model legislation says: “A student may not be penalized or rewarded based on the religious content of his or her work.” The Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act says teachers “shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work.”“This bill is under the guise of religious freedom for students, but it’s really designed to encourage students to pray and proselytize in public schools,” said Maggie Garrett, the vice-president of policy for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “It adds more confusion than clarity, and of course current law already protects the rights of students,” she said.The law’s predicted effects have divided critics and supporters. Opponents have said the bill will cause controversy-averse teachers and school administrators to hedge against correcting students who might cite religious beliefs in classwork.Backers argue school officials are intimidated by “well funded groups” who are “biased against Ohio students’ religious freedom”. The most likely impact, groups such as the Anti-Defamation League said, is potential lawsuits against school districts.Student religious liberty bills have spread across the US south and midwest for more than a decade with roots in a 1995 set of guidelines from the Clinton administration, according to a University of California, Davis law review article.In 2007, Texas reincarnated the guidelines in a form which “intentionally lacks” some of the caveats the Clinton administration included, such as a prohibition on having a “captive audience” in school, the article said.“This bill has been around since before the Project Blitz campaign, but the bill is part of the Project Blitz playbook,” said Garrett, the vice-president for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “We will be seeing more of these bills in the future, because we’re certainly seeing an increase in other Project Blitz bills.”In another example of their similarities, Project Blitz’s model legislation reads, “A student may organize prayer groups, religious clubs, and other religious gatherings before, during, and after the school day in the same manner and to the same extent that a student is permitted to organize secular activities and groups.”Ohio’s bill said students could attend “religious gatherings, including but not limited to prayer groups, religious clubs, ‘see you at the pole’ gatherings, or other religious gatherings” and “may engage in religious expression before, during, and after school hours in the same manner and to the same extent that a student is permitted to engage in secular activities or expression before, during, and after school hours.”Even though backers deny the bill has been designed to promote Christian values, others disagree. “It is negligent and reckless of our colleagues to push an agenda this way and act as if it is not based on this one religious tenet,” said Emilia Strong Sykes, the Democratic Ohio house minority leader and a Christian. “It is anti-American,” she said.Long-term Republican control of Ohio state politics through gerrymandering – a process of drawing district lines to benefit one party – has turned Ohio into a proving ground for conservative legislation. Including 2019, Republicans have held all three levers of Ohio state government for 21 of the last 27 years, according to Ballotpedia.Ohio was the first of several states to pass a six-week ban on abortion last summer. The same legislators introduced a bill to ban abortion outright last week, including new criminal penalties for “abortion murder”. Courts stopped Ohio’s six-week ban from going into effect. Abortion is legal in all 50 US states.“My personal feeling, quite frankly, is this is disgraceful,” said Paul Beck, an Ohio State University political science professor and an expert on gerrymandering, about the Student Religious Liberties Act. “One of the products of gerrymandering and Republican domination we have in the Ohio general assembly is these are not necessarily reasonable people making our laws,” he said.“Here you have legislation that is not only not needed, but will – at minimum – cause confusion,” said Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. The ACLU often sues on behalf of those who suffer religious discrimination, and opposes the bill.Project Blitz is organized by the Congressional Prayer Caucus, the National Legal Foundation and the WallBuilders ProFamily Legislators Conference. Other Blitz proposals include proclamations to establish, “Christian heritage week” and a “public policy resolution favoring sexual intercourse only between a married man and woman”.The privately run Congressional Prayer Caucus works to “preserve America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and promote prayer”, according to its website. WallBuilders is led by a widely criticized revisionist historian who claims the US was founded on Christian ideals. The not-for-profit National Legal Foundation aims to “create and implement” public policy “to support and facilitate God’s purpose for [America] … in such a way as to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ”.The Guardian contacted the Congressional Prayer Caucus, WallBuilders and the National Legal Foundation for comment. None responded.Representative Timothy Ginter, the bill’s sponsor and a pastor, said he had “no knowledge” of Project Blitz. He declined further requests for an interview.The Guardian contacted 11 co-sponsors of the legislation. None responded. The Guardian also contacted the legislator who originally introduced the legislation in 2016, former representative Bill Hayes. He did not respond to a request for comment.In a statement, Ginter argued the bill is necessary, “Because of increased pressure on our schools from groups who are biased against Ohio students’ religious freedoms, many school officials are confused, and frankly intimidated by the threat of litigation from these well-funded groups.” He also denied the bill is meant to promote Christianity. “Nowhere in the language of the bill is a specific religion mentioned,” Ginter said.The Republican-backed Ohio house passed the bill last week with a party-line vote. Only two Democrats voted in favor. The bill must be passed by the Republican-controlled Senate and the Republican governor, Mike DeWine, to become law. He did not respond to a Guardian request for comment.


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Putin hands awards to widows of men killed in mysterious military test

Putin hands awards to widows of men killed in mysterious military testRussian President Vladimir Putin has handed top state awards to the widows of five scientists killed in an accident while testing what he called an advanced weapons system without equal in the world. The five men died on Aug. 8 in what their employer, state nuclear agency Rosatom, said was an accident during a rocket test on a sea platform off northern Russia, an incident which caused radiation levels in the surrounding area to briefly spike. Thomas DiNanno, a senior U.S. State Department official, said last month that Washington had determined that the explosion was the result of a nuclear reaction which occurred during the recovery of a Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile after a failed test.


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Putin hands awards to widows of men killed in mysterious military test

Putin hands awards to widows of men killed in mysterious military testRussian President Vladimir Putin has handed top state awards to the widows of five scientists killed in an accident while testing what he called an advanced weapons system without equal in the world. The five men died on Aug. 8 in what their employer, state nuclear agency Rosatom, said was an accident during a rocket test on a sea platform off northern Russia, an incident which caused radiation levels in the surrounding area to briefly spike. Thomas DiNanno, a senior U.S. State Department official, said last month that Washington had determined that the explosion was the result of a nuclear reaction which occurred during the recovery of a Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile after a failed test.


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Putin hands awards to widows of men killed in mysterious military test

Putin hands awards to widows of men killed in mysterious military testRussian President Vladimir Putin has handed top state awards to the widows of five scientists killed in an accident while testing what he called an advanced weapons system without equal in the world. The five men died on Aug. 8 in what their employer, state nuclear agency Rosatom, said was an accident during a rocket test on a sea platform off northern Russia, an incident which caused radiation levels in the surrounding area to briefly spike. Thomas DiNanno, a senior U.S. State Department official, said last month that Washington had determined that the explosion was the result of a nuclear reaction which occurred during the recovery of a Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile after a failed test.


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Court Temporarily Allows Mask Ban, RTHK Says: Hong Kong Update

Court Temporarily Allows Mask Ban, RTHK Says: Hong Kong Update(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s High Court said Friday the government would be allowed to reinstate a controversial law banning protesters from wearing face masks for seven days after earlier ruling it “unconstitutional,” Radio Television Hong Kong reported, citing the decision.Chief Executive Carrie Lam imposed the mask ban last month by invoking colonial-era emergency powers for the first time in more than a half century, but the move was struck down by the court earlier this week. Police had agreed to temporarily stop enforcing the law, which prompted widespread protests when it was rolled out and was deliberately flouted by protesters who continued to wear masks to shield their identities from police.China on Monday denounced the court’s initial ruling, raising the specter of a direct intervention in Hong Kong’s judicial system and saying it “seriously weakened” the power of the city’s chief executive. A spokesman for the legislative affairs commission of China’s Parliament said the National People’s Congress was the only body with the authority to interpret Hong Kong law -- a claim disputed by some in the financial hub, including the Hong Kong Bar Association.It comes as Hong Kong prepares to hold a local election Sunday, with poll booths guarded by riot police after two weeks of violent unrest. The Asian financial hub has been gripped for five months by fierce protests sparked by proposed legislation that would have allowed extraditions to China.Key Developments:High Court allows temporary reinstatement of mask ban: RTHKPolyU orders staff to stay awayRiot cops will guard voting boothsHere’s the latest (all times local):Court rules on mask ban (6:20 p.m. )The High Court of Hong Kong allowed the government to reinstate the mask ban for seven days after ruling it “unconstitutional” Monday, local outlet Radio Television Hong Kong reported, citing the court decision. It was originally rolled out to try and discourage masked protesters from attending increasingly violent rallies, but was largely ignored and criticized by political observers as unenforceable. The government had asked the court to temporarily suspend its ruling while the issue goes through the appeals process, the RTHK report said.PolyU orders staff to stay away (2:15 p.m.)As a days-long stand-off continued at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the school said it was extending a suspension of its facilities until Dec. 1. The university, which remains cordoned off after fiery clashes between riot cops and students who had barricades themselves inside, said the campus had been “extensively and severely vandalized” during the stand-off.“Staff should stay away from the campus, and are expected to work from home as far as practicable,” the statement said.Riot cops to guard poll booths (12:15 p.m.)Police Commissioner Chris Tang said riot cops will guard polling booths on Sunday, but that their presence won’t scare people from voting. “Violence may deter people to vote, but by having sufficient police presence, we are there to ensure the safety of the voters,” he said.\--With assistance from Natalie Lung.To contact the reporter on this story: Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Daniel Ten KateFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


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