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Steamboat council member accuses former council member of sending threatening email

November 22, 2017 - 7:43am

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs City Councilwoman Heather Sloop said a former council member sent her an intimidating email to keep her from speaking out against a housing proposal that he has a financial interest in.

Sloop said Tuesday that former Council President Walter Magill sent the email while he was still serving on council.

Magill is the civil engineer for the proposed 86-unit Urban Street on the Mountain Project, which Sloop voted to table back in October after she raised questions about road designs as well as other aspects of the project.

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The day after the tabling motion, Magill, who had to recuse himself from the council deliberations due to his financial connection, sent Sloop an email accusing her of misrepresenting her civil engineer background while she was criticizing the Urban Street project.

Magill also said the proponents of the project were ready to confront Sloop about the alleged misrepresentation of her civil engineering credentials.

Magill specifically said Sloop needed to stop presenting herself as a civil engineer while on council when she was not licensed.

Read the full story at SteamboatToday.com.

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Aspen clothing store clerk admits stealing $15K in merchandise during 6 weeks on job

November 22, 2017 - 7:21am

An 18-year-old local clothing store employee admitted Monday to stealing nearly $15,000 worth of merchandise from the business despite only working there for a month and a half, according to court documents.

Pitkin County Sheriff's OfficeKaden Gustin

Kaden Gustin, who was charged with felony theft, told police he took 18 separate items from Moncler in downtown Aspen, including jackets, pants, shirts and shoes, according to an affidavit filed in Pitkin County District Court.

Aspen police were called to the store about 6:20 p.m. Monday after staff members checked Gustin’s bag and found a $1,675 ski jacket inside it, the affidavit states.

“(Staff members) said that Gustin admitted to them he stole the jacket as well as numerous other items,” according to the court filing. “They explained to us that Gustin had been employed at the store for approximately one and one half months and that inventory had been disappearing during that time.”

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Gustin told a police officer he stole the jacket as well as other items that were at his Snowmass Village apartment. He volunteered to take officers to the apartment and retrieve the stolen merchandise, the affidavit states.

Read the rest of the story at AspenTimes.com.

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Charging juveniles as adults rare, but not unprecedented in Boulder County

November 22, 2017 - 7:10am

Should prosecutors charge the juvenile suspect in Saturday’s fatal Longmont stabbing as an adult, it would be the first time in a decade that’s been done in a first-degree murder case in Boulder County.

District Attorney Stan Garnett has said he’s considering a request to transfer the case to district court, and prosecutors will announce their final decision when the 15-year-old is charged Wednesday in juvenile court.

“We are continuing to closely review all the evidence in the case,” Garnett said Tuesday.

The Lakewood teen — who has not been publicly identified — was arrested seven hours after police allege he fatally stabbed 19-year-old Makayla Grote at her Longmont apartment on Saturday night.

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Prosecutors say the boy created a “death list” with Grote’s younger sister listed at the top. The sister was at Grote’s apartment showering when Grote was stabbed, and prosecutors say the suspect pursued the younger sister, too.

Read the full story at TimesCall.com.

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Colorado woman charged with 105 counts of animal cruelty

November 22, 2017 - 6:40am

DURANGO — A Colorado woman has been charged with 105 counts of animal cruelty as a result of a lengthy investigation into mistreatment on her property.

The Durango Herald reports that on Nov. 15, about 110 animals were seized from Elizabeth Miera’s property in southwestern La Plata County. Dogs, a cat, pigs, goats, sheep, horses, a burro, a duck, chickens and cattle were all taken from her as part of the investigation that included multiple state agencies.

Authorities have not released additional information about the case. Attempts by the Herald to reach La Plata County Animal Control Director Travis Woehrel and 6th Judicial District Attorney Christian Champagne were unsuccessful.

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Miera also did not return calls from the Herald seeking comment. Her first court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 20.

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Ratko Mladic, the “Butcher of Bosnia,” guilty of genocide in last Balkan war crimes trial

November 22, 2017 - 6:31am

BERLIN – Ratko Mladic, the former Serb warlord who commanded forces that carried out some of the worst atrocities of the Balkan wars, was found guilty of genocide and other crimes against humanity by an international tribunal Wednesday.

The 74-year-old Mladic was sentenced to life in prison. Mladic, whose attorneys had sought to block Wednesday’s judgment on the grounds that he was too ill to attend trial, had been removed from the courtroom before the verdict was read after he shouted insults at judge Alphons Orie.

Also at The Hague to witness the verdict were survivors, including those who had been held in concentration camps and lost family members during a years-long military campaign against Bosnian Muslims that judges have ruled amounted to a genocide.

The judge reading the verdict Wednesday said that the crimes committed by Mladic “rank among the most heinous known to humankind.”

The judgment came after a trial that lasted over four years, and involved testimony from nearly 600 witnesses.

Many of them detailed a litany of horrors carried out by forces under Mladic’s command during the war in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995. They included the July 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, a supposed U.N. safe haven. Mladic was also convicted of orchestrating the indiscriminate shelling of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital.

Mladic’s conviction marks the last major prosecution by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which was set up by the U.N. Security Council more than two decades ago.

The prosecutions are considered the most important war crimes trials in Europe since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi perpetrators.

Of the 161 individuals indicted by the tribunal on war crimes charges, none remain at large today.

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In many cases, the perpetrators were tracked down after exhaustive international manhunts that lasted over a decade. Mladic went into hiding in 1997, and was only apprehended in 2011, when Serb police found him living in a cousin’s village near the Romanian border.

Mladic’s conviction follows that of the Serb political leader who took his country to war in Bosnia. Radovan Karadžić was convicted by the tribunal last year of crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

The war broke out in 1992 as the former Yugoslavia collapsed, and Bosnia declared independence. Serb forces initially sought to defend Bosnian Serb territory, but soon spread violence across the country.

Wednesday’s judgment found that Mladic persecuted Croats and Muslims with the intent of creating “ethnically clean” territories.



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Spike in felony crimes has Colorado prosecutors pushing back against sentencing, parole reforms

November 22, 2017 - 6:30am

Felony criminal filings across Colorado increased by nearly 50 percent in the past five years, prompting concerns that recent criminal justice reforms are letting dangerous individuals roam the streets.

Prosecutors and state officials still are trying to identify the causes for the swifter pace of felony filings. State statistics indicate that a recent surge in drug arrests may be partly responsible.

The Colorado District Attorneys’ Council has alerted officials in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office to the increase and sought their help in analyzing crime trends. The council also has reached out to district attorneys throughout the state for more information on felony filings as it prepares to fight plans to push for further sentencing reforms in the upcoming legislative session.

Lawmakers ranging from Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud, a member of the influential Joint Budget Committee that writes the state budget, to Democratic Sen. Daniel Kagan of Arapahoe County, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, want to overhaul Colorado’s sex offender and habitual offender statutes to give judges more flexibility when sentencing offenders.

Prosecutors are pointing to the rise in felony filings as cause for caution. Several said they fear the legislature sent the wrong signal in 2013 when it created more leniency in drug sentencing. Under that change in law, defendants convicted of lower-level felony drug possession can have their convictions changed to misdemeanors after completing their probation. The new law restricted the ability of judges to sentence offenders convicted of certain drug crimes to prison, requiring them to first exhaust all other options.

District attorneys also blame the rising felony filings on state initiatives to keep more offenders out on parole and probation and under pretrial supervision instead of behind bars. Others say the 2012 ballot initiative voters passed to make recreational marijuana legal has enticed career criminal transients to move from other states to Colorado.

“There has been a lot of criminal justice reform in the last 10 years in Colorado,” said Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein, who said his office is overloaded with a surge in crime. “Sometimes those pushes go too far and the pendulum needs to swing a little bit back in the other direction. There was needed criminal justice reform, but not everything has to always be about diverting people away from prison.”

Downward trend until 2011

Before the reform measures, felony filings were on the decline throughout the state. From 2007 through 2011, felony filings statewide gradually declined each year, decreasing from 44,245 to 35,966, a nearly 19 percent drop.

Now, the trend is in the opposite direction. Statewide, felony filings increased from 35,551 in the fiscal year that ended in June 2012 to 51,775 this fiscal year, a 46 percent increase. The state’s population has risen by 8 percent during those years.

“I want to make sure this reality is included in the conversation, that the narrative isn’t just about over-incarceration, and that we remember the criminal justice system has a mandate to ensure public safety,” said Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, who in August became president of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council.

Garnett has discussed the increase in felonies with Hickenlooper’s chief of staff Doug Friednash and chief legal counsel Jacki Melmed.

“We’re certainly concerned and want to understand it better,” Melmed said. “Until we have a better sense of what’s going on, I don’t think anyone right now can point to anything. No one really knows what’s behind this. It would be foolish to jump to any conclusions too quickly.”

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So far, the increase in felony filings hasn’t exploded the state’s monthly prison population, which declined by about 3,000 inmates from October 2008 to October 2013. But the surge in filings still has concerned lawmakers and corrections officials because the pace appears to have stalled efforts to reduce the monthly prison population in Colorado, which for the past four years has hovered around 20,000 inmates. Corrections officials had to spend $10.6 million this year to temporarily lease a private prison to relieve crowded conditions in the state prison system.

Officials want more clarity on how many of the felony filings are for violent offenses, how many are for repeat offenders, what role drug crimes are playing, and how many of the offenders were under pretrial, probation or parole supervision.

Data show sharp increases in felony filings in the past five years in every judicial district except the one that covers Huerfano and Las Animas counties, and even there felony filings in the past two years increased by about 10 percent.

“This affects everyone in the criminal justice system,” said Garnett, who has seen filings in Boulder jump by nearly a third since 2012. “It’s putting a real strain on resources. It is impacting district attorneys and the public defenders and the clerks of courts.”

Drug arrests on rise

Arrests for drug crimes rose steeply from 2013 through 2016, increasing more rapidly than other arrests, according to Colorado Department of Public Safety statistics. Drug arrests had been on the decline before 2013, but since then they have been on the upswing, rising from fewer than 15,000 in 2013 to more than 20,000 arrests in 2016.

In some areas of the state, the increase in felony filings is dramatic. The 11th Judicial District, which covers the counties of Park, Chafee, Fremont and Custer, has seen filings almost double since 2012. DA Molly Chilson said her area of the state has been hit hard by the scourge of heroin. Drug addicts are fueling other crimes, contributing to a rise in robberies, thefts, burglaries and assaults, she added.

“We should be responsible and honest when we have a discussion on what is driving crime rates in Colorado,” Chilson said. “It includes some of the leniency we have seen in our system recently.”

Her office is prosecuting Zebulon Montgomery, 25, who is accused of shooting and killing his grandfather in the parking lot at Cañon City’s McDonald’s. A prosecutor said in a court hearing that Montgomery had past problems with meth and heroin abuse.

Denver has seen felony filings increase by nearly 71 percent in the past five years. Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, who took office in January, said drug crimes are driving much of that rise, but she does not want to abandon programs that divert drug users out of the court system and into rehabilitation programs.

“Drug offenders repeat, and we are looking really hard at how do we deal with drug offenses in a more intelligent way,” McCann said. “We are analyzing and assessing our drug possession cases. We want to get drug offenders into treatment or into alternatives to conviction earlier.”

She and other prosecutors said the enactment in 2015 of a new law that made a fourth and all subsequent DUI offenses felonies is contributing to the spike. Last year, the state also made strangulation a felony offense, which also has created a jump in filings, she added.

Felony strangulations and felony DUIs are responsible for about 80 more felony filings annually in Mesa County, but that increase doesn’t come close to accounting for an increase of more than 500 felony filings in that jurisdiction from 2015 to 2016, said Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein.

Other causes identified

As the state tightened those laws, it relaxed laws for thefts, Rubenstein said. The state used to impose felonies for thefts that equaled more than $750. Now the threshold for a felony theft charge is for losses of more than $2,000, with amounts less than that charged as misdemeanors.

In Mesa County, felony filings from the fiscal years 2012 through 2017 increased by 56 percent. That dramatic rise is having a budgetary impact, Rubinstein noted. Voters this month supported a 0.37 percent increase in the county sales tax that will raise an estimated $7 million a year for the sheriff and DA’s offices. Part of the money will help pay for new hires and equipment. It’s the first local sales tax initiative voters there have passed since the 1980s.

Rubinstein suspects a statewide push to release more defendants from jail while they wait for their trials, and efforts to keep low-level offenders out on probation and parole, has contributed to the surge in felonies. In 2015, 27 percent of defendants charged with felonies in Mesa County had been under pretrial, parole or probation supervision when they were arrested. That jumped to 43 percent in 2016 and 37 percent in 2017, according to statistics Rubinstein tallied.

“We all believe we should manage people in the least restrictive environment possible as long as we can keep people safe,” Rubinstein said. “That is what we would prefer to do. But public safety is the number one thing. I know there is budgetary pressure on the Department of Corrections. But, to me, public safety has to rule the day.”

The 8th Judicial District, which covers Larimer County, has seen felony filings increase by 65 percent from fiscal year 2012 through 2017. Five years ago, it was rare to see transients who had committed crimes in multiple states charged in Fort Collins, but not anymore, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Daniel McDonald.

“Yesterday, I filed eight felony cases, and not one of them was originally from Colorado,” McDonald said. “They were all transient. Now I see multi-state offenders, and I mean multi-state. This one guy had felony filings out of Florida, Maryland, Wisconsin and New York. That’s common now.”

McDonald said that when pressed on why they popped up in Colorado, those transient offenders often cite the recent legalization of recreational marijuana and the move to allow those convicted of lower-level drug possession felonies to have their convictions reduced to misdemeanors. The transients are changing the nature of the Old Town square of Fort Collins, the college town’s destination spot for dining, shopping and strolling, he added.

“The Old Town area is very different than it used to be 10 years ago,” McDonald said. “It’s very noticeable.”

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Colorado Alzheimer’s patient recovers after going missing overnight

November 22, 2017 - 6:16am

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — A 78-year-old woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is recovering after going missing and spending a cold night outside.

The Grand Junction Sentinel reports that the woman had taken her dog for a walk on Saturday and did not return to her home.

Carol Gamble is registered with the Care Track program through the Delta County Sheriff’s Office, but the tracking bracelet she was wearing couldn’t spot her location because she walked out of its range.

Search crews looked for her until about 2 a.m. Sunday without any luck. She was found a few hours later when her dog made its way to a nearby resident’s house — a resident who turned out to be the dog’s veterinarian.

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Susie Hirsch and her family found Gamble lying on the ground in thick vegetation.

She and her dog are expected to be OK.

___

Information from: The Daily Sentinel, http://www.gjsentinel.com



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I-270 closed in both directions following 5-vehicle crash involving semi

November 22, 2017 - 6:08am

Interstate 270 is closed in both directions following a 5-car, chain reaction crash involving a semi-tractor-trailer early Wednesday morning.

There were no serious injuries, said John White, Denver police spokesman.

“We’re asking folks to avoid the area,” White said. “We realize rush hour will soon be upon us so we are working as fast as we can to get that stretch of highway reopened.”

The highway is closed between Vasquez Boulevard and Quebec Street, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

CDOT officials urge people to take alternate routes including Vasquez Blvd or Interstate 25.

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This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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U.S. Navy plane with 11 aboard crashes into Pacific; 8 rescued

November 22, 2017 - 5:28am

TOKYO — Eight people were rescued and three remained missing after a U.S. Navy plane crashed into the western Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, the Navy said.

The C-2 “Greyhound” transport aircraft came down about 500 nautical miles (925 kilometers) southeast of Okinawa as it was bringing passengers and cargo from Japan to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, the Navy said in a statement.

The Reagan was operating in the Philippine Sea during a joint exercise with Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force when the twin-propeller plane crashed at 2:45 p.m. Japan time. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear and the incident will be investigated, the Navy said.

Eight people were rescued about 40 minutes later. They were taken to the Reagan for medical evaluation and are in good condition, the Navy said.

U.S. and Japanese naval ships and aircraft are searching for the missing. Japan’s Defense Ministry said the crash site is about 150 kilometers (90 miles) northwest of Okinotorishima, a Japanese atoll.

The names of the crew and passengers are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Philippine military spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla said his military alerted its ships and aircraft shortly after learning about the crash but could not provide help because of the distance from the country.

The Nov. 16-26 joint exercise in waters off Okinawa has been described by the Navy as the “premier training event” between the U.S. and Japanese navies, designed to increase defensive readiness and interoperability in air and sea operations.

The Navy’s Japan-based 7th Fleet has had two fatal accidents in Asian waters this year, leaving 17 sailors dead and prompting the removal of eight top Navy officers from their posts, including the 7th Fleet commander.

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The USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker collided near Singapore in August, leaving 10 U.S. sailors dead. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided off Japan.

The Navy has concluded that the collisions were avoidable and resulted from widespread failures by the crews and commanders, who didn’t quickly recognize and respond to unfolding emergencies. A Navy report recommended numerous changes to address the problems, ranging from improved training to increasing sleep and stress management for sailors.

___

Associated Press writers Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo and Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this story.



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North Korea criticizes U.S. over designation as terror sponsor

November 22, 2017 - 5:26am

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Wednesday called U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to relist it as a state sponsor of terrorism a “serious provocation” that justifies its development of nuclear weapons.

In the country’s first public response to its return to the American blacklist, the official Korean Central News Agency said North Korea has no connection to terrorism and does not care “whether the U.S. puts a cap of ‘terrorism’ on us or not.”

It said the U.S. action shows North Korea should continue to “keep the treasured nuclear sword in our hands more tightly” to protect itself from American hostility.

“By re-listing (North Korea) as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism,’ the U.S. openly revealed to the whole world its intention to destroy our ideology and system by using all kinds of means and methods,” the agency said, attributing the comments to an unidentified spokesman at North Korea’s Foreign Ministry.

“Our army and people are full of rage and anger toward the heinous gangsters who dared to put the name of our sacred country in this wretched list of ‘terrorism’ and are hardening their will to settle all accounts with those gangsters at any time in any way,” it said.

KCNA later published a separate statement attributed to a spokesman of the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, a North Korean state organization, which said the move by “old lunatic Trump” has caused the North Korean army and people to explode in “hate and spirit to destroy the enemy.”

Experts say the U.S. decision to put North Korea back on its terrorism blacklist will have limited practical effect, but may make a diplomatic solution of the standoff over its nuclear weapons program more difficult. A day after placing North Korea back on the list, the Trump administration on Tuesday imposed new sanctions on a slew of North Korean shipping firms and Chinese trading companies in an effort to increase pressure on North Korea over its nuclear program and deprive it of foreign revenue.

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North Korea has been accelerating its pursuit of nuclear weapons capable of targeting the United States and its Asian allies. In recent months, the North conducted its most powerful nuclear test yet and tested a pair of intercontinental ballistic missiles that could potentially reach the U.S. mainland if perfected. The country also fired powerful new midrange missiles over Japan and threated to fire the same weapons toward Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory and military hub.

The United States has responded by dispatching strategic assets, including aircraft carriers and long-range bombers, more frequently to the region for patrols or drills.



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Trump labels LaVar Ball an “ungrateful fool”

November 22, 2017 - 5:23am

PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump continued to taunt the father of a UCLA basketball player detained for shoplifting in China Wednesday, calling him an “ungrateful fool.”

In a series of tweets fired off before dawn on the first day of his Thanksgiving vacation, the president complained yet again that LaVar Ball, father of LiAngelo Ball, hasn’t given him credit for the release of his son and two other UCLA basketball players from detention in China.

Tweeting from his Florida vacation home Wednesday morning, Trump said: “It wasn’t the White House, it wasn’t the State Department, it wasn’t father LaVar’s so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence – IT WAS ME.”

“Too bad! LaVar is just a poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair,” he said.

Trump also warned that Ball “could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China, but no NBA contract to support you” had it not been for his intervention.

“But remember LaVar, shoplifting is NOT a little thing. It’s a really big deal, especially in China,” he wrote.

LiAngelo Ball and two UCLA teammates were released after a brief detention in China while Trump was visiting the country. Trump has taken credit for the release, saying that he discussed the situation with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their talks.

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Trump had previously said he should have left all three players in jail.

LaVar Ball has repeatedly minimized Trump’s involvement in winning the players’ release, telling CNN earlier this week: “If I feel nobody did anything, I don’t have to go around saying thank you to everybody.”

Trump is also speaking out against the idea of keeping NFL players in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem as a response to players who refuse to stand during the Star-Spangled Banner to protest racial inequality and police brutality.

“That’s almost as bad as kneeling! When will the highly paid Commissioner finally get tough and smart?” Trump wrote. “This issue is killing your league!”



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Ask Amy: Stay-at-home mom resents babysitting requests

November 22, 2017 - 4:30am

Dear Amy: I’m a young SAHM (stay-at-home mom) of a 5-month-old baby. My husband and I worked hard to budget, pay off debt and cut expenses prior to our baby being born.

I’m the only mom in my friend group who stays home, and recently I’ve been getting asked to babysit (for free) quite frequently.

One friend asked me well in advance to drive across town to pick their daughter up from school two days in a row and watch her until they got home.

I agreed, knowing that the child care they had lined up had fallen through.

Under those circumstances, I was happy to help.

A week later, that same friend is asking me to watch their child for an entire day because she works and her husband has made other plans.

I really don’t want to do it, but feel bad knowing that I have no excuse. I just don’t want to.

Their child is much older than my own and requires a lot of attention. It’s way different than my infant and takes away from my bonding with him.

If there was some financial compensation I would be more inclined to do it, but I feel like free babysitting should be kept for times when they are REALLY in a bind. How can I politely decline without feeling guilty, or making up an excuse?

— SAHM

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Dear SAHM: If you are the only SAHM in your friend group, you might be fielding requests from several different sets of parents.

Your job is to take care of your child, and to live your own life the way you want to.

Because you are a good person and a good friend you will occasionally want to help out other parents who are facing an emergency. However, “I’m working and my husband has other plans” does not qualify as an emergency. And this friend should always offer to reciprocate when you step in.

One way to handle this might be to leverage your own needs when replying to a request: “I can take ‘Sara’ for the day, but could you reciprocate by taking care of ‘James’ this Saturday afternoon?”

Or if you want compensation, ask for it: “What would you normally be paying your sitter for these days? I’ll do it for the same fee.” Many parents would be thrilled to pay for a steady and reliable backup.

Here are other words to say: “I’m sorry you are in such a jam but I can’t help you out. You really need to find backup child care, other than me.” Don’t succumb to the temptation to pile on explanations, rationales, etc. Keep it simple.

Dear Amy: This year has been one of the hardest of my life. My grandmother passed away, my uncle died from a stroke, my sister was killed in a car accident, I went through my first romantic heartbreak and I suffered a miscarriage.

I’ve always been a positive person, and I am fighting to maintain that in my life right now. In an effort to do that, I am avoiding news reports on current events. I do this just so I won’t break.

Recently a co-worker asked me about a mass shooting and I expressed why I didn’t keep up with such things. She scolded me, telling me I needed to be aware of these tragedies.

Amy, I don’t want to! I don’t want to know that people kill each other for no reason. I am doing everything I can just to get out of bed some days! This co-worker complained that I was being rude. Was I? Am I wrong because I don’t want to know about these things?

— Surviving in Texas

Dear Surviving: I hear you. And I completely understand your instincts to avoid bad news. Unless you work in the news business, you have no obligation to keep up-to-date on the almost daily string of tragedies befalling us right now.

I don’t know if you were rude to your co-worker. But protecting and then defending yourself isn’t rude — it’s your duty.

Dear Amy: “Not Easy” described pressuring a guy in a fairly new relationship (four dates!) about being exclusive. I agreed with you that it is wise not to have sex until you are exclusive, but this means that all parties need to be patient. Sounds like a mismatch to me.

— Been There

Dear Been There: It seemed to me like “Not Easy” was trapped between her values and the fact that she really wanted to have sex.



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Denver’s newest Jewish deli sources its pastrami from NYC’s famous Carnegie Deli

November 22, 2017 - 1:02am

You know it’s a good day when there’s pastrami news to report. (Insert joke about pastrami being the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats here.)

Jerrod Rosen is opening up Rye Society, a Jewish Deli in the former Hutch & Spoon space, and the man knows what he’s doing.

First, he’ll be flying in pastrami from New York’s Carnegie Deli. I’ll let you take a moment to process that. (The Carnegie Deli closed in Dec. 2016, but it still produces and ships some of its products.)

Next, the Denver restaurant business is in his blood. One of his grandfathers ran Rosen’s Grocery back in the 1950’s and another owned the Oasis Drive-In. His great grandmother operated Rosen’s Kosher Caf– in the 1920’s.

“It’s really near and dear to my heart. I have family who have been in the industry for a long time,” Rosen said.

After being born and raised in Boulder, Rosen headed off to New York to work in the restaurant industry, most notably for Danny Meyer. But he wanted to return to Colorado to open his first spot.

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“I knew with my family history that this was where I wanted to be,” he said.

In addition to flying in Carnegie Deli’s pastrami, Rye Society will be making its own pickles and baking fresh rye bread every day. Rosen tapped chef Ryan Leinonen, formerly of Trillium and Colt & Gray, to help out with the menu, which will also have healthy options in addition to stacked sandwiches.

“The delicatessen has always been the place where you’re gorging on big sandwiches. We’re going to have the amazing gigantic sandwiches you can gorge on, but we’ll also have salads, bowls, things like that,” Rosen said.

Rye Society. Early 2018.–3090 Larimer St, Denver

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Holiday-ish food events around Denver

November 21, 2017 - 11:56pm

Fans of Mario Kart and tacos will not want to miss Lola Coastal Mexican’s Thanksgiving Eve Super Nintendo Mario Kart tournament and $20 all-you-can-eat taco bar. Separately, Mario Kart and unlimited tacos are pretty awesome, but combined, they are an unstoppable force. 1575 Boulder St., Denver, 720-570-8686; loladenver.com;  Nov. 22 at 7 p.m.

At some point, even the most die-hard holiday revelers are going to need a break. At which point you should head straight to Rebel Restaurant’s Night Market, a three-week-long pop-up of curve-ball Asian street food. Freestyle chef Gary Kim is teaming up with Rebel to create inventive, weird eats. (The first week’s menu included Pig Head Bossam and a Fermented Turnip Pancake.) There will also be inventive, weird events like a silent disco and spicy ramen eating contest. 3763 Wynkoop St., Denver, 303-297-3902; rebelrestaurantdenver.com; through Dec. 2, 5-10 p.m. (closed Sun.-Mon.)

December is Peking Duck Month at Departure. That means $99 is all that separates you and a few of your friends from delicious, crispy-skinned duck, mandarin pancakes and duck fried rice all month long. 249 Columbine St., Denver, 720-772-5020; departuredenver.com; Dec. 1-31

If you have a whole lot of patience and a penchant for gum drop roofs, show off your talents at the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys’ Gingerbread House Workshops. The class is designed for kids and grown-ups to create their own masterpieces. 1880 N. Gaylord St., Denver; dmmdt.org; $10; beginning Dec. 2

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Michigan Rep. John Conyers faces ethics probe over harassment allegations

November 21, 2017 - 11:50pm

WASHINGTON – The House Ethics Committee launched a formal investigation into allegations that senior Democratic lawmaker Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.) sexually harassed female aides and used office funds to settle a former staffer’s claim that she was fired after rejecting his advances.

Committee Chairwoman Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and ranking Democrat Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) announced the start of a probe into Conyers, 88, the longest-serving member of the House and top Democrat on the powerful Judiciary Committee.

“The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative John Conyers Jr. may have engaged in sexual harassment of members of his staff, discriminated against certain staff on the basis of age, and used official resources for impermissible personal purposes,” Brooks and Deutch said in a statement.

Shortly after the probe was announced, BuzzFeed News reported a second allegation by a former Conyers aide, who claimed in court filings this year that he sexually harassed her. BuzzFeed reported the 2015 settlement between Conyers and an unnamed former employee late Monday.

On Tuesday, Conyers initially denied that he had settled sexual harassment claims when asked by an Associated Press reporter at his Detroit home. Later in the day, he reversed himself and acknowledged the settlement while emphasizing that he never admitted fault.

Conyers said he would cooperate with a House investigation into the matter.

“I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so,” Conyers said in a written statement.

“My office resolved the allegations – with an express denial of liability – to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation. That should not be lost in the narrative,” he stated.

Conyers’s spokeswoman, Shadawn Reddick-Smith, said Conyers originally denied the existence of a settlement because he was “under the impression the reporter was speaking of recent allegations of which he was unaware.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in a statement Tuesday, did not address whether she would ask Conyers to resign.

“As Members of Congress, we each have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of the House of Representatives and to ensure a climate of dignity and respect, with zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, bullying or abuse. As I have said before, any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the Ethics Committee,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi, House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) urged the House to overhaul the process for reporting and resolving workplace violations with changes proposed by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). Hoyer also called for the Committee on Administration to establish “new rules to protect victims.”

Conyers paid his former employee more than $27,000 from office funds after she made the harassment accusation, listing the payments as employee severance, according to House payroll records compiled by LegiStorm, a subscription-based data source.

“The resolution was not for millions of dollars, but rather for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment. There are statutory requirements of confidentiality that apply to both the employee and me regarding this matter,” Conyers said Tuesday.

Using office funds to settle a claim may call into question the accuracy of a settlement number released earlier by the nonpartisan Office of Compliance. The office, which is charged with adjudicating workplace claims on Capitol Hill, recently said the government has paid more than $17 million to settle alleged rule violations in the past 20 years; however, that estimate did not account for payments made directly from members’ office budgets.

“Beyond the sexual harassment allegations are allegations that call into question the amount of money that is used to settle sexual harassment cases, and whether some Members are using their taxpayer-funded office budgets to make settlements under the guise of severance payments,” Speier said in a statement.

“If this is true, the amount of taxpayer money used to settle these cases is even higher than the number that’s been provided by the Office of Compliance,” she said.

The House last week said it would require members and aides to undergo anti-harassment training for the first time. But leaders have declined to take further concrete steps to address cascading allegations of sexual harassment in House offices.

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Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), calling the original BuzzFeed report “extremely troubling,” noted that the House Administration Committee is reviewing congressional workplace policies with the goal of making changes that will curb harassment.

“Additional reforms to the system are under consideration as the committee continues its review,” Ryan said in a statement Tuesday. “People who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination.”

On the Senate side, Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) indicated he was looking into how he might change the Congressional Accountability Act, a 1995 law he wrote that established the procedures for reporting harassment, to make it friendlier to victims.

“As author of underlying legislation I must look at the regulations on investigating sex harass complaints that favor the aggressors,” Grassley tweeted.

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Self-harm, suicide attempts climb among U.S. girls, study says

November 21, 2017 - 11:31pm

CHICAGO — Attempted suicides, drug overdoses, cutting and other types of self-injury have increased substantially in U.S. girls, a 15-year study of emergency room visits found.

It’s unclear why, but some mental health experts think cyberbullying, substance abuse and economic stress from the recent recession might be contributing.

The rising rates “should be of concern to parents, teachers, and pediatricians. One important reason to focus on reducing self-harm is that it is key risk factor for suicide,” said Dr. Mark Olfson, a Columbia University psychiatry professor who was not involved in the study.

The sharpest increase occurred among girls aged 10 to 14, nearly tripling from 2009 to 2015, from about 110 visits per 100,000 to almost 318 per 100,000.

Older teen girls had the highest rates — 633 visits per 100,000 in 2015, but the increase after 2008 was less steep.

Drug overdoses and other self-poisonings were the most common method among girls and boys, followed by intentional cutting with sharp objects. The study doesn’t include information on which methods were most common by age nor on how many injuries were severe or required hospitalization.

All the injuries were intentional, but not all were suicide attempts, said lead author Melissa Mercado, a behavioral scientist.

The study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The trend parallels rising reports of teen depression and suicide, the researchers noted.

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The researchers analyzed 2001-2015 data on nonfatal self-inflicted injuries treated in emergency rooms among ages 10 to 24. Nearly 29,000 girls with self-inflicted injuries and about 14,000 boys were treated in emergency rooms during the study years.

Rates among boys didn’t change much during those years. Rates in girls were also stable until around 2008. ER visits for self-injury among young women aged 20 to 24 also increased but at a slower pace, rising from 228 per 100,000 in 2001 to 346 per 100,000 in 2015.

The results underestimate the problem since they don’t include self-injuries treated in doctors’ offices or elsewhere, Mercado said.

Researchers said the findings underscore the need to beef up prevention efforts including finding ways to help at-risk kids feel less isolated and more connected to their peers, and teaching coping and problem-solving skills.

 

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Charlie Rose: The rise and plummet of a man who preached “character” and “integrity”

November 21, 2017 - 11:25pm

Swallowed up in the baggy academic robes of Georgetown University, Charlie Rose stood before the school’s graduating class of 2015, shifting into the final moments of a commencement speech on lessons learned from one of the most celebrated careers in broadcast journalism.

“Think ahead to the end of your life,” he told the graduates. “And think about what you would like to be remembered for at the end of your life. It’s not honor. It’s not prestige. It is character. It is integrity. It is truth. It is doing the right thing. It’s hard to imagine or think about that when you’re 22. It’s easy when you’re 73.”

Two years later, exactly what Rose will be “remembered for” is now an open question.

On Monday, The Washington Post reported on a string of sexual assault allegations against the 75-year-old television host, including unwanted advances, groping, lewd phone calls and other improprieties. Eight women, both former employees on Rose’s eponymous talk show and aspiring journalists, told The Post about their experiences with him, as well as their fears that speaking out against the famed host could ruin their careers.

Having ascended so high, to the status of “journalistic icon,” he now faces the possibility of a rapid descent.

On Monday, hours after the report hit the Internet, CBS News announced Rose was suspended from “CBS This Morning.” PBS and Bloomberg have also halted the distribution of the hour-long talk show Rose has hosted since the early 1990s.

The loftiness of Rose’s career can be measured in part by his many honors, some of which could now be at risk: honorary degrees from Duke, Georgetown and Montclair State, to name a few; a Peabody Award and Emmy Award; the Walter Cronkite Excellence in Journalism Award; the Vincent Scully Prize; the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award; his induction as a “knight” in the French Legion of Honor.

There was considerable irony in his apology after Monday’s story broke.

On Nov. 10, while interviewing New York Times columnist David Brooks in the wake of reports of sexual predation by Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama and Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, Brooks had said he was struck by the nature of the mea culpas coming from many of the accused.

“The first thing they say,” Brooks noted, ” . . . is ‘I had no idea the women were thinking this way.'”

If Rose was listening closely, it was not reflected when it was his turn to apologize.

“It is essential that these women know I hear them and that I deeply apologize for my inappropriate behavior,” Rose said in a statement to The Post. “I am greatly embarrassed. I have behaved insensitively at times, and I accept responsibility for that, though I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate.

“I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.”

Brooks had described that sort of expression in harsh terms.

It reflects, he said, “an inability to put your mind in the mind of the person your pushing yourself all over. It’s sort of a moral, and a humanist blindness, to another person’s experience,” Brooks said.

Rose responded: “It’s a significant societal change for sure.”

Brooks agreed, adding that, in the past, he said, such stories of sexual harassment caused just “a little ruckus.” Now, he said “we’re going to code red.”

Rose is the latest in a series of high-profile personalities toppled by similar allegations. Unlike Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly or comedian Louis C.K., Rose was not known for cultivating controversy or exuding an edgy personality. If anything, the broadcaster’s career had been marked by on-screen gentility and middle-of-the-road calm.

The rise of Charlie Rose began with a little boy reading biographies of powerful figures by candlelight in the North Carolina bedroom he shared with his grandmother.

By his own account, Rose never set out to be a talk-show host or television journalist. “There was no great plan,” Rose told New York Magazine in 1992. “I wasn’t smart enough to have a plan.”

Rose, born in a town of less than a hundred people, grew up as an only child in rural Henderson, North Carolina. His father owned an agriculture supply store near the train depot, Fortune reported in 2009. Although he kindled ideas about leaving his home state, Rose went to Duke University, just an hour’s drive from Henderson. He initially enrolled in pre-med, then jumped to history after a summer interning for then-Sen. B. Everett Jordan, a North Carolina Democrat. “I became a political junkie in a serious way that summer,” Rose told New York Magazine.

After graduation, he entered Duke’s law school. There, he met Mary King. The two married and moved to New York where she worked as a researcher for CBS. Rose worked as an attorney on Wall Street while moonlighting freelance television assignments.

Eventually, he was pulled into the orbit of Bill Moyers, working as a producer for the commentator’s PBS show International Report in 1974. Soon Rose stepped onto the other side of the camera, picking up his first Peabody in 1976 for an interview special with Jimmy Carter, according to Fortune.

Rose hopped around the country with various television gigs. Career ambitions, he later told People Magazine in 1986, split apart his marriage in 1980. “Workaholism had everything to do with it,” Rose told the magazine. “It’s the saddest thing – I lost track of the marriage. I consider it the biggest failure of my life, allowing my marriage to be a casualty of my own desire for a place in the sun.”

He found his niche in 1983, when CBS hired him to helm “Nightwatch.” A lobster shift weeknight show from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m., Rose turned the interview-based format into a popular forum for high-profile guests, from George H.W. Bush to Woody Allen, New York Magazine reported. In one 1986 segment, Rose interviewed cult leader-turned-murderer Charles Manson. The segment went on to win an Emmy, but it also exposed Rose to a criticism that would follow him for the rest of his career – that he had little interest in pressing guests with hardball questions.

The host’s increasing profile thanks to “Nightwatch” also sparked rumors of womanizing and outsized ego, People reported. “His desire to hear himself talk makes him an engaging interviewer,” a former Nightwatch staffer told People. “He’s the most frightening combination of insecurity and egotism I’ve ever come across.”

Rose was undaunted by the criticism at the time. “I grab life and go with it, because it can be extinguished like that!” he told the magazine in 1986. “This is the kind of life I want to live.”

Rose’s star rose nationally in the early 1990s, when he launched his late-night interview show on New York’s public television station, WNET. By the time his show was syndicated nationwide in 1993, he could be seen rubbing elbows with New York’s social elite, his name cropping up in headlines in Esquire, GQ, and Vanity Fair – as well as in the gossip columns.

Rose dated Amanda Burden, a socialite and city-planning advocate, daughter of style icon Barbara “Babe” Paley and stepdaughter of William Paley, founder of CBS.

“He’s all around town,” Rose’s friend John Scanlon, then a public relations executive, told The Post in 1993. “I think he goes out virtually every night of the month . . . I say, ‘How’d you get so-and-so (to appear on the show)?’ ‘Oh, met her at a party.’ ”

Rose told Washington Post reporter Paula Span that he was comfortable walking up to shake a stranger’s hand and extending an invite to his broadcast.

“What will happen is, people will talk about the program at dinner and they develop a sense of who I am and that this is a show they’d like to be on,” Rose told Span.

Indeed, critics wrote at length in the early 1990s about Rose’s charm, his ability to schmooze just about anyone into an interview and to lure them into opening up. Span wrote that his definition of a good conversation is almost mystical, “questions that try to get at and reveal who this person is, what makes them tick,” as Rose said. “Have these people take us on a journey of exploration of who they are, what they’ve done and hope to do, what passion beats in their hearts.”

Yet this same penchant for easy-flowing conversation prompted a barrage of renewed criticism that Rose was soft on his interview subjects. A GQ magazine profile described him as “less pit bull than lap dog.” Spy Magazine labeled the host a “middlebrow sycophant.” New York Magazine noted Rose’s show was a “safe harbor for politicians, pundits, and newsmakers to present themselves to the public . . . Henry Kissinger chose the show as the place to explain why he was refusing to be interviewed by 60 Minutes.”

In a New York Times 1993 review, critic Walter Goodman wrote that no guest could ask for a “more attentive, less threatening interrogator” than Rose.

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“Can Mr. Rose really find every guest that admirable and that fascinating?” he wrote. “Isn’t it wearing to come on so enthusiastically night after night? Doesn’t the relentless puffery strain the spirit or dampen the brain? Doesn’t anyone who accepts his invitation ever bore or annoy him?”

“No ego is so bloated that Mr. Rose cannot puff it up further,” Goodman added.

Rose responded to this criticism in his 1993 interview with The Post, saying there’s “never been a tough question I didn’t ask or wasn’t prepared to ask,” he retorts.

But, he confessed, “I am by nature civil . . . You can’t squeeze people into places they don’t want to be.”

Rose’s southern charm and his effusive flattery appears to have carried over beyond his dark trademark studio – including when he is on the other end of the interview.

In a 2011 Financial Times column, Gillian Tett recounted interviewing Rose over lunch. She described how Rose arrived at her table and casually tossed his coat on a chair “with a supremely confident, easy air.”

“I was going to ask you to have dinner – it would be much more fun than lunch, quieter,” he said to Tett, “oozing seductive charm,” she wrote.

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Robert Mugabe resigns as Zimbabwe’s president after 37 years

November 21, 2017 - 10:47pm

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who once vowed to rule for life, resigned on Tuesday, succumbing to a week of overwhelming pressure from the military that put him under house arrest, lawmakers from the ruling party and opposition who started impeachment proceedings and a population that surged into the streets to say 37 years in power was enough.

The capital, Harare, erupted in jubilation after news spread that the 93-year-old leader’s resignation letter had been read out by the speaker of parliament, whose members had gathered to impeach Mugabe after he ignored escalating calls to quit since a military takeover. Well into the night, cars honked and people danced and sang in a spectacle of free expression that would have been impossible during his years in power, whose early promise after the end of white minority rule in 1980 was overtaken by economic collapse, government dysfunction and human rights violations.

“Welcome to the new Zimbabwe!” people chanted outside the conference center where the lawmakers had met. “This is the best day of my life,” one man declared as euphoric citizens celebrated on top of cars, clustered around a tank and shook hands with soldiers who were hailed as saviors for their role in dislodging Mugabe, a once-formidable politician who crushed dissent or sidelined opponents but, in the end, was a lonely figure abandoned by virtually all his allies.

“Change was overdue. … Maybe this change will bring jobs,” said 23-year-old Thomas Manase, an unemployed university graduate.

It was a call echoed by many, and which pointed to the challenges ahead for Zimbabwe, which used to be a regional breadbasket but has since suffered hyperinflation, cash shortages, chronic mismanagement and massive joblessness. And, while Zimbabweans seemed almost universally united in their wish to see an end to the Mugabe era, the hard work of building institutions and preparing for what they hope are free and fair elections scheduled for next year has yet to begin.

Mugabe, who was the world’s oldest head of state, said in his resignation letter that legal procedures should be followed to install a new president “no later than tomorrow.”

“My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire for a smooth, non-violent transfer of power,” Mugabe said in the message read out by parliamentary speaker Jacob Mudenda.

Recently ousted Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was to take over as the country’s leader within 48 hours so that he can move “with speed to work for the country,” said a ruling party official, Lovemore Matuke. Mnangagwa, who fled the country after his Nov. 6 firing, “is not far from here,” Matuke added.

Mugabe’s resignation ended impeachment proceedings brought by the ruling ZANU-PF party after its Central Committee voted to oust him as party leader and replace him with Mnangagwa, a former justice and defense minister who served for decades as Mugabe’s enforcer, a role that earned him the moniker, “Crocodile.” Many opposition supporters detest Mnangagwa and believe he was instrumental in the army killings of thousands of people when Mugabe moved against a political rival in the 1980s.

So far, Mnangagwa has used inclusive language, saying in a statement before Mugabe’s resignation that all Zimbabweans should work together to advance their nation.

“Never should the nation be held at ransom by one person ever again, whose desire is to die in office at whatever cost to the nation,” Mnangagwa said.

Zimbabwe’s military commander, Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, warned people not to target old adversaries following Mugabe’s resignation. “Acts of vengeful retribution or trying to settle scores will be dealt with severely,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Zimbabweans to maintain calm. The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe said Mugabe’s resignation “marks an historic moment” and that “the path forward” should lead to free and fair elections. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Mugabe was “a despot who impoverished his country” and his exit is a “moment of joy” for Zimbabwe.

The end for Mugabe came when his wife, Grace Mugabe, positioned herself to succeed her husband, leading a party faction that engineered Mnangagwa’s ouster. The prospect of a dynastic succession alarmed the military, which confined Mugabe to his home last week and targeted what it called “criminals” around him who allegedly were looting state resources — a reference to associates of the first lady.

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In his early days as leader, after a long war between black guerrillas and the white rulers of Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was known before independence, Mugabe stressed education and built new schools. Tourism and mining flourished. But in 2000, violent seizures of thousands of white-owned farms began, causing agricultural production to plunge. A land reform program was supposed to take much of the country’s most fertile land and redistribute it to poor blacks, but Mugabe instead gave prime farms to ZANU-PF leaders and loyalists, relatives and cronies.

As the years went by, Mugabe was widely accused of hanging onto power through violence and vote fraud, notably in a 2008 election that led to a troubled coalition government after regional mediators intervened. Still, he cast himself as a voice of pride and defiance in modern Africa, a message that resonated in many countries that had experienced Western colonialism or intervention.

Mugabe once said he wanted to rule for life, expressing a desire to live until he is 100 years old. He also said he was ready to retire if asked to do so by his supporters.

A year ago, he said: “If I am to retire, let me retire properly.”

 

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On surprise Russia trip, Assad and Putin talk post-war Syria

November 21, 2017 - 10:44pm

MOSCOW — On a surprise trip to Russia, Syria’s Bashar Assad discussed potential new peace initiatives for post-war Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin who declared that Russia’s two-year military campaign in Syria is wrapping up, the Kremlin said Tuesday.

Moscow released footage of Assad warmly embracing Putin, who hosted him in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday, ahead of a summit between Russia, Turkey and Iran and a new round of Syria peace talks in Geneva later this month.

The meeting was unannounced and the Kremlin did not make it public until Tuesday morning.

“I passed on to (Putin) and all Russian people our greetings and gratitude for all of the efforts that Russia made to save our country,” Assad told Russia’s top brass in televised remarks.

Assad has only ventured outside his war-ravaged nation twice since the conflict began — both times to Russia. This week’s visit to meet Putin is his second since the crisis began in March 2011 leading to a civil war that has killed some 400,000 people and resulted in millions of refugees.

The first was in October 2015, weeks after Russia launched its military campaign in Syria to shore up Assad’s forces, which turned the war in favor of Assad.

The meeting in Sochi, which lasted three hours, preceded a summit between the presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey set for Wednesday at the same venue. Iran and Russia have been Assad’s main backers while Turkey supports the opposition.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian president had previously assured the leaders of Turkey and Iran that “Russia will work with Syrian leadership to prepare the groundwork for the understandings that could be reached in Sochi on Wednesday and to make sure that agreements that could be reached would be viable.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if the Kremlin put any pressure on Assad to accept a new deal brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran — or whether that deal would involve Assad staying on as president once the war is over — but Assad signaled his intention to hold his ground in future Syria peace talks.

“We count on Russia’s support to keep foreign players from interfering into the political process,” he said during the talks with Putin. Assad is believed to have left Sochi after the meeting and returned to Damascus.

Asked whether Putin and Assad have talked about the Syrian president’s future in post-war Syria, Peskov said “possible options for political settlement have been discussed” and added that “only the Syrian people could determine Assad’s role.”

Despite pressure from other nations that Assad step down, Moscow has insisted that it is up to the Syrian people to vote him in or out.

Putin later called President Donald Trump to inform him about the talks with Assad, emphasizing that the Syrian leader said he would abide by a political settlement for Syria, including constitutional reform and the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections.

Putin also called Saudi King Salman to inform him of the main issues on the agenda of the Russia-Turkey-Iran talks on Wednesday. They also discussed “long-term prospects for a Syrian settlement,” according to the Kremlin. Putin noted that Syria talks planned in Sochi and a meeting of Syrian opposition in Riyadh should help future talks in Geneva.

The Russian leader also later phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to brief them on the talks with Assad and the planned trilateral meeting.

To prepare for Wednesday’s mini-summit, military chiefs of Russia, Turkey and Iran met in Sochi on Tuesday and agreed to coordinate their efforts in Syria.

Russia’s defense ministry said the military chiefs discussed “concrete steps to complete the elimination of the remaining IS and Nusra Front formations” in Syria, referring to Islamic State fighters and Syria’s al-Qaida affiliate as it was formerly known. The three also agreed to improve coordination in a safety zone in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.

Russia, Turkey and Iran earlier this year brokered a truce between Syria’s government and the rebels in four areas, including in Idlib.

On Sunday, Syrian troops and their allies captured the eastern town of Boukamal, the last major urban area held by the Islamic State group in Syria, leaving the militants to defend just strips of desert territory and a besieged pocket outside Damascus.

With the Syrian government controlling most of the country and Islamic State fighters in disarray, Putin said during the talks with Assad that Russia’s military campaign in Syria is wrapping up — though he made no mention of the Russian presence in Syria, which Moscow is not likely to give up.

“As for our joint work to fight terrorists in Syria, this military operation is coming to an end,” he told Assad in televised remarks. “I note with pleasure your willingness to work with everyone who wants peace and settlement.”

Gen. Ret. Viktor Bondarev, former Russian air force chief who heads the defense affairs committee in the upper house of Russia’s parliament, was quoted by the Tass news agency as saying that the military will keep its warplanes, as well as some ground troops and weapons in Syria.

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Russia has used the Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s province of Latakia as the main hub for its campaign. It also has a naval supply facility in Tartus, which it plans to expand into a full-fledged naval base.

Putin declared in March 2016 that Moscow will scale down its presence in Syria, but the Russian military has remained heavily involved in the conflict.

Russian television showed footage of Putin and Assad entering a meeting with the top brass of Russia’s defense ministry and the General Staff.

“I asked the Syrian president to stop by,” Putin told the Russian generals. He then referred to Assad and said: “I would like to introduce you to people who played a key role in saving Syria.”

Mroue reported from Beirut. Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

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Sacha Baron Cohen to pay fine for Czechs sporting Borat mankinis

November 21, 2017 - 10:36pm
informburo.kz, via APIn this image made available by informburo.kz, on Wednesday Nov. 15, 2017, shows a group of Czech tourists dressed in swimsuits similar to the character made famous by TV and film character Borat in Astana, Kazakhstan, Friday Nov. 10, 2017, before being detained by authorities, sporting lime green “mankinis” and black wigs. Sacha Baron Cohen has offered Tuesday Nov. 21, 2017, to pay the 22,500 tenge ($68) fines for six Czech tourists who were reportedly detained by authorities in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana for dressing up in skimpy swimsuits made famous by his “Borat” character.

PRAGUE — Comic actor Sacha Baron Cohen has offered to pay the fines for six Czech tourists who were reportedly detained by authorities in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana for dressing up as his character Borat.

Sporting lime green “mankinis” and black wigs, the men had hoped to take a picture in front of the “I Love Astana” sign earlier this month.

But local police fined them some $68 each for committing minor hooliganism, according to local media.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Baron Cohen says: “To my Czech mates who were arrested. Send me your details and proof that it was you, and I’ll pay your fine.”

The swimsuit became popular after Baron Cohen sported it in the 2006 movie “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”

That film offended many Kazakhs by portraying the country as backward and degenerate.

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