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NSA whistleblower who leaked Russian hacking report petitions for clemency

NSA whistleblower who leaked Russian hacking report petitions for clemencyReality Winner was sentenced to five years in 2018 after leaking classified report about Russia’s interference in the 2016 electionSupporters of Reality Winner, a National Security Agency whistleblower who leaked classified information about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, petitioned Donald Trump on Monday for her early release from prison.Alison Grinter, an attorney representing the former US air force intelligence specialist, announced at a press conference in Dallas that she had submitted 4,500 letters of support to the federal office of the pardon attorney, the division of the Department of Justice that advises the US president on executive clemency decisions.Winner was sentenced to five years and three months in August 2018 after admitting breaching the espionage act by passing top secret documents to an investigative news website about the Russian hacking of voting software and its efforts to disrupt dozens of local election systems ahead of the 2016 election.“Our country was attacked by a hostile foreign power,” The Intercept quoted Grinter as saying at the press conference.“Our national healing process cannot begin until we forgive our truth tellers and begin the job of rebuilding what was taken from us: election security, accountability for those who endeavor to undermine our democracy; and safeguarding the American right to government by and for the people. None of this can begin in earnest while we are still punishing those who tell us the truth.”The petition states of Winner, 28: “Her continued incarceration is costly, unnecessary to protect the public, burdensome to her health and wellbeing, and not commensurate with the severity of her offense.”Trump called Winner’s sentence “unfair” in an August 2018 tweet attacking then-attorney general Jeff Sessions, describing her actions as “small potatoes” compared to what he alleged his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton had done with classified information while she was secretary of state during the administration of Barack Obama.A three-year state department investigation cleared Clinton of any wrongdoing in October 2019.Winner said of Trump in a phone interview with CBS News from Georgia’s Lincoln county jail in 2018 that she “can’t thank him enough” for the tweet, which she said confirmed her lawyers’ view that the sentence was unfair.The Department of Justice did not immediately return a request for comment from the Guardian on Monday.

POSTED FEBRUARY 17, 2020 3:01 PM

Grandparents, uncle charged in beating death, torture of Montana boy

Grandparents, uncle charged in beating death, torture of Montana boyDuring the investigation into the boy's death, police seized cellphones belonging to the suspects that showed the family torturing him, the affidavit says.

POSTED FEBRUARY 18, 2020 3:48 PM

'Historic, unprecedented' flooding swamps southern USA; Mississippi and Tennessee hardest hit

'Historic, unprecedented' flooding swamps southern USA; Mississippi and Tennessee hardest hitWeeks of heavy rain have inundated a large portion of the southern USA, bringing near-record flooding to Mississippi and Tennessee

POSTED FEBRUARY 17, 2020 4:26 PM

Huge locust outbreak in East Africa reaches South Sudan

Huge locust outbreak in East Africa reaches South SudanThe worst locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years has reached South Sudan, a country where roughly half the population already faces hunger after years of civil war, officials announced Tuesday. Around 2,000 locusts were spotted inside the country, Agriculture Minister Onyoti Adigo told reporters. The locusts have been seen in Eastern Equatoria state near the borders with Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

POSTED FEBRUARY 18, 2020 10:26 AM

Cruise passengers scatter, take Cambodia bus tours despite virus fears

Cruise passengers scatter, take Cambodia bus tours despite virus fearsA scramble intensified Monday to trace passengers from a US cruise liner allowed to disembark in Cambodia despite at least one traveller later being diagnosed with the deadly coronavirus. There are fears scores of cruise goers have been scattered across the world without full health checks -- as Cambodia on Monday afternoon treated a few dozen of the passengers to bus tours around the capital Phnom Penh. Passenger Christina Kerby, whose drole tweets as the Westerdam was bounced across ports drew widespread attention, admitted she "was surprised" to be allowed on a tour of the Cambodian capital before being given the complete all-clear from the virus.

POSTED FEBRUARY 17, 2020 2:16 PM

U.S. Coronavirus Cases Nearly Double With No End in Sight

U.S. Coronavirus Cases Nearly Double With No End in SightConfirmed cases of the new, deadly coronavirus in the United States almost doubled over the holiday weekend thanks to the messy evacuation of Americans from a cruise ship in Japan, while fresh numbers from China suggested the disease might be deadlier than first believed.The U.S. government evacuated 328 American passengers from Tokyo early Monday on two chartered cargo jets, leaving 61 others behind who preferred to stay on the Diamond Princess cruise ship—despite a strong disembarkation recommendation from the federal government. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said over the weekend that it recommended repatriation so that it could take responsibility for care of the Americans and “to reduce the burden on the Japanese healthcare system.”All travelers from Japan were screened before boarding the aircraft “to prevent symptomatic travelers from departing Japan,” according to the CDC. But 14 people who ultimately proved to be infected with the disease were included in the evacuation anyway, with officials later explaining that the positive results came back as passengers were already heading to the airport.Dr. William Walters, managing director of operational medicine at the State Department, told reporters Monday that authorities evacuated passengers without knowing their test results because it was “unpredictable” when the results would come back. None of the diagnosed evacuees were showing symptoms, and they flew home in separate chambers—made of 10-feet-tall plastic sheets—from the other 314 passengers. The government planned to house all uninfected evacuees for 14 days at federal quarantine sites at Travis Air Force Base in California and Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.‘It Failed’: Cruise Ship Coronavirus Snafus Stoke Fears of Global PandemicInfected evacuees, on the other hand, were sent to hospitals in California and at the University of Nebraska for treatment. Another five passengers on the flights had reportedly been put in isolation after developing fevers, a development that was likely to add to public skepticism of the U.S. and Japanese governments’ response, even as officials insisted that the risk to the general public was still “low.”Eiji Kusumi, a doctor specializing in infectious diseases at Navitas Clinic in Tokyo, told The New York Times that the quarantine of the cruise ship, which remained docked in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, was an “unprecedented failure” and that officials should “learn from this lesson that a quarantine on a ship is impossible.”The cruise ship has for weeks housed the largest outbreak outside of China, and Japanese health authorities said Tuesday there were a total of 542 confirmed cases on the Diamond Princess—88 new ones since last count—out of 3,700 passengers and crew members. As of Tuesday, 2,404 people on board had tested negative for the virus.The vessel-wide quarantine, which began on Feb. 3, was set to end on Wednesday, but those who bunked with passengers or crew members who tested positive were slated to remain on board for longer. Only about 500 people were expected to be released on Wednesday.Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institutes of Health, also admitted on Monday that the quarantine on board the cruise ship “failed.” After weeks of debate about the subject, Japan has said it will test everyone aboard the ship before allowing them to disembark.Outside of evacuees from the Diamond Princess, the CDC said there remained 15 confirmed cases in the U.S. on Tuesday out of 467 persons under investigation for the 2019 novel coronavirus. Some 392 of those patients tested negative for the virus, while 60 remained pending on Tuesday. Several Americans who have been stuck in federal quarantine in San Diego since returning from Wuhan earlier this month have voiced concern over the effectiveness and thoroughness of the CDC's response, going so far as to draft a petition after the government mistakenly reintroduced a woman to the general population after she tested positive for the virus.As of Tuesday morning, China reported 72,528 cases, including 1,870 deaths, according to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization. Outside of China, there were 804 cases in 25 countries, he added, with 12 other countries having confirmed instances of human-to-human transmission.“At the moment, we don’t have enough data on cases outside China to make a meaningful comparison on the severity of the disease or the case fatality rate,” said Tedros.But as the Times reported, an analysis by Chinese authorities from data on 44,672 patients suggested that about 2.3 percent of cases of the disease had been fatal as of Feb. 11. Nearly 14 percent of people who tested positive for the infection had severe cases, and about 5 percent had critical illnesses, according to Chinese authorities. The data showed that 30 percent of those who died from the virus were in their 60s, 30 percent were in their 70s, and another 20 percent were 80 or older. Since then, daily figures indicated the virus’s fatality rate had only increased. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

POSTED FEBRUARY 18, 2020 1:51 PM

How Bloomberg would make community college free and overhaul student loans

How Bloomberg would make community college free and overhaul student loansThe former New York City mayor's proposal would significantly increase federal spending on higher education and aims to target those subsidies to lower-income families.

POSTED FEBRUARY 18, 2020 9:00 AM

'Now We Are Refugees': A Family in Limbo Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

'Now We Are Refugees': A Family in Limbo Amid the Coronavirus OutbreakThese days, Chloe Chang, a Taiwanese woman stranded at the center of China's coronavirus outbreak, says she wakes up every half-hour during the night. Sometimes she breaks down in tears.She and her family are effectively trapped in her grandmother's apartment building, where a man recently died from the virus. Workers in hazmat suits haunt the surrounding streets, and the neighborhood has a strong police presence. There are shortages of food and other essentials throughout Yichang, the Hubei province city of more than 4 million where they have been in limbo for weeks."No household can go out at this time," said Chang, a 26-year-old industrial artist. She said she feared that even a trip for groceries would increase her chances of contracting the virus."My child has eaten nine meals of plain noodles in the past three days," she said of her 2-year-old son.Chang and her family thought they were on the verge of escaping Yichang earlier this month, but the bus taking them to the airport was abruptly turned around.All she can do now is wait -- and hope."The government of Taiwan surely will come to our rescue," her husband, Calvin Fan, who is from Beijing, has reassured her. But the chartered flight they have eagerly awaited to evacuate them has yet to materialize."Neither side wants us," Chang said. "We've given up. Now we are refugees."Taiwan and China each say the other is the reason that she and other Taiwan citizens are unable to leave Hubei, a province under lockdown, where hundreds have died from the coronavirus and tens of thousands have been infected.Chang and hundreds of other Taiwanese people in Hubei had hoped to go home via chartered jet. But last month, after the first plane carrying evacuees landed in Taiwan with an infected passenger onboard, a backlash ensued on the self-governing island, which China claims as part of its territory.Some said Taiwan would not be able to handle an outbreak if more infected people arrived. Others said Taiwan should not help to evacuate mainland Chinese spouses of Taiwan residents.Decades of tensions between the two governments have come to a head over the outbreak, and people like Chang and her husband -- both of who arrived in China last month to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday with family -- have become pawns in a complicated and dangerous game of political chess.Chang said she was told by Chinese officials that she could return to Taiwan on a second chartered flight, scheduled for Feb. 5. That day, her family boarded a bus bound for the airport in Wuhan, the provincial capital, where the coronavirus first emerged.But just as the bus was about to leave, she said, a Chinese official hopped on and announced that the flight would not take off, saying: "Taiwan won't let you go back.""I was really devastated," Chang said.Taiwan had a different explanation. According to officials there, reports in Chinese state media that said a flight was scheduled to leave were untrue -- the two sides had never discussed it.Both governments, and their proxies, have continued to point fingers while Chang and her compatriots languish in Hubei."Taiwan authorities have repeatedly delayed the schedule," Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, said last week. "Let the Taiwan compatriots return home as soon as possible, and stop making up all manner of excuses and rationale to block them from returning."Chen Shih-Chung, Taiwan's minister of health and welfare, said Friday that "China still uses all excuses to delay the evacuation, and refuses our plans and suggestions."Fears of the virus -- and, perhaps, anti-China sentiment -- have led Taiwan to escalate preventive measures in recent days.On Wednesday, Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center announced that children who have mainland citizenship but a Taiwanese parent would not be allowed to enter Taiwan for the time being if they were arriving from mainland China, Hong Kong or Macao.Confined to her grandmother's home for so long, Chang has turned to her art as an outlet for the helplessness and resentment she feels.In a satirical cartoon she recently sketched, she portrayed the administration of Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's president, as deliberately delaying the evacuation.She depicted the Taiwanese in Hubei as pawns.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

POSTED FEBRUARY 17, 2020 2:54 PM

The Coronavirus Comes for Taiwan

The Coronavirus Comes for TaiwanChina has worked to further squeeze Taiwan and its ability to combat the outbreak of the virus. The way in which China has treated Taiwan during the coronavirus outbreak in 2020 is indicative of the past four years and the likely path for the next four.

POSTED FEBRUARY 17, 2020 8:32 AM

Group of more than 1,000 judges calls emergency meeting amid Trump concerns

Group of more than 1,000 judges calls emergency meeting amid Trump concernsJudges will meet to address alarm over the president intervening in politically sensitive casesA national association of federal judges has called an emergency meeting to address growing concerns about the intervention of Donald Trump and justice department officials in politically sensitive cases, according to US media reports.Cynthia Rufe, a Philadelphia US district judge who heads the independent Federal Judges Association, which has more than 1,100 members, told USA Today the group “could not wait” until its spring conference to discuss the matter.“There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about,” Rufe told USA Today. “We’ll talk all of this through.”The meeting comes after more than 2,000 former US justice department officials, including some of the top government lawyers in the country, called on the attorney general, William Barr, to resign in the wake of the Roger Stone scandal.Alumni of the Department of Justice posted to Medium on Sunday a group letter that tore into Barr for “doing the president’s personal bidding” in imposing on prosecutors the recommendation of a reduced sentence for Stone, a longtime friend of Trump who was convicted of lying to and obstructing Congress and threatening a witness in the Russia investigation.Barr, the officials said, had damaged the reputation of the department for “integrity and the rule of law”.The spiralling constitutional crisis began last week when Barr imposed his new sentencing memo, slashing a seven- to nine-year proposed prison term suggested by career prosecutors. In the fallout, the four prosecutors who had handled the case resigned in disgust.US district Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the Stone’s case, has ordered both sides to participate in a conference call on Tuesday to discuss the status of the case. Following the call, it was confirmed that Stone’s sentencing would go ahead on Thursday.Rufe voiced her strong support for Jackson, according to USA Today.“I am not concerned with how a particular judge will rule,” Rufe said. “We are supportive of any federal judge who does what is required.”It was not clear whether the FJA would issue a statement after the emergency meeting. The Guardian contacted the FJA for comment.

POSTED FEBRUARY 18, 2020 10:50 AM

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