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Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy goes on trial for leading 2014 armed standoff

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Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy goes on trial on Monday for his role in leading a 2014 armed standoff against federal agents that became a rallying point for militia groups challenging U.S. government authority in the American West.

Bundy, two of his sons and a third follower are accused of conspiracy, assault, firearms offenses and other charges in the latest of several trials stemming from the confrontation near Bunkerville, Nevada, 75 miles (120 km) northeast of Las Vegas.

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The revolt was sparked by the court-ordered roundup of Bundy’s cattle by government agents over his refusal to pay fees required to graze the herd on federal land.

Hundreds of supporters, many heavily armed, rallied to Bundy’s cause demanding that his livestock be returned. Outnumbered law enforcement officers ultimately retreated rather than risk bloodshed. No shots were ever fired.

The face-off marked a flashpoint in long-simmering tensions over federal control of public lands in the West and a precursor to Bundy’s two sons leading an armed six-week occupation of a federal wildlife center in Oregon two years later, in 2016.

Defense lawyers have generally argued that the Bunkerville defendants were exercising constitutionally protected rights to assembly and to bear arms, casting the showdown as a patriotic act of civil disobedience against government overreach.

Prosecutors have said that armed gunmen were using force and intimidation to defy the rule of law.

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Jury selection in the latest trial was slated to begin on Monday morning in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. The proceedings were postponed for three weeks after an unrelated mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 in which 58 people were killed.

Standing trial with Cliven Bundy, 71, are the two sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who led last year’s Oregon occupation, and a third co-defendant, Ryan Payne, a Montana resident linked by prosecutors to a militia group called Operation Mutual Aid.

A fourth co-defendant, internet blogger and radio host Peter Santilli, pleaded guilty on Oct. 6 to conspiracy and faces a possible six-year prison term.

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Six lesser-known participants in the Nevada ranch showdown went on trial as a group earlier this year. Two men were found guilty, one of them sentenced to 68 years in prison. The other is awaiting sentencing.

Two of the four remaining defendants were retried and acquitted, and two others pleaded guilty last week to obstructing a court order. Those two each face up to a year in prison when sentenced.

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Yet another group of six defendants, including two more Bundy sons, Dave and Mel Bundy, are due to stand trial 30 days after the current trial ends.

Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with five other people, were previously charged with criminal conspiracy in the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. That trial ended with the surprise acquittal last year of all seven.

(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Pressured by US sanctions, Cuba struggles to pay its debts

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Foreign companies going unpaid, creditor countries told to be patient: as Cuba struggles under the weight of US sanctions it has also been struggling to pay its debts, raising serious concern among its partners.

Having negotiated a restructuring of its debt with 14 countries through the Paris Club of creditors in 2015, Cuba last year failed to make timely payments to six of them - Austria, Belgium, Britain, France, Japan and Spain.

The Caribbean nation was supposed to pay those countries "$32 to $33 million" of the total $82 million due in 2019, one diplomatic source said. Its failure to do so leaves it facing stiff interest payments of 9 percent.

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Israel's grinding political deadlock has squeezed funding for programmes helping troubled youths, disadvantaged communities and the disabled, forcing state-backed social organisations to rely on crowd-funding to get by.

Polls indicate the country's March 2 election, the third in less than a year, will not produce a clear win for right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his main rival Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party.

That result could force more fraught coalition talks, prolonging the stalemate that has kept lawmakers from passing a budget for this year.

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Trade ties between the United States and India have long been problematic but under "America First" President Donald Trump and "Make in India" Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they have worsened.

While eclipsed by his trade war with China, Trump's tussle with India, and New Delhi's prickly reaction, has made a major pact unlikely during the American president's visit to the world's fifth-largest economy from Monday.

"They've been hitting us very, very hard for many, many years," Trump said of India ahead of the 36-hour trip to Ahmedabad, Agra and New Delhi accompanied by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and others.

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