Mauritius President to resign

Mauritius President to resign over expense claims, prime minister says

Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim delivers a speech in Paris in 2015.

The President of Mauritius will resign next week, the island country's prime minister has said.

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim will step down over allegations she misused a credit card given to her by a charity.

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said Gurib-Fakim, who was facing impeachment proceedings over the alleged expense irregularities, had agreed to step down after the country's 50-year independence celebrations on March 12.

"The President of the Republic told me that she would resign from office and we agreed on the date of her departure," Jugnauth told reporters in Port Louis, the country's capital.
"The interests of the country come first," he said.

Attempts to obtain comment from Gurib-Fakim and her office were not immediately successful.

The president was left fighting for her political career after local media published a report that she had paid for personal expenses on a credit card given to her by London-based charity Planet Earth Institute (PEI) in 2016.

The report alleged that Gurib-Fakim had spent thousands of dollars on the card on clothing and luxury items.

She has denied any wrongdoing and said she had refunded all the money.
"I do not owe anything to anybody. Why is this issue coming up now almost a year later on the eve of our independence day celebrations," she said on March 7, Reuters news agency reported.
The Planet Earth Institute is accredited to the United Nations Environmental Program and its mission is the "scientific independence of Africa." When contacted, a spokeswoman for PEI declined to comment.

Gurib-Fakim was appointed to the PEI board in 2015, but resigned two years later in 2017.
She is internationally renowned and is feted on the world stage, and is the recipient of the L'Oréal-UNESCO award for women in science.

Despite her huge international profile, commentators say Gurib-Fakim's popularity closer to home was waning.

Mauritians increasingly saw her as a "president in transit," because of her frequent trips abroad, said Rabin Bhujun, managing editor of ION News, a digital news platform in the country.
"How does it benefit the country for her to be on the Forbes list? This is an important factor which encouraged the government to get rid of her.

They felt she wasn't a heavyweight in politics and had no problem sacking her," Bhujun said.


Russia's Defense Ministry says a Russian cargo plane has crashed in Syria, killing 32 people onboard.

Russian cargo plane crashes in Syria, 32 killed

 Russian military says a Russian cargo plane crashes near Hmeimim base in Syria.
All people on board of the aircraft, including 26 passengers and six crew members died in the incident, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The Russian An-26 plane crashed near Syrian Hmeimin base on Tuesday when landing, according to the ministry of defence.

The Latest on the war in Syria (all times local):

4 p.m.

Russia says a military cargo plane has crashed at the Russian air base in Syria, killing all 32 people onboard.

The Defense Ministry says the An-26, with 26 passengers and six crew members onboard, crashed Tuesday just 500 meters (1,600 feet) from the runway. The military blamed the crash on a technical error.

Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, leases a military base in Syria near the Mediterranean coast.


2 p.m.

U.N. war crimes investigators say a Russian plane was apparently behind a deadly airstrike in November in Syria's Idlib province that killed 84 people at a marketplace, an attack which could amount to a war crime.

The findings were reported by the U.N.'s Commission of Inquiry on Syria on Tuesday.

It's the first time the commission has pinned responsibility for civilian deaths in Syria on Russia. The report says "all available information" indicates a Russian plane carried out the Nov. 13 airstrike that hit a market, surrounding houses and a police station run by Western-backed Syrian rebels in the town of Atarib, in northern Idlib.

At least 84 people were killed and about another 150 were wounded in the attack.

The commission, which was created 6-1/2 years ago to document alleged human rights violations by any side in Syria's war, says the plane that carried out the airstrike took off from an air base in Syria run by Russian forces, the Hemeimeem air base.


12:30 p.m.

A war-monitoring group says Syrian government shelling and airstrikes killed 80 people in the besieged eastern suburbs of Damascus the previous day, making it the deadliest day there since the U.N.'s Security Council last month demanded a cease-fire across Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 80 died and dozens more were wounded on Monday as government forces ignored the U.N. call and pressed their assault on the rebel-held eastern Ghouta.

The United Nations estimates 400,000 people are trapped under a government siege in the area.

The Syrian American Medical Society charity, which supports several hospitals in eastern Ghouta, gave a slightly lesser death toll from the Observatory, saying 79 people were killed.


12:05 p.m.

The Russian defense ministry has extended an offer to Syrians in the besieged eastern suburbs of Damascus, saying armed rebels with their families - not just civilians - can also leave eastern Ghouta through a safe corridor.

The ministry says its negotiators in Syria late on Monday called on all rebels leaders in eastern Ghouta to allow civilians leave the area, which has been under a crippling siege for weeks. It says the rebels are also free to leave the enclave with their weapons and families unhindered.

The first shipment of humanitarian aid reached eastern Ghouta on Monday but was cut short on Tuesday after Syrian government forces began shelling the area again.

Russia has been a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, helping him the tide of the bloody civil war in his favor.


10:55 a.m.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry says the country plans to establish camps in nine locations in northern Syria to house people displaced by fighting amid Ankara's offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said on Tuesday that the camps would be built in a zone controlled by Turkish-backed forces, as well as in Idlib province where Turkish forces are trying establishing a "de-escalation zone" under an agreement reached between Turkey, Russia and Iran.

Aksoy said the camps would host a total of 170,000 people.

Turkey controls a swath of territory revolving around the town of al-Rai, al-Bab and Jarablus - a border zone that Turkey and Turkey-backed rebels took from the Islamic State group in 2016.

Turkey has also launched a campaign to oust a Syrian Kurdish militia from the enclave of Afrin that Ankara considers to be "terrorist" and linked to an insurgency within Turkey's own borders.


10:45 a.m.

The International Committee for the Red Cross says it was forced to halt aid delivery to the besieged eastern suburbs of Damascus the previous day after the security situation deteriorated while aid workers were on the ground.

Ingy Sedky, the ICRC spokeswoman in Syria says most of the aid from a 46-truck convoy was delivered to the town of Douma in eastern Ghouta on Monday but the mission was cut short before the rest of the supplies could be unloaded.

Iyad Abdelaziz, a member of the Douma Local Council, says nine aid trucks had to leave the area after government shelling and airstrikes intensified in the evening.

Monday's shipment was the first to enter eastern Ghouta amid weeks of a crippling siege and a government assault that has killed hundreds.

Stormy Daniels: I’m Now Free to Tell My Trump Story

Stormy Daniels 'free to tell her story' after Trump lawyer statement

The newspaper says Mr Cohen declined to answer why the "private transaction" was made

An adult film star who has been embroiled in allegations of an affair with President Donald Trump is free to tell her story, her manager has said.

Stormy Daniels is no longer bound by a non-disclosure contract after Mr Trump's lawyer admitted he paid her, manager Gina Rodriguez says.

Mr Trump's personal lawyer confirmed in a statement to media he privately paid Ms Daniels $130,000 (£95,000) in 2016.

Ms Rodriguez says that acknowledgement allows her client to speak freely.

"Everything is off now, and Stormy is going to tell her story," Ms Rodriguez told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Her statement comes after Trump lawyer Michael Cohen told the New York Times he paid Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

"Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly," Mr Cohen told the New York Times.

He said he told the Federal Election Commission the same after a watchdog group filed a complaint about the payment, claiming that it had served as an "in-kind" political contribution to Mr Trump's campaign.

An X-rated cover-up?

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC Washington

Donald Trump's lawyer and all-around fixer Michael Cohen has said he doesn't plan "further comment" on his six-figure payment to Stormy Daniels. His statements, however, raise more questions than they answer.

While he said the money came from his "personal funds" and was not reimbursed directly or indirectly by the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign, that leaves open the possibility that he was compensated by other parties - including Mr Trump himself.

Why, in his generosity, would Mr Cohen give $130,000 to Ms Daniels? The Wall Street Journal has reported that it was in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement about a decade-old affair between Mr Trump and Ms Daniels. Circumstantial evidence - that Ms Daniels had been in contact with media outlets prior to the transfer and has since gone silent - lends credence to this line.

Porn actress Stormy Daniels alleged in 2011 that she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2006

Even though the alleged affair is long since past, a story about possible hush money and an attempted cover-up just weeks before the presidential election is much more dangerous for a White House already on its heels. And if it turns out there's more to the money trail than has been disclosed, an embarrassing situation could quickly morph into a criminal inquiry.

"The payment to Ms Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone," Mr Cohen said.

The lawyer has previously said Mr Trump "vehemently denies" it occurred.

The revelations on Wednesday follow US media reports that the porn actress known as Ms Daniels was paid to sign an agreement stopping her discussing an alleged affair.

She first said she had a relationship with Mr Trump in a 2011 interview.

In a 2011 interview with InTouch magazine, the actress said she began a sexual relationship with Mr Trump in 2006, shortly after Melania Trump gave birth to his son Barron.

The reports re-emerged in January when the Wall Street Journal reported that she was paid to sign a non-disclosure agreement in the run-up to the 2016 election, which prevented her from discussing the alleged liaison.

Ms Clifford was believed to be in discussion with US media about an television appearance to discuss Mr Trump at the time, the report said.

Responding to questions from CNN about why the payment was made, Mr Cohen said: "Just because something isn't true doesn't mean that it can't cause you harm or damage."

"I will always protect Mr Trump," Mr Cohen added.

On 30 January, Ms Daniels' publicist released a statement in her name denying having an affair with Mr Trump.

But many - including Ms Daniels herself - were quick to note that the signature attached to that denial did not bear much resemblance to another copy of her autograph which had been attached to an earlier statement.
Ms Daniels hosted a Super Bowl party last month

That denial had been released by Mr Cohen on 10 January.

She has since made several public appearances on television and at strip clubs, but has remained tight-lipped when asked directly about Mr Trump in interviews.

Minutes after Mr Trump's first formal State of the Union address to Congress, she gave an interview to late night comedian Jimmy Kimmel.

In it, she refused to directly answer whether she had signed a non-disclosure agreement, or if she had "ever made love to someone whose name rhymes with Lonald Lump".


Assailant caught in US school shooting, 'numerous fatalities'

Horrific mass shooting at a Florida high school

n this frame grab from video provided by WPLG-TV, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland evacuate the area Picture: WPLG-TV/APSource:AP

MIAMI: A gunman opened fire Wednesday at a Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused "numerous fatalities" and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody following the incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometres) north of Miami.
AT LEAST one person is dead and dozens of people have been injured following a horrific mass shooting at a Florida high school.

Coral Springs Police was called to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland following reports of an active shooter on the scene.

Authorities warned the public to stay away from the area as the campus remains in lockdown.

It remained unknown exactly how many people were shot, however, it is understood there have been “multiple fatalities”.
The shooting, one of several in the United States since the start of the year, will once again throw the spotlight on the country's epidemic of gun violence and the ready accessibility of weapons, with 33,000 gun-related deaths annually.

Emergency crews on the scene near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Picture: ABCNewsSource:Supplied

The superintendent of the county's school district, Robert Runcie, said he believed there were "numerous fatalities," and that the gunman may have been a former student.

"Just a horrible day for us," Runcie said, adding that the incident appeared to be over.
So far, 14 "victims" had been or were being taken to local hospital, the sheriff's office said. Earlier reports suggested that between 20 and 50 people had been hurt.

"This is a very tragic situation for everybody involved," Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky told CNN, adding that she had spoken to a number of students.

"They were very scared," she said. "And almost in shock when they came out."
Asked about security, the mayor said a police officer is always stationed at the school and there was a "single point of entry."
Television images showed students being led out of the school by heavily armed police officers and an armoured vehicle filled with a SWAT team arriving at the scene.

One injured victim was seen being placed into an ambulance on a stretcher.

Police officers in helmets, bulletproof vests and armed with automatic weapons could be seen stationed at several points around the sprawling school complex, which houses nearly 3,000 students.
Student Jeiella Dodoo told CBS News that she and her schoolmates had evacuated their classroom calmly after hearing what they thought had been a routine fire alarm.

Parents wait for news following the horrific mass shooting. Picture: Joel Auerbach/APSource:AP

"The alarm went off so we had to evacuate from our classes," she said. "Then we heard gunshots.
"I heard about six gunshots," she said, "and then some people started running and then everyone started running because we were like 'If it's real, then just run.'"
A math teacher at the school told CBS that he was hiding with six of his students.
"We are fine. We are waiting," he said.

Caesar Figueroa told CNN his daughter was hiding in a closet and texting her family.
"She's trapped with her 10 friends. She said she heard gunshots. A window blew and everybody is screaming and running, and she said she ran in the closet and she's still there," Figueroa said.
The Broward Sheriff’s office confirmed the suspected shooter is now in custody, however, stressed the scene remains active.

“So far we have at least 14 victims,” the Sheriff’s office said.

“Victims have been and continue to be transported to Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health North hospital.”

"My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting," President Donald Trump said on Twitter.

"No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school."
Coral Spring Police told concerned parents over Twitter the school remained on lockdown as a precaution.

Since January 2013, "there have been at least 283 school shootings across the country -- which averages out to one school shooting a week," according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit group that advocates for gun control.

Police handcuff the suspected gunmen following the shooting

Since the 2012 massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were shot dead, warning procedures and emergency drills have multiplied at US schools.

The goal is to teach school children how to react to a shooter who opens fire at random.

Classified Information: Ex-CIA officer arrested

Ex-CIA officer arrested for retaining classified information

Ex-CIA Officer Arrested for Retaining Notebooks Full of Classified Information

WASHINGTON: An ex-Central Intelligence Agency officer was detained at a US airport on Monday night regarding the charges that he illegally held on to highly classified information, the US Justice Department said Tuesday.

Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a US citizen who now resides in Hong Kong, used to keep a top secret clearance and started doing work for the CIA in 1994.

The Justice Department stated that in 2012, FBI agents searched his hotel rooms during the vacations to Virginia and Hawaii. They identified he had two small books comprising handwritten information on specifics such as the true names and numbers of spy recruits and covert CIA employees.
He was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

The case is going to be prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. But Lee made his first court appearance on Tuesday before a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn. The judge ordered Lee held without bail.

A federal public defender who represented Lee at Tuesday’s hearing declined to comment.
Based upon an affidavit filed by an FBI agent, Lee, 53, served in the US Army from 1982 through 1986 and worked for the CIA from 1994 through 2007.

The FBI agent wrote that Lee and his family left Hong Kong in August 2012 to travel to northern Virginia. During the trip, they stayed in hotels in which the FBI found the books.

The small books were found inside Lee’s luggage, sealed in a small clear plastic vacation pack.
The handwritten information inside varied with regard to classification, however, the agent said no less than one page contained top secret information, “the disclosure of those might lead to extremely grave trouble for the national security of the United States.”

The agent also noted that classified cables Lee wrote when he had been a case officer talking about his interactions with CIA assets were revealed in the two books.

Lee was interviewed by the FBI five separate times in 2013 and do not share he had the books. He also met with former CIA colleagues about that period without giving back the materials to the government, the Justice Department said.

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