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Woman Accuses Matt Lauer of Rape; Former Anchor Denies Claim

A woman who worked at NBC News claimed that former anchor Matt Lauer raped her at a hotel while on assignment for the Sochi Olympics, an encounter the former “Today” show host claimed was consensual.The claim outlined by Brooke Nevils in Ronan Farrow’s book, “Catch and Kill,” puts a name and details behind the event that led to Lauer’s firing by NBC in 2017. It also provoked the first public response from Lauer, who said in a defiant and graphic letter made public by his lawyer that “my silence was a mistake.”Variety first reported Nevils’ charges after obtaining a copy of Farrow’s book. The Associated Press typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault, unless they step forward publicly as Nevils has done.Nevils, who was working for Meredith Vieira in Sochi, met her for drinks one night and Lauer joined them. Nevils said she had six shots of vodka and wound up going to Lauer’s room.She said that Lauer pushed her onto a bed and asked if she liked anal sex. Nevils said she declined several times, but then Lauer “just did it.” She described the encounter as “excruciatingly painful.”“It was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent,” Nevils told Farrow, according to Variety. “It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.”In his letter, Lauer admitted to his extramarital affair with Nevils. He said on that night in Sochi that they consensually performed a variety of sexual acts.“She was a fully enthusiastic and willing partner,” he wrote. “At no time did she behave in a way that made it appear she was incapable of consent. She seemed to know exactly what she wanted to do.”Lauer’s defense of his behavior extends beyond his relationship with Nevils. He said he has “never assaulted anyone or forced anyone to have sex. Period.”He also acknowledges other extramarital encounters, and criticized the women involved for having “abandoned shared responsibility” for the affairs to shield themselves from blame behind false allegations.“They have avoided having to look at a boyfriend, a husband or a child in the eye and say, ‘I cheated,’” Lauer said. “And I will no longer provide them the shelter of my silence.”Lauer said the night in Sochi was the first of several sexual encounters he had with Nevils over several months, including one in his dressing room at NBC, which “showed terrible judgment on my part.”Nevils’ lawyer did not immediately return a message for comment on Lauer’s letter Wednesday.Eleanor McManus, who co-founded the group Press Forward to support victims of sexual abuse in the news industry, said Lauer’s letter was “unbelievable.“Lauer’s statement demonstrates not only his lack of remorse, but his lack of understanding of sexual harassment and the (hash)MeToo movement,” said McManus, who said she was harassed by journalist Mark Halperin (who lost jobs at NBC and elsewhere because of these and other accusations). “Nowhere in his letter does Lauer acknowledge the power he yielded as a celebrity and the star of NBC’s highest-rated show. The two people in that hotel room in Sochi did not have equal power.”NBC News abruptly fired Lauer for “inappropriate sexual conduct.”“Matt Lauer’s conduct was appalling, horrific and reprehensible, as we said at the time,” NBC News said in a statement Wednesday. “That’s why he was fired within 24 hours of us first learning of the complaint. Our hearts break again for our colleague.”Nevils’ story was reported Wednesday on the show Lauer hosted for two decades. His former co-host, Savannah Guthrie, called it shocking and appalling.“We’re disturbed to our core,” Guthrie said.Lauer said in his letter that he ended the affair poorly and understands how that must have made Nevils feel.He said that he hadn’t responded publicly before to allegations in order to spare his family pain, but that now he has their support to address them publicly.“Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a very private person,” Lauer wrote. “I had no desire to write this, but I had no choice.” 


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Trump Under Fire for Syria Troop Withdrawal

U.S. lawmakers of both political parties on Wednesday continued to savage President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from northeastern Syria, where U.S.-allied Kurds are under attack from Turkey.FILE – Sen. Lindsey Graham, speaks to reporters after a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2019.”Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump administration,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted. “This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS,” an acronym for the Islamic State.He also tweeted he would “lead effort in Congress to make (Turkish President) Erdogan pay a heavy price” for launching a military offensive against the Kurds.”I urge President Trump to change course while there is still time,” added Graham, who is usually one of the president’s most loyal defenders.’Abandoning’ Kurdish alliesIn a statement, Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Coons accused the Trump administration of “abandoning our Syrian Kurdish allies,” adding that the offensive “is a direct result of President Trump’s failure to stand up for our partners and interests in the region — a move that calls into question the credibility and reliability of the United States.”For his part, Trump sought to distance himself from Turkey’s action.”The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea,” the president said in a statement.Trump added that no U.S. soldiers are participating in the attack area and that “Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place — and we will hold them to this commitment.”FILE – Republican Sen. Rand Paul pauses during a Senate committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 5, 2019.Applauding the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria was Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who praised Trump for “stopping the endless wars” and predicted “we [the United States] will be stronger as a result.”Paul’s praise stood in stark contrast to the condemnation of many other lawmakers.The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, tweeted Trump “completely ignored the calls from Congress, from human rights advocates, from the realities on the ground, and from the Kurds themselves.”Menendez projected that “only chaos & havoc will follow” and that “this is the second chance ISIS has been waiting for.”Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine also took to Twitter, accusing Trump of leaving “our allies at risk of being slaughtered.”FILE – Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., questions a witness on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 16, 2019.By “putting our troops and diplomats in the region at risk,” Kaine said, Trump is “playing right into the hands of our adversaries.”Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen declared that “Turkey must pay a heavy price for attacking our Syrian Kurdish partners.”Van Hollen predicted that Democratic or Republican senators “won’t support abandoning the one regional group most responsible for putting ISIS on its heels.”Threatens fight against ISHouse Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy warned on Twitter the attack “threatens to halt momentum against ISIS, directly assaults our SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) partners, and could give the likes of al-Qaeda and Iran new footholds in the region.”McCarthy also called on Turkey to “stop immediately and continue to work with the US to secure the region.”The International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian relief organization, expressed deep concern “about the lives and livelihoods of the two million people in northeast Syria who have already survived ISIS brutality and multiple displacements.”The IRC also cautioned the offensive “could displace 300,000 people and disrupt life-saving humanitarian services, including the IRC’s.”American minister Franklin Graham, an evangelist who appeals to Trump’s most fervent supporters, also weighed in. He tweeted: “The Turks have a dismal record on human rights & they can’t be trusted. Pray for the Kurds, Christians, & other minorities in the region.”
 


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Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Plays Hot and Cold With Trump Team

Ukraine’s president appears to be playing to both sides of the American political divide, hedging his bets to ensure U.S. financial and military aid keeps flowing no matter who wins next year’s election.First, a point for U.S. President Donald Trump’s team: Ukraine’s top prosecutor agreed to revisit past investigations into a gas company executive who recruited Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son to his board.And now, a nod to the anti-Trump camp: Ukraine has appointed a man who exposed under-the-table payments to Trump’s onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort as a senior prosecutor.So which team is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on? He’s not taking that bait — not at a time when he needs American support to fend off pro-Russia separatists but also prove himself an independent leader to his own people. Instead, he insists that he’s maintaining separation of powers and not interfering in prosecutors’ decisions.Analysts say the Ukrainian leadership is trying to keep its options open, by showing that Zelenskiy is not Trump’s yes-man, and not his enemy either. Zelenskiy is central to the impeachment inquiry against Trump, who pressed the Ukrainian president in a July phone call to investigate Democratic political rivals.
 
The appointment of Viktor Trepak as deputy national prosecutor Tuesday was Ukraine’s latest chess move.Anti-corruption campaigners — whose cause Zelenskiy championed when seeking the presidency — welcomed the news.Viktor Trepak 
 
Trepak has never worked as prosecutor before, but he’s got the chops for the job. As first deputy chief of the SBU, a security agency that’s like Ukraine’s CIA and FBI combined, he pursued two senior prosecutors accused of corruption in what’s dubbed the “diamond prosecutors’ case” because of jewels found in one of the prosecutor’s homes.FILE – In this May 23, 2018, file photo, Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, leaves the Federal District Court after a hearing in Washington.But the case went nowhere, and a frustrated Trepak alleged political interference.A month later, he handed to anti-corruption investigators a now-infamous “black ledger” of secret payments from former President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions to legions of prominent people — including Manafort.The payments, which came years before Manafort became involved in Trump’s campaign, played a role in a U.S. case against Manafort, who’s now serving seven years in prison on charges related to his years as a political consultant in Ukraine. In a statement to The Associated Press in 2017, Manafort did not deny that his firm received the Ukrainian money but said “any wire transactions received by my company are legitimate payments for political consulting.”
 
Trepak hasn’t spoken publicly about Manafort himself but has vigorously defended his decision to hand over the “black ledger” to investigators as part of his career-long campaign against bribery and other dirty political dealings.It’s exactly that hard-charging reputation that makes Trepak’s appointment useful to Zelenskiy, who has taken flak from domestic opponents for being obsequious in the call with Trump and wants to signal to his voters and international partners that he’s setting corruption-plagued Ukraine on a clean, independent path.Daria Kaleniuk of anti-corruption group Antac described Trepak as “probably the only well-known officer with background from the security service of Ukraine who is regarded as a reformer.”Trepak’s appointment “is a clear signal to the Americans, and especially to Trump, of (Zelenskiy’s) wish to distance himself and maintain independence,” said Vadym Karasyov, head of the Institute of Global Strategies. “Zelenskiy is softly showing that he doesn’t want to be Trump’s hand puppet or whipping boy and is capable of leading an independent game and policy.”Joe Biden and sonZelenskiy himself says he can’t be pressured to do Trump’s bidding. But his government isn’t entirely pushing Trump away, either.FILE – U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, right, and his son Hunter point to some faces in the crowd as they walk down Pennsylvania Avenue following the inauguration ceremony of President Barack Obama in Washington, Jan. 20, 2009.In the July call with Zelenskiy, Trump sought help on two fronts. The first involves Trump’s claims that Ukraine allied with the Democrats in a plot to derail his 2016 presidential campaign. No evidence of such a plot has emerged, but Trump urged Zelenskiy to “get to the bottom of it” as he tries to prove the allegation ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections.At the same time, Trump is also pushing Ukraine to investigate any potential wrongdoing by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Trump has said that the United States has an “absolute right” to ask foreign leaders to investigate corruption cases, though no one has produced evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the Bidens.On this case, Ukraine seems to have thrown Trump a bone. Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka announced Friday that his office is reviewing investigations related to the owner of gas company Burisma. That’s the company that hired Hunter Biden in 2014, when his father was in charge of the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Ukraine.The prosecutor insisted he did not feel any pressure over the Burisma case and said he wasn’t aware of any wrongdoing by either Biden. He said his office was “auditing” relevant cases that were closed, dismissed or put on hold by his predecessors, including several related to Burisma’s founder.Political analysts in Kyiv saw the announcement not as a new attempt to dig up dirt on the Bidens but rather an effort to stay in the good graces of the White House.Zelenskiy may explain his strategy himself Thursday: He’s holding a “media marathon,” amid growing questions about where his allegiances lie.
 


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European Union Finds Ransomware Is Top Cybercrime

The European Union’s 2019 cybercrime report said the number of online attacks is going down but criminals are targeting more data and profits.The European Union’s law enforcement agency developed the report that shows that ransomware remains the top cybercrime threat. Ransomware attacks block access to vital data and are described as being targeted, more profitable for the attackers and causing greater economic damage to private and public entities.The report, called the Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment, cited the 2019 “GermanWiper” ransomware as an example of the harm it can bring. That ransomware replaced the files of German companies, making them unrecoverable.The report identified concerns of governments becoming victims to ransomware attacks. Local governments in the United States, like the cities of Atlanta and Baltimore, have fallen victim to it.  According to the report “every state in the U.S. has been hit with an attack, with the exception of Delaware and Kentucky.”The IOCTA said the United States has seen more damage from ransomware than the European Union, but that could change as cybercrime “evolves.”Europol also highlighted online sexual exploitation of children.  A report says cybercriminals can use the internet to access sexually explicit content of minors. It says a growing number of juveniles have been sharing sexual pictures or videos with peers, which could be stolen and reposted.Cybercriminals can also make content themselves. The report targeted deepfakes as being used to create videos of children using their own material. Deepfakes create false images and have been used to produce explicit content from celebrity websites. A comedian used Artificial Intelligence to generate a deepfake of former U.S. president Barack Obama.Other developments in cybercrime like decentralized, unregulated internet marketplaces and phishing scams that steal personal data, remain concerns for Europol because of their potential to continue to evolve even as law enforcement works to prevent it.”Some threats of yesterday remain relevant today and will continue to challenge us tomorrow,” said Europol’s Executive Director, Catherine De Bolle.  


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Зеленський і Меркель обговорили безпекову ситуацію на Донбасі

Президент України Володимир Зеленський і канцлер Німеччини Анґела Меркель під час телефонної розмови обговорили безпекову ситуацію на Донбасі, повідомляє Офіс президента України.

«Володимир Зеленський поінформував співрозмовницю про безпекову ситуацію на Донбасі. Було обговорено питання розведення сил поблизу Петрівського та Золотого, а також перебіг робіт з відновлення мосту поблизу Станиці Луганської», – пише Офіс президента.

Згідно з повідомленням, Меркель наголосила на незмінності позиції Німеччини на підтримку України на шляху до встановлення миру на Донбасі. Вона заявила, що використає майбутні контакти з партнерами у «нормандському форматі» для досягнення домовленості щодо дати проведення саміту.

1 жовтня в столиці Білорусі Мінську учасники Тристоронньої контактної групи з мирного врегулювання ситуації на Донбасі домовилися про розведення сил і засобів біля Петрівського Донецької області та Золотого-4 Луганської області із 7 жовтня. Цього не відбулося через обстріли з боку підтримуваних Росією бойовиків.

 


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Hong Kong Protesters Remain Defiant in Standoff with Pro-Beijing Government

In Hong Kong, protests that erupted nearly four months ago to oppose a controversial extradition law have developed into a disruptive pro-democracy movement, led to increasingly violent clashes between protesters and police, and poses a serious challenge to China’s rule over this former British colony. VOA’s Brian Padden reports on how Hong Kong got to this point. 


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Зеленський обговорив із головою МЗС Нідерландів суд у справі MH17

Президент України Володимир Зеленський обговорив із міністром закордонних справ Нідерландів Стефом Блоком розслідування та проведення судового процесу у справі про збиття літака рейсу MH17 в липні 2014 року в небі над Донбасом, передає Офіс президента України.

Зеленський подякував Нідерландам за підтримку суверенітету та територіальної цілісності України, неухильне дотримання режиму санкцій Європейського союзу щодо Росії, невизнання анексії українського Криму Росією.

Блок, зі свого боку, підтвердив наявність значного інтересу нідерландського бізнесу до нарощування інвестиційної співпраці, а також зазначив готовність уряду Нідерландів продовжувати підтримку України на шляху реалізації структурних реформ.

Рейс МН17 «Малайзійських авіаліній» прямував з Амстердама в Куала-Лумпур. Лайнер був збитий 17 липня 2014 року. Загинули всі 298 людей на борту, переважно громадяни Нідерландів.

У червні 2019 року прокуратура Нідерландів висунула офіційні звинувачення у вбивстві проти трьох громадян Росії і одного громадянина України, що воювали на боці проросійських бойовиків на сході України. Це колишній командувач силами уруповання «ДНР» Ігор Стрєлков (справжнє прізвище Гіркін), його заступник Сергій Дубинський, заступник Дубинського Олег Пулатов і Леонід Харченко. Слідство вважає, що вони відповідальні за організацію доставки з території Росії зенітно-ракетного комплексу «Бук», з якого, імовірно, був збитий літак.

8 жовтня 2019 року парламент Нідерландів проголосував за розслідування причин того, чому Україна в 2014 році не закрила повітряний простір під час бойових дій на Донбасі.


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High-Profile Soccer Wives in Twitter Spat Over Story Leaks

The wives of two of English soccer’s most high-profile players got embroiled in a spat on Twitter on Wednesday about the leaking of information to a tabloid newspaper.In a post to her 1.3 million followers, Wayne Rooney’s wife, Coleen, accused Rebekah Vardy, the wife of Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, of informing The Sun about details of her private stories written on Instagram.Coleen said she spent five months attempting to work out who was sharing the stories, going as far as blocking everyone from viewing her Instagram page except for one account and then posting “a series of false stories to see if they made their way into” the newspaper.Coleen finished her tweet by saying her private investigation showed “just one person has viewed them. It’s ……….Rebekah Vardy’s account.”Vardy, who has 90,400 Twitter followers of her own and is well known for appearing in a reality TV show in Britain, denied leaking the information.Vardy replied to Coleen on Twitter, saying she “never” speaks to journalists about her and that she recently discovered that “various people have had access to my insta.”“I’m disgusted that I’m even having to deny this,” added Vardy, who said she was “upset” at being accused by Coleen, especially because she is pregnant with her fifth child.Wayne Rooney, a former Manchester United striker who has been playing in the United States for MLS team D.C. United since July 2018, is returning to English soccer in January as player-coach of second-tier club Derby County.


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