Day: February 21, 2019

The Latest: UK says trade deals won’t be ready by Brexit day

BRUSSELS — The Latest on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union (all times local):

3:55 p.m.

The British government says trade deals with Japan, Turkey and other countries won’t be in place by March 29, the day Britain is due to leave the European Union.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has claimed the U.K. will be able to continue deals with 70 countries that it currently has as an EU member. But few have been finalized.

The government said Thursday that “it remains our priority to conclude trade continuity agreements with these countries by exit day or as soon as possible thereafter.”

A proposed U.K.-EU divorce agreement comes with a long transition phase so future trade arrangements can be worked out. But Britain’s Parliament so far has rejected the deal.

Without a withdrawal deal, British businesses will face tariffs and other barriers


11 a.m.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says despite constructive talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May he remains downbeat on the prospect of Britain avoiding a chaotic exit from the bloc next month.

Juncker told an European Union conference on Thursday that a no-deal Brexit “will have terrible economic and social consequences both in Britain and on the continent,” adding he was doing his utmost so “the worst can be avoided.”

But he said “I am not very optimistic when it comes to this issue.”

Late Wednesday, May and Juncker said they held “constructive” talks at EU headquarters. They said negotiators would urgently seek a way out of the Brexit quagmire to prevent Britain from crashing out of the bloc on March 29 without a smooth transition period.

The Associated Press

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MONTREAL — Canada’s Georges St-Pierre is retiring from mixed martial arts.

The 37-year-old from St-Isidore, Que., made the announcement on Thursday at the Bell Centre.

St-Pierre, a two-division champion, leaves with a record of 26-2-0 and a 13-fight winning streak. He holds the record for most 170-pound title defences at nine.

“It takes a lot of discipline to become and stay champion. It also takes a lot of discipline to stop while still feeling that you’re in the best physical and mental shape of your life, but I’ve always planned to leave the sport when I’m at the top and in good health,” St-Pierre said in a statement.

“I want to thank my family, my fans, my coaches, trainers and training partners, my sponsors and my agents for their … support during all these years. I will forever be grateful for the work of (former UFC bosses) Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, as well as (UFC president) Dana White and all UFC employees for giving me the opportunity to showcase my skills before the world, from UFC 46 to UFC 217.

“I also want to thank each of my opponents. All of them are incredible athletes who brought out the best in me. I retire from competition with great pride at having had a positive impact on my sport. I intend to keep training and practising martial arts for as long as I live and I look forward to watching the new generation of champions carry our sport into the future.”

St-Pierre debuted on the big stage with a unanimous decision win over Karo Parisyan at UFC 46 in 2004. He won his first welterweight championship via knockout over Matt Hughes at UFC 65 in 2006.

After losing the title to Matt Serra, he later recaptured the belt via TKO in their rematch at UFC 83 in Montreal.

While he has fought just once since stepping away from the sport in late 2013 after nine straight welterweight title defences, St-Pierre made headlines in November 2017 when he dethroned middleweight champion Michael (The Count) Bisping in his comeback bout at UFC 217.

UFC Champion Georges St-Pierre shows off the 2009 Ultimate Fighting Championship title belt that the Canadian Museum of History has acquired and which will become part of the permanent exhibition. The belt had been given to a friend of St-Pierre but eventually ended up being for sale due to a divorce. The Museum made the purchase. (Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia)

St-Pierre gave up the 185-pound crown a month later, citing health issues (ulcerative colitis). Despite that limited activity, he still stands eighth in the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings.

“Georges has cemented his legacy as one of the pound-for-pound greatest fighters ever,” White said. “He beat all the top guys during his welterweight title reign and even went up a weight class to win the middleweight championship. He spent years as one of the biggest names in MMA and remains one of the best ambassadors for the sport. He put Canada on the MMA map.”

In 2011, St-Pierre set the largest UFC gate outside the U.S. at US$12.075 million when he headlined UFC 129 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The event had the second largest attendance in UFC history with 55,724 fans.

St-Pierre won Sports Illustrated fighter of the year in 2009. He was nominated for best fighter at the ESPY Awards in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2018.

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WASHINGTON — An Alabama woman who joined the Islamic State group in Syria won’t be allowed to return to the United States with her toddler son because she is not an American citizen, the U.S. said Wednesday. Her lawyer is challenging that claim.

In a brief statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave no details as to how the administration made their determination.

“Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States,” he said. “She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport nor any visa to travel to the United States.”

But Hassan Shibly, a lawyer for the woman, insisted Muthana was born in the United States and had a valid passport before she joined the Islamic State in 2014. He says she has renounced the terrorist group and wants to come home to protect her 18-month-old son regardless of the legal consequences.

“She’s an American. Americans break the law,” said Shibly, a lawyer with the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “When people break the law, we have a legal system to handle those kinds of situations to hold people accountable, and that’s all she’s asking for.”

Muthana and her son are now in a refugee camp in Syria, along with others who fled the remnants of the Islamic State.

Shibly said that the administration argues that she didn’t qualify for citizenship because her father was a Yemeni diplomat. But the lawyer said her father had not had diplomatic status at the time of her birth in Hackensack, New Jersey.

He released a copy of the woman’s birth certificate, issued two months after her birth on Oct. 28, 1994, to support his claim.

This undated image provided by attorney Hassan Shibly shows Hoda Muthana, an Alabama woman who left home to join the Islamic State after becoming radicalized online.  (Hoda Muthana/Attorney Hassan Shibly via AP)

The lawyer also provided to The Associated Press a letter from the U.S. Mission to the United Nations to what was then known as the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services attesting to the fact that the woman’s father, Ahmed Ali Muthana, was a member of the Yemeni diplomatic mission to the U.N. from Oct. 15, 1990 to Sept. 1, 1994.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday on Twitter that he was behind the decision to deny her entry, tweeting that “I have instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!”

The announcement came a day after Britain said that it was stripping the citizenship of Shamima Begum, a 19-year-old who left the country in 2015 with two friends to join the Islamic State and recently gave birth in a refugee camp.

It also comes as the U.S. has urged allies to back citizens who joined IS but are now in the custody of the American-backed forces fighting the remnants of the brutally extremist group that once controlled a vast area spanning parts of Syria and Iraq.

Muthana’s lawyer said she was “just a stupid, naive, young dumb woman,” when she became enamoured of Islamic State, believing it was an organization that protected Muslims.

Shibly said she fled her family in Alabama and made her way to Syria, where she was “brainwashed” by IS and compelled to marry one of the group’s soldiers. After he was killed, she married another, the father of her son.

After her second husband was also killed she married a third IS fighter but she “became disenchanted with the marriage,” and decided to escape, the lawyer said.

Shibly, based in Tampa, Florida, said he intends to file a legal challenge to the government’s decision to deny her entry to the country.

Muthana’s status had been considered by lawyers from the departments of State and Justice since her case arose, according to one U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The official would not elaborate but said Pompeo’s statement was based on the lawyers’ conclusions.

The State Department declined to disclose details about her father or Muthana’s case, citing privacy law.

Most people born in the United States are accorded so-called birthright citizenship, but there are exceptions. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a person born in the U.S. to an accredited foreign diplomatic officer is not subject to U.S. law and is not automatically considered a U.S. citizen at birth.

However, Muthana’s case is unusual, if not unprecedented in that she once held a U.S. passport. Passports are only issued to citizens by birth or naturalization, according to Seamus Hughes, the deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, who has studied the phenomenon of foreign Islamic State fighters and families.

Hughes said the decision is also unusual because it comes just days after the Trump administration urged European nations to repatriate extremists from Syria as the Islamic State nears collapse.

“If you are trying to make the case that others should take back their people, it stands to reason that you would do that, too,” he said.

Muthana, who says she dodged sniper fire and roadside bombs to escape, is ready to pay the penalty for her actions but wants freedom and safety for the son, her lawyer said.

In a letter released by Shibly, Muthana wrote that she made “a big mistake” by rejecting her family and friends in the United States to join the Islamic State.

“During my years in Syria I would see and experience a way of life and the terrible effects of war which changed me,” she wrote.

“To say that I regret my past words, any pain that I caused my family and any concerns I would cause my country would be hard for me to really express properly.”

Shibly said Muthana was brainwashed online before she left Alabama and now could have valuable intelligence for U.S. forces, but he said the FBI didn’t seem interested in retrieving her from the refugee camp where she is living with her son.

Muthana’s father would welcome the woman back, Shibly said, but she is not on speaking terms with her mother.

Ashfaq Taufique, who knows Muthana’s family and is president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, said the woman could be a valuable resource for teaching young people about the dangers of online radicalization were she allowed to return to the United States.

“Her coming back could be a very positive thing for our community and our country,” Taufique said.


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SANTA ANA, Calif. — Investigators searched for decades for the killer of an 11-year-old girl who disappeared while walking home from summer school in a case that gripped a California seaside community.

A photo of a smiling Linda O’Keefe has hung for years on the wall of the police department in Newport Beach, reminding investigators to keep pressing forward on cold cases like hers.

More than four decades later, authorities in Southern California said Wednesday that a Colorado man has been arrested and charged with killing her in 1973. The announcement came the same day authorities said they charged a man with killing an 11-year-old boy near Los Angeles in 1990.

In Linda’s case, authorities said they got a hit last month from a genealogical database that matched a DNA sample taken when her body was found strangled in a ditch a day after she went missing. Increasingly, investigators have found a powerful tool in databases made up of DNA samples submitted by people seeking to learn about their ancestry.

These undated photos provided by police show 11-year-old murder Linda O’Keefe (L), who was killed in 1973, and William Tillett , who was killed in 1990.

“The detectives dogged this case,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer told reporters, declining to say whether the suspect or his relatives submitted DNA for genealogical purposes. “We have every opportunity in the world to solve so many of these cold cases that we never had hope in the past of solving.”

James Neal, 72, was arrested in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Tuesday and charged with murder with special circumstances, Spitzer said.

“He seemed like a good guy,” Neal’s landlord, Michael Thulson, told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “I had no indication he was capable of anything even 10 steps less than this, which just shows you what you don’t know.”

James Neal.

Neal’s son-in-law told the newspaper that the family was not ready to comment. It was not immediately clear if Neal had an attorney who could speak on his behalf, and the voicemail was full on a number listed for him.

Neal was due to appear in court in Colorado on Thursday.

In Los Angeles County, authorities said Edward Donell Thomas, 50, has been charged in connection with kidnapping and killing William Tillett. The boy disappeared in 1990 while walking home from school in Inglewood, and his body was found in a dark carport later that day. The coroner determined he had been suffocated.

A combination of old evidence and “advanced technology” led to Thomas, Inglewood Police Chief Mark Fronterotta told reporters without releasing details.

Fronterotta said investigators don’t believe Thomas acted alone. He and the boy’s brother urged anyone with information to come forward.

“I just want to keep the momentum going” so the family can have closure, Hubert Tillett said.

The police chief was on the force at the time and said the case left “an indelible mark in my mind, in my heart.”

Edward Donell Thomas.

Thomas was being held without bail, and it wasn’t known if he had an attorney. His arraignment is scheduled for April 4.

In Newport Beach, O’Keefe was walking home from summer school in July 1973 when she vanished. She was last seen talking to a stranger in a van and never made it home, police Chief Jon Lewis said.

Her family and friends searched for her and called police. The next morning, her body was found.

Authorities said they never gave up the search for her killer, even after decades passed and her parents had died. The suspect’s DNA profile was uploaded to a criminal database in 2001 but there were no hits for years, authorities said.

They got a hit this year on a genealogical database, leading investigators to obtain a DNA sample from Neal, and it matched, Spitzer said.

Neal lived in Southern California at the time of O’Keefe’s killing and moved to Florida soon afterward, where he changed his name, Spitzer said. The prosecutor declined to say whether Neal has a criminal record.

O’Keefe’s two living sisters have been told about the arrest, authorities said. Over the years, hundreds of people have worked on the case, the police chief said.

One of them was now-retired Newport Beach police Officer Stan Bressler, who said O’Keefe’s death stunned the community and was never forgotten.

“Every once in a while, you just think, ’Gee, I wonder if we’ll ever find him,”’ he said.

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Coast Guard Lieutenant Hit List

Coast Guard Lieutenant Hit List

WASHINGTON — A Coast Guard lieutenant who was arrested last week is a “domestic terrorist” who drafted an email discussing biological attacks and had what appeared to be a hit list that included prominent Democrats and media figures, prosecutors said in court papers.

Christopher Paul Hasson is due to appear Thursday in federal court in Maryland after his arrest on gun and drug offences, but prosecutors say those charges are the “proverbial tip of the iceberg.”

“The defendant is a domestic terrorist, bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect governmental conduct,” prosecutors wrote in court papers.

Hasson, who works at the Coast Guard’s headquarters in Washington, has espoused extremist views for years, according to prosecutors. Court papers detail a June 2017 draft email in which Hasson wrote that he was “dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth,” and pondering how he might be able to acquire anthrax and toxins to create botulism or a deadly influenza.

In the same email, Hasson described an “interesting idea” that included “biological attacks followed by attack on food supply” as well as a bombing and sniper attacks, according to court documents filed by prosecutors.

In September 2017, Hasson sent himself a draft letter that he had written to a neo-Nazi leader and “identified himself as a White Nationalist for over 30 years and advocated for ‘focused violence’ in order to establish a white homeland,” prosecutors wrote.

Hasson routinely read portions of a manifesto written by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik that prosecutors said instructs would-be assailants to collect firearms, food, disguises and survival tools, court papers said. Breivik, a right-wing extremist, is serving a 21-year sentence for killing 77 people in a 2011 bomb-and-shooting rampage.

Hasson also expressed admiration for Russia. “Looking to Russia with hopeful eyes or any land that despises the west’s liberalism,” he wrote in the draft email. Prosecutors say during the past two years he had regularly searched online for pro-Russian as well as neo-Nazi literature.

Prosecutors allege that Hasson visited thousands of websites that sold guns and researched military tactical manuals on improvised munitions.

Federal agents found 15 firearms — including several rifles — and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition inside Hasson’s basement apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland. They also found a container with more than 30 bottles that were labeled as human growth hormone, court papers said.

Prosecutors wrote that Hasson “began the process of targeting specific victims,” including several prominent Democrats in Congress and 2020 presidential candidates. In February 2018, he searched the internet for the “most liberal senators,” as well as searching “do senators have ss (secret service) protection” and “are supreme court justices protected,” according to the court filing.

Hasson’s list of prominent Democrats included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and presidential hopefuls Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.

The list — created in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet — also included mentions of John Podesta, who was Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, along with Reps. Beto O’Rourke, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Maxine Waters, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Joe Scarborough and CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Van Jones, according to the court filing.

Hasson appeared to be a chronic user of the opioid painkiller Tramadol and had purchased a flask filled with four ounces of “synthetic urine” online, prosecutors said. Authorities suspect Hasson had purchased fake urine to use in case he was randomly selected for a drug test.

The chief at the federal defender’s office in Maryland — which is representing Hasson — declined to comment on the allegations. The Coast Guard did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hasson’s arrest. No one answered the door Wednesday at the home address for Hasson listed in public records.

Hasson’s arrest on Feb. 15 was first noted by Seamus Hughes, the deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.

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