Monthly Archives: June 2019

  • Egypt uncovers Brotherhood ‘military wing’


    Egypt’s interior ministry says it has broken up a “military wing” of the Muslim Brotherhood, in the most detailed accusation yet implicating the group in militant attacks.


    The Brotherhood, the group of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, says it rejected violence decades ago and believes in peaceful protest against the new, military-installed government.

    The government designated it a terrorist organisation in December after the suicide car bombing of a police headquarters that killed 15 people without offering any proof of the Brotherhood’s involvement in the attack.

    The interior ministry said on Sunday it uncovered a cell organised by a Brotherhood leader that killed five policemen in an attack on a checkpoint south of Cairo last month.

    If the accusation is true, it would confirm suspicions some Brotherhood members are joining a growing militant campaign amid a massive crackdown on the Islamists.

    “Information showed that leaders of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood instructed a member of the administrative office… to form a military wing,” the statement said.

    Scores of policemen and soldiers have been killed in bombings and shootings since Morsi’s overthrow in July.

    An al-Qaeda-inspired group based in the north of the Sinai peninsula, a hub for militant activity, has claimed the deadliest attacks.

    The interior ministry said police have arrested five suspects in the Brotherhood “military wing” so far, including a young man shown on state television confessing his involvement in the January 23 attack on the checkpoint.

    The ministry identified him as the son of a Muslim Brotherhood leader.

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  • I didn’t sell drugs to Hoffman: Vineberg


    The musician accused of selling drugs to Philip Seymour Hoffman says the actor was a “hard-core” heroin addict and insists he’s not responsible for the Oscar winner’s death.


    Robert Vineberg, also known by his stage name of Robert Aaron, says he’s been made the “scapegoat”.

    Vineberg was one of four people arrested following a raid on a New York apartment last week.

    Police conducted the raid after investigators found heroin at Hoffman’s home.

    Vineberg, 57, has been charged with posessing heroin with intent to supply.

    He denies the charge and has now spoken out to insist he had nothing to do with Hoffman’s death from a suspected overdose.

    Vineberg, who has worked with stars including Wyclef Jean and Amy Winehouse, tells the New York Post, “He was my friend. I could’ve saved him. If I knew he was in town, I would’ve said, ‘Hey, let’s make an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting.’ If I was with him, it wouldn’t have happened. Not under my guard.

    “He was a normal guy … He loved his kids. I offer my condolences to his family,” Vineberg said.

    Vineberg goes on to claim he last saw the Capote star in October and received a message from the actor two months later, when he claimed to be sober: “He left me a voicemail in December saying, ‘I’m clean’.”

    The musician is convinced Hoffman’s attempts to clean up actually worked against him when he relapsed, adding, “When you’re clean for that long, your body can’t take as much. Your body doesn’t have the tolerance. He was using needles. He was a hard-core addict … Don’t you understand? I’m a scapegoat.”

    Vineberg’s lawyer adds, “All of the evidence adduced to date has indicated that Robert did not provide to Mr Hoffman the narcotics that caused his unfortunate death.

    “Robert and Mr. Hoffman were true friends who had bonded over and struggled with the dangerous use of narcotic drugs,” the lawyer said.

    Hoffman was found dead at his New York City apartment on February 2. An autopsy proved inconclusive and officials are waiting for the results of toxicology tests to determine how the actor died.

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  • Messi lifts Barcelona back to the top of La Liga


    Barca’s defeat at home to Valencia last weekend meant they surrendered the lead for the first time since the beginning of last season and allowed Atletico Madrid to climb above them into first place.


    Atletico crashed to a shock 2-0 reverse at promoted Almeria on Saturday and Real Madrid, 4-2 winners at home to Villarreal, were the overnight leaders.

    Barca’s victory at the Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville means the top three all have 57 points with 15 matches left, with Barca leading Real on goal difference and Atletico in third.

    Barca started shakily on a foul night in Andalusia and looked in trouble when Alberto Moreno’s deflected shot put Sevilla ahead in the 15th minute.

    The home side had two more clear chances, with Carlos Bacca nodding against a post, before Alexis Sanchez levelled with a header from a Messi free kick in the 34th minute.

    Messi, who looks to be getting back into his stride after a two-month injury layoff, fired Barca ahead with a typically brilliant effort 10 minutes later.

    With the rain beating down and puddles dotting the playing surface, he picked up the ball on the edge of the area and lashed it into the far corner.

    Sevilla had a couple of chances early in the second half before Messi’s second in the 56th.

    Andres Iniesta skipped through the centre and fed the Argentina forward, who took one touch before sidefooting in off a post.

    Cesc Fabregas came off the bench and scored a delightful dinked effort to finish off a move he started two minutes from time.

    (Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Rex Gowar)

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  • Star power and foreign policy don’t mix


    Feted actress Scarlett Johansson is denounced as the “poster girl of Israeli apartheid,” Dennis Rodman enters rehab after leaving North Korea, Kim Kardashian is the butt of jokes for tweeting her love of Bahrain.


    When celebrities wander into complex foreign policy issues, it can be a minefield, leaving diplomats and human rights campaigners scrambling for damage control.

    To be fair, many stars such as Bob Geldof, Bono, George Clooney or Angelina Jolie have used their fame – and often their personal fortune – to successfully highlight atrocities or abuses flying under the radar.

    “Those guys have really got in root and branch and understand the issues in a way that is equal to or better than many human rights or humanitarian professionals,” said Brian Dooley, a director at the advocacy organisation Human Rights First.

    “They can hold an astute conversation and lobby very effectively and more effectively than NGOs can in certain contexts.”

    But the problem comes when some stars, perhaps naively, accept big-paying engagements that can be used to shine a more favourable light on controversial companies or oppressive regimes.

    With star power comes a great deal of responsibility and we hold our idols to a higher standard than most other people, said Dooley.

    “I do feel a bit sorry for them. If you’re a celebrity and you want to use the power of your brand for a good cause, it’s a minefield,” he said.

    “So those that do it and do it properly really ought to be applauded rather than sneered at.”

    But it’s all too easy for things to go wrong.

    Hence the kerfuffle around Johansson, who quit Oxfam last month after a dispute over her Super Bowl ad campaign for a firm operating in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

    Former basketball star Rodman has also been in hot water for his links to repressive North Korean leader Kim Jung-un, who he calls “my friend.”

    To the chagrin of the State Department, actively working to try to secure the release of a devout Korean American Christian jailed in the reclusive country, Rodman made comments suggesting Kenneth Bae’s guilt, which he later retracted.

    In 2012, TV reality star Kardashian was heavily criticised for tweeting about her visit to Bahrain.

    “Everyone from the States has to come and visit,” she urged, apparently oblivious to a brutal opposition crackdown by the ruling monarchy.

    Syracuse University pop culture professor Robert Thompson said: “I can understand how for the people in the State Department, this stuff drives them crazy.

    “They’ve got policy, they got to control a whole bunch of different things in a very complex world,” he added.

    Accepting gigs in faraway places with exotic names should already sound a warning bell for celebrities to do their homework.

    Last year, pop diva Jennifer Lopez was left red-faced after singing happy birthday to Turkmenistan’s hardline leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov at a concert in the isolated nation.

    She would have abstained if she had known of “human right issues of any kind,” a spokeswoman said at the time.

    “The Kardashians and Paris Hilton make a very, very handsome fortune pretending to be dumb. I have never for a minute believed that they are,” said Thompson.

    To go to such countries “is a complex enough logistical event, that I find it hard to believe that somewhere along the line, someone didn’t hear that there may be some problems,” he added.

    Kardashian had in fact turned down an offer from Human Rights First and other organisations to brief her on the situation in Bahrain, possibly because some stars “immediately worry about brand reputation or the specter of a boycott,” said Dooley.

    But he insisted the conversation these days is “more nuanced” and advised that stars be guided by local activists on the ground – much as in the days when rock music became a tool to crack open the Iron Curtain.

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  • Russia claims gold, Mayer takes downhill


    Veteran Yevgeny Plushenko and precocious Julia Lipnitskaia lifted Russia to its first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics while Austrian skier Matthias Mayer stormed to the blue riband men’s downhill title.


    Under the watchful eye of Russian President Vladimir Putin, 31-year-old Plushenko and slender 15-year-old sensation Lipnitskaia ensured a much welcome home triumph in team figure skating on Sunday.

    Plushenko took the men’s free skate final and Lipnitskaia then sealed victory with a stunning performance to a standing ovation at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

    Plushenko scored 168.20 for the free skate to The Best of Plushenko with Canada’s Kevin Reynold achieving 167.92 and Japan’s Tatsuki Machida 165.85.

    Lipnitskaia then outshone her more experienced teammate who won his first world medal before she was born.

    To the music of Schindler’s List she skated sublimely to score a personal best 141.51 and to seal the title ahead of America’s Gracie Gold and Italy’s Valentina Marchei 112.51.

    Earlier Sunday, Mayer, the 23-year-old Austrian, defied a host of headline acts to win the men’s downhill in 2min 06.23sec on the 3.5km-long course at Rosa Khutor, high above the Black Sea.

    It was the first Austrian downhill gold since Fritz Strobl at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.

    “Of course it means a lot to me,” an emotional Mayer said. “It’s really difficult to go down the track without mistakes.”

    Italian Christof Innerhofer took silver at just six-hundredths of a second behind while Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud claimed bronze a further 0.04sec adrift.

    World downhill champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway was fourth while another strong favourite, Bode Miller of the US, was a disappointing eighth.

    Russia had got on the medals table earlier when Olga Graf took bronze in the 3,000 metres women’s speed skating behind winner Ireen Wust of the Netherlands and silver medallist Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic, the defending champion.

    Jamie Anderson gave the US a slopestyle snowboarding double following Sage Kotsenburg’s victory in the men’s competition.

    Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi was second while Jenny Jones took third to give Britain its first ever Olympic medal on snow.

    Defending champion Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia became the first woman to win two Olympic titles in the same individual biathlon when she claimed the 7.5km sprint.

    The Russian-born Kuzmina won in a time of 21min 06min 8sec to see off Russia’s Olga Vilukhina who was 19.9sec behind. Vita Semerenko of Ukraine took bronze, 21.7sec back from the champion.

    Switzerland’s Dario Cologna took the men’s Nordic skiathlon, hanging on for the second Olympic gold of his career.

    Cologna finished in 1hr 08min 15.4sec ahead of Marcus Hellner of Sweden, with Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway claiming bronze.

    Poland’s World Cup leader Kamil Stoch won the ski jumping title on the normal hill with jumps of 105.5m and 103.5m for a total of 278 points.

    Slovenia’s Peter Prevc was second and Norway’s Anders Bardal claimed bronze.

    Switzerland’s Simon Ammann, 32, who came to Sochi as the reigning champion at both normal and large hills, which he won in 2002 at Salt Lake and in 2010 in Vancouver, failed to earn a record fifth Olympic gold, finishing in 17th.

    Germany’s Felix Loch retained his luge singles title with the 24-year-old upsetting Russian Albert Demchenko’s hopes of becoming the oldest ever Winter Olympic individual champion at the age of 42.

    Loch finished with a combined time of 3min 27.526sec after four runs.

    Demchenko was 0.476sec behind with double Olympic champion Armin Zoeggeler of Italy third at 1.271sec.

    Zoeggeler set a new Winter Olympics record with a sixth medal at consecutive Games

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