Trump Was In The Room When Illegal Payments Were Being Discussed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 Ohio on July 18, 2016.John Taggart / Bloomberg via Getty Images file Dec. 13, 2018 / 3:41 PM ESTBy Tom Winter

Donald Trump was the third person in the room in August 2015 when his lawyer Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker discussed ways Pecker could help counter negative stories about Trump’s relationships with women, NBC News has confirmed.

As part of a nonprosecution agreement disclosed Wednesday by federal prosecutors, American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company, admitted that “Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate’s relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided.”

The “statement of admitted facts” says that AMI admitted making a $150,000 payment “in concert with the campaign,” and says that Pecker, Cohen and “at least one other member of the campaign” were in the meeting. According to a person familiar with the matter, the “other member” was Trump.

David Pecker attends an event in Paris in 2012.
David Pecker attends an event in Paris in 2012.Francois Durand / Getty Images

Trump was first identified as attending the meeting by The Wall Street Journal.

Daniel Goldman, an NBC News analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney said the agreement doesn’t detail what Trump said and did in the meeting. “But if Trump is now in the room, as early as August of 2015 and in combination with the recording where Trump clearly knows what Cohen is talking about with regarding to David Pecker, you now squarely place Trump in the middle of a conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which investigated Cohen’s hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, declined to comment.

Michael Cohen sentenced to 3 years in prison

DEC. 13, 201802:37

McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate, and her lawyers have said that the National Enquirer paid her $150,000 in August 2016 as part of a “catch-and-kill” strategy to keep the story from circulating publicly.

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When Cohen pleaded guilty to arranging the payments in August, he said he had done so “at the direction” of an unnamed candidate, and that a $150,000 payment prior to the 2016 election was “for the principal purpose of influencing” the election. The meeting between Cohen, Pecker and unnamed other parties to discuss suppressing stories was referenced in the criminal information document to which Cohen pleaded guilty. The document also refers to “at least one other member of the campaign” being present.

The statement of admitted facts says that AMI’s “principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.” Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, has said the payments were made to spare Trump’s family from embarrassment.

I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called “advice of counsel,” and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly……

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On Wednesday, Judge William Pauley sentenced Cohen to a total of 36 months behind bars, and three years of post-release supervision, for tax evasion, violating campaign finance law and other charges. The judge ordered him to pay almost $1.4 million in restitution and forfeit $500,000, while fining him $50,000 for lying to Congress. Cohen must turn himself in to start serving his sentence by March 6.

At his sentencing, Cohen said that “time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up [Trump’s] dirty deeds.”

President Trump tweeted after the sentencing that he “never directed Michael Cohen to break the law.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tom Winter

Tom Winter is a producer and reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit based in New York, covering crime, courts, terrorism, and financial fraud on the East Coast.

Imelda Marcos convicted of graft, sentenced to prison

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Imelda Marcos convicted of graft, sentenced to prison

Marcos, 89, was sentenced for funneling $200 million to Swiss foundations.
Image: Imelda Marcos convicted of seven counts of graft

Former First Lady Imelda Marcos visits the gravesite of her late husband former strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Heroes Cemetery on Nov. 1, 2018.Francis R. Malasig / EPA

By Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine court found former first lady Imelda Marcos guilty of graft and ordered her arrest Friday in a rare conviction among many corruption cases that she plans to appeal to avoid jail and losing her seat in Congress.

The special anti-graft Sandiganbayan court sentenced Marcos, 89, to serve 6 to 11 years in prison for each of the seven counts of violating an anti-corruption law when she illegally funneled about $200 million to Swiss foundations in the 1970s as Metropolitan Manila governor.

Neither Marcos nor anyone representing her attended Friday’s court hearing.

Marcos said in a statement that the decision was being studied by one of her lawyers who notified the Marcos family that he intends to appeal the decision. Anti-Marcos activists and human rights victims welcomed the conviction as long overdue.

The court disqualified Marcos from holding public office, but she can remain a member of the powerful House of Representatives while appealing the decision. Her congressional term will end next year but she has registered to run to replace her daughter as governor of northern Ilocos Norte province.

“I was jumping up and down in joy in disbelief,” said former Commission on Human Rights chairwoman Loretta Ann Rosales, who was among many activists locked up after Imelda’s husband, former President Ferdinand Marcos, declared martial law in the Philippines in 1972.

Rosales said the decision was a huge setback to efforts by the Marcos family to revise history by denying many of the atrocities under the dictatorship, and urged Filipinos to fight all threats against democracy and civil liberties.

Former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who was also jailed during the Marcos dictatorship, said it was up to voters in next year’s May 13 local elections, where Marcos is a candidate, if they want “somebody who has a bad name representing them, that’s your call.”

Imelda Marcos’ husband was ousted by an army-backed “people power” revolt in 1986. He died in self-exile in Hawaii in 1989 but his widow and children returned to the Philippines. Most have been elected to public offices in an impressive political comeback.

Government prosecutor Ryan Quilala told reporters that Marcos and her husband opened and managed Swiss foundations in violation of the Philippine Constitution, using aliases in a bid to hide stolen funds. The Marcoses have been accused of plundering the government’s coffers amid crushing poverty. They have denied any wrongdoing and have successfully fought many other corruption cases.

Imelda Marcos was acquitted Friday in three other cases, which were filed in 1991 and took nearly three decades of trial by several judges and prosecutors. She was once convicted of a graft case in 1993, but the Supreme Court later cleared her of any wrongdoing.

President Rodrigo Duterte, an ally of the Marcoses, said last year the Marcos family had indicated a willingness to return a still-unspecified amount of money and “a few gold bars” to help ease budget deficits. He indicated the family still denied that the assets had been stolen as alleged by political opponents.

Ferdinand Marcos had placed the Philippines under martial rule a year before his term was to expire. He padlocked Congress, ordered the arrest of political rivals and left-wing activists and ruled by decree. His family is said to have amassed an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion while he was in power.

A Hawaii court found Marcos liable for human rights violations and awarded $2 billion from his estate to compensate more than 9,000 Filipinos who filed a lawsuit against him for torture, incarceration, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.

Duterte has acknowledged that Imee Marcos, the couple’s daughter and a provincial governor, backed his presidential candidacy.

Volcano erupts on Indonesia’s quake and tsunami-hit Sulawesi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Volcano erupts on Indonesia’s quake and tsunami-hit Sulawesi

Volcanic activity had been increasing at Mount Soputan since August and began surging Monday, three days after the twin disasters.
by Associated Press /  / Updated 

JAKARTA, Indonesia — An Indonesian island devastated by a powerful earthquake and tsunami that has killed at least 1,400 people was was hit with another natural disaster early Wednesday: A volcanic eruption.

A government volcanologist said it’s possible the eruption of Mount Soputan, on the island of Sulawesi, was accelerated by Friday’s 7.5 magnitude temblor.

“It could be that this earthquake triggered the eruption, but the direct correlation has yet to be seen,” Kasbani, the head of Indonesia’s Vulcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation agency, told online news portal Tempo.

Kasbani, who uses one name, said volcanic activity had been increasing at Soputan since August and began surging Monday. No evacuations were immediately ordered after Wednesday’s eruption, which sent ash 19,700 feet — more 3.7 miles — into the sky.

Nazli Ismail, a geophysicist at University of Syiah Kuala, Banda Aceh on Sumatra island, urged caution and stressed there was no concrete evidence to show they are linked.

“People talk about the butterfly effect. The concept is that when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can cause a catastrophe,” he said. “So it is possible for the earthquake to trigger the volcano eruption, but it’s not conclusive.”

Nazri said the Soputan volcano eruption isn’t surprising as Indonesia sits on the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire,” and Soputan is one of the most active volcanoes on the island.

Planes were warned of the ash clouds because volcanic ash is hazardous for their engines.

The earthquake in Central Sulawesi set off a tsunami and has devastated several communities.

Indonesia is an archipelago of more than 250 million people and government seismologists monitor more than 120 active volcanoes.

American-Israeli man stabbed to death in West Bank

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

American-Israeli man stabbed to death in West Bank

The victim was identified as Ari Fuld, a U.S.-born activist who was popular in the local community and an outspoken Israel advocate on social media.
by Associated Press /  / Updated 
Image: West Bank stabbing

Israeli forensic policemen inspect the place where an Israeli man was stabbed by a Palestinian at a settlement bloc next to the Palestinian town of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on Sunday.Ahmad Gharabli / AFP – Getty Images

JERUSALEM (AP) — A Palestinian assailant on Sunday fatally stabbed a well-known Israeli settler to death at a busy mall in the West Bank.

The victim was identified as Ari Fuld, a U.S.-born activist who was popular in the local community and an outspoken Israel advocate on social media platforms.

The military said the attacker arrived at the mall near a major junction in the southern West Bank, close to the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, and stabbed Fuld before fleeing. Video footage showed Fuld giving chase and firing at his assailant before collapsing. Other civilians shot the attacker, whom Israeli media identified as a 17-year-old from a nearby Palestinian village. His condition was unclear.

David M. Friedman

@USAmbIsrael

America grieves as one of its citizens was brutally murdered by a Palestinian terrorist. Ari Fuld was a passionate defender of Israel & an American patriot. He represented the best of both countries & will be deeply missed. May his family be comforted & his memory be blessed.

Fuld, a 40-year-old father of four who lived in the nearby settlement of Efrat, was evacuated to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Fuld was a well-known English-language internet commenter on current affairs and the weekly Torah study. He was known for his nationalist ideology and strong support for the Israeli military.

Lior Shourka, a friend of Fuld’s, called him a “true Israeli patriot.”

Since 2015, Palestinians have killed over 50 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks. Israeli forces killed over 260 Palestinians in that period, of which Israel says most were attackers.

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Husband dies after wife puts eye drops in water

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Husband dies after wife puts eye drops in water, police say

An autopsy uncovered a high amount of tetrahydrozoline in 64-year-old Stephen Clayton’s body. It is found in over-the-counter eye drops such as Visine.
by Associated Press /  / Updated 

CLOVER, S.C. — A South Carolina woman has been charged with murder after killing her husband by putting eye drops into his water for several days, according to authorities.

Image: Lana Clayton, 52, of Clover, South Carolina, is charged with murder and malicious tampering with a drug product or food.
Lana Clayton York County Sheriff Office

York County deputies said 52-year-old Lana Clayton confessed to investigators after an autopsy uncovered a high amount of tetrahydrozoline in her husband’s body.

The chemical is found in over-the-counter eye drops such as Visine.

Authorities say 64-year-old Stephen Clayton was found dead July 21 in the couple’s home in Clover.

Arrest warrants and the statement from deputies didn’t give a motive for the alleged poisoning.

Lana Clayton also is charged with malicious tampering with a drug product or food.

Jail records did not indicate if she had a lawyer.

Why Cohen could get worse for Trump: Prosecutors say they’ve got receipts

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Why Cohen could get worse for Trump: Prosecutors say they’ve got receipts

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
by Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann / 

WASHINGTON — When it comes to Michael Cohen’s claim that he was directed by an unnamed candidate in 2016 — Donald Trump — to make payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to influence the 2016 election, there’s something important to remember.

Prosecutors say they have audio recordings, text messages and phone records about Cohen’s payments — and the intent behind them.

As NBC’s Tom Winter has highlighted, here are the prosecutors from Tuesday:

The proof on these [campaign-finance] counts at trial would establish that these payments were made in order to ensure that each recipient of the payments did not publicize their stories of alleged affairs with the candidate. This evidence would include:

Records obtained from an April 9, 2018 series of search warrants on Mr. Cohen’s premises, including hard copy documents, seized electronic devices, and audio records made by Mr. Cohen.

We would also offer text messages, messages sent over encrypted applications, phone records, and emails.

So, lordy, there are tapes. And emails. And phone records. Of course, we already know of one tape — of Cohen apparently talking about one of the payments to Trump — which CNN reported on last month.

In his interview with Fox News, Trump was asked about Cohen’s payments to Daniels and McDougal.

FOX NEWS: Did you direct him to make these payments?

TRUMP: He made the deal. He made the deals. By the way, he pled to two counts which aren’t a crime which nobody understands. I watched a number of shows, sometimes you get some pretty good information by watching shows, those two counts aren’t even a crime. They weren’t campaign finance.

FOX NEWS: Did you know about the payments?

TRUMP: Later on I knew. Later on. But you have to understand, Ainsley, what he did – and they weren’t taken out of campaign finance. That’s a big thing. That’s a much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign. They didn’t come out of the campaign. They came from me.

Let’s repeat those last two sentences: “They didn’t come out of the campaign. They came from me.” That is PRECISELY the allegation of illegal activity here — funds intended for a campaign are SUPPOSED to come from the campaign, not from another source.

THE OTHER IMPORTANT ANGLE IN THE TRUMP-COHEN STORY: THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER

Meanwhile, the Washington Post writes about the other angle here. “According to the documents, [David] Pecker assured Cohen that he would help deal with rumors related to Trump’s relationships with women by essentially turning his tabloid operation into a research arm of the Trump campaign, identifying potentially damaging stories and, when necessary, buying the silence of the women who wanted to tell them.”

“The charging documents allege that Pecker and his company, American Media Inc., owner of the National Enquirer, were more deeply and deliberately involved in the effort to help the Trump campaign than was previously known. AMI also played a key role in the effort to silence adult-film star Stormy Daniels, prosecutors allege. Pecker and AMI did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. Nor did Cohen or his attorney.”

TRUMP’S STRANGE SOUTH AFRICA TWEET

Late last night, President Trump fired off this tweet: “I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. ‘South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.’ @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews.”

The government of South Africa responded, “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past. #landexpropriation @realDonaldTrump @PresidencyZA.”

“Land reform is a highly divisive issue in South Africa, where white residents, who make up 8 percent of the population, own 72 percent of land, according to official figures,” the New York Times writes. “While there have been some land grabs by private groups — not sanctioned by the government — some right-wing groups have been pushing the false narrative that there have been numerous seizures of white-owned farms and killings of white farmers. In fact, research by one farmers’ organization, published in July, found that the number of killings of farmers was at a 20-year low.”

JUROR WHO SUPPORTS TRUMP TELLS FOX NEWS THAT MANAFORT WAS GUILTY

“Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team was one holdout juror away from winning a conviction against Paul Manafort on all 18 counts of bank and tax fraud, juror Paula Duncan told Fox News in an exclusive interview Wednesday,” Fox reports. “‘It was one person who kept the verdict from being guilty on all 18 counts,’ Duncan, 52, said.”

“‘Finding Mr. Manafort guilty was hard for me. I wanted him to be innocent, I really wanted him to be innocent, but he wasn’t,’ Duncan said. ‘That’s the part of a juror, you have to have due diligence and deliberate and look at the evidence and come up with an informed and intelligent decision, which I did.’”

And: “‘Every day when I drove, I had my Make America Great Again hat in the backseat,’ said Duncan, who said she plans to vote for Trump again in 2020. ‘Just as a reminder.’”

NBC/MARIST POLL: O’ROURKE TRAILS CRUZ IN TEXAS BY JUST 4 POINTS

“As Texas Democrats attempt to win a major statewide contest for the first time in almost three decades, a new NBC News/Marist poll finds Democrat Beto O’Rourke trailing Republican Sen. Ted Cruz by just 4 percentage points,” one of us writes. “O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso who has ignited Democratic hopes with his impressive fundraising, has 45 percent support among registered voters compared with Cruz’s 49 percent. Six percent of voters remain undecided.”

And this is key when looking at the competitive congressional races in TX-7 (Houston area), TX-23 (Austin-San Antonio area) and TX-32 (Dallas area): “Cruz has majority support by about a 2-1 margin in both the more rural eastern and western parts of the state. But O’Rourke is holding steady with Cruz in Dallas/Fort Worth (both at 48 percent) and besting him in Houston (51 percent to 42 percent).”

Also, “O’Rourke’s relative strength against Cruz … is in contrast to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s whopping 19 point lead over Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez.”

By the way, there’s one more state poll we’ll be releasing later today…

Did cruise ship guards have to kill polar bear?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS AND FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 

Did cruise ship guards have to kill polar bear? Experts say maybe — but blame climate change

by Kalhan Rosenblatt / 
Image: TOPSHOT-NORWAY-ARCTIC-ANIMALS-POLAR-BEAR

A dead polar bear lies on the beach in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago on July 28, 2018. Norwegian authorities said the polar bear was shot after it attacked and injured a polar guard who was protecting a group of tourists from a cruise ship.Gustav Busch Arntsen / Scanpix via AFP – Getty Images

A German cruise line has received a wave of backlash after its crew members shot and killed a polar bear that had attacked a guard whose job it was to spot and prevent interactions with the animal.

The cruise, a Hapag-Lloyd ship called the MS Bremen, was traveling near the northernmost island of the Svalbard archipelago, between mainland Norway and the North Pole, had intended to show the bears off to a group of tourists — and it appears guards on the vessel attempted to scare the bear off before resorting to lethal force, officials said.

Police spokesman Ole Jakob Malmo told the Associated Press that two members of the Bremen’s 12-man crew that set out ahead of tourists on Saturday first tried to ward off the bear “by shouting and making loud noises as well as firing a signal pistol, but to no effect.”

In a statement, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises had said the attack happened when a four-person bear guard team, went on land ahead of the tour.

“One of the guards was unexpectedly attacked by a polar bear that had not been spotted and he was unable to react himself. As the attempts of the other guards to evict the animal, unfortunately, were not successful, there had to be intervention for reasons of self-defense and to protect the life of the attacked person,” the statement said. The guard who was injured is in stable condition, according to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises spokesman Moritz Krause.

Experts warn that, as climate change continues to shrink the polar bear’s habitat, the animals are finding themselves face-to-face with humans more often.

“With climate change there’s a lot less sea ice and bears have to spend a lot more time on land. There is definitely more chance of interaction between people and bears,” said Sybille Klenzendorf, senior biologist and senior species expert for the World Wildlife Fund.

“And this is not just for tourism. This is for communities, this is for industry, anybody operating and living in the Arctic has this chance of higher encounters so we have to be prepared in a preventive and proactive manner to prevent conflict with polar bears,” she noted.

Experts told NBC News that in most cases guards have and are able to use a host of methods to deescalate bear encounters before resorting to killing the animal.

“Deterrent methods are extremely successful,” said Brian Horner, the founder and director of LTR Training Solutions in Anchorage, Alaska, which includes bear-guard instruction.

Horner said there are several steps guards can take before killing the animal. A guard who sees a bear can first try to shoot a projectile firework that will cause a bang and scare the animal off, although this requires a precise shot in order to scare the bear backwards rather than forward. Guards also must take care not to start a fire with the flare, Horner said.

Guards can also use a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with blank rounds.

“All it does is make the shotgun make a really big bang. We like those, but our clients don’t like them because it’s 161 decibels, and if you’re not ready, you’re going to have an ear ache,” Horner said.

The next line of defense is rubber bullets before a final non-lethal option: bean bag projectiles. But they can be risky.

“When you’re using bean bags, you’re so close that if it decides it doesn’t like the bean bag, it’s going to run toward you,” Horner said of polar bears.

Klenzendorf said that there are specific rules of engagement that cruise lines are supposed to follow in the region where the killing happened over the weekend, and that polar bear guards are required to limit the chance of interaction between humans and bears. But even to the trained eye, in the Arctic, it’s not an easy task.

“It’s very hard sometimes in the arctic environment to actually see them,” Klenzendorf said of polar bears.

Horner agreed that it can be a challenge for bear guards to spot the animals.

“Polar bears are smart. They’re really smart … and they have to hunt a lot. Polar bears go from curious to interested quickly,” Horner said, adding that “polar bears are sneaky” and likely crept up on the guards.

Fortunately, Klenzendorf said, polar bear guards don’t often end up having fatal interactions with the animals.

“Given that it’s only been the second bear in 20 years of the cruising industry in Svalbard that has been killed, it shows there must be high standards that are being followed for interactions,” she said.

Archaeologists discover burial ground for Egyptian high priests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Archaeologists discover burial ground for Egyptian high priests

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered mummified remains and thousands of well-preserved artifacts at a burial site of more than a dozen Egyptian priests.

Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities announced Saturday the discovery of a necropolis near the city of Minya, south of Cairo in an area known to house ancient catacombs. The burial grounds date back to the late pharaonic period, which spans from 664 to 332 B.C.

“We will need at least five years to work on the necropolis,” Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said, “This is only the beginning of a new discovery.”

Image: Four canopic jars, made of alabaster with lids bearing the faces of the four sons of god Horus, that were unearthed are displayed at the site of an ancient Egyptian cemetery, in Minya province, 245 km south of Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 24, 2018.

Four canopic jars, made of alabaster with lids bearing the faces of the four sons of god Horus, that were unearthed are displayed at the site of an ancient Egyptian cemetery, in Minya province, 245 km south of Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 24, 2018. Ibrahim Youssef / EPA

The tombs discovered “belong to priests of the ancient Egyptian god Toth,” according to a press statement from the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry. Toth, according to Egyptian historians, was revered as the god of knowledge and wisdom.

Related: Archaeologists uncover 4,000-year-old tomb in Egypt

Archaeologists discovered the mummified remains of a high priest, which was covered in beads of ivory and crystal and decorated with a bronze collar as well as amulets of semi-precious stones.

They also found 13 other burial tombs, 40 limestone sarcophagi, a collection of more than 1,000 well-preserved figurines, and four canopic jars made of alabaster and inscribed with hieroglyphs.

Image: Skulls sit at a recently found ancient Egyptian cemetery, in Minya province, 245 km south of Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 24, 2018.

Skulls sit at a recently found ancient Egyptian cemetery, in Minya province, 245 km south of Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 24, 2018. Ibrahim Youssef / EPA

Mostafa Waziri, head of the archaeological mission, says eight tombs have been uncovered so far and he expects more will be discovered soon.

Earlier in February, archaeologists discovered a tomb of an ancient royal official buried more than 4,000 years ago during the period known as the “Age of the Pyramids.”

In 2017, the ministry found a necropolis holding at least 17 mummies in the area of Tuna al-Gabal, which is also known as the site of tombs, a funerary building and a large necropolis for thousands of mummified ibis and baboon birds, as well as other animals.

Egypt hopes that recent discoveries across the country will help spur the vital tourism sector, partially driven by antiquities sightseeing, which was hit hard by political turmoil following the 2011 uprising.

African nations slam Trump’s vulgar remarks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

African nations slam Trump’s vulgar remarks as ‘reprehensible and racist’

The wave of international outrage grew Saturday against the vulgar language President Donald Trump used when referring to immigration from African nations, with Ghana’s president saying he would “not accept such insults, even from a leader of a friendly country, no matter how powerful.”

President Nana Akufo-Addo tweeted an unflinching defense of the African continent — and of Haiti and El Salvador, countries also mentioned during a meeting Thursday between Trump and a bipartisan group of senators at the White House.

Trump repeatedly referred to African nations in general as “shithole countries,”according to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and also reportedly asked why the United States needs more Haitian immigrants instead of people from countries such as Norway.

In response, Akufo-Addo tweeted: “We are certainly not a ‘shithole country.'”

The language of @realDonaldTrump that the African continent, Haiti and El Salvador are “shithole countries” is extremely unfortunate. We are certainly not a “shithole country”. We will not accept such insults, even from a leader of a friendly country, no matter how powerful.

The White House did not initially deny Trump made those remarks. But as the controversy grew — with some members of Congress slamming the remarks as racist — the president on Friday responded in a tweet that the “language used by me at the … meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”

Trump has not further clarified the statements attributed to him, and on Friday ignored questions reporters asked about it after he signed a proclamation honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Related: In Norway, Trump’s comments on immigration rejected as backhanded praise

Meanwhile, the condemnation has been swift. In addition to Ghana, the government of Botswana said Trump’s language is “reprehensible and racist,” and said it has summoned the U.S. ambassador to clarify what he meant.

Senegal’s president, Macky Sall, said in a statement that it was “shocked” and that “Africa and the black race merit the respect and consideration of all.” His West African nation has long been lauded by the U.S. as an example of a stable democracy on the continent.

Play

 Is Donald Trump a racist? President faces backlash over vulgar comments 2:45

The African Union, which is made up of 55 member states, also took issue with Trump’s remarks.

“Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice,” said spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo.

Paul Altidor, Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S., called Trump’s comments “regrettable” and based on “clichés and stereotypes rather than actual fact.” He also noted the insensitivity of its timing, coming the same week as the eighth anniversary of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 people.

El Salvador’s government on Friday sent a formal letter of protest to the United States over the “harsh terms detrimental to the dignity of El Salvador and other countries.”

Trump has previously felt backlash over disparaging remarks about immigrants, most notably on the campaign trail when he characterized Mexicans as “rapists” and “criminals.”

The New York Times first reported in December that Trump said Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS” during a summer 2017 meeting about immigration. At that same meeting, he also complained that Nigerian immigrants who come to the United States would never want to “go back to their huts.”

The White House denied Trump ever used the words “AIDS” or “huts.”

Play

 ‘They’re rapists…all have AIDS’: Some of Trump’s comments on immigrants, minorities 3:50

Trump’s apparent struggle with racial insensitivity also surfaced last fall. At the time, he asked a career intelligence analyst where she was from, and after learning she was of Korean heritage, asked why the “pretty Korean lady” isn’t negotiating with North Korea on his administration’s behalf, two officials with direct knowledge of the exchange told NBC News on Friday.

Trump’s remarks have prompted two top House Democrats to announce the introduction next week of a censure resolution of Trump.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement Friday that they were “deeply disturbed and offended” by the language.

Organizing a formal reprimand of Trump would be difficult since it will require getting bipartisan support in a GOP-controlled House. The censuring of a president is also rare, and was only done once by the Senate against Andrew Jackson in 1834 for his failure to turn over certain documents.

Amid Historically Low Turnout, Puerto Ricans Vote for Statehood

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

JUN 11 2017, 6:00 PM ET

Amid Historically Low Turnout, Puerto Ricans Vote for Statehood

Amid historically low turnout, residents of Puerto Rico voted Sunday for statehood in a non-binding vote, but almost eight out of ten voters did not participate.

Puerto Rican resident Maria Quinones votes during the fifth referendum on the island’s status, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday, June 11, 2017. Carlos Giusti / AP

As of 5:30pET, the island’s election commission (CEE in Spanish) had reported that about 23 percent of the island’s eligible voters had cast ballots, about 500,000 votes. About 97 percent of the votes were for statehood.

The island’s’ governor, Ricardo Rosselló from the New Progressive Party (PNP in Spanish) and his government had been pushing for a “yes” for statehood as the best way to grapple with Puerto Rico’s crippling $73 billion debt.

But the island’s other two main political parties had pushed for a boycott of the plebiscite, and it showed in the numbers. About 1.3 percent voted for the current commonwealth status and about 1.5 percent voted for independence.

The president of the Popular Democratic Party, (PPD in Spanish), which favors the current commonwealth status, said after the vote that “statehooders shot themselves in the foot.”

“Eight out of ten voters went to the beach, went to the river, went to go eat, went to go hang out, went to church, but they sure didn’t go out to vote,” said PPD president Héctor Ferrer at a San Juan press conference. “Governor Rossello is now going to go to Washington and say this (statehood) is what people wanted. But we’re going too to say no, that’s not true and the numbers speak for themselves.”

In this Oct. 2, 2012 photo, U.S. And Puerto Rico’s flags fly as tourists walk along the dock where a cruise ship anchors in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. AP

Puerto Rico historically has had high turnout in most elections. This one was unusually low. In the last plebiscite held in 2012, more than 1.9 million voted, and 800,000 chose statehood. In 1993, nearly 2 million Puerto Ricans voted.

But following the results, Gov. Roselló said “An overwhelming majority voted for statehood. Today we are sending a strong and clear message for equal rights as American citizens. This was a democratic process and statehood got a historic 97 percent of the vote. The federal government cannot ignore the results of this plebiscite and the will of our people,” said the governor. “It would be quite ironic to demand democracy in other parts of the world but not in their own backyard. This is our home.”

RELATED: Puerto Rico Holds Vote Sunday on Statehood Amid Criticism Over Timing, Costs

As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico does not elect members of Congress. But the island’s representative in Congress, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, is pro-statehood, and she said Sunday in San Juan that she is creating a “Friends of Puerto Rico Caucus” in Washington to advocate for statehood and push the process along once the results are certified.

“As Resident Commissioner I will take this to Congress and defend it,” said González. “I am taking it not just to Congress but to other forums, such as the Organization of American States,” she told reporters.

Ultimately, it is up to the U.S. Congress to decide whether to take up the issue of Puerto Rico’s status.

Emilio Martínez, a retiree and statehood supporter, told NBC Latino that he was glad that he was able to vote. “If you don’t vote, you don’t participate and you don’t have a say. There weren’t too many people voting when I went this morning, but I live in a town outside of San Juan controlled by one of the opposition parties and they had urged people to boycott the plebiscite, so many people stayed away. But that doesn’t matter to me. Voting is our right and I am exercising my right,” said Martínez.

“And this is just the beginning of a process to tell the United States how we feel and that we want to be a part of the States,” Martínez said. “We deserve to be treated equally like any other U.S. citizen. But nothing happens overnight. This is just the beginning.”

Federico de Jesús, with FDJ Solutions in Washington is a former Obama and Puerto Rico government official who says the plebiscite was unnecessary and costly.

Image: Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello greets supporters at a polling station
Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello, center, greets supporters at a polling station, in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, on Sunday, June 11, 2017. Thais Llorca / EPA

“This vote was a waste or precious resources at a time of severe fiscal constraints. Congress laid out a process through a provision in a 2014 law that said that if Puerto Rico wanted the federal government to pay attention to another status referendum, it had to follow certain rules. The current government of the Island entered the process and when it took longer than they wanted they decided to ignore the U.S. Justice Department’s plea for more time to evaluate the validity of the ballot language – which had already been rejected once before by DOJ. This begs the question: why would Congress act upon the results of a referendum that ignored the rules it required in federal law to address this issue? Sadly, today’s vote will thus go down in history as yet another non-binding glorified poll with no real effect on resolving Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States.”

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