Tag Archives: World News

TOP STORIES, World News

Prince Philip will not be prosecuted over crash”:


The Duke of Edinburgh will not face prosecution over his road crash near the Sandringham estate, the Crown Prosecution Service has said.

The 97-year-old voluntarily gave up his driving licence on Saturday after his Land Rover Freelander collided with another vehicle in Norfolk last month.

He later apologised to the occupants of the other car – two women and a baby.

The CPS says it decided that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute the duke.

Chris Long, Chief Crown Prosecutor from CPS East of England, said: “We took into account all of the circumstances in this case, including the level of culpability, the age of the driver and the surrender of the driving licence.”

The duke escaped injury after his vehicle landed on its side following the collision with a Kia on 17 January on the A149 near the Queen’s country estate.

Two days later Norfolk Police gave him “suitable words of advice” after he was pictured driving without a seat belt.

He wrote to one of the passengers in the Kia – Emma Fairweather, who broke her wrist in the accident.

In the letter, dated 21 January andreproduced by the Sunday Mirror , the duke acknowledged the “very distressing experience”.

“I would like you to know how very sorry I am for my part in the accident,” he wrote, on Sandringham House headed paper.

“The sun was shining low over the main road. In normal conditions I would have no difficulty in seeing traffic coming… but I can only imagine that I failed to see the car coming, and I am very contrite about the consequences.”

Ms Fairweather had previously criticised the duke for a lack of communication following the crash.

Ryan Adams accused of sexual misconduct by several women”:


Ryan Adams found fame with albums like Gold and songs such as New York, New York in the early 2000s

Several women have accused alternative rock star Ryan Adams of emotional and verbal abuse and offering career opportunities as a pretext for sex.

A report in the New York Timesoutlines a pattern of manipulative behaviour, including accusations of psychological abuse from his ex-wife, Mandy Moore.

Another woman said Adams sent explicit texts and exposed himself during a Skype call when she was a teenager.

The star, who rose to fame in the early 2000s, has denied the allegations.

“I am not a perfect man and I have made many mistakes,” he said in a statement posted on social media.

“To anyone I have ever hurt, however unintentionally, I apologise deeply and unreservedly.

“But the picture that this article paints is upsettingly inaccurate. Some of its details are misrepresented; some are exaggerated; some are outright false. I would never have inappropriate interactions with someone I thought was underage. Period.”

Acclaimed indie artist Phoebe Bridgers was among the seven women and dozens of associates who were interviewed for the New York Times article.

She said that Adams reached out to her when she was 20, offering to release her songs on his record label. Their relationship turned romantic, but Adams became obsessive and manipulative, she claimed, demanding to know her whereabouts and threatening suicide if she did not reply to his texts immediately.

When she broke off their relationship, Adams “became evasive about releasing the music they had recorded together and rescinded the offer to open his upcoming concerts,” the New York Times reported.

Through his lawyer, Adams rejected Bridgers’ account, describing their relationship as “a brief, consensual fling,” and denying he had threatened to withhold her songs.

This Is Us actress Mandy Moore also described a pattern of abuse, describing instances of “destructive, manic sort of back and forth behaviour” during their six-year marriage.

“Music was a point of control for him,” she added, saying the star had belittled her own musical career.

“He would always tell me, ‘You’re not a real musician, because you don’t play an instrument.'”

GETTY IMAGES

Moore, who is now a successful actress, says her musical career stalled because of Adams’ behaviour

Another woman, identified only by her middle name, Ava, told the paper her relationship with Adams started in 2013, when she was a teenage bass player.

Although they never met, she shared 3,217 text messages she had exchanged with Adams over a nine-month period when she was 15 and 16, describing how their correspondence became sexually explicit.

In one text he wrote to her: “I would get in trouble if someone knew we talked like this”.

The newspaper reported that Adams, then 40, “fretted about Ava’s age” and repeatedly asked for reassurances that she was over 18.

“If people knew they would say I was like R Kelley lol,” he wrote in one message, referring to the R&B singer, who has faced allegations of inappropriate relationships with teenagers, which he denies”:

Adams’ lawyer said the star “did not recall having online communications with anyone related to anything outside of music,” adding that “if, in fact, this woman was underage, Mr Adams was unaware”.

Familiar behaviour

After the report was published on Wednesday, dozens of female artists came forward to say they had been through similar experiences in the music industry.

“None of this is surprising to female artists,” wrote country musician Caroline Rose on Twitter .

“This is an important article,”added singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton . “This also cracks the door on more like him in our industry. There are more. We’re all fed up.”

“Literally find me a woman in the music industry who hasn’t had a some dude pull that Ryan Adams ‘I wanna help you’ with strings attached [expletive]?” wrote music journalist Jessica Hopper .

“And like in this story, these are some of the reasons women abandon careers, keep their dreams private, record in their bedrooms alone.”

“Having to perpetually question if a potential collaborator is interested in you musically or personally is an enormous and unspoken barrier for women in music,” said Tamara Lindeman, of Canadian folk band The Weather Station .

“Every gatekeeper is a man. And so you have to ask yourself.”

 If you have a story suggestion emailing Your Stories, (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) Or (Donsilas@chef.net)

Valentine’s Day: India college row over ‘virgin tree’ worship”:


Some women students say the celebration is anti-women

A Valentine’s Day celebration at a prestigious college in the Indian capital, Delhi, where students worship a “virgin tree” every year has run into trouble with some female students who say it’s “patriarchal” and “misogynistic” and must be shelved.

For decades now, male students of the Hindu College have been hosting a puja (ritualistic worship) at the tree, and balloons, colourful ribbons and condoms filled with water would be hung from its branches.

Posters of the latest avatar of the goddess Damdami Mai – generally a top Bollywood actress or a model chosen by the students – would be unveiled in the morning and pinned to the tree.

A male student dressed as a Hindu priest would perform religious rituals, hundreds of students would sing a hymn in praise of the “generally curvaceous goddess”, prasad (food offering made to her) would be distributed among the students who would dance and celebrate.

Over the years, a legend has grown that worshipping at the tree would help a student lose his virginity within six months.

In a largely conservative country like India where pre-marital sex is still taboo, many young adults believe nothing less than divine intervention will help them hook up.

HINDU BOYS’ HOSTEL UNION

Posters of Bollywood actors Jacqueline Fernandez and Ranveer Singh were put up at last year’s event

Teli Venkatesh, the 19-year-old president of the boys’ hostel union which is organising the event, told the BBC that the virgin tree pujawas an old tradition at the college and that hundreds of students, including women, participated in it every year.

Describing it as “some harmless fun”, he said it had started “because people wanted to celebrate love”.

Some female students, however, say the event “sexualises and objectifies” women and has no place in a “secular, intellectual” space like their college.

“The male students pick an actress who is attractive enough to be labelled Damdami Mai and the puja reeks of Brahminical ritual practices of caste pride,” Aashi Datta, a 20-year-old undergrad student at the college, told the BBC.

Ms Datta – a member of the Pinjra Tod (or Break the Cage) movement that’s campaigning for equal rights for women on college campuses and also part of the Women Development Cell of the Hindu College – says the event is held in a “hyper masculine, aggressive environment” and that in past years, women’s participation was “not even 5%”.

FACEBOOK/HINDU COLLEGE HOSTE

On Thursday morning, she will be near the tree along with “some 20 other students, including a few men” to hold a protest, demanding a “complete stop” to this “offensive” puja .

Mr Venkatesh accuses Ms Datta of trying to “politicise” a college event and says that students who “enthusiastically participate” in the celebrations come from different states and belong to different religions and castes.

He also lists the changes they have incorporated this time to make the event more inclusive.

“Since this is about celebrating love, we are selecting a couple who are in a long-lasting relationship. To address the criticism that we are not just about heterosexual love, we are putting up pride flags and placards to celebrate the LGBT community. And we are hanging condoms to promote safe sex, bring awareness about sexually transmitted diseases and end taboos about sex.”

He also said that they would use a fully clothed photograph of the actress chosen as this year’s goddess and that the hymn lyrics had been rewritten to make it less descriptive of the female body.

Ms Datta and the other protesters, however, say nothing short of completely stopping this event will do.

“Legacy and tradition are not good enough reasons to continue with a festival. It’s a liberal college, we need to choose which traditions to follow and which ones to drop,” she insists.

On Tuesday, the two warring sides met, along with some professors, to find a way out, but the stalemate remains.

WOMEN’S DEVELOPMENT CELL, HINDU COLLEGE

A meeting held on Tuesday to sort out the differences over the controversial event ended in a stalemate

Prof PK Vijayan, who was invited by the female students to speak at the meeting, was a student at Hindu in the late 1980s when the virgin tree puja began.

“It started with courting couples sitting around the tree and so it came to be known as the lovers’ tree,” he says. “In those days, there was little awareness about Valentine’s Day in India. But over the years, the celebrations became more structured and the tree was festooned with condoms and posters of women regarded as beautiful.

“And then students began believing that eating the prasad would help them lose their virginity and the boys lined up for it and so did some girls.”

Prof Vijayan agrees that women’s participation in the festival is very low and says he’s heard some women say that they are uncomfortable with the way it is conducted.

But he says he’s not comfortable with “any type of puritanical ideas” and suggests that they continue with the puja but modify it.

“I think the female students should be more flexible and instead of demanding a ban, they should take it over and redesign it the way they want to.

“Unfortunately, at the moment it is done as a celebration of machismo. It should be made more inclusive so that women could participate as those who also desire, and not just as the desired.”

‘Know your cholesterol like you know your Pin code’


Most cases of cardiovascular disease are preventable through a healthy diet and lifestyle

People are being encouraged to know their cholesterol and blood pressure numbers as well as they know their bank Pin code – because it could save their life.

These numbers flag up early signs of cardiovascular disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Forty health organisations have teamed up to urge more people to go for a routine NHS health check.

Doctors should also identify and treat at-risk patients better, they say.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes one in four deaths in England, the equivalent of someone dying every four minutes, according to Public Health England and NHS England.

Poor heart and artery health can also lead to heart failure, kidney disease, arterial disease and vascular dementia.

So, health bodies are leading efforts to improve the detection and treatment of three conditions that contribute to CVD – atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure and high cholesterol – over the next 10 years.

These conditions often have no symptoms, which is why health experts are recommending people take up free NHS health checks for all over-40s at GP surgeries, some local pharmacies and shopping centres.

They also urge people over 30 to take the Heart Age Test.

Keith Wilson
Keith had to give up work after his second heart attack

‘I had to give up work’

Keith Wilson, from Liverpool, had a heart attack out of the blue at 37.

“I had no symptoms and no reason to believe I was sick in any way,” he says.

His father had died of heart disease in his late 60s so he assumed it was something that happened to older people.

“I just didn’t consider I was going to get it. I was complacent,” he says.

After a second heart attack, Keith spent the next three to four years in and out of hospital receiving treatment.

He had to give up work and this really affected his family and young son.

Now 60, Keith is mindful of his health and keeps a close eye on how much he drinks and exercises. He gave up smoking straight after his heart attacks.

‘Prevention better than cure’

Most cases of CVD are preventable and, alongside free health checks, PHE recommends people should:

  • stop smoking
  • eat healthily
  • keep to a healthy weight
  • drink at safe levels

The report also calls on health professionals to improve the way they manage patients at risk of CVD.

By 2029, PHE and NHS England want:

  • 80% of people with high blood pressure detected and treated – up from 57% currently
  • 75% of 40- to 74-year-olds having cholesterol levels measured – fewer than 50% currently take up the free health check
  • 45% of 40- to 74-year-olds at high risk of CVD treated with statins – up from from 35% currently

These targets will help meet the commitment to prevent 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and cases of dementia, as set out in the government’s long-term plan for the NHS.

But there is no new funding for these new targets.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said: “We know our Pin numbers but not the numbers that save our lives.

“Thousands of heart attacks and strokes can be prevented by more people knowing their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers and by seeking help early.”

Prof Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said reducing health inequalities was also a priority, with people in the most deprived communities four times more likely to die prematurely from CVD than those in the most well off.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Almost half of those with high blood pressure are going about their daily lives without it being detected or treated.

“Millions of people are needlessly at risk of heart attacks or strokes when it could be prevented.

“So, I want to help more people take the time out to protect their future health and get checked.”

Five million people are estimated to have undiagnosed high blood pressure in England.

Pangolins: Rare insight into world’s most trafficked mammal”:


A study is being conducted by conservationists from Chester Zoo

The secret life of the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin, has been caught on camera in Africa.

Footage gives a rare insight into the behaviour of the giant pangolin, the largest of all the scaly animals.

Observed by remote-operated cameras, a baby takes a ride on its mother’s back, while an adult climbs a tree.

Scientists are releasing the footage to highlight the plight of the animals, which are being pushed to extinction by illegal hunting for scales and meat.

Large numbers of their scales have been seized this month alone, including Malaysia’s biggest-ever interception of smuggled pangolin products.

The images and video clips of giant pangolins, one of four species in Africa, were taken at Uganda’s Ziwa sanctuary, where the animals live alongside protected rhinos and are safe from poaching.

Stuart Nixon of Chester Zoo’s Africa Field Programme said much of their behaviour has never been recorded before.

“We know so little about this species, almost everything we’re picking up on camera traps this year as a behaviour is a new thing,” he told BBC News.

The giant pangolin: The largest of the eight pangolin species
The giant pangolin: The largest of the eight species
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Pangolins

  • Sometimes called scaly anteaters, they are the only mammals in the world to be covered in protective scales
  • Their scales are made of keratin, the same material found in human fingernails
  • Pangolins lap up ants and termites with their long sticky tongues
  • There are four species in Africa -the African white-bellied pangolin, giant ground pangolin, ground pangolin and black-bellied pangolin
  • The giant pangolin, found in the rainforests and grasslands of equatorial Africa, is the biggest, measuring up to 1.8m long and weighing up to 75lbs.
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The pangolin is said to be the most widely trafficked mammal in the world.

Its scales are in high demand in Asia for use in traditional Chinese medicine, despite there being no medical benefit for their use, while its meat is considered a delicacy in some countries.

This week, authorities in Malaysia seized more than 27 tonnes of pangolins and their scales – believed to be worth at least £1.6m – on Borneo, in the biggest such haul in the country.

Pangolins are regarded as a delicacy in some countries
They are regarded as a delicacy in some countries

The wildlife monitoring group Traffic said police had discovered two big pangolin-processing facilities stocked with thousands of boxes of meat in the eastern state of Sabah.

“It is hoped that comprehensive investigations can lead to unmasking the syndicate and networks operating from the state and beyond,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Traffic’s director in Southeast Asia.

The discovery comes just days after 10 tonnes of scales were intercepted in Vietnam, Hong Kong and Uganda.

Scientists say the plight of the animals looks bleak, and they have no idea how many are left in the wild.

Pangolin scales intercepted on Borneo
Pangolin scales intercepted on Borneo

Stuart Nixon, who is working in collaboration with the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Rhino Fund Uganda on the project, said they are encountered so rarely in the wild that there is not enough data to allow a decent estimate.

A study is under way to survey and monitor giant pangolins at the site as the first step towards identifying their strongholds.

“This species is literally being wiped out, it’s being obliterated across central Africa, there’s no doubt about that,” he added. “Trying to get people engaged and to care about pangolins is really the key step.”

Sam Mwandha of the Uganda Wildlife Authority added: “These rare glimpses into the lives of giant pangolins are very exciting for those of us dedicated to protecting Uganda’s rich wildlife and challenges us to ensure that we protect and conserve this highly threatened species for future generations.”

Six California officers shot man as he woke in his car”:


Willie McCoy (right) in an image shared by his cousin David Harrison (centre)

California police have said a 20-year-old black man who was shot and killed in his car by six officers last week had reached for a gun first.

But Willie McCoy’s family has pushed back, saying the aspiring rapper was not a threat to the officers as he was just waking up.

Vallejo police had been called for a wellness check when a driver was spotted slumped over in his vehicle.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene on 9 February.

“Any loss of life is a tragedy,” police chief Andrew Bidou said in an updated report of the incident on Tuesday.

The police report does not name Mr McCoy as the driver, citing the ongoing investigation, but local media identified him after speaking with family members.

Vallejo is a city near San Francisco that has been the site of several alleged cases of police brutality against black residents.

What do Vallejo police say?

According to the police department, officers received a call from employees at a Taco Bell fast food restaurant on Saturday night, requesting a check-up on a driver in the parking lot.

When they arrived on scene, they saw Mr McCoy unresponsive in his vehicle with a semi-automatic handgun on his lap. More officers were called while Mr McCoy slept.

Police had planned on opening the car door and retrieving the weapon before engaging Mr McCoy, but were unable to do so as the doors were locked.

Mr McCoy then woke up and looked at the officers, who commanded him to keep his hands visible. Police then say he did not comply and “quickly moved his hands downward for the firearm”.

“Fearing for their safety, six officers fired their duty weapons at the driver,” the news release stated. Multiple rounds were fired in a span of four seconds.

“Officers continued to yell commands at the driver and ultimately reached through the broken glass of the driver’s window to unlock the vehicle.”

Police attempted medical assistance but the driver died at the scene. An official post-mortem examination is still under way.

A preliminary investigation found that the gun had been reported stolen in Oregon.

The officers have not been named and have been placed on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation.

Photo of Willie McCoy and his cousin David Harrison
Willie McCoy (left) and his cousin David Harrison

What does the family say?

Mr McCoy’s family has disputed this police account.

During a vigil on Sunday, Mr McCoy’s older brother Mark said police had surprised Mr McCoy and fired too quickly.

“My little brother was just shot for no reason,” he said, according to CBS News.

“If I wake you up… if I knock on your front door and, ‘Bang bang bang!’ you’re going to jump off the bed,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you be safe while you wake him up and then [say] ‘Driver, exit the car’?”

David Harrison, Mr McCoy’s cousin, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that Mr McCoy was raised by relatives after his parents passed away when he was a child.

He said his cousin had finished up a session in a recording studio before he drove to the Taco Bell.

In an emotional Facebook video, Mr Harrison pleaded with other young people to listen to their parents and keep away from cops.

“I want no other parents, no other kid’s parents, to go through this ever again,” Mr Harrison said. “They can’t just keep killing us in the street like this. My little cousin was asleep in the car.”

Mr McCoy’s family has hired civil rights attorney John Burris – who recently took on a case where a homeless man sleeping in Oakland was killed by police – to represent them, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

FBI releases serial killer Samuel Little’s drawings of victims”:


The FBI released Samuel Little’s drawings in the hope that the victims could be identified.

The FBI has released the portraits a serial killer drew of his victims in the hope that they can be identified.

Samuel Little, 78, confessed to killing 90 people over three decades last year, while already serving three life sentences for murder.

The killings took place across the US between 1970 and 2005.

Investigators say he targeted “marginalised and vulnerable women”, and that some of their bodies went unidentified and deaths uninvestigated.

Having heard all of his confessions, they believe he could be one of the most prolific serial killers in US history.

Victim drawing
Los Angeles, California: ‘White female between 23-25 years old killed in 1996’
Victim drawing
White female killed in 1984. Met victim in Columbus, Ohio. Body disposed of somewhere in Northern Kentucky’

Little, a former competitive boxer, would knock his victims out with punches before strangling them – meaning that there were not always “obvious signs” that the person had been killed.

Now, they are hoping that Little’s drawings can help them to finally find out who the victims were so that their families can be notified.

“With no stab marks or bullet wounds, many of these deaths were not classified as homicides but attributed to drug overdoses, accidents, or natural causes,” the FBI said in its initial report in November last year.

Victim drawing
White female between 20-25 years old killed in 1972. Victim possibly from Massachusetts’
Victim drawing
‘Black female, age 26, killed between 1976 and 1979. Met victim in St. Louis, Missouri. Victim possibly called Jo’

‘One of the most prolific serial killers in US history’

Although Little has been convicted of three murders, the FBI believes that he is responsible for many more.

Little was first caught in 2012 when he was arrested on a drugs charge in a homeless shelter in Kentucky, and extradited to California.

Once he was in police custody in Los Angeles, officers carried out DNA testing on him.

The results linked him to three unsolved murders from 1987 and 1989, which were all in Los Angeles County.

He pleaded not guilty at trial, but was eventually convicted and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences, with no chance of parole.

Victim drawing
‘Black female between 28-29 years old killed in 1984. Victim picked up in Memphis, Tennessee’
Victim drawing
Houston, Texas: ‘Black female between 25-28 years old killed between 1976 and 1979 or in 1993’

His three known victims were beaten and strangled, before their bodies were dumped in alleyways or bins.

Before being convicted of murder Little had already built up an extensive criminal record, with offences from armed robbery to rape in a number of different states across the US.

Little’s case was passed on to the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Programme (ViCAP), which analyses people who serially commit violent and and sexual crimes. They then share their findings with local law enforcement in different areas, in order to check them against any unsolved crimes.

ViCAP, tasked with doing a full background check on Little, noticed that the three LA killings were very similar to a number of unsolved deaths dating back to the 1970s.

Victim drawing
‘Black female between 35-45 years old killed in 1977. Met the victim in Gulfport, Mississippi. Victim possibly from Pascagoula. Victim possibly worked at Ingalls Shipyard.’
Victim drawing
‘Black female killed in 1976 or 1977. Body disposed of somewhere outside Wichita Falls (city unspecified).’

Crime analyst Christina Palazzolo writes on the FBI website that they “found a case out of Odessa, Texas, that sounded very much like him, and we could place him passing through the area around the same time”.

In spring last year, investigators set up an interview with Little, hoping to find out more information. Knowing that he wanted to move prisons, they struck a deal – he could move prisons if he talked.

Then, during the interview, Ms Palazzolo says “he went through city and state and gave [us] the number of people he killed in each place”. Once he was done, he had confessed to 90 killings. The FBI says it has so far been able to verify 34 of these.

Many of Little’s victims were sex workers, people with substance abuse issues and trans women, whose deaths may not have been investigated or would have been ruled to be accidental at the time.

His memory of the killings was mostly precise, as he could give details about where they happened and what car he was driving. But he was unable to remember specific dates – which, investigators say, has caused further issues with identifying the victims.

Agents are continuing to question Little and collect drawings of his victims.

Other images are described as:

  • Las Vegas, Nevada: ‘Black female, age 40, killed in 1993’
  • Monroe, Louisiana: ‘Black female, age 24, killed between 1987 and the early 1990s’
  • ‘Phoenix, Arizona: ‘White female killed in 1997. Victim possibly called Ann’
  • White female, age 26, killed in 1983 or 1984. Victim possibly from Griffith, Georgia’
  • Atlanta, Georgia: ‘Black female between 23-25 years old killed in 1984. Victim possibly a college student’
  • ‘Hispanic female in her 40s. Killed in 1988 or 1996. Victim possibly from Phoenix’
  • Atlanta, Georgia: ‘Black female between 35-40 years old killed in 1981’
  • Miami, Florida: ‘Black [trans female], age 18, killed in 1971 or 1972. Victim possibly called Mary Ann or Marianne’

Ex-US Air Force officer Monica Witt charged with spying for Iran”:


Monica Witt (pictured) allegedly underwent an “ideological” shift before defecting to Iran.

US prosecutors have accused a former US Air Force officer of spying for Iran in an elaborate operation that targeted her fellow intelligence officers.

Monica Witt, who allegedly defected to Iran in 2013, had previously worked as a US counterintelligence officer.

Four Iranian citizens have also been charged with attempting to install spy software on computers belonging to Ms Witt’s colleagues.

According to the FBI, Ms Witt was last seen in southwest Asia in July 2013.

Prosecutors say Ms Witt had been granted the highest level of US security clearance and worked in the US Air Force from 1997 to 2008.

The US Department of Treasury has also sanctioned two Iranian companies – New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company – for their role in the plot.

“It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country, said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the head of the justice department’s national security division.

What are the charges?

Ms Witt is accused of sharing US government secrets, including the name of agents and specifics of operations, with Iran as early as January 2012.

In a charging document, investigators say the 39-year-old was deployed by the US to locations in the Middle East to conduct classified counterintelligence operations.

Prosecutors allege that shortly after defecting to Iran, she handed over information on her colleagues in order to cause “serious damage” to the United States.

According to officials, she sent a message to her Iranian contact in 2012 saying: “I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.”

Investigators allege Ms Witt was recruited after attending two conferences hosted by New Horizon Organization, which was working on behalf of the Iranian National Guard’s Quds Force to collect intelligence on attendees.

Iranians braved the snow in Tehran to mark their country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Several conferences sponsored by the New Horizon Organization have taken place in Iran and Iraq in recent years, according to US officials.

The conferences often included an “anti-Western” sentiment and “propagate anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories including Holocaust denial”.

At least one of those New Horizon conferences was organised by Iranian-American journalist Marzieh Hashemi, who was detained by US officials in January as a material witness in a federal criminal case, according to the Tehran Times.

The Department of Treasury accuses Net Peygard Samavat Company of being “involved in a malicious cyber campaign to gain access to and implant malware on the computer systems of current and former counterintelligence agents”.

Monica Witt in Air Force uniform
Monica Witt was last heard from while travelling in southwest Asia.

Who is Monica Witt?

Monica Elfriede Witt, a former Texas resident, left the US military in 2008 after more than a decade of service.

A previously issued FBI missing persons poster said she was working as an English teacher in either Afghanistan or Tajikistan, and had lived overseas for more than a year before vanishing.

While in Iran, she also allegedly converted to Islam during a television segment after identifying herself as a US veteran, and delivered several broadcasts in which she criticised the US.

In the weeks after defecting, she also conducted several Facebook searches of her former colleagues, and is alleged to have exposed one agent’s true identity, “thereby risking the life of this individual”.

A warrant has been issued for Ms Witt, who remains at large.

What’s the state of US-Iran relations?

Last November, US President Donald Trump re-imposed all sanctions on Iran that had been suspended due to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement.

Mr Trump has withdrawn the US from the agreement, leading to a foreign policy rift between the US and the European nations who are party to the deal.

Diplomats are expected to discuss Iran during a US-led two day summit on “peace and security” that began on Wednesday in Warsaw.

On the conference’s opening day, Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani gave a speech in which he called for regime change in Iran.

The US and Iran do not maintain diplomatic relations, and communications between the two nations are exchanged through Swiss diplomats.

El Chapo trial: Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán found guilty


El Chapo trial: Five facts about Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán

Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has been found guilty on all 10 counts at his drug-trafficking trial at a federal court in New York.

Guzmán, 61, was convicted on numerous counts including the distribution of cocaine and heroin, illegal firearms possession and money laundering.

He has yet to be sentenced, but the verdict could mean life in jail.

Guzmán was arrested in January 2016 after escaping from a Mexican prison through a tunnel five months earlier.

He was extradited to the US in 2017.

The Mexican was accused of being behind the all-powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, which prosecutors say was the biggest supplier of drugs to the US.

What happened in court?

Tuesday’s unanimous verdict by a jury in Brooklyn, which was read out in a packed courtroom, followed an 11-week trial.

Guzmán, wearing a dark suit jacket and tie, showed no visible sign of emotion as the verdict was announced, CBS News reported.

US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Richard Donoghue, called it “a day of reckoning”

As he was escorted from the courtroom, he exchanged glances with his wife, Emma Coronel, a 29-year-old former beauty queen, before shaking hands with his lawyers.

Judge Brian Cogan, who presided over the trial, thanked the jurors for their dedication at what he described as a complex trial, saying it was “remarkable and it made me very proud to be an American”.

Who is El Chapo?

“El Chapo” (or “Shorty”) ran the Sinaloa cartel in northern Mexico.

Mexico’s drug war: Has it turned the tide?

Over time, it became one of the biggest traffickers of drugs to the US and, in 2009, Guzmán entered Forbes’ list of the world’s richest men at number 701, with an estimated worth of $1bn (£775m).

He was accused of having helped export hundreds of tonnes of cocaine into the US and of conspiring to manufacture and distribute heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana.

He was also said to have used hitmen to carry out “hundreds” of murders, assaults, kidnappings and acts of torture on rivals.

Key associates, including one former lieutenant, testified against Guzmán.

Emma Coronel, the wife of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, leaves court in New York, 12 February 2019
El Chapo’s wife, Emma Coronel, was in court in New York for Tuesday’s verdict

What was heard during the trial?

It provided shocking revelations about the Mexican drug lord’s life.

Court papers accused him of having girls as young as 13 drugged before raping them.

Guzmán “called the youngest of the girls his ‘vitamins’ because he believed that sexual activity with young girls gave him ‘life'”, former associate Colombian drug trafficker Alex Cifuentes was quoted as saying.

During the trial Cifuentes also alleged that Guzmán gave a $100m (£77m) bribe to former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is said to have contacted him after taking office in 2012 and asked for $250m in return for ending a manhunt for him. Mr Pena Nieto has not publicly commented.

Sketch of Alex Cifuentes (L) and Guzmán
Former associate Cifuentes (L) alleged that Guzmán (R) bribed Mexico’s then president

Another witness described seeing Guzmán murder at least three men.

Former bodyguard Isaias Valdez Rios said Guzmán beat two people who had joined a rival cartel until they were “completely like rag dolls”. He then shot them in the head and ordered their bodies be thrown on a fire.

In another incident, he had a member of the rival Arellano Felix cartel burned and imprisoned before taking him to a graveyard, shooting him and having him buried alive.

Guzmán is also alleged to have had his own cousin killed for lying about being out of town, and ordered a hit on the brother of another cartel leader because he did not shake his hand.

When asked by a former cartel lieutenant why he killed people, he is alleged to have said: “Either your mom’s going to cry or their mom’s going to cry.”

Guzmán's wife Emma Coronel attended the trial in New York
Guzmán’s wife Emma Coronel attended the trial

The court heard details of his 2015 escape from Mexico’s maximum-security Altiplano prison. His sons bought a property near the prison and a GPS watch smuggled into the prison gave diggers his exact location.

At one point Guzmán complained that he could hear the digging from his cell. He escaped by riding a specially adapted small motorcycle through the tunnel.

He also used software on his phone to spy on his wife and mistresses, which allowed the FBI to present his text messages in court.

In one set of texts, he recounted to his wife how he had fled a villa during a raid by US and Mexican officials, before asking her to bring him new clothes, shoes and black moustache dye.

Why was this trial significant?

Guzmán is the highest profile Mexican drug cartel boss so far to stand trial in the US.

The drug war in Mexico – pitting the Mexican and US authorities against cartels smuggling drugs into the US and the cartels against each other – has killed about 100,000 people over more than a decade.

A former DEA agent describes capturing Guzmán in 2014 – he later escaped

Guzmán achieved notoriety for twice escaping custody in Mexico as well as avoiding arrest on numerous other occasions.

Among some in his home state, he had the status of a folk hero a popular subject of “narcocorridos” – musical tributes to drugs barons.

In 2016, he gave an interview to Hollywood actor Sean Penn in a Mexican jungle following his escape the previous year and boasted that he was the world’s leading supplier of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.

He was later recaptured in the north-western town of Los Mochis. During the raid he fled through a drain but was later caught by troops in a shootout.

The Brooklyn Bridge was closed each time Guzmán was driven across it
New York’s Brooklyn Bridge was closed each time the motorcade containing Guzmán drove across it

The US indictment against him was a consolidation of charges from six federal jurisdictions across the country, including New York, Chicago and Miami.

Prosecutors pooled together evidence acquired over more than a decade, including from international partners such as Mexico and Colombia, to build their sweeping case.

The trial jurors were anonymous and were escorted to and from the courthouse in Brooklyn by armed marshals after prosecutors argued that Guzmán had a history of intimidating witnesses and even ordering their murders.

Fox host says he ‘hasn’t washed hands in 10 years’:


Pete Hegseth said not washing hands helps him to inoculate himself

Fox News host Pete Hegseth has confessed on air that he has not washed his hands for 10 years because “germs are not a real thing”.

Speaking on Fox and Friends, Hegseth said the infectious micro-organisms did not exist because they could not be seen with the naked eye.

“I inoculate myself,” added the Harvard and Princeton graduate.

His confession came after co-hosts Ed Henry and Jedediah Bila made fun of him for eating left-over pizza.

“My 2019 resolution is to say things on air that I say off air,” Hegseth added.

His comments were met with both support and concern on social media.

The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says regular hand washing “is one of the best ways to remove germs , avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others”.

According to a scientific study published by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information, one gram (0.03oz) of human faeces – about the weight of a paper clip – can contain one trillion germs.

Bacteria that can be spread by unwashed hands include salmonella and E coli.

US President Donald Trump – who has given more interviews to Fox than any other major network – has admitted on several occasions to being a germophobe.

In his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, Mr Trump wrote: “One of the curses of American society is the simple act of shaking hands, and the more successful and famous one becomes the worse this terrible custom seems to get.

“I happen to be a clean hands freak. I feel much better after I thoroughly wash my hands, which I do as much as possible.”

One BBC reader, Steve M, said: “I didn’t think I would ever say this – I agree with Donald Trump on this!”

“It would seem that attending Harvard and Princeton might provide knowledge, but obviously not any sense.”

Most reactions echoed the same mix of disgust and confusion regarding the Fox host’s behaviour.

Another reader, Jean Di Francis, noted how selfish Mr Hegseth’s lack of sanitation is: “As a person taking prescribed immune suppressing drugs, I deplore Mr Hegseth’s lack of hand washing because I’m very susceptible to the germs he carries and leaves wherever he touches.”

Some noted that being too obsessed with hygiene could also be a bad thing, by possibly lowering one’s natural resistance to germs.

But, as reader Kevin Cook put it: “Not washing your hands at all for 10 years strikes me as reckless disregard for other people’s health.”

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