Putin calls U.S. treatment of admitted agent Butina an outrage



FILE PHOTO: Maria Butina appears in a police booking photograph released by the Alexandria Sheriff's Office
FILE PHOTO: Maria Butina appears in a police booking photograph released by the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S. August 18, 2018. Alexandria Sheriff’s Office/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

April 27, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday made his first comments on a U.S. court sentencing admitted Russian foreign agent Maria Butina to 18 months in prison, calling her treatment a travesty of justice.

Butina was sentenced on Friday after the Siberia native, her voice breaking with emotion, begged a judge for mercy and expressed remorse for conspiring with a Russian official to infiltrate a gun rights group and influence U.S. conservative activists and Republicans.

Speaking in Beijing, Putin said the sentence looked like an attempt by U.S. law enforcement and judicial officials to save face.

“It’s an outrage,” Putin told reporters.

“It’s not clear what she was convicted of or what crime she committed. I think it’s a prime example of ‘saving face.’ They arrested her and put the girl in jail. But there was nothing on her, so in order not to look totally stupid they gave her, fixed her up, with an 18-month sentence to show that she was guilty of something.”

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Beijing and Polina Devitt in Moscow; Editing by Andrew Osborn)





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Crowdfunding site Indiegogo says it will no longer allow anti-vaccine fundraisers or any projects making health claims that do not have a scientific backing (Claudia Koerner/BuzzFeed News)




Claudia Koerner / BuzzFeed News:

Crowdfunding site Indiegogo says it will no longer allow anti-vaccine fundraisers or any projects making health claims that do not have a scientific backing  —  Crowdfunding site Indiegogo will no longer allow anti-vaccine fundraisers or any projects making health claims that do not have a scientific backing, the company said Friday.





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Airline SAS cancels 587 flights on Sunday as pilot strike persists



SAS pilots strike at Oslo Airport in Gardermoen
An information board displays cancelled flights as SAS pilots go on strike at Oslo Airport in Gardermoen, Norway April 26, 2019. NTB Scanpix/Ole Berg-Rusten via REUTERS

April 27, 2019

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – SAS said it was cancelling hundreds of flights scheduled for Sunday as a pilot strike at the Scandinavian airline entered its second day on Saturday.

“We deeply regret that our customers are affected by the ongoing pilot strike that has led to delays and canceled flights,” SAS said in a statement.

“Due to the strike another estimated 64,000 passengers will be affected when 587 flights are canceled across Scandinavia.”

SAS pilots went out on strike on Friday as wage talks broke down, grounding around 70 percent of the airline’s flights and impacting the travel plans of an estimated 170,000 passengers over the weekend alone.

(Reporting by Niklas Pollard; Editing by Alexander Smith)





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Inside the criminal investigation of an IT support technician who ordered his wife's murder on a dark web site, which was a scam, and then killed her himself (Mara Hvistendahl/Wired)




Mara Hvistendahl / Wired:

Inside the criminal investigation of an IT support technician who ordered his wife’s murder on a dark web site, which was a scam, and then killed her himself  —  ON A BRISK day in March 2016, Stephen Allwine walked into a Wendy’s in Minneapolis.  The smell of old fryer grease hung in the air …





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Two organizers of the Google walkout held a meeting, attended by hundreds of staff, to discuss claims of "systemic" internal retaliation for company criticism (Bloomberg)




Bloomberg:

Two organizers of the Google walkout held a meeting, attended by hundreds of staff, to discuss claims of “systemic” internal retaliation for company criticism  —  Hundreds of Google staffers met on Friday and discussed what activists allege is a frequent consequence of criticizing the company: Retaliation.





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Khan’s interior minister pick raises questions about ‘new’ Pakistan


Brigadier Ijaz Ahmed Shah, Minister of the National Assembly, meets with Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Prime Minister Office in Islamabad
Brigadier Ijaz Ahmed Shah, Minister of the National Assembly (MNA), meets with Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Prime Minister Office in Islamabad, Pakistan in this photo released by Press Information Department on December 11, 2018. Press Information Department (PID)/Handout via REUTERS

April 27, 2019

By Saad Sayeed

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s new interior minister, appointed in a major cabinet reshuffle this month by Prime Minister Imran Khan, is a former spy chief and close ally of the country’s last military ruler who has long been accused of deep ties to militant groups.

The appointment of retired Brigadier Ijaz Shah has been heavily criticized by the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), whose slain former leader Benazir Bhutto regarded him as a deadly enemy.

Some analysts said it suggested Pakistan’s powerful military continued to wield heavy influence over the civilian administration – a persistent allegation since Khan took office eight months ago that both his government and the generals deny.

In an interview with the BBC after his appointment, Shah said: “What power can I give the military as interior minister? I left the army a long time ago, I am a civilian and have participated in elections.”

The prime minister’s office and the information ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Shah was among four members of the civilian-military establishment named by Bhutto in a letter written to then President Pervez Musharraf months before her assassination as suspects who should be investigated if she was killed.

Many Pakistanis have long suspected that elements of the intelligence agencies colluded with militants in Bhutto’s assassination in a gun and bomb attack in the garrison city of Rawalpindi in December 2007. An investigation at the time blamed an al Qaeda-allied Pakistani Taliban leader.

“Are you trying to send a message to the world that we have terrorists and the abettors of terrorists in our cabinet?” Bhutto’s son and chairman of the PPP, Bilawal Bhutto, told the country’s parliament this week, referring to Shah’s appointment. “This cannot happen.”

Shah’s office did not respond to a request for an interview or a list of questions sent by Reuters, but earlier this month then Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told local newspaper Dawn that “he is a clean man” and had been cleared of all allegations against him in a government inquiry.

SPY CHIEF

The sweeping cabinet reshuffle comes as Pakistan is trying to attract foreign investment and present itself as a reformed country. But critics say the inclusion of an “old school” figure such as Shah in the government shows little has changed.

Under Musharraf, who as army chief seized power in a 1999 coup and ruled until 2008, Shah served as head of the military’s leading spy agency in the Punjab province, and was later appointed the head of the civilian Intelligence Bureau.

He oversaw the surrender of wanted militant Omar Saeed Shaikh, who masterminded the kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl in 2002.

That contributed to allegations he had been close to Islamist groups based along lawless border with Afghanistan, where Pakistan’s security services have long been accused of playing a double game.

“The biggest controversy is his links with the Afghan jihad and figures like Omar Saeed Sheikh,” author and analyst Ayesha Siddiqa told Reuters, a longstanding critic of Pakistan’s military. “Looks very much like the army chief’s choice.”

The military did not respond to a request for comment on this article, but in the past has said it does not interfere in politics. The military has also repeatedly denied allegations leveled by the United States, Afghanistan and others that is has covertly sheltered militants based along its borders.

Under Khan’s government, Islamabad has been trying to convince the outside world that it will not tolerate militants operating from inside Pakistan.

Pakistan currently finds itself on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) “grey list” for inadequately dealing with money laundering and terrorism financing, a designation that makes it harder for the country to access international markets at a time when its economy is stumbling.

Convincing the FATF that it is making sufficient efforts to crack down on militancy will be harder with a controversial figure such as Shah in the cabinet, said PPP Senator Mustafa Khokhar.

Some analysts agree.

“Ijaz Shah’s appointment just reinforces the perception that nothing has changed in Pakistani politics,” political analyst Aamer Ahmed Khan told Reuters.

(Reporting by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Alex Richardson)





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When low-income people fall victim to an online fraud or a data breach, the cascade of repercussions, both online and offline, can be devastating (Mary Madden/New York Times)




Mary Madden / New York Times:

When low-income people fall victim to an online fraud or a data breach, the cascade of repercussions, both online and offline, can be devastating  —  When someone who is living paycheck to paycheck falls victim to an online fraud or a breach, the cascade of repercussions can be devastating.





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Air India server systems restored after affecting flights worldwide



FILE PHOTO - An Air India Airbus A320 aircraft takes off from the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad
FILE PHOTO – An Air India Airbus A320-200 aircraft takes off from the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad, India, July 7, 2017. Picture taken July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Amit Dave

April 27, 2019

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Air India on Saturday said its server system was restored after being down for more than five hours and affecting some flights across the world.

“Air India System restored,” chairman and managing director (CMD) of Air India, Ashwani Lohani told Reuters partner ANI.

The state-owned carrier a Tweeted earlier “Due to a breakdown in our server system some of our flights are getting affected all over the world.”

Several travelers, including Bollywood actress Gul Panag, took to Twitter to complain about the flight disruptions.

“.@airindiain (SITA Liason) systems have crashed and all flights are indefinitely delayed, Panag tweeted. http://bit.ly/2PwHuid “Not a good thing in a market that’s already stretched for capacity @MoCA_GoI.”

India’s Jet Airways, which previously had a fleet of around 120 largely Boeing Co planes, was forced to indefinitely halt all flight operations on April 17 after its banks rejected the carrier’s plea for emergency funds.

(Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Editing by Joseph Radford and Michael Perry)





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Fifteen dead in Sri Lanka after overnight gun battle with suspected Islamist militants


Sri Lankan Special Task Force soldiers are seen on patrol near a mosque during the Friday prayers, in Colombo
Sri Lankan Special Task Force soldiers are seen on patrol near a mosque during the Friday prayers, five days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on catholic churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 26, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

April 27, 2019

By Ranga Sirilal

COLOMBO (Reuters) – The bodies of 15 people, including six children, were discovered at the site of a fierce overnight gun battle on the east coast of Sri Lanka, a military spokesman said on Saturday, six days after suicide bombers killed more than 250 people.

The shootout between troops and suspected Islamist militants erupted on Friday evening in Sainthamaruthu in Ampara, to the south of the town of Batticaloa, site of one of the Easter Sunday blasts at three churches and four luxury hotels.

A police spokesman said that three suspected suicide bombers were among the 15 dead after the shoot out.

One child caught in the crossfire was admitted to hospital.

Military spokesman Sumith Atapattu said in a statement that as troops headed towards the safe house three explosions were triggered and gunfire began.

“Troops retaliated and raided the safe house where a large cache of explosives had been stored,” he said in a statement.

He said the militants were suspected members of the domestic Islamist group National Towheed Jama’at (NTJ), which has been blamed for last Sunday’s attacks.

Bomb-making materials, dozens of gelignite sticks and thousands of metal balls were found in a search of a separate house in the same area, the military said.

The government has said nine homegrown, well-educated suicide bombers carried out the Easter Sunday attacks, eight of whom had been identified. One was a woman.

Police said on Friday they were trying to track down 140 people they believe have links with Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings.

Police have detained at least 76 people, including foreigners from Syria and Egypt, in their investigations so far. Twenty were arrested in the past 24 hours alone, they said.

GRAPHIC: Sri Lanka bombings – https://tmsnrt.rs/2Xy02BA

GRAPHIC: A decade of peace shattered – https://tmsnrt.rs/2W4wZoU

AUTHORITIES WARN OF MORE ATTACKS

Islamic State provided no evidence to back its claim that it was behind the attacks. If true, it would be one of the worst attacks carried out by the group outside Iraq and Syria.

The extremist group released a video on Tuesday showing eight men, all but one with their faces covered, standing under a black Islamic State flag and declaring their loyalty to its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

Muslims in Sri Lanka were urged to pray at home on Friday after the State Intelligence Services warned of possible car bomb attacks, amid fears of retaliatory violence.

Fears of retaliatory sectarian violence have already caused Muslim communities to flee their homes amid bomb scares, lockdowns and security sweeps.

The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka urged its citizens to avoid places of worship over the weekend after authorities reported there could be more attacks targeting religious centers.

Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told reporters he had seen a leaked internal security document warning of further attacks on churches and there would be no Catholic masses this Sunday anywhere on the island.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers were deployed across the Indian Ocean island state to carry out searches and provide security for religious centers, the military said.

Authorities have so far focused their investigations on international links to two domestic groups they believe carried out the attacks, NTJ and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim.

INTELLIGENCE FAILURE

Officials have acknowledged a major lapse in not widely sharing intelligence warnings from India of possible attacks.

President Maithripala Sirisena said on Friday that top defense and police chiefs had not shared information with him about the impending attacks.

He blamed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government for weakening the intelligence system by focusing on prosecution of military officers over alleged war crimes during a decades-long civil war with Tamil separatists that ended in 2009.

Sirisena fired Wickremesinghe in October over political differences, only to reinstate him weeks later under pressure from the Supreme Court.

Opposing factions aligned to Wickremesinghe and Sirisena have often refused to communicate with each other and blame any setbacks on their opponents, government sources say.

The Easter Sunday bombings shattered the relative calm that had existed in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka since the civil war against mostly Hindu ethnic Tamil separatists ended.

Sri Lanka’s 22 million people include minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Until now, Christians had largely managed to avoid the worst of the island’s conflict and communal tensions.

Most of the victims were Sri Lankans, although authorities said at least 40 foreigners were also killed, many of them tourists sitting down to breakfast at top-end hotels when the bombers struck.

They included British, U.S., Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals. Britain warned its nationals this week to avoid Sri Lanka unless it was absolutely necessary.

(Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Michael Perry)





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Source: E*Trade is preparing to let customers trade cryptocurrencies on its platform starting with Bitcoin and Ethereum, will consider adding other currencies (Julie Verhage/Bloomberg)




Julie Verhage / Bloomberg:

Source: E*Trade is preparing to let customers trade cryptocurrencies on its platform starting with Bitcoin and Ethereum, will consider adding other currencies  —  – The brokerage giant will offer Bitcoin and Ethereum trades  — Service will compete with startups like Coinbase and Robinhood





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