Sisters of two of the alleged Sri Lanka suicide bombers revealed Thursday that their siblings – who have been described by officials as “well-educated people” — became increasingly distant and “totally crazy” in the years leading up to the coordinated Easter Sunday massacre.
Their comments come as reports emerged that one of the bombers was let go by police after being arrested earlier at some point.
“He told male relatives off for trimming their beards and became angry and totally crazy,” Samsul Hidaya, who identified herself as the sister of suspected bomber Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed, told the Daily Mail. “So I just stopped speaking to him because it got to the point where it was getting out of hand.”
In an interview published Thursday, Hidaya confirmed reports that her brother – who was in his late 20s — studied abroad in the U.K. and Australia before returning to Sri Lanka. But she says after coming home from Down Under, he was “a different man”.
“I had many arguments with him,” she said. “At first he started quoting scripture and I would say ‘OK, you’re right.’”
“But then the conversation got deeper and deeper into religion and I couldn’t follow what he was saying any longer,” she added.
Mohammad Hashim Madaniya, who identified herself as the sister of radical Islamic cleric Zahran Hashim (alternately known as Mohammed Zahran) – told the BBC a similar story.
Her brother has been mentioned in media reports as being one of the suicide bombers and possibly the mastermind of the attacks. Hashim also purportedly has appeared in ISIS-affiliated propaganda claiming responsibility for the bombings, which have left 359 dead and hundreds more wounded.
But before Hashim’s descent into radicalism — as evident by the hate-filled online sermons he posted on YouTube – he broke off contact with his sister
“We had a very good relationship during our childhood. He was very friendly with everyone in the neighborhood,” Madaniya told the BBC. “But for the last two years, he has not been in contact with us.”
Madaniya says she learned about her brother’s alleged involvement in the bombings through the media.
“I never thought, even for a moment, that he would do such a thing,” she said. “I strongly deplore what he has done. Even if he is my brother, I cannot accept this. I don’t care about him anymore.”
Madaniya says Hashim went off the grid after Sri Lankan police tried to arrest him years ago for allegedly stoking violence between Muslim groups. She also claimed her elderly parents left their home in Sri Lanka days before the bombings and have not been heard from since.
“It makes me think that my brother could have kept in touch with them,” she said.
Police reportedly though have tracked down the father of two sons suspected of blowing themselves up in the attacks.
Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim, a wealthy spice trader in Colombo – the city where many of the bombings happened – is in custody over suspicions that he helped his sons, according to CNN.
A government spokesperson also told the network that one of the sons, Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim, had been arrested before and then released. He is suspected of targeting a hotel.
“It was the suicide bomber of the Cinnamon Grand bomb attack who was released earlier,” Sudarshana Gunawardana said, without elaborating.
As of Thursday, 58 people have been arrested and police are still setting off controlled detonations of suspicious items as they continue to investigate the attacks.
Source: Fox News World
Slovakia’s first female president-elect is an unapologetic liberal who will soon take power in a region increasingly consumed by right-wing populism and anti-European Union sentiment.
Last month, Zuzana Caputova, an accomplished lawyer with no previous political experience, secured 58 percent of the vote in a second round run-off against European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic. She will assume office on June 15, becoming the first woman to hold the presidency, as well as the youngest at 45. Although Slovakia’s president is mostly ceremonial and political power rests with the prime minister, they do have the power to appoint judges and act as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Prior to her electoral victory, Caputova was an activist and anti-corruption lawyer who was well known for fighting against a landfill site in her hometown of Pezinok for more than 10 years.
In a combative presidential election, Caputova campaigned on fighting corruption and restoring civility in Slovak politics, refusing to engage her opponents in political smears, preferring to stay above the fray and focused on the issues she believed most affected voters.
One of the biggest issues facing Slovaks is deeply entrenched public corruption, especially in light of the February 2018 assassination of Jan Kuciak, a journalist who was reporting on graft and links to organized crime at the highest levels of power. The murder prompted mass protests against the government and led to the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico.
The Kuciak murder inspired Caputova to run on a platform of transparency and tackling powerful corrupt elites.
Also top of her agenda is promoting progressive values, which are currently under assault from conservative nationalists in Eastern Europe.
Caputova defends LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, women’s equality, and supports same-sex unions in a country where same-sex marriage is still illegal.
She has positioned herself as a positive voice while also capitalizing on the anti-establishment mood that is prevalent across the democratic world.
“Caputova’s election happened at a time when voters across Europe are protesting their traditional leaders and supporting political newcomers. Some of them are right-wing and nationalist, which makes them ideologically different from Caputova, but Caputova shares with them the anti-establishment element,” Adriano Bosoni, Senior Europe Analyst at Stratfor, told Fox News.
Even the ruling center-left Smer party has drifted rightward in recent years and has tried to increase its electoral base by appealing to Christian voters.
Caputova’s win is even more shocking given the strong tide of right-wing populism and nationalism that has dominated European politics over the last several years, particularly in Eastern Europe following the 2015-2016 refugee crisis.
The likes of Viktor Orban in Hungary and other leaders around Central Europe have exploited the migrant crisis and stoked anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment to stir up their base of support. Caputova, meanwhile, is unafraid of defending her liberal views and represented a sober and rationally based perspective on public policy matters.
Populists championing conservative values such as Orban’s Fidesz Party and Poland under the Law and Justice Party have experienced significant democratic backsliding, with nationalist leaders undermining the rule of law, independent media and civil society organizations, and assaulting the judiciary, while railing against Brussels and E.U. institutions.
Attacks against the E.U. and west have become commonplace for extremist forces that have risen in Eastern Europe. Caputova, on the other hand, has made it clear she supports the E.U., NATO, and western values and considers Slovakia an integral component of the rules-based international order.
Although anti-E.U. parties espousing similar xenophobic and anti-institutionalist rhetoric are expected to win in the upcoming E.U. elections in May, Caputova’s surprise victory is proof that far-right populism based on fear and hate does not have to be the paradigm in Eastern Europe.
“The notable thing about Caputova’s victory is that it shows that moderate candidates can win an election, and that voters will not always turn to far-right or anti-immigration candidates to show their dissatisfaction with the mainstream political parties,” Bosoni said.
Source: Fox News World
Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker’s tax returns show most of his wealth stems from lucrative speaking engagements and royalties.
Booker, the 2020 candidate who has yet to make a splash in the crowded Democratic field, released 10 years of tax returns on Wednesday after numerous other candidates released their records in recent weeks.
The New Jersey senator reported income of $152,715 in 2018 for his salary, $22,781 in taxes which amounts to an effective tax rate of 15 percent, significantly lower than Sen. Kamala Harris’ 37 percent or Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 26 percent.
Most of Booker’s wealth comes public speaking fees and royalties, including $2 million in speaking fees between 2009 and 2014, nearly $1 million in royalties from 2015 to 2017 after the release of his book, “United.”
But the lower effective tax rate may have something to with Booker’s sizeable charitable donations. In 2018, he donated $24,000 to charity. In total over the 10-year period, the senator donated nearly $460,000 to various organizations and causes.
This appears to be significantly more in proportion than his opponents like Sanders or former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who faced questions over his household giving to charity just $1,166 in 2017, or about 0.3 percent of their income that year.
At the same time, more than half of those donations made by Booker came in 2013 amid criticism of his role in the founding of a social media company called Waywire, prompting him to give massive amounts of stock to charities in his city.
The New York Times revealed that Booker’s wealth at the time – $5 million – consisted mostly of shares in the company.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff has been slammed after saying prisoners are “most affected by unjust laws” while endorsing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ idea to allow convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and other violent criminals to vote in elections.
“What’s the reason NOT to let incarcerated people vote? Shouldn’t the people most affected by unjust laws have some say in electing people to change them?” Saikat Chakrabarti said on Wednesday.
His comment came in the wake of Sanders’ eyebrow-raising admission earlier this week that he believes felons, including terrorists and those convicted of sexual assault, should have a right to vote.
The comments by the chief of staff of Ocasio-Cortez drew an immediate backlash for the use of words “unjust,” many questioning whether he suggests terrorists or other violent criminals were actual victims.
“Who knew the law against putting a bomb by an 8 year-old (sic) and blowing people up was unjust?” tweeted NRA spokesperson Dana Dana Loesch.
“Yes, because the ONLY people in prison on felony sentences are the victims of unjust laws,” tweeted journalist Nate Madden. “You know, like the ones against rape, murder, kidnapping and terrorism.”
A few hours later, Chakrabarti doubled down in another tweet, this time naming an example of “unjust” laws, yet dismissing the significance of giving voting rights to the Boston marathon bomber.
“Marijuana possession is one law I consider unjust affecting thousands. Are you seriously arguing that one vote from the Boston bomber would be enough to change our terrorism laws?” he asked.
The tweet was ridiculed again for being flippant about terrorists or other violent offenders being given a right to participate in elections.
“‘One vote from the Boston bomber.’ Hard to believe this debate is happening, but it’s only going to get crazier,” National Review editor Rich Lowry tweeted.
“‘We should let convicted terrorists vote because their vote likely won’t matter anyways!’ is certainly a take,” seconded another Twitter user.
During a CNN town hall on Monday night, a Harvard student asked Sanders, the leading 2020 candidate, if his position on expanding voting rights to felons in prison would support “enfranchising people” like the Boston Marathon bomber as well as those “convicted of sexual assault,” whose votes could have a “direct impact on women’s rights.”
The Vermont senator argued that the Constitution says “everybody can vote” and went on to declare that “the right to vote is inherent to our democracy. Yes, even for terrible people.”
Other Democratic candidates such as Sen. Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke somewhat toyed with the idea as well, with but drew a line at people who committed “extreme types of crimes.”
Source: Fox News Politics
President Trump on Thursday insisted he “never” told former White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, saying he could have done it himself, and had the “legal right to do so,” despite the special counsel’s report saying he instructed McGahn to have Mueller removed.
“As has been incorrectly reported by the Fake News Media, I never told then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, even though I had the legal right to do so. If I wanted to fire Mueller, I didn’t need McGahn to do it, I could have done it myself,” Trump tweeted early Thursday.
“Nevertheless, Mueller was NOT fired and was respectfully allowed to finish his work on what I, and many others, say was an illegal investigation (there was no crime), headed by a Trump hater who was highly conflicted, and a group of 18 VERY ANGRY Democrats. DRAIN THE SWAMP!” he continued.
The president’s tweets come following a battle between Capitol Hill and the White House related to McGahn’s testimony. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., subpoenaed McGahn to appear before his panel after he was featured prominently in Mueller’s report. The president has vowed to block that subpoena, and any others for current and former officials coming from Congress.
Mueller’s nearly 500-page report revealed that the special counsel did not find evidence of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia—a conclusion Trump has touted and repeated for days.
“No collusion, no obstruction,” Trump said on Wednesday.
But despite his comments, Mueller did not come to a conclusion on the matter of whether the president obstructed justice—rather, the report revealed an array of controversial actions and requests made by the president that were examined as part of Mueller’s obstruction inquiry.
McGahn’s interview with investigators factored prominently into this section, including a claim that McGahn disobeyed Trump’s call to have him seek Mueller’s removal.
“On June 17, 2017, the president called [White House Counsel Don] McGahn at home and directed him to call the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre,” the report stated, referencing the Watergate scandal.
The report also revealed that when the media reported of the president’s request for McGahn to have Mueller removed, the president directed White House officials “to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to have the special counsel removed.”
“McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening,” the report said.
The report went on to explain that two days after the initial request to McGahn, the president made another attempt to “affect the course of the Russia investigation.”
Nadler subpoenaed McGahn this week, but the White House has vowed to fight back against congressional Democrats issuing subpoenas for administration officials.
“The subpoena is ridiculous. … I have been the most transparent president and administration in the history of our country by far,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “We’re fighting all of the subpoenas…Look, these aren’t like, impartial people. They are Democrats trying to win in 2020.…They’re not going to win against me.”
He once again declared the probe found “no collusion and they also came up with no obstruction,” adding: “I thought after two years we’d be finished with it, no—now the House goes subpoenaing. They want to know every deal I’ve ever done.”
Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined that the evidence found in the investigation was “not sufficient” to establish an obstruction-of-justice charge. But Mueller’s report seemingly left the decision on obstruction up to Congress—intensifying their already existing investigations into the president.
Nadler slammed the administration in response to reports that they’d fight the McGahn subpoena.
“The Committee has served a valid subpoena to Mr. McGahn. We have asked him to supply documents to the Committee by May 7 and to testify here on May 21. Our request covers the subjects described by Mr. McGahn to the Special Counsel, and described by Special Counsel Mueller to the American public in his report. As such, the moment for the White House to assert some privilege to prevent this testimony from being heard has long since passed,” he said in a statement.
Nadler added: “I suspect that President Trump and his attorneys know this to be true as a matter of law—and that this evening’s reports, if accurate, represent one more act of obstruction by an Administration desperate to prevent the public from talking about the President’s behavior. The Committee’s subpoena stands.”
Source: Fox News Politics
“The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy, everything that has made America — America — is at stake. That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for president of the United States,” Biden announced in a tweet early Thursday.
Biden, 76, is the latest Democrat to enter the crowded race for the White House against President Trump. A former senator from Delaware, Biden has emerged as a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination — topping the polls alongside self-proclaimed Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Here are three things to know about the former vice president as his campaign journey begins.
He first bid for the presidency came over three decades ago
Biden’s announcement on Thursday marks the beginning of his third campaign for the White House.
As a 45-year-old senator from Delaware, Biden launched his first campaign in 1987 at the Wilmington train station. The first campaign didn’t last long, ending after it became public that he had plagiarized a speech from a British politician, according to the Delaware News Journal.
His second bid began in 2007, but he dropped out in 2008 after failing to gain enough support. Biden ultimately went on to serve as vice president for two terms under Barack Obama.
In 2016, there was much speculation that Biden would again announce a bid for president, but he decided against running for personal reasons. His son, Beau, had died in 2015 after battling brain cancer.
His choice of transportation is the Amtrak train
Aptly nicknamed “Amtrak Joe,” Biden had long been a fixture on the rail line between his home in Delaware and his office in Washington D.C.
Biden began taking the train home every night to care for his two sons after his wife and daughter died in a car accident in 1972, according to the Washington Post.
He carried on the Amtrak tradition throughout his decades-long Senate career. Biden’s affinity for the train gained national attention when he became Obama’s running mate in 2008.
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom
In January 2017, outgoing President Obama surprised Biden with the President Medal of Freedom in an emotional ceremony.
“To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretense, service without self-regard, and to live life fully,” Obama said.
Biden tearfully accepted the honor.
Source: Fox News Politics
The climate change activists who have disrupted transportation around London in recent weeks continued to their outlandish demonstrations by gluing themselves to the London Stock Exchange building on what is supposedly their “last day” of protests.
The group – who call themselves Extinction Rebellion – also climbed onto the roof of a train in Canary Wharf as part of the latest wave of protests on Thursday. They said the demonstrations targeted the financial section “to demand they tell the truth about the devastating impact the industry has on our planet.”
“The global financial industry is currently enabling climate and ecological destruction on an almost unimaginable level, and a considerable proportion of this money flows through London. ‘Business as usual,’ especially through the toxic finance system, will kill all life on this planet,” the group said in a statement.
The self-described “rebels” made headlines in recent weeks by snarling traffic and public transit in the British capital through a series of blockades. Members also stripped down to their underwear in the public gallery at the House of Commons earlier this month.
The demonstrations on Thursday – which began when two men and five women glued themselves to a wall and to each other at the London Stock Exchange at around 6:45 a.m. – come a day after the group said they were packing up and heading home.
“We will leave the physical locations and but a space for truth-telling has been opened up in the world,” Extinction Rebellion said in a statement. “We know we have disrupted your lives. We do not do this lightly. We only do this because this is an emergency.”
The group threatened more small “actions” across the financial district on Thursday including demonstrations outside banks like Goldman Sachs, the Bank of England and Deutsche Bank.
On Thursday, five other members climbed aboard a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train in Canary Wharf in London, holding signs saying “business as usual = death” and “don’t jail the canaries.”
British Transport Police officers used ropes, harnesses, and ladders to remove the demonstrators, which included an 83-year-old, Sky News reported. All five were arrested on suspicion of obstructing the railway.
One woman glued herself to the train.
“It’s bizarre we have to do this in order for governments to listen to scientists,” Diana Warner, 60, told Sky News.
More than 1,000 protesters have been arrested since the disruptive demonstrations began more than a week ago. Only about 70 are currently facing charges, the Associated Press reported.
At the height of the protests, London’s busy Waterloo Bridge was closed for days and rail travel was temporarily delayed after demonstrators glued themselves to the sides of train cars.
Among those supporting the protesters was Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, who flew from Los Angeles to London to join in on the demonstrations last week.
Speaking to a crowd in Oxford Circus, Thompson, according to the Associated Press, remarked that “it makes me so happy to be able to join you all and to add my voice to the young people here who have inspired a whole new movement.”
Then, while in conversation with reporters, she admitted that “unfortunately sometimes I have to fly but I don’t fly nearly as much as I did, because of my carbon footprint and I plant a lot of trees.”
Fox News’ Greg Norman contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News World
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie struck back at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Wednesday, calling her accusations that the Trump administration wants to privatize the VA “nonsense.”
“I won’t be rude to the congresswoman and say that it is nonsense, but I will say it’s nonsense,” Wilkie said on “Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream.”
“If we are privatizing VA, we are going about it in a very strange way,” Wilkie said. “I presented to the Congress a $220 billion budget, the largest budget in the history of the department. We are undergoing basic reforms to make the VA a modern, 21st-century health care administration. But what we are doing is opening the aperture on choice, so that our veterans remain at the center their own health care, and if VA can provide what they need, we will give them the opportunity to go out into the private sector.”
Ocasio-Cortez claimed during a New York town hall event last week that the VA “isn’t broken” despite the scandals that have plagued the agency over the last decade and claimed the Trump administration aimed to “privatize” health care for veterans.
“That is the opening approach we have seen when it comes to privatization, it’s the idea that this thing that isn’t broken, this thing that provides some of the highest quality care to our veterans somehow needs to be fixed, optimized, tinkered with until we don’t even recognize it anymore,” Ocasio-Cortez said, in comments first reported by the Washington Examiner.
“They are trying to fix the VA for pharmaceutical companies, they are trying to fix the VA for insurance corporations, and, ultimately they are trying to fix the VA for a for-profit health care industry that does not put people or veterans first,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“And so we have a responsibility to protect it.”
The congresswoman’s comments were aimed at Trump administration efforts to expand choice and private health care options in the VA health care system.
President Trump reacted to the congresswoman’s comments by taking credit for turning around the VA.
“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is correct, the VA is not broken, it is doing great. But that is only because of the Trump Administration. We got Veterans Choice & Accountability passed,” Trump tweeted.
Wilkie defended the Trump administration and supported the president’s response on Twitter.
“The other part of our comments or they were answered by the president, who said that under this administration, the VA isn’t broken. The scandals that she referred to happened in another administration,” Wilkie said.
“I can say, as someone who’s been accused of being a historian, no president in the post-World War II era has put the veterans at the center of his campaign and administration until President Trump did it. We are seeing this in the way the VA’s moving forward.”
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
Joseph Konopa was outside the Grande Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation nursing home in the Cleveland suburb of Oakwood Village on April 17 when he caught fire, Fox News affiliate WJW-TV reported.
A motorist noticed Konopa’s wheelchair up in flames and called the police.
“I arrived and noticed there was a wheelchair that was smoldering in front of the building with a male laying on the ground, face down,” Oakwood police Det. Ed Thyret told the news station.
He said Konopa wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse. He administered CPR until the fire department arrived. Konopa was taken to a nearby hospital where he later died from his injuries.
Embassy HealthCare, which manages the nursing home, said in a statement to WEWS-TV it’s “unable to discuss specific resident information” due to privacy concerns and that it “is cooperating fully with state and local governing bodies on this investigation”
Source: Fox News National
President Trump on Wednesday said Democrats have largely given up on the Southeast and are deliberately stalling relief efforts for farmers and other residents who were affected by Hurricane Michael in October.
“The Democrats don’t care about Georgia. They don’t care about Alabama,” Trump said during a brief appearance at an opioid abuse summit in Atlanta. “They don’t care about numerous other states.”
Georgia lawmakers have proposed a $14 billion relief package for victims of Hurricane Michael, which also devastated the Florida Panhandle in October. But efforts to put legislation forward have stalled in Washington amid infighting.
Democrats, in turn, have accused Trump of neglecting Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory that was devastated by a pair of hurricanes in late 2017, in favor of Georgia.
“Pitting Americans in Georgia against Americans in Puerto Rico is fundamentally wrong and wholly unnecessary,” said former Georgia House Minority Leader and Senate candidate Stacey Abrams. “Georgia families and farmers deserve better leadership, and they deserve real relief now.”
“It continues to be beyond me, when we have over a dozen states affected by this storm, we cannot get this done,” Kemp, a Republican, said. “Our folks in South Georgia feel like we’ve forgotten them. I can assure them we have not.”
Trump called Democrats’ inability to pass disaster relief aid a “terrible thing,” but expressed confidence that “we’re going to get it done, and a lot of that money goes to farmers, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics