Five migrants die as boat capsizes during rescue off Malta

Police forensic officers gather around the body of a drowned migrant after a boat carrying 30 migrants capsized during a rescue operation off Malta on Feb. 23, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 February 2024
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Five migrants die as boat capsizes during rescue off Malta

  • Some 21 migrants were rescued and taken to a migrant center
  • They are believed to be from Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Egypt

VALLETTA, Malta: Five migrants, including a woman, died when their boat capsized as they were being rescued off Malta on Friday, the island’s armed forces said.
Another eight were injured and taken to hospital, including two who swallowed a considerable amount of seawater and fuel.
Armed Forces of Malta deputy commander Col. Edric Zahra told reporters that the incident happened at about midday when the eight-meter (26-ft) boat was four miles (6.5 km) south of Malta.
Some 21 migrants were rescued and taken to a migrant center. They are believed to be from Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Egypt.
Mediterranean sea crossings from North Africa to Italy or Malta are among the most dangerous migration routes in the world. Last year almost 2,500 migrants died or went missing on those routes, the International Organization for Migration says.
The vast majority of migrants head for Italy. Malta’s armed forces rescued 380 migrants at sea last year, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said in parliament in January.


‘Are you with me?’ Biden and Harris launch Black voter outreach and warn of a second Trump term

Updated 9 min 51 sec ago
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‘Are you with me?’ Biden and Harris launch Black voter outreach and warn of a second Trump term

  • Speaking at Girard College, which has a predominantly Black student body, Biden argued that an “unhinged” Trump is peddling misinformation in an effort to win back the White House

PHILADELPHIA: President Joe Biden renewed his election-year pitch to Black voters on Wednesday, lashing out at Donald Trump’s “MAGA lies” and saying the winner of this year’s White House race will make crucial decisions, including on nominees for the Supreme Court, that could affect the country for decades.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, in a joint appearance at a Philadelphia boarding school, thanked Black voters in Pennsylvania and beyond for being the lynchpin to their 2020 victory and they made the case that their agenda has had an enormous impact on improving lives for Black voters.
The Democratic president also argued that an “unhinged” Trump is peddling misinformation in an effort to win back the White House.
“I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Donald Trump turn America into a place of anger, resentment and hate,” Biden said, calling on the crowd to help him and Harris win a second term. “My question is a simple one: Are you with me?”
At Girard College, which has a predominantly Black student body, Biden warned about the threat he said a second Trump presidency would pose and cited some of the racial controversies fanned by the presumptive Republican nominee during his life.
“This is the same guy who wanted to tear gas you as you peacefully protested George Floyd’s murder. The same guy who still calls the Central Park Five guilty, even though they were exonerated,” Biden told the crowd. “He’s that landlord who denies housing applications because of the color of your skin.”
The Philadelphia visit was the start of what the Biden campaign describes as a summerlong effort to engage Black student organizations, community groups and faith centers. It reflects in part how much of their support of him has frayed as Trump aims to make inroads into the longtime Democratic constituency.
The issue of abortion rights and the judiciary also featured in the remarks from Biden and Harris. Biden pledged to codify the protections of Roe vs. Wade, the now-nullified Supreme Court decision that had legalized the right to an abortion, if he and enough Democratic lawmakers are elected, while Harris noted that Trump dramatically shaped the Supreme Court as she invoked the name of Thurgood Marshall, the high court’s first Black justice.
Trump, she said, “handpicked three members of the Supreme Court — the court of Thurgood — with the intention that they would overturn Roe vs. Wade,” the landmark abortion rights ruling. “And as he intended, they did.”
“Who sits in the White House matters,” she said.
Underscoring that point later, Biden said the next president is “going to be able to appoint a couple justices.” With some vacancies on the Supreme Court, Biden said he could “put in really progressive judges, like we’ve always had.”
“Tell me that won’t change your life,” he said.
Among Black adults, Biden’s approval has dropped from 94 percent when he started his term to just 55 percent, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll published in March.
The economy has been a particular thorn in Biden’s side since 2022, when inflation hit a 40-year high. But there have also been signs of discontent in the Black community more recently over Biden’s handling of the seven-month Israel-Hamas war.
Turning out Black voters could prove pivotal for Biden’s chances in what’s expected to be among the most closely contested states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Biden beat Trump in all six states in 2020, but he could face a more difficult climb this year.
Trump has been offering himself as a better president for Black voters than Biden. At a rally last week in the Bronx, he railed against Biden on immigration and said “the biggest negative impact” of the influx of migrants in New York is “against our Black population and our Hispanic population who are losing their jobs, losing their housing, losing everything they can lose.”
The Republican National Committee zeroed in on gas prices and food costs under Biden’s presidency as it attacked his stop in Pennsylvania.
“No matter how much Biden lies, he cannot gaslight Pennsylvanians into supporting him — his approval ratings are abysmal,” RNC Chair Michael Whatley said. “President Trump continues to lead in polls in Pennsylvania and across the country. Pennsylvanians are ready to Make America Great Again, and they will vote for President Donald J. Trump in November.”
The Biden campaign wants to use the new engagement effort in part to remind Black voters of some of the Democratic administration’s achievements during his term. On Wednesday, Biden repeated the refrain “because you voted” as he rattled off a litany of his accomplishments for Black Americans, including record funding for historically Black colleges and universities, forgiveness of federal student loan debt and pardons for simple possession of marijuana.
“Black voters placed enormous faith in me,” Biden said. “I’ve tried to do my best to honor that trust.”
Biden later visited with Black business owners at SouthSide, an event space, and greeted supporters there while continuing to tout his accomplishments for Black voters and, in particular, the economic gains under his presidency. In the more intimate gathering, jointly hosted by the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, he also stressed to the crowd that “there’s not a damn thing that a white man can do that a Black man can’t do, or do better.”
The Black unemployment rate sits at 5.6 percent, according to the latest federal government data, compared with an average of about 8 percent from 2016 to 2020 and 11 percent from 2000 to 2015. Black household wealth has surged, and Biden’s effort to cancel billions in student loan debt has disproportionately affected Black borrowers.
Biden also points to his appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black female justice on the US Supreme Court and his pick of Harris as the first Black woman to serve as vice president.
The president’s visit to Philadelphia follows a series of engagements with Black community members in recent weeks, including hosting plaintiffs in the 1954 Supreme Court decision that struck down institutionalized racial segregation in public schools, a commencement address at Morehouse College in Atlanta, and a virtual address to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s racial justice conference.


Russian forces launch missiles on Kharkiv, four injured, Ukrainian officials say

Updated 27 min 12 sec ago
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Russian forces launch missiles on Kharkiv, four injured, Ukrainian officials say

  • In the aftermath of the strikes, air raid alerts remained in force throughout the country

Russian forces launched a series of missiles early on Thursday on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, injuring at least four people and damaging infrastructure, local officials said.
Mayor Ihor Terekhov, writing on the Telegram messaging app, said four people had been injured, a gas pipeline had been damaged and many windows had been broken.
Regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said eight missiles had been fired at the city, a frequent Russian target in recent weeks. A community just north of the city had also been hit.
In the aftermath of the strikes, air raid alerts remained in force throughout the country.


Global team corners Chinese hacker allegedly running ‘likely world’s largest ever’ cybercrime botnet

Updated 30 May 2024
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Global team corners Chinese hacker allegedly running ‘likely world’s largest ever’ cybercrime botnet

  • Yunhe Wang was arrested on May 24 in Singapore, and authorities also seized $29 million in cryptocurrency: FBI
  • Wang is accused of selling access to the 19 million Windows computers he hijacked to criminals

WASHINGTON: An international law enforcement team has arrested a Chinese national and disrupted a major botnet that officials said he ran for nearly a decade, amassing at least $99 million in profits by reselling access to criminals who used it for identity theft, child exploitation, and financial fraud, including pandemic relief scams.

The US Department of Justice quoted FBI Director Christopher Wray as saying Wednesday that the “911 S5” botnet — a network of malware-infected computers in nearly 200 countries — was likely the world’s largest.
Justice said in a news release that Yunhe Wang, 35, was arrested May 24. Wang was arrested in Singapore, and search warrants were executed there and in Thailand, the FBI’s deputy assistant director for cyber operations, Brett Leatherman, said in a LinkedIn post. Authorities also seized $29 million in cryptocurrency, Leatherman said.
Cybercriminals used Wang’s network of zombie residential computers to steal “billions of dollars from financial institutions, credit card issuers and accountholders, and federal lending programs since 2014,” according to an indictment filed in Texas’ eastern district.

 

The administrator, Wang, sold access to the 19 million Windows computers he hijacked — more than 613,000 in the United States — to criminals who “used that access to commit a staggering array of crimes that victimized children, threatened people’s safety and defrauded financial institutions and federal lending programs,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in announcing the takedown.
He said criminals who purchased access to the zombie network from Wang were responsible for more than $5.9 billion in estimated losses due to fraud against relief programs. Officials estimated 560,000 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims originated from compromised IP addresses.
Wang allegedly managed the botnet through 150 dedicated servers, half of them leased from US-based online service providers.
The indictment says Wang used his illicit gains to purchase 21 properties in the United States, China, Singapore, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and St. Kitts and Nevis, where it said he obtained citizenship through investment.
In its news release, the Justice Department thanked police and other authorities in Singapore and Thailand for their assistance.

 

 


US to boycott UN tribute to Iran leader killed in helicopter crash

Updated 30 May 2024
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US to boycott UN tribute to Iran leader killed in helicopter crash

  • The UN General Assembly traditionally meets to pay tribute to any world leader who was a sitting head of state at the time of their death
  • US President Joe Biden’s administration was strongly criticized by some Republican members of Congress for offering condolences to Iran

UNITED NATIONS: The United States will boycott a United Nations tribute on Thursday to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed earlier this month in a helicopter crash, a US official said.

The 193-member UN General Assembly traditionally meets to pay tribute to any world leader who was a sitting head of state at the time of their death. The tribute will feature speeches about Raisi.
“We won’t attend this event in any capacity,” a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. The US boycott has not previously been reported.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York declined to comment.
Raisi, a hard-liner who had been seen as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was killed when his helicopter came down in poor weather in mountains near the Azerbaijan border on May 19.
“The United Nations should be standing with the people of Iran, not memorializing their decades-long oppressor,” said the US official. “Raisi was involved in numerous, horrific human rights abuses, including the extrajudicial killings of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.”
“Some of the worst human rights abuses on record, especially against the women and girls of Iran, took place during his tenure,” the official said.
The UN Security Council stood at the beginning of an unrelated meeting for a moment of silence on May 20 to remember the victims of the helicopter crash. Deputy US Ambassador to the UN Robert Wood reluctantly stood with his 14 counterparts.
The United States expressed its “official condolences” for Raisi’s death, the State Department said on May 20. White House national security spokesperson John Kirby also said that day: “No question this was a man who had a lot of blood on his hands.”
US President Joe Biden’s administration was strongly criticized by some Republican members of Congress for offering condolences to Iran.
Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021 and in office ordered a tightening of morality laws, oversaw a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.


UK parliament dissolves ahead of election

Updated 30 May 2024
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UK parliament dissolves ahead of election

  • Five weeks of campaigning officially began as 650 seats of MPs became vacant at 2301 GMT
  • Prime Minister Sunak set the election for July 4, instead of later in the year as had been widely expected

LONDON: The British parliament dissolved on Thursday ahead of a July 4 general election, which looks set to bring Labour to power after 14 years of Conservative rule.

Five weeks of campaigning officially began as 650 seats of members of parliament (MPs) became vacant at one minute past midnight (2301 GMT) in line with the electoral schedule.
The first week of campaigning has seen a shaky start following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s rain-drenched election announcement, with many observers taking the downpour as a bad omen.
Sunak set the election for July 4, instead of later in the year as had been widely expected, in what observers said was an attempt to regain momentum as his party slides in opinion polls.
After 14 years in opposition, the Labour party now has the chance to win back power with its leader Keir Starmer, a former human rights lawyer, at the helm.

Trailing double digits behind Labour in polls, the ruling party also faced a mass exodus of parliamentarians, some throwing in the towel in the face of bleak chances of victory.
Some 129 MPs have so far announced that they will not be standing for re-election. Among them are 77 Conservatives, an unprecedented exodus for a governing party.
Among the Tories standing for re-election, some have made no secret of their annoyance at having been caught off guard by the July election date.
Steve Baker, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, stood by his decision to continue his vacation in Greece, saying that he would be preparing his campaign there.
Signs of infighting also spilled into the open with one Tory MP backing a candidate from the right-wing populist Reform UK party in her constituency, before being promptly suspended by the Conservatives.

After the election announcement, Sunak traveled across the country, promoting Conservatives as the “safe” option.
His campaign met with some early snags, including a visit to the site where the Titanic was built drawing comparisons between his leadership and captaining a sinking ship.
Doubling down on older voters and right-wing supporters, Sunak’s campaign has seen pledges to bring back national service and what is billed as a £2.4 billion ($3 billion) tax break for pensioners.
However, Sunak’s week of intense campaigning and bid to surprise the country have done little to boost favor.
Polls put Labour on average at 45 percent of voting intentions, against 23 percent for the Tories, suggesting that, given the simple-majority voting system, Labour will enjoy a very large win.
In a bid to turn things around, Sunak is hoping to win points in the scheduled debates with Keir Starmer, the first of which is set to take place next Tuesday on ITV.

Meanwhile, Labour is seeking to capitalize on the public’s weariness with the Conservatives, who have seen five prime ministers since 2016 alongside a slew of scandals and economic woes.
It has tried to focus on its shift to the “natural party of business” after winning the backing of 120 industry leaders this week.
After a resounding defeat under left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2019, Starmer has pushed the party to the center in a bid to win back voters, including by purging Corbyn and making moves to root out anti-Semitism.
However, the past week has exposed the long-standing factional splits within the party, with MP Diane Abbott expressing her dismay at the party’s desire to bar her from candidacy.
Starmer has insisted that the fate of Abbott, who was suspended last year for comments on racism, had not yet been decided. But the treatment meted out to the highly respected 70-year-old, who has spent 37 years as a member of parliament, has provoked fierce criticism.
Starmer has also faced condemnation from leftist voters who accuse him of rolling back promises he made during his successful leadership campaign.