US tourists back from Cuba claim symptoms similar to mysterious attacks

A handful of U.S. tourists who recently returned from Cuba have complained about symptoms similar to those experienced in mysterious sonic attacks against U.S. government workers.

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The State Department said Friday that several Americans who don’t work for the government have reported similar symptoms after traveling to the country. But the U.S. government “cannot verify the claims” or any potential connection to the attacks said the official, who wasn’t authorized to comment by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Since we issued the September 29 Travel Warning, we have received a handful of reports from U.S. citizens who report they experienced similar symptoms following stays in Cuba,” a State Department official told CBS News. “We have no way of verifying whether they were harmed by the same attacks targeting official U.S. employees.”

At least 22 U.S. Embassy employees on the communist-run island have reported injuries from attacks “of an unknown nature,” according to the State Department. Symptoms have included ear issues, hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping.

The State Department said last week that investigators have been unable to determine who is responsible or what is causing these attacks.

The Associated Press, citing unnamed U.S. officials, reported that American intelligence operatives in Cuba were among the first and most severely affected victims.

In some of the cases, U.S. operatives have suffered brain injury and hearing loss that has not healed. The American spies affected also reported hearing an unsettling sound inside and sometimes outside their Havana homes, described as similar to loud crickets. Then they fell ill with a range of physical symptoms.

In a security notice Friday to American citizens, the State Department said Americans who believe they may have symptoms after visiting Cuba should “consult a medical professional.”

The United States last week issued a travel warning that urges American travelers to stay away from Cuba. The warning said attacks on government personnel have occurred in Havana hotels and the U.S. can’t make sure that Americans who stay at hotels wouldn’t be harmed. It also included the most detailed list to date of symptoms the victims have experienced, including hearing, cognitive and sleeping problems.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Courtesy: Fox News

FBI report says ‘black-identity extremists’ seeking retaliation for police shootings

FBI report says ‘black-identity extremists’ seeking retaliation for police shootings
Controversial police shootings of African-Americans and an apparent lack of justice are causing “black-identity extremists” to target white officers, a declassified FBI report says. Critics argue the term is racially biased.

The term ‘black-identity extremists,’ used in the report, refers to both individuals and a loosely defined movement seeking to establish “wholly or in part, through unlawful acts of force or violence, in response to perceived racism and injustice in American society,” a separate black homeland or autonomous black social institutions or governing groups within the United States.

Marked ‘for official use only’ (FOUO) and obtained by Foreign Policy (FP) magazine, the report says “it is very likely Black Identity Extremist [BIE] perceptions of police brutality against African-Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement.” 

Incidents involving “alleged police abuse” have “continued to feed the resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity within the BIE movement,” says the report composed by the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division.

Violent extremists are driven by a “mix of anti-authoritarian, Moorish sovereign citizens ideology, and BIE ideology,” the report claims, adding that “the FBI has high confidence in these assessments, based on a history of violent incidents” attributed to African-American perpetrators who acted because of their beliefs.

The FBI believes that perceptions of police brutality against African-Americans have been driving BIE followers since 2014, when Michael Brown was shot dead by officers in Ferguson, Missouri, causing outrage in the black community.

The report notes that on July 7, 2016, Micah Johnson – a Mississippi-born, Texas-raised black man outraged by police shootings of black individuals – ambushed and shot eleven officers in downtown Dallas, Texas before being shot dead by police. The five officers that died in the shooting were white, it adds.

The term ‘black identity extremism’ does not appear to have surfaced anywhere until early August – when the FBI report was compiled.

Google “Black Identity Extremists”. Report back with what you find. Let’s talk.

READ MORE:’Black Lives Matter uses issue of police violence to achieve bigger agenda’

However, its authors argue that “BIE violence” was on the rise in the 1960s and 1970s “in response to changing socioeconomic attitudes and treatment of blacks.” It added that today, black extremists are posing “a violent threat to law enforcement,” spreading “violent anti-white rhetoric” and attempting “to acquire illegal weapons or explosives.”

Former government officials and lawyers interviewed by FP and other media following the revelation voiced skepticism that such a movement actually exists.

I train law enforcement intelligence in counterterrorism all over nation & “Black Identity Extremism” doesn’t exist. It’s a made up term. https://twitter.com/deray/status/916334598711373824 

The US government has always framed black people who do not wish to be enslaved, tortured, discriminated or killed as “identity extremists”.

A former senior counterterrorism and intelligence official from the Department of Homeland Security who has seen the document told FP he was shocked by the report’s wording.

“This is a new umbrella designation that has no basis,” the former official said. “There are civil rights and privacy issues all over this.”

“They are grouping together Black Panthers, black nationalists, and Washitaw Nation,” the former official added. “Imagine lumping together white nationals, white supremacists, militias, neo-Nazis, and calling it ‘white identity extremists.’”

DeRay McKesson, an activist with the Black Lives Matter movement, said “there is a long tradition of the FBI targeting black activists and this is not surprising.”

Last year, FBI Director James Comey said a lack of reliable data about how often police use force contributed to a narrative that “biased police are killing black men at epidemic rates.”

“It is a narrative driven by video images of real and gut-wrenching misconduct, by images of possible misconduct, by images of perceived misconduct,” Comey claimed at a conference of international chiefs of police.

Courtesy: RT

Saudi security forces foil terrorist attack near royal place in Jeddah

Saudi security forces foil terrorist attack near royal place in Jeddah
A gunman and two guards were killed in a shootout as Saudi Arabian security forces prevented a terrorist attack near the royal Al Salam Palace in Jeddah early Saturday.

A man drove up to the western gate of the Al Salam (Peace) Palace and opened fire, the Saudi Interior Ministry told al-Arabiya.

The slain attacker was identified as Mansour al-Amri, a 28-year-old Saudi national, who had no prior criminal record or connections to extremists.

According to the ministry, Amri was in possession of Kalashnikov rifles and petrol bombs, which were seized.

Several Twitter accounts posted photos which, they said, were taken at the site of the incident.

The Al Salam Palace is used by the Saudi royal family to conduct official business during the summer.

The US Embassy in Saudi Arabia issued a security warning to American citizens in Jeddah over the reported attack.

“Due to the possibility of ongoing police activity, American citizens are advised to exercise caution when traveling through the area,” the embassy said.

In June 2016, a suicide bomber blew himself up near the US Consulate in Jeddah, injuring two guards.

Saudi security forces frequently carry out raids in the coastal city, targeting extremist cells linked to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

Courtesy: RT

N. Korea urges struggle against ‘war-thirsty Trump’ & ‘gangster-like moves for domination’

N. Korea urges struggle against ‘war-thirsty Trump’ & ‘gangster-like moves for domination’
North Korea has called for a nationwide struggle against the US and its “gangster-like moves for domination and aggression.” The statement comes as a US warship approaches the Korean Peninsula for drills with South Korea.

“The US gangster-like moves for domination, subjugation, aggression and war are getting evermore reckless and dangerous in the wake of the frenzy of war thirsty [US President Donald] Trump who spat out the remarks of ‘total destruction of North Korea’ without hesitation,” a spokesman for the National Peace Committee of [North] Korea said, as cited by state-run KCNA agency.

“The pro-US traitors and confrontation maniacs in South Korea are fanning up such war hysteria of the US,” the statement added.

READ MORE: US warship approaches Korean Peninsula for drills with South Korea

Pyongyang also slammed the 64-year-old “mutual defense treaty” between the US and South Korea. The treaty, signed in 1953, allows Washington to station military forces in South Korea.

The treaty is an “aggressive and traitorous war document” which helps Washington to keep its “imperialist aggression forces” in South Korea, the North said.

On Friday, the USS Ronald Reagan, with nearly 80 aircraft on board, was in the South China Sea on its way to the shores of South Korea. The military exercises will likely be held around October 20, South Korean Yonhap News agency reported

The US and South Korea will reportedly conduct joint drills to detect, track, and intercept ballistic missiles, in addition to anti-submarine warfare training.

Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have been repeatedly exchanging threats recently. On one occasion, Trump said the US would “totally destroy” the North if attacked, and Kim, who he often refers to as ‘Little Rocket Man,’ “won’t be around much longer!” Pyongyang responded in kind, threatening to reduce the US to “ashes and darkness.”

In the meantime, Russia and China have repeatedly said that North Korea should freeze its nuclear and missile programs, while the US and South Korea should abstain from holding war games in the region.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin once again said that all sides should “ease the rhetoric and find ways for face-to-face dialogue between the United States and North Korea, as well as between North Korea and countries in the region.”

“Only this would help find balanced and reasonable decisions,” he added.

Courtesy: RT

Tens of thousands rally in Spain to avoid Catalan split

Tensions between Madrid and Barcelona have escalated since last week’s disputed Catalan independence referendum. In response, thousands have joined demonstrations across Spain.

Thousands of people in Madrid dressed in white calling for dialogue.

Tens of thousands of people joined protests across Spain on Saturday calling for an end to the political crisis that has rocked the country since Catalan authorities held a barred independence referendum last Sunday.

Spanish woman protests for dialogue in Madrid during Catalan independence crisis.Tens of thousands joined the protest ‘Let’s Talk’ in cities across Spain

In 50 cities, including Madrid and Barcelona, thousands of people gathered under the motto “Let’s talk” and called for leaders from Madrid and Barcelona to enter peaceful negotiations to end the crisis. Organizers urged the crowds at both sites to wear white T-shirts and not to bring any Spanish or Catalan flags.

In Madrid, several thousand demonstrators descended on Colon Square with Spanish flags as part of a “patriotic” march demanding Spain stay united.

A week of turmoil

National leaders in Madrid and regional leaders in Barcelona have been locked in a tense standoff since Catalonia held an illegal independence referendum on October 1 marred by police brutality against voters.

Ninety percent of those who voted opted for independence, according to the official vote tally released by the Catalan government on Friday. But turnout was only 43 percent. The final figures approximated the preliminary results released immediately after the referendum.

On Tuesday, Spain’s King Felipe VI accused the Catalan authorities of “disloyalty” and said the central government needed to ensure “constitional order.” The king did not mention the police violence or those injured.

Spanien Madrid Demonstration gegen Unabbhähigkeit Kataloniens (Getty Images/AFP/J. Soriano)Protestors gather holding Spanish flags during a demonstration against independence of Catalonia

The speech was widely interpreted as an endorsement of the course pursued by Spain’s conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has dismissed the referendum as illegitimate and on Wednesday rejected calls for international mediation.

Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont had said during a televised speech on Wednesday that mediation was needed to solve the dispute. Puigdemont, who has threatened to declare independence in the coming days, is set to give a speech in the Catalan regional parliament next Tuesday.

Madrid has apologized to Catalans injured by police during the independence vote. “I can do nothing but regret it, apologize on behalf of the officers who intervened,” Madrid’s representative in Catalonia, Enric Millo, said on Friday.

Secessionists in Catalonia have faced economic as well as political pressure to draw down pressure in recent days as large banks and foreign companies have said they will move their headquarters to other parts of Spain.

Courtesy: Fox News

Libya recovers remains of 21 beheaded Coptic Christians

“Islamic State” militants reportedly carried out the execution-style killings in early 2015. A detained IS militant who witnessed the mass murder clued in authorities to the site.

IS militant Jihadi John, dressed in all black with his face masked, except for his eyes, and pointing a knife at the camera.

Libyan authorities have recovered the remains of 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded by so-called “Islamic State” (IS) militants more than two years ago, the anti-IS organization al-Bonyan al-Marsous announced Saturday .

The gruesome discovery was made in the seaside city of Sirte — the home town of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was toppled in 2011.

A statement said officials were led to the site by an IS militant who had witnessed the attack in early 2015.

The witness, who was under arrest, gave authorities details about the mass execution and identified the militants involved.

A could of black smoke rises on the horizon over Sirte.A cloud of black smoke rises on the Sirte horizon during the 2016 battle for the city

Found with hands cuffed

The beheaded bodies were found with their hands cuffed behind their backs. Twenty of the victims were from Egypt and one was of an unknown African nationality.

The remains were being moved to Libya’s western city of Misrata for forensic examinations, according to a statement from the state’s Combat Crime Department.

IS militants released a video in February 2015 claiming to show the beheadings of the men, who were expatriate workers from Egypt’s minority Christian sect.

Egypt responded to the news of the mass execution by launching airstrikes against suspected militant positions in Libya.

Libya’s UN-backed government regained control of Sirte last December.

Libya descended into anarchy after Gadhafi was overthrown. The IS jihadis seized on the anarchy to carve out a niche for themselves in the oil-rich country.

bik/cmb (AP, dpa)

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What is the Iran nuclear deal?

The Iran nuclear deal was a historic diplomatic achievement to prevent Tehran’s pathway to a bomb. Here’s our brief breakdown of what you need to know about the deal.

Österreich Wien Atomverhandlungen USA Iran (Reuters/K. Lamarque)

The Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was reached in July 2015 between Iran and international powers after nearly 20 months of negotiations.

Under the JCPOA, Iran and the United States, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and France (known as the P5+1), as well as the European Union, agreed to lift crippling international sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for Tehran dismantling its nuclear program.

The JCPOA went into effect in October 2015, followed in January 2016 by implementation day after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verified Iran’s nuclear program to be peaceful.

That led to the lifting of UN and national nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, including those on finance, trade and energy. As part of the deal, tens of billions of dollars in Iran’s frozen assets were released.

Sanctions can be “snapped back” if Iran violates the deal. The IAEA, which monitors the deal, has repeatedly confirmed Iran is complying with all aspects of the JCPOA.

Read: What are Trump’s objections to the Iran nuclear deal?

The JCPOA allows Iran to pursue a peaceful nuclear program for commercial, medical and industrial purposes in line with international non-proliferation standards.

Importantly, the JCPOA is strictly about Iran’s nuclear program. It does not address other issues such as its ballistic missile program, human rights abuses, support for terrorist organizations and alleged “destabilization” activities in the Middle East.

The EU and the United States have separate sanctions and trade restrictions related to these issues. A separate UN Security Council resolution addresses Iran’s ballistic missile program.

At the time of the deal, US intelligence estimated it would take Iran as little three months to produce enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon.

Through the JCPOA, the potential pathways for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon were blocked.

Infografik Iran's nuclear facilities covered under the nuclear deal Iran's nuclear facilities covered under the nuclear deal

The uranium pathways

One pathway was through a uranium bomb. Iran has two uranium enrichment facilities suitable for this: at Natanz and Fordow.

Under the JCPOA, no enrichment is allowed at Fordow for 15 years.

For 10 years, the Natanz facility is allowed about 5,000 centrifuges compared to about 20,000 before the nuclear deal. The centrifuges that are allowed are the oldest and least efficient.

Iran also reduced its stockpile of uranium by 98 percent to 300 kilograms for 15 years. Before the deal, Iran had enough uranium to build ten nuclear bombs – 300 kilograms is not enough to build one bomb.

Iran also committed to keep uranium enrichment at 3.67 percent, far below the 90 percent enrichment level needed to make a nuclear weapon.  The low-enriched uranium was shipped to Russia.

Iran also has a Russian built nuclear power plant at Bushehr. Iran also has a Russian-built nuclear power plant at Bushehr.

The plutonium pathway

The third pathway to a nuclear bomb was through weapons-grade plutonium at the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor.

Under the JCPOA, the heavy water reactor at Arak was redesigned so that it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium. Also, spent fuel rods that could be used to develop a nuclear bomb are sent out of the country.

For 15 years, Iran will not be allowed to build a heavy water reactor or accumulate excess heavy water.

Covert pathway

The JCPOA includes a robust monitoring, verification and inspection regime carried out by the IAEA. The inspections regime allows the IAEA to monitor declared nuclear facilities, storage facilities and supply chains.

This allows international inspectors to identify if Iran is covertly developing nuclear weapons at undeclared sites or military facilities.

If the IAEA suspects covert activity, an additional protocol to the JCPOA allows inspectors access to any site, including military facilities.

This requires that Iran allow access to any site within 24 days if a majority of signatories to the accord agree.

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