Tag Archives: accuses

U.S. accuses China of ‘flagrant violation’ of North Korea sanctions

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday accused China of “flagrant violation” of its obligation to enforce international sanctions on North Korea and said Washington would offer rewards of up to $ 5 million US for information about sanctions evasions.

Speaking to Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, Deputy Assistant Secretary for North Korea Alex Wong accused China of “seeking to undo” the United Nations sanctions regime aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Wong said China had continued to host at least 20,000 North Korean labourers in violation of UN bans and that in the past year the United States had observed ships carrying prohibited coal or other sanctioned goods from North Korea to China on 555 separate occasions.

“On none of these occasions did the Chinese authorities act to stop these illicit imports. Not once,” Wong said.

He noted that China currently hosted no fewer that two dozen North Korea representatives connected to Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction programs or banks.

He accused China of “seeking to undo the UN sanctions regime they themselves voted for in 2006, in 2009, in 2013, in 2016, and in 2017.”

“They are seeking to revive trade links and revenue transfers to the North, thereby ensuring Chinese reach into the North’s economy,” he said.

China insists it abides by UN sanctions requirements on North Korea, although it has also expressed hope, along with Russia, that an easing of those conditions could help break the deadlock in nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

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Biden gains ground in key states as Trump accuses Democrats, without evidence, of trying to ‘steal’ election

The latest:

  • Electoral college vote stands at 253 for Biden, 214 for Trump.
  • Election observer says no evidence for Trump’s fraud claims.
  • Michigan, Georgia judges dismiss Trump campaign lawsuits.
  • Get all the U.S. election results as they come in.
  • How the electoral college determines who wins the U.S. presidency.
  • What do you want to know about the U.S. election? Email us at Ask@cbc.ca.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden gained more ground on U.S. President Donald Trump in the battleground states of Georgia and Pennsylvania on Friday, edging closer to the White House hours after Trump falsely claimed the election was being “stolen” from him.

Biden had a 253 to 214 lead in the state-by-state electoral college vote that determines the winner and was inching toward securing the 270 votes needed in the remaining undecided swing states.

In Georgia, which has 16 electoral votes, Biden edged into the lead more than 900 votes early Friday morning. In Pennsylvania, which has 20 electoral votes, Biden cut Trump’s lead to just over 18,000.

The numbers in Georgia and Pennsylvania were expected to continue to move in Biden’s favour, with many of the outstanding ballots being from areas that typically vote Democratic, including the cities of Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Biden did see his lead in Arizona shrink to around 47,000 earlier, and was still ahead in Nevada by only 12,000 votes. The Associated Press and Fox News have called Arizona for Biden, but CBC News still considers it too close to call and is waiting to make the determination.

Biden would become the next president by winning Pennsylvania, or by winning two out of the trio of Georgia, Nevada and Arizona. Trump’s likeliest path appeared narrower — he needed to hang onto both Pennsylvania and Georgia and also to overtake Biden in either Nevada or Arizona.

As the country held its breath three days after Tuesday’s election day, Georgia and Pennsylvania officials expressed optimism they would finish counting on Friday, while Arizona and Nevada were still expected to take days to finalize their vote totals.

WATCH | Trump makes unfounded allegations about ‘illegal’ votes:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Thursday that Democrats could ‘try to steal the election from us’ if ‘illegal votes’ cast after election day were counted. There is no evidence that ballots were cast after Nov. 3. 0:40

Trump has sought to portray as fraudulent the slow counting of mail-in ballots, which surged in popularity due to fears of exposure to the coronavirus through in-person voting. As counts from those ballots have been tallied, they have eroded the initial strong leads the president had in states like Georgia and Pennsylvania.

States have historically taken time after election day to tally all votes.

Trump continues baseless allegations

In an extraordinary assault on the democratic process, Trump appeared in the White House briefing room on Thursday evening and without basis alleged the election was being “stolen” from him.

Offering no evidence, Trump lambasted election workers and sharply criticized polling before the election that he said was designed to suppress the vote because it favoured Biden.

“They’re trying to rig an election, and we can’t let that happen,” said Trump, who spoke for about 15 minutes in the White House briefing room before leaving without taking questions. Several TV networks cut away during his remarks, with anchors saying they needed to correct his statements.

Biden, who earlier in the day urged patience as votes were counted, responded on Twitter: “No one is going to take our democracy away from us. Not now, not ever.”

With ballots still to be tabulated, Biden already had received more than 73 million votes, the most in U.S. history, while Trump had more than 69 million, about seven million more than in 2016. “Democracy is sometimes messy,” Biden said from Wilmington, Del. “It sometimes requires a bit of patience, too.”

WATCH | ‘Democracy is sometimes messy,’ Biden says: 

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden calls on Americans to be patient and calm as the final ballots are counted in crucial swing states. 1:14

And he reiterated that he feels good about where things stand and is confident he will be the winner when the count is complete. 

On Thursday, a Michigan judge dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit in a dispute over whether Republican challengers had access to the handling of absentee ballots. The lawsuit claimed Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, was allowing absentee ballots to be counted without teams of bipartisan observers as well as challengers. 

Michigan First District Court of Appeals Judge Cynthia Stephens said that the lawsuit was filed late Wednesday afternoon, just hours before the last ballots were counted. She also said Benson was the wrong person to sue because she doesn’t control the logistics of local ballot counting even if she is the state’s chief election officer.

Much of the dispute centred on the TCF Center in Detroit where pro-Trump protesters gathered while absentee ballots were being counted.

WATCH | Trump supporters angry as race tightens in Georgia:

Donald Trump supporters protested in Georgia as the lead he initially had over Joe Biden dwindled as more ballots were counted, with some making claims about fraudulent ballots. 2:09

A judge in Georgia, where Trump and Biden were neck and neck Thursday night with 98 per cent of votes reported, also dismissed a lawsuit over the vote in that state late Wednesday. 

It was unclear if any of the Trump campaign’s legal manoeuvring over ballot counting would succeed in shifting the race in his favour. Late Thursday afternoon, the campaign said it had launched yet another lawsuit, this time against the Philadelphia board of electors, seeking an injunction to bar ballot counting unless Republican observers are present. 

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said on Thursday afternoon that she was unaware of any allegations of voter fraud in her state as the final votes were being counted. 

WATCH | Pennsylvania’s secretary of state says it’s not yet clear who the winner is:

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar told reporters Thursday that several hundred thousand ballots remain to be counted in the state where results are highly anticipated amid a tight national electoral race. 0:54


What do you want to know about the U.S. election? Email us at Ask@cbc.ca.

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As Biden gains ground, Trump again accuses Democrats, without evidence, of trying to ‘steal’ election

The latest:

  • Electoral college vote stands at 253 for Biden, 214 for Trump.
  • Election observer says no evidence for Trump’s fraud claims.
  • Michigan, Georgia judges dismiss Trump campaign lawsuits.
  • Get all the U.S. election results as they come in.
  • How the electoral college determines who wins the U.S. presidency.
  • What do you want to know about the U.S. election? Email us at Ask@cbc.ca.

Despite the fact votes are still being counted and there has been no winner declared in the election yet by any media organization, U.S. President Donald Trump renewed his unfounded claim Thursday evening that Democrats are trying to “steal” the election from him. He did not back up his allegation with any evidence.

“If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us,” Trump said, suggesting votes were being counted that were cast after election day. 

State and federal officials have not reported any instances of widespread voter fraud.

Trump spoke from the White House briefing room, unleashing harsh criticism of pre-election polling that showed him trailing Democrat Joe Biden and claiming the ballot-counting process is unfair and corrupt.

“This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election, and we can’t let that happen,” Trump said of the Democrats, whom he accused of corruption while providing no evidence.

He also vowed to fight the election in court, perhaps right up to the Supreme Court. 

WATCH | Trump makes unfounded allegations about  “illegal” votes:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told reporters Thursday only ‘legal’ votes should be counted in the U.S. election and suggested some votes were cast after Nov. 3 despite no evidence of that. 0:55

The ballot-counting process across the country has been running smoothly, according to state election officials, and the count is ongoing in several battleground states.

“If America needed a wake-up call about how dangerous Donald Trump is, they got it tonight,” Anthony Scaramucci told CBC News. Scaramucci worked in the White House as Trump’s communications director for 11 days and has been openly critical of Trump since he left the White House. 

Biden tweeted in response, saying, “No one is going to take our democracy away from us.” 


Earlier in the day, a Michigan judge dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit in a dispute over whether Republican challengers had access to the handling of absentee ballots. The lawsuit claimed Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, was allowing absentee ballots to be counted without teams of bipartisan observers as well as challengers. 

Judge Cynthia Stephens said that the lawsuit was filed late Wednesday afternoon, just hours before the last ballots were counted. She also said the defendant was the wrong person to sue because she doesn’t control the logistics of local ballot counting, even if she is the state’s chief election officer.

Much of the dispute centred on the TCF Center in Detroit where pro-Trump protesters gathered while absentee ballots were being counted.

A judge in Georgia also dismissed a lawsuit over the vote in that state late Wednesday. It was unclear if any of the Trump campaign’s legal manoeuvring over ballot counting would succeed in shifting the race in his favour. Late Thursday afternoon, the campaign said it had launched yet another lawsuit, this time against the Philadelphia board of electors, seeking an injunction to bar ballot counting unless Republican observers are present. 


Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden pushed closer to the 270 electoral college votes needed to carry the White House, securing victories in the “blue wall” battlegrounds of Wisconsin and Michigan and narrowing U.S. President Donald Trump’s path.

Biden’s victories in the Great Lakes states left him with 253 electoral votes, while Trump has 214.

Biden also holds narrow leads in Nevada and Arizona, while Trump was watching his slim advantage fade in must-win states Pennsylvania and Georgia as mail-in and absentee votes were being counted. The Associated Press and Fox News have called Arizona for Biden, but CBC News still considers it too close to call and is waiting to make the determination.

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said on Thursday afternoon that she was unaware of any allegations of voter fraud in her state as the final votes were being counted. 

WATCH | Pennsylvania’s secretary of state says it’s not yet clear who the winner is:

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar told reporters Thursday that several hundred thousand ballots remain to be counted in the state where results are highly anticipated amid a tight national electoral race. 0:54

Biden called for calm Thursday afternoon as the final votes are counted.

“Democracy is sometimes messy,” he said from Wilmington, Del. “It sometimes requires a bit of patience, too.”

And he reiterated that he feels good about where things stand and is confident he will be the winner when the count is complete. 

With millions of ballots yet to be tabulated, Biden already had received more than 71 million votes, the most in U.S. history.

WATCH | Biden says he feels good about where things stand: 

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden calls on Americans to be patient and calm as the final ballots are counted in crucial swing states. 1:14

As of Thursday afternoon, Arizona state officials said about 450,000 ballots remain to be counted, while an election official in Georgia said more than 47,000 votes are still to be counted.

“The effort here is to make sure that everybody’s legal vote is counted properly and that the actual results are reflective of the voters’ intent,” said Gabriel Sterling, a voting system manager in Atlanta. “These close elections require us to be diligent and make sure we do everything right.”


Trump clung to a narrow lead in North Carolina as well, another must-win for him. Trump had to win the states where he was still ahead and either Arizona or Nevada to triumph and avoid becoming the first incumbent U.S. president to lose a re-election bid since fellow Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.

WATCH | Why one Native American woman says she supported Biden:

Allie Young is a member of the Navajo Nation who says she voted for Joe Biden because of his concern about climate change and his desire to strengthen the U.S. government’s relationship with her nation. 7:13

Nevada official responds to Trump campaign allegations

In Las Vegas, Trump allies alleged, without evidence, that there had been voting irregularities in populous Clark County, which includes the city. Former Nevada attorney general Adam Laxalt, a Republican, said a lawsuit would be filed in federal court to ask the judge to “stop the counting of improper votes.”

On Thursday, Clark County, Nev., election official Joe Gloria told reporters, “We are unaware of any improper ballots that are being processed.”

He said the counting is slow because there are far more mail-in ballots this year than in previous elections, and that the U.S. Postal Service will continue to deliver all ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3 through Nov. 10.

WATCH | Clark County official explains why counting is slower than usual:

Clark County, Nev., election official Joe Gloria explains why counting ballots in his county, which contains Las Vegas, is taking so long. 1:06  

Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to Biden’s campaign, called the various Trump lawsuits “meritless” and designed to undermine the integrity of the electoral process.

In Georgia, a judge dismissed a different lawsuit by that state’s Republican Party and Trump’s campaign that asked him to ensure a coastal county was following state laws on processing absentee ballots.

Chatham County Superior Court Judge James Bass did not provide an explanation for his decision at the close of a roughly one-hour hearing. The county includes the heavily Democratic city of Savannah.

WATCH | Result of U.S. presidential election remains unknown:

The CBC’s Ellen Mauro has the latest from Washington on the race for the White House two days after the vote. 4:42

An appeals court in Pennsylvania on Thursday ordered that Trump campaign officials be allowed to more closely observe ballot processing in Philadelphia. Statewide recounts in Wisconsin, meanwhile, have historically changed the vote tally by only a few hundred votes; Biden led by more than 20,000 ballots out of nearly 3.3 million counted.

Election observer says no evidence for Trump’s claims

The head of an international delegation monitoring the U.S. election said his team has no evidence to support Trump’s claims about alleged fraud involving mail-in absentee ballots.

Michael Georg Link, a German lawmaker who heads an observer mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), told German public broadcaster rbb Thursday that “on the election day itself, we couldn’t see any violations” at the U.S. polling places they visited.

WATCH | No obvious legal grounds to stop vote count, law professor says:

University of Memphis law professor Steve Mulroy says vote recounts are common in the U.S. but stopping a count in any state would be a significant legal hurdle for President Donald Trump. 6:35

Link said he was “very surprised” by Trump’s claims about postal ballot fraud because the United States has a long history of this method of voting going back to the 19th century. The Vienna-based OSCE, of which the U.S. is a member, conducts observer missions at major elections in all of its member countries.

“We looked into this. We found no violations of the rules whatsoever,” Link told rbb. He said neither U.S. election observers nor media found any evidence of fraud either, though the OSCE team on Wednesday repeated long-standing concerns about disenfranchisement of some voters and the distorting effects of campaign finance laws.

Trump used his Twitter feed to falsely claim victory in several key states and amplify unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Democratic gains as absentee and early votes were tabulated.

He weighed in again on Twitter on Thursday, writing: “Stop the count!” Twitter later flagged a different Trump tweet as disputed and possibly misleading; Trump tweeted that “any vote that came in after election day will not be counted.”


Several states allow mailed-in votes to be accepted after election day as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday. That includes Pennsylvania, where ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 can be accepted if they arrive up to three days later. 

WATCH | Trump will not concede, U.S. politics professor maintains:

Scott Lucas, American politics professor at the University of Birmingham, believes no matter what happens next in the U.S. presidential election, President Donald Trump will not concede and that will bring considerable risk to the country.   1:21


What do you want to know about the U.S. election? Email us at Ask@cbc.ca.

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China accuses Canada of ‘megaphone diplomacy’ for criticism of prosecution of Kovrig and Spavor

China lashed out at Canada on Saturday over criticism about Chinese prosecution of two Canadians, saying the matter is based on evidence and urging Ottawa to cease “megaphone diplomacy.”

Chinese prosecutors this month charged Canadians Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman, for suspected espionage. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on Beijing to cease the “arbitrary detention,” and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also called for their release.

In a website post, a representative of the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa criticized recent “irresponsible remarks” by Canadian leaders.

“The facts are clear and evidence solid and sufficient. The accusation of so-called ‘arbitrarily’ detaining Canadian citizens is totally groundless,” the post said.

Chinese authorities arrested the men in late 2018 on suspicion of endangering national security, soon after Canadian police detained Huawei Technologies Co’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on a U.S. warrant.


A young man holds a sign bearing photographs of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, where Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou attended a hearing on Jan. 21, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The embassy spokesperson said Meng’s arrest is the true arbitrary detention, and repeated Beijing’s call for her release.

“Stop making irresponsible remarks on cases of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and exerting pressure on China through megaphone diplomacy.”

Spokespersons for Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland could not immediately be reached.

Kovrig’s wife asked this week that the Canadian justice minister consider intervening in the Chinese executive’s extradition case to try and free the two Canadians.

Trudeau has said exchanging Meng for the two men would weaken Canada’s values and justice system.

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U.S. accuses Chinese military hackers in massive Equifax breach over 2 years ago

Four members of the Chinese military have been charged with breaking into the networks of the Equifax credit reporting agency and stealing the personal information of tens of millions of Americans, the U.S. Justice Department said Monday, blaming Beijing for one of the largest hacks in history.

The 2017 breach affected roughly 145 million Americans, with the hackers successfully stealing names, Social Security numbers and other personal information stored in the company’s databases.  

The four — members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), an arm of the Chinese military — are also accused of stealing the company’s trade secrets, law enforcement officials said. They were identified in a news release as Wu Zhiyong, Wang Qian, Xu Ke and Liu Lei.

The case comes as the Trump administration has warned against what it sees as the growing political and economic influence of China, and efforts by Beijing to collect data on Americans and steal scientific research and innovation.

The accused hackers allegedly exploited a software vulnerability to gain access to Equifax’s computers, obtaining log-in credentials that they used to navigate databases and review records. The indictment also details efforts the hackers took to cover their tracks, including allegedly wiping log files on a daily basis and routing traffic through dozens of servers in nearly 20 countries.

“The scale of the theft was staggering,” Attorney General William Barr said Monday. “This theft not only caused significant financial damage to Equifax, but invaded the privacy of many millions of Americans, and imposed substantial costs and burdens on them as they have had to take measures to protect against identity theft.”

Equifax, headquartered in Atlanta, maintains a massive repository of consumer information that it sells to businesses looking to verify identities or assess creditworthiness.

Civil settlement reached in U.S. last year

The case is one of several the U.S. Justice Department has brought over the years against members of the PLA. The Obama administration in 2014 charged five Chinese military hackers with breaking into the networks of major American corporations to siphon trade secrets.

The indictment, which details efforts the hackers took to cover their tracks, includes charges of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit economic espionage and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The indictment also alleges that the hackers “obtained personally identifiable information belonging to nearly a million citizens of the United Kingdom and Canada.” It did not provide a breakdown, but weeks after the breach, Equifax estimated the number of customers affected at around 700,000 in the United Kingdom and nearly 20,000 in Canada.


Equifax’s corporate headquarters in Atlanta is shown in a file photo. The company came in for heavy criticism from U.S. politicians and government officials over the hacking scandal, with its CEO fired as a result. (Mike Stewart/The Associated Press)

Equifax was criticized soon after the hack for not acting on earlier warnings of vulnerabilities and not noticing the intrusions for weeks, but on Monday government officials credited the company with aiding the investigation.

Equifax officials told the U.S. Government Accountability Office that the company made many mistakes, including having an outdated list of computer systems administrators. When the company circulated a notice to install a patch for the software vulnerability, the employees responsible for installing the patch never got it.


The company CEO at the time, Richard Smith, was replaced as a result of the failures.

Equifax last year reached a $ 700 million US settlement over the data breach, with the bulk of the funds intended for consumers affected by it. However, because so many people made claims, officials said some consumers would get far less than the eligible amounts because of caps in the settlement pool.

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Hilarie Burton Accuses Hallmark of Refusing Her Contract Demands of Inclusivity

Hilarie Burton Accuses Hallmark of Refusing Her Contract Demands of Inclusivity | Entertainment Tonight

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UN accuses Chile security forces of ‘serious human rights violations’ against protesters

A UN human rights report released Friday accused Chilean security forces of serious human rights violations against protesters over the past two months, including deaths, torture, sexual abuse and the use of excessive force.

The report was released by the UN Human Rights Office, which is headed by former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet — a domestic political rival of current President Sebastian Pinera.

The high commissioner’s report, which drew push-back from Chilean officials, urged the government to allow its citizens to peacefully demonstrate without being physically harmed.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that … a high number of serious human rights violations have been committed,” the report said. “The majority of those who have exercised the right to assembly during this period, have done so in a peaceful manner.”

Unrest was sparked across Chile on Oct. 18 when a student protest over a modest increase in subway fares turned into a much larger and broader movement with a long list of demands that largely have to do with the wide gap between the rich and ordinary Chileans.

Residents called for reforms to health care, education, the pension system and even the constitution, which dates back to 1980 and the military dictatorship.


A demonstrator flings a rock at a riot police vehicle in Santiago on Friday. (Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters)

The UN report coincided with the assertions of other organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the autonomous National Institute of Human Rights of Chile.

The UN investigation highlighted the roughly 350 people left with eye or facial injuries caused by security forces firing shotguns at close proximity to demonstrators. Human rights officials said this proves that “less-lethal weapons” had been used “improperly and indiscriminately,” contrary to international principles on minimizing the risk of injury.

Although most of the injuries were from pellets, others were caused by use of chemical irritants, in particular tear gas and, in some cases, the impact of tear gas cartridges, the report said.

Chile says officials investigating

The investigation also concluded that a large number of detainees were mistreated. Some involved sexual violence, simulated executions and threats that people would be made to disappear, which amount to torture, the High Commissioner’s Office said.

“Many of these cases occurred in places with no surveillance cameras and with the perpetrators not being duly identified,” the report said.

Women, girls and homosexuals have endured sexual violence, including forced nudity, and sexual violence took place against men and boys, the report said.


Demonstrators run from riot police and tear gas in Santiago on Friday. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)

Pushing back, Chile’s undersecretary of human rights for the Ministry of Justice, Lorena Recabarren, said the criticism is premature because it came as officials are still investigating the alleged acts and punishing perpetrators.

Police reported that they have launched 856 internal investigations, and they have fired eight riot police accused of “serious breach of protocols.” Most cases are ongoing, more are ready for judgment and other officers have been acquitted, officials said.

“It’s necessary to refine and clarify a number of statements and conclusions that, in the government’s opinion, are not adequately represented or contain misinformation,” Recabarren said.


A riot police officer throw a tear gas canister in Santiago on Friday. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

She said the United Nations’ report assumes the existence of human rights violations “before the ongoing investigations are concluded.”

Further, regarding eye injuries, the government said the UN report didn’t consider findings by the Ministry of Health that of 239 people injured, just 16 suffered total loss of vision in one eye, 75 have normal vision and 148 are under “evaluation.”

The High Commissioner’s office urged Chile to adopt measures such as supervising the activities of the security forces, ensuring that they use identification. Officials need to take steps ensuring accountability in relation to human rights violations and recognize these violations.

Chile’s Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel reported this week that the riot police will change its name and headquarters and that many of its members will undergo retraining.

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Big Machine Records Accuses Taylor Swift of Spreading ‘False Information’: The Narrative ‘Does Not Exist’

Big Machine Records Accuses Taylor Swift of Spreading ‘False Information’ | Entertainment Tonight

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Facebook accuses ‘Putin’s chef,’ wanted in U.S., of targeting users in African countries

Facebook said on Wednesday it had suspended three networks of Russian accounts that attempted to interfere in the domestic politics of eight African countries and were tied to a Russian businessman accused of meddling in past U.S. elections.

The campaigns targeted people in Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya, Facebook said. They used almost 200 fake and compromised accounts to reach more than one million followers in the eight African countries.

All the networks were connected to “entities associated with Russian financier Yevgeny Prigozhin,” Facebook said. Prigozhin has previously denied wrongdoing. His lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the latest Facebook accusations involving African countries.

Prigozhin has been indicted by U.S. special prosecutor Robert Mueller as a principal figure behind an alleged Russian “troll farm” accused of trying to sway elections in the United States with covert social media campaigns.

In some of the African countries, the Russian-run networks worked with local citizens to better disguise their origins and target Internet users, said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cyber security policy.

“There’s sort of a joining of forces, if you will, between local actors and actors from Russia,” he told Reuters. “It appears that the local actors who are involved know who is behind the operation.”

Facebook declined to identify which local people or organizations had worked with the accounts or which companies it had connected to the activity and Prigozhin, a catering tycoon nicknamed “Putin’s chef” because of banquets he has organized for the Russian leader.

Ties to Wagner Group alleged

But researchers at Stanford University who worked with Facebook on its investigation said the companies included the Wagner Group — a firm of military contractors that sources have previously told Reuters has carried out clandestine combat missions on the Kremlin’s behalf in Ukraine and Syria.

Reuters reported last year that the group had expanded into economic and diplomatic work in countries including the Central African Republic as part of a push by Russia to increase its influence in Africa.

Russian authorities deny that Wagner contractors carry out their orders and Moscow has repeatedly rejected Western allegations of election meddling. The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Wagner has no public profile and has never commented about its activities. Prigozhin has denied links to Wagner.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have vowed to step up the fight against political manipulation of their platforms after facing fierce criticism for failing to counter alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Despite the increased scrutiny, U.S. officials have repeatedly warned of the threat posed by Russia and other countries who they say may still attempt to sway the result of next year’s presidential contest.

The campaigns shut down for meddling in Africa had posted about local news and geopolitical issues, as well as sharing content from Russian and local state-controlled media, Facebook said.

Some of the accounts were active as far back as 2014.

They also spent money on advertising, although Facebook estimated the total at less than $ 90,000 US. The paid social media advertising markets in many African countries are still small.

Researchers at the Stanford Internet Observatory, the research lab at Stanford University, said the networks used a variety of techniques across the different African countries.

Some accounts supported a specific party or candidate, they said, while others backed multiple figures. In other cases, the pages appeared geared towards building support for Wagner activities or Russian deals for natural resources.

In Sudan, said Observatory Research Scholar Shelby Grossman, “the tone has been generally supportive of the government, but not transparently so. It does suggest the strategy is very different across countries.”

The activity marks a shift from the previous alleged efforts by the Internet Research Agency to target U.S. voters, said Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former security chief and now head of the Stanford Internet Observatory.

The “franchise” model of working with local people in target countries makes the activity more difficult to detect, he said, and may have been developed to circumvent a move by Facebook to publish the locations of administrators of some political accounts.

The action over the African countries was Facebook’s second move against groups it linked to Prigozhin in a week. Last week, Facebook said it had suspended a network of 50 Instagram accounts it linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, an organization U.S. prosecutors say was funded by Prigozhin to attempt to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential vote.

Putin has been looking to strengthen economic ties and increase exports of military equipment and weapons to the continent, last week hosting dozens of African leaders at a summit in Sochi.

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Mike Pompeo accuses House Democrats of ‘bullying’ in Ukraine-related inquiries

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday declared that House Democrats are trying to “intimidate, bully and treat improperly” five current and former career officials in demanding depositions related to the Ukraine matter.

Pompeo said in a letter to the House’s foreign affairs committee, as part of the chamber’s impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, that the requested dates for the officials to voluntarily appear are “not feasible.”

“I am concerned with aspects of your request,” Pompeo wrote to Eliot Engel, the New York Democrat who chairs the committee. “I will not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals.”

In issuing a separate subpoena last week as part of the inquiry, the chairmen of three House committees made it clear that stonewalling their investigation would be considered obstruction of Congress in its investigation.

The panels are seeking documents from the State Department and voluntary testimony from the current and former officials.

“Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry,” wrote Engel and the other chairmen, Adam Schiff of the intelligence committee, and Elijah Cummings of the oversight committee.

The chairmen in their letter were seeking testimony from former State Department officials, including the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie (Masha) Yovanovitch, and former special envoy Kurt Volker.


It’s unclear whether Pompeo will comply with the committee’s request for documents by Friday.

Pompeo, travelling in Italy to meet with the country’s president and prime minister, ignored shouted questions about the impeachment inquiry.

House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry of Trump after a whistleblower’s disclosure of a July phone call with the Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which the U.S. president sought help in investigating Democratic rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter.

Even before the Ukraine storyline emerged, Democrats since taking control of the House after the midterms have found themselves stymied by the White House on several occasions when making requests for interviews or documents.

The three Democratic chairmen released a statement in response to Pompeo, advising “he should immediately cease intimidating Department witnesses in order to protect himself and the President.”

The statement, alluding to reports that emerged Monday indicating Pompeo listened to the call between Trump and Zelensky, said Pompeo was potentially a “fact witness in the House impeachment inquiry.”

“Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress — including State Department employees— is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry,” they said. 


Also on Tuesday, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who sits on the Senate’s judiciary committee, released a statement stressing that the whistleblower is protected by federal law.

“This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. We should always work to respect whistleblowers’ requests for confidentiality,” Grassley said. “No one should be making judgments or pronouncements without hearing from the whistleblower first and carefully following up on the facts.”

Some Republicans have criticized the whistleblower for relying in part on information from White House aides. Grassley says such second-hand information “should not be rejected out of hand.”

Trump angered critics, as well as the whistleblower’s lawyer, by suggesting on Monday the White House is “trying to find out” the person’ identity.

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CBC | World News