Monday November 19, 2018
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ISIS vows to attack Washington, Europe in new video

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A new propaganda video released by the ISIS has warned of attacks on Washington D.C. and other countries involved in the international coalition bombing its militant strongholds in Syria and Iraq, days after the terrorist outfit took responsibility for the deadly attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead and scores injured.

“We say to the states that take part in the crusader campaign that, by God, you will have a day God willing, like France’s and by God, as we struck France in the centre of its abode in Paris, then we swear that we will strike America at its centre in Washington,” one ISIS man in the video can be seen as saying.

Another man also warned Europe that more attacks were in the offing.

“I say to the European countries that we are coming, coming with booby traps and explosives, coming with explosive belts and (gun) silencers and you will be unable to stop us because today we are much stronger than before,” he said.

Meanwhile, a total of 23 people are in custody with seven detainees identified following a massive manhunt that continued on Monday for surviving members and accomplices suspected to be involved in the Paris terror attacks that claimed 129 lives, media reported.

Belgian special operations forces made an arrest during a raid in Molenbeek, a suburb of Brussels, but failed to apprehend main suspect Belgian-born French national Salah Abdeslam, sought by French authorities, the Belgian federal justice was quoted as saying by state broadcaster RTBF.

However, conflicting reports by another Belgian state-broadcaster RTL claimed that Abdeslam, 26, was arrested after he was seen at a window of a building with his arms up in the air, before police used tear gas to neutralise him.

Details of how Abdeslam was involved in the attack were not disclosed.

The search for the perpetrators of the Paris attacks led authorities across the Belgian border to Molenbeek, impoverished suburb of Brussels with a history of links to terror plots, CNN reported.

At least two roads in Molenbeek, a suburb of the Belgian capital with a substantial Muslim population of mostly Moroccan and Turkish immigrants, were cordoned off by the police in an active standoff since the early hours of Monday.

Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said there would be “more action” in Molenbeek — and urged intelligence services across the rest of Europe “to exchange more and more intelligence”, Sky News reported.

The stand-off came as Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud was named the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks. Abaaoud, currently in Syria, was reportedly also linked to thwarted attacks on a Paris-bound high-speed train and a church.

Meanwhile, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said “war” had been declared on France, and that “Anybody who attacks the Republic, the Republic will fight back”.

Cazenueve has ordered 104 people to be put under house arrest since the Paris attacks. More than 150 police anti-terror raids conducted in cities across France.

Five of the detainees were identified over the weekend, and on Monday another two were named by the Paris prosecutor as Ahmad al-Mohammad and Samy Amimour.

Al-Mohammad is the name on a Syrian passport found with the remains of one of the attackers, though the man’s identity has not yet been verified. The other attackers so far named are all from Europe.

Amimour was said to be facing terrorism charges in France.

Three teams of terrorists staged coordinated attacks at six locations across Paris on November 13, including a concert hall, the Stade de France and at least two restaurants. At least 129 people were killed and 352 others wounded in the attacks. Ninety-nine of the wounded are reported to be in very serious condition.

Two of the total seven dead attackers were identified as Ismael Omar Mostefai, 29, and Bilal Hafdi, aged 20.

In retaliation, the French Air Force carried out bombing missions over ISIS’ stronghold in Syria Raqqa on Sunday and Monday against strategic targets. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Christine Ford Testifies Against Brett Kavanaugh; Decision Pending

If Kavanaugh is confirmed for the Supreme Court, the court will have a clear 5-4 conservative majority, which could be solidified for a generation or longer.

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Brett Kavanaugh
In this combination image of Reuters photos, Christine Blasey Ford, left, and Supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testify separately before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

It was a day of drama, tears and tempers in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh angrily denying a charge of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford at a party in 1982 when they were teenagers.

Both got the chance to tell their stories to the Senate Judiciary Committee during a nearly nine-hour-long hearing.

“I have never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not in college, not ever,” Kavanaugh told the senators. “I have never done this to her or to anyone.”

Hours earlier, Ford told the panel she was “100 percent certain” it was a drunken Kavanaugh who pinned her down on a bed, groped her, tried to take off her clothes, and put his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams for help.

Kavanaugh told the senators he attended no such party. He accused Democrats of seeking to avenge Hillary Clinton’s election loss by mounting a calculated attack for political gain and engaging in grotesque character assassination.

Kavanaugh vowed he will not be intimidated into withdrawing.

The Judiciary Committee, with 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats, plan to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Friday and, if approved, will send it to the entire Senate, which will begin procedural votes Saturday.

 

Brett Kavanaugh
In this photo combination, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

 

Late Thursday, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee announced he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. While, he said, it took courage for Ford to testify, there was no evidence to corroborate her allegations.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said he is still weighing his vote after hearing Ford and Kavanaugh testify.

Asked how he will vote, Flake said, “Let me process it.”

 

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, also said she needs time to decide how she will vote. She is running for re-election in a state that voted heavily for President Donald Trump.

Sen. Doug Jones, a first-term Democrat from Alabama, said he is voting no on Kavenaugh’s bid for the Supreme Court. “The Kavanaugh nomination process has been flawed from the beginning,” he said, adding that Ford was credible and courageous.

Brett Kavanaugh
In this photo combination, Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. VOA

Ford’s testimony

Earlier in the day, Ford testified that she feared that Kavanaugh was “going to accidentally kill” her during the alleged incident in 1982.

She said what she remembers most was Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge’s “uproarious laughter” during the incident and “having fun at my expense.”

Democratic senators repeatedly praised Ford for her courage in coming forward.

A prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, questioned Ford on behalf of Senate Republicans. She asked Ford about timelines and peripheral issues and did not challenge her basic account of sexual assault. But Ford’s account lacked firm corroboration of her claims by others at the party.

Kavanaugh’s testimony

Kavanaugh was much angrier, strident and emotional.

He “unequivocally and categorically” denied the charges and cried as he spoke of how the ordeal has wrecked his family. He presented the senators with what he said were handwritten calendars from 1982 showing his activities and whereabouts. He says they did not include the party.

Kavanaugh said he welcomes whatever the investigation the committee wants, but would not directly answer whether he would approve an FBI probe.

Brett Kavanaugh
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh gives his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee. VOA

Admitting he loves drinking beer, he pointed to what he says was his outstanding academic record and dedication to high school sports and church.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley defended Kavanaugh and blamed Democrats for not disclosing the accusations earlier.

“As part of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, the FBI conducted its sixth full field background investigation of Judge Kavanaugh since 1993, 25 years ago. Nowhere in any of these six FBI reports … was there a whiff of any issue, any issue at all related to anyway inappropriate sexual behavior.”

But Democrats did not buy Kavanaugh’s self-portrayal of an angelic choir boy. Senator Patrick Leahy pointed to Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook page and its jokes about heavy drinking and sex.

Brett Kavanaugh
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., makes a point during a hearing with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee. VOA

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham lost his temper during his time to question Kavanaugh. He accused Democrats of an “unethical sham” and warning Republicans that if they vote not to confirm Kavanaugh, they would legitimize “the most despicable thing I’ve ever seen in my time in politics.”

Trump stands by his man

President Trump nominated Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. He tweeted that the judge showed Americans exactly why he was chosen.

Trump’s tweet did not mention Ford.

No clear winner

Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, Ilya Shapiro, says it is unclear if anyone came out ahead after Thursday’s testimony.

Also Read: Video- USA Gears Up For Its Midterm Elections

“We’re at a dangerous point because if we have no more evidence and Kavanaugh’s rejected, that sets the precedent that accusations are enough to derail … and if he’s approved, then still there will be people who think that he’s a sexual assaulter or rapist and there he is sitting at the Supreme Court.”

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, the court will have a clear 5-4 conservative majority, which could be solidified for a generation or longer. (VOA)