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29 January 2020

  • In wake of Bolton book news, White House allies say Trump lawyers bungled defense

    Reports that John Bolton had written a firsthand account of President Trump’s direct involvement in withholding aid to Ukraine has left some Republicans confused and angry over the legal strategy by the president’s defense team.


  • Navy SEAL Promoted After Choking Green Beret to Death

    The U.S. Navy promoted Chief Petty Officer Tony DeDolph four months after he admitted to choking a Green Beret to death. DeDolph—who will be back in court Thursday for a preliminary hearing—was formally charged in November 2018 with felony murder, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, burglary, hazing, and involuntary manslaughter in the strangulation death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, a Special Forces soldier assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group.Melgar was nearing the end of his deployment when he was killed in the West African nation of Mali in June 2017. He was part of an intelligence operation in Mali supporting counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda’s local affiliate, known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.Days after Melgar was strangled, DeDolph, at the time a petty officer first class, was sent back to his base in Virginia Beach under suspicion of murder. Despite that, DeDolph found himself on the promotion list for chief petty officer in August 2017; he was “frocked”—meaning he began wearing the insignia of the higher rank—on Sept. 15, 2017, according to defense officials. He didn’t start drawing chief’s pay until December.Slain Green Beret’s Widow Speaks: ‘I Knew They Were Lying’Three days before DeDolph’s promotion, the medical examiner’s report was signed. It concluded, based on a June 8, 2017, autopsy at Dover Air Force Base, that Melgar’s cause of death was asphyxiation and the manner of death was homicide, according to documents reviewed by The Daily Beast.A defense official familiar with the case said Naval Special Warfare Development Group, commonly known as Seal Team 6, didn’t flag DeDolph because he was not formally charged or a person of interest in an ongoing investigation. He was a participant in the investigation but no charges were filed until November 2018.Retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, the former commander of Special Operations Command-Africa, told The Daily Beast this week that he authorized an investigation after he learned of Melgar’s death. Bolduc alerted Army Criminal Investigation Command and told commanders in Mali to preserve evidence. He didn’t understand why DeDolph was promoted when he returned to his unit in Virginia Beach.“It is another failure of leadership,” Bolduc said. “I mean senior leadership. It’s unfortunate. He should have never been promoted. The investigation was started right away. They whisked them out of there as fast as they could.”When asked if he was surprised by the news, Bolduc said no.“I’m disappointed,” he said. “But not surprised. It’s utter bullshit.”Navy prosecutor Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Garcia declined to comment on the promotion because DeDolph is part of an ongoing investigation.“DeDolph has remained a member of Naval Special Warfare throughout this process,” said Navy Capt. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare. “It is paramount that the rights of the service member are protected, thus any additional information regarding this case will not be discussed.”Phil Stackhouse, DeDolph's civilian attorney, did not return calls or text messages seeking comment. Melgar’s widow, Michelle, declined to comment on the story.DeDolph’s case is just one of several high-profile incidents that have exposed issues in the SEAL culture. Members of SEAL Team 7 were expelled from Iraq in 2019 after allegations of drinking and sexual assault. Six SEALs tested positive for cocaine last year. Then there’s the case of Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Gallagher, a former member of SEAL Team 7, who faced a court martial for war crimes charges including murder, but was convicted of posing for a picture with a dead body and granted clemency by President Trump in November 2019. Trump Tells Allies He Wants Absolved War Criminals to Campaign for HimSome of the same issues were present in Mali, where there was widespread alcohol use, partying, and prostitutes at the safehouse, according to sources familiar with the investigation. “It was like a frat house,” one source said, when asked to describe what the safe house in Bamako was like. In response to the recent incidents, Rear Adm. Collin Green, head of Naval Special Warfare Command, sent a memo last year to his subordinate units declaring the whole SEAL community has a problem.“Some of our subordinate formations have failed to maintain good order and discipline and as a result and for good reason, our NSW culture is being questioned,” Green wrote in the July 2019 memo. “I don’t know yet if we have a culture problem, I do know that we have a good order and discipline problem that must be addressed immediately.”Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of Special Operations Command, ordered an ethics review last August following several high-profile incidents. He acknowledged in a memo to service members on Tuesday that “unacceptable conduct” had been allowed to occur as a result of “lack of leadership, discipline and accountability.” The 71-page report summing up the ethics review warned of what Clarke described as an emphasis on “force employment and mission accomplishment over the routine activities that ensure leadership, accountability, and discipline.”Chief Petty Officer Adam C. Matthews, who was in Mali doing an assessment of the mission there, testified in August he felt it was his duty to haze Melgar—on DeDolph’s recommendation—to teach him a lesson after Melgar “ditched” the team in Mali’s capital city of Bamako on his way to a party at the French embassy. Investigator of Green Beret’s Murder Had Romantic Relationship With Witness, Lawyer SaysDeDolph, Matthews and two Marine Raiders—Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez and Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell—spent the rest of the night plotting to choke Melgar into unconsciousness, pull his pants down and videotape the incident and then show it to him later to embarrass him. When Melgar became unresponsive, Matthews and DeDolph tried to resuscitate Melgar with CPR and opened a hole in his throat. The SEALS with Sergeant First Class James Morris, Melgar’s supervisor, then rushed Melgar to a French medical facility, where he was pronounced dead. At the clinic, DeDolph admitted to an embassy official he choked Melgar, according to NBC News and subsequent reports.Maxwell and Matthews have already pleaded guilty in exchange for plea agreements with prosecutors. Matthews, 33, pleaded guilty to hazing and assault charges and attempts to cover up what happened to Melgar. He was sentenced in May 2019 to one year in military prison. Maxwell, 29, was sentenced to four years of confinement after pleading guilty in connection with Melgar’s death in June 2019.DeDolph and Madera-Rodriguez are the last of the four men who carried out the attack to stand trial. Both men are expected to face courts martial this spring. An exact date has not been selected, according to Navy officials.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


  • Four co-workers in Germany contract coronavirus after Chinese colleague visits

    Four people who work at the same company in southern Germany have been infected with the coronavirus, and one of them contracted it from a colleague visiting their workplace in China, officials said on Tuesday. The cases raise concerns about the spread of the flu-like virus that broke out in the central Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of last year and has killed 106 people and infected more than 2,800 people. In one of the first cases of person-to-person transmission outside China, a 33-year-old man apparently contracted the virus on Jan. 21 during a training session with a Chinese colleague, the ministry said.


  • Kobe Bryant helicopter video emerges showing ill-fated flight minutes before crash

    A video that appears to show Kobe Bryant’s helicopter circling over California roughly 15 minutes before the fatal crash has been posted online, illustrating the foggy conditions faced by the chopper on its last flight.In the video, which was posted by a user on Twitter who said they live in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale — where Bryant’s flight circled for roughly 10 minutes on Sunday awaiting instruction, according to flight records — the helicopter can be seen moving slowly in the sky above, obscured by the early morning fog.


  • Historians unveil rare photos of Sobibor death camp

    Hundreds of newly discovered photographs, including some taken at the Sobibor death camp, represent a "quantum leap" in research into Nazi crimes against humanity, historians at the Berlin museum Topography of Terror said Tuesday. Historians said the "exceptional collection" provided unprecedented insights into the Sobibor camp in German Nazi-occupied Poland, about which little is known even 75 years after the end of World War II. The trove, consisting of 361 black-and-white photos and several written documents, also includes photos believed to show convicted Nazi guard John Demjanjuk, who denied ever being at Sobibor.


  • A Dangerous Game: Russia and America Keep Flying Their Planes Near Each Other's Borders

    Nuclear chicken anyone?


  • Major 7.7 magnitude quake hits Caribbean off Jamaica: USGS

    A major 7.7 magnitude quake struck Tuesday in the Caribbean northwest of Jamaica, the US Geological Survey reported, raising the risk of tsunami waves in the region. The US agency said the quake hit at a depth of 10 kilometers (six miles), at 1910 GMT -- 125 kilometers northwest of Lucea, Jamaica.


  • Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day

    (Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on what's moving European markets in your inbox every morning? Sign up here.Good morning. Stocks and oil are starting the week firmly lower as the coronavirus spreads, the populist leader of Italy’s League party suffered defeat in a key regional election and the U.S. embassy in Iraq came under fire. Here’s what’s moving markets.Virus Hits MarketsStocks and crude oil are tumbling once again, with havens including the yen and Treasuries jumping, as fears deepen about the impact of the deadly coronavirus on near-term growth. The death toll from the illness climbed to at least 80, while confirmed cases in China surpassed 2,700. The Chinese government has extended the Lunar New Year holiday amid reports that the infection’s spread is accelerating around the globe. Outbreak worries have now also become a  source of unrest in Hong Kong.Salvini Defeat Italy’s Matteo Salvini suffered a stinging defeat in a key regional vote, providing a much-needed boost to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s fragile government and making a snap general election less likely. Interior Ministry figures showed a center-left bloc led by the Democratic Party, a partner in Conte’s ruling coalition, at 51.3% in Emilia-Romagna. A center-right group headed by Salvini’s anti-migrant League trailed at 43.8%. The defeat for the populist firebrand, after a failed power grab last year, will likely settle nerves in the market and could push yields on Italian government debt lower. Here’s a list of the stocks that could be in the spotlight Monday.U.S. Embassy HitFive Katyusha rockets were fired at the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad Sunday night, one directly hitting the U.S. Embassy building, Iraq’s security forces reported, while local media said U.S. helicopters were seen evacuating injured people. While the U.S. said it did not comment on injuries, it  noted there have been 14 attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq since September. Such attacks by Iran-linked militia groups have increased since the U.S. airstrike this month that killed Iran’s top commander Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the head of Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah.Talking TradeThere’s much trade news to digest, starting with comments from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said he’s focused on getting a deal with the U.K. this year. Officials in London, meanwhile, downplayed concern over the impact of Britain’s dealings with Chinese firm Huawei Technologies Co. on discussions with Washington. Elsewhere, the European Union’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier,  said he’ll work “night and day” for a pact with the U.K., just as EU officials said they hope to achieve a breakthrough in relations with America, possibly by using shellfish.Coming Up…We ease into the week with a distinct lack of corporate earnings in Europe, but don’t get comfortable, there’s a whole bunch of reports scheduled to be released in the coming days, starting Tuesday with Dutch health tech giant Philips NV and French luxury goods group LVMH. Meanwhile, in macroeconomic data, we’ll get the German Ifo business climate survey index after Friday’s better-than-expected manufacturing purchasing managers index for January. What We’ve Been ReadingThis is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours. Kobe Bryant’s brilliant and complicated legacy.  Billie Eilish sweeps top four prizes at Grammy Awards. U.K. to relax visa rules for top scientists. Kim Jong Un’s aunt reappears years after husband’s execution. Monzo in funding talks with Softbank, Telegraph reports.  Turkey quake kills at least 38. New Boeing jet takes to the skies.Like Bloomberg's Five Things? Subscribe for unlimited access to trusted, data-based journalism in 120 countries around the world and gain expert analysis from exclusive daily newsletters, The Bloomberg Open and The Bloomberg Close.Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. Find out more about how the Terminal delivers information and analysis that financial professionals can't find anywhere else. Learn more.To contact the authors of this story: Joe Easton in London at jeaston7@bloomberg.netChiara Remondini in Milan at cremondini@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Get Early Access to Backcountry’s Big Winter Sale Right Now


  • Trump rally rouses New Jersey shore town to life

    Winter typically leaves many parts of New Jersey’s shore deserted, complete with blinking traffic lights and shuttered boardwalk shops, but President Donald Trump’s rally for Rep. Jeff Van Drew jolted Wildwood to life Tuesday, with rally-goers flocking to the seaside resort.


  • Taliban says it gunned down U.S. military plane in Afghanistan, killing all personnel onboard

    The Taliban said it had shot down a U.S. military plane in the central Afghan province of Ghazni on Monday, killing all personnel onboard.


  • CDC Splits With China on Coronavirus Spread as Possible U.S. Cases Hit 110

    As authorities in China scrambled to handle a coronavirus that has killed at least 81 people, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday described a surging potential crisis even as they pushed back on the latest thinking from Beijing about just how easily it spreads.Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters that the number of confirmed cases stateside had reached five—and that there had been a total of 110 “persons under investigation” for the virus in 26 states over the past week.Thirty-two of those people tested negative, and there had been no confirmed person-to-person transmissions inside the country, Messonnier said on Monday. The confirmed cases in the U.S. include patients in Orange County, California; a man in his 30s in Washington state; a woman in her 60s in Chicago; a passenger who felt ill after flying into Los Angeles International Airport; and a student at Arizona State University who does not live in university housing, the CDC said on Sunday. All of the U.S. cases appeared to involve patients who had recently traveled from Wuhan, China—the epicenter of the deadly virus. Seventy-three people were still being evaluated for the virus as of Monday.Fifth U.S. Case of Coronavirus Confirmed in Patient Who Traveled From Wuhan, China“We understand that many people in the United States are worried about this virus and how it will affect Americans,” Messonnier said, adding that “risk depends on exposure,” which for Americans remained “low” on Monday.In each U.S. case, health officials have said they will trace the patient’s contacts and identify anyone who may have had prolonged exposure, then monitor those individuals for symptoms. In the U.S., anyone who has had close contact with confirmed patients has not been quarantined unless and until they display symptoms.That policy came into question over the weekend, when China’s health minister Ma Xiaowei said “the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger” and that authorities in that country now believe the virus can spread during the incubation period—even before infected patients become symptomatic. A study published last week in the journal Lancet appeared to bolster that contention.But Messonnier said the CDC had not seen “any clear evidence of patients being infectious before symptom onset” as of Monday, even if authorities in the U.S. “are being very aggressive and very cautious in tracking close contacts” of infected individuals.“This outbreak is unfolding rapidly, and we are rapidly looking at how that impacts our posture at the border,” said Messonnier. “I expect that in the coming days, our travel recommendations will change.”Experts said that even as statements from Chinese health officials had to be viewed through a political lens, outright dismissal of asymptomatic transmission was premature.Eric Toner, a senior scientist with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the University’s School of Public Health, called the question “nuanced.” “It’s hard to know why the [Chinese] minister was so sure,” said Toner. “The evidence we have seen is quite suggestive of pre-symptomatic transmission, at least in some people, but not conclusive. He may have information that we do not.”For now, officials were still screening passengers at five American airports: Los Angeles International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Of course, fewer travelers are coming out of Wuhan in the wake of a travel lockdown late last week; Messonnier said the CDC had screened approximately 2,400 people in those airports so far but that “the number of people coming from Wuhan is declining.”Though Chinese authorities halted travel from Wuhan to stop the spread of the virus, the U.S. is among several countries—including France and Russia—that were given special permission to evacuate diplomats and private citizens. In addition to the 81 dead in China—76 of whom reportedly lived in Wuhan—nearly 3,000 people across the world, including a 9-month-old baby girl in Beijing, had confirmed cases of the virus as of Monday morning. Aside from the five cases in the U.S., more have been reported in Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, Macau, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, France, Canada, Vietnam, and Nepal. There had been no deaths from the virus reported outside of China as of Monday morning. But the new fatalities in that country over the weekend, including an 88-year-old man in Shanghai, stoked fears that the government had failed to contain the infection’s spread. Beijing announced Monday morning that it would push back the official end of the Lunar New Year holiday to Thursday from Sunday in order to “reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic,” according to a statement from China’s cabinet.Meanwhile, Wuhan’s mayor, Zhou Xianwang, on Monday offered to step down, along with the city’s party secretary, Ma Guoqiang, in order to “appease public indignation.” He said the pair were prepared to take responsibility for the crisis after days of public outcries from citizens, on social media and elsewhere.“Our names will live in infamy, but as long as it is conducive to the control of the disease and to the people’s lives and safety, Comrade Ma Guoqiang and I will bear any responsibility,” Zhou reportedly said Monday.Dr. Adrian Hyzler, chief medical officer for Healix International, which provides medical information to travelers, told The Daily Beast the CDC will know much more about how easily the virus spreads once the incubation period—estimated at a maximum of 14 days—has passed in the five U.S. cases. “If, as the Chinese are saying, patients are contagious before symptoms develop, then it is much harder to control,” he said.Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that the CDC cleared 32 people who tested negative for the virus out of 110 potential cases.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


  • 'My alarm bells went off': One witness offers his account of Kobe Bryant's helicopter crash

    Scott Daehlin, who witnessed Kobe Bryant's fatal crash, said he heard the helicopter hovering in low cloud cover seconds before it crashed.


  • Indonesia's Aceh unveils new female flogging squad

    The masked woman nervously approaches her target, shuffles into position and then unleashes a flurry of lashes -- proving herself as the newest member of the first female flogging squad in Indonesia's Aceh province. Such behaviour constitutes a morality crime in Aceh, the only region in the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation that imposes Islamic law -- known as Sharia.


  • McConnell Tells Caucus They Lack the Votes to Block Impeachment Witnesses

    Senator Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) on Tuesday said he doesn't have the votes to block a resolution to allow witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial, according to multiple reports.McConnell made the admission in talks with Senate Republicans after President Trump's defense team concluded its arguments.If the Senate votes to summon witnesses, Democrats will likely attempt to call on former White House national security adviser John Bolton to give testimony in the trial. On Sunday the New York Times reported that Bolton wrote in the manuscript of his upcoming book that Trump had conditioned aid to Ukraine on that country's commitment to conduct investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden.Republicans may react to a subpoena of Bolton by summoning Hunter Biden and the government whistleblower, whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry, to testify."Those are the ones that I want to call," Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said on Monday of Hunter Biden and the whistleblower, despite having told reporters on Friday that he would vote against summoning Hunter Biden. "If we add to the record, we are going to do it completely."Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) concurred during an interview on Fox & Friends."My view is this — if the Senate decides to call witnesses later this week . . . we need to hear from Hunter Biden, he is right at the center of this," Hawley said. "What was he doing in Ukraine? What was he doing with Burisma?"Hawley also wrote on Twitter, "if the Senate is going to call witnesses, then I will ask to hear from Adam Schiff, Hunter Biden, Joe Biden & the whistleblower, at a minimum."