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Sedition trial underway for Oath Keepers boss

Oath Keepers trial begins

Jury selection began Tuesday in the trial of the founder of the Oath Keepers extremist group and four associates charged with seditious conspiracy, one of the most serious cases to emerge from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Stewart Rhodes and the others are the first Jan. 6 defendants charged with the the rare Civil War-era offense to stand trial for what authorities allege was a serious, weekslong plot to violently stop the transfer of presidential power from election-denier Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

The case against Rhodes and his Oath Keeper associates is the biggest test yet for the Justice Department in its massive Jan. 6 prosecution and is being heard in federal court not far from the Capitol. Seditious conspiracy can be difficult to prove, and the last guilty trial verdict was nearly 30 years ago.

Jury selection could take several days and the trial is expected to last five weeks.

Attorneys for the Oath Keepers have pushed unsuccessfully to get the trial moved, arguing they can’t get a fair jury in Washington.

The court has already dismissed several potential jurors based on their answers to a questionnaire, which asked them about their feelings about Jan. 6 and other matters. Those already dismissed include a journalist who has covered the events of Jan. 6. and someone else who described that day “one of the single most treasonous acts in the history of this country.”

Hundreds of people have already been convicted of joining the mob that overran police barriers, beat officers and smashed windows, sending lawmakers fleeing and halting the certification of Biden’s electoral victory.

Prosecutors will try to show that an Oath Keepers’ plot to stop Biden from becoming president started well before that, in fact before all the votes in the 2020 race had even been counted.

Authorities say Rhodes, a former U.S. Army paratrooper and a Yale Law School graduate, spent weeks mobilizing his followers to prepare to take up arms to defend Trump. The Oath Keepers repeatedly wrote in chats about the prospect of violence, stockpiled guns and put “quick reaction force” teams on standby outside Washington to get weapons into the city quickly if needed, authorities say.

The day before the riot, authorities say, Rhodes met with the leader of another far-right extremist group, then-Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio, in an underground parking garage in Washington, though little is known publicly about what they discussed. Tarrio is charged separately with seditious conspiracy alongside other Proud Boys and is scheduled to stand trial in December.

On Jan. 6, Oath Keepers wearing communication devices, helmets and other battle gear were captured on camera storming the Capitol in military-style “stack” formation. Rhodes isn’t accused of going inside the Capitol, but phone records show he was communicating with Oath Keepers who did enter around the time of the riot and he was seen with members outside afterward.

On trial with Rhodes, of Granbury Texas, are Thomas Caldwell, of Berryville, Virginia; Kenneth Harrelson, of Titusville, Florida; Jessica Watkins of Woodstock, Ohio, and Kelly Meggs of Dunnellon, Florida.

Conviction for seditious conspiracy calls for up to 20 years behind bars. The last time prosecutors secured a seditious conspiracy conviction at trial was in 1995 in the case against Islamic militants who plotted to bomb New York City landmarks.

Three of Rhodes’ Oath Keepers followers have pleaded guilty to the charge and are likely to testify against him at trial. Rhodes’ lawyers have claimed those Oath Keepers were pressured into pleading guilty and are lying to get a better sentencing deal from the government.

Rhodes’ attorneys have suggested that his defense will focus on his belief that Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act and call up a militia to support his bid to stay in power. Defense attorneys say Rhodes’ actions in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6 were in preparation for what he believed would have been lawful orders from Trump under the Insurrection Act, but never came.

The defense has said that Oath Keepers were dressed in battle gear to protect themselves from possible attacks from left-wing antifa activists and that the “quick reaction force” outside Washington was meant for defensive purposes if Trump invoked the Insurrection Act.

Nearly 900 people have been charged so far in the Jan. 6 riot and more than 400 have pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial. Sentences for the rioters so far have ranged from probation for low-level misdemeanor offenses to 10 years in prison for a retired New York City police officer who used a metal flagpole to assault an officer at the Capitol.



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Vote in Ukraine's Russia-held areas stokes tension with West

Vote stokes tensions

Kremlin-orchestrated referendums that are expected to serve as a pretext for Moscow to annex Russian-held regions of Ukraine concluded Tuesday as the preordained outcome of the votes heightened tension between Russia and the West.

Moscow-backed officials in the four occupied regions in southern and eastern Ukraine said polls closed Tuesday afternoon after five days of voting and the counting of ballots had started.

The annexation of the regions which could happen as soon as Friday, sets the stage for a dangerous new phase in the seven-month war in Ukraine. Russia warned it could resort to deploying nuclear weapons to defend its own territory, including newly acquired lands.

After the five days of balloting, “the situation will radically change from the legal viewpoint, from the point of view of international law, with all the corresponding consequences for protection of those areas and ensuring their security,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has talked up Moscow's nuclear option since last week following a Ukrainian counteroffensive that led to recent battlefield setbacks and has the Kremlin's forces increasingly cornered.

The balloting that started Friday in the Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk regions and a call-up of Russian military reservists ordered by Putin are other strategies aimed at buttressing Moscow’s exposed position.

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of the Russian Security Council chaired by Putin, spelled out the threat in the bluntest terms yet Tuesday.

“Let’s imagine that Russia is forced to use the most powerful weapon against the Ukrainian regime that has committed a large-scale act of aggression, which is dangerous for the very existence of our state,” Medvedev wrote on his messaging app channel. “I believe that NATO will steer clear from direct meddling in the conflict in that case.”

The United States has dismissed the Kremlin's nuclear talk as scare tactics.

Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, responded to Putin's nuclear threats from last week. Sullivan told NBC on Sunday that Russia would pay a high, if unspecified, price if Moscow made good on threats to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.

The referendums ask residents whether they want the areas to become part of Russia. But the voting has been anything but free or fair.

Tens of thousands of residents had already fled the regions amid the war, and images shared by those who remained showed armed Russian troops going door-to-door to pressure Ukrainians into voting.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko, who left the port city after the Russians finally seized it following a months-long siege, said only about 20% of the 100,000 estimated remaining residents cast ballots in the Donetsk referendum. Mariupol had a pre-war population of 541,000.

“A man toting an assault rifle comes to your home and asks you to vote, so what can people do?” Boychenko said during a news conference, explaining how people were coerced into voting.

Western allies are standing firm with Ukraine, dismissing the referendum votes as a sham.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said while visiting Kyiv on Tuesday that France was determined “to support Ukraine and its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

She described the ballots as “mock referendums.” Ukrainian officials said Paris and Kyiv had moved closer to an agreement that would Ukrainian forces with French Caesar artillery systems.

Meanwhile, the mass call-up of Russians to active military duty has to some degree backfired on Putin.

It has triggered a massive exodus of men from the country, fueled protests in many regions across Russia and sparked occasional acts of violence. On Monday, a gunman opened fire in an enlistment office in a Siberian city and gravely wounded the local chief military recruitment officer. The shooting came after scattered arson attacks on enlistment offices.

With Putin’s back against the wall amid Ukraine’s recent battlefield successes, Russian media speculated he might follow up on last week’s partial mobilization order by declaring martial law and shutting the nation’s borders for all men of fighting age.

Russian officials announced plans to set up a military recruitment office right on the border with Georgia, one of the main routes of the exodus.

As Moscow works to build up its troops in Ukraine, Russian shelling continued to claim lives. At least 11 civilians were killed and 18 others wounded by Russian barrages in 24 hours, Ukraine’s presidential office said Tuesday.

Among the casualties were eight people, including a 15-year-old boy, who were killed by a Russian strike on the town of Pervomaiskyi in the northeastern Kharkiv region.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the eastern Donetsk region where shells killed three people, said that “every day of the referendum we count more dead in the Donbas, and those sad numbers show Russia’s real goals.”

Donetsk and Luhansk, which Moscow-backed separatists have partly controlled for eight years, together make up Ukraine's industrial Donbas region.

The Ukraine war is still gripping world attention, as it causes widespread shortages and rising prices not only for food but for energy, inflation hitting the cost of living everywhere, and growing global inequality. The talk of nuclear war has only deepened the concern.

Misery and hardship are often the legacy of Russia's occupation of Ukrainian areas now recaptured by Kyiv’s forces. Some people have had no gas, electricity, running water or internet since March.

The war has brought an energy crunch for much of Western Europe, with German officials seeing the disruption of Russian supplies as a power play by the Kremlin to pressure Europe over its support for Ukraine.

The German economy ministry said Tuesday that the Nord Stream 1 pipeline leading from Russia to Europe has reported a drop in pressure, only hours after a leak was reported in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea off Denmark. Both pipelines were built to carry natural gas from Russia to Europe.

The extent of the damage means that the pipelines are unlikely to be able to carry any gas to Europe this winter even if there was the political will to bring them online, analysts at the Eurasia Group said.

Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said the problems were “very alarming” and would be investigated.

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, revealed another prong of Russia’s offensive: a sprawling disinformation network.

The network originating in Russia aimed to use hundreds of fake social media accounts and dozens of sham news websites to spread biased Kremlin talking points about the invasion of Ukraine, Meta said Tuesday.



Japanese former leader Abe honored at divisive state funeral

State funeral divides Japan

Japan's assassinated hawkish former leader, Shinzo Abe, was given a rare state funeral Tuesday that was full of military pomp and surrounded by throngs of mourners as well as by widespread protests, with thousands taking to the streets in opposition.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the publicly financed ceremony was a well-deserved honor for Japan's longest-serving modern political leader, but it has deeply split public opinion.

The event was attended by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Japanese Crown Prince Akishino and other foreign and Japanese dignitaries.

It began with Abe's widow, Akie Abe, in a black formal kimono, walking slowly behind Kishida into the funeral venue, carrying an urn in a wooden box wrapped in a purple cloth with gold stripes. Soldiers in white uniforms took Abe’s ashes and placed them on a pedestal filled with white and yellow chrysanthemums and decorations.

Attendants stood while a military band played the Kimigayo national anthem, then observed a moment of silence before a video was shown praising Abe's life in politics. It included his 2006 parliamentary speech vowing to build a “beautiful Japan," his visits to disaster-hit northern Japan after the March 2011 tsunami and his 2016 Super Mario impersonation in Rio de Janeiro to promote the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Kishida, in a 12-minute eulogy, praised Abe as a politician with a clear vision for post-World War II economic growth who promoted national security, the development of Japan and the world and a “free and open Indo-Pacific” as a counter to China's rise.

“You were a person who should have lived much longer,” Kishida said as he looked up at a massive photo of Abe. “I had a firm belief that you would contribute as a compass showing the future direction of Japan and the rest of the world for 10 or 20 more years."

Kishida said Abe will be remembered not just as the nation's longest-serving leader but for what he achieved, and he pledged to carry on Abe's policies for Japan and the region.

During the ceremony, Harris sat in the third row next to Rahm Emanuel, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, and they later joined others by placing a branch of chrysanthemums on a table near Abe's photo.

Abe was cremated in July following a private funeral at a Tokyo temple days after he was assassinated while giving a campaign speech on a street in Nara in western Japan.

Tokyo was under high security for the state funeral, especially near the venue, the Budokan martial arts hall.

At a protest in downtown Tokyo, thousands of people marched toward the hall, some banging drums and many shouting or holding banners and signs stating their opposition.

“Shinzo Abe has not done a single thing for regular people,” participant Kaoru Mano said.

Japan’s main political opposition parties boycotted the funeral, which critics say was a reminder of how prewar imperialist governments used state funerals to fan nationalism.

The government maintains that the ceremony was not meant to force anyone to honor Abe. But the decision to give him the rare honor, which was made without parliamentary debate or approval, the high cost and other controversies have led to anger about the event.

Kishida has also been criticized because of a widening controversy over decades of close ties between Abe and the governing Liberal Democratic Party with the Unification Church, accused of raking in huge donations by brainwashing adherents. The suspect in Abe’s assassination reportedly told police he killed Abe because of his links to the church, which he said took large amounts of money from his mother, bankrupting his family and ruining his life.

“The fact that the close ties between the LDP and the Unification Church may have interfered with policymaking processes is seen by the Japanese people as a greater threat to democracy than Abe’s assassination,” Hosei University political science professor Jiro Yamaguchi wrote in a recent article.

Abe’s grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, helped the South Korean-based church take root in Japan and is now seen as a key figure in the scandal. Opponents say holding a state funeral for Abe is equivalent to an endorsement of the governing party’s ties to the church.

“One big problem is that there was no proper approval process,” retiree Shin Watanabe said during the demonstration Tuesday. “I’m sure there are various views. But I don’t think it’s forgivable that they will force a state funeral on us when so many of us are opposed.”

Outside the Budokan hall, thousands of people carrying bouquets queued for several blocks to lay flowers in a nearby park.

“I'm emotionally attached to him and I've been supporting the LDP, too," Masayuki Aoki, a 70-year-old business owner, said, recalling that he shared a fist bump with Abe at a campaign stop in Yokohama days before his assassination. “I came to offer him flowers."

In what some see as an attempt to further justify the honor for Abe, Kishida has held meetings this week with visiting foreign leaders in what he calls “funeral diplomacy.” The talks are meant to strengthen ties as Japan faces regional and global challenges, including threats from China, Russia and North Korea.

He was to meet about 40 foreign leaders through Wednesday, though no Group of Seven leaders are attending. Following the funeral service Tuesday, Kishida greeted each of the leaders at a reception at the Akasaka state guest house.

U.S. Vice President Harris, who had a tour of Zojoji temple, where Abe's family funeral was held in July, credited Abe with coming up with a term for regional cooperation.

“There has been much that has been said in honor of his long leadership to Japan but also to the United States. It was he who coined the term ‘free and open Indo-Pacific,’ and as a member of the Indo-Pacific region, as America, we cherish those principles, and we stand by it,” she said.



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Australian police probe purported hacker's $1M ransom demand

Hacker's ransom demand

Australian police were investigating a purported hacker’s release of the stolen personal data of 10,000 customers of the nation's second-largest wireless carrier and demand for a $1 million ransom in cryptocurrency, the company’s chief executive said Tuesday.

The Australian government has blamed lax cybersecurity at Optus for the unprecedented breach last week of the personal data of 9.8 million current and former customers.

Jeremy Kirk, a Sydney-based cybersecurity writer, said the purported hacker, who uses the online name Optusdata, had released 10,000 Optus customer records on the dark web and threatened to release another 10,000 every day for the next four days unless Optus pays the ransom.

Asked if the hacker had threatened to sell the remaining data if Optus did not pay the $1 million within a week, the company’s chief executive, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, told Australian Broadcasting Corp., “We have seen there is a post like that on the dark web.”

Australian Federal Police said Monday their investigators were working with overseas agencies, including the FBI, to determine who was behind the attack and to help shield the public from identity fraud. Police declined further comment Tuesday as the investigations were ongoing.

“They’re looking into every possibility and they’re using the time available to see if they can track down that particular criminal and verify if they are bona fide,” Bayer Rosmarin said.

Kirk wrote in his website Bank Info Security that Optusdata later deleted the post along with three samples of the stolen data.

Optusdata sent Kirk a link to a new post that withdrew the ransom demand, claimed the stolen data had been deleted and apologized to Optus as well as its customers.

“Too many eyes. We will not sale (sic) data to anyone,” the post said, adding that Optus had not paid a ransom.

Kirk said he asked why Optusdata had changed their mind but received no response.

Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk, the national data protection authority, said the latest post “indicates ... this is a very fast-moving incident.”

“It’s a major incident of significant concern for the community. What we need to focus on here is ensuring that all steps are maintained to protect the community’s personal information from further risk of harm,” Falk said.

Web security consultant Troy Hunt suspected the apology had come from the hacker. But he did not accept that the data was now safe.

“The question now is what happens next? Will we just hear no more from this individual? Will the data appear in a larger volume tomorrow, next week, possibly years from now?” Hunt said.

At least one of the 10,000 Optus customers whose data was released on the dark web Tuesday had received a text message purportedly from the hacker demanding a 2,000 Australian dollar ($1,300) ransom, Nine Network News in Sydney reported.

“Your information will be sold and used for fraudulent activity within two days or until a payment of AU$2,000 is made,” the text said, including details of an Australian bank account in the name Optusdata.

The extortion target, identified only as Belinda and described as a mother of a 5-year-old child with cancer, told Nine, “To be honest, it’s just not what we need.”

“I guess they’re just trying to hopefully pressure people into paying,” she said. Nine did not report whether she intended to pay.

Earlier Tuesday, Kirk said the released personal data appeared to include health care numbers, a form of identification not previously revealed publicly to have been hacked.

Cybersecurity Minister Clare O’Neil urged Optus to give priority to informing customers of what information had been taken.

“I am incredibly concerned this morning about reports that personal information from the Optus data breach, including Medicare numbers, are now being offered for free and for ransom,” O’Neil said. “Medicare numbers were never advised to form part of compromised information from the breach,” she added.

O’Neil on Monday described the hack as an “unprecedented theft of consumer information in Australian history.”

Of the 9.8 million people affected, 2.8 million had “significant amounts of personal data,” including driver’s licenses and passport numbers, breached and are at significant risk of identity theft and fraud, she said.

Kirk said he used an online forum for criminals who trade in stolen data to ask Optusdata how the Optus information was accessed.

Optus appeared to have left an application programming interface, a piece of software known as an API that allows other systems to communicate and exchange data, open to the public, Kirk said.

The Australian Financial Review newspaper said the theory that Optus “left open an API” had been widely reported.

Bayer Rosmarin rejected such explanations, but said police had told her not to release details.

“It is not the case of having some sort of completely exposed API sitting out there,” Bayer Rosmarin said.

O’Neil didn’t detail how the breach occurred, but described it as a “quite a basic hack.”

Optus had “effectively left the window open for data of this nature to be stolen,” O’Neil said.



Hurricane Ian strikes Cuba, Florida braces for Cat 4 damage

Hurricane heads for Florida

Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba on Tuesday as a major hurricane, with nothing to stop it from intensifying into a catastrophic Category 4 storm before it hits Florida on Wednesday.

Ian made landfall at 4:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up 55 shelters, evacuated 50,000 people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in Cuba’s main tobacco-growing region.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said “significant wind and storm surge impacts” were occurring Tuesday morning in western Cuba. Ian sustained top winds were 125 mph and as much as 14 feet of storm surge was predicted along Cuba's coast.

Ian was forecast to strengthen even more over warm Gulf of Mexico waters, reaching top winds of 140 mph before making landfall again. Tropical storm-force winds were expected in Florida late Tuesday, reaching hurricane force Wednesday morning.

“Right now we're focusing on west central Florida area as the main area for impact,” hurricane specialist Andy Latto told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“This is a really really big hurricane,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said, warning of damage all across the state.

Hundreds of thousands of Floridians faced mandatory evacuation orders as the center expanded its hurricane warning to include Bonita Beach north through Tampa Bay to the Anclote River. Fort Myers is in the hurricane zone, and Tampa and St. Petersburg could get their first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.

“People on the barrier islands who decide not to go, they do so at their own peril,” Roger Desjarlais, Lee County’s county manager, said early Tuesday. “The best thing they can do is leave."

While Ian's center passed over western Cuba, with tropical storm force winds extending outward 115 miles, Cuba's capital was getting rain and strong gusts Tuesday morning. Havana's residents openly worried about flooding ahead of the storm, with workers unclogging storm drains and fishermen taking their boats out of the water.

“I am very scared because my house gets completely flooded, with water up to here,” Adyz Ladron said, pointing to his chest.

In Havana’s El Fanguito, a poor neighborhood near the Almendares River, residents packed up what they could.
“I hope we escape this one because it would be the end of us. We already have so little,” health worker Abel Rodrigues said.

Ian's forward movement was expected to slow over the gulf, enabling the hurricane to grow wider and stronger before it brings punishing wind and water to Florida's west coast. Forecasters said the surge of ocean water could reach 10 feet if it peaks at high tide. Rainfall could total 16 inches inches with as much as 24 inches in isolated areas. Coastal communities could be inundated.

As many as 300,000 people may be evacuated from low-lying areas in Hillsborough County alone, county administrator Bonnie Wise said. Some of those evacuations were beginning Monday afternoon in the most vulnerable areas, with schools and other locations opening as shelters.

“We must do everything we can to protect our residents. Time is of the essence,” Wise said.

Lee County -- where Fort Myers is on Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast -- also issued mandatory evacuations early Tuesday for low-lying areas including Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Bonita Beach, where about 250,000 people live, after forecasters expanded the hurricane warning area.

“With the kind of tidal surge we’re talking about, it would not be uncommon for both islands to be overwashed, and it’s a dangerous place to be,” Desjarlais said. We cannot by law force people off the islands, but we strongly recommend that they go.”

Floridians lined up for hours in Tampa to collect bags of sand and cleared store shelves of bottled water. DeSantis declared a statewide emergency, and mobilized 5,000 Florida state national guard troops, with another 2,000 on standby in neighboring states.

President Joe Biden also declared an emergency, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance to protect lives and property. FEMA has strategically positioned generators, millions of meals and millions of liters of water, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.



Canadians think the call came from inside the White House: Jan. 6 hearings to resume

Did Trump make the call?

A new poll suggests one in three Canadians have been keeping close tabs on the Jan. 6 hearings in the United States — and that nearly three in four blame Donald Trump for the riots.

Leger's online poll, conducted in August for the Association for Canadian Studies, found 37 per cent of respondents in Canada and 44 per cent in the U.S. were watching the hearings closely.

Just over half the American respondents, 54 per cent, said the former president is responsible for the Capitol Hill riots, compared with 72 per cent in Canada.

The select committee investigating Jan. 6 is set to hold its next hearing Wednesday, likely the last before the midterms in November.

The poll, which surveyed 1,509 respondents in Canada and 1,002 in the U.S. shortly after the hearing in July, does not carry a margin of error because online surveys are not based on random samples.

A final report on the committee's findings is expected before the end of the year, but it's unclear if it will be released before election day Nov. 8.

The level of Canadian interest in the hearings is likely more to do with a persistent fascination with Trump and his ever-evolving legacy than anything else, said association president and CEO Jack Jedwab.

The former president "has left a lingering bad feeling for most Canadians," who were by and large not supportive of his presidency or its impact on Canada-U.S. relations, Jedwab said.

"Trump is seen as someone who soured relations between the two countries and as the object of considerable mistrust."

The poll, which was conducted before Pierre Poilievre claimed the leadership of the Conservative party, also broke down the Canadian participants by party affiliation.

Maxime Bernier's hard-right People's Party of Canada was the only party where a majority — 57 per cent — said they want to see Trump run for president again in 2024, with 25 per cent opposed and 18 per cent refusing to say.

Among Conservatives, 28 per cent said they would support Trump for the nomination, compared with 64 per cent who disagreed. Opposition to a Trump candidacy ran close to 90 per cent among Liberal, NDP and Green Party supporters, and reached 95 per cent among backers of the Bloc Québécois.

Ever since the hearings began in June, the committee — led by Mississippi Democrat Rep. Bennie Thompson and Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney — has unspooled a narrative tying the riots to the Trump White House.

That link got a boost Sunday when former committee staffer Denver Riggleman told "60 Minutes" of a phone call on Jan. 6 between one of the rioters and someone in the White House.

"You get a real 'Aha' moment when you see that the White House switchboard had connected to a rioter's phone while it's happening," Riggleman said. The identity of who was on the phone in the White House remains a mystery, he added.

"The American people need to know that there are link connections that need to be explored more."

Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin acknowledged that evidence Sunday, calling it just one of many clear links between the White House and the people who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

"We're interested in telling the big story, which is this was an organized, premeditated, deliberate hit against the vice-president and the Congress to overthrow the 2020 presidential election," Raskin told "Meet the Press."

"What we're going to do on Wednesday is fill in those details that have come to the attention of the committee over the last five or six weeks."

The committee could also spell out what, if anything, it has learned from former Republican speaker Newt Gingrich and his role in promoting the defeated president's persistent claims of election fraud.

Thompson wrote to Gingrich earlier this month about evidence that he said shows Gingrich "was involved in various other aspects of the scheme to overturn the 2020 election and block the transfer of power," including after Jan. 6.

The riots, which grew out of a sprawling protest among Trump supporters on the very day Congress was certifying Joe Biden's election win, provided a dramatic and deadly exclamation point for the most turbulent presidency in modern history.

And the hearings, having exploded the notion that the chaos was simply a protest that got out of hand, have proven an unlikely summer blockbuster, thanks to the help of former ABC News president James Goldston.

The committee heard how Pence averted a constitutional crisis by ignoring Trump's demands to reject the election results, and remained on the congressional grounds even as protesters cried out for his violent ouster.

Members listened to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone's account of a chaotic meeting of Trump's fringe advisers, who were desperate for a way to keep the president in power, the night before.

That meeting included a draft executive order that would have made Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell a special counsel with the power to order the U.S. military to seize voting machines from across the country.

After the meeting dissolved into frustration, the president issued his fateful late-night tweet luring supporters to D.C.: "Will be wild," he wrote.

And Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows, told the committee how the president urged the Secret Service to stop screening protesters for weapons, saying, "They're not here to hurt me."

And she described hearing of an infuriated Trump lunging for the steering wheel of his SUV when members of his Secret Service detail refused to take him to the Capitol.



Man shot by Chicago police infiltrated SWAT training

Infiltrated SWAT training

A man climbed five storeys of a fire escape to infiltrate a Chicago police facility Monday while officers were undergoing a SWAT training exercise and grabbed at least two guns before he was shot and wounded by police, the chief said.

Police Superintendent David Brown said the suspect was taken to the hospital with injuries not considered to be life-threatening. One officer was taken to the hospital with a sprained ankle.

Brown said the suspect was seen on video leaving the facility and then returning to infiltrate it. He asked where to go to retrieve personal property at the facility in Homan Square on Chicago's West Side. Then he came back to the building and climbed the fire escape to the fifth floor, where a door had been propped open for ventilation.

Brown said it has not been determined if the man went to the building to retrieve property, saying that the man had an extensive record. It wasn't immediately clear if property taken from the man was stored in the building.

He had no other information about the man, other than to say he was a resident of Waukegan, a suburb north of Chicago

Brown said investigators believe the man grabbed at least two guns that were on a table during the training exercise and pointed them at officers. He said he did not know if the man attempted to shoot officers with the guns, which didn't have live ammunition in them at the time.

Brown speculated on what officers in the training room saw as the man entered the room.

“These were guns that were being watched,” he said. “Obviously, someone coming from a stairwell outside startled everyone. Who is this person? Is this person associated with the training? We do have live actors sometimes who come in plainclothes.”

He also said that it was likely the officers said something to the man when they spotted him, but that, “We just don't know what the offender said."

The officer was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in stable condition with the ankle injury, according to the Chicago Fire Department. He was not shot, Brown said.

The suspect was initially described as being in critical condition with at least one gunshot wound. Later in the day, Brown said the man's injuries were not life-threatening.

The police facility is in a large red brick building that houses evidence and recovered property on the first floor. Some of the police department's specialized units also work out of the building.

Early Monday afternoon, crime scene tape was stretched across South Homan Avenue a block south of the police station and across the same street just north of the building.

A nearby school was placed on lockdown.



17 dead, 24 wounded in school shooting in Russia

17 now dead in shooting

A gunman opened fire in a school in central Russia on Monday, killing 17 people and wounding 24 others before shooting himself dead, authorities said.

The shooting took place in School No. 88 in Izhevsk, a city 960 kilometres east of Moscow in the Udmurtia region.

Russia’s Investigative Committee identified the gunman as 34-year-old Artyom Kazantsev, a graduate of the same school, and said he was wearing a black t-shirt bearing “Nazi symbols.” No details about his motives have been released.

The government of Udmurtia said 17 people, including 11 children, were killed in the shooting. According to Russia's Investigative Committee, 24 other people, including 22 children, were wounded in the attack.

The governor of Udmurtia, Alexander Brechalov, said the gunman, who he said was registered as a patient at a psychiatric facility, killed himself after the attack.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the shooting as “a terrorist act” and said Russian President Vladimir Putin has given all the necessary orders to the relevant authorities.

“President Putin deeply mourns deaths of people and children in the school, where a terrorist act took place,” Peskov told reporters Monday.

The school educates children between grades one and 11. It has been evacuated and the area around it has been cordoned off, the governor said.

Russia's National Guard said Kazantsev used two non-lethal handguns adapted to fire real bullets. The guns were not registered with the authorities.

A criminal probe into the incident has been launched on charges of multiple murder and illegal possession of firearms.

Izhevsk, a city of 640,000, is located west of the Ural mountains in central Russia.



Bam! NASA spacecraft crashes into asteroid in defense test

Spacecraft hits asteroid

A NASA spacecraft rammed an asteroid at blistering speed Monday in an unprecedented dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock menaces Earth.

The galactic slam occurred at a harmless asteroid 7 million miles (9.6 million kilometers) away, with the spacecraft named Dart plowing into the space rock at 14,000 mph (22,500 kph). Scientists expected the impact to carve out a crater, hurl streams of rocks and dirt into space and, most importantly, alter the asteroid’s orbit.

“We have impact!” Mission Control's Elena Adams announced, jumping up and down and thrusting her arms skyward.

Telescopes around the world and in space aimed at the same point in the sky to capture the spectacle. Though the impact was immediately obvious — Dart’s radio signal abruptly ceased — it will be days or even weeks to determine how much the asteroid’s path was changed.

The $325 million mission was the first attempt to shift the position of an asteroid or any other natural object in space.

"We’re embarking on a new era of humankind," said NASA's Lori Glaze, planetary science division director.

Earlier in the day, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson reminded people via Twitter that, “No, this is not a movie plot.” He added in a prerecorded video: ”We’ve all seen it on movies like ‘Armageddon,’ but the real-life stakes are high."

Monday’s target: a 525-foot (160-meter) asteroid named Dimorphos. It’s actually a moonlet of Didymos, Greek for twin, a fast-spinning asteroid five times bigger that flung off the material that formed the junior partner.

The pair have been orbiting the sun for eons without threatening Earth, making them ideal save-the-world test candidates.

Launched last November, the vending machine-size Dart — short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test — navigated to its target using new technology developed by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, the spacecraft builder and mission manager.

Dart’s on-board camera, a key part of this smart navigation system, caught sight of Dimorphos barely an hour before impact.

“Woo hoo,” exclaimed Adams, a mission systems engineer at Johns Hopkins. "We’re seeing Dimorphos, so wonderful, wonderful.”

With an image beaming back to Earth every second, Adams and other ground controllers in Laurel, Maryland, watched with growing excitement as Dimorphos loomed larger and larger in the field of view alongside its bigger companion. Within minutes, Dimorphos was alone in the pictures; it looked like a giant gray lemon, but with boulders and rubble on the surface. The last image froze on the screen as the radio transmission ended.

Flight controllers cheered, hugged one another and exchanged high fives.

A mini satellite followed a few minutes behind to take photos of the impact. The Italian Cubesat was released from Dart two weeks ago.

Scientists insisted Dart would not shatter Dimorphos. The spacecraft packed a scant 1,260 pounds (570 kilograms), compared with the asteroid’s 11 billion pounds (5 billion kilograms). But that should be plenty to shrink its 11-hour, 55-minute orbit around Didymos.

The impact should pare 10 minutes off that, but telescopes will need anywhere from a few days to nearly a month to verify the new orbit. The anticipated orbital shift of 1% might not sound like much, scientists noted. But they stressed it would amount to a significant change over years.

Planetary defense experts prefer nudging a threatening asteroid or comet out of the way, given enough lead time, rather than blowing it up and creating multiple pieces that could rain down on Earth. Multiple impactors might be needed for big space rocks or a combination of impactors and so-called gravity tractors, not-yet-invented devices that would use their own gravity to pull an asteroid into a safer orbit.

“The dinosaurs didn’t have a space program to help them know what was coming, but we do,” NASA’s senior climate adviser Katherine Calvin said, referring to the mass extinction 66 million years ago believed to have been caused by a major asteroid impact, volcanic eruptions or both.

The non-profit B612 Foundation, dedicated to protecting Earth from asteroid strikes, has been pushing for impact tests like Dart since its founding by astronauts and physicists 20 years ago. Monday’s feat aside, the world must do a better job of identifying the countless space rocks lurking out there, warned the foundation’s executive director, Ed Lu, a former astronaut.

Significantly less than half of the estimated 25,000 near-Earth objects in the deadly 460-foot (140-meter) range have been discovered, according to NASA. And fewer than 1% of the millions of smaller asteroids, capable of widespread injuries, are known.

The Vera Rubin Observatory, nearing completion in Chile by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Energy Department, promises to revolutionize the field of asteroid discovery, Lu noted.

Finding and tracking asteroids, “That’s still the name of the game here. That’s the thing that has to happen in order to protect the Earth,” he said.



Putin grants Russian citizenship to Edward Snowden

Grants Snowden citizenship

President Vladimir Putin has granted Russian citizenship to former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden, according to a decree signed by the Russian leader on Monday.

Snowden is one of 75 foreign nationals listed by the decree as being granted Russian citizenship. The decree was published on an official government website.

Snowden, a former contractor with the U.S. National Security Agency, has been living in Russia since 2013 to escape prosecution in the U.S. after leaking classified documents detailing government surveillance programs.

He was granted permanent residency in 2020 and said at the time that he planned to apply for Russian citizenship, without renouncing his U.S. citizenship.

Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti that the former contractor's wife Lindsay Mills, an American who has been living with him in Russia, will also be applying for a Russian passport.

The couple had a child in December 2020.

Snowden, who has kept a low profile in Russia and occasionally criticized Russian government policies on social media, said in 2019 that he was willing to return to the U.S. if he’s guaranteed a fair trial.

He hasn't commented on being granted Russian citizenship.



Global Citizen Festival generates $2.4 billion in pledges

Global Citizen raises $2.4B

The 10th anniversary of the Global Citizen Festival, which included performances from Metallica, Mariah Carey and Usher, generated more than $2.4 billion in commitments to fight extreme poverty and disease.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and others addressed the crowds gathered in New York’s Central Park and Black Star Square in Accra, Ghana, for nine hours Saturday.

“Amidst all the doomsday messages we hear today, hope lies in the fact that millions of citizens are rising up to take action, more than any other point in history,” Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans said in a prepared statement. “Ending extreme poverty is not a partisan issue, and those most in need cannot be treated like political pawns. Our job is to not let our leaders forget that.”

What makes Global Citizen Festival different from other fundraisers is that tickets for the event are not for sale. To attend, supporters must volunteer time to take various actions – from signing petitions and calling or messaging world leaders on social media to address certain issues – during a six-week campaign. This year’s campaign generated more than two million actions, more than doubling the previous record for the advocacy nonprofit.

International leaders announced new policies at the festival, influenced, in part, by Global Citizen supporters. French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed that he would reallocate 30% of his country’s Special Drawing Rights reserves with the International Monetary Fund to the world’s poorest countries, specifically in Africa, to help them fund projects battling extreme poverty and climate change. The governments of Ghana and South Africa announced the formation of the $1 billion African Prosperity Fund, to finance infrastructure, technology and sustainability projects across the continent.

Rotary International President Jennifer Jones announced a $150 million, three-year commitment to fight polio through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, part of the service organization’s work against the disease since 1985.

“Quite honestly, until everyone is protected, no one is protected,” Jones told The Associated Press in an interview. “And we see now with the state of emergency being declared in New York and the case of vaccine-derived polio that has entered here, it’s close to home. I think it’s a little bit of an alarm bell to a lot of people who thought, ‘Well, this is something that’s gone. Why do we even need to immunize our children?’”

Jones said she wanted to announce Rotary International’s new commitment at Global Citizen Festival’s 10th anniversary because the organization made a similar announcement at the first festival.

“They have millions and millions of Global Citizens and we have 1.4 million citizens who are people of action, who are doing things every single day in the field,” Jones said. “So the ability for us to take our activated populations and showcase that we want to help and help people understand what they can do to make a difference, it’s just a great synergy between our two organizations.”



Hurricane forces NASA moon rocket to shelter; launch on hold

Rocket shelters in storm

Hurricane Ian is prompting NASA to move its moon rocket off the launch pad and into shelter, adding weeks of delay to the lunar-orbiting test flight.

Mission managers decided Monday to return the rocket to its Kennedy Space Center hangar. The four-mile trip will begin late Monday night and could take as long as 12 hours.

The space center remained on the fringes of the hurricane’s cone of uncertainty. With the latest forecast showing no improvement, managers decided to play it safe. NASA already had delayed this week’s planned launch attempt because of the approaching storm.

NASA isn’t speculating when the next launch attempt might be, but it could be off until November. Managers will assess their options once the 322-foot Space Launch System rocket is safely back in the hangar.

A pair of launch attempts were thwarted by hydrogen fuel leaks and other technical trouble.

The $4.1 billion test flight will kick off NASA's return to the moon since the Apollo moonshots of the 1960s and 1970s. No one will be inside the crew capsule for the debut launch. Astronauts will strap in for the second mission in 2024, leading to a two-person moon landing in 2025.

 



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