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Belarus TV shows arrest of ‘Russian mercenaries’



Belarus police arrested 32 Russians at a sanatorium, alleged to be members of the Wagner mercenary group.

State channel Belaruskaja Tele-Radio showed the arrests, near the capital Minsk, on 29 July.

Russia denies any links to the group – but wants Belarus to explain its actions.

Tensions are high as Belarus heads for a presidential election on 9 August.

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Court OKs extradition of man linked to Venezuela’s Maduro




CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A court in the West African nation of Cape Verde has approved the extradition to the United States of a Colombian man wanted on suspicion of money laundering and linked with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, his lawyers said Tuesday.

The court made the decision to extradite Alex Saab on Friday, but his legal team was informed about it only on Monday, the team of lawyers said in a statement. They said they would appeal.

Saab was arrested in June when his plane stopped to refuel in the former Portuguese colony on the way to Iran.

Saab was waiting for the court to schedule a hearing at which he could defend himself and oppose extradition, according to the statement sent to The Associated Press.

The legal team described the extradition order as “alarming” and accused Cape Verdean authorities of denying him his legal rights. The defense lawyers plan to appeal to Cape Verde’s Supreme Court and, if necessary, the Constitutional Court, the statement said.

U.S. officials trying to reignite their campaign to oust Maduro believe Saab holds many secrets about how Venezuelan president, his family and top aides allegedly siphoned off millions of dollars in government contracts at a time of widespread hunger in the oil-rich nation.

Venezuela’s government had protested the arrest of Saab, 48, who it said was traveling on a Venezuelan passport and was on a “humanitarian mission” to buy food and medical supplies.

Saab came onto the radar of U.S. authorities a few years ago after amassing a large number of contracts with Maduro’s government.

Federal prosecutors in Miami indicted him and a business partner last year on money laundering charges connected to an alleged bribery scheme that pocketed more than $350 million from a low-income housing project for the Venezuelan government that was never built.

Separately, Saab had been sanctioned by the Trump administration for allegedly utilizing a network of shell companies spanning the globe — in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Hong Kong, Panama, Colombia and Mexico — to hide huge profits from no-bid, overvalued food contracts obtained through bribes and kickbacks.


Hatton reported from Lisbon, Portugal.

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Coronavirus: Melbourne police ‘assaulted and baited’ over lockdown rules




Officers patrol central Melbourne on 2 August 2020, after the curfew is introduced

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More than 1,500 police are patrolling the streets of Melbourne to enforce the lockdown

Authorities in the virus-stricken city of Melbourne have warned of a “dangerous” rise in people resisting lockdown measures, sometimes violently.

Police said this trend included so-called “sovereign citizens” being combative with officers in recent days.

In one case a woman repeatedly smashed a policewoman’s head into the ground, Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said.

Authorities have increased fines for repeated rule breaches as Melbourne endures a deadly virus second wave.

Over half of Australia’s 18,300 cases have been recorded in the past month in Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital. There have been 226 deaths nationally.

Melbourne has recently mandated wearing masks and tightened a stay-at-home order to reduce transmissions.

But authorities said many people were breaking rules, including some who claimed to be “above the law”.

Mr Patton said Victoria Police had seen an “emergence” of “concerning groups of people who classify themselves as ‘sovereign citizens'”.

The sovereign citizen movement – which has roots in the US – is typically used by those who don’t believe in their government’s legitimacy, often arguing their rights are being suppressed by public orders.

Mr Patton said the attack on the policewoman “highlights the type of challenges that we’re experiencing”, adding people were “baiting” police at checkpoints and refusing to disclose basic information.

“On at least four occasions in the last week, we’ve had to smash the windows of cars and pull people out to provide details,” he said.

What rules are people breaking?

“Most Victorians are doing the right thing, no question,” said Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews.

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Mr Andrews said rule breakers would face increased fines

“But we have this continual minority of people who are knowingly – not by mistake, but are knowingly – doing the wrong thing and putting people’s lives at risk by doing so.”

Random checks by police on 3,000 infected people had found more than 800 were not home isolating, as they were supposed to be.

On Tuesday, the state government increased fines for repeated lockdown breaches from A$1,652 (£900; $1,200) to A$5,000.

Under the current “stage four” lockdown, Melburnians can leave home only to shop, exercise, give essential medical care or do frontline work.

Residents must shop and exercise within 5km (3 miles) of their home, for no longer than one hour at a time.

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Only one person per household is allowed to go grocery shopping

An additional curfew for between 20:00 and 05:00 was implemented on Sunday. The only exemptions are for work, medical care or care-giving, and workers must have a permit.

Authorities said recent breaches included “Airbnb parties” and people breaking the curfew to get alcohol and fast food.

Mr Patton said the policewoman had been attacked in a shopping centre after stopping a woman for not wearing a mask.

“After a confrontation and being assaulted by that woman, those police officers went to ground and there was a scuffle,” he said.

“And during that scuffle, this 38-year-old woman smashed the head of the policewoman several times into a concrete area on the ground.”

Since masks became compulsory about two weeks ago, there have been other prominent incidents involving “anti-maskers” and others questioning the legality of lockdown.

Widely shared videos include two women loudly defending not wearing a mask inside a hardware shop, and one woman deceiving police at a state border checkpoint.

Australia had much early success in tackling Covid-19, but the outbreak in Victoria’s state capital has pushed the nation to its worst position yet.

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Smile more? Some critics see sexism in debate over Biden VP




CHICAGO (AP) — She’s too ambitious. She’s not apologetic enough. She should smile more.

The debate over Joe Biden’s running mate has recently ticked through a familiar list of stereotypes about women in politics as the Democratic presidential candidate and his allies stumble through a search they had hoped would stand out for its inclusion and diversity.

Instead, the vice presidential vetting has resurfaced internal party divisions between the old-guard establishment and a younger generation that’s more attuned to gender and racial biases and willing to speak out. Some contend it’s just more evidence of why Biden needs a woman on his ticket.

“The fact is that although we’ve come really far in the last 100 years, we haven’t come far enough for women candidates to be treated with the same level of decency as the male candidates are,” said Donna Brazile, a former Democratic National Committee chair.

Biden, the presumptive nominee and a former vice president himself, has said he will pick a woman as his number two and he would probably reach a decision this week, though a formal announcement could come later.

The scrutiny of his choices has intensified in recent weeks, while allies have weighed in, sometimes in ways that feed the tensions.

On Monday, Ed Rendell, a former Democratic Party chairman and a Biden ally, was quoted in The Washington Post noting that there has been recent buzz about former National Security Adviser Susan Rice. He observed that Rice was smiling during a TV appearance, “something that she doesn’t do all that readily,” and that she was “actually somewhat charming.”

Rendell, 76, has commented on another candidate’s demeanor, too, telling CNN last week that California Sen. Kamala Harris can “rub people the wrong way.”

Some see that sort of commentary — docking women for being aggressive and rewarding them for intangibles such as likability — as the sort of bias they say has dogged women in politics for decades.

Rendell said in a phone interview Monday that any suggestions his comment about Rice was sexist were “ludicrous.” He said it was a compliment, a description of a good candidate, no different from when people commented on Richard Nixon smiling more on the comeback trail.

“This country is so nuts,” he said of criticism of his choice of words, blaming it partly on the media. “We’re going crazy.”

Politico recently reported that former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, the co-chair of Biden’s vetting committee, was concerned that Harris, a former presidential candidate, was not sufficiently regretful about attacking Biden during a primary debate. Others have criticized Harris, who is considered a top prospect, as too ambitious.

Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives and 2018 governor candidate, was similarly criticized for touting her credentials for the V.P. job. She pushed back, saying it would be a disservice to women of color and “women of ambition” to not be forthright.

She said Sunday on MSNBC, “When you do something different, when you meet the standards that are normative for men with a behavior that they don’t expect from you, either as a woman or person of color, then you’re going to get critiqued.”

Rice is African American. Harris’s parents are both immigrants, her father from Jamaica, her mother from India.

That some comments and criticism are coming from older, white men with longtime relationships with the 77-year-old, white Biden has been noted.

Glynda Carr, president of Higher Heights for America, a group that aims to help increase Black women’s political power, said she believes it’s a reaction — conscious or subconscious — from male leaders who “may feel their type of leadership will be hard to maintain” with today’s electorate.

Carr compared them, without naming names, to “dinosaurs in extinction.” She urged the Biden campaign to wrap the process up soon.

“I do think the longer we go there are diminishing returns because everybody feels they need to chime in,” she said.

Comments focusing on gender — as well as the the media’s focus on them — are a sore spot for Democrats who fear a repeat of 2016, when they believe presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was defeated in part because of sexist attitudes.

They note that Biden himself is a former vice president — with enough ambition to fuel his third run for the presidency — and say no one would criticize Republican Vice President Mike Pence for eyeing the top job. And they say the conversation about the candidates has been focused on motives, demeanor or personality traits at a level far greater than it would be, or has been, when men are being considered.

Antjuan Seawright, a veteran South Carolina Democratic strategist, says the media are intent on ginning up conflict and finding dirt on rising leaders.

“I hope that this process doesn’t devolve into what some are trying to make it out to be — and that’s pitting two African American women that are pivotal to this party and this country against each other,” he said.

However, lifelong experience with sexism and racism will only help potential running mates make better leaders for a country dealing with a global pandemic, racial injustice and other crises, said the Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner, one of more than 100 Black clergy who have urged Biden to choose a Black woman as running mate

“It is always harder for women. When you’re at that level of power, you have to ready for that fight, and you have to expect it,” she said, adding that the scrutiny men face is “much fairer.”

“We’d all like to see a day when women are treated more fairly,” she said. “We’re not in that day.”


Jaffe reported from Washington, D.C.

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