White House, on Tiananmen anniversary, urges China to respect human rights

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House, in a statement on the 31st anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown, urged Beijing on Thursday to respect human rights, fulfill its commitments on Hong Kong and end persecution of ethnic and religious minorities.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s slaughter of unarmed Chinese civilians was a tragedy that will not be forgotten,” the White House said.

It urged the Chinese government to fulfill its commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Sino-British Joint Declaration governing Hong Kong’s status, and to “uphold the rights and freedoms guaranteed to all Chinese citizens under China’s constitution, and to end the systematic persecution of millions of ethnic and religious minorities.”

The anniversary of China’s bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy activists coincides with widespread protests across the United States against racism and police brutality touched off by the killing of a black man while in custody of white Minneapolis police officers.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to militarize the response to the mass demonstrations, saying he could deploy the military in states that fail to crack down on the sometimes violent protests.

“The American people stand together with all Chinese citizens in their pursuit of fundamental rights, including the right to accountable and representative governance and freedom of speech, assembly, and religious belief,” the White House said.

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In video, Bolsonaro says wanted cops replaced to stop family being 'screwed'

RIO DE JANEIRO/BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said he was unwilling to see his family get “screwed” because of his inability to change law enforcement officials, according to a video released on Friday set to deepen the political crisis surrounding him.

Coming at the end of a challenging week in Brazil, which is now the world’s No. 2 hot spot for coronavirus cases behind the United States, the video prompted Bolsonaro’s fans and detractors to hurl abuse at each other from their apartment windows in cities across the country.

The political scandal centers on an accusation by former Justice Minister Sergio Moro, a popular anti-graft crusader, that Bolsonaro leaned on him to change senior federal police officials amid investigations into members of the president’s political clan.

Moro’s accusations have led to a federal criminal probe.

In the recording of an April 22 ministerial meeting, which was released by a Supreme Court justice on Friday, Bolsonaro said in coarse language that it was his prerogative to change security officials, their bosses or even ministers.

“I’ve tried to change our security people in Rio de Janeiro officially, and I wasn’t able to. That’s over. I won’t wait for my family or my friends to get screwed,” Bolsonaro said.

“If you can’t change (the official), change his boss. You can’t change the boss? Change the minister. End of story. We’re not kidding around,” he added.

Writing on Facebook after the release of the video, Bolsonaro said there was “no indication of interference in the federal police.” In a radio interview with Jovem Pan, he said he had been talking about his own personal security and not senior members of the federal police.

The video comes at a bad time for Bolsonaro. His political woes have led to rumblings about impeachment. He is also under pressure for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

“The truth was said, shown on video, messages, depositions, and proved with facts,” Moro, who quit last month, wrote on Twitter.

Before becoming president, Bolsonaro represented Rio state as a federal lawmaker for nearly 30 years. His son, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, also got his start there, and is under investigation over allegations of corruption.

Right-wing Senator Major Olimpio, who was once Bolsonaro’s lieutenant in Congress, said the video still left doubts as to whether Bolsonaro really intended to interfere in the federal police and for what reason.

Brazilian political parties are also investigating the president’s conduct. In one of those probes, the parties have asked for the seizure of Bolsonaro’s cell phone.

The national security adviser, former General Augusto Heleno, said in a statement he was outraged by the “inconceivable” request for the president’s phone. It could “have unpredictable consequences for the stability of the country,” he said.

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Rwandan genocide suspect Kabuga brought before French court

PARIS (Reuters) – Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga was arraigned before a French public prosecutor on Tuesday, three days after police swooped on his hideout in a Paris suburb, ending a 26-year manhunt.

The 84-year-old is accused of funding and arming militias that massacred about 800,000 people. He was indicted in 1997 on seven criminal counts including genocide, all in relation to the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Kabuga arrived at the Paris Appeals Court complex under heavy police protection. Outriders flanked the convoy and armed officers guarded the entrance. The hearing began about three hours later, a judicial source said.

The prosecutor was to set out the legal process before the case is passed to investigative judges who will decide whether to transfer Kabuga to a U.N. court handling alleged crimes against humanity.

At least one French-based genocide victim support group said it was considering legal action to unearth how Kabuga was able to go underground in France and what help he had received.

“He was our Klaus Barbie, our (Adolf) Eichmann,” said Etienne Nsanzimana, president of support group Ibuka France, referring to two prominent Nazi war criminals.

“How did he stay on the run for 26 years? For how many years was he in France and receiving help to live comfortably. I don’t think it was just his family,” Nsanzimana added.

Reuters has not been able to find any public comment made by Kabuga over the years about the charges. French lawyer Emmanuel Altit, who will be defending Kabuga, did not respond to a request seeking comment from his client.

Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days of killing from April 6, 1994, orchestrated by the Hutu-led government and its ethnic militia allies.

Kabuga, a Hutu businessman, is accused of bankrolling the militia.

It is not known when or how Kabuga, who had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head, entered France.

France’s justice ministry has said he lived under a false identity in Asnieres-sur-Seine on the outskirts of Paris.

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Congo president replaces chief of staff amid graft trial

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has temporarily replaced his chief of staff Vital Kamerhe who is charged with stealing public funds, the president’s spokesman said on Tuesday.

Kamerhe, the most senior politician to ever face trial for graft in Congo, has been held at Kinshasa’s Makala prison since his arrest on April 8.

The appointment to replace Kamerhe with a deputy comes a day after his high-profile trial began. He has denied all wrongdoing in relation to charges of embezzling more than $50 million in public funds.

Kamerhe’s supporters say the charges are politically motivated, aimed at stymieing his chances of challenging Tshisekedi at the next elections in 2023.

Deputy director of cabinet Desiré-Cashmir Kolongele Eberande will assume the interim role of chief of staff, Tshisekedi’s spokesman Kasongo Mwema announced on the state broadcaster.

Kamerhe backed Tshisekedi in his successful 2018 election campaign in return for Tshisekedi’s support the next time around in 2023, but since gaining power their coalition has started to fray.

If convicted, Kamerhe could serve up to 20 years in prison and would be ineligible to contest the next election. The trial resumes on May 25.

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Lesotho PM Thabane's coalition folds, he leaves on May 22

MASERU (Reuters) – Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s coalition fell apart in parliament on Monday, spelling the end of his tenure and paving the way toward a resolution of a political crisis that has engulfed the southern African kingdom since late last year.

National Assembly Speaker Sephiri Motanyane announced the collapse of his governing majority and said Thabane, 80, would have to step down by May 22.

The prime minister has been under pressure to resign over a case in which he and his current wife are suspected of conspiring to murder his former wife. His current wife, Maesaiah, has been charged while Thabane has been named as a suspect though has yet to be formally charged. They both deny any involvement.

Thabane’s signature was on the list of those consenting to the deal to dissolve the government and form a new one.

“I will not be able to answer on his part for things that happened in parliament but the list was read in parliament and he confirmed his name,” Thabane’s spokesman Relebohile Moyeye said by telephone when asked about the signatures.

The murder case has divided his party and triggered sporadic unrest. In a pre-trial hearing, Thabane had argued for immunity from prosecution, leading many to suspect he would try to insist on it before leaving office.

“The prime minister’s prosecution … is not part of this deal at all, we are not even thinking of considering it,” Democratic Congress party spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa told Reuters by telephone. “It is not even within our scope and that is entirely with the courts of law.”

Sam Rapapa, deputy chairman of Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) party, said all parties had provisionally agreed on Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro to replace Thabane.

“Thabane is now a caretaker prime minister until May 22 when a new prime minister is sworn in,” Rapapa said.

His exit would calm tensions in a politically unstable country that has experienced several coups since independence from Britain in 1966.

Lesotho’s conflicts often draw in South Africa, whose central mountains encircle it – the tiny, high-altitude kingdom of two million people is a vital supplier of drinking water to its bigger, drier neighbour.

Members of the ABC, opposition parties and South African mediators had been pressing Thabane to leave. King Letsie III last week assented to legislation that prevented the prime minister from dissolving parliament and calling an election in the event of a vote of no confidence against him.

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U.S. post office loss doubles as it warns COVID-19 will hit its finances

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Postal Service on Friday said it lost $4.5 billion in the quarter ending in March, more than double its loss over the same period last year, and warned COVID-19 could severely hurt its finances over the next 18 months.

The Postal Service’s Board of Governors met at a critical juncture as it faces accusations from the White House that it charges package shippers such as Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) too little.

Postmaster General Megan Brennan, who is stepping down, warned that the Postal Service would need financial assistance.

“The stark reality is that the pandemic will cause meaningful near-term and long-term implications, from the steep decline in revenue we will suffer this year and in the coming years. That will endanger our ability to fulfill our universal service missions absent congressional intervention,” she said.

She said that the Postal Service had requested funding from Congress and unrestricted access to borrowing. She told a congressional committee last month that the new coronavirus alone could mean $13 billion in lost revenue this year.

The agency said its revenues rose $348 million to $17.8 billion, but noted that rising workers compensation costs in the quarter increased its expenses.

The meeting also comes two days after the governors announced that they had selected Republican donor Louis DeJoy to be the next postmaster general.

The service, which was struggling before efforts to stop the spread of the new coronavirus prompted a widespread economic shutdown, is funded entirely through services and postage and has been hurt by advertisers’ decision to reduce mail during the pandemic.

Congress has authorized the Treasury Department to lend the Postal Service up to $10 billion as part of a $2.3 trillion coronavirus stimulus package. President Donald Trump has threatened to block that aid.

Since early in his administration, the president has criticized the post office, saying it was poorly run and charges too little to deliver packages. Many of those packages are sent by online retailers such as Amazon.com (AMZN.O), whose founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which has been critical of the president.

The pandemic has also caused a surge of interest in expanding options to vote by mail rather than crowding into polling places, making it more important that funding extends past November for the presidential election.

The Postal Service has been struggling for years as online communication replaces letters, and after a 2006 law required it to pre-fund its employee pension and retirement health care costs for the next 75 years.

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Man arrested after ‘unprovoked’ hammer attacks sends 2 to hospital in Winnipeg

One man is in custody and two men were rushed to hospital with severe head injuries after what police called unprovoked hammer attacks.

Officials say on Saturday afternoon around 3:10 p.m., Winnipeg police were called to an assault downtown near the Millennium Library at Donald Street and Portage Avenue.

As officers made their way to the intersection, they came upon a second victim who had been attacked at the bus shack at Donald Street and Graham Avenue.

Police say both victims had been attacked by a suspect armed with a hammer.

Both victims remain in hospital Sunday in stable condition.

According to police, the victims did not know the attacker and the assaults were unprovoked.

Around 5:10 p.m. officers found and arrested the suspect at Graham Avenue and Edmonton Street.

Eric Michael Robert Oksasikewiyin, 28, has been charged with two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of possessing a weapon and mischief under $5,000.

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UK royal Meghan's privacy action against tabloid has first court outing

LONDON (Reuters) – Legal action by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, against a British tabloid for breaching her privacy had its first court hearing on Friday, with the newspaper’s lawyer attempting to have claims that it had acted dishonestly struck out.

Meghan, wife of Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince Harry, is suing Associated Newspapers over articles its Mail on Sunday newspaper printed in February last year which included parts of a letter she had sent to her father, Thomas Markle.

The case is the latest step in growing hostility between the media and the couple, now based in North America, who announced this week they would have “zero engagement” with four of Britain’s top tabloids.

Lawyers for the duchess say the letter’s publication was a misuse of private information and breached her copyright. They are seeking aggravated damages from the paper.

As part of the claim, the lawyers accuse the Mail and other tabloids of harassing, humiliating and manipulating Thomas Markle, and contributing towards a fallout between father and daughter.

They argue the Mail had deliberately omitted parts of the letter, which was never intended to be made public, to paint the royals in a poor light.

Antony White, the lawyer representing the Mail, sought at a pre-trial hearing on Friday to have allegations the paper had acted dishonestly and had stoked the rift removed from the case, along with references to other articles about the royal which she says were false.

He said it was “remarkable” the claim about the treatment of Markle had been made without the duchess having contacted her father to see if he agreed.

Given Britain’s coronavirus lockdown, Friday’s hearing – one of the first stages in the legal action – was held by video, with lawyers and journalists joining remotely.

MEGHAN AND HARRY LISTEN IN

Meghan and Harry, who are living in the Los Angeles area having stepped down from their royal roles at the end of last month, were also expected to listen in, a source said.

The case centres on articles published in February 2019 about the rift between Meghan and her father, who fell out after her pomp-laden wedding to Harry in May the year before.

Markle pulled out days before the wedding after undergoing heart surgery and following news he had staged photos with a paparazzi photographer. Speculation about his attendance dominated the build-up to the ceremony and he has not spoken to Meghan since.

The Mail says unnamed friends of Meghan had put her version of events in interviews with the U.S. magazine People and that Markle had the right to put his side. The paper’s lawyers also argue that given Meghan’s royal status, there was legitimate public interest in her personal and family relationships.

At the hearing, White rejected the allegation the tabloid had acted dishonestly or maliciously by publishing extracts of the letter she sent her father in August 2018 and said it should be dismissed as irrelevant.

In response, Meghan’s lawyer David Sherborne said the editing of the letter had been highly misleading.

“It was disclosed with the sole and entirely gratuitous purpose of satisfying the curiosity of the newspaper’s readership regarding the private life of the claimant, a curiosity deliberately generated by the defendant,” said Sherborne.

He argued the Mail had pursued an agenda of publishing offensive stories about Meghan.

“If the defence want to cross examine her … they can do,” Sherborne said, indicating the duchess might appear in the dock at the future trial. The Mail has already suggested her father could be a witness.

The judge, Mark Warby, said he hoped to give his decision on Friday’s issues within a week. A date for a full trial has not yet been set.

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Policewoman, teacher and nurse among victims of Canada mass shooting

(Reuters) – Families across Canada struggled on Monday to come to grips with the deadliest shooting rampage in the country’s history, in which the victims included a veteran police officer, a teacher and a nurse.

Constable Heidi Stevenson had spent about 23 years as an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and was a participant in the annual Musical Ride. She was among at least 19 people killed, including the gunman, in the weekend massacre in the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia.

Stevenson had grown up in Nova Scotia, said Brian Sauve, president of the National Police Association, and left behind her husband, Dean, who is a high school teacher, and two children, a girl and a boy aged 10 and 13.

She had “an infectious personality, a fantastic smile, was full of life, loved what she did,” Sauve told Reuters.

On Monday, over 150 police and members of the community gathered for a somber procession as Stevenson’s body left the office of the province’s chief medical examiner, with most RCMP officers in uniform standing to attention, 6 feet (1.8 m) apart on both sides of the road in keeping with social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Elementary school teacher Lisa McCully was also among those fatally shot. She was remembered as someone who went beyond reading, writing and arithmetic, said Nova Scotia Teachers Union President Paul Wozney.

“She was someone who taught the virtues of education to her kids, someone who taught kids how to become people they valued being,” he said.

The Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union was also mourning the loss of Heather O’Brien, one of its members.

“An unthinkably cruel event has shaken us to our core,” the union’s president, Janet Hazelton, posted on Facebook on Sunday.

“Gone is a co-worker, friend and cherished family member. … She is remembered by her daughter Darcy as kind and beautiful, saying that her mom loved being a nurse.”

O’Brien was “the picture of unconditional love,” Kelly McLean Langille, her friend of over 25 years, told Reuters. “I’ve never met anyone before or since who had such an empathy for her family, community and the people in it.

“We were all worried she may be exposed to the deadly virus, not a deadly mass murderer.”

Calgarian Tammy Oliver-McCurdie organized an online fundraiser for the cross-country funerals of her baby sister, Jolene Oliver, Jolene’s husband, Aaron Tuck, and their daughter, Emily Tuck, who were among the victims.

“My sister loved poetry and books, she was the youngest of three and we picked on her often … for fun. She laughed lots. She was super fun and enjoyed the beauty in life,” Oliver-McCurdie wrote online.

“Emily was 17, played fiddle, was into welding and fixing vehicles with her dad. Aaron was amazing at fixing cars and stuff. Had a great mechanical mind. Fixed and made things out of leather as a trade. Loved music, records to be exact.”

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2 men arrested in connection with robbery in Eastern Passage

Two 26-year-old men from Halifax are facing charges in connection with a robbery in Eastern Passage on April 8, police say.

Nova Scotia RCMP say they were called to the robbery in the parking lot of a business on Cow Bay Road at around 3 p.m.

Police say the man who was robbed was meeting a potential buyer for jewelry he was selling.

“He was confronted by two men and was sprayed with a sensory irritant,” police said in a news release Friday.

“The suspects took the jewelry from the victim and left the area in a blue Chevrolet Cobalt.”

As the men were leaving, police say they struck a pick-up truck travelling on Main Street. The passengers of the truck received minor injuries.

The RCMP, with help from Halifax Regional Police, say they were able to locate the car on Norwood Street in Dartmouth. The car was empty, but police say a police dog was able to track the men down.

Both are facing charges of robbery, assault with a weapon, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and theft under $5,000.

They have been released and are scheduled to appear in Dartmouth provincial court on July 8.

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