Burning Man founder Larry Harvey dies aged 70

Larry Harvey, founder of the Burning Man arts festival, has died in San Francisco aged 70.

He suffered a stroke earlier this month and passed away at home on Saturday morning, a statement on the organisation’s website said.

The annual counterculture festival sees up to 70,000 people gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

It features giant interactive art installations and a huge wooden man that is burnt at the end of the event.

“Larry was never one for labels. He didn’t fit a mould; he broke it with the way he lived his life,” Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell wrote.

“He was a landscape gardener, a philosopher, a visionary, a wit, a writer, an inspiration, an instigator, a mentor, and at one point a taxi driver and a bike messenger.”

“The loss of his presence in our daily lives will be felt for years, but because of the spirit of who he is, we will never truly be without him,” she added.

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    Burning Man was founded in June 1986 when Mr Harvey and his friend Jerry Goodell burned a wooden man on Baker Beach in San Francisco to mark the summer solstice.

    This then grew into the festival, which in 1990 was held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for the first time.

    It quickly became one of America’s most well-known cultural events, attracting famous faces such as singer Katy Perry and the actor Will Smith.

    By 2015 the Burning Man Project reported annual revenues of $37.5m (£27.2m), of which $30.4m was ploughed back into running the event.

    Mr Harvey, who had the title Chief Philosophical Officer, spoke to the BBC in 2016 about how the festival came to be.

    “It happened to be the anniversary of a broken love affair,” he said.

    “That story has been inflated forever. I was burning my girlfriend, you hear that, I was burning my girlfriend’s lawyer, I made that one up just to make it interesting! Where the man came from I don’t know.”

    “The spirit of the (event) is alive and well,” he said.

    “We tend to tell people, when they ask what it’s all about: I don’t know, that’s for you to find out.”

Scooter Libby: Trump pardons Cheney aide who leaked

US President Donald Trump has pardoned former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, who was convicted of lying about leaks to the media.

Lewis Libby, known as Scooter, was found guilty in 2007 following an investigation into the unauthorised disclosure of a CIA agent’s identity.

The White House said Libby was “fully worthy of this pardon”.

“I don’t know Mr Libby,” said Mr Trump, “but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly.

“Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life.”

What’s the background to the case?

Libby was found guilty of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements following an investigation into a leak that revealed the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

His trial heard that Bush administration officials wanted to get back at Ms Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Mr Wilson had written a 2003 New York Times op-ed accusing Mr Cheney of doctoring pre-war intelligence on Iraq.

Libby was charged with lying to investigators about his contacts with reporters, but he maintained he simply misremembered the sequence of events.

He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined $250,000 (£175,000).

But his sentence was commuted by then-President George W Bush.

What’s the reaction?

In an interview on Friday with MSNBC, Ms Plame condemned Mr Trump’s decision to pardon Libby.

“My personal sense is that I didn’t think my contempt for Donald Trump could go lower, but he surprises me each and every day,” she said.

“It’s very clear that this is a message he is sending, that you can commit crimes against national security and you will be pardoned,” she added.

Ms Plame has previously said her career as a CIA agent was finished “in an instant” once her identity was leaked.

She told the BBC in 2007 that “treason” had been committed in pursuit of political retribution.

Mr Cheney told the New York Times Mr Libby is “one of the most capable, principled and honourable men I have ever known.

“He is innocent and he and his family have suffered for years because of his wrongful conviction. I am gratedful that President Trump righted this wrong…”

On Friday, Democrats charged Mr Trump with hypocrisy for pardoning a man who leaked to the media, despite the president’s condemnation of such disclosures in his White House.

Mr Trump’s decision came on the same day that he savaged former FBI Director James Comey as a “proven LEAKER & LIAR”.

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff tweeted: “This is the President’s way of sending a message to those implicated in the Russia investigation: You have my back and I’ll have yours.”

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    What was Libby case’s political fallout?

    Mr Cheney had pressured Mr Bush to pardon Libby in the final days of his presidency.

    But Mr Cheney’s badgering reached the point where Mr Bush reportedly told his aides his vice-president was beginning to annoy him.

    After consulting White House lawyers, Mr Bush decided it was best not to issue a pardon.

    When he finally told Mr Cheney about his decision, Mr Cheney snapped at him, saying: “You are leaving a good man wounded on the field of battle.”

    “The comment stung,” Mr Bush would write in his memoirs.

    “In eight years, I had never seen Dick like this, or even close to this.

    “I worried that the friendship we had built was about to be severely strained, at best.”

    • Key players in the 2007 CIA leak probe

      What is a presidential pardon?

      Libby’s pardon amounts to official forgiveness for his crime, but does not equate to exoneration or finding that he was innocent.

      Presidential pardons can overturn consequences of a conviction such as being denied the right to carry out jury service, vote or run for political office.

      Since the conviction, Libby has already had his law license reinstated.

      And former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell restored his voting rights in 2013.

      This is the third time Mr Trump has issued a pardon.

      In August last year, he did so for former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt over his crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

      Last month he pardoned Kristian Saucier, a Navy sailor who took photos of classified areas inside a US submarine and served a year in federal prison.

Chelsea Hotel: Bob Dylan’s door sells for $100,000

The door to US singer Bob Dylan’s room at the iconic Chelsea Hotel in New York has sold at auction for $100,000 (£70,000).

It was one of 50 doors from the hotel, where a host of stars stayed over the years, to be sold.

The door to a room used by singers Janis Joplin and Leonard Cohen during an affair, as well as the singer Joni Mitchell, fetched $85,000.

A former tenant acquired the doors after renovation work began in 2011.

The hotel, built in the 1880s, became a long-term residence for generations of singers, bohemians and writers.

Jack Kerouac wrote his classic book On the Road while staying there in the 1950s. The door to his room sold at auction for $30,000.

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    The hotel also served as a residence for writers Mark Twain and Tom Wolfe, and science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke wrote the screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey there.

    The most infamous incident to take place in the building came in 1978, when Sid Vicious from the UK punk band the Sex Pistols was charged with murder after Nancy Spungen was found stabbed to death in the room they shared. Vicious died of a heroin overdose before the case came to trial.

    Other doors to go under the hammer at Guernsey’s auction house included that of actress Edie Sedgwick’s room, where artist Andy Warhol filmed Chelsea Girls. It sold for $52,500. The door to guitarist Jimi Hendrix’s room went for $13,000. The door to a room used by singer Madonna, actress Isabella Rosselini and filmmaker Shirley Clarke sold for $13,000.

    The doors were rescued by a former tenant, Jim Georgiou, who saw them being thrown away and arranged to take possession of them.

    “For me they were history and beauty and connected to my heart. They’re precious because there are so many people who’ve been through them,” he told the New York Times.

    The building was designated a city landmark in 1966 and was sold in 2016 to a group of investors. It stopped taking new bookings in 2011 but a small group of long-term residents are still living on the upper floors while the renovation work continues.

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Trump lawyer Michael Cohen under criminal investigation

US President Donald Trump’s top lawyer is under criminal investigation, the US justice department has announced.

Prosecutors say they are focusing on Michael Cohen’s business dealings rather than his work as a lawyer.

Mr Cohen has been under investigation for months, the court filing says.

The filing was in response to efforts by Mr Cohen’s own lawyer to stop prosecutors reviewing material seized from Mr Cohen’s office on Monday.

Mr Cohen’s team argues that the papers are covered by the attorney-client privilege.

During a court hearing in New York on Friday, prosecutor Tom McKay accused Mr Cohen of trying to use attorney-client privilege “as a sword to challenge the government’s ability to review evidence”.

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    Government prosecutors also said they believed Mr Cohen had “a low volume of potentially privileged communication” because he seems to only have one client – President Trump.

    “It is neither apparent that Cohen, in his capacity as an attorney, has many, or any, attorney-client relationships other than with President Donald Trump,” the filing said.

    It added that while Mr Cohen was an attorney, “he also has several other business interests and sources of income”, and is “being investigated for criminal conduct that largely centres on his personal business dealings”.

    A new lawyer for President Trump, Joanna Hendon, said the president had an “acute interest” in the case. Ms Hendon, who was hired on Wednesday, asked the judge to adjourn the session so she had more time to prepare.

    According to a New York Times report, the president phoned Mr Cohen to “check in” on him today.

    Lawyers tend to advise clients not to discuss investigations – which means their discussion could cause them problems, depending on what they talked about.

    In a separate development, Mr Cohen reportedly negotiated a $1.6 million settlement with a former Playboy model on behalf of a Republican fundraiser, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

    Elliott Broidy, a Los Angeles investor, acknowledged “a consensual relationship” with the Playmate, who became pregnant.

    Mr Broidy said it was “unfortunate” that the personal matter was “the subject of national discussion” because of the involvement of Mr Cohen.

    The investor was previously in the news after he urged President Trump to sack then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over a diplomatic dispute.

James Comey’s FBI memoir: Six claims about Trump

US President Donald Trump is seething about former FBI Director James Comey’s new memoir, which is chock-full of scathing assessments of him.

The publication likens Mr Trump to a mafia boss and details his fixation on unsubstantiated claims he consorted with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel.

But there are some parts the president is unlikely to brand fake news.

Mr Comey says he believes Mr Trump’s hair was his own and his much-mocked hands did not seem unusually small.

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    On Friday morning, Mr Trump launched a furious fusillade on Twitter against Mr Comey.

    Skip Twitter post 2 by @realDonaldTrump

    ….untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst “botch jobs” of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2018

    Report

    End of Twitter post 2 by @realDonaldTrump

    The White House and its allies have launched an all-out campaign to discredit the publication, even launching a website, lyincomey.com.

    A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies & Leadership is due to be published on Tuesday, but advance copies have been obtained by US media outlets. Here is a selection of what’s in it.

    ‘Mafia Don’

    Mr Comey, who as a prosecutor earlier in his career helped break up the Gambino crime family, reportedly compares Mr Trump to a crime lord.

    He writes that interactions with the president gave him “flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob”.

    “The silent circle of assent,” he continues. “The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview.

    “The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organisation above morality and above the truth.”

    Skip Twitter post by @GStephanopoulos

    First look at my interview with Former FBI Director @Comey – what he was thinking during those meetings with President @realDonaldTrump https://t.co/TCPSpTzzzr

    — GeorgeStephanopoulos (@GStephanopoulos) April 13, 2018

    Report

    End of Twitter post by @GStephanopoulos

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      ‘Moscow prostitutes’

      The former FBI boss writes that on at least four occasions Mr Trump raised the matter of unverified claims that he watched prostitutes urinate in a hotel suite during a 2013 Moscow trip.

      The allegations surfaced in a raw intelligence dossier compiled by a former British spy who had been hired by Mr Trump’s political enemies to dig up dirt on him.

      Mr Comey says Mr Trump angrily denied the claims and asked him to have the FBI disprove them because they were “terrible” for his wife, Melania Trump.

      He writes that he first broached the matter at a Trump Tower meeting in January 2017 shortly before the president’s inauguration.

      In an interview with ABC News to promote the book, Mr Comey said: “He interrupted very defensively and started talking about it, you know, ‘Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?’

      “And I assumed he was asking that rhetorically, I didn’t answer that, and I just moved on and explained, ‘Sir, I’m not saying that we credit this, I’m not saying we believe it. We just thought it very important that you know.'”

      Mr Comey added: “I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It’s possible, but I don’t know.”

      This time it’s personal

      Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

      Ten months after his blockbuster Senate testimony, James Comey is back in the public spotlight. This time, it seems, it’s personal.

      There are few new earth-shattering revelations unearthed in Mr Comey’s tome so far, but the former FBI director does shed new light and share new details on the prominent episodes he had extensively discussed last June. What’s changed is the attitude Mr Comey takes when discussing the president.

      His book practically drips with disdain for the man in the Oval Office – his personality, his priorities and his overall demeanour. Even without the Russia investigation, it seems highly unlikely these two men would have gotten along.

      Now that book excerpts are being shared far and wide, attention turns to the upcoming spate of interviews Mr Comey will undertake in the coming weeks. With his written words, he’s had a chance to give his unchallenged account.

      But what about the things he doesn’t want to talk about? Allegations of FBI bias, charges – amplified by Mr Trump – that he’s a leaker and a grandstander? Questions about his handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server and the early days of the Trump inquiry?

      There may be real bombshells out there, waiting to emerge.

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        Trump’s ‘deep insecurity’

        Mr Comey notes that he never saw the president laugh, which he said was a sign of Mr Trump’s “deep insecurity, his inability to be vulnerable or to risk himself by appreciating the humour of others, which, on reflection, is really very sad in a leader, and a little scary in a president”.

        He concludes that the president “is unethical, untethered to truth and institutional values”, while his leadership is “transactional, ego driven”.

        Attorney general ‘overwhelmed’

        Mr Comey says Attorney General Jeff Sessions was of little help to him during an Oval Office meeting in February 2017 when Mr Trump allegedly asked Mr Comey to speak privately with him.

        The former FBI director has previously alleged that Mr Trump urged him to drop the investigation into national security adviser Michael Flynn, who lost his job after lying about meetings with the Russian ambassador.

        Mr Comey says he afterwards confronted Mr Sessions about why he had agreed to leave, saying: “You can’t be kicked out of the room so he can talk to me alone.

        “You have to be between me and the president.”

        But Mr Comey says Mr Sessions seemed “both overwhelmed and overmatched by the job”.

        He “cast his eyes down at the table, and they darted quickly back and forth, side to side.

        “He said nothing. I read in his posture and face a message that he would not be able to help me.”

        Obama almost made Comey cry

        Mr Comey was excoriated by Democrats for reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, a decision she partly blames for her shock loss in the 2016 election.

        But the FBI director says he was almost moved to tears in the aftermath of the vote by a private assurance from President Obama about his handling of the Clinton inquiry.

        Mr Comey writes that the Democratic president told him in a White House meeting: “I picked you to be FBI director because of your integrity and your ability.

        “I want you to know that nothing – nothing – has happened in the last year to change my view.”

        The FBI director says he nearly wept as he told Mr Obama: “Boy, were those words I needed to hear. I’m just trying to do the right thing.”

        “I know,” Mr Obama said, according to Mr Comey’s book. “I know.”

        Trump’s hair and hands

        Mr Comey, who is 6ft 8in, says that when he first met the 6ft 3in president-elect he appeared shorter than he did on TV.

        “His face appeared slightly orange,” Mr Comey reportedly writes, “with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coifed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his.

        “As he extended his hand, I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.”

Federal Flight Deck Officers: The airline pilots trained to shoot hijackers

Thousands of US airline pilots carry guns in the cockpit. Why do they do it – and how are they trained?

Every year, hundreds of American pilots head to Artesia, New Mexico, to learn new skills.

The training lasts 56 hours, spread across five days. Up to 48 people are in each class.

They are normal pilots, working for normal airlines: Delta, for example, or United, or Southwest.

But they’re not learning about new planes, or new rules. They’re learning how to shoot hijackers.

Seventeen years ago, in the space of 74 minutes, four American planes were hijacked. The date was 11 September 2001.

A year later, the Arming Pilots Against Terrorism Act was passed, allowing US pilots – working for US airlines – to carry guns in the cockpit.

The first class of Federal Flight Deck Officers, as the gun-carrying pilots are known, graduated in April 2003. Classes have run ever since.

Despite that, the programme isn’t widely-known. Last month, when talking about teachers having guns, President Trump said “a lot of people don’t understand” that some pilots are armed.

So what are the chances of your pilot packing heat?

The US government does not reveal how many pilots are armed, only saying “thousands” have been trained. The names of those involved are kept secret.

The BBC spoke to one American pilot who estimates around one in 10 of the United States’ 125,000 commercial pilots is armed. “Maybe less,” he says.

The programme is voluntary. Training is free – as is the gun – but armed pilots aren’t paid extra. Most people in Artesia take annual leave to be there.

“I’ve met hundreds of them,” says Eric Sarandrea, deputy director of the Federal Air Marshal Service, which oversees the programme. “The first words out of my mouth are ‘thank you’.”

Sarandrea – who was working across the street from the World Trade Center on 9/11 – says the majority of FFDOs are, like him, ex-military (he spent four years as a US army paratrooper).

“They are patriots,” he says. “They’re concerned about the safety and security of their passengers. They really take it to heart.”

Training begins in the classroom, before moving to a shooting range. Students learn to shoot from seating and standing positions, and prepare for hijackers trying to steal their gun.

The pilots are trained not to be drawn out of the cockpit – “They want that door bolted shut, get the aircraft on the ground,” says Sarandrea – and they also learn the rules on storing the guns.

Inside the cockpit, pilots carry the guns in a hip holster. Outside, they must be transported in locked boxes.

“Their [the pilots’] authority lies within the flight deck,” says the deputy director. “They can’t be walking around to the stores or the malls with the firearm on their person.”

Armed pilots must be in it for the long haul. After graduating in New Mexico, the FFDOs have training every six months. And, every five years, there’s a two-day refresher.

All this, and not an extra cent in their wages.

“There’s not much we can do for them apart from say ‘thank you’,” says Sarandrea. “We send them a certificate of appreciation every five years. When they retire, we give them a memento.”

A US plane has not been hijacked since 9/11, so an FFDO has never used their weapon deliberately. (In 2008, a pilot shot a hole in the cockpit while trying to stow his gun).

But globally, there have been 55 plane hijackings since 2001.

In the US, some high-risk flights – those going to risky places, or carrying passengers on watch-lists – have armed air marshals. The marshals, who have at least four months’ initial training, stay in the cabin.

The armed pilots are another layer of protection, and a cheaper one. In 2013, the pilots’ union Alpa said it cost the government $17 to put an FFDO on a flight – compared to $3,000 (£2,100) for a marshal.

Sarandrea says both air marshals, and armed pilots, are an important deterrent for terrorists who dream of another 9/11.

“I stay in touch with counterparts around the world, and we believe there’s a cycle to it,” he says. “With Isil, and Al-Qaeda, there’s a fixation on aviation. For me – and it’s a personal opinion – it’s the crown jewel [for terrorists].

“Get on board an aircraft, take control of it, you’ll be the number one terrorist organisation in the world.”

No other countries arm their pilots, as far as Sarandrea knows, and some countries don’t accept armed pilots on their territory. But most do.

“If you want to be on the visa waiver programme [allowing easier access to the US] you need an air marshal agreement in place,” he says. “For the most part, we don’t have a challenge.”

But what about passengers who object? People who don’t want guns in the cockpit? Travellers who worry about an armed pilot with mental health problems, or worse?

“The TSA [the government agency] is very strong on perpetual vetting,” says Sarandrea.

“Anyone with access to aviation or transportation, there’s continual vetting that goes on. And we don’t just work closely with the FFDOs – we also talk to the airline.

“So if an airline says ‘Hey, we have a challenge with this employee,’ they know who their FFDOs are, so they will contact us.

“If there’s a concern, we pull them out of the air, and we take their equipment. We do that very quickly – no matter where they are in the world.”

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    The pilots’ unions support the programme – the main one, Alpa, wants the government to increase funding from around $20m to $25m a year – and the courses are over-subscribed.

    Bill Cason has been a pilot for more than 20 years, and is president of the Federal Flight Deck Officers Association – although, because of the programme’s rules, cannot say whether he is an FFDO himself.

    Cason says the volunteer officers represent “what is best in our national character”. The training is rigorous, Cason says, in order “to deter, and ultimately defeat, another 9/11 style attack against the flying public and our precious cargo”.

    And that 74-minute period, on a September day 17 years ago, will not be forgotten soon.

    “It’s still something that’s in the back of the pilots’ mind,” says Sarandrea. “They think ‘I might have to be concerned with this’. And you never know.”

Remington: Oldest US gunmaker files for bankruptcy

The oldest gun manufacturer in the US, Remington Outdoor, has filed for bankruptcy in the wake of slumping sales.

The firm, founded more than 200 years ago, filed for bankruptcy protection to cut a deal with its creditors.

Remington’s chief financial officer said the company’s sales dropped significantly in the year before its bankruptcy, court papers show.

The filing comes amid fresh demands for greater gun control in the US.

A shooting at a Florida high school in February has revived the debate on gun control, and on Saturday hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of US cities.

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    Some US retailers have raised the age limit for certain firearms purchases to 21 or stopped stocking semi-automatic weapons.

    The FBI processed a record number of background checks on gun purchases during the election year in 2016, but the rate of background checks plunged following Mr Trump’s election.

    Analysts say more Americans were buying guns two years ago because they feared a possible Hillary Clinton presidency could usher in gun control policies.

    It is thought that gun sales slowed after Mr Trump took office because firearms enthusiasts generally do not fear a Republican president will try to deprive them of their constitutional right to bear arms.

    Remington, best known for its rifles and shotguns, was founded in 1816.

    After it emerged a Remington rifle was used in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, victims’ family members filed a lawsuit against the gunmaker.

    In court papers filed in Delaware, Remington’s chief financial officer, Stephen Jackson, said the company was having difficulty meeting requirements from its lenders as a result of declining sales.

    During the bankruptcy process, the company will stay in business.

    In most US Chapter 11 bankruptcy processes, the debtor proposes a reorganisation plan to maintain its business and pay creditors over a period of time.

Spy poisoning: Russian diplomats expelled across US and Europe

The United States and its European allies are expelling dozens of Russian diplomats in a co-ordinated response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK.

US President Donald Trump has ordered 60 Russian diplomats to leave the country.

Germany, France, Ukraine, Canada and various European countries have also expelled envoys.

Russia called the moves a “provocative gesture” and vowed to retaliate.

Russia denies any role in the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, southern England. The pair remain in a critical but stable condition in hospital.

The US action is also the biggest move against Russia since the Cold War era and the hostilities with the then Soviet Union.

The Russian foreign ministry said the moves demonstrated a continuation of a “confrontational path”.

“It goes without saying that this unfriendly act by this group of countries will not go without notice and we will react to it,” its statement said.

Who is expelling diplomats?

The UK announced it was expelling 23 Russian diplomats earlier this month.

Various countries announced they were making the same move in solidarity on Monday. These are:

  • US: 60 diplomats
  • EU countries: France (4); Germany (4); Poland (4); Czech Republic (3); Lithuania (3); Denmark (2); Netherlands (2); Italy (2); Estonia (1); Croatia (1); Finland (1); Latvia (1); Romania (1)
  • Ukraine: 13
  • Canada: 4

    Why are they doing it?

    President of the European Council Donald Tusk said 14 EU states had decided to expel Russian diplomats as a direct result of a meeting, held last week, about the Salisbury poisoning.

    “Additional measures, including further expulsions within this common EU framework are not to be excluded in the coming days and weeks,” he said.

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      The US state department said in a statement: “On March 4, Russia used a military-grade nerve agent to attempt to murder a British citizen and his daughter in Salisbury.

      “This attack on our Ally the United Kingdom put countless innocent lives at risk and resulted in serious injury to three people, including a police officer.”

      It called the attack an “outrageous violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and breach of international law”.

      The US is expelling 48 envoys at the Russian embassy in Washington and 12 more at the UN in New York. It will also order the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle.

      Remarkable show of solidarity

      By Jonathan Marcus, BBC diplomatic correspondent

      This is building into the most serious diplomatic crisis between Russia and the West since Moscow’s seizure of Crimea.

      Whatever the denials, Britain’s allies have clearly accepted its view that the use of a military grade nerve agent in Salisbury was “highly likely” the work of the Russian state.

      The collective expulsions from the US and 14 EU member states is a remarkable show of solidarity with Britain, even more so because it comes at a time when UK-EU relations are strained due to the Brexit negotiations.

      Donald Tusk’s note that there could be “additional measures” is a signal to Moscow as it considers how it will respond.

      It is a significant diplomatic victory for Prime Minister Theresa May – concerted action has now followed the strong rhetorical support from its allies. It also marks a significant toughening of the Trump administration’s stance towards Moscow.

Stormy Daniels ‘told to leave Trump alone’ over affair claims

An adult film actress has said she was threatened to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump in 2006.

Stormy Daniels told CBS News’ 60 Minutes programme that a man approached her in a Las Vegas car park in 2011.

The stranger allegedly said “leave Trump alone”, then looked at her young daughter and added: “It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”

Mr Trump denies having had an affair with the actress.

His lawyers are seeking $20m (£14m) in damages from her, saying she broke a non-disclosure deal signed before the 2016 presidential election.

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    What exactly did Stormy Daniels say?

    In the highly anticipated interview, which aired on Sunday evening, Stormy Daniels said she was approached by the man in the car park in 2011 after having agreed to sell her story to a magazine.

    But the magazine did not publish the story after legal threats from Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, 60 Minutes reported, citing former employees. The interview was finally published in InTouch magazine earlier this year.

    “I was in a parking lot, going to a fitness class with my infant daughter,” she said.

    “A guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story’. And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom’. And then he was gone.”

    President Trump has not directly responded to the interview but tweeted on Monday about “fake news”.

    After the programme aired, a lawyer representing Mr Cohen said he had nothing to do with the alleged threat, accused the actress and her lawyer of defaming him and demanded a public apology.

    Skip Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump

    So much Fake News. Never been more voluminous or more inaccurate. But through it all, our country is doing great!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2018

    Report

    End of Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump

    What is alleged to have happened in 2006?

    Stormy Daniels told CBS that her only sexual encounter with Mr Trump took place after he invited her to dinner in his hotel suite.

    She said he had shown her a magazine with his picture on the cover and she had jokingly smacked his bottom with it.

    “He turned around and pulled his pants down a little, you know [he] had underwear on and stuff, and I just gave him a couple swats,” she said.

    After they talked for a while, Mr Trump allegedly told her, “You remind me of my daughter”. Stormy Daniels was 27 at the time.

    “You know – he was like, ‘You’re smart and beautiful, and a woman to be reckoned with, and I like you. I like you,” she said.

    • Read the full transcript

      She said that although she had not been attracted to Mr Trump, she had had unprotected sex with him, adding: “I didn’t say no. I’m not a victim.”

      Mr Trump, she added, had suggested she might appear in his TV game show, The Apprentice, and she thought of the encounter “as a business deal”.

      Stormy Daniels’ lawyer has suggested they have evidence of the affair but when asked if any videos, text messages, emails or pictures exist, she said: “I can’t answer that right now.”

      What about the money?

      Stormy Daniels told CBS she later accepted $130,000 in “hush money” from Mr Cohen just before the 2016 election because she was concerned for the safety of her family.

      Mr Cohen confirmed in February he had privately paid her the money but did not say what it was for. Mr Trump’s critics have suggested the money might amount to an illicit campaign contribution.

      Mr Cohen said last month that neither the Trump campaign nor the Trump Organization were parties to the transaction.

      Stormy Daniels told 60 Minutes she was risking a million-dollar fine by breaking the agreement and speaking out on national television “because it was very important to me to be able to defend myself”.

      Why does this matter?

      Given Mr Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct, infidelity and infamously boasted about grabbing women’s genitals, there have been questions asked about why this particular scandal matters, when it involves what Ms Daniels says was consensual sex.

      But Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told the BBC his client’s case was different to others’ because of “acts of intimidation and the tactics that have been used to silence my client”.

      • ‘Mere allegations’ wrecking lives – Trump

        “I think that is very problematic and it should be very disturbing to not only the American people but anyone in western civilisation,” he added.

        “That is not how people in power should conduct themselves.” It is also believed that Mr Trump could be called to testify in depositions if Stormy Daniels’ court case proceeds.

        Who else is accusing Mr Trump?

        Stormy Daniels is one of three women who have taken legal action that could damage Mr Trump.

        Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claims she had an affair with Mr Trump between 2006 and 2007, has filed a lawsuit to invalidate a confidentiality agreement with tabloid newspaper the National Enquirer.

        She says she was paid for her story but the newspaper – published by a company run by a friend of President Trump – never ran it.

        Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, accuses Mr Trump of sexually assaulting her at a Beverly Hills hotel in 2007.

        Ms Zervos says that he groped her and “began thrusting his genitals” during a meeting to discuss employment opportunities.

        While president-elect, Mr Trump dismissed the allegations against him and said that Ms Zervos and other accusers were “sick” and driven by fame, money or politics.

        Ms Zervos filed a defamation law suit against Mr Trump in January 2017, but his lawyers argued that as the president he could not be sued.

        A judge in New York has now overturned that decision.

March For Our Lives: Six key takeaways from the US gun control rallies

It was the biggest gun control protest in a generation. Hundreds of rallies were staged across the US and beyond as marchers filled the streets calling for the implementation of tighter measures following the deadly mass shooting at a Florida school in February.

That incident not only ignited the #NeverAgain movement, but also Saturday’s mass demonstrations, which took place under the banner of March For Our Lives and were led by a rally in Washington DC attended by some 200,000 demonstrators, according to CBS News.

With events not just in the US but as far afield as London, Paris, Mauritius, Tokyo, Stockholm, Sydney, Geneva and Berlin, the day was made up of powerful messages delivered by articulate students and children, most of whom have already in some way experienced gun violence.

  • In pictures: Marches across the US and worldwide

    Here are six key moments from some of the biggest US rallies since the Vietnam War era.

    1. Survivor shows the power of silence

    One of the most emotionally charged moments came when Emma Gonzalez, one of the student survivors of the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, took to the podium in Washington DC.

    Others present at the march in DC included the actor George Clooney, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, director Steven Spielberg, author Stephen King, TV host Ellen DeGeneres, late-night show host Jimmy Fallon and singer Cher.

    Skip Twitter post by @TheEllenShow

    Watching everyone marching and speaking up is so inspiring, and so powerful. Keep going. You're changing the world. #MarchForOurLives

    — Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 24, 2018

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    6. Signs that grabbed attention

    Signs carried by protesters included strong messages criticising lawmakers who oppose tougher laws, with many also attacking the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful US gun lobby.

    Skip Twitter post by @feministabulous

    #MarchForOurLives pic.twitter.com/nkmzIslZgD

    — Liz Plank (@feministabulous) March 24, 2018

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    Others included powerful statements that highlighted the need for a rethink on current gun control laws and the sort of devastation that certain types of automatic weapons can inflict.

    Skip Twitter post by @PCC_Car

    #MarchForOurLives Philly One of many signs here. pic.twitter.com/5V9v60KY32

    — Robert Rosenthal (@PCC_Car) March 24, 2018

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    There were also signs that carried humour and impact in equal measure.