Macron Under Fire Over Response To Security Aide Scandal

In this video grab taken on July 19, 2018 from footage filmed on May 1, 2018 shows a man identified as Elysee Chief Security Officer Alexandre Benalla wearing a police visor as he drags away a demonstrator during May 1 protests in Paris.  Tahar Bouhafs / AFP

 

France’s opposition lashed out at Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday over his response to revelations that his top security aide roughed up protesters, accusing the president of badly mishandling the worst scandal since he took office.

After days of silence, Macron finally spoke out late Tuesday over the debacle surrounding disgraced ex-bodyguard Alexandre Benalla, who faces criminal charges after he was filmed scuffling with May Day protesters in Paris while wearing a police helmet.

“What happened on May 1 is terrible, serious, and for me it was a disappointment and a betrayal,” Macron told lawmakers from his Republic on the Move (LREM) party.

“The only person responsible for this affair is me,” he said, in an angry intervention that appeared to take aim at parliament’s grilling of his top aides as well as press coverage of the affair.

“If they’re looking for someone to hold responsible, he’s right in front of you. They can come and get me.”

Many politicians blasted Macron’s apparent criticism of parliamentary interrogation of his staff, with far-left MP Alexis Corbiere accusing him of “swaggering” and Gerard Larcher of the rightwing Republicans describing the response as one of “amateurism and panic”.

Le Monde newspaper, which broke the story by publishing videos of Benalla hitting one protester and wrestling another, said Macron had spoken “before a loyal audience, where there was no possibility of contradicting him”.

It deplored Macron’s attack on media coverage which the president said was proof the press “no longer looks for the truth” — comments more often heard from US President Donald Trump than the centrist French leader.

Lawmakers say serious unanswered questions remain about “Benallagate”, and are increasingly calling for Macron to address the nation.

Benalla, 26, was not sacked or charged until the scandal broke last week — despite senior officials knowing about the May Day incident — and he reportedly enjoyed perks unusual for someone of his rank.

A police search of his office was underway on Wednesday, according to the presidency.

The ‘end of innocence’? 

Socialist leader Olivier Faure said the scandal marked a turning point for the Macron presidency.

“It’s the end of innocence,” he said. “We can no longer look at Emmanuel Macron and his majority as if they haven’t lied, betrayed and hidden the truth.”

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux, promising “deep changes”, said the administration would deal with lessons from the scandal in September after the summer break, “once it has been clearly established what went wrong”.

Benalla was given a two-week suspension days after the incident and removed from organising the president’s security during his trips.

But the alleged assault was not reported to prosecutors, sparking allegations of a cover-up.

It has also emerged that continued to draw a salary during his supposedly unpaid suspension and will have to have his salary docked now that he has left.

Macron’s office director Patrick Strzoda told lawmakers Tuesday that he decided there were not enough elements to justify turning Benalla over to prosecutors, not least because no criminal complaint had been filed against him.

Macron’s chief of staff Alexis Kohler will appear before the Senate committee on Thursday.

The scandal comes 14 months after Macron was elected vowing to restore integrity to French politics, and polls suggest the 40-year-old’s poll ratings — already low — have taken a further hit.

An Ipsos poll published Tuesday found that a record 60 per cent reported an unfavourable opinion of Macron.

Benalla has been charged with assault and impersonating a police officer, while also illegally receiving police surveillance footage in a bid to claim his actions were justified.

Vincent Crase, an associate and security agent employed by the LREM who was also at the scene, has also been charged, as have three police officers.

AFP

Kenyan Arrests Official In $90m Graft Scandal

File photo: Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta

 

Kenyan police arrested the head of a youth agency over the reported looting of $90 million (76 million euros), the latest in a string of graft scandals to erupt in the country.

The director of the National Youth Service (NYS), Richard Ndubai, and the principal secretary of in the youth ministry, Lilian Omollo, were detained in dawn raids.

“The suspects are in custody and we will take them to court,” said the head of Kenya’s criminal investigations unit, George Kinoti.

The NYS is a paramilitary training institution that has been at the forefront of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s plan to combat high youth unemployment.

Enrolment is voluntary and sees youths receive a stipend while receiving technical training and working on government projects.

With a budget soaring to some $250 million a year, the NYS has been plagued by Kenya’s endemic corruption, with a first scandal breaking in 2015 after the theft of $7 million through inflated pricing and fictitious payments.

The latest scandal — brought to light by suppliers who had not been paid — appears to show how families and friends of powerful politicians ended up receiving millions of dollars in questionable payments.

Kenyan media have reported how the NYS paid $10 million for beef in one year — meaning each recruit would have had to consume 66 kilos (145 pounds) of beef a day.

In another example, a car tyre was purchased for $1 million.

Aside from the top brass at the agency, 17 middle-level and junior level officials are being held.

According to the prosecutor’s office, charges will include abuse of office, stealing public funds and forgery, amongst others.

Corruption scandals have in recent days also hit electricity utility Kenya Power — where families and friends of employees were found in an audit to have bagged multi-million dollar contracts.

Fraudulent payments of $30 million have also been uncovered at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

In 2017 Kenya fell to 143rd out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s annual corruption index.

In March, a damning report from the auditor general showed government could not account for $400 million in public funds.

Kenyatta has vowed to combat corruption, a refrain weary Kenyans have heard from multiple presidents.

In an editorial in the Saturday Standard, a columnist referred to a 1968 headline in which government vowed to “crush” corruption.

“Since independence government in Kenya has not been about service … The foremost reward of winning an election would seem to be the opportunity to steal,” wrote columnist Barrack Muluka.

“We have sung the anti-corruption song for far too long, we can only be tired of it.”

AFP

Berlusconi Scandal Inspires Another Film

Silvio Berlusconi (R), leader of the right-wing party “Forza Italia” listens to Matteo Salvini (unseen), leader of the far-right party “Lega” speaking to the press after a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinale palace in Rome. Tiziana FABI / AFP

 

Italy’s three-time premier and billionaire, Silvio Berlusconi, continues to provide ample entertainment fodder, with the first English-language film about his scandal-filled life now in the works.

Based on a journalistic expose, “The Marquise” by Emmy-nominated US producer Steve Jones will focus on a dubious property deal involving Berlusconi’s mansion on a privately owned island, trade magazine Variety reported Saturday.

Jones told Variety he would travel to Italy next month to scout for locations and meet actors and potential directors.

The project is the latest of several films on the 81-year-old media mogul who staged a surprise political comeback in 2017.

It comes as Oscar-winner Paolo Sorrentino’s lavish biopic “Loro”, about the tycoon’s infamous “bunga bunga” party era, is about to hit the screens in Italy.

The two-part movie failed to make it into this year’s Cannes selection.

Back in 2006, Nanni Moretti’s Berlusconi satire “The Caiman” became one of Italy’s most successful films that year.

AFP

Canada Demands Apology From Pope Francis Over Alleged Scandal

Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican on May 2, 2018. VINCENZO PINTO / AFP

 

Canada is pressing Pope Francis to apologize to children who were plucked from indigenous communities and put in Catholic boarding schools where sexual abuse took place.

Canadian MPs by a large majority passed a motion Tuesday asking the pontiff to apologize personally to Canadian aboriginal children who were torn from their families and sexually abused at residential schools.

Voted in the House on Tuesday, 260 MPs voted in favour and 10 against a motion urging the pope to comply with one of the 2015 findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Lawmakers were seeking “official papal apology for the role played by the Canadian Catholic Church in the development, operation and abuse of residential schools,” the text said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed disappointment over the Catholic Church’s decision not to apologize for its role in residential schools.

His minister of Crown-indigenous relations, Carolyn Bennett, went further, saying: “Sorrow is not enough.”

“One has to take responsibility for the harm that was done, not only to the children that were taken but for the families left behind and what happened to them,” she said, vowing to continue to pressure the Vatican to change tack.

In an open letter, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote: “After carefully considering the request and extensive dialogue with the Bishops of Canada, (the pope) felt that he could not personally responsible.”

At the same time, however, the pontiff encouraged bishops to engage “in an intensive pastoral work of reconciliation, healing and solidarity” and to work collaboratively to improve the lives of indigenous peoples.

The reconciliation commission urged an apology from the Catholic Church in its extensive list of recommendations in a 2015 report.

The report collated evidence over six years from some 7,000 former students in Canada.

Trudeau sought an apology for the abuses when he met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2017.

Some 150,000 Indian, Inuit and Metis youngsters were forcibly enrolled into 139 residential schools set up to assimilate native people, many of which were operated by church groups on behalf of the Canadian government.

Students were physically and sexually abused by headmasters and teachers who stripped them of their culture and language.

Today, they blame their experience for a high incidence of poverty, alcoholism and domestic violence, as well as high suicide rates, in their communities.

The first of the schools opened in 1874 and the last one closed in 1996.

At least 3,200 students never returned home.

AFP

Lehmann Fears For Disgraced Players’ Health After Scandal

James Sutherland, CEO of Cricket Australia, speaks to the media after the team was caught cheating in the Sunfoil Test Series between Australia and South Africa on March 27, 2018.  GULSHAN KHAN / AFP

 

Australia coach Darren Lehmann said Wednesday he fears for the health of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft after they were suspended and sent home in disgrace following the ball-tampering scandal.

Lehmann, who has been cleared of any involvement in the plot which led to Bancroft using sandpaper to scratch the surface of the ball before hiding the evidence down his trousers, told reporters that the three players are “not bad people”.

“The players involved have been handed down very serious sentences and they know they must face the consequences. They’ve made a grave mistake but they’re not bad people,” said Lehmann in his first public comments since the scandal broke during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town on Saturday.

“As a coach, you feel for them as people. They are hurting and I feel for them and their families. I hope the media and the fans don’t forget that. There is a human side to this.

“They have made a mistake as everyone else, including myself, has made mistakes in the past. They are young men and I hope people will give them a second chance. Their health and well-being is extremely important to us.”

Lehmann also said the finding that he had not known about the ball tampering plan was correct.

“The coaches and support staff had no prior knowledge. The first I saw of it was on that screen,” insisted the 48-year-old.

Regarding scepticism about three players devising a plan without others knowing in a small dressing room at Newlands, Lehmann said there were several rooms in the players’ area, including a dining room, where they could have spoken.

Despite his sympathy for the banned trio, Lehmann admitted that the culture of the Australian team, often viewed as ‘win at all costs’, has to change.

“We need to change how we play and the boundaries within which we play,” he said.

“The team has been seen quite negatively in recent times and there is a need for us to change some of the philosophies about the way we play.

“Previously we’ve butted heads on the line but that’s not the way for us to go about playing cricket going forward.”

Asked how that could happen in view of the fact that he was viewed as one of the instigators of Australia’s aggressive style of play, he said he would not resign but admitted: “I need to change.”

Lehmann said the Australians could perhaps learn from the way a team like New Zealand played their cricket.

“We do respect the opposition but we push the boundaries on the ground. So we’ve got to make sure of respecting the game, its traditions and understanding the way the game holds itself around the world.”

Training ahead of the fourth and final Test which starts at the Wanderers on Friday was cancelled on Wednesday.

“We’re not a hundred percent mentally right but we’re representing our country and we’ve got to get the ball rolling by playing the best cricket we possibly can,” said Lehmann.

AFP

Facebook Given ‘Two Weeks’ To Answer Data Scandal Questions

Facebook Suicide, Murder Videos Heart-breaking - Zuckerberg
FILE PHOTO Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer, Mark Zuckerberg

 

The European Union has given Facebook two weeks to answer questions raised by the scandal over personal data harvested from the social network, according to a copy of a letter obtained by AFP on Tuesday.

“Have any data of EU citizens been affected by the recent scandal?” the EU’s justice commissioner Vera Jourova wrote Facebook, listing one of the questions. “I would appreciate a reply in the next two weeks.”

AFP

Data Firm Suspends CEO Over Facebook Scandal

FILE COPY  Chief Executive, Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, giving evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee of members of parliament on the subject of fake news at the Houses of Parliament in London on February 27, 2018. 
HO / PRU / AFP

 

Facebook expressed outrage Tuesday over the misuse of its data as Cambridge Analytica, the British firm at the centre of a major scandal rocking the social media giant, suspended its chief executive.

The move to suspend CEO Alexander Nix came as recordings emerged in which he boasts his data company played an expansive role in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, doing all of its research, analytics as well as digital and television campaigns.

In undercover filming captured by Britain’s Channel 4 News, he is also seen boasting about entrapping politicians and secretly operating in elections around the world through shadowy front companies.

Lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic have demanded answers after it was revealed at the weekend that Cambridge Analytica improperly harvested information from 50 million Facebook users.

Cambridge Analytica has denied using Facebook data for the Trump campaign, but the scandal has ratcheted up the pressure on the social media giant — already under fire for allowing fake news to proliferate on its platform during the US campaign.

US media reported Tuesday evening that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Facebook over the data scandal.

Facebook said its top executives were “working around the clock to get all the facts.”

“The entire company is outraged we were deceived. We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens,” the firm said.

Cambridge Analytica’s board said meanwhile that Nix would stand aside immediately pending an investigation into the snowballing allegations against him.

“In the view of the Board, Mr. Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation,” the company said.

In Channel 4’s recordings, Nix slights US representatives on the House Intelligence Committee to whom he gave evidence last year, claiming its Democrats are motivated by “sour grapes” and Republicans asked few questions.

“They’re politicians, they’re not technical. They don’t understand how it works,” he was caught on camera telling an undercover reporter.

He also outlines the use of a secret self-destructing email system.

“There’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing,” he said of the tool, which deletes emails two hours after they have been read.

Investigations multiply 

Channel 4 News broadcast an interview filmed in October last year with defeated presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, in which she said she had faced “a massive propaganda effort”.

“There was a new kind of campaign that was being run on the other side,” she said. “It affected the thought processes of voters.”

Facebook now faces investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, sending its share price tumbling another 2.6 percent after a 6.8 percent plunge Monday.

European Union officials have called for an urgent investigation while British lawmakers have asked Zuckerberg to give evidence to a UK parliamentary committee.

Zuckerberg has been asked to appear before the European Parliament.

“Facebook needs to clarify before the representatives of 500 million Europeans that personal data is not being used to manipulate democracy,” tweeted parliament president Antonio Tajani.

US lawmakers have also called on Zuckerberg to appear before Congress, along with the chief executives of Twitter and Google.

Officials in the US states of Massachusetts and New York announced they were sending a “demand letter” to Facebook for the facts of the case.

“Consumers have a right to know how their information is used — and companies like Facebook have a fundamental responsibility to protect their users’ personal information,” New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.

Thirteen US consumer and privacy organizations meanwhile released a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to reopen a probe into Facebook, saying the firm’s admission so far “suggests a clear violation” of a 2011 consent decree.

Watchdog searches 

A former Cambridge Analytica employee says it was able to create psychological profiles on 50 million Facebook users through the use of a personality prediction app that was downloaded by 270,000 people, but also scooped up data from friends — as was possible under Facebook’s rules at the time.

The end goal was to create software to predict and influence voters’ choices at the ballot box.

The company blames the academic who developed the app, University of Cambridge psychologist Aleksandr Kogan, for misusing the data, which it says was never used on the Trump campaign, and has in any event been deleted.

But the firm’s reputation took a severe hit on Monday, with the broadcast of a first batch of secret footage showing Nix saying it could entrap politicians in compromising situations with bribes and sex workers.

He also said the firm secretly campaigns in elections around the world, including by operating through a web of shadowy front companies, or by using sub-contractors, according to Channel 4 News.

A Cambridge Analytica spokesman told the news programme it does not use “untrue material for any purpose”.

Facebook, which says the data was taken without its knowledge, has launched its own investigation into Cambridge Analytica.

But it was forced to suspend its probe following a request from Britain’s information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, who is making her own inquiries into both companies.

Denham’s office said it had yet to obtain a court warrant to search Cambridge Analytica’s servers and was now expecting to secure it on Wednesday.

AFP

Australia’s Scandal-Hit Deputy PM Quits

This file photo taken on July 5, 2016, shows Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce (L) looking at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (R) during a press conference in Sydney. 
William WEST / AFP

 

Australia’s scandal-hit deputy leader Barnaby Joyce announced Friday he was quitting and moving to the backbench amid claims of sexual harassment and controversy over an affair with a now-pregnant former aide.

Joyce, whose National Party rules alongside Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals, has been front-page news in Australia for two weeks since it emerged he had left his wife of 24 years for his younger former media adviser, who is now expecting their baby boy.

The 50-year-old had insisted he would ride out the storm but his position became untenable on Friday when a sexual harassment complaint against him, which he denies, was lodged with the party by an unnamed woman.

Joyce said at a press conference in Armidale, his rural New South Wales seat, that he would step down as Nationals leader and deputy prime minister at a party meeting on Monday.

“It’s incredibly important that there be a circuit-breaker, not just for the parliament, but more importantly, a circuit-breaker for Vikki (his lover), for my unborn child, my daughters and for Nat (his wife),” he said.

“This has got to stop. It’s not fair on them. It’s just completely and utterly unwarranted, the sort of observation that’s happened.”

Joyce, who has also been criticised for living in an apartment rent-free with now partner Vikki Campion after splitting with his wife, was due to be the acting prime minister this week with Turnbull meeting US President Donald Trump in Washington.

But he opted to take leave.

With Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also out of the country, the role has been assumed by Senate leader Mathias Cormann, who said ahead of Joyce’s decision that any harassment claim must be taken seriously.

“Any allegation of sexual harassment is a very serious allegation,” he told reporters. “I understand that a formal complaint has been made, and that that complaint is being investigated.”

Joyce called the claim “spurious and defamatory” and said he wanted it investigated by the authorities.

“I have asked that that be referred to the police,” he said, while admitting it had been “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

“It’s quite evident that you can’t go to the despatch box with issues like that surrounding you.”

Riveted Australia

The daily media headlines on the scandal have riveted the Australian public and sparked debate about workplace culture amid the global #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.

But it has also highlighted the perilous state of the coalition government, which just a few months ago survived a crisis over lawmakers’ dual citizenship that threatened its wafer-thin parliamentary majority.

Last week a furious Turnbull, who relies on the smaller National Party to govern, savaged Joyce for “a shocking error of judgement”, leading his deputy to fire back that the prime minister was “inept”.

In a statement from Washington, Turnbull Friday thanked Joyce for being “a fierce advocate for rural and regional Australia”, while insisting the Nationals-Liberal coalition was “undiminished” by the scandal.

But Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten called it “fundamentally damaged” and accused Turnbull of “an atrocious lack of judgement”.

“The fact that this scandal has dragged on for 16 days has been damaging to the government, but more importantly, the country,” he said.

Joyce’s decision to quit came with colleagues reportedly growing increasingly frustrated with his handling of the love-child scandal.

Joyce had opted to give several media interviews this week, at a time when he was expected to be on leave and out of the spotlight, prompting two of the party’s backbenchers to publicly call on him to resign.

Junior Nationals minister David Gillespie has indicated he would be a candidate for the vacancy, while reports said Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormack had significant backing.

The new Nationals leader will automatically become deputy prime minister, under a coalition agreement between the two major parties of the centre-right.

AFP

How The Russian Doping Scandal Has Unfolded

The Russian doping scandal has hit world sport and the country itself hard, as medal after medal has been stripped from the hosts of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee is expected to decide Tuesday whether to ban Russia from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Here are key dates in the scandal:

FEBRUARY 2014

Russia basks in a golden hue after topping the medals table at the Sochi Winter Games in the Black Sea resort, with 13 titles and 33 medals in total. President Vladimir Putin poses for photographs with many of the Russian winners.

DECEMBER 2014

German broadcaster ARD airs documentary alleging systematic doping in Russian athletics. A week later, Russian athletics chief and the treasurer of world athletics body IAAF, Valentin Balakhnichev, and IAAF marketing consultant Pape Massata Diack, son of then-IAAF president Lamine Diack, step down. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sets up an independent commission headed by its former chief, Dick Pound, to investigate the claims.

AUGUST 2015

ARD airs a second documentary with new accusations aimed at Russian and Kenyan athletes based on a leaked IAAF database with details of 12,000 blood tests from 5,000 competitors which revealed “extraordinary” levels of doping.

NOVEMBER 2015

WADA’s report calls on Russia’s track and field team to be banned from international competition, including from the 2016 Rio Olympics, until “state-sponsored” doping is eradicated. The IAAF suspends the Russian athletics team. WADA also suspends Russia’s national anti-doping body, RUSADA, over non-compliance.

JANUARY 2016

WADA’s second report into doping and corruption is published. It says high-ranking IAAF officials must have known about the wide scope of doping.

MAY 2016

The former head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, who is exiled in the United States, describes an organised doping campaign including at least 15 medallists from the Sochi Olympics, with the close involvement of the sports ministry and Russia’s FSB security service, the successor to the KGB.

Three days after calling the claims “absurd”, then Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko changes tack, saying he is “ashamed and sorry”.

JUNE 2016

Another ARD programme claims that Russian authorities have been covering up for coaches disgraced by the doping programme, directly pinpointing Mutko for his alleged involvement in the cover-up.

The IAAF Council unanimously votes to extend the ban on the Russian athletics federation, but offers an Olympic lifeline to athletes training outside the Russian system to compete in Rio as neutrals.

JULY 2016

Barely two weeks before the Rio Games, Canadian law professor Richard McLaren releases a report for WADA which outlines rampant Russian state-run doping at the Sochi Olympics and other major sports events.

The investigation finds the FSB helped “the state-dictated failsafe system” carried out by the sports ministry and covering 30 sports.

WADA calls for Russia to be banned from the Rio Olympics.

IAAF clears only US-based long jumper Darya Klishina to compete in Rio, after 136 Russian athletes applied for exemption from the blanket ban.

JULY 2016

After CAS dismisses the Russian appeal, the IOC executive decides that any Russian wanting to compete in Rio will have to prove that he or she was not involved in doping.

AUGUST 2016

At Rio, around 270 Russians are cleared to compete, with 111 excluded.

DECEMBER 2016

Second part of McLaren Report published, alleging state-sponsored doping by the Russians between 2011 and 2015 with sample tampering at the 2012 London Olympics and Sochi 2014.

Twenty-eight Russians competing in Sochi are implicated in cheating by McLaren.

SEPTEMBER 2017

At the IOC’s Congress in Lima to award the 2024 Summer Olympics to Paris and 2028 Games to Los Angeles, 17 national anti-doping agencies including the United States, France, Germany and Britain demand Russia’s exclusion from Pyeongchang, calling it “one of the biggest doping scandals in sporting history”.

OCTOBER 2017

President Putin warns of Russian “humiliation” and serious harm to the Olympic movement if the country is forced to compete under a neutral flag or excluded altogether.

NOVEMBER 2017

IOC comes down hard on Russian cheats, stripping Alexander Legkov of his Sochi 50-kilometre cross country gold medal and banning him for life.

In the space of one month the IOC dishes out similar sanctions to 25 Russians from Sochi Games. Russia is stripped of four 2014 titles, and a third of their 33 medals, including the two titles won by their Sochi flag carrier, bobsleigh star Alexander Zubkov.

DECEMBER 2017

Mutko, now Russia’s deputy prime minister, uses a speech before the draw for the 2018 World Cup that Russia will host to slam doping allegations as “an attempt to create an image of an axis of evil.”

He says: “This is all because we are such a great sport superpower.”

On Tuesday, IOC meets in Lausanne to decide whether to ban Russia from Pyeongchang, although if it does so it is likely to allow some Russians to compete as neutrals.

AFP

British PM Hit By New Scandal Over Minister’s Israel Meetings

May Promises "Proper" Investigation Into London Fire
British PM, May

Britain’s aid minister faced the sack Wednesday over unauthorised meetings in Israel, as she became the latest cabinet member caught up in a whirlwind of scandals rocking Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.

May summoned International Development Secretary Priti Patel back from a trip to Africa to explain her talks with Israeli politicians, in which she reportedly raised the possibility of Britain diverting aid to the Israeli army.

Patel had apologised on Monday for holding 12 separate meetings — including with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — during a family holiday to Israel in August, without notifying the Foreign Office or Downing Street in advance.

After a public reprimand from the prime minister, Patel left the UK on Tuesday for a three-day trip to Uganda, but returned to London’s Heathrow Airport on Wednesday at May’s request.

If she is sacked, Patel would become the second cabinet minister in a week to leave May’s government, after Michael Fallon quit as defence secretary on November 1 following allegations of sexual harassment.

Britain is facing a major challenge in Brexit, but May has struggled to keep her ministers in line since losing her Conservative parliamentary majority in a snap election in June.

Months of public divisions over the negotiations with the European Union have in recent days given way to scandals over foreign affairs and sexual abuse.

May’s deputy Damian Green is being investigated for allegedly groping a journalist in 2014 — which he denies — while a similar probe is under way into the behaviour of junior trade minister Mark Garnier towards his secretary.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been accused of jeopardising the case of a British woman jailed in Iran, after appearing to suggest she was training journalists at the time — something her family strongly denies.

May put off a mooted reshuffle after her election setback, but some MPs have called on her to act to assert her power over a government that looks increasingly adrift.

– Funding to Golan Heights –
On Monday, Patel revealed details of her meetings in Israel, which included discussions with non-governmental organisations and businesses.

She said they were arranged by Lord Stuart Polak, honorary president of the lobbying group Conservative Friends of Israel.

But it emerged late Tuesday there had been another two unauthorised meetings in September, with Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in London and senior foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York.

“I don’t understand what more she needs to do to be sacked,” one unnamed minister told The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

During her meetings, Patel discussed the possibility of British aid being used to support medical assistance for Syrian refugees arriving in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Downing Street said.

However, reports suggest that she did not explain to May that this involved supplying funding to the Israeli army, which has facilitated the treatment of more than 3,100 wounded refugees in Israeli hospitals since 2013.

Britain views the Golan Heights as occupied territory and a minister told MPs on Tuesday that funding the Israeli Defence Forces there was “not appropriate”.

A senior Palestinian official on Wednesday condemned the meetings as “scandalous”, urging May to take action.

“I think it is scandalous and that leads me to question how many more cases, not just in Britain but other places, have not been exposed,” Hanan Ashrawi told AFP.

In a further development on Wednesday, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that Patel visited a military field hospital in the Golan Heights as a guest of the government.

Patel’s ministry declined to comment on the report.

– Breach of ministerial code –
Patel was a leading campaigner for Britain to leave the EU in last year’s referendum, and is a prominent figure in May’s cabinet.

The daughter of Ugandan Indians, the 45-year-old has been an MP since 2010, and is widely believed to have ambitions on Downing Street.

On Monday, she apologised that her “enthusiasm to engage in this way could be misread, and how meetings were set up and reported in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures”.

But the main opposition Labour Party has demanded an investigation into whether her behaviour breached the ministerial code.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the home affairs select committee, said the affair exposed the government’s weakness.

“There is no sense of direction, no sense of grip in any of these controversies,” she told BBC television.

“This is really damaging for the whole country, not just the Conservative Party.”

 

AFP

I was Depressed After Filming ‘Tales Of Eve’ – Kiera Hewatch

keira hewatch, tales of eve, Cast of new television series, ‘Tales Of Eve: The Present Past’, Keira Hewatch, says filming the movie took her on an extraordinary journey which caused her to be depressed afterwards.

“I was terrified because I become one with my character. I become the emotion, in order to give the role my best,” she said.

Co-cast, Kachi Nnochiri, played a lead role as David Agbeide who is torn between love for his wife and shock that comes as a result of secrets from his wife’s closet.

He also explained having a similar experience, as the roles they played were both emotionally intense.

The story generally captures the triumphs and pitfalls that a woman goes through, and every season brings a different story line as well as different cast.

In its 6th season, both cast played the characters of a married couple, David and Denice, who were caught in a web of lies and secrecy, that threatened to tear them apart.

It also featured veteran Actress, Liz Benson.

They shared their experiences while on set of the film, in an exclusive interview with Channels Television.

Hewatch is a graduate of travel and tourism who made her acting debut in 2016 in Ghana.

kachi nnochiri, tales of eve,
kachi Nnochiri

Kachi on the other hand, is gradually making his mark in the industry as he has featured in season films such as MTV’s Shuga.

Kiera said the film was a high intensity drama and they both said that the process took them through many dark phases.

Speaking about the idea behind the film, Producer and Director, Olatunbosun Olaegbe, explained that the story is about everyday people, while attempting to promote openness in relationships.

The anticipated drama will have a nation wide premiere and the cast mates, Kiera and Kachi said it could encourage the industry to produce better films, that may someday rival American hit series, ‘Scandal’.

Lambesis Arrested For Murder For Hire Plot

Tim Lambesis, lead singer for the heavy metal band As I Lay Dying, was arrested in California on Tuesday on charges that he sought the help of an undercover detective to have his estranged wife killed.

Lambesis was taken into custody in Oceanside, near San Diego.

Police had previously learned Lambesis was looking for someone to carry out the killing, but would not give any details as to his motive. His wife, Meggan, filed papers in San Diego Superior Court in September 2012 seeking dissolution of marriage.

Lambesis is a founding member of As I Lay Dying. He will appear in court for an arraignment on Thursday, May 9th.