Russians Vote in Local Elections Targeted by Kremlin Critic Navalny

Russians vote Sunday in dozens of local elections that will be scrutinized for signs of discontent with the ruling United Russia party following the suspected poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.Navalny, 44, had hoped to undermine United Russia’s grip on regional power and had urged his supporters to vote against it tactically before he fell gravely ill in what Germany and his allies say was an attempt to kill him last month.United Russia, which backs President Vladimir Putin, dominates regional politics, but the elections come at a time of public frustration over years of falling wages and the government’s handling of the pandemic.Seen as a dry run for next September’s parliament elections, the regional polls will elect 18 governors and an array of local parliaments and city councils.Early voting began Friday after authorities stretched the elections over three days, a move criticized by independent election watchdog Golos, which warned the longer period would make it harder for monitors to catch fraud at polling stations.Navalny’s allies have pressed ahead with the Kremlin critic’s “smart voting” strategy, naming more than 1,000 politicians on the ballots they think can beat ruling party candidates and telling their supporters to vote for them.The strategy aims to disrupt a political system that often bars the Kremlin’s staunchest foes from running, while allowing softer candidates from the parliamentary parties to compete. Navalny has been unable to set up his own party.The anti-corruption campaigner also has dozens of allies running in elections for seats in the city councils of Novosibirsk and Tomsk in Siberia.There have been some signs of anti-Kremlin discontent in the regions.Mass rallies in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk show no sign of abating two months after they flared over the arrest of a popular local governor who defeated United Russia’s candidate in an election …

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Chloe Zhao’s ‘Nomadland’ Wins Top Prize at Venice Film Fest

Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland,” a recession-era road trip drama starring Frances McDormand, won the Golden Lion for best film Saturday at a slimmed-down Venice Film Festival, which was held against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.Zhao and McDormand appeared by video from the United States to accept the award, given virus-related travel restrictions made reaching the Lido in the Italian lagoon city difficult if not impossible for many Hollywood filmmakers and actors.”Thank you so much for letting us come to your festival in this weird, weird world and way!” McDormand told the masked audience as the Italian marketing team for the film actually accepted the award. “But we’re really glad you let us come! And we’ll see you down the road!”A favorite going into the awards season, “Nomadland” is screening at all the major fall film festivals in a pandemic-forged alliance involving the Venice, Toronto, New York and Telluride festivals.Britain’s Vanessa Kirby won best lead actress for “Pieces of a Woman,” a harrowing drama about the emotional fallout on a couple after their baby dies during a home birth. Italy’s Pierfrancesco Fabino won best lead actor for “Padrenostro,” (“Our Father”), an Italian coming-of-age story that takes place after a terrorist attack in the 1970s.Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa won the Silver Lion for best director for “Wife of a Spy,” while the Silver Lion grand jury prize went to Mexico’s Michel Franco for his dystopian drama “Nuevo Orden.”The Russian film “Dear Comrades!” about a 1960s-era massacre in the former Soviet Union, won a special jury prize while Chaitanya Tamhane won best screenplay for “The Disciple,” about an Indian man’s pursuit to be a classical vocalist.That the 10-day Venice festival took place at all was something of a miracle, given that northern Italy in late February became ground zero for Europe’s coronavirus outbreak. …

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Masked Men Detain Female Protesters in Belarus

Thousands of Belarusians demonstrated Saturday in Minsk to demand the release of opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova, who was jailed this week after she resisted expulsion from the country.Video broadcast by Polish-funded satellite TV channel Belsat and independent outlet Tut.by showed masked Belarusian riot police violently detaining at least 40 women who were thrown into vans as scuffles erupted in the city’s central Freedom Square.A woman wears a T-shirt with a sign of an old Belarusian flag during an opposition rally to protest the official presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus, Sept. 12, 2020.Saturday’s protests were a precursor to a massive women’s rally expected on Sunday to protest police violence and allegations of electoral fraud. Some of the women protesters chanted “Bring back our Masha,” referring to Kolesnikova, while others beat saucepans.Kolesnikova, who has been in a Minsk jail since Monday, has been accused of undermining national security as part of a criminal investigation against leaders of the Coordination Council, which was formed last month to negotiate a transition of power after President Alexander Lukashenko won a sixth term in office.Opposition parties, the United States and the European Union allege the August 9 election was rigged.Lukashenko, who denies the voting was fraudulent, accuses council members and activists of colluding with Western nations to try to create a parallel government.Thousands of people have been detained over five weeks of protests triggered by the contested August 9 election. At least three people have been killed and hundreds hurt as police have aggressively dispersed peaceful protesters with rubber bullets, clubs and stun grenades.U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said the U.S. and other countries are considering bringing sanctions against “those involved in human rights abuses and repression in Belarus.” …

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Long-Term Solutions Sought for Migrants Displaced by Fires on Lesbos Island

The U.N. refugee agency is calling for long-term solutions for thousands of migrants on Greek islands who were rendered homeless by fires that devastated the Moria asylum center on the island of Lesbos.An estimated 11,500 asylum seekers are living in the open since a series of fires, which started five days ago, ravaged Greece’s Moria asylum center.No casualties have been reported, but the blaze destroyed everything, leaving everyone without shelter.The U.N. refugee agency reports thousands of vulnerable people, including very young children, pregnant women, elderly people and people with disabilities, are sleeping in the streets, fields, and beaches.UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo says her agency is helping Greek authorities protect and assist asylum seekers affected by the fires. She says the UNHCR is providing emergency aid to ensure people do not sleep in the open.“The coronavirus pandemic also is adding to an already desperate situation. People tested positive [for] COVID need to be provided with special care, isolation and treatment arrangements and medical support. The UNHCR has advised all those previously staying in the center to restrict their movements until temporary solutions are found,” Mantoo said.Greek soldiers set up UNHCR tents to accommodate asylum seekers left without shelter after fires at a refugee camp on Lesbos Island, Greece, Sept. 11, 2020.The Moria center, Europe’s largest refugee camp, was meant to house 3,000 people. At times, the camp population in this squalid, tented settlement swelled to more than 20,000. This is a consequence of increasing numbers of people fleeing war, persecution and extreme poverty, and the refusal of other European countries to share the burden by accepting asylum seekers.Mantoo said the situation must change because it is no longer tenable. Long-term solutions must be found for refugees and asylum seekers stuck in overcrowded, unsafe conditions on the Greek islands.“UNHCR has long been …

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Europe’s Wartime Memories Aggravate Resentment of Germany

One of Germany’s most experienced diplomats had to wait three months this year before Warsaw would approve his appointment as Berlin’s ambassador to Poland.The official acceptance of an envoy by a host government is normally a formality, especially between allies — as well as an event used to highlight neighborliness and friendship. But Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven, one of Germany’s most experienced diplomats, hasn’t received a warm welcome in the Polish capital.A begrudging Polish government on September 1 finally issued its acceptance of his selection. However, it could not resist referring once again to the cause of the delayed approval, noting that Poles remain sensitive to the “great unhealed wound” of World War II.The ostensible objection to the selection of Freytag von Loringhoven, NATO’s first chief of intelligence and deputy head of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, as envoy was that his father was a German army officer who served in Adolf Hitler’s entourage in the final weeks of the war.“What is strange for us is that Berlin didn’t realize their pick could cause resentment,” said a senior Polish official.FILE – Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven, NATO’s first chief of intelligence and deputy head of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, speaks at the World Summit on Counter-Terrorism, in Herzliya, Israel, Sept. 4, 2018.For Germans, the objection has been bewildering. Freytag von Loringhoven’s father was a career officer, and he wasn’t charged subsequently with any war crimes. He went on to become a general in Germany’s postwar armed forces.The spat over Freytag von Loringhoven’s appointment is just one of a series of recent ugly disputes partly rooted in the past that has brought German-Polish relations to an alarming low. Poland’s ruling nationalist conservative Law and Justice Party, known as PiS, has accused Germany of seeking to recover territory it lost to Poland after 1945, …

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Austria Reinstates Restrictions as New COVID-19 Cases Surge

Austria’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, Friday announced he is reinstating mandatory mask regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 after cases spiked in the country this week, especially in Vienna.At a news conference Friday, Kurz announced, beginning Monday, masks will be mandatory again in all public areas, like supermarkets and other retail shops, government buildings and schools. Masks have remained mandatory on public transit.  Kurz said he doesn’t expect the situation to improve in coming weeks and “we are going to need these measures at least during winter time.” He cautioned other measures could become necessary and the goal was to prevent a lockdown.The government has also limited the number of people who can attend private gatherings and public indoor events.The Austrian health ministry says the nation has seen a total of 32,136 total cases with 5,879 active cases, including 580 reported on Friday.The government has now classified seven regions as “yellow” under its current coronavirus traffic-light system.  …

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French PM: No New Lockdown Despite COVID-19 Surge

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said Friday the government was not planning a new, nationwide lockdown in response to a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases this week. In a televised statement in Paris, following a meeting with the Defense Council, Castex acknowledged the COVID-19 situation has gotten worse, and he urged citizens to practice social distancing and wear masks. In addition, he said, the government would take steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  He said these measures would include fast-tracked testing for priority cases and giving local authorities the power to make some businesses reduce opening hours. But the French prime minister said they would not “put on hold our social, cultural and economic lives, the education of our children, and our capability to live normally.” The French government is under renewed pressure to curb the spread of the disease as health authorities Thursday reported 9,843 new confirmed coronavirus cases, a new record, topping the previous record of 8,975, set six days earlier. French health experts have called on the government to act to avoid a second wave of the virus. The head of the government’s scientific council, Jean-François Delfraissy, said Wednesday the government needs to make “a number of difficult decisions in the next 10 days.”  In March, France imposed a strict lockdown. That succeeded in preventing the hospital system from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases, but it also dealt a severe blow to the economy. That lockdown was relaxed in early May.    …

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Pandemic Upends Annual Ukraine Pilgrimage for Hasidic Sect

For Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, this year would have marked his 37th consecutive visit to Uman, Ukraine, for Rosh Hashana — the Jewish new year which falls this year on September 18-20.   The town, located 200 km south of Kyiv, is the burial place of the 18th-century tzaddik, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who founded the Breslov sect of Hasidism. Up to 50,000 Hasidic Jews visit his gravestone each year.   But this year’s pilgrimage has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, which led Ukrainian authorities to estimate that the site would get no more than 3,000 visitors, most of whom have already arrived.   Rabbi Rietti, a son of a famous British actor Robert Rietti, who lives in Monsey, New York, said in an interview that visiting tzaddik Nachman’s grave on Rosh Hashana is the central tenet of Breslov Hasidism.   “We’ve been made the promise that for anyone who comes to his grave on Rosh Hashana, his soul in the other world, would pray for that person for a blessed new year.”   The Ukraine government announced a month-long restriction on new visitors on Aug. 27, citing a “growing number of new COVID-19 cases in Ukraine.”   “All large crowds of people have a significant increase in incidence [of the disease]. The mass celebration of Rosh Hashanah will lead to a colossal collapse,” President Volodymyr Zelensky told representatives of Jewish religious organizations in Ukraine at a meeting on Aug. 25, according to his official website.   Zelensky, who is Jewish himself, explained that his government decided to close the borders, in part, because of a request from authorities in Israel, home to most of the pilgrims. He pointed out that Ukraine had significantly restricted mass gatherings by its own citizens in April, when Christians celebrate Easter.   Rabbi Rietti …

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Britain Launches COVID-19 App to Boost Contact Tracing

Britain said it will launch a new COVID-19 app across England and Wales later this month which will allow people to use QR codes when they enter venues, boosting the country’s contact tracing to help keep the spread of the virus in check.   With cases rising, Health Minister Matt Hancock said the new app would help NHS (National Health Service) Test and Trace, the scheme used in England to contact those who have been in contact with a COVID-infected person, to reach more people.   “The launch of the app later this month across England and Wales is a defining moment and will aid our ability to contain the virus at a critical time,” he said in a statement on Friday.   Previous attempts to develop more sophisticated tracing apps  have struggled to expand beyond the pilot stage, and the  government has faced criticism after missing launch deadlines.   Prime Minister Boris Johnson has banned groups of more than six people from meeting from Monday as the government tries to keep the spread of the virus under control amid a sharp rise in cases in recent days.   The UK recorded 2,919 new daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and cases have started to track much higher than the levels of around 1,000 per day recorded in August.   The new app will be officially launched on September 24, and available for pubs, restaurants, cinemas, hairdressers and other venues and their customers to download.   People visiting a venue will check-in by scanning a QR code displayed at the entrance on their mobile phone which can in turn be used by NHS Test and Trace to contact them to tell them to self-isolate in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.   The use of QR codes will replace …

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What Does Beijing Want From Berlin?

China has announced that its head of state will hold a FILE – German foreign minister Heiko Maas adjusts his glasses during a news conference in Athens, Aug. 25, 2020.“The Himalayas and the Malacca Strait may seem a long way away,” FILE – A man looks at a newsstand with a copy of the day’s Global Times displayed on a basket in Beijing, China, April 5, 2016.Kefferpuetz described the Global Times article as an attempt to accentuate differences among Germany, the EU and the U.S. while “belittl[ing] the EU.” “By doing so, it misses the bigger picture,” he said. “Several years back, China was expanding its influence in Europe — buying up companies, establishing a variety of political platforms and engaging with EU member states bilaterally and regionally. Now, the tables are turning,” Kefferpuetz said. Europe, he said, is increasingly wary of Chinese influence, and “relationships are souring.” Meanwhile, European powers are moving closer to China’s immediate neighborhood, Kefferpuetz said in a written interview with VOA. He cited Britain’s plan to send an aircraft carrier to patrol in the South China Sea next year, Germany’s just-announced Indo-Pacific strategy and a similar strategy that France published last year. “By claiming that the EU is weak, and the transatlantic alliance is divided, the Global Times article just highlights how nervous China must be, given Europe’s push into the Indo-Pacific alongside the United States,” Kefferpuetz said. Robert Spalding, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, has served in senior defense and diplomacy positions in the U.S. government, including senior director for strategy at the National Security Council under U.S. President Donald Trump. He told VOA in a phone interview on Thursday that the Global Times article’s emphasis on the relative importance of the United States in the region contradicted previous Chinese assertions. “They’ve been saying we’re not important, that the United …

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Russian Hackers Targeting US Campaigns, Microsoft Says

The same Russian military intelligence outfit that hacked the Democrats in 2016 has renewed vigorous U.S. election-related targeting, trying to breach computers at more than 200 organizations including political campaigns and their consultants, Microsoft said Thursday.The intrusion attempts reflect a stepped-up effort to infiltrate the U.S. political establishment, the company said.”What we’ve seen is consistent with previous attack patterns that not only target candidates and campaign staffers but also those who they consult on key issues,” Tom Burt, a Microsoft vice president, said in a blog post. U.K. and European political groups were also probed, he added.Most of the hacking attempts by Russian, Chinese and Iranian agents were halted by Microsoft security software and the targets notified, he said. The company would not comment on who may have been successfully hacked or the impact.Although U.S. intelligence officials said last month that the Russians favor President Donald Trump and the Chinese prefer his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, Microsoft noted Thursday that Chinese state-backed hackers have targeted “high profile individuals associated with the election,” including people associated with the Biden campaign.China’s hackers largely gather intelligence for economic and political advantage, while Russia tends to weaponize stolen data to destabilize other governments.Microsoft did not assess which foreign adversary poses the greater threat to the integrity of the November presidential election. The consensus among cybersecurity experts is that Russian interference is the gravest. Senior Trump administration officials have disputed that, although without offering any evidence.”This is the actor from 2016, potentially conducting business as usual,” said John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis at the cybersecurity firm FireEye. “We believe that Russian military intelligence continues to pose the greatest threat to the democratic process.”Fancy BearThe Microsoft post shows that Russian military intelligence continues to pursue election-related targets undeterred by U.S indictments, sanctions …

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Southern EU Leaders Urge Turkey to End ‘Unilateral’ Actions

Leaders of seven southern European countries on Thursday urged Turkey to end “unilateral and illegal activities” in the eastern Mediterranean and resume dialogue to ease tensions in the region.Heads of state and government of France, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Italy, Spain and Portugal gathered in Corsica amid fears of open conflict, as Turkey seeks to expand its energy resources and influence in the region. In their final statement, leaders reaffirmed their “full support and solidarity with Cyprus and Greece,” who they say are facing Turkey’s “confrontational actions.”  “We regret that Turkey has not responded to the repeated calls by the European Union to end its unilateral and illegal activities,” they said.  FILE – The Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz is seen being escorted by a Turkish navy frigate in the eastern Mediterranean off Cyprus, Aug. 6, 2019.The leaders warned that “in absence of progress in engaging Turkey into a dialogue, and unless it ends its unilateral activities, the EU is ready to develop a list of further restrictive measures” at a summit later this month. They also called on resuming German mediation in the dispute. Russia also offered this week to mediate. Greece and Turkey have deployed naval and air force units to assert competing claims over energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkish survey vessels and drill ships continue to prospect for gas in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights. France is carrying out military patrols in the region in a show of support for Greece and Cyprus, and the EU is mulling new sanctions against Turkey. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, “If Turkey really wants a frank dialogue with Greece and Cyprus with the European Union, it must demonstrate this in practice — to immediately stop unilateral actions, to make convincing indications that it respects international law.”  French President Emmanuel …

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US Sanctions 4 for Russia-linked Interference in November Presidential Election

The United States on Thursday sanctioned four Russian-linked operatives, accusing them of trying to meddle in the upcoming U.S. presidential election.The sanctioned individuals are Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian member of Parliament tied to Russian intelligence, and three other Russian-based operatives connected to the Internet Research Agency troll farm based in St. Petersburg.FILE – U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question as he answers reporters questions during a news conference at the White House in Washington, Sept. 4, 2020.The sanctions come even as U.S. President Donald Trump and some of his top intelligence officials have insisted that China, not Russia, represents the biggest threat to the November 3 vote.But in a statement Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department singled out Derkach, calling him “an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services.”The assessments echo warnings put out last month by the nation’s top counterintelligence official that Derkach was actively working to undermine the campaign of the Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden.FILE – President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani smiles as he arrives at Trump’s campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Aug. 15, 2019.Derkach met with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine in December, as Giuliani attempted to collect derogatory information on Biden’s and his son Hunter’s business relationships in Ukraine.He becomes the second person to be sanctioned under Trump’s September 2018 executive order, aimed at pushing back against foreign interference in U.S. elections.The only other person to be sanctioned under that executive order is Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who has been described as the financier of Russia’s IRA.U.S. officials say the other three Russians sanctioned Thursday — Anton Andreyev, Darya Aslanova and Artem Lifshits — were all employees of the Russian troll factory. Additionally, the Justice Department identified one of them, Lifshits, …

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For Greek Camp Migrants, COVID-19 Quarantine Was Spark

For asylum-seekers trapped in the overcrowded facility on Greece’s island of Lesbos, Moria was hell most days. But a coronavirus quarantine was the final straw.It was just before midnight Tuesday when eight migrants who tested positive for COVID-19 were told by authorities they would be isolated to an area just beyond the gated compound, according to witnesses and government officials.Their relatives would also be moved into the fenced unit, about 40 small wooden houses on a hill inside Greece’s biggest migrant settlement set up to deal with any breakout of COVID-19, for further testing.The news did not go down well, and scuffles broke out in the area, surrounded by olive trees, the witnesses and officials said. The melee spread when other migrants in tents close to the isolation unit joined the fray.Migrants sleep on the road near the Moria refugee camp on the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 10, 2020.Minutes later, the fire broke out and tents were in flames, fanned by strong winds. By morning, the sprawling complex was a smoldering mass of mangled steel and burned tents and containers. Thousands, including children, were forced to sleep on the streets around the camp.”It was chaos,” 21-year-old student Elena Ilunga said. “I took my things from the tent and ran to the street.”Ilunga said she initially saw flames burning forest land, but later saw five or more fires inside the camp, one of them close to her tent.Greek authorities have launched an investigation. The government says the fire was started by asylum-seekers, without providing evidence.The Moria camp’s more than 12,000 residents, four times its capacity, were already sorely tested by living in conditions that U.N. officials had decried as shameful — packed into tents and containers with little running water and frequent fights over food.”Life in Lesbos is hell. …

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James Bond, ‘Avengers’ Star Diana Rigg Dies at 82

Diana Rigg, a British actress who became a 1960s style icon as secret agent Emma Peel in TV series “The Avengers,” has died. She was 82. Rigg’s agent Simon Beresford said she died Thursday morning at home with her family. Daughter Rachael Stirling said she died of cancer that was diagnosed in March. Rigg “spent her last months joyfully reflecting on her extraordinary life, full of love, laughter and a deep pride in her profession. I will miss her beyond words,” Stirling said. Rigg starred in “The Avengers” alongside Patrick McNee’s bowler-hatted John Steed. The pair were an impeccably dressed duo who fought villains and traded quips in a show whose mix of adventure and humor was enduringly influential. Rigg also starred in 1967 James Bond thriller “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” as the only woman ever to marry Agent 007. In later life, she played Olenna Tyrell in “Game of Thrones” and the Duchess of Buccleuch in “Victoria,” and starred alongside her daughter in British sitcom “Detectorists.” Rigg spent several years in the 1960s as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and combined screen work with an acclaimed stage career, in plays including Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage” and Tom Stoppard’s “Jumpers” at the National Theatre in London. Stoppard said Rigg was “the most beautiful woman in the room, but she was what used to be called a Trouper.” “She went to work with her sleeves rolled up and a smile for everyone. Her talent was luminous.” …

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‘A Bargaining Chip’: Jailed British-Iranian Mother Faces New Trial in Tehran

Dual British-Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, jailed for five years in Iran on spying charges, will face a new trial in the coming days. Her sentence was to expire next April but she has been hit with new charges that have not been made public. The charity worker and her young daughter were detained at Tehran’s airport in 2016 after visiting her family. She strongly denies all the charges against her. As Henry Ridgwell reports, her family believes she is being used as a bargaining chip in a dispute over payment for tanks purchased before the Iranian Revolution but never delivered.   …

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Brazilian Surfer Breaks Own Record for Big Wave Ride

The World Surf League (WSL) announced Thursday that Brazilian big wave rider Maya Gabeira beat her own world record this year when she rode a 22.4-meter wave at Portugal’s Nazare, the same place she set the record in 2018.Gabeira broke her previous mark by nearly 2 meters during a big wave competition at Nazarre on February 11. Not only was the wave a new women’s record, but the WSL says it was the biggest wave ridden by a man or woman in 2020.FILE – Surfer Maya Gabeira arrives for the 27th anniversary Sports Spectacular at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, May 20, 2012.The record is particularly sweet for Gabeira, who broke her ankle and nearly drowned in the same spot in 2013.The WSL says its big wave awards are presented months after the rides because video and other data from all potential award-winning wave rides need to be submitted and analyzed by an independent team of scientific experts. The team included members from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Southern California’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, among others.The experts examine video and still photos, consider the angles that video or pictures were taken from, and environmental conditions, including tides, sunlight and wave formation.In recent years, Nazare has become a global focal point for big wave surfers. Scientists say big waves form there usually in the winter months, between October and March, when the harsher weather generates larger swells.When those swells come from the west to northwest, they interact with a deep, underwater canyon off the coast of Nazare that, scientists say, can magnify wave height by three to five times.The largest documented wave ever surfed was at Nazare, a 24.38-meter wave in 2017. …

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Assange Extradition Hearing Paused Over COVID-19 Risk

The London hearing on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition from Britain to the United States was suspended Thursday because one of the lawyers may have been exposed to the coronavirus. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ordered the proceedings adjourned until Monday while a lawyer representing the U.S. government is tested for the virus. Assange’s attorney, Edward Fitzgerald, said it had to be assumed that the lawyer had the virus and “COVID will be in the courtroom.” “Court staff themselves would be at risk, and you yourself may well be at risk,” he told the judge. “Finally, our client Mr. Assange, who is vulnerable you are aware, would be at risk in court.” The judge asked for submissions from both legal teams about what to do if the lawyer is confirmed to have COVID-19. Assange is fighting American prosecutors’ attempt to get the British government to send him to the U.S. to stand trial on spying charges. U.S. prosecutors have indicted the 49-year-old Australian on 18 espionage and computer misuse charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret U.S. military documents a decade ago. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison. Assange’s lawyers say the prosecution is a politically motivated abuse of power that will stifle press freedom and put journalists around the world at risk. The hearing started Monday at London’s Old Bailey criminal court and is scheduled to last about a month. …

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