No czar for you: Trump’s drug control pick abdicates after opioid scandal

President Trump’s nominee to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Tom Marino, has withdrawn his name from consideration following whistleblower claims that he pushed a law that protects opioid drug distributors.

“Rep. Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar. Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!” President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, two days after CBS’ 60 Minutes program featured several former employees of the Drug Enforcement Administration saying that the legislation that Marino (R-Pennsylvania) championed last year made it all but “impossible” for the government to go after unscrupulous distributors of addictive opioid pills.

The Justice Department, under which the DEA operates, said Tuesday it will review the law’s impact on the government’s enforcement powers.

The bill, called Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, was signed into law by president Obama last year, after it was passed by both chambers of Congress. Critics say it effectively stripped the DEA of its authority to investigate suspicious transactions as the government is now required to meet a higher standard before taking enforcement actions.

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© 007 David Parry / Global Look Press

In the CBS program, former head of the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control Joe Rannazzisi also suggested that Marino put pressure on the DEA to get rid of him last year, after Rannazzisi accused Marino and the bill’s co-sponsor Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) of protecting distributors he was investigating.

Marino and Blackburn wrote the DOJ inspector general, demanding that Rannazzisi be investigated for trying to “intimidate the United States Congress.” Soon after, Rannazzisi was stripped of his responsibilities. He went from supervising 600 people to supervising none – so he resigned, Rannazzisi told CBS.

Last month, Trump nominated Marino to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In August, the president said the opioid epidemic was a “national emergency,” after his Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis reported that the US faces the death toll equal to “September 11th every three weeks” as opioid abuse claims the lives of up to 142 Americans every day.

But Trump has yet to formally declare the emergency status, which would then unlock additional resources to fight the epidemic.

“We are going to be doing that next week… It’s a very important step. And to get to that step, a lot of work has to be done, and it’s time-consuming work,” Trump said at a news conference Monday.

Former DEA officials featured in the CBS program also alleged that their bosses at the agency during the Obama administration ‘shut off’ investigations into large distributors of addictive opioid pills, even when there was ample evidence of suspicious dealings. The drug industry used their money and influence to pressure top lawyers at the DEA, Rannazzisi said.

The ex-employees said one of the reasons for the roadblocks was the “revolving door” between the DEA and the drug industry, as a number of the administration’s top lawyers landed lobbying jobs for the pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors upon leaving the government, including the former DEA attorney who wrote the legislation for which Marino is now in hot water.

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Russian performance artist who set fire to French bank placed in psychiatric facility – source

Controversial Russian performance artist Petr Pavlensky was placed in a police psychiatric unit following his latest stunt, in which he set fire to the door of a bank in Paris, a judicial source told RT France.

READ MORE: Pyromaniac artist who nailed scrotum to Red Square sets Bank of France entrance ablaze

Pavlensky was arrested for causing damage by arson on Sunday night, alongside his wife Oksana Shalygina, who remains in custody, according to the source. In a statement posted through the social media account of fellow performance artist Inna Shevchenko of FEMEN after the event, Pavlensky said that the “the bankers have taken the place of the monarchs” and promised that the gesture would signal “the revival of revolutionary France, and fuel the fire of world revolution.”

Pavlensky, 33, fled Russia earlier this year, following sexual assault allegations, alongside his wife. His previous performances included nailing his scrotum to Red Square in 2013, in protest against political indifference, and setting fire to the door of the Lubyanka Building, which houses the Federal Security Service (FSB). He has been a frequent critic of the Kremlin and claimed that the legal case against him was politically motivated.

The couple was granted asylum in May this year, and told the media that they survive by squatting and shoplifting, “living the same life as most French people.”

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Felony cop killings up 61% in 2016 – FBI report

A total of 118 police officers died in the line of duty in 2016, reports the FBI. Of these, 52 were accidental deaths and 66 were felony homicides – 62 of which were as a result of gunshot wounds. Of those incidents 51 of the officers were wearing body armor at the time.

The number of US police officers feloniously killed on the job in 2016 is up 61 percent year-on-year, according to the FBI’s annual Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) report released Monday. This is the second highest number of felony killings of police officers since 2011, when 72 officers died.

“Every law enforcement officer goes to work knowing that today might be his or her last,” US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Monday.

“But last year, we saw a staggering 61 percent increase in the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty because of a felony, and on average, more than 150 officers were assaulted in the line of duty every single day. These numbers are as shocking as they are unacceptable.”

“Moreover, 57,180 officers were victims of line-of-duty assaults – this is a 14 percent rise from the 50,212 officer that were victims of line-of-duty assaults in 2015,” Sessions added, citing statistics published in the report.

The most common form of felony homicide involved police officers being ambushed after responding to 911 calls. Accidental deaths rose from a total of 45 in 2015 to 52 in 2016 and most related to vehicular accidents.

The average age of the cops killed feloniously was 40 years old, with an average of 13 years experience in law enforcement. Those who died in accidents averaged 11 years experience with a mean age of 38.

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Russian Olympic Committee spends 1bln rubles on team’s preparations for Pyeongchang Games

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) has spent over one billion rubles ($ 17.5 million) to prepare the national team for the upcoming Winter Olympics, which will be staged in South Korea in February.

The Committee’s First Deputy President Stanislav Pozdnyakov said on Tuesday that the team’s preparation for the Winter Olympics is in full swing, although the ROC is facing difficulties that traditionally accompany the warm up for the world’s biggest sporting events.

“We have spent about one billion rubles during a four-year course to prepare the national squads for the Winter Olympics. The ROC has complied with all the undertaken commitments, we will help our national federations to deliver decent performance in Pyeongchang next winter,” Pozdnyakov said, TASS reported.

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 Grigory Rodchenkov © Viktor Chernov / Global Look Press

The Russian delegation is expected to visit the host city of the Winter Games, Pyeongchang, to make organizational arrangements at the end of December.

Russia’s participation in this winter’s global sports spectacle is still threatened by an ongoing doping investigation, headed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has yet to conclude.

Two weeks ago, the IOC re-analyzed 254 samples taken from Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi as part of the investigation into the country’s alleged doping violations.

The IOC Disciplinary Commission, which is leading the inquiry into an alleged cover-up of positive doping results in Sochi, has yet to publish the results of the re-tested probes, but is expected to finish its work by the end of the year.

In July 2016, Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren published his report on Russia’s allegedly state-coordinated doping.

The findings contained in the report were instrumental in imposing a ban on Russia’s Olympic athletes and its entire Paralympics team ahead of the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.

Last week, the head of the US Olympic Committee (USOC), Scott Blackmun, urged his international counterparts to take immediate action on Russian doping allegations in advance of the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

In his speech, addressed to the USOC Assembly, Blackmun regretted that no punishment had been incurred so far in respect of multiple doping violations at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which were mentioned in the McLaren Report.

READ MORE: NFL to meet in New York in attempt to solve anthem controversy

“I believe the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is pursuing the findings of the McLaren Report, both in earnest and in good faith, and I believe the IOC when they say there will be consequences for the bad actors,” Blackmun said.

“But at some point, justice delayed is justice denied, and we are fast approaching that point,” he added.

This is not the first bid to discipline Russia for alleged doping breaches. A month ago, the leading international anti-doping agencies issued a joint statement, in which they called on the IOC to ban Russia from participating in the 2018 Winter Games.

READ MORE: 100kg transgender Australian footballer blocked from playing in women’s league

“We have serious doubts that the 2018 Games will be clean due to the incomplete investigation of massive evidence of individual doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games and given the inadequate testing evidence of Russian athletes over the past four years,” they said.

“A country’s sport leaders and organizations should not be given credentials to the Olympics when they intentionally violate the rules and rob clean athletes.”

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‘Girl, boy or ethnic?’ Carrefour faces backlash over baby doll ad

Carrefour, the world’s second-biggest retailer, became the target of a social-media onslaught in France after customers spotted an interactive baby doll in one of its catalogues, which was available in three options: ‘Girl, boy or ethnic.’

Internet users were enraged over the description of the €5.99 ‘Baby Born’ doll. A tirade of comments on social media branded the advert both sexist and racist, voicing outrage at not only the term “ethnic”, but also the fact that it was being used as an equivalent of gender.

Social media users commented that their “eyes hurt” and that they were “lost for words.”

Thanks to you I will stop living under a delusion. I’ve never been a boy but an ethnic,” another Twitter user said.

The catalogue’s description of the doll boasted an ability to cry, eat, sit, sleep and even go for a pee, among other activities.

READ MORE: Skincare brand Dove lambasted online for ‘racist’ Facebook ad

The ad promised that the doll, recommended for ages three and over, would help all those interested “become a real mommy.”

Carrefour later apologized, telling Franceinfo that it regretted what it described as a “wrong choice of words.” The French retail giant promised to do “all it takes to correct the online catalogue.”

It did not specify what exactly it intended to do with the catalogues already printed and distributed.

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Sharapova crashes out at 1st round of Kremlin Cup in Moscow

Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova has been knocked out in the first round of the Kremlin Cup in front of a home crowd, losing to Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova 6-7 4-6.

Russian Sharapova hammered in seven aces during the game but committed three double faults and capitalized on just one of three break points in her tournament opener that lasted one hour and 55 minutes.

“I wouldn’t have come if the tournament was not staged in Moscow,” Sharapova said after the match, adding that she wanted to finish the tennis season on home soil where she is widely supported by her fans.

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Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates after winning the match against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus © Reuters

It was her first appearance at the Kremlin Cup since 2007.
In her previous meeting with Rybarikova in 2015, Sharapova outplayed her Slovakian counterpart in the quarterfinal of the hard-court event in Acapulco, Mexico.

Sharapova’s unexpected loss comes just two days after her triumph at the Tianjin Open in China where, in a nail-biting two-set thriller, the former world number one defeated 19-year-old Belarusian Arina Sobolenko 7-5, 7-6 to clinch her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban.

A 15-month break has dropped Sharapova down the world rankings and now the player is trying to restore her previously held lofty position in tennis. She has already climbed to world number 57 following last week’s victory in China.

Sharapova returned to the court in April following a Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) ruling that reduced her initial two-year ban to 15 months.

She did not take part in this year’s Roland Garros, as her request to get a wild card for the clay-court tournament was ignored by the French Open organizers.

Sharapova was forced to skip Wimbledon due to a thigh injury and came back on court in August after US Open officials granted her direct entry into the season’s final Grand Slam event.

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Are Catalonian nationalists copying Maidan's ‘propaganda’ handbook? (VIDEOS)

A new video promoting Catalonian democracy looks suspiciously similar to a production made about the 2014 Maidan protests in Ukraine – and many online are not impressed.

‘Help Catalonia. Save Europe’ is a new video published on the YouTube account of Catalonian cultural organization, Omnium Cultural.  

It starts with a woman standing on an out-of-focus street, saying, “This is Barcelona.” She points to people on the street and says, “We, the Catalans are taking back the streets to protest peacefully.”

The 2014 Ukrainian video also begins with a woman standing on an out-of-focus street, saying, “I am Ukrainian,” before going on to say, “I want you to know why thousands of people in my country are on the streets.”

Both videos contain footage of police brutality, and both call on the audience to help them by sharing the video to defend democracy, or European values.

At the end of both videos, viewers are warned to support the cause, “before it’s too late.”  

The video was shared on social media and raised some questions, criticisms and debate.

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‘Witch hunt & Inquisition’: Kaspersky Lab head responds to US spying accusations

The ongoing US campaign against antivirus software firm Kaspersky Lab has failed to provide any proof of security risks of its products or ties to Russian security services, CEO Eugene Kaspersky said in a scathing blog post.

In September, the US government banned federal agencies from using Kaspersky Lab antivirus products, citing concerns that it could jeopardize national security and claiming the company might have links to the Kremlin.

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© Sergei Karpukhin

“The recent hounding of our company is akin to paranoia, the stake of Inquisition and witch hunt,” Kaspersky wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. “I’m personally accountable [to ensure] there is no spying, malicious, undeclared functionality in the company’s products and updates. And I personally state that all the accusations of spying on users are baseless paranoia at best.”

It is “customary in civilized society” to back the allegations with some proof or at least present those who suffered of the alleged illicit activities, Kaspersky wrote. He vowed to analyze any evidence thoroughly, if any is presented.

“In cyberspace [the evidence] is names of modules, location of code, its disassembly (or a part of it),” Kaspersky said. “Only technical information would be considered – but we would take it very seriously, up to an internal investigation.”

The most peculiar thing, according to Kaspersky, is that the US-based media giants published stories on the alleged spying activities simultaneously.

“The American ‘top’ media went for us almost in full force and they fantasized simultaneously, as if receiving an order, but they’ve got confused in details. Some said that the secret services allegedly put their code in our data banks, the others cited anonymous rumors that we personally spy on users, the rest [said] that it was just some potential danger and unknown threat,” Kaspersky said.

The company has repeatedly denied the accusations and offered to send its chief executive to Washington to testify before Congress. Earlier this month, a House of Representatives committee rescheduled a hearing on accusations against the cyber security firm for October 25.

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© Kirill Kallinikov

While the company has for years faced similar rumors, allegedly spread by competitors, the accusations spiked this year as a part of the wider geopolitical spat between Moscow and Washington. The campaign against Kaspersky Lab followed allegations that Russian hackers interfered in last year’s US presidential election.

Washington accused Moscow of hacking and leaking emails of Democratic Party officials, as well as correspondences of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta. Russia has repeatedly denied the accusations. The US has not yet presented any solid evidence to support the allegations.

Last week, Kaspersky Lab signed a threat intelligence sharing deal with Interpol. The International Police Organization said the move is a further step in the global fight against cybercrime.

Ahead of the landmark agreement, Noboru Nakatani, executive director of Interpol’s Global Complex for Innovation, said the US did not provide the organization with any evidence related to Kaspersky Lab’s alleged activities. The campaign against the company was a sign of infighting within the cybersecurity community, which only plays into hands of cybercriminals, the official stated.

“Kaspersky is fighting against cyber criminals, it is very clear. Kaspersky is working with governments and companies across the world,” Nakatani said. “We should work together.”

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Pro-Palestine posters on Balfour centenary ‘censored’ by London transport authority

Transport for London (TfL) has been accused of censorship after refusing to allow campaigners to display posters giving the Palestinian perspective on the Balfour Declaration. The posters were designed to mark the 100th anniversary of the colonial-era document that led to the creation of Israel.

The declaration, signed on November 2, 1917, saw then-foreign secretary Arthur Balfour agree to the establishment of a national home for Jewish people in Palestine. Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Manuel Hassassian has accused TfL of censorship.

The advertising campaign, called Make It Right, includes images of life before and after 1948, when Palestinians were forced from their homes during the Arab-Israeli war.

At the time, the British Government believed their interests could be served by supporting Zionist ambitions in Palestine.

The Palestine Mission to the UK, the group behind the campaign, was left outraged after TfL said the adverts “did not comply fully with our guidelines.”

They were rejected under Clause 2.3(h) of the guidelines, which refers to campaigns relating to “matters of public controversy or sensitivity.”

“Palestinian history is a censored history,” Hassassian said in a statement.

“There has been a 100-year-long cover-up of the British Government’s broken promise, in the Balfour Declaration, to safeguard the rights of the Palestinians when it gave away their country to another people.

“TfL’s decision is not surprising as it is, at best, susceptible to or, at worst, complicit with, all the institutional forces and active lobby groups which continuously work to silence the Palestinian narrative.

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Israeli police detain a Palestinian man after a forced eviction of a Palestinian family from their home in East Jerusalem on Tuesday after a long legal battle over ownership, in Jerusalem September 5, 2017. © Ammar Awad / Reuters

“There may be free speech in Britain on every issue under the sun but not on Palestine,” added Hassassian.

The Palestinian charity said it was not asked to adapt the adverts, as can be requested by an advertising agency. It also questioned why an identical teaser ad was allowed in Westminster underground station last year without objection.

Palestinian leaders, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, have requested that Britain apologizes for the Balfour Declaration.

The Government refused to issue an apology in April this year, saying it had helped to establish a “homeland for the Jewish people in the land to which they had such strong historical and religious ties was the right and moral thing to do, particularly against the background of centuries of persecution.”

The Government did, however, recognize that the declaration should have protected Arab political rights.

Protests will take place across Britain in November as Theresa May and her Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, celebrate the centenary.

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No drones! Operator arrested for obstructing California firefighters

The urge to get drone footage of the devastation caused by wine-country wildfires has landed one man in jail, as California officials warn that flying drones can interfere with firefighting efforts.

“Fire fighting planes cannot fly if your drone is in the air!” the California Highway Patrol (CHP) posted on Facebook on Monday, adding: “Land them if you want these fires out!”

CHP said the state’s forestry and fire protection service reported multiple drones in Napa and Sonoma counties, which were hindering the firefighting efforts.

Nestor Rodriguez, 24, was arrested on Sunday after flying his drone over Petaluma Airport in Sonoma Valley. This forced firefighting helicopters to remained grounded for at least 10 minutes. Rodriguez was cited for impeding emergency personnel. He told police he did not know that flying a drone in that area was illegal.

“The drone was not only potentially perilous for the helicopters landing at and leaving the airport, it also held up the operation endangering lives and further fire damage to an already fire ravaged area,” the Petaluma Police Department said.

This is not the first time California firefighters have had trouble with drones. During the wildfires in 2015, a four-foot drone caused operations to shut down for one evening, which resulted in an additional 3.5 acres getting burned, KTLA-TV reported at the time.

Firefighters are battling a new fire that sprang up overnight on Monday in the Santa Cruz mountains south of the San Francisco Bay, prompting evacuation orders.

A house fire is believed to have sparked the quick-spreading blaze. At least one structure is destroyed and around 100 homes threatened, KNTV news reported, citing the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Firefighters plan to attack the fames from the air once the sun rises.

A cluster of wildfires, the deadliest in Californian history, have been ravaging the wine country for more than a week, leaving at least 40 people dead and destroying nearly 6,000 homes and business. Most of the deaths were reported in Sonoma County.

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