Category Archives: News

worldwide news

Reports: ‘FinCEN’ Documents Show Banks Moved Suspect Funds

Several global banks moved large sums of allegedly illicit funds over a period of nearly two decades, despite red flags about the origins of the money, BuzzFeed and other media reported Sunday, citing confidential documents submitted by banks to the U.S. government.The media reports were based on leaked suspicious activity reports (SARs), filed by banks and other financial firms with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).  The SARs, which the reports said numbered more than 2,100, were obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other media organizations.In all, the ICIJ reported that the files contained information about more than $2 trillion worth of transactions between 1999 and 2017, which were flagged by internal compliance departments of financial institutions as suspicious. The SARs are in themselves not necessarily proof of wrongdoing, and the ICIJ reported the leaked documents were a tiny fraction of the reports filed with FinCEN.Five global banks appeared most often in the documents — HSBC Holdings Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Deutsche Bank AG, Standard Chartered Plc and Bank of New York Mellon Corp, the ICIJ reported.The SARs provide key intelligence in global efforts to stop money laundering and other crimes. The media reports on Sunday painted a picture of a system that is both under-resourced and overwhelmed, allowing vast amounts of illicit funds to move through the banking system.A bank has a maximum of 60 days to file SARs after the date of initial detection of a reportable transaction, according to the Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The ICIJ report said in some cases the banks failed to report suspect transactions until years after they had processed them.The SARs also showed that banks often moved funds for companies that were registered in offshore havens, such as the British Virgin Islands, and did not know the ultimate owner of the account, the report said.Among the types of transactions highlighted by the report: funds processed by JPMorgan for potentially corrupt individuals and companies in Venezuela, Ukraine and Malaysia; money from a Ponzi scheme moving through HSBC; and money linked to a Ukrainian billionaire processed by Deutsche Bank.”I hope these findings spur urgent action from policymakers to enact needed reforms,” said Tim Adams, chief executive of the trade group Institute of International Finance, in a statement. “As noted in today’s reports, the impacts of financial crime are felt beyond just the financial sector – it poses grave threats to society as a whole.”In a statement to Reuters, HSBC said “all of the information provided by the ICIJ is historical.” The bank said as of 2012, “HSBC embarked on a multi-year journey to overhaul its ability to combat financial crime across more than 60 jurisdictions.”Standard Chartered said in a statement to Reuters, “We take our responsibility to fight financial crime extremely seriously and have invested substantially in our compliance programs.”BNY Mellon told Reuters it could not comment on specific SARs. “We fully comply with all applicable laws and regulations, and assist authorities in the important work they do,” the bank said.JPM did not immediately respond to a request for comment but said in a statement to BuzzFeed that “thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars are devoted to helping support law enforcement and national security efforts.”In a statement on Sunday, Deutsche Bank said the ICIJ had “reported on a number of historic issues.” “We have devoted significant resources to strengthening our controls and we are very focused on meeting our responsibilities and obligations,” the bank said.FinCEN said in a statement on its website on Sept. 1 that it was aware that various media outlets intended to publish a series of articles based on unlawfully disclosed SARs, as well as other documents, and said that the “unauthorized disclosure of SARs is a crime that can impact the national security of the United States.”Representatives for the U.S. Treasury did not immediately respond to an email for comment on Sunday. 

your ad here

Greece: Fire in Migrant Camp on Samos Island ‘Under Control’

A fire broke out Sunday evening in the reception and identification center for asylum-seekers on the Greek island of Samos but is now “under control,” according to police and firefighter sources.”The fire is under control but two or three containers were destroyed without causing any injuries,” a police source said. Refugees stay in containers.  According to the fire department press office, “three containers were removed as a precaution when the fire broke out.”  “The firefighters are there, there is no risk of the fire spreading,” an official with the firefighters’ press service told AFP.UN: Rehousing of Moria Fire Victims on Lesbos Island Proceeding Smoothly A police operation to transfer the asylum seekers to the new site has been proceeding smoothly with no use of force or incidence of violence    This disaster, which broke out around 8:30 p.m. local time (5:30 p.m. GMT), comes 10 days after two large fires ravaged the large camp of Moria on the island of Lesbos, known for its overpopulation and sordid living conditions.  On the streets for several days, most of the asylum-seekers expelled from Moria, about 10,000 people according to the authorities, were installed in a camp hastily set up by the government near the port of Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos.The Samos reception and identification center is one of five centers set up during the 2015 migration crisis on five Greek islands in the Aegean Sea (Lesbos, Samos, Kos , Leros, Chios) to stem the number of migrants arriving in Greece from neighboring Turkey.The living conditions in the Samos camp — which is smaller than that of Moria, with nearly 6,000 people despite its initial capacity for 650 asylum-seekers — are also very difficult, including inadequate hygienic conditions.The camps for asylum-seekers in Greece have been isolated since mid-March because of COVID-19, while the rest of the country returned to normal in early May.  According to authorities, 21 cases of COVID-19 have been detected in the Samos camp so far.

your ad here

Russian Jets Strike Syrian Rebel-Held Bastion in Heaviest Strikes Since Cease-fire 

Syrian opposition sources said Russian jets bombed rebel-held northwestern Syria on Sunday in the most extensive strikes since a Turkish-Russian deal halted major fighting with a cease-fire nearly six months ago.   Witnesses said the warplanes struck the western outskirts of Idlib city and that there was heavy artillery shelling in the mountainous Jabal al-Zawya region in southern Idlib from nearby Syrian army outposts. There were no immediate reports of casualties.   “These thirty raids are by far the heaviest strikes so far since the cease-fire deal,” said Mohammed Rasheed, a former rebel official and a volunteer plane spotter whose network covers the Russian air base in the western coastal province of Latakia.   Other tracking centers said Russian Sukhoi jets hit the Horsh area and Arab Said town, west of the city of Idlib. Unidentified drones also hit two rebel-held towns in the Sahel al-Ghab plain, west of Hama province.   There has been no wide-scale aerial bombing since a March agreement ended a Russian-backed bombing campaign that displaced over a million people in the region which borders Turkey after months of fighting.   There was no immediate comment from Moscow or the Syrian army, who have long accused militant groups who hold sway in the last opposition redoubt of wrecking the ceasefire deal and attacking army-held areas.   The deal between Turkish President and Russian President Vladimir Putin also defused a military confrontation between them after Ankara poured thousands of troops in Idlib province to hold back Russian-backed forces from new advances.   Western diplomats tracking Syria say Moscow piled pressure on Ankara in the latest round of talks on Wednesday to scale down its extensive military presence in Idlib. Turkey has more than ten thousand troops stationed in dozens of bases there, according to opposition sources in touch with Turkish military.   Witnesses say there has been a spike in sporadic shelling from Syrian army outposts against Turkish bases in the last two weeks. Rebels say the Syrian army and its allied militias were amassing troops on front lines.  

your ad here

US Judge Blocks Order to Remove WeChat From App Stores 

A U.S. judge early Sunday blocked the Commerce Department from requiring Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google to remove Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat for downloads by late Sunday.   U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco said in an order that WeChat users who filed a lawsuit “have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim [and] the balance of hardships tips in the plaintiffs’ favor.”   On Friday, the Commerce Department had issued an order citing national security grounds to block the app from U.S. app stores owned by Tencent Holdings, and the Justice Department had urged Beeler not to block the order.   Beeler’s preliminary injunction also blocked the Commerce order that would have barred other transactions with WeChat in the United States that could have degraded the site’s usability for current U.S. users. The U.S. Commerce Department did not immediately comment.   WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, Americans living in China and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.   The Justice Department said blocking the order would “frustrate and displace the president’s determination of how best to address threats to national security.” But Beeler said, “while the general evidence about the threat to national security related to China [regarding technology and mobile technology] is considerable, the specific evidence about WeChat is modest.”   She added, “The regulation — which eliminates a channel of communication without any apparent substitutes — burdens substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government’s significant interest.”   WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.   The WeChat Users Alliance that had sued praised the ruling “as an important and hard-fought victory” for “millions of WeChat users in the U.S.”   Michael Bien, a lawyer for the users, said “the United States has never shut down a major platform for communications, not even during war times. There are serious First Amendment problems with the WeChat ban, which targets the Chinese American community.”   He added the order “trampled on their First Amendment guaranteed freedoms to speak, to worship, to read and react to the press, and to organize and associate for numerous purposes.” 

your ad here

Greece Scrambles to Rehouse Homeless Migrants, Refugees on Lesbos 

For Rahaf al Mohammed, the Moria refugee center was a living hell, but now, after militant arsonists last week razed what has been frequently described as the worst in Europe, she refuses relocation to a new, fenced encampment 10 kilometers south.“Not good,” the 29-year-old Syrian mother said, “It is like [a] prison. Terrible prison.”“We went [there] but left [the] next day because [there was] no food, no electricity, no water, and no bottom [to] our tent,” she said, pushing a baby carriage back to Moria. “We slept on dirt and rocks. My babies [are] now sick.”Independent verification of the conditions at the new, heavily guarded Kare Tepe camp was not possible.Many of the 12,500 migrants and refugees left homeless after the ferocious blaze, though, attest to the same conditions, forcing most of them to return to Moria, seeking shelter in its chaotic, and now razed, sprawl of tarpaulin tents, crooked prefab structures and the acrid smell of burnt plastic.An aerial view of destroyed shelters following a fire at the Moria camp for refugees and migrants on the Island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 9, 2020.Under a scorching Greek sun this week, teams of bedraggled Afghan migrants were seen prying out mangled rods to erect flimsy tents. Others, mainly young men, used a broken irrigation pipe deep in an adjacent olive grove to shower in the open.“At least here,” said Mohammed Amir, 17, “we are at peace. Small aid groups come and help us. They give us food that we can eat three times a day.“Inside Kara Tepe,” the Afghan said, “food comes only once, and it is rotten.“There is no way, I am not going back there,” he said. His four sisters, in colorful head scarves and green plastic face masks, nodded in agreement.The stakes, though, are high. With more than 13,000 asylum seekers on the island, Lesbos remains a dangerous bottleneck in Europe’s migrant crisis.Worse yet, the troubled Kara Tepe transfer complicates government efforts to manage the country’s worst humanitarian crisis in five years, when more than 1 million refugees, mainly from Syria, flooded Europe in the biggest migration push since World War II.Government officials warn they may use force to round up and rehouse all migrants.Greek officials wearing personal protective equipment arrive in an area where refugees and migrants from the destroyed Moria camp are sheltered on the island of Lesbos, Sept. 18, 2020.In recent days, some 70 female officers in protective white suits and masks were deployed to help move women and children to Kara Tepe.More than 8,000 were checked in to the new sprawl of crisp white tents by the weekend. It remained unclear, however, whether the camp’s new residents would remain.“There are many Afghan men going around warning women and children not to resettle because they will burn this camp, also,” Abdirahman Chama, a 38-year-old migrant from Somalia said.“More importantly,” he said, “if you are out and have a chance to escape this island and go to the West, why go back in?“I will try to go Germany, but anywhere else will also be good.”Only recognized refugees can move to another EU member state, a status, together with its documentation, the government has told Lesbos’ homeless asylum seekers they can only obtain as residents of the new camp.Earlier this week, Germany agreed to take in 1,553 people from 408 families whose protected status has been confirmed by Greek authorities. Belgium and France are expected to follow suit, with the government vowing to empty Lesbos of its refugees by Easter.A woman with a baby holds a document before entering the new temporary refugee camp in Kara Tepe, on the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 18, 2020.Until then, though, locals remain vigilant.“You think we would be relieved seeing this camp in our backyards destroyed,” said Stelios Panagopoulos, a coffee shop owner in the town of Moria, about a kilometer and a half north of the dreaded refugee camp.“We are now more scared than ever because militant migrants remain at large, and they are out there hiding in the fields and surrounding mountains, taking revenge on us, slaughtering our livestock and destroying our properties,” he said.Earlier this year, a farmer from Moria was barred from leaving the country and ordered to pay about $6,000 in fines for firing a warning shot at a migrant intruder. He has since been released and the migrant was detained.Last week, and after fleeing detention during the camp fire, the migrant returned, allegedly setting fire to the farmer’s barn.Authorities contacted by VOA suspect he was among the ringleaders of the Moria blaze.At least seven refugees, including two minors, have been arrested in connection with the fire.“There is one solution,” al Mohammed, the Syrian mother said, “we [must] all leave. It will be better for all.” 

your ad here

Newspaper: Facebook Tells Irish Court That Probe Threatens Its EU Operations

Facebook has told Ireland’s High Court it cannot see how its services could operate in the European Union if regulators freeze its data transfer mechanism, the Sunday Business Post reported, citing court documents seen by the paper.The U.S. social media giant last week said that the Irish Data Protection Commission, its lead EU regulator, had made a preliminary decision that the mechanism it uses to transfer data from the EU to the United States “cannot in practice be used.”Facebook requested and secured a temporary freeze on the order and a court review in the Irish High Court, which is due to consider the issue in November. In an affidavit submitted to the court to request that the order be frozen, Yvonne Cunnane, Facebook Ireland’s head of data protection and associate general counsel, said it was not clear how the company could continue providing services in the EU if the Irish order is enforced, the Sunday Business Post reported.”It is not clear to (Facebook) how, in those circumstances, it could continue to provide the Facebook and Instagram services in the EU,” the newspaper quoted the affidavit as saying.The affidavit has not been made public, a High Court spokesman said, and a Facebook spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.In a Sept. 9 blog post that first confirmed the investigation by the Irish regulator, Facebook said it “relied on the mechanism in question – under what are known as standard contractual clauses (SCCs) – to transfer data to countries outside the EU and that a ban would have “a far reaching effect on businesses that rely on SCCs.”The Irish investigation follows a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union in July on when SCCs can be used legally.The ruling was in response to EU concerns that the surveillance regime in the United States might not respect the privacy rights of EU citizens when their personal data is sent to the United States for commercial use. 

your ad here

Carpenters Wow Public with Medieval Techniques at Notre Dame

With precision and boundless energy, a team of carpenters used medieval techniques to raise up — by hand — a 3-ton oak truss Saturday in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, a replica of the wooden structures that were consumed in the landmark’s devastating April 2019 fire that also toppled its spire.The demonstration to mark European Heritage Days gave the hundreds of people a firsthand look at the rustic methods used 800 years ago to build the triangular frames in the nave of Notre Dame de Paris.It also showed that the decision to replicate the cathedral in its original form was the right one, said Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, who heads the cathedral’s reconstruction.“It shows … firstly that we made the right choice in choosing to rebuild the carpentry identically, in oak from France,” Georgelin said in an interview. “Secondly, it shows us the … method by which we will rebuild the framework, truss after truss.”A debate over whether the new spire should have a futuristic design or whether the trusses should be made of fireproof cement like in the Cathedral of Nantes, which was destroyed in a 1972 fire, ended with the decision in July to respect Notre Dame’s original design and materials.Carpenters put the skills of their medieval colleagues on show in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, Sept. 19, 2020. French President Emmanuel Macron wants the cathedral reopened in 2024 in time for the Paris Olympic Games.A total of 25 trusses are to be installed at an unknown date in the cathedral nave. Philippe Gourmain, a forestry expert working on the cathedral project, said the carpentry phase will not come before 2022.“The problem of Notre Dame is not a carpentry problem. We have the wood. We know how to do it,” Gourmain said. “The big issue is regarding the stone.”Some stones — which support the carpentry — were damaged by the fire and “it’s not so easy now” to find similar stone, he said.French President Emmanuel Macron wants the cathedral reopened in 2024 in time for the Paris Olympic Games, a deadline that many experts have called unrealistic.For the moment, the delicate task of dismantling melted scaffolding, which was originally erected to refurbish the now-toppled spire, continues. That job, started in early June, will be completed in October.The soaring cathedral vaults are also being cleared of debris by 35 specialists on ropes. The organ with its 8,000 pipes was removed for repair in early August.It is not yet known what technique will be used to create and install the wooden trusses.Carpenters showcase medieval techniques in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, Sept. 19, 2020. A total of 25 trusses are to be installed at an unknown date in the cathedral nave.The truss mounted for the weekend display is a replica of truss No. 7, more advanced that the first six trusses, which were “more primitive,” said Florian Carpentier, site manager for the team from Carpenters Without Borders team that felled the trees and used axes to cut the logs for the wooden frame. With rope cables and a rustic pulley system, the carpenters slowly pulled the truss they built in July from the ground where it was laid out.“It’s a moment to see, ancestral techniques that last. There is the present and the past and it links us to our roots,” said Romain Greif, an architect who came with his family to watch the display. “It’s an event.”In a final touch, once the No. 7 truss replica was raised on high, a carpenter shinnied up the wooden beams — to cheers — to tie an oak branch to the top of the triangular structure, a symbol of prosperity and a salute to the workers, a tradition still honored in numerous European countries. 

your ad here

First Native American Racer Blazes Trail at Tour de France

A late draft to the Tour de France, Neilson Powless didn’t have time to scramble together a turtle necklace, the spirit animal of his Native American tribe, or paint one of their wampum bead belts on the frame of the bike that he’s ridden for three punishing weeks, over 3,300 kilometers of roads.But although unable to carry the Oneida Tribe’s symbols with him, the Tour rookie has become a powerful symbol himself as the first tribally recognized Native North American to have raced in the 117-year-old event.Not only has Powless survived cycling’s greatest and most grueling race, he distinguished himself in a crop of exciting young talents who helped set this Tour alight. Crossing the finish in Paris on Sunday will, he hopes, resonate on reservations back in the United States.”My main hope is that I can be a positive role model for young Indigenous kids who have a lot going against them,” Powless, who turned 24 during the race, told The Associated Press. “I think finishing the Tour de France is a testament to years of hard work and dedication to a lifelong dream. Hopefully I can help drive kids to setting their mind to a goal and going after it.””It must make it a lot easier when you can see somebody else who is doing it, or has done it,” he added.Neilson Powless of the US rides during the 16th stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 164 kilometers from La Tour-du-Pin to Villard-de-Lans, Sept. 15, 2020.Word of Powless’ feats in France has filtered back to the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin. The tribal chairman, Tehassi Hill, says the cyclist is blazing “a trail of journey, hope and inspiration.””Whenever one of our own, from the Oneida community, are in the spotlight, it definitely does not go unnoticed. Neilson’s journey and accomplishments, I’m sure are spoken of at many gatherings here in Oneida,” Hill told the AP.”Even during a pandemic, he did not falter or give up on his dreams,” the Oneida leader added. “This is an important message not only to our youth here in Oneida, but to everyone in our community.”Powless traces his Oneida heritage to his grandfather, Matthew Powless. The ex-U.S. Army paratrooper lived on the Stockbridge-Munsee Reservation in Wisconsin. He coached boxing and occasionally showed off his tribal smoke-dancing skills to his grandson. He died at age 80 in 2015.”I saw him dance once or twice when I was younger, but I wish I could have watched him more,” said Powless, who grew up in Roseville, California. “He tried to get me into boxing for a few years and I would train at the gym he coached at sometimes when we would visit.”The good news for American cycling is that Powless saw his future on a bike, instead. His main job at this Tour has been to ride in support of his team leader, veteran Colombian rider Rigoberto Uran. But Powless has also shown off his own strengths, particularly on arduous climbs. On his birthday, during Stage 6, he was part of a small group that powered to the front of the race in a fight on the slopes of the Mont Aigoual, with stunning views across southern France. He placed fourth at the top.”An amazing experience,” he said. “The win would have been nice.”He distinguished himself again two days later, placing fifth on the brutal Stage 8 of climbing in the Pyrenees.”This Tour will be a massive point of growth for him,” Jonathan Vaughters, his boss at the EF Pro Cycling team, told the AP. “Where that heads him is still unknown. But he certainly is coming out of the Tour a much better rider than he went in.”The Tour confirms he is its first Native North American competitor. The cyclist hasn’t made a fuss of his heritage. Vaughters says he only found out that Powless is one-quarter Oneida from the rider’s dad just days before he took the Tour start on August 29. Still, when pressed, Powless proudly points out that he has a tribal ID recognizing him as one of the 16,500 Oneida members.”The tribe has helped me financially with schooling. I have family on the reservation,” he said. “It’s not that I just had a blood test one day and decided ‘Oh, I guess I’m Native American.’ It is something I have, like, sort of grown up with and it has been part of my whole life and the tribe recognizes that as well.”Told just days before the Tour that he was on the team, Powless says he didn’t have time to discreetly decorate his bike or source a replacement for the turtle necklace he broke last year.Still, based on his performances, he’ll surely be back and able to fix that at future Tours.”Normally I would have a painting of the Oneida bead belt, the wampum belt, somewhere on my bike, my garment, my shoe,” he said. “Just something really small, most people wouldn’t even really see it. It’s just something that I have always tried to keep close to me.”  

your ad here

Russia’s Navalny Says He’s Now More Than ‘Technically Alive’

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said he is recovering his verbal and physical abilities at the German hospital where he is being treated for suspected nerve agent poisoning but that he at first felt despair over his condition.Navalny, the most visible opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, fell ill on a domestic flight to Moscow on August 20 and was transferred to Germany for treatment two days later. A German military lab later determined that the Russian politician was poisoned with Novichok, the same class of Soviet-era agent that Britain said was used on a former Russian spy and his daughter in England in 2018.Navalny was kept in an induced coma for more than a week while being treated with an antidote. He said in a Saturday post on Instagram that once he was brought out of the coma, he was confused and couldn’t find the words to respond to a doctor’s questions.”Although I understood in general what the doctor wanted, I did not understand where to get the words. In what part of the head do they appear in?” Navalny wrote in the post, which accompanied a photo of him on a staircase. “I also did not know how to express my despair and, therefore, simply kept silent.””Now I’m a guy whose legs are shaking when he walks up the stairs, but he thinks: ‘Oh, this is a staircase! They go up it. Perhaps we should look for an elevator,'” Navalny said. “And before, I would have just stood there and stared.”The doctors treating him at Berlin’s Charite hospital “turned me from a ‘technically alive person’ into someone who has every chance to become the Highest Form of Being in Modern Society again — a person who can quickly scroll through Instagram and without hesitation understands where to put likes,” he wrote.The Kremlin has repeatedly said that before Navalny’s transfer to Berlin, Russian labs and a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk found no sign of a poisoning. Moscow has called for Germany to provide its evidence and bristled at the urging of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other Western leaders to answer questions about what happened to the politician.”There is too much absurdity in this case to take anyone at their word,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday.Peskov also accused Navalny’s colleagues of hampering a Russian investigation by taking items from his hotel room out of the country, including a water bottle they claimed had traces of the nerve agent.Navalny’s colleagues said that they removed the bottle and other items from the hotel room in the Siberian city of Tomsk and brought them to Germany as potential evidence because they didn’t trust Russian authorities to conduct a proper probe.  

your ad here