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IRAN: US Charges 3 In Plot To Kill Iranian-American Author In NYC




WASHINGTON — The U.S. According to officials, the Justice Department has charged three men in an alleged plot to kill an Iranian American author and activist who has spoken out against human rights violations in Iran.

Rafat Amirov, 43, of Iran, Polad Omarov, 38, of the Czech Republic and Slovenia, and Khalid Mehdiyev, 24, of Yonkers, New York, were charged in an unsealed indictment in federal court in New York with money laundering and murder-for-hire. The three men were detained, and one was awaiting extradition to the United States.

Masih Alinejad, a New York-based Iranian opposition activist, journalist, and writer, confirmed that she was the intended target.

“I’m not scared,” Alinejad said after U.S. authorities announced the charges. “I want to tell you that the Iranian regime believes that by attempting to kill me, they will silence other women or me. But they only serve to strengthen me, to make me more powerful in my fight for democracy and to give a voice to the brave women who are fighting the Islamic Republic with guns and bullets in the streets.”

She claimed FBI agents read her the messages the plotters exchanged, including a final one that said, “It’s going to be done today.”


Iran Media Did Not Acknowledge The Plot

Iran’s U.N. mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the charges. Late Friday, Iranian state media did not immediately acknowledge the alleged plot.

While the alleged plotlines in Iran, the indictment does not directly blame the country’s theocracy for the alleged murder-for-hire.

Nonetheless, the case “follows a disturbing pattern of Iranian government-sponsored efforts to kill, torture, and intimidate activists into silence for speaking out for the rights and freedoms of Iranians around the world,” according to White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Mehdiyev was caught last year while driving around Masih’s Brooklyn neighborhood with a loaded “AK-47-style” rifle and a lot of bullets. At the time, Alinejad told The Associated Press that authorities had told her that the man was looking for her and that a home security video had captured him skulking outside her front door.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said when he announced the charges, “The Iranian government has previously gone after dissidents around the world, including the victim, who are against the regime’s violations of human rights.”


Victim Had Kidnapping Plots Against Her

He claimed that “individuals in Iran” tasked the defendants with carrying out the assassination plot.

“The victim made public the Iranian government’s human rights violations, discrimination against women, suppression of democratic participation and expression, and use of arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and execution,” Garland said. “This activity posed such a threat to the Iranian government in 2019 that the chief judge of Iran’s Revolutionary courts warned that anyone who sent videos criticizing the regime to the victim would be sentenced to prison,” according to the report.

He claimed that in 2021, an Iranian intelligence official and three others were charged with plotting to kidnap the victim.

All three defendants are Azerbaijanis, a country with a border and cultural ties to Iran.

Amirov appeared in court for the first time in New York, and his attorney, Michael Martin, entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf. During the brief court appearance, the defense did not immediately request bail. Amirov used a Russian interpreter because he speaks it, although it is not his first language.


Evolving Threat And Brazen Behavior

Mehdiyev’s attorney declined to comment on Friday. Omarov was arrested earlier this month in the Czech Republic. It was unclear whether he had an attorney speaking on his behalf.

“This case also highlights Iran’s evolving threat and increasingly brazen behavior,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. She also mentioned charges filed against members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in connection with an alleged plot to assassinate a former U.S. national security adviser and charges filed against Iranian hackers accused of targeting utility companies.

FBI Director Christopher Wray says that Iranian intelligence and security services have been using more “transnational repression tactics” in recent years to go after political opponents and critics. He said that tactics in Iran include surveillance, cyber operations, intimidation of family and friends, and kidnapping and assassination plots.

“The Iranian government’s efforts to silence its critics are not limited to Iranian borders,” Wray said.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran are higher than usual, with the Biden administration’s efforts to resurrect a 2015 deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program failing and the U.S. condemning Iran’s targeting of protesters in Iran. Iran is also said to have given Russia drones that Russia has used to attack civilian targets in Ukraine.


Calls For Congress To Do Something

Alinejad said that she hoped the ruthlessness of Iranians plotting to kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil would persuade President Joe Biden to act on calls from some in Congress and elsewhere to list Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.

“They are challenging U.S. authorities to see what the consequences will be if no punishment is imposed, and there is no reason for them to stop killing innocent Americans or innocent Iranians,” she said.

Alinejad was a journalist in Iran for many years. Since he left the country after the disputed presidential election and crackdown in 2009, Iran’s theocracy has been after him.

She is a prominent figure on Farsi-language satellite channels abroad that criticize Iran, and she has worked as a contractor for the Voice of America’s Farsi-language network, which the United States funds, since 2015. She became a citizen of the United States in October 2019.


Three Defendants Are Members Of An Eastern European Criminal Organization

Her “White Wednesday” and “My Stealthy Freedom” campaigns have seen women film themselves in public in Iran without head coverings or hijabs, which can result in arrests and fines. She has also made the voices of Iranian protesters louder since the death of Mahsa Amini in September. Amini died after being arrested by the morality police and was later found dead.

According to court documents, the three defendants are members of an Eastern European criminal organization with ties to Iran.

According to the indictment, Amirov, a group leader living in Iran, was “tasked” with targeting her by unnamed people. Garland declined to elaborate on where the orders came from. Amirov turned to Omarov, who lives in Eastern Europe, and together they brought Mehdiyev, who lives in New York, and paid him $30,000 in cash. US authorities say that Mehdiyev got the gun and started watching her house in July.

For more than a week, he took photos and videos and devised ways to entice her outside, according to the indictment. Mehdiyev described himself as being “at the crime scene” at one point.

Alinejad, on the other hand, left her house on July 28 after noticing something suspicious. When Mehdiyev attempted to leave, he was stopped by a New York police officer. The gun, ammunition magazines, cash, and a black ski mask were discovered by police. He was taken into custody on a federal firearms charge.






North Korea Test-Fires 2 More Missiles As US Sends Carrier



north korea

South Korea’s SEOUL — On Monday, the nuclear-powered USS Nimitz and her battle group began operations with South Korean warships, hours after North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles in apparent protest of the allies’ growing maneuvers.

This month’s seventh missile test heightened regional tensions as the North’s weapons tests and joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea intensified in a cycle of tit-for-tat.

The launches could have been timed to coincide with the arrival of the USS Nimitz and its strike group, which included a guided missile cruiser and two destroyers and participated in air defense exercises and other maneuvers with South Korean vessels waters around Jeju Island.

South Korean navy spokesperson Jang Do Young said the drills were aimed at honing joint operational capabilities and proving the U.S. resolve to defend its ally with all available options, including nuclear, in the wake of the North’s “escalating nuclear and missile threats.”

On Tuesday, the Nimitz strike group was scheduled to arrive in Busan’s South Korean mainland port.

“The United States has deployable strategic assets at the ready every day,” said Carrier Strike Group Eleven leader Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney. “We can and will continue to deploy those assets.”

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The two North Korean missiles were launched from a western inland area

The two North Korean missiles were launched from a western inland area south of Pyongyang between 7:47 a.m. and 8 a.m. and traveled approximately 370 kilometers (229 miles) before falling at sea, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. The missiles, which landed beyond Japan’s exclusive economic zone, traveled on an erratic trajectory and reached a maximum altitude of 50 kilometers, according to Japan’s military. (31 miles).

Previously, Japan used similar wording to describe a North Korean solid-fuel missile that appears to be modeled after Russia’s Iskander mobile ballistic weapon, which is supposed to be maneuverable in low-altitude flight to better elude South Korean missile defenses. North Korea also has another short-range system similar to the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System used by the United States.

Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, stated that North Korea might increase its testing activity by launching additional missiles or conducting its first nuclear test since September 2017.

The South Korean and Japanese militaries condemned the new launches as a severe provocation endangering regional peace and stated that they were cooperating with the U.S. to further evaluate the missiles. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command stated that while the launches did not constitute an imminent threat to the U.S. or its allies, they underscore North Korea’s “destabilizing impact” of its illicit nuclear and missile programs.

north korea

North Korea, subject to U.N. Security Council sanctions for its nuclear program since 2016

North Korea, subject to U.N. Security Council sanctions for its nuclear program since 2016, did not immediately respond to the launches.

Last week, the U.S. and South Korea concluded their largest springtime drills in years, including computer simulations and live-fire field exercises. However, the allies have continued their field training as a show of force against the mounting dangers from the North.

North Korea also launched a short-range missile when the USS Ronald Reagan and its battle group arrived in September for joint drills with South Korea, the last time the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier to waters near the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea has launched more than 20 ballistic and cruise missiles this year to push the U.S. to accept its nuclear status and negotiate sanctions relief from a position of strength.

This month’s tests included an intercontinental ballistic missile and a series of short-range missiles designed to overwhelm South Korean defenses as North Korea attempts to demonstrate its ability to undertake nuclear strikes on South Korea and the United States mainland.

The North conducted a three-day practice last week that claimed to simulate nuclear assaults on South Korean targets.

The country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has called the joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea “invasion rehearsals.” According to the allies, the exercises are defensive.

North korea test missles

The tests included a rumored nuclear-capable underwater drone.

The tests included a rumored nuclear-capable underwater drone, which the North said could unleash a massive “radioactive tsunami” and destroy navy vessels and ports. Analysts questioned whether such a device posed a significant new danger, and Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff warned in a statement Monday that the North Korean allegations were likely “exaggerated and fabricated.”

Following some of its ballistic and cruise missile tests earlier this month, North Korea claimed that those missiles were tipped with dummy nuclear warheads that detonated 600 to 800 meters (1,960 to 2,600 feet) above their sea targets, presenting them as maximum damage heights.

North Korea has already had a record year of weapons testing, launching more than 70 missiles in 2022. It had enacted an escalator nuclear strategy that allows for pre-emptive nuclear strikes in a wide range of scenarios in which it perceives its leadership to be under threat.

“It appears North Korea is practicing, or signaling that it is practicing, the use of nuclear strikes, both preemptive and retaliatory, in various scenarios authorized in its nuclear doctrine,” said Duyeon Kim, a senior analyst at the Center for a New American Security.

“The problem is that continued testing allows Pyongyang to perfect its technology, strengthen its nuclear weapons capability, threaten South Korea and Japan, increase the possibility of miscalculation, which could lead to inadvertent conflict, and accumulate political leverage ahead of future diplomatic talks with Washington.”

Following the North’s confirmation of the drone test on Friday, South Korea’s air force disclosed information about a five-day joint practice with the U.S. last week, which included live-fire displays of air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry.

According to the air force, the exercise aimed to test precision strike capabilities and reaffirm the credibility of Seoul’s “three-axis” strategy against North Korean nuclear threats. This strategy includes striking potential targets ahead of time, stopping incoming missiles, and taking out the North’s leadership and key military facilities.


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Strike Over Pay Paralyzes Rail, Air Travel In Germany



Germany Pay Strike

BERLIN — Trains, aircraft, and public transportation systems were grounded across most of Germany on Monday as labor unions launched a big one-day strike over pay to obtain inflation-busting raises for their members.

The 24-hour strike, one of the country’s largest in decades, also impacted cargo movement by train and ship as workers at the country’s ports and waterways joined the strike.

Many commuters chose to travel to work, generating some traffic delays, while those who could work from home did so.

Unions are seeking a 10.5% pay increase and have rejected employer offers of approximately 5% over two years plus one-time bonuses.

According to Ulrich Silberbach of the Civil Service Federation, high inflation observed everywhere last year affected many workers hard.

“We have seen a drop in real wages, which needs to be balanced,” he told reporters in Berlin, adding that some of his union’s members in major cities must request public assistance to pay their rent.

Silberbach expressed hope that employers will raise their offer in the next discussions or that unions would be forced to consider an open-ended strike.

pay strike

Three days of talks are scheduled between the two sides.

His EVG train union colleague Martin Burkert noted that workers’ salaries are a fraction of some senior executives’ salaries.

However, Deutsche Bahn dismissed the union’s proposals as overblown and warned that millions of commuters would be affected.

“Thousands of companies that normally send or receive goods by rail will also suffer,” said Achim Strauss, a spokesman for Deutsche Bahn. “In the end, the environment and the climate will suffer.” The oil companies are today’s winners.”

He said that train tickets that couldn’t be used because of the disruption would remain valid, and travelers should check the company’s website for updates.

pay strike

The strike caused inconvenience and delays Sunday.

Three days of talks are scheduled between the two sides. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, representing the federal government in the talks, said her side would be “tough but fair and constructive” in the discussions.

Faeser expressed confidence that a satisfactory solution may be found.

Labor strikes are common in Germany, and they usually conclude with a compromise agreement reached between unions and employers.

The strike caused inconvenience and delays Sunday as travelers hurried to reach their destinations early.



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Minnesota Suit Against E-Cigarette Maker Juul Goes To Trial




(MINNEAPOLIS) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is set to make the opening statement in his state’s lawsuit against Juul Labs on Tuesday, marking the first time any of the thousands of cases against the e-cigarette maker over its alleged marketing to minors will be heard in a courtroom.

In 2019, Minnesota filed a lawsuit against Juul, claiming the San Francisco-based firm illegally targeted young people with its products to make a new generation addicted to nicotine. Ellison has refused to specify how much money the state seeks in damages and civil penalties. However, upon announcing the action, he said it might be in the ballpark of Minnesota’s historic $7.1 billion settlement with the cigarette industry in 1998.

Juul has faced thousands of lawsuits nationwide, but most have settled, including 39 with other states and U.S. territories. In 2020, Minnesota added tobacco industry behemoth Altria, which previously owned a minority stake in Juul, as a co-defendant. Altria completed its divestment earlier this month and claimed to have lost its $12.8 billion investment. Altria announced a $2.75 billion investment in rival electronic cigarette firm NJOY a few days later.

“We will demonstrate how Juul and Altria misled and hooked a generation of Minnesota youth on their products, causing both great harms to the public and great expense to the State to remedy that harm,” Ellison said.

The jury trial will run three weeks before Hennepin County District Judge Laurie Miller. The landmark 1998 lawsuit by the state and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota against the big cigarette companies took roughly four months.


Juul has faced thousands of lawsuits nationwide, but most have settled in Minnesota

This lawsuit resulted in the release of millions of pages of previously secret industry papers and a $7.1 billion settlement soon before the state’s closing statements. Part of the money was used to fund anti-smoking programs, but Juul and Altria pointed out in court filings that lawmakers chose to spend most of the money on state government.

Ellison wants to deliver part of the state’s opening statement personally before passing it off to attorneys from two outside law firms handling the case for Minnesota. Consumer fraud, public nuisance, unjust enrichment, and conspiracy are all alleged in the case. A brief submitted last week provides a taste of the state’s claims.

“Defendant JUUL, in a conspiracy with Altria, preyed on and enticed Minnesota’s children to buy a product that may sentence them to a lifetime of nicotine addiction and other destructive behaviors,” state attorneys stated. “the company launched a design and marketing campaign aimed at enticing children, focusing on attracting ‘cool kids,’ creating a nicotine’ buzz,’ and utilizing social media and celebrities as ‘pushers’ of its addictive products.” Defendants allege their actions were in the name of assisting “aging smokers” to quit smoking. That claim is false; it is a ruse.”

According to Juul, Minnesota rejected settlement offers identical to those it received from other states, which gave “hundreds of millions of dollars to further combat underage use and develop cessation programs in those states.”


Effective interventions to address underage use of all tobacco products in Minnesota

“Effective interventions to address underage use of all tobacco products in Minnesota, including vapor, rely on evidence-based policies, programs, and enforcement, not headline-driven trials,” the statement said. “This is the approach Juul Labs supports and has helped to implement.”

The creator of Marlboro cigarettes and other tobacco products, Altria Group, formerly Phillip Morris Cos., is downplaying its role. In a court filing last week, it stated that it purchased a 35% investment in Juul Labs in 2018 after its own vaping devices failed to find popularity, and only after Juul informed Altria “and announced to the world” that it had made “meaningful changes” to its marketing methods.

sAltria, based in Richmond, Virginia, said the services it offered to Juul lasted slightly over a year and ended in March 2020, including offering key counter space in retailers, mailing a Juul ad, and offering discounts to adult smokers. And it contends that its sponsorship did not materially raise sales of Juul products in Minnesota nor the use of e-cigarettes by minors in the state.

Juul, which debuted in 2015, quickly gained the market leader in the United States due to the appeal of flavors such as mango, mint, and creme brulee. Its popularity was boosted among teens, some of whom became addicted to Juul’s high-nicotine pods. In response to the backlash, Juul discontinued all U.S. advertising and its flavors in 2019. Juul’s appeal with teenagers has now declined, and its share of the multibillion-dollar market has decreased to around 33% from a high of 75%.

In June, the Food and Drug Administration rejected Juul’s proposal to keep its products on the market as a smoking substitute for adults, though that decision is under appeal. In September, Juul agreed to pay roughly $440 million to settle a two-year probe by 33 states into its marketing of high-nicotine products.

States still suing Juul include New York, California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Alaska, Illinois, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.



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