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Brazil investigates popular former president Lula on corruption charges

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Brazil has opened a probe into claims linking popular ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to a corruption scandal, threatening to cast a shadow over his political legacy and future.

The Public Ministry ordered police Friday to investigate an alleged payoff by Portugal Telecom to the ruling Workers’ Party during Lula’s first term in office.

Businessman Marcos Valerio Fernandes de Souza has said the former president and ex-finance minister Antonio Palocci negotiated a $7 million payoff in 2005 with the one-time president of a Portuguese phone company through an account in Macau.

Fernandes de Souza received a 40-year sentence last year after he was found to have run much of the scheme that channeled cash to the ruling party.

In December, the high court concluded what was one of the biggest and furthest reaching corruption trials, convicting 25 of 38 people who were accused of corruption including senior ruling party members.

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The scandal nearly cost Lula his re-election in 2006. But the 67-year-old founder and leader of the leftist PT was cleared and he has always maintained he was unaware of the scheme. He was not put on trial.

Lula, who had soaring popular approval ratings while in office, was easily re-elected and handed over power to President Dilma Rousseff at the end of his second consecutive four-year term in 2010 as required by the constitution.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Ivanka bashed by CNN guest for jumping into Trump racist furor late and trying to make herself look good

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Appearing on CNN, the author of a piece in The Atlantic on Ivanka Trump's disappearing act whenever her father, President Donald Trump, does something offensive, said the first daughter likes to pick her spots when she can be "part of the show."

Speaking with CNN host Ana Cabrera, journalist Elaina Plott said Ivanka's influence on her father has been overstated since the beginning of his presidency and only she moves into the public eye when it benefits her.

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House GOP group wants to pressure Amazon into selling gay conversion therapy books written by long-debunked quack

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A key bloc of House Republicans is planning to put pressure on Amazon to once again start selling "gay conversion therapy" books that the website had previously removed for peddling a dangerous, pseudo-scientific procedure that has been linked to suicide and mental health problems.

Vice News reports that the Republican Study Group issued a handout to its members this week encouraging them to raise concerns about "Amazon censorship" of books written by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, the late clinical psychologist who has been credited with pioneering so-called gay conversion therapy techniques.

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American Islamic State ‘sniper’ charged in New York: Justice Dept

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A naturalized American who was a sniper for the Islamic State group has been charged in New York with material support for a terror group after being captured in Syria and repatriated to the United States, the Justice Department announced Friday.

Kazakhstan-born Ruslan Maratovich Asainov fought for the Islamic State in Syria for five years before he was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces and handed over to US custody, the department said.

Asainov, 43, was brought back to the United States on Thursday and was to be arraigned Friday afternoon in federal court in Brooklyn.

He fought for IS in Syria from 2013 to 2018 as a sniper and a weapons trainer for other combatants.

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