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Beijing eyes two-child policy U-turn, but 'lonely generation' has moved on

After decades of draconian restrictions around family planning, China is now encouraging couples to have more kids as a matter of patriotic urgency.

Image: A woman sits with a child holding a balloon at a sports stadium in Golmud, China

In 2015, facing an aging population and a male-dominated population, China ended its one-child policy and started to allow people to have two children. Bloomberg / Getty Images file

Dec. 24, 2018 / 7:38 AM GMT

By Dawn Liu and Petra Cahill

BEIJING — For nearly 40 years, the Chinese government harshly restricted childbearing through the one-child rule in order to control population growth. That may soon change.

Beijing appears to be on the cusp of abolishing all of its family planning rules — and is even encouraging young couples to have more children as a matter of patriotic urgency.

But attitudes toward parenthood have changed. Even though there is a two-child policy in place now, many Chinese still don’t want to have more than one child — or any at all.

“I think having one child is enough,” said Chen Yiwen, a 25-year-old accountant and newlywed. “I won’t be tempted to have more — even if the family planning policy is abolished.”

Image: Chinese children at a hospital in Nanjing

After decades of harsh restrictions, China is encouraging couples to have two children, if not more. Yu ping / Imaginechina/AP file

Chen is not the only woman in the country who shares that sentiment — and that has China’s ruling Communist Party worried.

She said that she and her husband, a 27-year-old midlevel bank manager, are settling into married life in Xining, a city with 2.2 million people on the Tibetan plateau in central China. For now, they are focusing on “enhancing our self-value” and their careers.

“Besides, we already have two little babies — a poodle and a corgi,” she said.

'A distorted sex ratio'

Chen is part of what has been dubbed the “lonely generation,” those born under the one-child rule.

As China’s population ballooned to close to one billion in the 1970s, the government became concerned about the impact that would have on its plans for rapid economic growth.

So Beijing introduced the one-child policy in 1979. People who defied it faced hefty financial penalties and some civil servants lost their jobs. But much worse, many women faced the horror of sterilization and forced abortions.

“The production brigade went to my home and took all valuable things from us including the iron pot and removed the door of our house.”

Beijing claims that 400 million births were prevented as a result of the policy from 1980 to 2005.

But the the rule's strict enforcement was seen as a violation of human and reproductive rights by critics.

As a result of China’s traditional preference for male offspring, especially in rural areas, many woman who were carrying female babies were forced to get abortions.

Chinese doctors performed more than 330 million abortions and 196 million sterilizations since 1971, according to official data from the Chinese Health Ministry released in March 2013 and reported by the Financial Times and other international news organizations.

If the mothers did give birth, girls were often abandoned, placed in orphanages or given up for adoption abroad.

By the end of 2014, China had 33.76 million more males then females. For every 100 girls, there were 116 boys.

“The policy clearly skewed the population structure in many ways,” said Cai Yong, a professor who focuses on Chinese demographics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The Chinese population is aging very fast, and China has a distorted sex ratio.”

 

FROM 2015: The numbers behind China's one-child policy

Oct. 29, 201501:09

Data shows that in 1980, people 65 and older accounted for just 4.7 percent of the Chinese population. That percentage grew to 10 percent in 2015, and is projected to surge to 33 percent by 2050, according to United Nations figures.

China’s average birth rate fell to a record low of 1.04 in 2015, among the lowest in the world. In contrast, the U.S. birth rate in the U.S. was 1.80 last year, according to the World Bank.

Beijing fears that the aging population will have an adverse effect on the economy as the number of young workers shrinks and the government has to shoulder pension costs for the elderly.

'Too little, too late'

In 2015, China finally terminated the one-child policy and started to allow people to have two children.

However, the new policy hasn’t achieved its goal. In 2017, the number of newborn babies actually fell by 3.5 percent, according to the country's statistics bureau. As many as 630,000 fewer babies were born that year, despite the loosening of restrictions.

According to Cai, the two-child policy was “too little, too late.”

 

FROM 2015: China to end one-child policy as population ages

Oct. 30, 201502:02

The government seems to agree and has indicated that it may soon do away with family-planning policies altogether.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission, the body that oversaw population control for almost 40 years, was unceremoniously closed down this year.

Then in August, the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, published an op-ed, “Childbearing is a family matter as well as a national matter.”

It called on citizens to have more children and warned that “the impact of low birth rates on the economy and society has begun to show."

Image: The Year of the Pig postage stamp seemed like a sign of the government's approval for three-child families

The Year of the Pig postage stamp seemed like a sign of the Chinese government's approval for three-child families when it was revealed in August.China Stringer Network / Reuters file

Beijing also revealed a new postage stamp ahead of the Year of the Pig showcasing a happy family consisting of two pig parents and three piglets.

The stamp was interpreted as a nod by the government to the potential further relaxation of the two-child policy.

Financial strain

However, the decades of restrictions have changed how many Chinese people feel about having children.

“The one-child policy for the past few decades completely changed people’s birth concept. From kindergarten, they think one child is very normal," said Yi Fuxian, a population expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Now it’s hard to restore the family value and respect for life."

Many of the young couples and women NBC News spoke to cited the expense of education, health care and housing among the reasons for not having more than two children, even if restrictions are loosened.

And for many, the scars from living through the one-child policy are a still a bit raw.

Wu Shuai, 27, said he and his wife had discussed having kids, but agreed not to for at least three years.

“The cost of raising children now is so high. Medical treatment, education and children in China are taking numerous extracurricular tutoring classes,” Wu said. “Parents bear huge burden and pressure.”

He marveled at how much things had changed since his family broke the one-child policy when his younger sister was born. “The production brigade went to my home and took all valuable things from us, including the iron pot, and removed the door of our house,” he said.

He also recalled how when a classmate’s family had too many children, they had to move to another village to hide. “They couldn’t go back home. That was 15 or 16 years ago,” Wu said.

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His wife, Tang Tang, 24, said she hoped to have two children — a boy and a girl. “I feel that it is a responsibility, because the state’s policy is beneficial for the society, and it is necessary to respond to national policies,” she said.

For Zhang Haijian, a 42-year-old Russian language guide in Beijing, even one child feels like a strain. He said that he and his wife were already overwhelmed by the cost of education, health care, housing and caring for their elderly parents.

“To be honest, raising one child is too much burden for us,” he said.

His wife, Sun Yumin, 41, agreed.

“Why don’t I want two children?” she said. “Because I don’t think it’s necessary. It will erode my own life.”

“Only children are definitely lonely,” Zhang chimed in. “But if my child is not lonely, I will be screwed,” he laughed. “I would be worked to death.”

To others, the shifting policies appear like an insult.

“Women were told not to have children, now we are told to have children,” said Doro Zhang, 24, a single women from Guangzhou, a sprawling city of 14 million near Hong Kong. “It made me feel our country never really respected women.”

Dawn Liu reported from Beijing, and Petra Cahill from London.

Dawn Liu

Dawn Liu is a researcher for NBC News based in Beijing.

Image: Image:Petra Cahill

Petra Cahill is a freelance writer based in London. She previously worked as a senior news editor for NBCNews.com, covering international and domestic news out of New York for more than a decade.

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Unseen photos provide a sensitive look at America's early 'working girls'

Published 29th November 2018

Credit: Courtesy Serge Sorokko Gallery/Glitterati Editions

Unseen photos provide a sensitive look at America's early 'working girls'

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Written byDita Von Teese

Dita Von Teese is a burlesque performer, model and author. This is an edited extract from her foreword to "Working Girls: An American Brothel, Circa 1892" by Robert Flynn Johnson. An accompanying exhibition is on at Serge Sorokko Gallery in San Francisco until Dec. 9, 2018.

Women in sexual professions have always distinguished themselves from other women, from the mores of the time, by pushing the boundaries of style. The most celebrated concubines and courtesans in history set the trends in their respective courts. The great dames of burlesque -- Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee -- boasted a signature style on- and offstage, reflecting broader-than-life personalities.

Dita von Teese on the eternal allure of a well-dressed gentleman

Given that photography was still an emerging technology, an emerging creative medium, when these "working girls" posed for William Goldman in the 1890s at a Reading, Pennsylvania brothel, the entire exercise transcends their initial business liaison. The instantaneous concept of click-and-shoot was still decades away. To be photographed required sitting very still. The women featured in Goldman's collection obviously caught his eye. Not just anyone is asked to be the subject of artistic documentation.

Courtesy Serge Sorokko Gallery/Glitterati Editions

The local photographer and his anonymous muses appear to straddle an artful titillation, at times striving toward Degas nudes and at another, more in the spirit of a strip and tease. There is a beauty in even the most mundane moments.

Among Goldman's models, my own gaze zeroed in on the striped stockings and darker shades of their risqué brassieres. These ladies of Reading, Pennsylvania, might not have had the wealth of Madame du Barry, celebrated mistress of Louis XV of France, or the fame and freedom of a silver-screen sex goddess such as Mae West. But they sought to elevate their circumstances, to feel lovelier and more fashionable, with a daring pair of knickers.

Courtesy Serge Sorokko Gallery/Glitterati Editions

To feel special is fundamental to the human condition. Few opportunities outshine a sense of specialness than when an artist asks to record your looks, your beauty. Under the right circumstances, to be the object of admiration -- of desire -- to be what is essentially objectified is not only flattering. It can also provide a shot of confidence and a sense of strength and power and even liberation, however lasting or fleeting.

Courtesy Serge Sorokko Gallery/Glitterati Editions

For these working girls who were already going against the drudgery of toiling in a factory or as a domestic, who were surviving in a patriarchal world by their wits and sexuality, the opportunity to sit for Goldman was very likely not only thrilling. It was also empowering.

One can only imagine the mutual giddiness prevailing among them all, too, at the possible outcome from all these lost afternoon shoots. In a singular image from this collection appears Goldman striking a pose as proud as a peacock. It's one of stock masculinity in the canons of classic portraiture (though usually in military uniform), and like his muses, presented in all his naked glory. By sharing in the objectivity of the process, Goldman basks in the specialness his models must have felt. By stepping around the lens, he becomes a true confidante.

Courtesy Serge Sorokko Gallery/Glitterati Editions

It suggests a balance of power between artist and muse, man and woman -- at least behind closed doors. Their collective decision to strip and strut for the camera reveals a shared lack of shame for the body beautiful and, in that, a shared, albeit secret, defiance of cultural mores.

Courtesy Serge Sorokko Gallery/Glitterati Editions

By all accounts from curator Robert Flynn Johnson's devoted research on this once-lost collection, Goldman seems to have kept his treasured collection as a personal trove. As a successful photographer of weddings and social events, it was most certainly not in his interest for the public to know about his private creative pursuits.

Courtesy Serge Sorokko Gallery/Glitterati Editions

The brothel was a necessary evil in town, where men with certain desires visited women who would oblige. In this case, it was the desire of a man to capture the beauty and sensuality of the women he befriended. There is much to learn and (most of all!) take pleasure in with this discovery.

As these lost photographs illustrate more than a century later, one period's "social problem" is another's cultural revelation.

"Working Girls: An American Brothel, Circa 1892" by Robert Flynn Johnson, with a foreword by Dita Von Teese, is out now.

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British Museum to return Benin bronzes to Nigeria

By Kieron Monks, CNN

 

Updated 1527 GMT (2327 HKT) December 14, 2018

 
 
 

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 22: Plaques that form part of the Benin Bronzes are displayed at The British Museum on November 22, 2018 in London, England. The British Museum has agreed to loan the plaques back to a new museum in Benin City in Nigeria.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 22: Plaques that form part of the Benin Bronzes are displayed at The British Museum on November 22, 2018 in London, England. The British Museum has agreed to loan the plaques back to a new museum in Benin City in Nigeria.

London (CNN)More than a century after British soldiers looted a collection of priceless artifacts from the Kingdom of Benin, some of the Benin bronzes are heading back to Nigeria - with strings attached.

A deal was struck last month by the Benin Dialogue Group (BDG) that would see "some of the most iconic pieces" in the historic collection returned on a temporary basis to form an exhibition at the new Benin Royal Museum in Edo State within three years.

More than 1,000 of the bronzes are held at museums across Europe, with the most valuable collection at the British Museum in London.

 

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Nigerian governments have sought their return since the country gained independence in 1960.

Temporary solution

The agreement represents a breakthrough for the BDG, which was formed in 2007 to address restitution claims.

The group comprises of representatives of several European museums, the Royal Court of Benin, Edo State Government, and Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

Benin bronzes: Will Britain return Nigeria's stolen treasures?

Benin bronzes: Will Britain return Nigeria's stolen treasures?

The returns are contingent on the timely completion of a new Royal Museum, adjacent to the Royal Palace that once housed many of the bronzes. Nigerian officials presented plans for the Museum at a BDG meeting in October. A spokesman for the Governor of Edo said that designs are being finalized in collaboration with the Royal Court of Benin.

A spokesman for the British Museum said European museums would play an active role in developing an elite institution suitable for housing exhibits that are considered to be among the greatest ever African artworks.

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"The key agenda item (at the October meeting) was how partners can work together to establish a museum in Benin City with a rotation of Benin works of art from a consortium of European museums," the spokesman said.

"The museums in attendance have all agreed to lend artifacts to the Benin Royal Museum on a rotating basis, to provide advice as requested on building and exhibition design, and to cooperate with the Nigerian partners in developing training, funding, and a legal framework for the display in a new planned museum."

Benin bronzes on display at the British Museum in London. The museum holds one of the world's largest collection of bronzes with around 700 pieces

Benin bronzes on display at the British Museum in London. The museum holds one of the world's largest collection of bronzes with around 700 pieces

Details about which pieces will be returned and how many are yet to be established. Dialogue is ongoing between the parties of the BDG, and the group is scheduled to meet again in Benin City next year. The present agreement notes that Nigerian partners have not ceded claims for permanent restitution, and officials remain determined to secure the bronzes on a permanent basis.

"We are grateful these steps are being taken but we hope they are only the first steps," Crusoe Osagie, spokesman for the Governor of Edo, told CNN. "If you have stolen property, you have to give it back."

Osagie called for greater pressure on European governments to return the bronzes.

Breaking the deadlock

Nigerian claims received a boost with the release of a new report commissioned by the French government that calls for wholesale restitution of artifacts seized during the colonial era.

The report from academics Felwine Sarr and Benedicte Savoy, prompted by President Emmanuel Macron's 2017 commitment to return African heritage, recommended that items taken without consent should be liable to restitution claims.

Many of the estimated 90,000 artifacts of sub-Saharan African origin held at French institutions could be contested under the report's criteria.

France urged to return looted art and amend heritage laws

France urged to return looted art and amend heritage laws

Sarr and Savoy further recommended that key, symbolic pieces long sought by claimant nations should be immediately returned - including several French-held Benin bronzes.

The report also proposed a series of bilateral agreements between the French government and African states to bypass French laws barring museums from releasing their collections, which have proved a longstanding barrier to restitution. Such agreements would allow for permanent restitution rather than loans.

The French government has responded to the report by announcing an initial 26 artworks will be returned to the state of Benin, with further restitution to follow.

Pressure building

France's example will increase the pressure on museums across Europe, which has been building on several fronts.

Grassroots campaign groups within European countries are demanding restitution, such as in Germany, where 40 organizations recently signed an open

letter calling for the return of historical artifacts.

The letter prompted German institutions to conduct inventories of their collections to determine which items were acquired illicitly.

There is also growing recognition of the validity of restitution claims from a new generation of political leaders. Leader of the UK Labour party Jeremy Corbyn has said that if elected, his government would be willing to discuss the return of "anything stolen or taken from occupied or colonial possession."

Inside Ghana's Elmina Castle is a haunting reminder of its grim past

Inside Ghana's Elmina Castle is a haunting reminder of its grim past

Several influential private collectors have also taken the side of African claimants, such as British citizen Mark Walker, who voluntarily returned a set of Benin bronzes captured by his grandfather.

Museums are also facing a raft of increasingly determined claims from the governments of dispossessed nations across the world, from sub-Saharan Africa to Greece's claims for the Elgin Marbles, to Chile's appeal for Easter Island statues.

Few longstanding observers of a saga that has been taking place since the end of the colonial era expect these matters to be resolved quickly. President Macron's initial commitment to return just 26 pieces suggests a long term process.

Museums and national governments are likely to resist wholesale restitution, and national laws preventing museums from disbursing their collections will continue to present a formidable barrier.

But if the wheels are turning slowly, they do at least appear to be shifting.

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Most Nazis escaped justice. Now Germany is racing to convict those who got away

By Atika Shubert and Nadine Schmidt, CNN

Updated 0016 GMT (0816 HKT) December 15, 2018

 
 
 

Berlin, Germany (CNN)Johann Rehbogen still remembers the lentil stew he ate with other military recruits as they traveled crammed into cattle cars to join the German Wehrmacht in 1942. He recalls the movie screened at the SS training camp: "Quax the Crash Pilot," a comedy. He also remembers seeing prisoners for the first time.

"They had on prison uniforms and they looked truly miserable. This was a big shock for me," recalled the 94-year-old, who is currently on trial for his role as an SS guard at the Stutthof concentration camp in what was then German-occupied Poland.

"The Wehrmacht officers were eloquent," said Rehbogen in a rare testimony read out in court by his lawyer last month. "They seemed downright heroic to us. But when I saw the prisoners, it was clear that this picture the Wehrmacht was trying to convey, was wrong."

Former SS guard Johann Rehbogen, pictured in 1945 when he was a prisoner of war in the US.

Former SS guard Johann Rehbogen, pictured in 1945 when he was a prisoner of war in the US.

Rehbogen is accused of being an accessory to the murder of hundreds, and is one of five defendants now in court, with another 20 still under investigation, according to Germany's Federal Authority for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes. He is being tried as a juvenile because he was under 21 at the time of the alleged crimes.

Rehbogen has denied knowledge of a deliberate killing campaign.

The country is now racing against time to bring the last surviving perpetrators of Nazi war crimes -- now well into old age -- to justice.

 

But for many survivors it is too little, too late.

'Tiny percentage' of Nazis brought to justice

The number of suspects that have been brought to trial is a tiny percentage of the more than 200,000 perpetrators of Nazi-era crimes, said Mary Fulbrook, a professor of Germany History at University College London.

"It's way too late," she told CNN of the latest trials. "The vast majority of perpetrators got away with it."

In her new book, "Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice," Fulbrook says that of the 140,000 individuals brought to court between 1946 and 2005, only 6,656 ended in convictions.

"Immediately after the war, there were the Nuremberg trials. But these Allied trials were seen as victor's justice. This was, in a way, vilified and not taken seriously," she explained. "The first five to 10 years after the war, there were a lot of trials. Then they dwindled down massively," said Fulbrook.

"Then, in the interest of the Cold War and fighting communism, there was a move to rehabilitate former Nazis and a general climate of amnesty. Some perpetrators who were given severe sentences in the 1940s were released with much lighter sentences in the 1950s," Fullbrook said.

'It's easy to say you could have done things differently'

In the 1960s and 1970s a new generation of Germans pressed their parents and grandparents to answer: What did you do in the war?

But it was not until the trial of SS guard John Demjanjuk, that prosecutors were able to convict Nazi suspects who may have not been directly responsible for specific killings.

 

In 2011, Demjanjuk was found guilty by a Munich court of being an accessory to the murder of more than 28,000 people based on evidence that he had served as an SS guard at the Sobibor Nazi death camp, a landmark decision that allowed prosecutors to go after lower-ranking suspected Nazi war criminals.

"From today's perspective, it's easy to say you could have done things differently in the 1950s," said Jens Rommel, lead prosecutor at Germany's Federal Authority for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes. "It may not have been possible to carry out the prosecution of tens of thousands of suspects as accessories to war crimes."

"There are also other reasons," said Rommel. "Many of the obvious leaders did not survive the war -- or died before they could be prosecuted. Some escaped prosecution by emigrating."

Why World War I is Germany's forgotten conflict

Why World War I is Germany's forgotten conflict

He added that "because of the combination of police officers, prosecutors and judges in Germany's post-war society -- people who may have had roles in the Third Reich -- the will to persecute was weakened."

Instead, Germany developed a "Culture of Remembrance" to address its wartime history. Memorials abound across the country and school children routinely visit memorial sites like Auschwitz to ensure the horrors of the Holocaust are never repeated.

"Germany is one of the most moral countries in addressing its history," said Fulbrook. "To some extent, it is an outpouring, an inherited sense of shame, but without being able to rectify that failure of bringing the guilty to justice."

"It's just an awful shame that while former Nazis were still in a position of influence, Germany didn't have the political will to bring Nazis to trial when they could have," she said.

The 'Bookkeeper of Auschwitz'

The recent trials have, however, facilitated a kind of belated dialogue between perpetrators and Holocaust survivors.

 

Oskar Groening, known as the "The Bookkeeper of Auschwitz" for his role as an SS accountant at the Nazi death camp, was tried and convicted in the northern German city of Lueneburg in 2015 as an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people.

He made several statements in court, at times harrowing in their vivid detail but also repellent in his candid recollection of Nazi ideology.

Oskar Groening, 96, in court in 2015.

Oskar Groening, 96, in court in 2015.

On his first day in court, the 96-year-old recounted how he witnessed the murder of a small child. "A Jewish mother had hidden her little girl in a small suitcase on arrival. She was found out in the sorting. An SS commander took the baby and smashed the baby against the truck until her screaming stopped. My heart stopped," said Groening.

"I went to the man and said, 'You cannot do this.' But I was not allowed to question this. The next morning, I requested a transfer," he added.

Groening's testimony also showed that, at the time, he had been a fully indoctrinated member of the Nazi SS and though he had objected to the method of the killing, he had not opposed the murder itself.

"The baby broke the world for me. The horror of this action broke me," he said, adding, "It would have been different had he simply taken the gun and shot the baby dead."

Ironically, Groening's Nazi past was only discovered when he began speaking out against Holocaust deniers, by recounting his personal experiences in Auschwitz. Groening maintained that although he was never directly responsible for the killings he acknowledged his "moral complicity."

The court sentenced Groening to four years in prison. One of the Holocaust survivors who testified against him, Eva Kor, made a public statement forgiving Groening and demanding that his prison sentence be changed to community service.

Far right: Eva Kor in 2015 points at an image of herself as a child taken during the liberation of Auschwitz, along with other survivors.

Far right: Eva Kor in 2015 points at an image of herself as a child taken during the liberation of Auschwitz, along with other survivors.

"Groening said in his statement that he was wrong, it never should have happened, and it should never happen again. That is exactly what I want him to tell the young people in Germany who want to bring back a Nazi regime," Kor's statement said. "I told Oskar Groening that I have forgiven him, but that does not absolve or condone what he has done."

Groening died in the midst of appealing his sentence, but Fulbrook said his case highlighted the importance of recording the testimonies of alleged perpetrators.

"You certainly don't want to taint the memory of victims with their tormentors," she said. "But you do need more education about the Nazi system, what made it possible. Not just the nasty SS thugs but the wider group that made it possible."

A glimpse into the mindset of a SS soldier

Like Groening's testimony, Rehbogen's personal statement is rare. It reads like a diary, a glimpse into the mindset of an SS soldier.

His defense hinges on two claims -- that as an ethnic-German living in Hungary he was involuntarily drafted into the SS, and that he had no knowledge of the camp's systematic killings.

Rehbogen claims he was unaware of the existence of a gas chamber, though he remembered the stench that came from the crematorium. "Nothing could disguise that," his statement read.

Stutthof concentration camp, pictured in 2016.

Stutthof concentration camp, pictured in 2016.

"Even if it sounds like a flimsy justification, I did not perceive Stutthof as a camp designed to kill prisoners," he added. "I was aware that the conditions were terrible and that many died of disease and hunger. But that it was a systemic killing only dawned on me much later."

In court, a historian testifying as an expert witness disputed both of Rehbogan's claims, pointing out that more than 10,000 people were killed in Stutthof, despite the camp's small size.

Johannes Tuchel, the director of the German Resistance Memorial Center, backed up the historian's testimony.

"The Waffen SS did not have the ability to conscript people," Tuchel told CNN. "Germany and Hungary had a military alliance and Germany did not have the power to conscript in Hungary at the time. All ethnic Germans in Hungary in 1942 came voluntarily to the Waffen SS. I have not seen any documents that would prove otherwise."

Too little, too late for victims

One Holocaust survivor who remembers Rehbogan from Stutthof is Judy Meisel, who was 14 when she was ordered to line up naked outside the camp's gas chamber with her mother. The teenager survived after a guard suddenly pulled her out of the line.

"She was essentially ripped from her mother's arms at the steps of the gas chamber," Meisel's grandson, 34-year-old Benjamin Cohen, told CNN.

"Her mother told her, 'Run, Judy, run!' And she did. She ran all the way back and found her sister in the barracks and the two remained together and survived," Cohen said.

Holocaust survivor Judy Meisel pictured just after the war and recently.

Holocaust survivor Judy Meisel pictured just after the war and recently.

When German investigators contacted Judy Meisel, now 89, she immediately recognized Rehbogen as one of the guards -- though not the one that pulled her out that day.

"He must face responsibility for what he did when he was in Stutthof," Meisel wrote in a statement to the court. "Responsibility that he helped with the unimaginable crimes against humanity -- that he helped murder my beloved mother whom I have missed all my life."

Cohen told CNN that if the trial had happened 10 years earlier, Meisel would have been able to attend herself. Instead, because of her frail health, he sat in her place, watching as Rehbogen was brought to court in a wheelchair.

A Holocaust survivor bears witness at trials in Germany

 

 

 

A Holocaust survivor bears witness at trials in Germany 03:33

"It's never easy to see an old man wheeled into a courtroom, but I mostly thought about how disappointing it is that these trials have taken so long to happen," Cohen told CNN.

"My hope is that he would at least tell us what happened, even if he refuses to admit to anything he did. Instead, he wants us to believe he could stand guard in the camp for two years and not know anything."

In court, Rehbogen concluded his statement by saying, "I would like to say once again that I am not a Nazi. I never was one. And in the little time I have left, I will never be one."

Now, he waits for Germany's courts to decide.

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Strasbourg shooting suspect killed by police, Paris authorities say

By Darran Simon and Saskya Vandoorne, CNN

 

Updated 0256 GMT (1056 HKT) December 14, 2018

 

Official: Strasbourg shooting suspect killed 01:08

(CNN)The man suspected of killing at least three people and wounding 13 others at Strasbourg's famed Christmas market has been killed by French police, following a shoot-out not far from the scene of Tuesday's attack.

Cherif Chekatt, 29, was shot dead on Thursday evening, two days after he first disappeared sparking a massive manhunt involving hundreds of police officers, soldiers and anti-terror specialists from three European countries.

Cherif Chekatt, 29

Cherif Chekatt, 29

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said police recognized a man who looked like Chekatt walking on the street in Strasbourg's Neudorf district on Thursday night and approached him. He opened fire on officers when they tried to question him, he said.

Police returned fire, killing the suspect, Castaner said.

"As I am speaking to you, I am thinking about the victims and the wounded. I am thinking of those close to them. I am thinking of Strasbourg and France that was hit by this terrible attack," Castaner said.

On Thursday, Strasbourg police said the death toll from the attack had risen to three, after one person succumbed to their injuries. Five people remain in serious condition with eight others suffering light injures.

The hunt prompted a curfew in the eastern French city near the German border and forced the country to raise its national security threat level to its highest status: "emergency terror attack."

French prosecutors said the suspect shouted the Arabic phrase "Allahu Akbar," meaning "God is greatest," at the time of the attack.

"It's relief for the people of Strasbourg to know that the attacker has been killed," Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries said, adding that the Christmas market would reopen on Friday.

The French National Police thanked the public for their assistance in finding Chekatt.

"Thank you for your alerts which allowed us to find the wanted individual," the National Police said on Twitter.

French police continue hunt for Strasbourg gunman

French police continue hunt for Strasbourg gunman

Earlier on Thursday, Paris prosecutor's office said that a fifth person was taken into custody in relation to the attack. "At this stage there are five people in custody," a spokesperson said.

Authorities said Chekatt entered the perimeter of the market, one of the oldest in Europe, by the city's Corbeau Bridge and started shooting and stabbing passers-by on the Rue des Orfevres around 8 p.m., when many were in the middle of their Christmas shopping.

Anti-terror police flooded the market and tried to arrest the suspected gunman. He exchanged fire with security forces, suffering an injury to his arm. The suspected gunman then jumped into a taxi and fled the scene, Heitz said.

On Thursday, French police evacuated buildings and cordoned off the area close to where Chekatt had fled. The gunman's father, mother and two brothers were also questioned by police, a source close to the investigation told CNN.

Checkatt was already known to security services as a possible threat, police said. He has an extensive criminal background that includes 27 convictions in France, Germany and Switzerland, mostly for acts of robbery and violence.

A spokeswoman for the Swiss Federal Police, Cathy Maret, told CNN that Chekatt was well known to authorities there, having been arrested and convicted several times in Switzerland for crimes such as break-ins, theft and violence. He was not on their radar as a radical Islamist or for narcotics violations, she said.

In 2017, he was deported from Germany to France after the Interior Ministry in the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg confirmed he had been convicted of break-ins and serious theft in 2016 and spent time in a German prison. The German Federal Criminal Office said the suspect was not known in Germany as a radical Islamist.

Members of the French police special forces take part in an operation at the Neudorf neighborhood in Strasbourg.

Members of the French police special forces take part in an operation at the Neudorf neighborhood in Strasbourg.

However, Chekatt was known to French prison officials for being radicalized and for his proselytizing behavior in detention in 2015, Paris prosecutor Heitz said, adding that he had been incarcerated multiple times.

He was also on a French watch list called a "Fiche S" surveillance file. The "Fiche S" is a French terror and radicalization watch list that includes thousands of people, some of whom are under active surveillance, meaning they are on law enforcement's radar.

Hours before the attack, French gendarmes tried to bring Chekatt in for questioning but found he wasn't home, a spokesperson for France's National Police told CNN earlier this week, without providing further details.

Chekatt was born in Strasbourg, according to CNN affiliate BFM.

CNN's Bianca Britton, Laura Smith-Spark and Helen Regan contributed to this report.

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Reindeer in Sweden usually migrate in November. But there's still no snow.

“I can't ask my father what to do now because he hasn’t seen this; it hasn’t happened during his lifetime.”

Image: SWEDEN-ENVIRONMENT-MINORITIES-LIVESTOCK-ANIMAL-TRADITION

Reindeer are gathered in a corral near the village of Dikanaess, Sweden, in 2016.Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP/Getty Images file

Dec. 5, 2018 / 10:46 AM GMT / Updated Dec. 5, 2018 / 11:07 AM GMT

By Linda Givetash

It may be December but almost 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle there’s still not enough snow for reindeer to begin their annual migration.

Sweden’s indigenous Sami people have herded the animals for generations, with the corral usually happening over a two-week period in November.

But this year the tradition has been postponed because temperatures keep fluctuating above and below the freezing mark.

“Something is really wrong with nature,” said Niila Inga, 37, who lives in Sweden’s northernmost town of Kiruna. “I can't ask my father what to do now because he hasn’t seen this; it hasn’t happened during his lifetime.”

 

The past four years have been the warmest on record globally, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

Reindeer husbandry is carried out in countries throughout the Arctic including Norway, Russia and China. A 2009 report on the future of the practice says that there are 3,000 reindeer herders in Sweden alone, and a total of nearly 100,000 globally.

It's a family business. Inga said he took the lead from his father when he turned 18 and works alongside 17 other full-time herders in the community that includes his cousins and nephew.

Every September, reindeer are gathered and killed for meat. It’s the main source of income for the herders.

Image: A Sami man labels a reindeer calf near the village of Dikanaess, Sweden, in 2016

A Sami man labels a reindeer calf near the village of Dikanaess, Sweden, in 2016.Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP/Getty Images file

After the slaughter, the remaining reindeer are left to graze in the wild until it’s time for the winter migration eastward to better grazing territory. For Inga, that's a trek of more than 62 miles.

Herders follow the animals on snowmobile, spending nights in cabins along the route. Children get the time off school to take part in the process.

“Everything is connected to the reindeer and the reindeer herding,” Inga said. “It’s something you’re born and raised in.”

But Inga, who is also the chairman of the Swedish Sami Association, believes "something is shifting."

 

The snow is vital to every aspect of reindeer husbandry so this winter's erratic freeze-thaw cycle is a problem.

Research suggests the effects of global warming are amplified at the poles, with average air temperatures rising faster than elsewhere on the planet. This results in the rapid loss of ice, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado. This year's winter freeze is being forecast to come late for the Scandanavian region and ice formation will be below-average.

The herders need the snow for their own travels through the wild terrain. Snow also makes it easier for the Sami to track reindeer and predators.

Most importantly, the snow impacts vegetation. A delayed winter could be viewed as a good thing, allowing the reindeer more time to graze by the mountains, Inga said. But it could also lead to the reindeer trampling the plants and prompt overgrazing.

Research is backing up the changes the Sami are witnessing. Gunhild Rosqvist, a geography professor at Stockholm University, is part of a team studying the changing Arctic landscape, including the accelerating loss of glacier ice in the Scandinavian mountains.

 

Rosqvist is currently working with the herders to study how weather variability is impacting the animals.

It's becoming clear the animals are migrating into new areas — despite roads and other development blocking their path — which in turn is forcing herders to change their practices, she said.

The expansion of mining, wind-energy farms and tourism across northern Sweden is cutting back on the available land.

The entire town of Kiruna is being forced to move because of the neighboring iron ore mine.

“The combined pressure of all this and climate change is really pushing some of these communities over the tipping point,” Rosqvist said.

Image: A Sami man catches a reindeer near the village of Dikanaess, Sweden

A Sami man catches a reindeer near the village of Dikanaess, Sweden.Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP/Getty Images file

Reindeer migration is just one of the many symptoms of the warming climate.

This summer saw Sweden’s highest peak lose that status due to glacial melt while wildfires spanned an unprecedented 61,775 acres across the country amid record hot and dry conditions.

A huge section of a glacier near Rosqvist's northern research station unexpectedly broke loose in an ice avalanche, she said, shocking scientists.

“It’s an emergency,” Rosqvist added. “The whole ecosystem is so delicate.”

Despite the rapid changes to the landscape, the Sami are trying to adapt. Inga said herders are discussing what to do if the land fails to provide enough food for the reindeer.

“We don’t want to feed them because it isn’t natural and it’s part of our culture,” Inga said. The reindeer are semi-domesticated and bringing in food could change their behavior dramatically, he said. It could also affect the quality of the meat.

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Sanna Vannar, president of the Sami youth association Sáminuorra, said members hope that they’ll be able to continue the traditions of their forefathers.

The association joined 10 families across Europe and Africa to lodge a lawsuit against the European Union in May for failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

The lawsuit specifically cites the challenges reindeer are having in finding food due to the warming climate and the repercussions it, in turn, has on Sami culture and livelihoods.

"It's really bad for young reindeer herders because they every day have to think about the weather," Vannar said. "I can't see my life without reindeer."

Linda Givetash

Linda Givetash is a reporter based in London. She previously worked for The Canadian Press in Vancouver and Nation Media in Uganda. 

 

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Ukraine's martial law brings unease after Russian attack

Russian ships last month rammed, opened fire on and then seized three Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea, triggering fears of an potential invasion.

Image: Residents walk along Prospect Soborniy, Zaporizhzhia's main street, the Sunday after martial law was introduced.

Zaporizhzhia's main street after martial law was introduced.Renee Hickman / for NBC News

Dec. 7, 2018 / 9:20 AM GMT / Updated Dec. 7, 2018 / 9:45 AM GMT

By Renee Hickman

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — Larysa Spitsyna was shocked and confused when she learned her city would be placed under martial law.

"As a psychologist, I know that the main thing that is disturbing to us is uncertainty," said Spitsyna, 54, who teaches at a local university.

It was precisely such a feeling that swept thorough Zaporizhzhia last week.

The city is in one of the regions where martial law was imposed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — a response to Russian ships ramming, shooting and then seizing three naval vessels in the Black Sea.

Ukrainian President: 'Russia will pay a huge price if they attack us'

NOV. 27, 201801:16

In Ukraine, that allows the military to requisition private property, mobilize civilians, ban mass gatherings and stop the sale of alcohol. Poroshenko said it was necessary in response to "an act of aggression" and claimed Russia was amassing tanks at his border. Days after the sea clash, Moscow also announced it was deploying an additional S-400 surface-to-air missile system to Crimea, the peninsula it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

But a week later, there have been few signs of anything unusual in Zaporizhzhia, an industrial city in the country's southeast known for its steel production.

While initially concerned, Spitsyna said she was reassured when university officials said operations would continue as normal. She voted for Poroshenko during the last election in 2014 and backs the president's decision now.

Image: Larysa Spitsyna,

Larysa Spitsyna.Renee Hickman / for NBC News

"I think this measure is a way we can gain more safety at the moment," she said. "I think it will improve Poroshenko's ratings."

Not everyone here agrees with the move — or feels so reassured.

In 2014, Russian-backed separatists began fighting Ukrainian government troops in a conflict that has rumbled on for more than four years and claimed more than 10,000 lives. The rebel-controlled area is just 100 miles from Zaporizhzhia.

 

The same year, some 120 miles to the south of the city, Russian forces annexed Crimea, a move deemed illegal by the United States and most other Western countries.

Back then, in the height of Ukraine's crisis, the newly elected Poroshenko did not declare martial law. So why do it now, asks Evgenia Ivanova?

"Every day we had the fear that [Russian tanks] can move to Zaporizhzhia and drive on our main avenue," said Ivanova, who works at a travel agency. "Why was martial law not imposed in those times?"

Some critics have made the same point, alleging that Poroshenko did not impose martial law in 2014 because it did not suit him politically. Last week, he initially announced the move would be deployed country-wide for 60 days.

 

Seemingly fearing a power-grab, Ukraine's Parliament limited it to 30 days and only in the regions bordering Russia or Trans-Dniester, a Moldovan breakaway republic where Russian forces are based.

Now that it's here, martial law is affecting Ivanova's business. Customers are calling to ask if their flights out of the country could be canceled. But many other people here are unfazed, desensitized by years living so close to the conflict, according to Ivanova.

"It isn't so scary for us now," she said. "A lot of people believed there would be some escalation in the situation with Russia, but we just didn’t know what form it would take."

Image: Evgenia Ivanova

Evgenia Ivanova.Renee Hickman / for NBC News

When Bogdan Kalugin, 19, first heard about martial law from his brother, he says he immediately started scouring social media.

"I saw that there would be house-to-house searches and the military can come to your apartment and confiscate your property," he said.

Kalugin says he hasn't heard any reports of property being seized, or in fact any changes on the ground at all. But with elections nearing, he says he is still concerned about the parts of the law that could limit political rallies and mass gatherings.

"I think the situation happened and now Poroshenko is trying to get as much benefit from it as possible," he said. "It seems to me that escalation of the conflict isn't advantageous for either side. It’s more beneficial for [Russia and Ukraine] to keep it frozen."

Image: Families enjoy a snowy day near the Dnieper River in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine

Families enjoy a snowy day near the Dnieper River in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. A statue of Lenin once looked out over the river and hydroelectric plant, but it has since been replaced by a representation of a Cossack, which many Ukrainians see as a patriotic symbol.Renee Hickman / for NBC News

Another resident of the city, Evgeniy Dzyga, is also thinking about his future.

Dzyga, 45, an actor at the city's theater prepping for a role as Santa Claus in a Christmas-themed show for children. He is also an army reservist and veteran of the war in eastern Ukraine.

He says he has been preparing to be called for active duty. "I have my go-bag ready," he said.

Dzyga is supportive of both martial law and of Poroshenko, says that if anything martial law should have been imposed sooner.

"I think that there won’t be a bigger invasion," he said, "because martial law was introduced to let our enemies know that we are ready."

Renee Hickman

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Aquarius migrant rescue ship stops Mediterranean Sea patrols

"The end of Aquarius means more deaths at sea, and more needless deaths that will go unwitnessed."

Image: The rescue ship Aquarius, chartered by French aid group SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), leaves the harbour of Marseille

For the past two months, the Aquarius has remained at port in Marseille, France.Boris Horvat / AFP - Getty Images file

Dec. 7, 2018 / 3:51 PM GMT / Updated Dec. 7, 2018 / 4:24 PM GMT

By Alexander Smith

LONDON — The Aquarius was the last search-and-rescue ship operating in the world's most deadly migration route, saving almost 30,000 people from the Mediterranean Sea since 2016.

On Friday, the charity that runs the vessel said it was being forced to end its work, blaming "smear campaigns and maneuvers to undermine international law" by governments in Europe.

"This is a dark day," Nelke Manders, said general director of Médecins Sans Frontiers, which is also known as Doctors Without Borders. "The end of Aquarius means more deaths at sea, and more needless deaths that will go unwitnessed."

As migration levels soar around the globe, nowhere has been more dangerous than the Mediterranean for those fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Africa or seeking better lives in Europe.

More than 2,100 people have died this year alone, the overwhelming majority leaving from Libya.

 

The Aquarius, which was jointly operated by MSF and SOS Méditerranée, was the last humanitarian vessel attempting to rescue people making the journey.

Other ships have been detained by Italian and Maltese authorities on charges ranging from illegally aiding migrants to not being properly registered.

A lone holdout, the Aquarius was recently accused of illegally dumping potentially dangerous medical waste and was twice stripped of its registration, which MSF likened to "tactics used in some of the world's most repressive states."

Image: Migrants await rescue by the Aquarius in 2016

Migrants await rescue in a rubber dinghy during a rescue involving the Aquarius off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2016.SOS Mediterranee / Reuters file

The group said several governments were to blame, but singled out Italy, whose hard-line nationalist interior minister, Matteo Salvini, says other countries should accept a greater share of migrants.

Salvini alleges rescue ships like the Aquarius encourage more migrants to take to the sea. He has repeatedly closed Italian ports to the Aquarius, forcing it to sail for days while carrying migrants to find ports in other countries.

In addition, the European Union has increased cooperation with the Libyan coast guard to intercept people attempting to leave, a policy criticized by the United Nations as "inhuman." Returning them to Libya, MSF said, exposes people to "arbitrary detention, violence, and unsafe conditions."

Italy's ISPI think tank warned in October that closing ports had actually increased the number of deaths at sea. For the past two months, the Aquarius has remained at port in Marseille.

 

"This is the result of a sustained campaign, spearheaded by the Italian government and backed by other European states, to delegitimize, slander, and obstruct aid organizations providing assistance to vulnerable people," MSF said.

Maders added: "Not only has Europe failed to provide search and rescue capacity, it has also actively sabotaged others' attempts to save lives."

Image: Alexander Smith of NBC News.Alexander Smith

Alexander Smith is a London-based senior reporter for NBC News.

Reuters contributed.

 

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High-speed train crashes in Turkey, killing 9 By Isil Sariyuce and Ben Westcott, CNN Updated 1350 GMT (2150 HKT) December 13, 2018 Multiple dead in Turkish high-speed train crash

(CNN)A high-speed train crashed Thursday in the Turkish capital of Ankara, killing at least nine people and injuring dozens more, according to the city's governor.

At a press conference at the site of the crash, the governor, Vasip Sahin, said 46 people had been hurt in the crash, which took place at around 6.30 a.m. local time.

 

Marsandiz Station

 

"Our hope is the number of dead does not increase, but our units are working," Sahin said. "Once their work is complete, we will be able to share more information."

The train collided head-on with a maintenance vehicle in Ankara's Marsandiz station, causing part of a bridge to collapse onto two carriages, state news agency Anadolu said.

Rescue workers search through wreckage after a high-speed train crash Thursday in Ankara, Turkey.

Rescue workers search through wreckage after a high-speed train crash Thursday in Ankara, Turkey.

Two of those injured were in a critical condition, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told the agency, adding no more wounded were at the crash site as of Thursday afternoon.

Video from the scene earlier Thursday showed rescuers combing through piles of warped metal while injured people were evacuated from the wreckage.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said three people had been detained in connection with the crash, and a criminal investigation launched.

"Those who are responsible will be brought forward," Erdogan said, "and whatever is necessary will be done."

Rescuers evacuate injured passengers after the high-speed train crash Thursday.

Rescuers evacuate injured passengers after the high-speed train crash Thursday.

According to Anadolu, 206 passengers were on the train at the time of the crash. Three of the dead were train conductors, while the other six were passengers.

CNN Turk said the crash took place four minutes after the train left the station.

One witness told CNN he was on his way home from work when he saw the crash. "There were many injured people waiting to be rescued," Yasin Duvar said, adding he had helped a number of victims escape from the mangled train.

Members of rescue services work at the crash scene Thursday in Ankara.

Members of rescue services work at the crash scene Thursday in Ankara.

The train was en route between Ankara and Konya when it crashed, Anadolu said.

The US Embassy in Ankara expressed its "deepest condolences" to the victims of the crash.

"We share the great sorrow and wish quick recovery to the many injured," the embassy's official Twitter account said.

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Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen sentenced to 3 years in prison Cohen had pleaded guilty to nine federal charges of tax evasion, violating campaign finance laws, lying to banks and to Congress.

ec. 12, 2018 / 5:05 PM GMT / Updated 5:22 PM GMT

By Tom Winter, Hannah Rappleye, Jonathan Dienst and Minyvonne Burke

An emotional Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer, was sentenced Wednesday to 3 years after pleading guilty to nine federal charges stemming from his failure to report millions of dollars in income and making secret payments to women who claimed they had affairs with Trump.

One of the charges Cohen pleaded guilty to included a separate charge, stemming from Robert Mueller's probe into Tump's potential collusion with Russia, that he lied to Congress about his dealings with a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow.

Cohen, 52, appeared in the Manhattan federal courtroom Wednesday morning with his wife and children.

When standing before Judge William Pauley, Cohen said blind loyalty to Trump led him to "choose darkness over light." He said he will work to prove history wrong and that he is not the villain in this investigation.

He appeared to tear up as he apologized to his family and to the people of the United States.

“I am truly sorry and I promise I will be better," he said.

Pauley sentenced Cohen to 36 months for the eight charges from the Southern District and an additional two months for the Mueller charge, which will run concurrently. The judge added a $50,000 fine and said Cohen must turn himself in on March 6.

Cohen's lawyers had previously argued against a prison sentence, citing his cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose office is investigating possible collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller’s office said last week it took no position on Cohen’s sentence but suggested it run concurrently with the sentence handed down in the New York case. A prosecutor on Mueller's team told the judge Cohen was helpful but declined to offer further details because the investigation is ongoing.

In a sentencing memo filed by Mueller’s office, they said the attorney, 52, provided federal investigators with "relevant and useful" information about his contacts with people connected to Trump and the White House.

Mueller's office also described how Cohen gave them detailed information on efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow at the height of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and told them about Russian nationals who tried to communicate with the president as he was campaigning.

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Cohen pleaded guilty on Nov. 29 to a charge that he lied to Congress in an attempt to cover up efforts to build the Moscow tower.

His legal troubles also include a hush-payment Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the amount of $130,000 and another to porn actress Karen McDougal for more than $25,000. Both said they had affairs with Trump before his election, something the White House denies.

Despite Cohen’s cooperation with Mueller’s investigation, federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York argued that he did not confess everything he knew.

In a separate sentencing memo on the eight charges he pleaded guilty to in August, prosecutors said Cohen's assistance didn't outweigh his "extensive" criminal conduct and pushed for a sentence of 51 to 63 months in jail, the usual federal sentence for his crimes. The sentencing guidelines also called for a term of up to six months in prison for the charge stemming from the Mueller probe.

"After cheating the IRS for years, lying to banks and to Congress, and seeking to criminally influence the Presidential election, Cohen's decision to plead guilty — rather than seek a pardon for his manifold crimes — does not make him a hero," prosecutors said.

Cohen's lawyer, Guy Petrillo, told the judge on Wednesday that he is "a very good man" who came forward with evidence against the most powerful man in the United States without knowing what the result would be and that others should take courage from this and his cooperation and that it stands in contrast to others who did not cooperate.

Following the sentencing, another Cohen lawyer, Lanny Davis promised that his client would release everything he knows about the president once Mueller completes his investigation.

“That includes any appropriate Congressional committee interested in the search for truth and the difference between facts and lies. Mr. Trumps repeated lies cannot contradict stubborn facts,” Davis said in a statement.


The charges Cohen pleaded guilty to:

Charges brought by the Southern District:

  • Count 1-5: Evasion of assessment of income tax liability for pleading guilty to failing to report more than $4 million in income from 2012 through 2016.
  • Counts 6: False statements to a bank for Cohen pleading guilty to understating debt from his taxi medallion business in the process of applying for a home equity line of credit (HELOC) with a bank.
  • Count 7: Causing an unlawful corporation contribution for when he pleaded guilty to orchestrating a payment made by American Media to Karen McDougal for her “limited life story”, an allegation that she had an affair with Donald Trump.
  • Count 8: Excessive campaign contribution for when he pleaded guilty to making an excessive political contribution when he paid adult film actress Stephanie Clifford aka Stormy Daniels $130,000 for her story and silence about Clifford’s alleged affair with Donald Trump.

Charge brought by Robert Mueller

  • Count 1: False statements to Congress for when Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress on August 28, 2017 when he sent a two-page letter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) as well as during testimony before Congress.

Tom Winter

Tom Winter is a producer and reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit based in New York, covering crime, courts, terrorism, and financial fraud on the East Coast.

Image: Hannah Rappleye Byline PhotoHannah Rappleye

Rappleye is a reporter with the Investigative Unit at NBC News, covering immigration, criminal justice and human rights issues.

Jonathan Dienst

Jonathan Dienst is a reporter for WNBC-TV in New York, leading its investigative reporting team and covering justice and law enforcement issues.

Minyvonne Burke

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Denmark plans to banish unwanted migrants to small, remote island

By Kathleen Joyce | Fox News

Denmark plans to banish rejected migrants or those with criminal records to Lindholm, a small island. 

Denmark plans to banish rejected migrants or those with criminal records to Lindholm, a small island.  (AP)

Denmark is trying to banish migrants whose applications have been rejected or who have a criminal record to a small, remote island that currently contains a crematory and laboratories.

The plan adopted Friday by the center-right government and right-wing Danish People’s Party, which together hold a majority in parliament, calls for officials to decontaminate the isolated island of Lindholm by late 2019 and open facilities for some 100 people in 2021. From 1926 until earlier this year, Lindholm, a 17-acre island, was a laboratory facility for a state veterinary institute that researched contagious animal diseases.

 

The facilities would house migrants who have been denied asylum but cannot be deported, and those with criminal records.

The New York Times reported the asylum-seekers would be required to go to the island center every day or face being imprisoned. Ferry service to travel to and from the island would also be limited.

DENMARK JOINS SOME EUROPEAN NATIONS IN BANNING BURQA, NIQAB

Inger Stojberg, the country’s immigration minister, wrote on Facebook that asylum-seekers are “unwanted in Denmark, and they will feel that.”

Martin Henriksen of the Danish People’s Party told The Associated Press the government’s move “is a signal to the world that Denmark is not attractive” for migrants.

Henriksen told TV2 the country was going to “minimize the number of ferry departures as much as possible.”

The isolated island of Lindholm was a laboratory facility for the state veterinary institute researching contagious animal diseases.

The isolated island of Lindholm was a laboratory facility for the state veterinary institute researching contagious animal diseases. (AP)

However, human rights activists have denounced the decision, calling it degrading and inhumane.

"We demand that the government and the Danish People's Party stop their plans [for the island] and improve the conditions for all rejected asylum-seekers in Denmark," said Steen D. Hartmann of the online movement "Stop Diskrimination."

DENMARK FINES WOMAN $156 FOR WEARING FACE VEIL AFTER BANNING BURQA, NIQAB

Denmark has in recent years started tightening its laws for immigrants, including extending the one year period that family members must wait before they can join a refugee in the country to three years, reducing benefits for asylum-seekers, shortening temporary residence permits and stepping up efforts to deport those whose applications are rejected.

Earlier this year, Denmark joined other European countries by banning garments that cover the face, including Islamic veils such as the niqab or burqa.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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House Democrats could revoke rule allowing lawmakers to have guns on Capitol grounds

Democrats could do away with a rule that allows lawmakers to bring firearms onto Capitol grounds – including in their offices – as they prepare to take control of the House next year.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., has long wanted the rule changed, but now he said he has the support of potential House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he told The Washington Post.

“I don’t think we can just keep looking the other way or sweep this issue under the rug,” Huffman told the publication. “Our political climate is too volatile and there are too many warning signs that we need to address things like this.”

According to The Washington Post, it’s up to the Capitol Police Board to determine regulation surrounding firearms on Capitol grounds. It previously established “nothing . . . shall prohibit any Member of Congress from maintaining firearms within the confines of his office or any Member of Congress or any employee or agent of any Member of Congress from transporting within the Capitol Grounds firearms unloaded and securely wrapped.”

Rep. Jared Huffman said he's concerned about what would happen if someone nefarious got their hands on a gun that was legally in the U.S. Capitol.

Rep. Jared Huffman said he's concerned about what would happen if someone nefarious got their hands on a gun that was legally in the U.S. Capitol. (Official photo)

Citing the politically-motivated 2017 shooting attack on Republican lawmakers and their staff – which left Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., seriously wounded – Huffman told the newspaper he has concerns someone would be able to gain access to a firearm legally kept in the Capitol and use it for a nefarious act.

DEM CANDIDATES EMBRACE GUN CONTROL IN CAMPAIGN FOR HOUSE TAKEOVER

“I hesitate to even put in print some of the scenarios that I worry the most about, because the truth is, the House chamber is a place where we occasionally have all of the most powerful government officials in the country gathered in one place,” he said.

Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, who chairs Second Amendment Caucus, chalked the proposed changes up to “theatrics.”

“It’s proposing to solve a problem that doesn’t exist,” he told The Washington Post. “[Pelosi’s] worried that members aren’t responsible enough to handle a firearm?”

In 2015, two Republican congressmen were criticized for posting a photo of the pair holding an AR-15 rifle while in the House.

Rep. Trey Gowdy said fellow Rep. Ken Buck had permission to have the “inoperable gun” in Buck’s office.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn.

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For nonbinary patients, seeking health care can be a painful task

Nov. 29, 2018 / 5:04 PM GMT

By Tatyana Bellamy-Walker

When 19-year-old Kam Brooks was admitted to a behavioral health care facility in Sanford, Florida, after having suicidal thoughts, a nurse following her usual procedure asked the teen to remove personal items, including a bra.

“It’s a chest binder, not a bra,” Brooks, who identifies as neither male nor female but as gender nonbinary, responded before changing into a long-sleeve shirt and gray sweatpants.

Kam Brooks

Kam BrooksCourtesy Kam Brooks

During another interaction at the same facility, Aspire Health Partners, a nonprofit that caters to low-income patients, a counselor asked if Brooks was "male or female." This question, Brooks lamented, ignored the possibility that someone could identify as neither — or as somewhere in between.

“I went with the lesser of two evils and decided to portray myself as a man,” said Brooks, who had been struggling with gender dysphoria, a conflict between a person's gender assigned at birth and the gender with which they identify.

“I didn’t want to re-educate them on the correct terminology,” Brooks added. “I just wanted to get out of there.”

Brooks, who was assigned female at birth and and uses they/them pronouns, was eventually put on a list of female patients by the nursing staff and repeatedly referred to as a girl.

“General health care — physical or mental — I'm even more uncomfortable with due to the likelihood of being misgendered and experiencing miseducation as a patient,” said Brooks, who now relies on backlogged LGBTQ clinics for services.

Citing federal patient privacy laws, Todd Dixon, a spokesperson for Aspire Health Partners, said he could not comment on Brooks' claims.

'MISUNDERSTOOD, DISRESPECTED AND FRUSTRATED'

A recent study in the journal LGBT Health found Brooks' experience is not uncommon among nonbinary patients. The report, conducted by researchers at San Francisco State University and Columbia University, found nearly all nonbinary participants surveyed reported encountering health care providers who did not provide gender-affirming or inclusive care.

"Participants felt that providers — even those with training in transgender care — lack the knowledge, training and experience to provide them with the health care they need," the report's authors, James E. Lykens and Allen J. LeBlanc of SFSU and Walter O. Bockting of Columbia, concluded. Genderqueer and nonbinary "young adults in our study often felt misunderstood, disrespected and frustrated as they sought and received health care."

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The study's findings did not come as a surprise to Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Fenway Institute's National LGBT Health Education Center. Keuroghlian said most doctors are not educated about nonbinary gender identities.

“Clinicians have not been trained across the board to know how to use correct names and nonbinary pronouns,” he said. “It’s a critical part of affirming the patient and having them remain engaged in care. Otherwise, people will not go back to see their clinician.”

A health care provider who is not educated about or supportive of the patient's gender identity can compound a nonbinary patient's trauma, Keuroghlian said.

“There is a chronic victimization that is unfortunately perpetuated in health care, which should be a refuge for everyone to access care,” Keuroghlian said. “When that doesn’t happen, there is re-traumatization and people continue to experience minority stress. This can be a source of anxiety and depression, which can lead to adverse health outcomes.”

NOT 'TRANS ENOUGH'

Mishi Killion, who is 26, gender-nonconforming and uses male pronouns, said he was told at a doctor's office that he was not "trans enough" for hormone replacement therapy.

“It ruined all the plans that I had,” said the Kentucky native, who spent months retrieving gender-affirmation documents for hormones and surgery. “It sent me into a deep depression and messed up my dysphoria that was under control.”

Killion, who presents as androgynous, said doctors urged him to consult more therapists to confirm a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

“Now, I wonder every time I go to the doctor if they are going to say the same thing to me again,” added Killion, who said he sobbed in the exam room as doctors denied his eligibility for hormone treatment. “I already don’t like doctors in the first place, but it put a bad taste in my mouth and made me trust doctors even less.”

Violette Skye

Violette SkyeCourtesy Violette Skye

Violette Skye, 42, an activist in Salem, Oregon, who was born intersex and identifies as gender nonbinary, said doctors forced them to go on testosterone.

“Most doctors operate within the binary and only see people as either male or female,” said Skye, an advisory committee member for the Intersex and Genderqueer Recognition Project, a nonbinary advocacy group in Fremont, California. “My body rejected testosterone for the decades that I was on it.”

Elliot Butrie, 17, said a therapist three years ago laughed and said nonbinary gender identity did not exist, dismissing it as a phase. Butrie dropped the therapist.

“It hurts that people constantly question who you are," said Butrie, who lives in Michigan.

After that painful visit, Butrie wondered what it would be like to be a normal teenager. “If my therapist says I'm not real, maybe I’m not real,” Butrie recalled thinking at the time.

A 'GROWING SUBGROUP'

Individuals who identify as nonbinary or genderqueer (another term used to describe those who identify as neither exclusively male nor female) are a "substantial and growing subgroup of the gender nonconforming community," according to Lykens, LeBlanc and Bockting.

In a 2017 survey published by the LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD, 12 percent of respondents between 18 and 34 identified with a gender identity other than the one they were assigned at birth. Three percent of those surveyed identified as "agender"; 3 percent as "gender fluid"; 2 percent as "transgender"; 2 percent as "unsure/questioning"; 1 percent as "bigender"; and 1 percent as "genderqueer." While the specific term "nonbinary" was not one of the options, a number of the other terms would fall under the nonbinary umbrella.

 

Several states across the country are now recognizing gender identities other than male and female on government IDs. New York City last month became the fifth place in the U.S. to offer nonbinary (also called gender-neutral or third gender) birth certificates, following California, Oregon, Washington state and New Jersey. Three states and Washington, D.C., allow nonbinary driver licenses.

A number of health care professionals, researchers and nonbinary patients say the medical community must make changes to address this growing group as well.

In their report, Lykens, LeBlanc and Bockting recommended that health forms "be inclusive and affirmative of a range of gender identities and expressions"; that providers receive more training in order to "establish a higher level of gender literacy and competence" to better serve nonbinary patients; and that providers "avoid assumptions" about patients' gender identity and "ask open-ended questions" to "encourage them to relate their unique experiences of identity and health."

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Keuroghlian, who two years ago started a program at Harvard Medical School to teach doctors-in-training about caring for transgender and nonbinary patients, recently launched a guide specifically aimed at helping doctors communicate with nonbinary patients.

"Best practices for all health care staff include avoiding assumptions about patients’ gender identities, asking for information about name and pronouns in order to adopt these consistently throughout the clinical setting, and describing anatomy and related terms with gender-inclusive language," Keuroghlian and his co-authors wrote in the guide's conclusion.

Brooks said they hope doctors and other health care providers can foster a safe space for nonbinary patients.

“People should have something that is reliable, not something that will make them feel worse,” Brooks said.

FOLLOW NBC OUT ON TWITTER, FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM

Tatyana Bellamy-Walker

Tatyana Bellamy-Walker is a freelance journalist covering LGBTQ politics. She is also a Knight Fellow and Master's candidate at the Craig Newmark School of Journalism. 

 

 

 

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Lion Air Plane not airworthy before fatal crash

The Lion Air plane that crashed into the sea last month - killing all 189 on board - was not airworthy on its previous flight, investigators have found.

Pilots of the Boeing 737 struggled to control the aircraft after takeoff, according to a report from Indonesia's national transport safety committee.

On 28 October, the day before the fatal crash, the same plane experienced technical difficulties as it flew from Bali to Jakarta.

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Indian authorities struggle to retrieve US missionary feared killed on remote island

(CNN)Authorities have started the arduous task of trying to retrieve a US missionary feared killed on a remote Indian island, careful not to trigger conflict with the islanders.

John Allen Chau was last seen last week when he traveled to the forbidden North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal to try to convert the island's residents to Christianity. The Sentinelese, as they are known, have a decades-long history of repelling outsiders, a fact that is near certain to make the journey to find Chau a treacherous one.

Indian authorities along with the fishermen who reported seeing Chau's body last week, went near the island on Friday and Saturday in an effort to figure out how to recover the body.

John Chau

John Chau

"We have mapped the area with the help of these fishermen. We have not spotted the body yet but we roughly know the area where he is believed to be buried," said Dependra Pathak, a top police official in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Pathak said the group spotted several tribe members carrying bows and arrows and walking around the area where the fishermen said they saw Chau's body being dragged and buried.

"The mission was done from a distance to avoid any potential conflict with the tribespeople as it's a sensitive zone," he said. "We are discussing with anthropologists and psychologists about the nature of the Sentinelese."

Pathak said there are a lot of things to consider before they enter the island, including the psychology of its residents.

"There are legal requirements as well which we need to keep in mind while carrying out the operation. We are also studying the 2006 case where two local fishermen were killed. The bodies were recovered then," he said.

The Sentinelese: World's most isolated tribe

The Sentinelese have lived in complete isolation on the remote North Sentinel Island for tens of thousands of years. The island, which is part of India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands territory, is roughly as large as Manhattan.

India has protected the island for decades to prevent the Sentinelese from contracting modern illnesses and to keep outsiders alive.

People are not allowed to go within five nautical miles of the island by Indian law and the Indian Navy patrols it day and night.

And while its residents have no contact with the outside world, they aren't too far from other civilizations.

The island is only about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Port Blair, the territory's capital known to tourists for its stunning emerald beaches, history and water sports.

At least 15 Sentinelese could be living on the island, according to India's census estimates from 2011.

He returned to his boat twice before vanishing

Traveling on a tourist visa, Chau arrived to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in October with one mission: preach to the Sentinelese.

Indian authorities say Chau was 27, but Mat Staver, founder of a Christian ministry that Chau was involved with as a college student, gave Chau's age as 26.

He had traveled to the remote island years ago and returned knowing that his mission was illegal and risky. Still, he wanted to get to know the islanders' way of life. He hoped to eventually share the gospel and perhaps translate the Bible, said a friend, John Middleton Ramsey.

John Allen Chau, right, was in Cape Town days before he traveled to North Sentinel Island.

John Allen Chau, right, was in Cape Town days before he traveled to North Sentinel Island.

He asked a local friend, an electronic engineer, to get a boat and also recruit others -- several fishermen and a water sports expert -- who could help him.

He carefully planned his expedition and used a 13-page long journal to write his strategy, the steps he would take to reach the island and, later, some of his memories.

After he paid the fishermen around $350, police said, the group boarded "a wooded boat fitted with motors" and headed to the island on the night of November 15.

They stopped a little less than half a mile away and waited in the dark. At some point in the morning, Chau "used a canoe to reach the shore of the island," Pathak said.

He returned later that day with arrow injuries, police said.

American missionary believed killed by isolated tribe knew the risks, friends say

American missionary believed killed by isolated tribe knew the risks, friends say

But that did not discourage him.

He returned to the island the following day. It's unclear what happened but "the (tribespeople) broke his canoe" and he had no other option than to swim back to the boat.

On the third attempt of his mission, he didn't come back.

The fishermen said they later saw the tribespeople dragging his body around but police haven't been able to independently verify Chau's death. Authorities believe he was killed.

All seven locals who facilitated the trip have been arrested.

His diary reveals his last days

In excerpts from his journal, Chau described his time on the island and the challenges he faced. A tribesman shot at him with a bow and arrow, piercing a Bible he was carrying, he wrote in his diary, pages of which were shared by his mother with the Washington Post.

"I hollered, 'My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you,'" he wrote. Shortly after, a young member of the tribe shot at him, according to his account.

'You guys might think I'm crazy': Diary of US 'missionary' reveals last days in remote island

'You guys might think I'm crazy': Diary of US 'missionary' reveals last days in remote island

In pages left with the fishermen who facilitated his trip to the island, his musings are a clear indication of his desire to convert the tribe.

"Lord, is this island Satan's last stronghold where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your name?" he wrote.

His notes indicate that he knew the trip was illegal, describing how the small fishing vessel transported him to the isolated island under cover of darkness, evading patrols.

Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed

John Chau in a letter to his family

"God Himself was hiding us from the Coast Guard and many patrols," he wrote.

Before he left the boat for the last time, Chau wrote one final note to his family and gave it to the fishermen.

"You guys might think I'm crazy in all this but I think it's worthwhile to declare Jesus to these people," it said. "God, I don't want to die."

"Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed -- rather please live your lives in obedience to whatever He has called you to and I will see you again when you pass through the veil."

He loved Jesus

Raised in Vancouver, Washington, Chau was first drawn to the outdoors after discovering a rcopy of "Robinson Crusoe" while in elementary school, he said in an article several years ago in The Outbound Collective, a website and app that helps people discover the outdoors.

He and his brother would paint their faces with wild blackberry juice and run around their backyard with bows and spears made from sticks, according to the article.

Chau graduated from Oral Roberts University, where he got involved with Covenant Journey, the Christian ministry that takes college students on immersion trips to Israel, according to Staver, who is the group's chairman.

Chau traveled to Israel with Covenant Journey, and to South Africa on missions with a group at Oral Roberts, Staver said.

"John loved people, and he loved Jesus. He was willing to give his life to share Jesus with the people on North Sentinel island," Staver said in a press release. "Ever since high school, John wanted to go to North Sentinel to share Jesus with this indigenous people."

In the Outward Collective article, Chau spoke of his earlier adventures, including hiking Table Mountain in Washington state on Christmas break while in college.

Chau said going back to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was on the top of his adventure to-do list, the article said.

He's not the first one killed on the island

Chau is not the first person to fall victim to the Sentinelese after intruding on their island, which is illegal for outsiders to land on.

In 2006, members of the tribe killed two poachers who had been illegally fishing in the waters surrounding North Sentinel Island after their boat drifted ashore, according to Survival International.

An image of a Sentinelese tribesman aiming a bow and arrow at a helicopter in 2004, following the Indian Ocean tsunami.

An image of a Sentinelese tribesman aiming a bow and arrow at a helicopter in 2004, following the Indian Ocean tsunami.

In the wake of the ruinous 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, a member of the group was photographed on a beach on the island, firing arrows at a helicopter sent to check on their welfare.

First contact was made by the British in the late 1800s, when, despite their attempts to hide, six individuals from the tribe were captured and taken to the main island of the Andaman Island archipelago. Two captured adults died of illness while the four children were returned -- perhaps also infected with illnesses that the islanders' immune systems were unequipped to deal with.

Anthropological expeditions were made to tribal groups in the island chain in the 1980s and 1990s, and "gift-dropping trips" continued until the mid-90s, but now all contact has ceased.

The Indian government has adopted an "'eyes-on and hands-off' policy to ensure that no poachers enter (North Sentinel Island)," according to India's Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

Tribe encounters are usually violent

The Andaman Island tribe is one of the last remaining isolated groups in the world.

Jonathan Mazower of Survival International, which campaigns for the protection of isolated tribes, says there are around 100 such tribes around the world. Most are found in the Amazon rainforest but there are many in New Guinea as well as in forests and islands elsewhere.

Six isolated tribe encounters: The results are usually violent

Six isolated tribe encounters: The results are usually violent

When contact does occur, it can prove fatal -- tribespeople frequently attack intruders, and can also fall victim to common diseases like the flu, for which they have no immunity. "Often, they are very fearful of outsiders -- with very good reason," Mazower said.

"Sometimes they will have in their collective memory a massacre, a violent incident, or a disease or epidemic -- so very often, there are well-founded reasons for these tribes to not want to have anything to do" with the outside world, Mazower told CNN.

While the Sentinelese are protected by Indian laws which make it illegal to intrude on their island, most uncontacted people do not have the same fortune, their habitats instead being encroached upon by unwelcome outsiders.

"The most important challenge, by far, is to protect their land," Mazower said. "That is the absolute essential. If their lands are protected, which is their right under international law, then there is actually no reason they should not continue to survive and thrive.

CNN's Sugam Pokharel, Rob Picheta, Euan McKirdy, Darran Simon and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.

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French protesters angry over fuel taxes clash with police

At least 19 people, including four police officers, were slightly hurt and one person had more serious injuries in the day of unrest in Paris.

Paris police fire tear gas, water cannons at protesters

Nov. 24, 201800:19

Nov. 24, 2018 / 8:46 PM GMT

By Associated Press

PARIS — French police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse violent demonstrators in Paris on Saturday, as thousands gathered in the capital and beyond and staged road blockades to vent anger against rising fuel taxes.

Thousands of police were deployed nationwide to contain the eighth day of deadly demonstrations that started as protests against tax but morphed into a rebuke of President Emmanuel Macron and the perceived elitism of France's ruling class. Two people have been killed since Nov. 17 in protest-related tragedies.

Tense clashes on the Champs-Elysees that ended by dusk Saturday saw police face off with demonstrators who burned plywood, wielded placards reading "Death to Taxes" and upturned a large vehicle.

At least 19 people, including four police officers, were slightly hurt and one person had more serious injuries in the day of unrest in Paris, according to police.

Image: France Protests

A demonstrator waves the French flag onto a burning barricade on the Champs-Elysees avenue with the Arc de Triomphe in background, during a demonstration against the rising of the fuel taxes on Nov. 24, 2018, in Paris.Michel Euler / AP

Macron responded in a strongly worded tweet: "Shame on those who attacked (police). Shame on those who were violent against other citizens ... No place for this violence in the Republic."

Police said that dozens of protesters were detained for "throwing projectiles," among other acts. By nightfall the Champs-Elysees was smoldering and in the Place de la Madeleine, burned scooters lay on the sidewalk like blackened shells.

"It's going to trigger a civil war and me, like most other citizens, we're all ready," said Benjamin Vrignaud, a 21-year-old protester from Chartres.

"They take everything from us. They steal everything from us," said 21-year-old Laura Cordonnier.

The famed avenue was speckled with plumes of smoke and neon — owing to the color of the vests the self-styled "yellow jacket" protesters don. French drivers are required to keep neon security vests in their vehicles.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that 8,000 protesters flooded the Champs-Elysees at the demonstration's peak and there were nearly 106,000 protesters and 130 arrests in total nationwide.

Castaner denounced protesters from the far-right whom he called "rebellious," as he accused National Assembly leader Marine Le Pen of encouraging them.

But the Interior Ministry played down the scale of Saturday's demonstrations by highlighting that up to 280,000 people took part in last Saturday's protest.

Image: France Protests

Protestors stand in front of a fire of furnitures during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs near the Arc of Triomphe on the Champs Elysees in Paris on Nov. 24, 2018.Bertrand Guay / AFP - Getty Images

The unrest is proving a major challenge for embattled Macron, who's suffering in the polls.

The leader, who swept to power only last year, is the focus of rage for the "yellow jacket" demonstrators who accuse the pro-business centrist of elitism and indifference to the struggles of ordinary French.

Macron has so far held strong and insisted the fuel tax rises are a necessary pain to reduce France's dependence on fossil fuels and fund renewable energy investments — a cornerstone of his reforms of the nation. He will defend fresh plans to make the "energy transition" easier next week.

Paris deployed some 3,000 security forces on Saturday, notably around tourist-frequented areas, after an unauthorized attempt last week to march on the presidential Elysee Palace.

Police officials said that a no-go zone, set up around key areas including the presidential palace and the National Assembly on the Left Bank of the Seine River, has not been breached.

But authorities are struggling because the movement has no clear leader and has attracted a motley group of people with broadly varying demands.

The anger is mainly over a hike in the diesel fuel tax, which has gone up seven euro cents per liter (nearly 30 U.S. cents per gallon) and will keep climbing in coming years, according to Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne. The tax on gasoline is also to increase four euro cents. Gasoline currently costs about 1.64 euros a liter in Paris ($7.06 a gallon), slightly more than diesel.

Far left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon explained to BFMTV the historical importance of this issue in the Gallic mindset: "When tax is no longer agreed to, it's the start of revolutions in France."

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Norway calling out Russia's jamming shows European policy shift

"There is a wider policy shift to call out Russia, because of the increased intensity of challenges," one expert said.

Is NATO still relevant in today's world?

Nov. 16, 201805:51

Nov. 24, 2018 / 10:07 AM GMT

By Alexander Smith

The accusation was direct and unflinching: Russian forces stationed in the Arctic Circle had been jamming NATO's GPS signals during the alliance's largest military exercise since the Cold War.

The alleged incident happened during Trident Juncture, a huge, two-week drill hosted in Norway last month, involving 50,000 personnel from 31 countries.

Last week Norway revealed that Russian forces stationed in the nearby Kola Peninsula had been jamming their GPS signals during the exercise. Finland summoned the Russian ambassador and NATO called it "dangerous, disruptive and irresponsible."

Russia denies the allegations. And experts say attempting to disrupt a military exercise on its doorstep is nothing new.

But the incident was notable because it showed how Washington's European allies are changing their tactics to deal with Moscow's alleged misdeeds.

Image: Spanish soldiers in a Pizarro tank as part of the Trident Juncture 2018

Norway revealed that during the Trident Juncture exercise, Russian forces stationed in the nearby Kola Peninsula had been jamming their GPS signals.Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP - Getty Images file

Before, Western countries may have tried to address Russia's actions in closed diplomatic sessions. Now they are openly reprimanding them.

NATO and its partner states have shifted to a "public engagement campaign, which basically calls people out for cyber attacks, jamming and disruptive behavior to try and deter and discourage it," said Jack Watling, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a think tank based in London.

This change was not an official one; there was no speech, written statement or policy document signalling that allies were going to take a different approach.

But analysts say that it's been clear nonetheless; a demonstrable change of tactic after the ex-spy Sergei Skripal was poisoned — allegedly on Kremlin orders — on British soil in March this year.

"There is a wider policy shift to call out Russia because of the increased intensity of challenges," ranging from military threats and spying to hacking and signal jamming, according to Gustav Gressel, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank. "That policy-shift is shared by most NATO countries."

The Europeans now feel that "it does not make sense to address these issues in closed diplomatic sessions with Russia, as Russian diplomats would only deny and outright lie," Gressel added.

With Skripal, U.K. authorities laid out in painstaking detail how two men they identified as agents with Russia's military intelligence agency, commonly known by its old acronym, the GRU, had traveled to the English city of Salisbury and poisoned their target.

Image: Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov

Two men who used the aliases of Ruslan Boshirov, left, and Alexander Petrov, right, were accused of poisoning a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England.Metropolitan Police / EPA

Six months of meticulous investigation allowed British police to trace the route they had taken, right down to the flights they boarded, the trains they rode and the hotels where they stayed.

That incident appeared to signal that the gloves were off.

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In April, Dutch authorities busted an alleged GRU plot to hack into the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague.

When they revealed the sting months later, as with the Skripal case, their investigators showed in forensic detail how the four men had traveled from Moscow to the Netherlands — right down to their taxi receipts.

Hours before this information was made public, back in early October, the British government, backed by New Zealand and Australia, again named and shamed the GRU as being behind a number of "indiscriminate and reckless cyber attacks targeting political institutions, businesses, media and sport" around the world.

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The list published by the U.K. government ranged from attacks on the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2016 to the now-infamous hacking of the Democratic National Committee in the same year.

A triple whammy was capped off on the same day when the Department of Justice announced criminal charges against seven Russian military intelligence officers.

In the U.S., intelligence officials have pointed the finger squarely at Russian hacking since 2016. Europe has also called out Russia in the past, such as during the Dutch-led investigation that found Moscow responsible for downing Malaysia Airlines MH17 in July 2014.

Image: U.S. Marines drive an M1 Abrams as part of Trident Juncture 2018

U.S. Marines take part in an exercise to capture an airfield as part of the Trident Juncture 2018 near the town of Oppdal, Norway.Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP - Getty Images

But in recent months we're seeing something more coordinated, asserts Tate Nurkin, a military analyst and founder of the defense consultancy OTH Intelligence Group.

"I suspect this isn't the first time that Western actors have noticed Russian activities of a disruptive nature during exercises," Nurkin said. The difference, he added, is that previously we didn't hear about it.

This is all designed to put pressure on the Kremlin and associated individuals, making them think twice before engaging in behavior the U.S. and Europe are likely to punish, said Watling, the RUSI researcher.

"Are they prepared to live the rest of their lives in Russia? Are they prepared to not engage in the international financial system?" Watling said they should be asking themselves.

"The Russians for a very long time have relied on deniability as a way of doing things that otherwise wouldn't be acceptable," he said.

"Now the message is: Look, we know what you're doing, and it's not okay."

Image: Alexander Smith of NBC News.Alexander Smith

Alexander Smith is a senior reporter for NBC News, based in London.

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Former al-Shabab spokesman, Mukhtar Robow, is running for office in Somalia

Nov. 25, 2018 / 9:46 AM GMT

By Gabe Joselow

For years he was the spokesman and deputy leader of al Qaeda inspired al-Shabab, Africa's deadliest terror group.

Now Mukhtar Robow is running for office in Somalia, a country struggling to emerge from decades of war.

While Robow has traded his military fatigues and black banner of jihad for the dapper look of a politician, his candidacy in the Dec. 5 elections has angered many in this war-shattered East African nation. It also raises questions about whether to emerge from decades of conflict, Somalia must also embrace some of the figures behind much of that violence.

Image: Mukhtar Robow

Mukhtar Robow speaks at a press conference in Baidoa, Somalia, on Oct. 10.AP file

“There are thousands and thousands of people who have died because of his ideology, because of his beliefs, because of his involvement in the al-Shabab organization,” said Abidrizak Mohamed, a Somali member of parliament. “How do his victims feel about him being a candidate?”

While Robow’s own campaign slogan is “Security and Justice,” his new public profile appears to present a choice between the two: Embrace al-Shabab defectors for the sake of security or hold them accountable in the name of justice.

During the height of its power al-Shabab, which was founded in 2006 and is fighting to establish an Islamic state, carried out near daily suicide attacks that killed thousands. The violence reduced cities to rubble, displaced millions and exacerbated the effects of a long-running drought and famine that left around a quarter million dead in 2011.

The group has also lashed out across the region, with devastating and coordinated operations including the 2010 World Cup bombing in Kampala, Uganda, that killed 74 people, and the 2013 assault of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where at least 67 died.

Image: Map shows location of Somalia

Map shows location of Somalia.Google Maps.

In recent years the U.S. has carried out a campaign of airstrikes targeting militant training camps and al-Shabab leaders. The group has been pushed out of Mogadishu, although it continues to control rural areas in the south and central regions.

Robow, who according to American officials was born in 1959, was one of the founders of al-Shabab in 2006. Also known as Abu Mansour, he was inspired by al Qaeda and received militant training in Afghanistan where he has said he met with Osama bin Laden days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

He was then instrumental in deploying al Qaeda’s violent insurgent strategy to fight the Somali government and international forces.

In 2008, Robow was added to the U.S. list of designated terrorists and a multi-million-dollar bounty was put on his head.

But a rift within al-Shabab, between parts of the group seeking to establish a global caliphate and others like Robow who were more focused on national issues, set him on a new path.

Image: Smoke rises in the aftermath of explosions outside a hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu

Smoke rises in the aftermath of explosions outside a hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Nov. 9.Said Yusuf Warsame / EPA file

Fearing for his life after a falling out with senior leader Ahmed Abdi Godane in 2013, Robow went into hiding protected by his own loyal militia, until announcing his decision to defect in August 2017.

In a public address at the time, Robow urged other fighters to leave as well.

“I left al-Shabab because of misunderstanding, and I disagreed with their creed which does not serve Islamic religion, people and the country,” he said, according to Reuters. “I urge the militants to leave al-Shabab.”

Robow’s transformation from militant leader who publicly praised successful suicide attacks to candidate for office was the result of the government’s program of encouraging al-Shabab defections.

Hussein Sheikh-Ali, a former government adviser who helped negotiate Robow’s move, said it took three years to convince him to change sides.

“It wasn’t straightforward," he said. "It was on and off and eventually we figured out something and then he just jumped.”

His defection came just months after the U.S. removed a $5 million reward for his capture and took him off its list of sponsors of terrorism. U.S. sanctions, which prohibit U.S. citizens from dealing with him, remain.

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Sheikh-Ali, who is also the director of the Hiraal Institute, a security research group in Mogadishu, believes Robow’s transformation is genuine.

“He wants to defeat al-Shabab,” he said. “He thinks that they are counter to Somali society. That is his position right now.”

Now Robow is running to become the president of South West State — one of six federal regions set up to help establish a functioning government.

And he is not alone.

A new report from the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia says about 20 other senior members of al-Shabab have defected “at Robow’s instigation.”

Non-Shabab commanders have also joined mainstream politics.

Ahmed Madobe, a former Islamist warlord who ran a powerful militia that fought against al-Shabab for control of the region and its lucrative port in Kismayo, reentered mainstream politics and was elected president of Jubaland State in southern Somalia in 2013.

But Robow's running for office — a move announced in October — might be a step too far. The South West State's regional assembly is set to vote on whether he is eligible for office. While local authorities cleared his candidacy, the central government has announced Robow cannot run because he remains under international sanction.

It is not clear who gets the final say because Somalia does not have a formal constitution.

And so far, Robow also has not been subject to any kind of judicial process or accounting for his past actions.

Image: Hundreds of al-Shabaab fighters perform military exercises

Hundreds of al-Shabaab fighters perform military exercises south of Mogadishu.Farah Abdi Warsameh / AP file

Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington and an expert on insurgencies, warned against integrating former combatants in this way.

“There is this tremendous risk that justice and victims’ rights will be sacrificed without there being any payoff in terms of reduction of violence or in terms of more effective, accountable stabilization in Somalia,” she said.

Rashid Abdi, the Horn of Africa director for International Crisis Group, acknowledged that Robow’s candidacy poses a moral dilemma. But in a country riven by conflict since the fall of the last government in 1991, it is not unheard of for former combatants to gain political power, he said.

“Of course it’s not ideal,” Abdi said. “But my argument has been, 'Look, there have been very few people in the Somali political field today who can be held to be clean.’”

Gabe Joselow

Associated Press and Reuters contributed.

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Mystery ‘ALIEN’ skull discovered

THE amazing discovery of an “alien” skull has sparked claims of an ancient civilisation.

The bizarre "alien" skull was discovered in China and is brownish and roughly 16 centimeters in diameter.

 

Li Jianmin, a science fiction author and researcher, revealed his find at a small seminar held in Beijing last month.

He claims it is not human, but rather has two “distinct layers.”

The 55-year-old said the unique skull belongs to a private collector who had acquired it from a street vendor in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

“The collector was flipping through my novel when he discovered that the skull looked very much like the one in an illustration,” Li explained.

alien skull

DISCOVERY: This 'alien' skull was discovered in China (Pic: CEN)

“He asked me to confirm its origins.”

The collector got in touch with Jianmin, who set about producing a 103-page study over the subsequent four months to support claims that the skull is real.

The author said that he carried out a Raman spectroscopy and used an atomic force microscope to compare the cranium with other alleged alien skulls found in other countries.

However, Li said he needs funds to continue with further tests.

He told local media: "Paying for DNA analysis is around 100,000 RMB (11,200 GBP)."

Despite being widely mocked on social networks, Jianmin is convinced the skull is real, adding: "I welcome questions and scepticism, but if you decide to challenge me, be sure to bring along evidence.”

Some were not convinced of the discovery.

But others hailed it as proof of an ancient alien civilisation.

alien skull

AMAZED: The discovery at a small seminar held in Beijing last month (Pic: CEN)

One replied on Twitter: “This is not real.”

Another said: “That is not a skull.”

But a third argued: “OMG this is amazing. This is proof we were not the first ones here.”

This isn’t the first “alien” discovery to baffle experts.

Li Jianmin

EXCITED: Li Jianmin is a prominent alien hunter (Pic: CEN)

A skeleton which has a dramatically elongated skull and an underdeveloped jaw and face was found in Chilie’s Atacama Desert in 2003.

The bizarre find sent conspiracy theorists wild – with people suggesting the bones were those of an aborted fetus, a monkey, or even an alien that had crash-landed on earth.   

But researchers concluded the skeleton belonged to a human.

And another bizarre  “cone-shaped skull” was discovered earlier this year.

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