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Trump ex-campaign chief Paul Manafort sentenced to 47 months in prison

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Washington: United States President Donald Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort was sentenced to nearly four years in prison by a federal judge for tax crimes and bank fraud in the highest profile case yet stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Judge T.S. Lewis immediately came under fire from Democratic lawmakers for imposing what they described as a relatively light sentence on the 69-year-old Republican political consultant and lobbyist.

Prosecutors from the special counsel’s office had argued for a stiff prison term for Manafort, the first target of the Mueller probe to be convicted in a criminal trial.

 

Ellis said that while Manafort had committed “very serious crimes,” he had previously led an “otherwise blameless life” and the advisory sentencing guidelines calling for 19 to 24 years behind bars were “excessive” and disproportionate to sentences for similar offenses.

“The government cannot sweep away the history of all these previous sentences,” the judge said.

Manafort was convicted by a jury in August of five counts of filing false income tax returns, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to report a foreign bank account.

He is one of a half-dozen former Trump associates and senior aides charged by Mueller, who has been investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

The charges against Manafort were not connected to his role in the Trump campaign, which he headed for two months in 2016, but were related to lucrative consulting work he did for Russian-backed Ukrainian politicians from 2004 to 2014.

Prosecutors alleged that Manafort used offshore bank accounts to hide more than $55 million he earned working for the Ukrainians.

The money was used to support a lavish lifestyle which included purchases of luxury homes and cars, antique rugs, and expensive clothes, including an $18,500 python jacket.

His conviction was a stunning downfall for a man who also worked on the White House bids of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole.

Speaking from a wheelchair and wearing a green prison jumpsuit with the words “Alexandria Inmate” on the back, Manafort told the court that his “life, professionally and personally, is in a shambles.”

I feel the pain and shame,” said Manafort, who the defense says suffers from gout. “To say that I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” he said.

Judge Ellis said he did not hear Manafort express regret or remorse but he said the sentencing guidelines were “way out of whack”.

“I think what I’ve done is punitive,” Ellis said. He sentenced Manafort to a total of 47 months in prison for the eight counts and credited him with nine months of time served.

Manafort was ordered to pay $24 million in restitution and a $50,000 fine. Manafort still faces sentencing in a money laundering and witness tampering case in Washington next week, where the maximum penalty is 10 years and the judge has appeared more sympathetic to prosecutors.


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Over 1000 dead as cyclone ‘Idai’ strikes Zimbabwe, Mozambique

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Beira: More than a thousand people are feared to have died in a cyclone that smashed into Mozambique last week, while scores were killed and more than 200 are missing in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
The city of Beira in central Mozambique bore Cyclone Idai’s full wrath before the storm barrelled on to neighbouring Zimbabwe, unleashing fierce winds and flash floods and washing away roads and houses.
“For the moment we have registered 84 deaths officially, but when we flew over the area… this morning to understand what’s going on, everything indicates that we could register more than 1,000 deaths,” Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said in a nationwide address.
“This is a real humanitarian disaster,” he said. “More than 100,000 people are in danger”. Survivors have taken refuge in trees while awaiting help, the president added. Aerial photographs released by a Christian non-profit organisation, the Mission Aviation Fellowship, showed groups of people stuck on rooftops with flood waters up to window level.
“The scale of damage… (in) Beira is massive and horrifying”, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said. Ninety per cent of the city of some 530,000 people and its surrounding area has been “damaged or destroyed,” it said in a statement.
“The situation is terrible. The scale of devastation is enormous,” the IFRC’s Jamie LeSueur said. “Almost everything is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible.”
A large dam burst on Sunday and cut off the last road to Beira, he said. Sofala province governor Alberto Mondlane warned that the “biggest threat we have now, even bigger than the cyclone, is floods because it’s raining more and more”.
Emma Beaty, coordinator of a grouping of NGOs known as Cosaco, said: “We’ve never had something of this magnitude before in Mozambique”. “Some dams have broken, and others have reached full capacity, they’ll very soon open the flood gates.
It’s a convergence of flooding, cyclones, dams breaking and making a potential wave: everything’s in place so we get a perfect storm.” Nyusi said the Pungwe and Buzi rivers in central Mozambique “have burst their banks and engulfed entire villages.” “Communities are isolated and bodies are floating” on the waters, he said. Beira international airport was closed because of cyclone damage but later reopened. In neighbouring Zimbabwe, Idai left 98 dead and at least 217 more missing, according to the information ministry.

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UN received 259 allegations of sexual exploitation, abuse in 2018: report

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United Nations: The UN received a total of 259 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by the staff working in its agencies and their partner organisations in 2018, an increase of more than a hundred in such incidents from the previous year, according to a report presented by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The report, presented to the General Assembly, said that from January 1 to December 31, 2018, the UN received a total of 148 sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) allegations directly involving UN workers, and 111 involving staff from partner organisations implementing UN programmes.
This represents an increase in the total number of incidents reported in 2017, when 138 allegations were made, and 165 allegations made in 2016, it said.
The report said while the figures of allegations rose in 2018 compared with the previous two years, there was increased awareness among the UN and UN-related staff, and improved and harmonized reporting tools across the organisation towards a ‘zero tolerance’ effort to end sexual exploitation and abuse across the UN.
According to the report, not all the allegations have been fully verified and many are still under investigation or are still in a preliminary assessment phase.
The report said that the third system-wide survey on sexual exploitation and abuse was administered in 2018 to the UN and affiliated personnel at 34 duty stations with humanitarian and/or peace operations.
The duty stations included those in countries such as Afghanistan, Haiti, India, Iraq, Liberia, Libya, Pakistan, South Sudan and Syria.
There were some encouraging signs in Peacekeeping Operations, where allegations were down almost by half over the past two years, it said.
While 103 SEA incidents were reported in 2016, only 54 allegations were made in 2018, the report said.
Despite this improvement in the UN’s peacekeeping wing, the number of allegations went up against personnel in other UN entities, with 94 allegations received in 2018, compared with 50 in 2017.
In a troubling sign, the number of allegations against partner organisations implementing the UN’s programmes reached a high of 109, increasing more than four-fold from 2017 when only 25 incidents were reported.
“The numbers show that the UN’s victim-centred approach, implemented over a year ago, is paying off as there seems to be an increased trust among the victims and survivors to come forward and report incidents,” the UN said in a statement.
The Secretary-General has stressed that there will be zero tolerance towards sexual exploitation and abuse across the UN.
His strategy, in its first phase, focuses on addressing the issue within the UN system, as well as those mandated by the world body to carry out programmes.
This entails more than 90,000 staff in more than 30 entities and more than 100,000 uniformed personnel.

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NZ premier Ardern vows terrorist behind mosque massacre will face ‘full force of law’

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Christchurch: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised on Tuesday that the terrorist responsible for last week’s deadly mosque massacres would face “the full force of the law”, as she vowed never to utter his name.
“He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety — that is why you will never hear me mention his name,” Ardern said in an emotional address to a special meeting of parliament, which she opened with the Arabic greeting “as salaam aleikum” — ‘peace be upon you’.
“I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them,” she told the gathering in Wellington, four days after the massacre in the southern city of Christchurch.
“He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless,” she said.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, was captured by police and has been charged with one count of murder, but Ardern assured parliament other charges would follow. “He will face the full force of the law in New Zealand,” she said.
Ardern has promised reforms to New Zealand gun laws which allowed Tarrant to legally purchase the weapons he used in the attack, including semi-automatic rifles.
And she announced a full review of how the Australian — an avowed white supremacist — was able to plan and carry out the attacks in New Zealand under the radar of security services.
“The person who committed these acts was not from here. He was not raised here. He did not find his ideology here. But that is not to say that those very same views do not live here,” she said.

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