LONDON, May 31 -- The reports stating that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was subjected to psychological torture in Great Britain needs clarifying,
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her official Facebook page. Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, said that WikiLeaks founder Assange is showing symptoms of having been exposed to psychological torture for a number of years in the United Kingdom in a commentary with The Times newspaper published on Friday. “That’s really something. Look at what the freedom fighters and human rights activists are actually doing. We are waiting for official explanations from the [United] Kingdom,” she concluded.
UTRECHT, May 31 -- The motorcycle club Hells Angels are now banned in the Netherlands, a court in Utrecht has ruled.
They say that Hells Angels are a criminal group and have a violent culture and this should and will be banned. For the first time ever the motorcycle club ‘Hells Angels’ have been banned completely. According to NOS, the Netherlands is the first country to do this. In many other countries, the Hells Angels group are part-banned, but they are not banned entirely. The Public Prosecution Service said that ‘there is a culture of violence within the club that endangers society and the rule of law’ and the judge agreed. The court feels that the Hells Angels are a threat to public order and that members see themselves as above the law. This will end from now on.
What/who are the Hells Angels?
The Hells Angels are one of the largest motorcycle gangs in the world and are found in many countries. They have been associated with violent and organised crime (such as trafficking and drug dealing). They are distinguishable by their military-style patches on their jackets and also ride Harley Davidson’s. Members of the Hell’s Angels are usually white males, which is allegedly one of the criteria in order to be a part of the club (something which they dispute). The Hells Angels have been active in the Netherlands for around 40 years.
Influence in the Netherlands
According to reports, there have been a number of incidents involving the Hells Angels. One of these is a huge dispute where shots were fired with The Mongols motorcycle club in a Van der Valk hotel in Rotterdam, back in 2016. A cafe (the base of Bandidos motorcycle club) was also burnt out in 2015, luckily family and children managed to escape onto the roof.
BERLIN, May 31 -- A Berlin area branch of the right-wing anti-migrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has faced backlash after posting and then deleting a photoshopped map calling the west and the south of the country a “German Caliphate.
”The graphic, posted by AfD’s Berlin-Lichtenberg Facebook page a day after the European Parliament vote ended, featured the flag of Germany over the country’s eastern states, where AfD won the most support. The five federal states and Berlin were painted blue and titled the Federal Republic of Germany. In contrast, the west and the south of the country were painted green and emblazoned with a black flag featuring the shahadah, or Islamic declaration of faith. The states were branded the “German Caliphate,” while a caption to the post read: “Pictures speak louder than words.” While the account that posted the image removed it within hours of uploading, it still managed to stir some controversy on social media. For some reason, many felt less than enthusiastic to live in the blue “Federal Republic,” preferring the green Islamic state instead. “If I had to live under the label “Federal Republic of Germany” under the AfD, I’d better please take the green caliphate. There is sun and delicious food there!" tweeted Christina Fischer.
"Wenn ich für die Bezeichnung "Bundesrepublik Deutschland" unter der AfD leben müsste, dann nehme ich bitte das grüne Kalifat. Da gibt es Sonne und leckeres Essen!"
— Christina Fischer (@trillian215) May 28, 2019
As a Berliner, I want to be assigned to the German Caliphate. I don’t want to be part of this blue Germany,” Osman Li commented on Facebook. Other took their chance to lambaste the AfD, accusing the party of inciting hatred. “For me both are the same, the AfD and the caliphate. Both are stupid people destroying humanity,” Afshin tweeted. While the SPD party’s parliamentary left group took their chance to quote a disgruntled ex-AfD politician who said that the party is “run by idiots.”
However, some comments also generalized and slammed the eastern German voters, with Diema from Frankfurt asking if they “wanted a wall again” and Peter Paker from Witten wondering “why he wanted the 1989 borders back” – both referring to the Berlin Wall and the past East-West Germany divide. The AfD received 11% of the German vote for the European parliament, putting it in fourth place overall. In two eastern states, the party received more votes than any other party, beating Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party formerly led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, which tallied the highest numbers country-wide.
WELLINGTON, May 31 -- As more governments around the world move to legalize cannabis -- either for medical or recreational purposes -- an image of a 21st-century "cannabusiness" is emerging: lush green plants growing in sleek, temperature-controlled rooms with workers in lab coats funded by venture capital.
And one small New Zealand medicinal cannabis business is looking to secure its slice of the pie, all while empowering a marginalized community and allowing it to create wealth from within. Based in the regional community of Ruatoria on the East Coast of New Zealand's North Island, Hikurangi Cannabis is working to ensure Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, are included in -- and benefit from -- the country's growing cannabis industry. "We've got a lot of people who grow illicit cannabis for their incomes. They don't grow it to be millionaires or to put Ferraris in the garage -- they grow it to put food on the table and shoes on their kids' feet," explains co-founder Panapa Ehau as he drives along the narrow and winding road to Ruatoria, two hours north of the company's humble offices in the coastal city of Gisborne.
"If we're not at the leading edge of this industry, other people will be, and our people, whose incomes come from the illicit market, their incomes will decrease, and therefore their wellbeing will decrease."
In December, the New Zealand government enacted a law to make medicinal cannabis more widely available and began the process of creating a regulatory body to allow homegrown products to be manufactured and sold. In 2020, the country will hold a referendum on whether recreational cannabis should be legalized, potentially opening New Zealand up to an industry that is estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars worldwide. Ruatoria -- with a resident population of just 750 people -- is one of the most disadvantaged communities in New Zealand and would benefit greatly from involving itself in the growth industry.
Unemployment in the town stands at around 15 percent -- three times the national average -- and the median annual income is just NZ$17,100 (US$12,000) compared to NZ$52,000 nationally. Almost 94 percent of the population identify as Maori, one of the highest proportions anywhere in the country. Ehau says the "intergenerational trauma from colonization" has seen generations of Maori grow up relying on social welfare benefits and missing out on the socio-economic advances experienced by others in New Zealand. "There's a whole section of our community, what they see is to go to the income office and get a benefit, and that becomes normal. And there hasn't been a whole lot of innovation in our region," Ehau said. The 39-year-old hopes that by bringing a new industry to the area, people will be able to return to their ancestral homelands to work and reconnect with their cultural roots. And the community, it appears, is hopeful for change too. In 2018, Hikurangi Cannabis allowed locals to become stakeholders with a minimum investment of NZ$50 for 50 shares. "We raised NZ$1.5 million from arguably the lowest socio-economic area of the country," Ehau said. To reach a target of NZ$2 million, the company raised the last half-million dollars through a crowdfunding website. The capital-raising drive crashed the site, and shares sold out in seven minutes.
KUALA LUMPUR, MAY 31 -- The Malaysian government wants strong evidence to show that Russia is responsible for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 tragedy in 2014, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
"They are accusing Russia, but where is the evidence? "We know the missile that brought down the plane is a Russian-type missile, but it could also be made in Ukraine. "You need strong evidence to show it was fired by the Russians. "It could be by the rebels in Ukraine, it could be Ukrainian government because they too have the same missile,” he said during a dialogue and media conference with the Japanese Foreign Correspondent Club (FCCJ) here on Thursday (May 30).
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia accepted the investigation report by Holland but only up the point where the plane was brought down by a missile made by Russia. He said while the government agreed that the plane was brought down by a Russian missile, it could not be ascertained that the missile was launched by Russia. The Russians were a military people and they would know that MH17 was a passenger plane, he added. "I don’t think very highly disciplined party is responsible for launching the missile,” he said. The Prime Minister said Malaysia should also have been involved in the examining the black box as the plane belonged to Malaysia and there were Malaysians passengers. "We may not have the expertise, but we can buy the expertise. For some reasons, Malaysia was not allowed to check the black box to see what happened. "We don’t know why we were excluded from the examination but from the very beginning, we see too much politics in it, and the idea was not to find out how this happened but seemed to be concentrated on trying to pin it on the Russians. "This is not a neutral kind of examination,” said Dr Mahathir.
Had a neutral party examined and made the conclusion, Malaysia would be willing to accept the findings but here we have parties with political interests in the matter, he added. Flight MH17, which departed from Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam on its way to Kuala Lumpur, was shot before crashing near Torez in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, about 40km from the Russian border on July 17, 2014. The incident killed 298 people, including 15 crew members. Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said the team was convinced that a BUK TELAR missile was used to down MH17, and that it originated from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade (53rd Brigade), which is a unit of the Russian Army in Kursk in the Russian Federation.
HONG KONG, May 31 -- China’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell further in May, suggesting the economy is continuing to slow amid the escalating trade war with the United States.
The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI), a gauge of sentiment among factory operators, fell to 49.4 in May, a decrease on April’s performance of 50.1, and well below the median expectations of a poll of Bloomberg analysts, which had predicted a drop to 49.9. A reading of below 50 means that the activity in the sector is contracting.The 49.4 reading was the lowest since February’s 49.2. Non-manufacturing PMI, which covers the services and construction sectors, remained the same as last month at 54.3, in line with the expectations of the Bloomberg poll. “The fall in the headline index was mostly driven by weaker new orders. Export orders dropped back particularly sharply, which suggests that [US President Donald] Trump’s latest tariff hike may already be undermining foreign demand,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics. “Stocks of raw materials continued to decline, reversing the build-up of inventories ahead of the 1 April VAT cut that helped to temporarily boost output in March.”
The composite PMI, which combines both manufacturing and services activity, was 53.3 in May, a slight decrease on 53.4 a month earlier. An index reading above 50 indicates growth, while anything below 50 indicates a contraction. The dip into contractionary territory for China’s manufacturing sentiment will be a concern to policymakers in Beijing, as they struggle to contain the effect the trade war is having on both economic mood and investment sentiment. While both composite and non-manufacturing PMIs remained above contraction levels, their stagnation points to continued challenges facing China’s economy. The new data, released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), combined with weaker economic data readings for April, suggest that Chinese growth slowed in the second quarter after stabilising at 6.4 per cent in the first quarter. Details of the data show that within the manufacturing PMI, new orders were 49.8, down from 51.4 in April. Output also fell to 51.7, from 52.1 last month, while employment fell to 47.0 from 47.2 and new export orders plunged to 46.5 from 49.2. Within the non-manufacturing PMI, the service sector was up to 53.5 from 53.2 in April, which the NBS said showed that “the service industry continued to maintain rapid growth”.
SEOUL, May 31 -- North Korea's special representative for U.S. affairs Kim Hyok Chol, who led his country's preparations for its February meeting with the United States, has been executed for his role in the summit's breakdown, a South Korean newspaper reported Friday.
Citing an unnamed North Korean source, The Chosun Ilbo said the former ambassador to Spain was executed along with four senior Foreign Ministry officials in March at Mirim Airport in the suburbs of Pyongyang. The source said the punishment came after an investigation was conducted.
The report, which is yet to be independently verified, also said Kim Jong Un's younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, has been laying low after accompanying her brother to the summit in Hanoi with U.S. President Donald Trump. Kim Hyok Chol, who was involved in the pre-summit talks while serving on North Korea's powerful State Affairs Commission, and the ministry officials were accused of being U.S. "spies" who betrayed Kim Jong Un, according to the report.
Kim Yong Chol, a close aide to Kim Jong Un who was seen to have led the country's diplomatic efforts with the United States and South Korea, was banished to a hard labor and re-education camp in Chagang Province. He was dismissed as director of the United Front Department of the ruling Workers' Party, the South Korean daily said. The Feb. 27-28 summit in the Vietnamese capital ended abruptly amid differences over the scope of denuclearization measures North Korea would commit to taking in exchange for sanctions relief. The talks remain in a stalemate.
WASHINGTON, May 30 -- The U.S. economic growth in the first quarter of 2019 was revised down to an annual rate of 3.1 percent, from the previously reported 3.2 percent, the U.S. Commerce Department said Thursday in its second estimate.
The update to the gross domestic product (GDP) growth reflected downward revisions to business investment and inventory investment and an upward revision to imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, the department said, adding that these revisions were partly offset by upward revisions to exports and consumer spending. Nonresidential fixed investment in the first quarter was revised down to an annual rate of 2.3 percent, from the previous estimate of 2.7 percent, the department said. It rose by 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. Growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic output, was revised up to 1.3 percent, from 1.2 percent in a previous estimate. Consumer spending grew by 2.5 percent in the previous quarter. In its latest economic projections released in March, the Federal Reserve cut its forecast of the U.S. economic growth for 2019 and 2020, expecting a rate of 2.1 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively.
LONDON, May 30 -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange missed a court session Thursday, apparently due to health problems. He had been expected to appear from prison via video link at a brief extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court.
Lawyer Gareth Peirce told the court Assange was "not very well.'' Assange, 47, is in Belmarsh Prison serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail in Britain while fighting extradition to the United States, which accuses him of violating the Espionage Act by publishing secret documents containing the names of confidential military and diplomatic sources. Sweden also seeks him for questioning about an alleged rape, which Assange has denied. It is not clear which claim would take precedence. The decision would likely be made by Britain's home secretary. Judge Emma Arbuthnot said a more substantive extradition hearing set for June 12 may be moved to a court next to Belmarsh Prison for convenience. Roughly two dozen supporters chanted ``Free Assange'' outside the courthouse. His case has attracted fresh support from free press advocates in the week since the U.S. filed serious espionage charges against him. He had earlier been held on suspicion of conspiracy to break into classified computer systems, a less serious charge.
WikiLeaks said in a statement it has "grave concerns" about Assange's health. The anti-secrecy group says he has been moved to the prison health ward. The group says Assange has "dramatically lost weight" and recently "it was not possible to conduct a normal conversation with him." The complicated extradition process, which involves both Sweden and the United States and deals with press freedom and national security issues, is expected to last for months or years. Assange was arrested by British police in April after Ecuadorian officials withdrew his asylum status. He had sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 when Sweden was trying to question him about sexual misconduct allegations.
BEIJING, May 30 -- China and Russia plan to sign around 30 agreements during Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to Russia at the beginning of June, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhui told a briefing on Thursday.
"I think that around 30 agreements will be signed," Hanhui said. He added that he cannot tell yet the concrete number of agreements and their specific contect. "I cannot yeat provide this information as consultations continue," he noted. The diplomat said that Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin will sign two joint communiques during the visit, one on bilateral relations, and the second on issues "on the international agenda and strategic stability" of mutual interest. Other joint documents will focus on cooperation in economy, trade, energy, investment and other spheres.