Tag Archives: security

Jordan’s Prince Hamzah says he’s under house arrest amid security crackdown

The half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah said Saturday he has been placed under house arrest by Jordanian authorities and accused the country’s leadership of corruption and incompetence.

In a videotaped statement leaked to the British Broadcasting Corp., Prince Hamzah bin Hussein said he was visited early Saturday by the country’s military chief and told “I was not allowed to go out, to communicate with people or to meet with them.”

He said his security detail was removed, and his phone and internet service had been cut. He said he was speaking over satellite internet, but expected that service to be cut as well. The BBC says it received the statement from Hamzah’s lawyer.

In the statement, Hamzah said he had been informed he was being punished for taking in part in meetings in which the king had been criticized, though he himself was not accused of being a direct critic.

He said he told the army chief: “I am not the person responsible for the breakdown in governance, for the corruption and for the incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last 15 to 20 years and has been getting worse by the year. I am not responsible for the lack of faith that people have in their institutions. They are responsible.”

General denies arrest

The country’s top general had earlier denied that Hamzah — a former crown prince stripped of the title in 2004 — was arrested or under house arrest, even as authorities announced the arrests of former senior officials close to the ruling monarchy.

Hamzah was asked to “stop some movements and activities that are being used to target Jordan’s security and stability,” said Gen. Yousef Huneiti, the army chief of staff.

He said an investigation was ongoing and its results would be made public “in a transparent and clear form.”

“No one is above the law and Jordan’s security and stability are above all,” he told the official Petra news agency.

Petra had earlier reported that two senior officials who formerly worked for the palace, along with other suspects, had been arrested for “security reasons,” without providing further details.

The Petra report said Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family, and Bassem Ibrahim Awadallah, a former head of the royal court, were detained. Awadallah, also previously served as planning minister and finance minister and has private business interests throughout the Gulf region.

The agency did not provide further details or name the others who were arrested.

King has ‘our full support,’ says U.S.

“We are closely following the reports and in touch with Jordanian officials,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. “King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support.”

Saudi Arabia’s official news agency said the kingdom “confirmed its full support to Jordan and its king and crown prince in all decisions and procedures to maintain security and stability and defuse any attempt to affect them.”

Abdullah has ruled Jordan since the 1999 death of of his father, King Hussein, who ruled the country for close to a half-century. The king has cultivated close relations with U.S. and other Western leaders over the years, and Jordan was a key ally in the war against the Islamic State group. The country borders Israel, the occupied West Bank, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Jordan’s economy has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. The country, with a population of around 10 million, also hosts more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.

Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994. The countries maintain close security ties, but relations have otherwise been tense in recent years, largely due to differences linked to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. Jordan is home to more than 2 million Palestinian refugees, most of whom have Jordanian citizenship.

Stability in Jordan and the status of the king has long been a matter of concern, particularly during the Trump administration, which gave unprecedented support to Israel and sought to isolate the Palestinians, including by slashing funding for Palestinian refugees.

In early 2018, as then-President Donald Trump was threatening to cut aid to countries that did not support U.S. policies, the administration boosted assistance to Jordan by more than $ 1 billion over five years.

Hamzah stripped of crown prince title

Abdullah stripped his half-brother Hamzah of his title as crown prince in 2004, saying he had decided to “free” him from the “constraints of the position” in order to allow him to take on other responsibilities. The move was seen at the time as part of Abdullah’s consolidation of power five years after the succession.

The current crown prince is Abdullah’s oldest son, Hussein, who is 26.

Jordan’s ruling family traces its lineage back to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Abdullah had chosen Hamzah as his crown prince hours after their father died of cancer in February 1999. The designation was out of respect for King Hussein, who was known to have favoured Hamzah the most among his 11 children from four marriages.

Abdullah and Hamzah have not displayed any open rivalry over the years.

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Myanmar security forces shoot and kill at least 8 pro-democracy demonstrators

Myanmar security forces shot and killed at least eight people Wednesday, according to accounts on social media and local news reports, as authorities extended their lethal crackdown on protests against last month’s coup.

Videos from various locations showed security forces firing slingshots at demonstrators, chasing them down and even beating an ambulance crew.

Demonstrators have regularly flooded the streets of cities across the country since the military seized power on Feb. 1 and ousted the elected government of leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Their numbers have remained high even as security forces have repeatedly fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse the crowds, and arrested protesters en masse.

“It’s horrific. It’s a massacre. No words can describe the situation and our feelings,” youth activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told Reuters via a messaging app.

The intensifying standoff is unfortunately familiar in the country with a long history of peaceful resistance to military rule — and brutal crackdowns. The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in the Southeast Asian nation after five decades of military rule.

14-year-old boy among the dead

On Sunday, security forces killed at least 18 protesters, according to the UN Human Rights Office. On Wednesday, there were reports of eight more deaths in four different cities, including that of a 14-year-old boy, though one human rights group put Wednesday’s death toll as high as 18 people.

Security forces have also arrested hundreds of people at protests, including journalists. On Saturday, at least eight journalists, including Thein Zaw of The Associated Press, were detained. A video shows he had moved out of the way as police charged down a street at protesters, but then was seized by police officers, who handcuffed him and held him briefly in a chokehold before marching him away.


This undated family photo provided on Wednesday shows Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw in Yangon. Authorities there charged Thein Zaw and five other members of the media with violating a public order law that could see them imprisoned for up to three years. The six were arrested while covering protests against the coup. (Thein Zaw family/The Associated Press)

He has been charged with violating a public safety law that could see him imprisoned for up to three years.

UN Security Council to discuss crisis Friday

The escalation of the crackdown has led to increased diplomatic efforts to resolve Myanmar’s political crisis — but there appear to be few viable options.

The UN Security Council is expected to hold a closed meeting on the situation on Friday, council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized the give the information before the official announcement. The United Kingdom requested the meeting, they said.


A member of a South Korean civic group holds a sign as she attends a rally against Myanmar’s military coup in Seoul on Wednesday. Demonstrations in support of democracy in Myanmar are taking place in many countries, including South Korea and India. (Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press)

Still, any kind of co-ordinated action at the United Nations will be difficult since two permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, would almost certainly veto it. Some countries have imposed or are considering imposing their own sanctions.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member, held a teleconference meeting of foreign ministers on Tuesday to discuss the crisis.

But there, too, action is unlikely. The regional group of 10 nations has a tradition of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. A statement by the chair after the meeting merely called for an end to violence and for talks on how to reach a peaceful settlement.

Ignoring that appeal, Myanmar’s security forces on Wednesday continued to attack peaceful protesters.

Details of the crackdowns and casualties are difficult to independently confirm, especially those occurring outside the bigger cities. But the accounts of most assaults have been consistent in social media and from local news outlets, and usually have videos and photos supporting them. It is also likely that many attacks in remote areas go unreported.

Medical workers believed to be targets

In Yangon, the country’s largest city, which has has seen some of the biggest protests, three people were killed, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma, an independent television and online news service. The deaths were also mentioned on Twitter, where some photos of bodies were posted.

“I heard so much continuous firing. I lay down on the ground. They shot a lot,” protester Kaung Pyae Sone Tun, 23, told Reuters.

In addition, a widely circulated video taken from a security camera showed police in the city brutally beating members of an ambulance crew — apparently after they were arrested. Police can be seen kicking the three crew members and thrashing them with rifle butts.

Security forces are believed to single out medical workers for arrest and mistreatment because members of the medical profession launched the country’s civil disobedience movement to resist the junta.


In Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, two people were reportedly shot dead. Photos posted on social media showed a university student peacefully taking part in the protest, and later showed her apparently lifeless with a head wound. Accounts on social media said a man was also killed.

Riot police in the city, backed by soldiers, broke up a rally and chased around 1,000 teachers and students from a street with tear gas as gunshots could be heard.

Video from The Associated Press showed a squad of police firing slingshots in the apparent direction of demonstrators as they dispersed.

In the central city of Monywa, which has turned out huge crowds, three people were shot Wednesday, including one in the head, the Democratic Voice of Burma reported. Reports on social media said two died.


In Myingyan, in the same central region, multiple social media posts reported the shooting death of a 14-year-old boy. Photos that posters said were of his body showed his head and chest soaked with blood as he was carried by fellow protesters.

Live fire also was reported to have caused injuries in Magwe, also in central Myanmar; in the town of Hpakant in the northern state of Kachin; and in Pyinoolwin, a town in central Myanmar better known to many by its British colonial name, Maymyo.

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U.S. Capitol Police bolstering travel security for lawmakers as Trump’s impeachment trial nears

U.S. Capitol Police are stepping up security at Washington-area transportation hubs and taking other steps to safeguard travelling lawmakers as Congress continues to react to this month’s deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Capitol Police will be stationed at area airports and Washington’s Union Station railway hub on busy travel days, the House’s chief law enforcement officer wrote in an email obtained Friday by The Associated Press. Timothy P. Blodgett, the acting sergeant-at-arms, wrote that officials were setting up an online portal so lawmakers can notify them of travel plans and urged legislators to report threats and suspicious activity.

“Members and staff should remain vigilant of their surroundings and immediately report anything unusual or suspicious,” said the email, sent late Thursday.

Blodgett said lawmakers have previously been advised that they can use office expense accounts to pay for security to protect their offices and events in their districts and for self-protection while performing official duties. It also cited a 2017 Federal Elections Commission opinion that they can use campaign contributions to install security systems at their homes.

Federal officials, meanwhile, said Friday that two pipe bombs left at the offices of the Republican and Democratic national committees — discovered just before thousands of pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol — were actually placed the night before.

The FBI said the investigation had revealed new information, including that the explosive devices were placed outside the two buildings between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 5, the night before the siege. The devices were not located by law enforcement until the next day.

It is not clear whether that means the pipe bombs were unrelated to the next day’s attack or were part of the riot planning. Both buildings are within a few blocks of the Capitol.

The incident has been particularly concerning for law enforcement as officials step up security preparations ahead of the Senate’s impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump. For weeks, investigators have been worried about the potential for attacks on soft targets in the nation’s capital.

The FBI released additional photos of the explosive devices on Friday, including a photograph that showed one of the devices placed underneath a bush. Officials have also increased the reward in the case to $ 100,000 US.

Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s office in Washington, said earlier this week that locating the person who planted the pipe bombs was a top priority for federal agents, though officials have only released grainy surveillance camera images of a potential suspect.

On Friday, the FBI said the person wore a grey hooded sweatshirt, a face mask and Nike Air Max Speed Turf sneakers in yellow, black and grey, and had been carrying a backpack.

‘Enemy is within the House,’ Pelosi says

President Joe Biden is in “close touch” with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, about congressional security, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Pelosi told reporters Thursday that lawmakers face threats of violence from an “enemy” within Congress and said money would be needed to improve security. The California Democrat’s comments were a startling acknowledgment of escalating internal tensions between the two parties over safety since the Jan. 6 attack by Trump supporters.

Also Thursday, the acting chief of the Capitol Police said “vast improvements” are needed to protect the Capitol and adjacent office buildings, including permanent fencing.

Such barricades have ringed the complex since the deadly Jan. 6 riot, but many lawmakers have long resisted giving the nation’s symbol of democracy the look of a besieged compound, and leaders were noncommittal about the idea.


U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that lawmakers face threats of violence from an ‘enemy’ within Congress. (Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press)

Pelosi focused her comments on the anxiety and partisan frictions that have persisted in Congress since Trump supporters’ assault on the Capitol, which led to five deaths. She told reporters she thinks Congress will need to provide money “for more security for members, when the enemy is within the House of Representatives, a threat that members are concerned about.”

Asked to clarify what she meant, Pelosi said, “It means that we have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence on other members of Congress.”

Some lawmakers who voted for this month’s House impeachment of Trump have reported receiving threats, and initial moves to enhance safety procedures have taken on clear partisan undertones. Some Republicans have loudly objected to having to pass through newly installed metal detectors before entering the House chamber, while Pelosi has proposed fining lawmakers who bypass the devices.

WATCH | James Comey says Trump should be banned from running again:

Former FBI director James Comey says former U.S. president Donald Trump should be convicted in the upcoming impeachment trial 8:28

Pelosi did not say whom she meant by her reference to an “enemy” within the House, and a spokesperson provided no examples.

First-term Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has expressed support for baseless QAnon conspiracy theories, has liked Facebook posts that advocated for violence against Democrats and the FBI. One post suggested shooting Pelosi in the head.

Asked to comment, the Republican from Georgia sent a written statement accusing Democrats and journalists of attacking her because she is “a threat to their goal of Socialism” and supports Trump and conservative values.

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U.S. state capitol buildings beef up security amid fears of armed pro-Trump protests

Washington, D.C., was locked down and U.S. law enforcement officials geared up for pro-Trump marches in all 50 state capitals this weekend, erecting barriers and deploying thousands of National Guard troops to try to prevent the kind of violent attack that rattled the nation on Jan. 6.

The FBI warned police agencies of possible armed protests outside all 50 state capitol buildings starting Saturday through president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, fuelled by supporters of President Donald Trump who believe his false claims of electoral fraud.

Michigan, Virginia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Washington were among states that activated their National Guards to strengthen security. Texas closed its Capitol building through Inauguration Day.

Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said in a statement late Friday that intelligence indicated “violent extremists” may seek to exploit planned armed protests in Austin to “conduct criminal acts.”

The scramble followed the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington by a mix of extremists and Trump supporters, some of whom planned to kidnap members of Congress and called for the death of Vice-President Mike Pence as he presided over the certification of Biden’s victory in November’s election.

WATCH | U.S. National Guard activated in Michigan:

Mayor Andy Schor of Lansing, Mich., says security preparations ahead of inauguration day are in place to prevent violent protests against the presidential election results. 7:15

Law enforcement officials have trained much of their focus on Sunday, when the anti-government “boogaloo” movement flagged plans to hold rallies in all 50 states.

In Michigan, a fence was erected around the Capitol in Lansing, and troopers were mobilized from across the state to bolster security. The legislature cancelled meetings next week, citing concern over credible threats.

“We are prepared for the worst, but we remain hopeful that those who choose to demonstrate at our Capitol do so peacefully,” Michigan State Police Director Joe Gasper told a news conference on Friday.

Experts say battleground states most at risk

The perception that the Jan. 6 insurrection was a success could embolden domestic extremists motivated by anti-government, racial and partisan grievances, spurring them to further violence, according to a government intelligence bulletin dated Wednesday that was first reported by Yahoo News.

The Joint Intelligence Bulletin, produced by the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and National Counterterrorism Center, further warned that “false narratives” about electoral fraud would serve as an ongoing catalyst for extremist groups.

Thousands of armed National Guard troops were in the streets in Washington in an unprecedented show of force after the assault on the U.S. Capitol. Bridges into the city were to be closed, along with dozens of roadways. The National Mall and other iconic U.S. landmarks were blocked off into next week.


Members of the U.S. National Guard secure the area near the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Experts say that the capitals of battleground states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona are among those most at risk of violence. But even states not seen as likely flashpoints are taking precautions.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on Friday that while his state had not received any specific threats, he was beefing up security around the Capitol in Springfield, including adding about 250 state National Guard troops.

The alarm extended beyond legislatures. The United Church of Christ, a Protestant denomination of more than 4,900 churches, warned its 800,000 members there were reports that “liberal” churches could be attacked in the coming week.

WATCH | U.S. overcompensating with inauguration security, expert says:

The huge security rollout in Washington, D.C., ahead of the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20 is because there is not a good grasp of intelligence, says security expert Christian Leuprecht, and officials don’t want a repeat of the Capitol security breach on Jan. 6. 5:33

Suzanne Spaulding, a former undersecretary for the Department of Homeland Security, said disclosing enhanced security measures can be an effective deterrent.

“One of the ways you can potentially de-escalate a problem is with a strong security posture,” said Spaulding, now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “You try to deter people from trying anything.”

Following the Jan. 6 violence in Washington, some militia members said they would not attend a long-planned pro-gun demonstration in Virginia on Monday, which is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday. Authorities in Virginia were worried about the risk of violence as multiple groups converged on the state capital, Richmond.

WATCH | More details emerge about mobs that attacked the U.S. Capitol:

Washington increases security to prepare for potential violence leading up to Joe Biden’s inauguration, while more ugly details emerge about the white nationalist mobs that rampaged Capitol Hill last week. 2:43

Others told the Washington Post that they wanted the protest organized in response to new state gun rules to be peaceful. Some militias in other parts of the country have told followers to stay home this weekend, citing the increased security or the risk that the planned events were law enforcement traps.

Even so, Michael Hayden of the Southern Poverty Law Center said he has not been this worried about the potential for violence in a long time. Among other factors, he said the perceived censorship of conservative voices by technology companies such as Twitter has served to meld right-wing extremists and run-of-the-mill Republicans into a common cause.

“It has provided a kind of unifying grievance between groups that had no connection with one another before,” Hayden said.

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Homeland Security boss resigns as FBI warns of possible armed protests across U.S. before Biden inauguration

As security forces in the United States brace for the possibility of armed protests across the country around president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, the acting secretary of homeland security is stepping down.

Chad Wolf, who criticized President Donald Trump over last week’s deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol, said in a message to staff that he would step down as of Monday night. He said Pete Gaynor, who ran the Federal Emergency Management Agency, would become the acting homeland security secretary. 

Wolf had earlier indicated he planned to remain in the job. Last week, Wolf asked Trump and all elected officials to “strongly condemn the violence” that took place at the Capitol. Five people died, including a police officer.

Wolf said he has condemned violence on both sides of the political aisle, specifically directed at law enforcement. He tweeted “we now see some supporters of the President using violence as a means to achieve political ends” and called that unacceptable.


Meanwhile, the FBI is warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington in the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

An internal FBI bulletin warned that the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, according to two law enforcement officials who read details of the memo to The Associated Press. Investigators believe some of the people are members of some extremist groups, the officials said. The bulletin was first reported by ABC.

“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said, according to one official. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters on Monday that the Guard is also looking at any issues that may arise across the country.

“We’re keeping a look across the entire country to make sure that we’re monitoring, and that our Guards in every state are in close co-ordination with their local law enforcement agencies to provide any support requested.”

Security forces bolster plans

The head of the National Guard says at least 10,000 troops will be deployed in Washington, D.C., by Saturday, and an additional 5,000 could be requested from other states as officials brace for more, possibly violent protests surrounding president-elect Biden’s inauguration.

The U.S. National Park Service announced Monday it would shut down public access to Washington monument until Jan. 24, citing threats surrounding the inauguration.

The U.S. Secret Service will also begin carrying out its special security arrangements for the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration on Wednesday, almost a week earlier than originally planned. 

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser on Sunday sent a letter to Wolf saying she is “extremely concerned” about the upcoming inauguration in light of the “unprecedented terrorist attacks on the U.S. Capitol.”


Trump himself is skipping Biden’s inauguration, a decision Biden said was a “good thing,” though Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife plan to attend.

Biden’s team hopes the event will help bring a fractured country back together. The theme will be “America United” — an issue that’s long been a central focus for Biden, but one that’s taken on added weight in the wake of the violence in the Capitol.

WATCH l Assessing the pros and cons of invoking the 25th Amendment:

The CBC’s Carole MacNeil speaks to Thomas Balcerski, associate professor of history at Eastern Connecticut State University, on whether the 25th Amendment could be invoked against U.S. President Donald Trump. 6:59

The presidential inaugural committee said that the theme “reflects the beginning of a new national journey that restores the soul of America, brings the country together and creates a path to a brighter future.”

It will be one of Biden’s first acts as president and a show of bipartisanship at a time when the national divide is on stark display.

The focus on unity has characterized Biden’s presidential run from the start, and he’s said repeatedly since winning the White House he sees unifying the country as one of his top priorities as president. But the scope — and urgency — of the challenge Biden faces became even clearer after Trump inspired a riot at the Capitol last Wednesday, spurred by his repeated attempts to delegitimize Biden’s win.


U.S. president-elect Joe Biden plans to focus on bringing the country together once he’s sworn in on Jan. 20. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

There are already signs of increased tension outside of Washington, D.C., as state lawmakers return to work. 

In Olympia, Wash., members of the National Guard defended security fencing outside of the capitol building as the 2021 legislative session got underway. There were concerns armed groups might try to occupy the building. Last Wednesday, hours after the siege in Washington, D.C., people broke a gate outside the governor’s mansion in the state of Washington and made it to the porch and front yard.

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Climate change creating major security threat for Brazil, military experts warn

Climate change will increase the burdens on Brazil’s armed forces and endanger the country’s energy and water security, military experts predicted Monday.

A group of senior military leaders said deforestation in the Amazon region could alter rainfall patterns in Brazil, hitting hydropower plants — the country’s major source of energy — and water supplies for major urban centres.

Brazil’s armed forces also could be stretched thin as they respond to an uptick in humanitarian crises caused by climate change in the country, the officials said in a report by the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS).

“Brazilian leaders should make climate change and counter-deforestation a security priority,” said Oliver-Leighton Barrett, the council’s liaison for the Americas, during an online presentation of the report.

Brazil is highly dependent on hydropower, with about 63 per cent of the country’s electricity coming from water-related sources, according to government data from 2019.

The country is also already struggling to cope with worsening drought, which helped drive fires that scorched 30 per cent of its vast western Pantanal wetlands this year.

Between 2014 and 2016, Brazil’s most populous state of Sao Paulo faced unprecedented water shortages that led to street protests.

“If it had gone much longer it would have been a major humanitarian crisis,” Barrett said of the Sao Paulo drought.

Military called in to help in humanitarian crises 

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is an outspoken critic of efforts to curb climate change, and also has said he wants to develop the Amazon region to lift it out of poverty.

The president, a former army captain, has relied on Brazil’s military to alleviate humanitarian crises in the country and to monitor the Amazon, where deforestation has surged again after years of advances in cutting losses.


Deforested and burned area is seen in the municipality of Lábrea, Brazil in the south of the Amazon in August. (Sandro Pereira/Fotoarena/Sipa USA/The Associated Press)

The report said that whole military forces across Latin America are called in regularly to help with humanitarian crises, and “this will continue as climate change drives more disasters.”

The Amazon rainforest — the world’s largest tropical forest — is a major absorber of planet-heating carbon dioxide.

Its continuing loss threatens to accelerate global climate-related disasters — from worsening droughts, floods and storms to soaring temperatures and rising sea levels. 

Sustainability key for Amazon

To preserve the forest and protect Brazil’s water supplies, the country needs to develop the Amazon, but in a sustainable way, said Raul Jungmann, Brazil’s defence minister from 2016 to 2018.

Brazil’s armed forces are conservationists, he said — but they see protecting national security, including from foreign interference, as a top priority.

“The armed forces have environmental actions as subsidiary. This is not their main focus,” said Jungmann. “The armed forces are primarily concerned with national sovereignty.”

He said he believes Brazil’s Vice-President Hamilton Mourao, who leads the government’s Amazon Council, is dedicated to stopping deforestation but lacks support within the government.

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Trump pardons former national security adviser Michael Flynn

U.S. President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn Wednesday, ending a years-long prosecution related to the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Department of Justice stepped in to dismiss his case.

The pardon, coming in the waning days of the Trump administration, takes direct aim at the investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russian interference in the 2016 election that the president has long insisted was motivated by political bias.

“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”

Flynn is the second Trump associate convicted in the Russia probe to be granted clemency by the president.

Trump commuted the sentence of longtime confidant Roger Stone just days before he was to report to prison. It is part of a broader effort to undo the results of an investigation that for years has shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half dozen associates.


The action voids the criminal case against Flynn just as a federal judge was weighing, skeptically, whether to grant a U.S. Justice Department request to dismiss the prosecution.

A senior Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official said the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn. The official was not authorized to discuss internal discussions publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Likely to energize Trump supporters

The move, coming as Trump winds down his four-year term, is likely to energize supporters who have taken up the case as a cause célèbre and rallied around the retired army lieutenant general, whom they see as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution.

Trump himself has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn even though special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors once praised him as a model co-operator in their probe into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.

Democrats lambasted the pardon, calling it undeserved and unprincipled.

The pardon of Flynn is “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

“The president’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president,” House judiciary committee chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump.”

House intelligence committee chair Adam Schiff said the pardon wasn’t a surprise but was nonetheless crooked.

“Flynn pled guilty to those lies, twice. A pardon by Trump does not erase that truth, no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise,” he said.

Final step

The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns over the last year after the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss it, insisting that Flynn should have never been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan refuse the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the government’s position.

In the months since, a three-judge panel’s decision ordering Sullivan to dismiss the case was overturned by the full appeals court, which sent the matter back to Sullivan.

At a hearing in September, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell told the judge that she had discussed the Flynn case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.

Pardon spares Flynn prison time

Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to president-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team ultimately distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.

The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately decided to reject the Justice Department’s dismissal request. That request was made in May after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.

Flynn acknowledged lying during the FBI interview by saying he had not discussed with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador at the time, sanctions that had just been imposed on Russia for election interference by the outgoing Obama administration.

During that conversation, Flynn urged Russia to be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured Kislyak “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the two countries after Trump became president.


Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the U.S. at the time, arrives at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on July 17, 2017. Flynn admitted he lied to the FBI when he said he had not discussed sanctions imposed on Russia with Kislyak. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election’s outcome. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions.

But last May, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position in the case. It said the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he may have made were not relevant to the FBI’s broader counterintelligence probe. It cited internal FBI notes showing that agents had planned to close out their investigation into Flynn weeks earlier.

Flynn was among 1st aides to admit to lying

Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that he had, indeed, discussed sanctions with Kislyak and that former Obama administration officials had warned the White House that he could be vulnerable to blackmail.

Flynn was among the first of the president’s aides to admit guilt in Mueller’s investigation and co-operated extensively for months. He provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time and suggested that they would be fine with probation.

But on the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.

After that, though, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller’s investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government.

The lawyers accused prosecutors of withholding documents and evidence they said was favourable to the case and repeatedly noted that one of the two agents who interviewed Flynn was fired from the FBI for having sent derogatory text messages about Trump during the 2016 campaign.

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Trump fires head of federal security agency who vouched for reliability of the election

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the federal agency that vouched for the reliability of the 2020 election.

Trump fired Christopher Krebs in a tweet, saying his recent statement defending the security of the election was “highly inaccurate.”

The firing of Krebs, a Trump appointee and director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), comes as Trump is refusing to recognize the victory of Democratic president-elect Joe Biden and removing high-level officials seen as insufficiently loyal.

He fired Defence Secretary Mark Esper on Nov. 9, part of a broader shakeup that put Trump loyalists in senior Pentagon positions.

Krebs. a former Microsoft executive, ran the CISA from its creation in the wake of Russian interference with the 2016 election through the November election. He won bipartisan praise as the agency co-ordinated federal state and local efforts to defend electoral systems from foreign or domestic interference.

No credible evidence

In recent days, Krebs has repeatedly pushed back against false claims that the election was tainted. Earlier Tuesday, he tweeted out a report citing 59 election security experts saying there is no credible evidence of computer fraud in the election results.


Trump fired back on Twitter later in the day. He repeated unsubstantiated claims about the vote and wrote “effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”

Krebs, from his personal Twitter account, responded: “Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomrorow.” He closed with the phrase “Protect 2020,” which had been his agency’s slogan ahead of the election.

Officials with the CISA and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, had no immediate comment.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House intelligence committee, hailed Krebs and assailed Trump for “retaliating against Director Krebs and other officials who did their duty. It’s pathetic, but sadly predictable that upholding and protecting our democratic processes would be cause for firing.”

‘Not our job to fact check the president’

Krebs avoided ever directly criticizing the president and tried to stay above the political fray, even as he worked to contradict misinformation coming from the president and his supporters. “It’s not our job to fact check the president,” he said at a briefing with reporters on the eve of the election.

CISA issued statements dismissing claims that large numbers of dead people could vote or that someone could change results without detection.

It also distributed a statement from a coalition of federal and state officials concluding there was no evidence that votes were compromised or altered in the Nov. 3 election and that the vote was the most secure in American history.

CISA works with the state and local officials who run U.S. elections as well as private companies that supply voting equipment to address cybersecurity and other threats while monitoring balloting and tabulation from a control room at its headquarters near Washington. It also works with industry and utilities to protect the nation’s industrial base and power grid from threats.

The agency enjoys a good reputation among its core constituency — the state and local election officials who rely on its advice and services at a time of near-constant cyberattack — as well as on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers recently proposed an increase of its annual budget of around $ 2 billion US.

‘Not a partisan bone in his body’

Amid recent reports that Krebs feared he might be fired, Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, had said he was concerned and sent a text to the director to ask him if he was OK. The response was, in effect, “for now,” the Mississippi Democrat said.

“It’s a shame if someone with his talent is all of a sudden, muzzled,” Thompson said. “I have not seen a partisan bone in his body. He’s been a consummate professional.”

Rep. Jim Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat who focuses on cybersecurity issues, had called on his Republican colleagues to stand up for him before he could be removed from his post. “Chris Krebs and CISA have done so well under his leadership because he and his team have kept their heads down and done the job they were tasked with doing and not gotten caught up in partisan politics,” Langevin said.

The agency emerged from rocky beginnings. Just before President Barack Obama left office, the U.S. designated election systems as critical national security infrastructure, like dams or power plants, as a result of the interference by Russia, which included the penetration of state elections systems as well as massive disinformation.

Some state election officials and Republicans, suspicious of federal intrusion on their turf, were opposed to the designation. The National Association of Secretaries of State adopted a resolution in opposition to the move in February 2017. But the Trump administration supported the designation, and, eventually, skeptical state officials welcomed the assistance.

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Former U.S. Homeland Security chief of staff outs himself as ‘Anonymous’ who criticized Trump

A former Trump administration official who penned a scathing anti-Trump op-ed and book under the pen name “Anonymous” revealed himself Wednesday as a former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The official, Miles Taylor, said in a tweet six days before the Nov. 3 election that U.S. President Donald Trump is “a man without character,” and “it’s time for everyone to step out of the shadows.”

Taylor has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s in recent months and had repeatedly denied he was the author of the column — even to colleagues at CNN, where he has a contributor contract. He left the Trump administration in June 2019 and endorsed Democrat Joe Biden for president this past summer.

Trump and White House officials moved quickly to describe Taylor as someone with little standing and clout.

“This guy is a low-level lowlife that I don’t know. I have no idea who he is, other than I got to see him a little while ago on television,” Trump told a campaign rally crowd in Arizona. As he belittled Taylor as a “sleazebag” and called for his prosecution, the crowd broke into cheers of “drain that swamp.”


Taylor with then-secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen on in March 2018. (Tim Godbee/Department of Homeland Security via The Associated Press)

But as DHS chief of staff, Taylor was in many White House meetings with the president on his border policy and other major homeland security issues. During Taylor’s time as chief of staff, Trump threatened to shut down the southern border, and his administration developed the policy to force asylum seekers to wait across the U.S.-Mexico border.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows called Taylor’s revelation “a monumental embarrassment,” tweeting, “I’ve seen more exciting reveals in Scooby-Doo episodes.”

During a CNN appearance with Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night, Taylor said he didn’t unmask himself earlier because the story would have disappeared within 48 hours.

“No one would pay attention and they wouldn’t care,” he said. “Right now, Americans are reviewing the president’s resume, his record and his character and it is mission critical that people like me, but others, come out now when the voters are listening and tell them who this man really is.”

Taylor’s anonymous essay was published in 2018 by The New York Times, infuriating the president and setting off a frantic White House leak investigation to try to unmask the author.

In the essay, the person, who at the time identified themselves only as a senior administration official, said they were part of a secret “resistance” force out to counter Trump’s “misguided impulses” and undermine parts of his agenda.


“Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions, while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office,” read the essay.

The allegations incensed the president, bolstering his allegations about a “deep state” operating within his government and conspiring against him.

And it set off a guessing game that seeped into the White House, with current and former staffers trading calls and texts, trying to figure out who could have written the piece.

Trump’s campaign press secretary called Taylor’s revelation Wednesday “the least impressive, lamest political ‘reveal’ of all time.”

Hogan Gidley said in a statement that Taylor “loved President Trump until he figured out he could try to make money by attacking him.” 

Trump, who had long complained about leaks in the White House, had ordered aides to unmask the writer, citing “national security” concerns to justify a possible Justice Department investigation. And he issued an extraordinary demand that the newspaper reveal the author.


Taylor’s op-ed claimed he was one of a group of ‘resistors’ working to curtail Trump’s decisions for the good of the country. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Lied to CNN

Instead, the author pressed forward, penning a follow-up book published last November, called A Warning, that continued to paint a disturbing picture of the president, describing him as volatile, incompetent and unfit to be commander-in-chief.

To a certain extent, he’s since been overshadowed by other former government officials, both during impeachment hearings and after, who went public condemning Trump’s behaviour with their names attached.

Taylor’s behaviour also leaves questions for CNN. He was asked directly by the network’s Anderson Cooper in August whether he was “Anonymous” and answered: “I wear a mask for two things, Anderson: Halloween and pandemics. So, no.”

Josh Campbell, a national security correspondent for CNN, tweeted that he had also asked Taylor if he was “Anonymous” and was told no.

Taylor said Wednesday that he owed Cooper a beer and a mea culpa. He said he wrote in his book that he would deny being “Anonymous” if asked, because he wanted to keep the focus on his arguments, instead of who was writing them.

“You know what the problem is with having lied is: Now you’re a liar, and people will be slow to believe you,” Cuomo said.

But he continued with a half-hour interview where Taylor denounced Trump. CNN said Taylor would remain a network contributor.

Taylor said he believed Trump would double down on damaging policies, particularly the separation of families at the southern border, if he won a second term.

“They want to turn this country into Fortress America rather than a shining city on the hill,” he said.

He said he considered resigning from the Trump administration a year before he did and wishes now that he had.

Former Republican Party consultant Reed Galen, one of the founders of the anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project, tweeted that Taylor “isn’t a hero.” He added: “He sat in those rooms, in those councils of power and allowed the banality of evil to work…. Heroism isn’t silence until it’s convenient and personally advantageous to stand up.”

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TikTok to leave Hong Kong as security law raises worries

TikTok said Tuesday it will stop operations in Hong Kong, joining other social media companies in warily eyeing ramifications of a sweeping national security law that took effect last week.

The short-form video app’s planned departure from Hong Kong comes as various social media platforms and messaging apps including Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, Google and Twitter balk at the possibility of providing user data to Hong Kong authorities.

The social media companies say they are assessing implications of the security law, which prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs. In the communist-ruled mainland, the foreign social media platforms are blocked by China’s “Great Firewall.”

Critics see the law as Beijing’s boldest step yet to erase the legal divide between the former British colony and the mainland’s authoritarian Communist Party system.

TikTok said in a statement that it had decided to halt operations “in light of recent events.”


Protesters carry the flag which reads “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” in Hong Kong last month. A new security law criminalizes some of these pro-democracy slogans. (Kin Cheung/The Associated Press)

Facebook and its messaging app WhatsApp said in separate statements Monday that they would freeze the review of government requests for user data in Hong Kong, “pending further assessment of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with international human rights experts.”

Hong Kong was convulsed with massive, sometimes violent anti-government protests for much of last year as the former British colony’s residents reacted to proposed extradition legislation, since withdrawn, that might have led to some suspects facing trial in mainland Chinese courts.

The new law criminalizes some pro-democracy slogans like the widely used “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time,” which the Hong Kong government says has separatist connotations.

The fear is that it erodes the special freedoms of the semi-autonomous city, which has operated under a “one country, two systems” framework since China took control in 1997. That arrangement has allowed Hong Kong’s people freedoms not permitted in mainland China, such as unrestricted internet access and public dissent.

Telegram, whose platform has been used widely to spread pro-democracy messages and information about the protests, understands “the importance of protecting the right to privacy of our Hong Kong users,” said Mike Ravdonikas, a spokesperson for the company.

Twitter pauses data requests from Hong Kong

“Telegram has never shared any data with the Hong Kong authorities in the past and does not intend to process any data requests related to its Hong Kong users until an international consensus is reached in relation to the ongoing political changes in the city,” he said.

Twitter also paused all data and information requests from Hong Kong authorities after the law went into effect last week, the company said, emphasizing that it was “committed to protecting the people using our service and their freedom of expression.”

“Like many public interest organisations, civil society leaders and entities, and industry peers, we have grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law,” the company said in a statement.

Google likewise said it had “paused production on any new data requests from Hong Kong authorities.”

Though social platforms have yet to be blocked in Hong Kong, users have begun scrubbing their accounts and deleting pro-democracy posts out of fear of retribution. That retreat has extended to the streets: Many shops and stores that publicly stood in solidarity with protesters have removed the pro-democracy sticky notes and artwork that had adorned their walls.


Chinese President Xi Jinping casts his vote on the Hong Kong national security law at the closing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing on May 28. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

Under implementation rules of Article 43 of the national security law, which give the city’s police force sweeping powers in enforcing the legislation, platforms, publishers and internet service providers may be ordered to take down any electronic message published that is “likely to constitute an offence endangering national security or is likely to cause the occurrence of an offence endangering national security.”

Hong Kong police arrest 370

Service providers who do not comply with such requests could face fines of up to 100,000 Hong Kong dollars ($ 17,506 Cdn) and receive jail terms of up to six months.

Individuals who post such messages may also be asked to remove the message, or face similar fines and a jail term of one year.

Hong Kong authorities moved quickly to implement the law after it took effect on June 30, with police arresting about 370 people.

The rules allow Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam to authorize police to intercept communications and conduct surveillance to “prevent and detect offences endangering national security.”

Police can conduct searches for evidence without a warrant in “exceptional circumstances” and seek warrants requiring people suspected of violating the national security law to surrender their travel documents, preventing them from leaving Hong Kong.

Written notices or restraining orders also may be issued to freeze or confiscate property if there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect that the property is related to an offence endangering national security.

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