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US Soldier to Receive Medal of Honor for Iraq Hostage Rescue

An American soldier who helped rescue about 70 hostages set to be executed by Islamic State militants in Iraq has been approved to receive the Medal of Honor for actions during a daring 2015 raid, The Associated Press has learned.Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne, a Ranger assigned to the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command, will receive the U.S. military’s highest honor for valor in combat in a White House ceremony set to be held on the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.Medal confirmed by Defense DepartmentThe medal approval was confirmed by two Defense Department officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on the record. Payne was initially given the Army’s second-highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross, for the special operations raid, which is now being upgraded to a Medal of Honor.Contacted by the AP on Monday, the Pentagon would not comment. The White House did not respond to an email inquiry.The medal will honor Payne’s actions in a daring predawn raid on Oct. 22, 2015. Seeking to rescue 70 Islamic State hostages, American and Kurdish commandos flew in CH-47 Chinook helicopters to the town of Huwija, located roughly 15 kilometers (9 miles) west of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk.The Kurdish Regional Government, the autonomous body that governs the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, had received a tip that the 70 prisoners, including peshmerga fighters, as the Kurdish forces are known, would soon be massacred by Islamic State militants. Aerial photos of the compound showed what intelligence officials believed to be freshly dug mass graves where their bodies would be dumped.’Time was of the essence’The plan called for members of the American unit to support the Kurdish commandos in their operation but not join in on the main effort to rescue the prisoners.”Time was of the essence,” Payne said, according to a news release obtained by the AP and not yet made public. “There were freshly dug graves. If we didn’t action this raid, then the hostages were likely to be executed.”The raid began with a failure. Kurdish forces attempted to make a dynamic entry by blasting a hole in the compound’s outer wall, but the blast failed. The explosion alerted the ISIS militants, who opened fire on the Kurdish forces.Payne and his unit climbed over a wall and entered the prison compound. The soldiers quickly cleared one of the two buildings known to house hostages. Once inside the building, the unit encountered enemy resistance. The team used bolt cutters to break the locks off the prison doors, freeing nearly 40 hostages.Moments later, an urgent call over the radio was received from other task force members engaged in an intense gun fight at the second building.Between 10 to 20 Army soldiers, including Payne and Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler maneuvered towards the second building that Payne said was a “heavily-fortified building, which was partially on fire.” Kurdish commandos were pinned down by the gunfire.American killed during operationAt some point in his attempt to rescue the Kurdish forces, Wheeler was shot and killed. Wheeler was the first American killed in action since the U.S. launched renewed military intervention in Iraq against the Islamic State in 2014. 20 ISIS fighters were also killed in the operation.The team scaled a ladder onto the roof of the one-story building under a savage fusillade of enemy machine-gun fire from below. From their roof-top vantage point, the commandos engaged the enemy with hand grenades and small arms fire, according to the press release.Payne said at that point, ISIS fighters began to detonate their suicide vests, causing the roof to shake. The team quickly moved off the roof to an entry point for building two.ISIS fighters continued to exchange gunfire with the commandos as they entered the building. Payne moved to open another fortified door. According to the press release, he managed to cut the first lock, but due to the heavy smoke from the fire, he had to hand off the bolt cutters to an Iraqi counterpart and retreat out of the building for fresh air.After some time, the Iraqi partner also came out for fresh air. Payne grabbed the bolt cutters and re-entered the building to cut off the last lock. Once the door was kicked opened, both American and Kurdish commandos escorted about 30 more hostages out of the burning building that was about to collapse and under enemy gunfire.Joined the Army in 2002Payne re-entered the building two more times to ensure every hostage was freed. One of those times he had to forcibly remove one of the hostages who had been too frightened to move during the chaotic scene, said Payne in the press release.Payne joined the Army in 2002 as an infantryman and quickly made his way into the Rangers. He has deployed several times to combat zones as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and in various positions with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.He is a Purple Heart recipient from a wound he sustained in a separate 2010 mission in Afghanistan. And as a sergeant first class in 2012, Payne won the Army’s Best Ranger Competition, representing USASOC.Payne is married with three children and is currently stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He is from the South Carolina towns of Batesburg-Leesville and Lugoff.Last week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper endorsed awarding the Medal of Honor to a soldier who sustained fatal burns while acting to save fellow soldiers in Iraq in 2005. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe of Florida previously received the Silver Star for his actions.

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Заступник держсекретаря США назвав Україну в числі тих, хто заслуговує поваги за підтримку білорусів

Заступник держсекретаря США Стівен Біґан назвав Україну в числі тих, хто заслуговує поваги за підтримку білорусів.

«Сполучені Штати разом із багатьма країнами та організаціями у всьому світі беруть участь у зусиллях із реагування на жахливе насильство, жорстокість та фальсифікації виборів, які спостерігаються в Білорусі», – заявив в ексклюзивному інтерв’ю директору Білоруської служби Радіо Свобода чільний американський урядовець.

«Ідеться, насамперед, про наших партнерів у Центральній та Східній Європі. Я думаю, що поляки та литовці заслуговують на особливу похвалу за свої зусилля, за свою рішучу підтримку народу Білорусі. Це також стосується інших країн Балтії, України та багатьох держав-учасниць ОБСЄ, які рішуче підтримали ініціативу голови ОБСЄ щодо участі в посередництві», – заявив Біґан.

Він назвав також партнерів із Європейського союзу, а також «близького друга і союзника Канаду».

Усі вони, за його словами, показали себе сильними лідерами, з якими США «надзвичайно тісно» координують свої дії.

Розмова відбулася під час поїздки Стівена Біґана до Литви, Росії, Україні та Австрії минулого тижня.

За словами американського урядовця, саме рішення держсекретаря відправити його як представника США у цю поїздку «на дуже важливі і делікатні переговори», свідчить про те, що його країна буде продовжувати активно брати участь у намаганнях досягнути мирного та справедливого результату для народу Білорусі.

На запитання про ймовірне посилення санкцій із боку США, Стівен Біґан відповів, що США ніколи не скасовували санкцій проти Білорусі. «Ми спостерігаємо дуже позитивні кроки Європейського союзу та держав-членів ЄС у накладенні санкцій, і ми будемо дуже тісно співпрацювати з ними», – сказав він.

Щодо імовірного втручання Росії у ситуацію в Білорусі, Стівен Біґан відповів: «Принаймні існує розуміння того, що будь-яке втручання, особливо військове, матиме дуже негативні наслідки для відносин Росії зі США, а також із нашими європейськими союзниками».

24 серпня Стівен Біґан зустрівся у Литві із екскандидаткою у президенти Білорусі Світланою Тихановською. Під час тієї зустрічі американський урядовець звявив: «США не можуть і не будуть вирішувати, як розвиватимуться події у Білорусі, це право народу Білорусі».

У Білорусі уже 25-й день поспіль тривають акції протесту, мітинги і страйки проти фальсифікації виборів президента, які відбулися 9 серпня.

У суботу, 29 серпня, проходив масштабний «Жіночий марш», в якому брали участь кілька десятків людей. У неділю, 30 серпня, пройшов «Марш миру і незалежності» проти фальсифікації виборів. Під час тієї акції міліція затримала 140 людей. 1 вересня на День знань, пройшов марш студентів, під назвою «День солідарності». Багато з них були побиті і відправлені у відділки міліції.

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Речник Путіна: до вивезення Навального в Німеччину ніякої отрути в його організмі не виявляли

Речник російського президента Дмитро Пєсков заявив, що до вивезення опозиціонера Олексія Навального в Берлін у Росії провели комплекс аналізів, і «ніяких отруйних речовин виявлено не було».

Так Пєсков прокоментував заяву влади Німеччини про те, що в організмі Навального, якого зараз лікують у берлінській клініці «Шаріте», виявили нервово-паралітичну речовину з групи «Новачок», яку розробляли в СРСР, а потім у Росії.

Як заявив Пєсков, якого цитує російське державне агентство ТАСС, Росія готова до всебічної взаємодії з Німеччиною щодо з’ясування всіх обставин ситуації навколо Олексія Навального, але на раніше надіслані офіційні запити, за його словами, Берлін відповідей не дав.

Як нагадав речник Володимира Путіна, російська Генпрокуратура направила офіційний запит німецькій стороні. Він додав, що російські лікарі також запропонували офіційно обмін даними і поки що не отримали від німецьких колег відповідь.

Тим часом, речниця російського зовнішньополітичного відомства Марія Захарова заявила, що «Москва не отримала доказів» від Берліна, посол Росії в Німеччині «повернувся з порожніми руками».

За словами Захарової, ситуація перетворюється на «чергову інформаційну кампанію» проти Росії.

Раніше в ЄС і НАТО зажадали пояснень від Росії у зв’язку з виявленням слідів «Новачка» в організмі Навального.

У МЗС України закликали до санкцій проти Москви.

2 вересня офіційний представник уряду Німеччини Штеффен Зайберт заявив, що німецька військова лабораторія виявила докази присутності в організмі Навального сліди нервового агента з групи «Новачок».

Навальний став жертвою спроби вбивства за допомогою «Новачка», це «тривожна інформація», заявила канцлер Німеччини Анґела Меркель.

Навальний від 22 серпня перебуває на лікуванні в Берліні.

20 серпня йому стало зле під час перельоту з Томська в Москву. Літак екстрено посадилив Омську, де політика шпиталізували.

Омські лікарі спершу не коментували можливих причин стану Навального, а потім почали прямо заперечувати версію його соратників про отруєння.

Влада Росії також заявляла, що підстав говорити про отруєння Навального немає.

24 серпня в німецькій клініці «Шаріте» підтвердили, що російського опозиційного політика Олексія Навального отруїли речовиною з групи інгібіторів холінестерази. За словами лікарів, Навальний досі перебуває в стані штучної коми, але серйозної небезпеки для його життя немає.

Олексій Навальний упродовж останніх років разом зі своєю командою, Фондом боротьби з корупцією, здійснив серію розслідувань про діяльність багатьох представників російської влади, зокрема, колишнього голови уряду Дмитра Медведєва, наближеного до президента Володимира Путіна бізнесмена Євгена Пригожина й інших.


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France’s Macron Stresses Support for Iraqi Sovereignty in Baghdad Visit

French President Emmanuel Macron voiced support on Wednesday for a sovereign Iraq and said its main challenges are Islamic State militants and foreign interference in its affairs.France also backs Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s efforts to “normalize” all armed forces, Macron said during a visit to Baghdad, referring to mostly Iran-backed Shi’ite militia groups.”We will remain committed because the battle against Islamic State is ongoing but this has to be in the context of an agreement and protocol that respects Iraq’s sovereignty,” he said at a joint news conference with Kadhimi.Macron’s visit was the first by a Western leader to Iraq since Kadhimi took office in May as the third head of government in a chaotic 10-week period that followed months of unrest in a country exhausted by war with Islamist militants, corruption and economic decay.Kadhimi was appointed to head a government tasked with organizing an early election, a main demand of anti-government protesters who staged months of mass demonstrations last year. He has called one, to be held in June.Iraq has also struggled to cope with the clashing regional interests of its two major allies, the United States and Iran.French officials have said Paris is worried by a resurgence in Iraq of Islamic State militants profiting from political uncertainty and rivalries between Iran and the United States.Islamic State, which once occupied a third of Iraq’s territory, has been largely defeated there but continues to carry out ambushes, assassinations and bombings.French President Emmanuel Macron and Iraq’s President Barham Salih greet each other with an elbow bump as they attend a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq, Sept. 2, 2020.”The war against Islamic State isn’t finished … we will continue to act alongside you in the framework of the anti-Islamic State coalition,” Macron said after meeting Iraqi President Barham Salih.”The second challenge is … the multiple foreign interferences that have been going on for several years.”Macron also discussed energy cooperation with Kadhimi and working together on a nuclear project that could solve Iraq’s chronic electricity shortages as well as French support for building a metro railway in Baghdad. 

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МЗС України закликало до санкцій проти Росії через отруєння Навального

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American IS Follower Pleads Guilty to Terror Charges

An American who traveled to Syria to fight for Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate has pleaded guilty to terror charges, a year after he was returned to the United States.The U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday that Omer Kuzu, 23, had pleaded guilty of conspiring to provide material support to terrorism.The Dallas, Texas, native faces up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing is set for January 2021.“This defendant, an American citizen radicalized on American soil, pledged allegiance to a brutal terrorist group and traveled halfway across the world to enact its agenda,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox said in a statement. “I am gratified Mr. Kuzu faced justice in an American court.”

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Markey Defeats Kennedy in Massachusetts Senate Primary

U.S. Senator Ed Markey won a high-profile Democratic primary Tuesday, defeating a challenge by Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III.The 39-year-old Kennedy had cast the 74-year-old Markey as out of touch after a long career in Congress and drew a late endorsement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.But Markey had strong popularity in Massachusetts and had the support of prominent progressives in the Democratic Party, including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.Markey will be a strong favorite in the general election in November when he faces Republican candidate Kevin O’Connor.Several Democratic House incumbents also fended off primary challengers Tuesday.House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Richard Neal defeated Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in a race in the state’s 1st Congressional District and will serve a new term starting in January since he faces no opponent on the November ballot.In the 6th Congressional District, Congressman Seth Moulton, who briefly ran in the race for president before dropping out last year, defeated two challengers.In the 8th Congressional District, incumbent Congressman Stephen Lynch defeated infectious disease expert Robbie Goldstein.

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In Mock Funerals And ’42’ Jerseys, Kids Mourn Black Panther

In their driveways or in their bedrooms, using little cardboard boxes or piles of backyard dirt, young fans of “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman paid their respects with lots of Wakanda salutes and mock funerals attended by action figures.
Soon after the shocking news of Boseman’s death Friday at age 43, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles began posting photos of funerals staged by kids for King T’Challa, the actor’s lead character from the Marvel blockbuster. Some of those posts have been shared thousands of times amid an outpouring of grief from admirers of all ages who were unaware he had been battling colon cancer for four years.
Other young fans mourned in more private ways, watching “Black Panther” and “42” for the umpteenth time with their families in Boseman’s honor.
To many kids, his passing was a life event, driven by the change-makers he portrayed but also by his heartfelt comments in awards speeches and interviews about the need for more opportunities for people of color.
Boseman’s King T’Challa, ruler of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, was introduced in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.” His “Wakanda Forever” salute reverberated around the world after the release of “Black Panther” two years ago. The actor’s turn as baseball great Jackie Robinson in “42” came out in 2013 and is now being discovered by younger fans.
Nick Cummings, 11, of Louisville, Kentucky, loves both films. He stumbled on word of Boseman’s death on TikTok, before his mother had broken the news.
“At first when I heard it I didn’t believe it,” he said Monday. “I felt like a part of me got erased.”
A little too old for action figure funerals, Nick, who is Black, donned his baseball jersey emblazoned with Robinson’s “42” and had no plans to take it off any time soon.
Twins Lenny and Bobby Homes in Mesa, Arizona, are 10. Their mom, Annalie, had no intention of telling the boys, who are Filipino American, about Boseman’s death, but they found out on their own Sunday on YouTube. They went the funeral route, using a black car seat for their prone Black Panther.
Dad David Homes is a big Marvel enthusiast. He began schooling his sons in both the comics and films when they were little. How many times have they seen “Black Panther”?
“A lot!” the two chimed in unison.
Of Boseman’s death, Lenny said: “We were really sad. He was one of our favorite actors. When we heard, we were like, the Panther needs a funeral. He was a good king. He was very nice and kind, and he followed the rules.”
Annalie said she wanted to shield the boys from the news because they lost a grandfather less than a month ago.
The twins have more than 100 action figures and their own YouTube channel. They gathered up 13 of their favorite characters for the funeral Sunday, including Thor, Black Widow, Rocket Raccoon, Hulk and Spider-Man. The toys’ arms can’t bend into the Wakanda salute, so the boys arranged them with arms extended, reaching out to T’Challa.
Djoser Burruss, 12, of San Diego took the news hard. One of his grandmothers died of the same type of cancer. Djoser, who is African American, posted a tribute to Boseman on Instagram: “R.I.P. Chadwick Boseman, the one and only Black Panther. We mourn your passing but you will forever live in our hearts. Thank you for showing us what KINGs do.”
In an interview Tuesday, Djoser added: “I saw it on my phone and I was devastated. We kind of owe it to ourselves to be better every day because not every day is guaranteed, just like Chadwick, but he did so much in those four years.”
His mother, Christina, said the family rewatched “Black Panther” last weekend, along with videos of Boseman speaking out on behalf of Black people to “soak up all of his energy and his wisdom.”
Gavyn Batiste, 7, in Lafayette, Louisiana, has seen “Black Panther” a half dozen times. He invited Captain America, Thor and Hulk, among other Avengers, to the funeral he held. He also wrote a song for T’Challa that goes like this:
“Black Panther is gone. I don’t know what to say. I never thought this would happen in my day. This is sad. I am mad. I don’t know how to feel. It still feels unreal. Wakanda Forever!”
Sonya Antoine, Gavyn’s mom, said the film offers Black children a “sense of hope, a sense of dreaming, and to just embrace who you are in your culture and what that culture can mean to you and your family.”
Nick’s mother, Deedee Cummings, writes children’s books with diverse characters and knows how rare it is to find afrocentric fare for children like the futuristic world in “Black Panther.” She recalled how happy her son was to see the film in a theater with a neighbor when it first came out. Both wore Wakanda gear.
The family watched the movie again on TV after Boseman’s death. Nick sat solemnly this time around.
“He never sits still,” Deedee said. “This time he did.”
Deedee thinks parents shouldn’t keep the news of Boseman’s death from their young kids.
“It’s so important to acknowledge this loss to children, especially Black children,” she said.
Susan Nicholas in Atlanta also writes for children. Her book, “The Death of Cupcake,” is out in November and focuses on grief among kids. Boseman’s death, she said, may be difficult for parents to discuss because they’re reluctant to burst the larger-than-life bubble created in movies.
“But kids actually have insights that are quite profound,” she said. “We can all elevate our perspectives around death to really heal from that. At the end of the day, those are human beings in those costumes and they succumb to death, too, even if Hollywood doesn’t allow them to die.”