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Wagner Group Leader Killed in Plane Crash Near Moscow

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Yevgeny Prigozhin, the mercenary Wagner Group leader who led a brief armed insurrection against the Russian military earlier this year, was thought dead Wednesday after a plane crash north of Moscow that killed all ten people on board.

According to Russia’s civil aviation bureau, which cited the airline, Prigozhin was on board. The crash immediately raised eyebrows because the fate of the founder of the Wagner private military organisation has been the subject of great curiosity since he led the mutiny.

President Vladimir Putin called the uprising “treason” and a “stab in the back” at the time, vowing to avenge it. However, the allegations against Prigozhin were quickly dismissed. The Wagner commander, whose troops were among Russia’s best fighting forces in Ukraine, was permitted to evacuate to Belarus while apparently appearing in Russia on occasion.

The incident also comes after Russian media reported that a prominent general associated with Prigozhin had been fired as commander of the air force.

According to sources reported by Russia’s state news agency Tass, a jet carrying three crew members and seven passengers on its way from Moscow to St. Petersburg crashed around 300 kilometres (185 miles) north of the city.

Rosaviatsia, Russia’s civilian aviation organisation, swiftly reported that he was on the manifest and later confirmed that, according to the airline, he was on board.

wagner group

Earlier, Vladimir Rogov, a Russia-appointed official in Ukraine’s partially seized Zaporizhzhia area, said he spoke with Wagner commanders, who confirmed the presence of Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin, whose call sign Wagner became the company’s moniker.

“I don’t know for sure what happened, but I’m not surprised,” stated US President Joe Biden.

Keir Giles, a Russia expert at the international affairs think tank Chatham House, had cautioned about Prigozhin’s death reports. According to him, “multiple individuals have changed their names to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, as part of his efforts to obfuscate his travels.”

According to flight tracking data examined by The Associated Press, Prigozhin’s previous private jet took off from Moscow on Wednesday evening and its transponder signal vanished minutes later.

The transmission abruptly terminated while the plane was at altitude and speed. A partial tail number matching a plane previously flown by Prigozhin could be detected in a photograph uploaded by a pro-Wagner social media account showing burning debris.

Grey Zone, a pro-Wagner Telegram channel, released videos of a plane falling like a stone from a massive cloud of smoke, twisting violently as it dropped. Such freefalls can occur when an aircraft experiences catastrophic damage, and a frame-by-frame AP examination of two films revealed evidence of a mid-flight explosion. According to the pictures, the plane was missing a wing.

A business plane flying from Moscow to St. Petersburg crashed on Wednesday, killing all ten people on board, according to Russian emergency officials. Officials said mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was on the passenger list, but it wasn’t immediately apparent if he was on board. (Aug. 23)

Wagner group

Russia’s Investigative Committee launched an investigation into the disaster on suspicion of breaking air safety regulations, as is customary when such inquiries are launched. According to Interfax, quoting emergency officials, all ten bodies have been recovered at the crash scene, and the search has been called off.

Even if confirmed, Prigozhin’s death is unlikely to have any impact on Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, where his men have fought some of the bloodiest fights in the last 18 months.

After seizing Bakhmut, a city in the eastern Donetsk region, in late May, his soldiers withdrew from the front lines. Bakhmut had been the site of some of the fiercest engagements of the war, with Russian soldiers trying for months to take it.

Following the revolt, Russian officials stated that his men could only return to Ukraine as part of the regular army.

Prigozhin produced his first recruitment video since the mutiny this week, stating Wagner is conducting reconnaissance and search operations and “making Russia even greater on all continents, and Africa even more free.”

This week, Russian media reported, citing unidentified sources, that Gen. Sergei Surovikin had been fired as chief of Russia’s air force. Surovikin, who oversaw Russia’s campaign in Ukraine at one point, hasn’t been seen in public since the mutiny, when he produced a video message asking Prigozhin’s soldiers to withdraw.

As the news of the accident spread, Putin spoke at a commemoration of the Battle of Kursk, praising the heroes of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

According to Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior scholar at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Centre, “no matter what caused the plane crash, everyone will see it as an act of vengeance and retribution” by the Kremlin, and “the Kremlin wouldn’t really stand in the way of that.”

“From Putin’s point of view, as well as the security forces and the military — Prigozhin’s death must be a lesson to any potential followers,” Stanovaya wrote on Telegram. After the mutiny, Prigozhin “ceased to be the authorities’ partner and could not, under any circumstances, regain that status,” she claims.

“He was also not forgiven,” Stanovaya stated. “Prigozhin was required for some time after the mutiny to painlessly complete Wagner’s deconstruction in Russia.” Overall, “Prigozhin was definitely a walking source of threats for the authorities, the embodiment of Putin’s political humiliation,” according to the article.

Stanovaya does not anticipate significant public outrage in the aftermath of Prigozhin’s death. Those who backed him will be “more scared than inspired to protest,” she says, while others will consider it as a “deserved outcome.”

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Supreme Court Restores Trump To Ballot, Rejecting State Attempts To Ban Him Over Capitol Attack

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Trump Facing 37 Felony Charges, Indictment Unsealed

Washington — On Monday, the Supreme Court overwhelmingly reinstated Donald Trump on the 2024 presidential primary ballot, rejecting state attempts to bar the Republican former President over the Capitol brawl.

The judges concluded a day before the Super Tuesday primaries that states cannot use a post-Civil War constitutional provision to exclude presidential candidates from appearing on ballots. That authority rests with Congress, the court wrote in an unsigned ruling.

On his social media network, Trump said shortly after the ruling was announced, “BIG WIN FOR AMERICA!!!”

The case constituted the court’s first direct ruling on a presidential election issue in a generation, dating back to Bush v. Gore in 2000. However, it is unlikely to be the last, as Trump is facing four distinct criminal charges and has another Supreme Court appearance scheduled for April.

The verdict puts a stop to efforts in Colorado, Illinois, Maine, and other states to remove Trump, the front-runner for his party’s nomination, from the ballot due to his plans to recoup his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, culminating in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold expressed dismay with the court’s judgment, noting that “Donald Trump is an eligible candidate in Colorado’s 2024 Presidential Primary.”

Trump’s case was the first before the Supreme Court to address a section of the 14th Amendment created after the Civil War to prohibit former officeholders who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office again.

Donald Trump is facing four criminal indictments and a civil suit. You can keep track of all the cases here.

Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled, in a first-of-its-kind decision, that the provision, Section 3, may be applied against Trump, whom the court said incited the Capitol attack. No court had before applied Section 3 to a presidential candidate.

In their judgments on Monday, the judges avoided the politically charged question of insurrection.

The court ruled that states can disqualify applicants for state office. “But States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the Presidency,” the court stated in its ruling.

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Supreme Court Restores Trump To Ballot, Rejecting State Attempts To Ban Him Over Capitol Attack

While all nine justices agreed that Trump should be on the ballot, the three liberal members of the court and conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett disagreed that their colleagues went too far in determining what Congress must do to disqualify someone from federal office.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson agreed that upholding the Colorado decision could result in a “chaotic state-by-state patchwork,” but disagreed with the majority’s conclusion that a disqualification for insurrection can only occur when Congress enacts legislation. “Today, the majority goes beyond the necessities of this case to limit how Section 3 can bar an oathbreaking insurrectionist from becoming President,” the three justices wrote in a unanimous judgment.

It is still being determined whether the verdict allows Congress to refuse to certify Trump’s or any other presidential candidate’s election if it believes they violated Section 3.

Derek Muller, a legal professor at the University of Notre Dame, said, “It appears no,” noting that the liberals objected to the majority opinion eliminating any other options for Congress to implement the rule. Rick Hasen, a legal professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, said that Congress’s boundaries could be clearer.

Hasen was among those who urged the court to resolve the issue so that Congress would not reject Trump under Section 3 when electoral votes are counted on January 6, 2025.

“We may well have a nasty, nasty post-election period in which Congress tries to disqualify Trump but the Supreme Court says Congress exceeded its powers,” he warned in an email.

Both sides had asked for quick action from the court, which heard arguments less than a month ago, on February 8. The justices were preparing to decide in Trump’s favour.

Trump had been removed from the ballots in Colorado, Maine, and Illinois, but all three verdicts were on hold until a Supreme Court decision.

trump

Supreme Court Restores Trump To Ballot, Rejecting State Attempts To Ban Him Over Capitol Attack

The lawsuit is the court’s most direct participation in a presidential election since Bush v. Gore, which effectively gave the 2000 election to Republican George W. Bush. And it’s just one of several cases involving Trump that could affect his chances of reelection, including a late April hearing on whether he can be criminally prosecuted on election interference charges, including his role in the January 6 Capitol attack. Trump has claimed ultimate protection from prosecution. The timing of the high court’s intervention has sparked speculation that Trump will be tried before the November election.

The hearings in February marked the first time the high court heard a case utilizing Section 3. The two-sentence rule, intended to prevent some Confederates from gaining office again, states that those who breach oaths to support the Constitution are forbidden from holding different posts, including congressional seats or acting as presidential electors. However, it makes no specific reference to the presidency.

Both conservative and liberal judges questioned the case against Trump. Their primary worry was whether Congress should intervene before states could invoke the 14th Amendment. There were also disputes over whether the provision covers the President.

The lawyers for Republican and independent voters who sued to remove Trump’s name from the Colorado ballot argued that there is ample evidence that the events of January 6 constituted an insurrection, which was incited by Trump, who had urged a crowd of his supporters at a rally outside the White House to “fight like hell.” They claimed it would be ludicrous to apply Section 3 to everything except the presidency or that Trump is somehow exempt. They contended that the provision does not require any enabling legislation.

Following the verdict, the President of the liberal-leaning organization that represented the voters cited the court’s silence on whether Trump incited the revolt. “They had the opportunity to exonerate Donald Trump, but they did not do so,” said Noah Bookbinder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

trump

Supreme Court Restores Trump To Ballot, Rejecting State Attempts To Ban Him Over Capitol Attack

Trump’s lawyers made various points on why the Amendment cannot be used to take him off the ballot. They claimed the January 6 disturbance was not an insurrection and that, even if it was, Trump did not go to the Capitol or join the rioters. They further stated that the Amendment’s text excludes the presidency and presidential contenders. They asserted that even if all of those reasons failed, Congress must approve legislation to resurrect Section 3.

The case was resolved by a court that included three Justices Trump chose as President. They have considered other Trump-related issues in recent years, rejecting his spurious accusations of fraud in the 2020 election and refusing to protect tax information from Congress and New York prosecutors.

The 5-4 judgment in Bush v. Gore, issued more than 23 years ago, was the last time the court became so involved in presidential politics. Only Justice Clarence Thomas remains on the bench from that time. Thomas has rebuffed requests from several Democratic senators to withdraw from the Trump lawsuit since his wife, Ginni, supported Trump’s effort to reverse the 2020 election results and attended the rally preceding Trump supporters’ assault of the Capitol.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Haiti Declares State Of Emergency After Mass Prison Escape

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Haiti’s government announced a state of emergency on Sunday after thousands of inmates reportedly escaped from the country’s largest jail during a spike of gang violence that has rocked the Caribbean nation for months.

According to a statement from Finance Minister Patrick Boisvert, who is acting prime minister, the government cited “deterioration of security,” particularly in the capital Port-au-Prince, and “increasingly violent criminal acts perpetrated by armed gangs,” including kidnappings and killings of citizens, violence against women and children, and looting.

haiti

Haiti Declares State Of Emergency After Mass Prison Escape

It also referenced Saturday’s attacks by armed groups on the country’s two major prisons, one in Port-au-Prince and one in Croix des Bouquets, which resulted in the escape of “dangerous prisoners” and the deaths and injuries of police and prison workers.

According to a United Nations source, some 3,500 detainees fled Haiti’s National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince over the weekend.

The source stated that there were 3,687 convicts in prison. The UN mission in Haiti monitors the country’s jailed population and the humanitarian conditions in its prisons.

According to Haitian lawyer Arnel Remy, who heads the Collective of Lawyers for the Defense of Human Rights in Haiti (CADDHO), 3,597 convicts escaped from the National Penitentiary. CNN cannot independently verify CADDHO’s data.

Remy claimed his team visited the prison on Sunday and told CNN that the remaining convicts are being sent to other facilities, and the prison is now vacant and encircled by police cars.

The Haitian Ministry of Communication claimed in a statement Sunday that police confronted “heavily armed criminals seeking at any cost to free people from custody” and were “unable to prevent the criminals from freeing a large number of prisoners.” The violence damaged multiple inmates and prison officials, according to the report.

On Friday, Haitian gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, popularly known as Barbecue, stated that he will continue to try to remove Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

“We urge the Haitian National Police and military to accept accountability and arrest Ariel Henry. Once again, the population is not our adversary, and armed groups are not your enemy. You capture Ariel Henry for the sake of the country’s liberation,” Cherizier stated, adding, “With these weapons, we will liberate the country and alter the country.”

Cherizier is a former police officer who now controls a gang alliance. The United Nations and the US Department of Treasury have sanctioned him.

Public dissatisfaction with Henry’s inability to quell the unrest reached a boiling point when he refused to resign last month, citing the rising violence.

According to an earlier agreement, he agreed to hold elections and relinquish authority by February 7.

haiti

Haiti Declares State Of Emergency After Mass Prison Escape

Caribbean leaders announced Wednesday that Henry has decided to hold general elections by August 31, 2025.

Earlier, in a post on X, one of Haiti’s police unions appealed for all officers in the capital to have access to automobiles and guns to support authorities in their efforts to keep control of the prison. It warned that if the attacks succeeded, “we’re done.” According to the statement, no one will be spared in the capital since there will be an additional 3,000 bandits.

Multiple security sources in Port-au-Prince told CNN that the most recent rise in violence, which began on Thursday and has targeted police stations, the international airport, and the prison, is unprecedented in recent memory.

The recent fighting occurred while Henry was visiting Kenya to discuss plans with Kenyan President William Ruto for the expected deployment of a multinational security support force to Haiti.

A Haitian law enforcement source told CNN that gangs have targeted various police stations throughout the city since Thursday, murdering at least four people and burning some of them down.

Meanwhile, a shooting near the airport on Thursday caused airlines to cancel flights.

The US Embassy in Haiti issued a security notice Friday, warning of gunfire and traffic interruptions between the domestic and international terminals, as well as other sites such as a hotel and the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police.

haiti

Haiti Declares State Of Emergency After Mass Prison Escape

In a statement sent Sunday, the embassy asked US people to leave the country due to violence and stated that it would operate on a restricted basis on Monday. The French Embassy in Haiti suspended visa and administration services on Monday.

In recent years, Haiti has experienced widespread turmoil and gang violence.

Warring gangs dominate much of Port-au-Prince, cutting off essential supplies to the rest of the country. Gang members have also tormented the urban area, forcing over 300,000 residents to evacuate their homes amid waves of indiscriminate slaughter, kidnapping, arson, and rape.

In January alone, about 1,100 people were killed, injured, or kidnapped, making it the most violent month in two years, according to the UN.

SOURCE – (CNN)

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LeBron James Reaches 40,000 Points To Extend His NBA Career Scoring Record

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Los Angeles (AP) — LeBron James scored 40,000 points on Saturday night, continuing to dominate in his 21st NBA season as he strives to break the career scoring record.

With 10:39 remaining in the second quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 124-114 loss to the Denver Nuggets, James drove past Michael Porter Jr. and hit the historic layup.

“Being the first player to do something, it’s pretty cool in this league, just knowing the history, the greats that’s come through the league, and then you see some of the greats on the floor tonight, it was great to compete,” he added. “But for me, the main thing, as always, is to win, and I hated that it had to happen in a defeat.”

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LeBron James Reaches 40,000 Points To Extend His NBA Career Scoring Record

James did it in 1,475 regular-season games, scoring double digits in the last 1,205. He has largely avoided major injuries while also playing another 3 1/2 seasons’ worth of playoff games on his way to four titles in ten NBA Finals appearances, all while under unfathomable pressure to be the next transcendent player before ever stepping on the court as a professional.

“For the first time in a long time, I’ve seen the commercial played before my first game,” he stated. “I believe they mentioned all of the greatest basketball players of all time, including Big O, Michael, Kareem, and Kobe, and then forgot who else was in the commercial. And then it was like, “Next one, LeBron James.”

“I didn’t see that commercial when it aired, but when I saw it today, I was like, what the hell? That expectation for an 18-year-old kid was absurd to consider.”

Despite these expectations, James worked hard and accomplished something almost unattainable.

James’ unrelenting march saw him break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record of 38,387 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 7, 2023.

All of that scoring occurred without James intending it to be his hallmark. He is fourth in career assists with 10,847, including nine against Denver, and his average of 7.35 per game is among the top 25.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone, who worked with James as an assistant for the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2005 to 2010, noted James’ early focus in all areas. It was already a priority for James to be in prime physical shape, even if the run to the scoring title was unexpected for them.

“I remember being in Cleveland, him being in the weight room with our weight and strength coaches, and there’s no way he’s doing what he’s doing at this stage of his career if he is not putting a ton of time into his body, his diet, his sleep, all those things that really matter,” Malone told reporters before the game.

James’ endurance and continued excellence make it quite possible that he will be the only player to attain 40,000 points.

To put the accomplishment into context, Nuggets centre Nikola Jokic will need to average 25 points over his next 1,057 appearances to join James at 40,000 points. That would be nearly 13 full seasons without an injury or other unforeseen scenario, and the two-time MVP would have continued to produce far until the age of 41.

james

LeBron James Reaches 40,000 Points To Extend His NBA Career Scoring Record

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic is the most likely contender to make a major run since his career average of 28.51 points per game ranks third in league history behind Michael Jordan (30.12) and Wilt Chamberlain (30.07). However, Doncic will need to keep it up for 1,022 more games to match James, which, assuming no interruptions, will push the timeframe into the 2036-37 season.

“There’s just certain things that you just don’t think will happen,” he remarked. For years, many said Kareem’s record couldn’t be broken. I was able to outperform it. But, as I previously stated, you must have extremely good luck, play the game at a high level for an extended period, and then we will see.

As for whether James will ever join the 50,000-point club, a conservative estimate of 25 points per game from now on — essentially matching what he has been producing in his 21st professional season at 39 years old — while playing 55 games each season would put him there in 2031-32.

Malone would not rule anything out.

james

LeBron James Reaches 40,000 Points To Extend His NBA Career Scoring Record

“When you step back, you can’t help but wonder at the longevity. However, he is not having fun with this. “He is playing well,” Malone remarked. “I’m confident he’ll make that decision in five or six years. ‘Do I still play effectively?’ “And he is.”

If anyone would dare to take on the impossible, it could only be King James.

“I come to work and prepare and prep, mentally, physically, spiritually every night when it’s time to play, and I just try to go out and contribute,” he said. “I’ve been able to do that for over 20 years, including this year. When I get on the floor and feel good, I can make plays.

“I can still accomplish the same things I did ten years ago. And other things I was doing 20 years ago, which is strange to admit.”

SOURCE – (AP)

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