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Detroit-area men who sent millions to Yemen spared prison

Detroit-area men who sent millions to Yemen spared prison A group of Detroit-area men opened bank accounts to move millions of dollars to Yemen, their war-torn native country. One by one, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn declined to send them to prison, despite guidelines that call for a few years or more behind bars. The Detroit area is believed to have the highest U.S. population of Yemenis, a demographic that has risen amid war in Yemen that has killed tens of thousands of people and left millions more with food and health care shortages.


The Latest: Kurdish fighters pull out of Syrian border town

The Latest: Kurdish fighters pull out of Syrian border town A spokesman for the main Kurdish-led group in Syria says their fighters have evacuated the northern town of Ras al-Ayn, saying they have no armed presence there anymore. Kino Gabriel of the Syrian Democratic Forces said Sunday's evacuation was part of the agreement to pause military operations with Turkey with American mediation. The withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from Ras al-Ayn would open the way for them to leave a broader swath of territory along the Syria-Turkey border, as part of an agreement reached between the U.S. and Turkey.


Pervasive Violence in 20th Week of Protests: Hong Kong Update

Pervasive Violence in 20th Week of Protests: Hong Kong Update (Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong protesters set off fires and vandalized subway stations, banks and stores as another weekend of demonstrations descended into destruction and violence. Organizers estimated at least 350,000 people took part in an unauthorized march that authorities had banned. Police used tear gas and water cannons to clear demonstrators who lingered to cause damage after the rally ended, and said it accidentally sprayed dyed water at the entrance of a mosque while trying to disperse protesters.Protesters are seeking to keep the pressure on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam after more than four months of demonstrations. Lam was twice shouted down in the city’s legislature last week by opposition lawmakers as she discussed her annual policy address.The protests began in opposition to Lam’s since-scrapped bill allowing extraditions to mainland China and have expanded to include calls for greater democracy and an independent inquiry. The unrest has turned increasingly violent, with frequent clashes between protesters and police.Here’s the latest (all times local):Xiaomi store fire (9 p.m.)A store of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. was set on fire, while the South China Morning Post reported a blaze at a branch of medicine shop Tong Ren Tang, which belongs to a mainland group. Firefighters were also seen putting out fires at an outlet of snack shop Best Mart 360, the paper said.Kowloon Mosque (8:30 p.m.)Police said it was “most unfortunate” that its dispersal operation of protesters caused an “unintended impact” of colored water being sprayed into the compound of Kowloon Mosque. Police contacted the mosque’s religious leader and other Muslim community chiefs to clarify the incident, according to a statement.Taiwan murder suspect (8:20 p.m.)Hong Kong’s government said Chan Tong-kai, a Hong Kong man who’s been accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend during a 2018 Valentine’s Day trip to Taiwan, made the decision to surrender himself to Taipei “out of his own free will.” Chan is currently imprisoned in Hong Kong for money laundering, and is about to be released, according to a statement. “We have conveyed to Taiwan clearly that we will be pleased to provide the necessary and legally feasible assistance to Taiwan,” according to the statement. “Should Taiwan raise any request for evidence in processing Chan’s surrender case, we will positively assist in accordance with our law.”Lam to visit Japan (5 p.m.)Lam will leave for Tokyo on Monday to attend the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito, according to a statement from her office. She will return Tuesday evening.Two arrested (4:15 p.m.)Police arrested two men in Tai Po for alleged possession of offensive weapons. The suspects are aged 31 and 34, the police said in a briefing. Officers found 42 petrol bombs, materials for explosives and masks, among other things, they said.Water cannon deployed (4 p.m.)A police water cannon sprayed blue-dyed liquid at protesters as it drove down Nathan Road, the main thoroughfare through districts of Kowloon. Fire fighters were seen putting out blazing barricades in streets and fires in subway stations and banks.Protesters continued to try block off roads and hurled petrol bombs as police approached. Mobs vandalized stores in the area. They broke into one in Yau Ma Tei and dumped its merchandise on the floor. At least seven MTR stations were shut in Kowloon.Subway fires (3:15 p.m.)Protesters set fires in at least two subway-station entrances in Kowloon after the march reached its destination. Activists also barricaded roads and occupied carriageways. Police fired numerous rounds of tear gas to clear the crowds of demonstrators.MTR Corp., the city’s rail operator, closed three stations -- Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei and East Tsim Sha Tsui -- after attacks on the facilities.March kicks off (1:30 p.m.)Thousands of people poured into the streets of the busy Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district in a march to West Kowloon’s high-speed rail station to mainland China, about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) away.Some marchers also defied a law prohibiting face masks as they made their way peacefully through the streets. Shopkeepers and business owners stood outside the iconic Chungking Mansions handing out bottled water to protesters.Police called on the public to leave the area immediately. Protesters are blocking carriageways and are taking part in an unauthorized assembly, police said in a statement.MTR canceled 16 high-speed trains to and from the mainland on Sunday because of signal failure, RTHK reported.The march followed a relatively peaceful day Saturday where the main event was a prayer gathering in Central that drew a couple of thousand people.Man arrested after stabbing (Sunday 6 a.m.)Police said they arrested a 22-year-old man for allegedly stabbing a teenager near a subway station in Tai Po on Saturday.The 19-year-old victim was slashed across the neck and stabbed in the abdomen by a so-called Lennon Tunnel while he was handing out leaflets, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.There was no dispute between the two, Lee, the victim’s friend said, according to RTHK. The attacker said to the victim: it’s you “guys turning Hong Kong into a mess,” RTHK quoted Lee as saying.“The police strongly condemn any acts of violence. Regardless of the motives or background, we will take every case seriously and carry out investigation actively,” the police said in the statement.March ban upheld (2:30 p.m.)Hong Kong protesters lost an appeal against the police ban of their planned march on Sunday through Tsim Sha Tsui on concern about violence, RTHK reported.On Friday night protesters formed human chains citywide, with everyone covering their faces in some way in defiance of the mask ban. People masqueraded as Disney characters, animals and super heroes, but the most popular mask was one of China President Xi Jinping. In Tsim Sha Tsui a long line of protesters linked hands, all wearing a facade of Xi’s smiling face.Lam may reshuffle ExCo (1 p.m.)Lam said she would consider reorganizing the city’s Executive Council, its de facto Cabinet, but would wait until protests had ended.The beleaguered leader of Hong Kong said on an RTHK radio program that she doesn’t “blindly” support the actions of each officer but fully supports the force in enforcing the law. She urged people to wait for a report from Independent Police Complaints Council into the recent clashes, RTHK said. Lam again rejected calls for an independent inquiry into police brutality, the latest coming from Chinese University’s vice-chancellor, Rocky Tuan.Taiwan gets letter (10:45 a.m.)Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau confirmed it had received a letter from the Hong Kong police offering assistance in the case of Chan Tong-kai, Central News Agency reported.There is no precedent for the cooperation and the Taiwan bureau will follow up with relevant departments for discussion, CNA reported.Homicide suspect to surrender himself to Taiwan (11:28 p.m.)Hong Kong’s Chief Executive received a letter Friday from Chan Tong-kai, saying that he’d decided to surrender himself to Taiwan, according to a statement on the website of Hong Kong’s government.Chan “requested the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government to assist him in making the relevant arrangement,” according to the statement.Hong Kong newspaper Sing Tao Daily reported earlier on Friday, citing a person it didn’t identify, that Chan made the decision after consulting with a pastor.\--With assistance from Dominic Lau.To contact the reporters on this story: Aaron Mc Nicholas in Hong Kong at amcnicholas2@bloomberg.net;Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.net;Venus Feng in Hong Kong at vfeng7@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Stanley James, Shamim AdamFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Burmese fishermen 'faint' after mistaking $20 million of floating crystal meth for natural deodorant

Burmese fishermen 'faint' after mistaking $20 million of floating crystal meth for natural deodorant Sacks of crystal meth scooped from the sea by Burmese fishermen who mistook it for a deodorant substance had a street value of $20 million (£15.4m), an official said on Sunday, in a country believed to be the world's largest methamphetamine producer. The accidental drug haul off Burma's coastal Ayeyarwady region occurred when fishermen spotted a total of 23 sacks floating in the Andaman Sea on Wednesday. Each one contained plastic-wrapped bags labelled as Chinese green tea - packaging commonly used by Southeast Asian crime gangs to smuggle crystal meth to far-flung destinations including Japan, South Korea and Australia. Locals were mystified by the crystallised substance in the sacks, Zaw Win, a local official of the National League for Democracy party who assisted the fishermen and police, told AFP. At first, they assumed it was a natural deodorant chemical known as potassium alum, which is widely used in Burma. "So they burned it, and some of them almost fainted," he said. They informed the police, who on Thursday combed a beach and found an additional two sacks of the same substance - bringing the total to 691 kilogrammes (1,500 pounds) which would be worth about $20.2 million (£15.6m), Zaw Win said. "In my entire life and my parents' lifetime, we have never seen drugs floating in the ocean before," he said. The massive haul was sent on Sunday to Pyapon district police, who declined to comment on it. Burma's multi-billion-dollar drug industry is centred in eastern Shan state, whose poppy-covered hills are ideal cover for illicit production labs. Made-in-Burma crystal meth - better known as ice - is smuggled out of the country to more lucrative markets using routes carved out by narco gangs through Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. A study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says that Southeast Asia's crime groups are netting more than $60 billion a year - a conservative estimate, according to experts - thanks to a sophisticated smuggling and money-laundering operation. In March, Burma authorities seized more than 1,700 kilogrammes of crystal meth worth nearly $29 million, which police said at the time was their biggest drug haul this year.


Kurds begin evacuation from besieged Syrian border town

Kurds begin evacuation from besieged Syrian border town Kurdish fighters and civilians began evacuating from a besieged Syrian town on Sunday, the first pullback under the U.S.-brokered cease-fire deal, opening the way to a broader withdrawal of the Kurdish-led forces from parts of the Turkish border. Clashes have erupted daily, with occasional shelling, particularly around Ras al-Ayn, the border town where Kurdish fighters have been encircled by Turkish-led forces. A local official in Ras al-Ayn told the Associated Press that Kurdish fighters and civilians had begun leaving in convoys.


Back Johnson or Risk No-Deal Brexit, Minister Warns Parliament

Back Johnson or Risk No-Deal Brexit, Minister Warns Parliament (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Great Britain could crash out of the European Union on Oct. 31 if Parliament rejects Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, a leading cabinet minister warned.Michael Gove said he was confident the prime minister had enough support in Parliament to get the agreement over the line as he warned that lawmakers had increased the risk of a no-deal Brexit by forcing Johnson to ask the EU for a delay. A vote on the plan could come as soon as this week.“If we don’t back this deal, then the risk is that the European Council may not grant an extension,” Gove, who is in charge of no-deal Brexit preparations, told Sky TV’s “Sophy Ridge on Sunday” show. “We can’t bet on that. It’s not a sure thing.”Bound by a law he opposed, Johnson on Saturday formally asked the EU to delay Brexit until Jan. 31. But he made clear that he’d rather Britain leave without delay and refused to sign the letter requesting an extension to his Oct. 31 target. European Council President Donald Tusk will now start consulting EU leaders on how to react.The move came after a day of drama in a rare Saturday sitting of the House of Commons, where lawmakers denied Johnson the chance of putting his newly minted deal to the test by voting 322 to 306 in favor of an amendment by former Tory minister Oliver Letwin that basically required him to ask the EU for the delay.Hours after the vote, French President Emmanuel Macron made it clear the deal had been negotiated and that further delay in Britain’s departure was “in no one’s interest.” However, Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne said Sunday that it would be “sensible” to grant an extension. A unanimous agreement among EU nations is needed to approve a delay.Johnson now plans to push through the legislation needed to take Britain out of the EU at the end of the month, and the slender margin of Saturday’s vote suggests he could succeed.The Withdrawal Agreement Bill could begin its journey as soon as Tuesday, after Johnson makes another attempt on Monday to get Parliament to sign off on the principle of his deal. If a vote is permitted tomorrow and Johnson wins, he could withdraw the request for an extension.“We’re going to deliver by the 31st of October,” Gove said. “We are going to ensure that we get this deal done and I’m confident that with the support of good people with whom we may have disagreed in the past, but who respect democracy, we will get this deal done.”Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also expressed optimism, telling BBC TV’s “Andrew Marr” show that “we appear to have the numbers to get this through.”Rudd BackingJohnson received a boost earlier Sunday when former cabinet minister Amber Rudd, who walked out of the government and the Tory party in protest at the expulsion of 21 colleagues, said she and many among those kicked out are ready to support his deal.“We do want to leave with a deal and this deal from the prime minister is good enough for me,” said Rudd, who backed the Letwin amendment that forced the delay.Johnson also has the support of a small number of Labour MPs. His key problem could lie in wooing back his allies in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 votes on Saturday made the difference between defeat and victory.Johnson’s setback on Saturday could hit the pound when trading resumes, though any weakness in the currency may be short lived, analysts at Credit Agricole and Natwest Markets wrote in research notes. Even though political uncertainty remains, both banks see a diminishing risk of the U.K. crashing out of the bloc without a deal, with Credit Agricole predicting the pound reaching $1.36 and Natwest forecasting $1.35.To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Atkinson in London at a.atkinson@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Fergal O'Brien at fobrien@bloomberg.net, Andrew Davis, James AmottFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


10 things you need to know today: October 20, 2019

10 things you need to know today: October 20, 2019 1.President Trump announced Saturday night that he is no longer planning to host the 2020 Group of Seven summit at the Trump National Doral Miami resort near Miami, Florida. In a series of tweets Trump explained that his decision was the result of the backlash he received, a fair amount of which was centered around accusations of self-dealing corruption. Trump did not give up the plan lightly, however. In the tweetstorm, he blamed the media and the Democratic party for their "Crazed and Irrational Hostility" and maintained he thought he was "doing something very good for our Country" and was not seeking any profit. The president also said the White House will begin searching for another host site immediately, and Camp David, a presidential retreat in Maryland, is under consideration. [The Washington Post, The New York Times] 2.U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent an unsigned letter to the European Union on Saturday evening requesting another Brexit delay after Parliament passed an amendment requiring him to do so before voting on the deal he brokered with the EU on Thursday. Johnson reportedly included a second letter, which he did sign, saying that he believes a delay would be a mistake. EU Council President Donald Tusk confirmed the letter had arrived and said he would consult with other EU leaders on how to react. The British government insisted Sunday that Brexit will happen on Oct. 31 regardless of the letter Johnson sent, though opposition MPs have warned Johnson that if he tries to circumvent Parliament, he may find himself in court. Johnson has maintained he will move forward with his Brexit legislation next week. [BBC, Reuters.] 3.Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday that all U.S. troops leaving Syria will be re-stationed in western Iraq where they will continue to conduct preventative operations against the Islamic State, and he did not rule out counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria. The plan calls for about 1,000 troops to head to Iraq, adding to the more than 5,000 troops currently in the country. "Things could change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal, but that's the game plan right now," Esper said. The secretary added that he will talk with U.S. allies at a NATO meeting next week to discuss how to handle military operations to block any resurgence from ISIS. [NBC News, The Associated Press] 4.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally in the Middle East, on Saturday for an unannounced visit to discuss the Turkish military offensive in northern Syria with Jordan's King Abdullah II. "With the deepening crisis in Syria after Turkey's incursion, our delegation has engaged in vital discussions about the impact of regional stability, increased flow of refugees, and the dangerous opening that has been provided to ISIS, Iran, and Russia," Pelosi's office said in a statement. The delegation also reportedly touched on a broader range of topics including counterterrorism and security, the Middle East peace process, and economic development. [The New York Times, The Guardian] 5.Thousands of pro-democracy, anti-Beijing protesters gathered once again Sunday in Hong Kong to march in defiance of a police ban, marking the 20th consecutive of weekend of protests. After a peaceful start, the demonstrations grew increasingly violent throughout the day, and a group of protesters reportedly hurled petrol bombs at a police station. Some protesters reportedly used an electric chainsaw to cut down a CCTV camera, while others vandalized businesses. Meanwhile, Hong Kong police fired tear gas and also admitted in a statement that they accidentally fired a water cannon filled with colored water that affected the entrance of Hong Kong's Kowloon mosque, calling the incident "most unfortunate." [BBC, The South China Morning Post] 6.The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on Saturday accused Turkey of violating the cease-fire agreement orchestrated between Washington and Ankara on Thursday. The SDF said Turkish strikes killed at leas 20 civilians and 14 of its fighters in northern Syria since the deal was struck, though it reportedly couldn't be determined whether the strikes were carried out by Turkish forces or allied Syrian rebel groups. Kurdish forces also said Turkey was blocking their withdrawal from the border region. Turkish officials maintained Turkey was in compliance with the cease-fire and blamed the SDF and the YPG, a Kurdish militia, for launching multiple attacks against Turkish troops. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also warned Saturday that Ankara would move forward with its military offensive in northern Syria if the deal was not fully implemented. Light fighting reportedly resumed Sunday in a border town. [The Wall Street Journal, Reuters] 7.Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) held his first presidential rally since suffering a heart attack earlier this month, delivering a speech to an estimated 26,000-person crowd in Queens. If the numbers are accurate, it would serve as the largest crowd any Democratic presidential candidate has held this year, eclipsing the number of people who gathered to see Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speak in New York in September. "To put it bluntly," Sanders said, "I am back." He was joined on stage by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a popular progressive freshman congresswoman, who, as expected, officially endorsed Sanders for president at the rally. [Politico, The New Yorker] 8.Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) said Saturday he does not plan to run for re-election. Rooney said he accomplished his goals in Congress, namely getting money for Everglades projects and passing an offshore drilling ban to protect Florida. Rooney also said he wanted to be a "model for term limits" and that people need to realize "this is public service not public life." Rooney, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the announcement that he will likely retire from the House after he recently said he was still considering voting to impeach President Trump because he didn't think it was feasible to rule it out "until you know all the facts." [CNN, USA Today] 9.A bulletproof marker was reportedly dedicated Saturday to Emmett Till — a 14-year-old black teenager who was kidnapped, beaten, and lynched in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman — after previous ones had been vandalized by gunfire. Members of Till's family, including one cousin who was present the night Till was kidnapped and is last living witness to the incident, attended the ceremony at the site where Till's body was pulled form the Tallahatchie River. Till's murder was a major catalyst of the civil rights movement, and the Justice Department reopened the investigation into his death last year after reportedly receiving new information. [CBS News, Fox News] 10.The Houston Astros are returning to the World Series for the second time in three seasons after defeating the New York Yankees, 6-4, in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. It was a tightly contested game, as both teams utilized their bullpens to the max. Houston jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but the Yankees clawed their way back, eventually tying the game in the top of the 9th inning behind a two-run home run from first baseman D.J. LeMahieu. But Astros second baseman and the series' Most Valuable Player José Altuve launched a two-run walkoff homer in the bottom half of the inning off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman to seal the series victory. Houston will host the National League Champion Washington Nationals in the World Series, which begins Tuesday. [ESPN, MLB.com]


Pentagon chief says US troops leaving Syria for western Iraq

Pentagon chief says US troops leaving Syria for western Iraq U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says that under current plans all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the American military will continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent its resurgence. Esper, who arrived in the Afghan capital on Sunday, did not rule out the idea that U.S. forces would conduct counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria. Esper, who flew overnight to Afghanistan, said he has spoken to his Iraqi counterpart about the plan to shift about 1,000 troops leaving Syria into western Iraq.


Anti-govt protests gain momentum in Lebanon, enter 4th day

Anti-govt protests gain momentum in Lebanon, enter 4th day Tens of thousands of Lebanese protesters of all ages gathered Sunday in major cities and towns nationwide, with each hour bringing hundreds more people to the streets for the largest anti-government protests yet in four days of demonstrations. Protesters danced and sang in the streets, some waving Lebanese flags and chanting "the people want to bring down the regime." In the morning, young men and women carried blue bags and cleaned the streets of the capital, Beirut, picking up trash left behind by the previous night's protests. The spontaneous mass demonstrations are Lebanon's largest in five years, spreading beyond Beirut.


Pelosi in Jordan for 'vital discussions' amid Syria crisis

Pelosi in Jordan for 'vital discussions' amid Syria crisis House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a group of American lawmakers on a surprise visit to Jordan to discuss "the deepening crisis" in Syria amid a shaky U.S.-brokered cease-fire. The visit came after bipartisan criticism in Washington has slammed President Donald Trump for his decision to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops from northern Syria — clearing the way for Turkey's wide-ranging offensive against the Kurdish groups, who had been key U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State group. Turkey agreed on Thursday to suspend its offensive for five days, demanding the Kurdish forces withdraw from a designated strip of the border about 30 kilometers deep (19 miles).


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