Asked Russia

Russia asked to come clean on novichok after Navalny poisoning – The Guardian

Russia is under pressure to reveal details of its novichok chemical weapons programme after Nato called for an impartial international investigation into the “appalling” poisoning of Alexei Navalny.

Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, convened a meeting of member states to discuss the latest findings from Germany on the Russian opposition leader, who collapsed last month on a flight from Siberia to Moscow.

German doctors treating Navalny in Berlin announced on Wednesday he had been poisoned with novichok, a lethal Russian-made nerve agent.

Speaking after the meeting, the Nato spokesperson Piers Cazelet said Moscow had “serious questions” to answer. The attempted assassination of Russia’s leading opposition politician was a breach of international law, he said, adding: “Those responsible [must] be brought to justice.”

He continued: “The use of such a weapon is horrific. Nato allies are united in condemning this attack. It shows a total disrespect for human life. Time and again we have seen critics of the [Vladimir Putin] regime attacked and threatened. Some have been killed.”

Born in 1976 just outside Moscow, Alexei Navalny is a lawyer-turned-campaigner whose Anti-Corruption Foundation investigates the wealth of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. 

He started out as a Russian nationalist, but emerged as the main leader of Russia’s democratic opposition during the wave of protests that led up to the 2012 presidential election, and has since been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side. 

Navalny is barred from appearing on state television, but has used social media to his advantage. A 2017 documentary accusing the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, of corruption received more than 30m views on YouTube within two months. 

He has been repeatedly arrested and jailed. The European court of human rights ruled that Russia violated Navalny’s rights by holding him under house arrest in 2014. Election officials barred him from running for president in 2018 due to an embezzlement conviction that he claims was politically motivated. Navalny told the commission its decision would be a vote ‘not against me, but against 16,000 people who have nominated me; against 200,000 volunteers who have been canvassing for me‘. 

There has also been a physical price to pay. In April 2017, he was attacked with green dye that nearly blinded him in one eye, and in July 2019 he was taken from jail to hospital with symptoms that one of his doctors said could indicate poisoning. In 2020, he was again hospitalised after a suspected poisoning, and taken to Germany for treatment. The German government later said toxicology results showed Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP

However, the transatlantic alliance stopped short of announcing concrete measures such as sanctions or the expulsion of diplomats. In 2018, it expelled seven Russians attached to Nato following the novichok attack by two Kremlin military intelligence hitmen on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, UK.

Instead, Nato urged Russia to cooperate in an investigation being led by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Cazelet said Moscow should give the OPCW “complete disclosure” of its novichok programme, which Soviet scientists developed in secret laboratories late in the cold war.

There is little prospect of that. Soon after the Skripals’ poisoning, a team of Russian state operatives were arrested after they flew to the Netherlands and tried to hack into the OPCW’s building in The Hague. They were apparently seeking evidence that might be used to discredit the OPCW’s Skripal investigation.

Russia on Friday continued to offer alternative theories for why Navalny fell ill two weeks ago after drinking a cup of tea in Tomsk airport. Alexander Sabayev, the chief toxicologist in Omsk, where Navalny was treated in hospital, said no traces of poison were discovered.

Instead, Sabayev suggested Navalny’s condition might have been caused by dieting, excessive drinking, stress, fatigue, or a “simple lack of breakfast”. Navalny’s press aide, Kira Yarmysh, derided his diagnosis. Sabayev was the “lousiest” toxicologist in Siberia, she tweeted.

The claim is completely at odds with the findings of German experts. According to Der Spiegel, toxicology tests carried out in Munich found traces of novichok in Navalny’s blood, urine and skin as well as on a bottle he had with him when he collapsed on the flight back to Moscow. He was most likely already poisoned when he drank from the bottle, which his relatives kept and passed on to German doctors, it reported.

Novichok refers to a group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s to elude international restrictions on chemical weapons. Like other nerve agents, they are organophosphate compounds, but the chemicals used to make them, and their final structures, are considered classified in the UK, the US and other countries.

The most potent of the novichok substances are considered to be more lethal than VX, the most deadly of the familiar nerve agents, which include sarin, tabun and soman.

Novichok agents work in a similar way, by massively over-stimulating muscles and glands. Treatment for novichok exposure would be the same as for other nerve agents, namely with atropine, diazepam and potentially drugs called oximes.

The chemical structures of novichok agents were made public in 2008 by Vil Mirzayanov, a former Russian scientist living in the US, but the structures have never been publicly confirmed. It is thought they can be made in different forms, including as a dust aerosol.

The novichoks are known as binary agents because they only become lethal  after mixing two otherwise harmless components. According to Mirzayanov, they are 10 to 100 times more toxic than conventional nerve agents.

Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images Europe

The magazine said the finding delivered to Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, and her cabinet on Wednesday was a “political bomb”.

Western leaders have to decide what, if any, punitive steps to take. While there are clear parallels with the Skripal case there are also differences: the attack against Navalny was against a Russian citizen inside Russia. Proof of state involvement is likely to have been destroyed.

The EU says it is considering sanctions against Russia, while Merkel has condemned Moscow in unusually blunt terms, calling the case a crime. On Friday, the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, spoke to his German counterpart, Heiko Maas. They agreed to work together, including with the OPCW, and to bring Russia to account.

Merkel is under growing domestic pressure to reconsider her support for the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Critics include politicians from the German Greens, the Free Democratic party and prominent figures in Merkel’s own Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

They argue that a moratorium on the nearly completed twin pipelines would be one of the few ways Berlin can exert pressure on the Kremlin. However, Bavaria’s premier, Markus Söder, insisted the multibillion-euro infrastructure project should not be directly tied to diplomacy. Its completion was a matter for private businesses, he said.

Roderich Kiesewetter, a CDU member on the foreign affairs committee, argued that while Nord Stream 2 was a “massive mistake” Merkel had inherited from her Social Democrat predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, it could not be reversed while Germany also tries to phase out nuclear and coal, and condemns fracking.

“We’ve boxed ourselves in,” he told Berliner Zeitung.

Moscow is unlikely to offer the international community any help over Navalny. Russia’s foreign ministry insists the country does not have a novichok programme and claims it ended its chemical weapons activities in 1992, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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About Asked

Asked About Black Americans Killed by Police, Trump Says, ‘So Are White People’ – The New York Times

Politics|Asked About Black Americans Killed by Police, Trump Says, ‘So Are White People’

The president rejected the fact that Black people suffer disproportionately from police brutality and made startling remarks about the Confederate flag and a recent confrontation in St. Louis.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Jeremy W. Peters

President Trump, whose re-election prospects have dimmed as Americans question his handling of the coronavirus outbreak and race relations, on Tuesday stoked racial grievances yet again with a series of startling remarks about the Confederate flag, victims of police violence and a St. Louis couple who pointed guns at protesters peacefully marching by their house.

Mr. Trump added to his long record of racially inflammatory comments during an interview with CBS News, in which he brushed off a question about Black people killed by police officers, saying that white people are killed in greater numbers.

Mr. Trump reacted angrily when asked about the issue, which has led to nationwide protests calling for major law enforcement changes.

“Why are African-Americans still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country?” the interviewer, Catherine Herridge of CBS News, asked the president.

“What a terrible question to ask,” Mr. Trump responded. “So are white people. More white people, by the way.”

Statistics show that while more white Americans are killed by the police over all, people of color are killed at higher rates. A federal study that examined lethal force used by the police from 2009 to 2012 found that a majority of victims were white, but the victims were disproportionately Black. Black people had a fatality rate at the hands of police officers that was 2.8 times as high as that of white people.

In a separate interview published on Tuesday with the conservative website, Mr. Trump falsely claimed that a white couple in St. Louis who confronted peaceful marchers outside their home with guns had been on the verge of being beaten and having their home burned down.

“They were going to be beat up badly, and the house was going to be totally ransacked and probably burned down,” Mr. Trump said.

Video of the incident, which became a flash point in the national debate over racial inequality, showed that the protesters at no point physically threatened the couple.

The president’s remarks were the latest example of his refusal to acknowledge the racial discrimination that even many in his own party have said must be addressed. But Mr. Trump, who recently retweeted a video of a supporter shouting “white power” and said he would oppose a bipartisan effort in Congress to remove Confederate names from military bases, has displayed no intention of trying to bridge the country’s racial divide.

Asked in the CBS interview how he felt about the use of the Confederate battle flag in public settings like NASCAR races, the president said: “With me, it’s freedom of speech. Very simple. Like it, don’t like it, it’s freedom of speech.”

Asked if he understood that the flag was a painful symbol to many people as a reminder of slavery, Mr. Trump said, “Well, people love it and I don’t view — I know people that like the Confederate flag and they’re not thinking about slavery.” He added, “I just think it’s freedom of speech, whether it’s Confederate flags or Black Lives Matter or anything else you want to talk about.”

Four months into a pandemic that has cost more than 136,000 lives in the United States, and nearly two months after the killing of a Black man by a Minneapolis police officer sparked a nationwide outpouring of anger over racial injustice, Mr. Trump still only rarely mentions the pain that both crises have caused many Americans. Rather than offer sympathy and compassion, he provokes and attacks.

His comments in the interviews on Tuesday — a day when Florida again surpassed its previous record for coronavirus deaths while Republicans pressed ahead with plans to hold their convention in Jacksonville next month — came as he used a news conference that was ostensibly for announcing new legislation targeting China to thrash his opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“His agenda is the most extreme platform of any major party nominee, by far, in American history,” Mr. Trump said, calling Mr. Biden’s career a “gift to the Chinese Communist Party.”

Over the course of his short time as a national political figure, Mr. Trump has used race, religion and ethnicity to divide Americans. Five years ago, he announced that he was seeking the presidency by denigrating Mexican migrants as rapists and murderers. As a candidate he then called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

He initially refused to disavow the endorsement of a former Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke. He has insulted the intelligence of Black professional athletes and questioned their patriotism.

Since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, he has not backed down but doubled down on making racially divisive and sometimes overtly racist comments. He has called the coronavirus the “Kung flu.” He falsely accused a Black NASCAR driver of perpetrating a hoax for reporting that a noose had been left near his car and criticized the racing franchise for prohibiting Confederate flags at its events — while also claiming to have done “more for Black Americans, in fact, than any President in U.S. history,” with the “possible exception” of Abraham Lincoln.

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Asked Patrons

Patrons are asked to self-quarantine after about 85 people who visited a Michigan bar get Covid-19 – CNN

(CNN)People who visited a bar in East Lansing, Michigan, are being asked to self-quarantine because roughly 85 people contracted Covid-19 after visiting the establishment this month, a health official says.

That number is up from the 34 reported Wednesday and is expected to rise, Ingham County Health officer Linda S. Vail told CNN.
The Health Department is asking patrons who visited Harper’s Restaurant & Brew Pub between June 12 and June 20 to self-quarantine, and report cases of Covid-19, the department said in a statement.
“Given the number of cases in this outbreak, we consider this a higher risk exposure than a typical visit to a restaurant or bar,” Vail said. “There are likely more people infected with Covid-19 not yet identified.”
The bar followed safety guidelines for employees, capacity guidelines and table spacing, the statement said.
The bar opted to close down temporarily to install air purifiers and to eliminate lines, a post says on its Facebook page.

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Asked Kentucky

Kentucky AG asked to serve as special prosecutor in Breonna Taylor case – NBC News

Kentucky’s attorney general will serve as a special prosecutor in the killing of Breonna Taylor, a woman fatally shot in her Louisville home by police who her family says were executing a “botched” search warrant.

“The Office of the Attorney General has been asked to serve as special prosecutor in the matter involving the death of Breonna Taylor. At the conclusion of the investigation, the office will review the evidence and take appropriate action,” Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced late Wednesday.

Hours earlier, Gov. Andy Beshear called on Cameron to “carefully review the results of the initial investigation to ensure justice is done at a time when many are concerned that justice is not blind.”

“The public reports concerning the death of Breonna Taylor are troubling,” Beshear said in a statement.

Breonna Taylor was a qualified EMTFamily photo via NBC12

State Rep. Charles Booker of Louisville also called Wednesday for an independent investigation.

“Ms. Taylor was an innocent and valued member of our community, and it is unjust that she has been killed,” Booker wrote in a letter to Cameron. “The circumstances surrounding her violent death at the hands of officers of the Louisville Metro Police Department are deeply troubling.”

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Taylor’s family in a lawsuit accuses three officers, since identified as Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove, of “blindly firing” more than 20 shots into her apartment, surprising the 26-year-old and her boyfriend who thought the officers were burglars.

Taylor, an EMT, and her boyfriend thought they were being burglarized and he fired at the officers in self-defense, the lawsuit said.

After the March 13 incident, the Louisville Metro Police Department said the officers had knocked on the door several times and “announced their presence as police who were there with a search warrant.” After forcing their way in, they “were immediately met by gunfire,” Lt. Ted Eidem said at a news conference.

But the family’s lawsuit said the three officers entered Taylor’s home “without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers.”

Taylor was shot eight times and died. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, 27, was arrested and charged with assault and attempted murder on a police officer.

The family’s suit said that Walker had a license to carry and kept firearms in the home, and that Taylor was unarmed.

“Breonna Taylor was sleeping while black in the sanctity of our own home,” attorney Benjamin Crump said at a Wednesday press conference, adding, “we cannot continue to allow them to unnecessarily and justifiably kill our black women and escape any accountability.”

The suit said the officers were looking for a suspect who lived in a different part of the city and was already in police custody. The Courier-Journal reported that records show the officers were investigating a “trap house” that was more than 10 miles away from Taylor’s apartment. They had been issued a “no-knock” search warrant for that residence.

A police spokesperson had no comment this week because the investigation was still ongoing. The officers were reassigned pending the outcome of the investigation.

Taylor and Walker had no criminal history or drug convictions. No drugs were found in the apartment.

Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, filed the lawsuit in April in Jefferson Circuit Court alleging wrongful death, excessive force and gross negligence.

“Though it is unjust and reprehensible, it is true that black people in American society are often seen as deadly weapons simply because of the color of our skin. I urgently request that you ensure that justice is done in this case,” Booker wrote in his letter to Cameron. “I am counting on your leadership to ensure that Breonna Taylor’s life and service are more than yet another hashtag, and that this moment becomes a chance to stand against institutional racism and for the just humanity of all Kentuckians.”

Elisha Fieldstadt

Elisha Fieldstadt is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

Minyvonne Burke


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Asked Remove

CEOs Were Asked to Remove Masks Before Meeting With Mike Pence in Iowa – Slate

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Vice President Mike Pence, and chief executive officer and president of Hy-Vee, Inc. Randy Edeker hold a roundtable discussion on coronavirus with food industry executives on Friday, May 8, 2src2src at the Ron Pearson Center in West Des Moines.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Vice President Mike Pence, and chief executive officer and president of Hy-Vee, Inc. Randy Edeker hold a roundtable discussion on coronavirus with food industry executives on Friday, May 8, 2020 at the Ron Pearson Center in West Des Moines.

Olivia Sun/The Register via Imagn Content Services, LLC

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Mere hours after Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary tested positive for COVID-19, he was set to meet with a group of food industry executives who had gathered for a roundtable discussion in West Des Moines. But before Pence joined them on the stage, someone came in and asked all five guests to remove their masks, which they all did dutifully, reports the Intercept, which posted a segment of the live video stream of the event that showed the sequence of events. “The strange request underscored just how committed the White House is to ignoring federal health advice intended to slow the spread of the pandemic coronavirus,” notes the Intercept’s Robert Mackey.

This is, of course, hardly the first time Pence’s seeming insistence on not wearing a mask has raised eyebrows. Pence refused to wear a mask at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, claiming it wasn’t necessary because he was tested regularly. Later he acknowledged he should have worn a mask. “I didn’t think it was necessary, but I should have worn the mask at the Mayo Clinic,” Pence said.

Pence didn’t wear a mask during his events in Iowa that were intended to encourage economies to start returning to normal. But throughout the day there were clear signs that everything continued to be far from normal. Before the event in which the executives were asked to remove their masks, staffers wearing gloves and masks took the temperature of people who entered the building. And even though members of the audience did appear to be staying apart from each other, video showed that few were actually wearing masks.

The events of Friday illustrate just how the question of whether to wear a mask or not has become a political statement across the United States. Even as health care officials encourage people to wear masks, those who think that the coronavirus threat is overblown are getting clear signals from some of the country’s leaders, including President Donald Trump, that it’s OK not to wear one. That tension has even led to violence in a few places as people who refuse to wear masks have confronted employees at stores that demand everyone put one on. Ultimately, “the president is not just failing to model good behavior,” writes Mackey, “he is actively discouraging it.” As of Sunday afternoon, the coronavirus had killed almost 80,000 people across the United States.

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