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Secret talks with Manafort?: US officials to ask Ecuador embassy staff about Assange visitors

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US investigators will on Friday begin to question diplomatic staff who were stationed at the Ecuadorian embassy in London during WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s years-long stay about his visitors, according to the whistleblower group.

It follows international subpoenas from the US Department of Justice, which is probing a report that President Donald Trump’s disgraced former 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort held secret talks there with Assange, Wikileaks said.

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The Justice Department, which declined to comment on the matter, wants to talk to six staff members from the embassy and will start to interview them in the Ecuadorian capital Quito on Friday, it added.

Britain’s The Guardian newspaper claimed in November that Manafort — who was convicted of multiple charges including bank fraud and money laundering in two separate cases last year — met Assange on several occasions from 2013 to 2016.

The period coincided with Manafort becoming a key figure in Trump’s bid for the White House and preceded Wikileaks publishing thousands of emails allegedly stolen by Russian hackers from the rival Democratic campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Assange, Manafort and Ecuadorian officials have denied the report, noting Manafort does not appear in the embassy’s visitor logs.

But it prompted a group of leading Democratic senators in the US to demand in December that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo probe the claim and report back.

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Wikileaks said the US request was sent from the Justice Department to its Ecuadorian counterpart on January 7, which approved the request “although it is highly unusual to permit foreign interrogations of former diplomatic officials over their diplomatic work.”

Assange, who gained international renown by releasing huge caches of hacked State Department and Pentagon files, has been holed up in the London embassy since 2012 citing fears that Britain would extradite him to the US to face charges there.

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MSNBC’s Morning Joe laughs out loud at Fox News praise for Trump’s ‘superman’ energy: ‘He does one or two things a day, tops’

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough tried to unravel President Donald Trump's mysterious hospital visit over the weekend, which the White House insists was the beginning of his annual physical.

The "Morning Joe" host laughed out loud at a clip of White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham and Fox News host Jeanine Pirro praising the president's "superman" energy after the surprise hospital visit.

"Who was it, was it (Treasury Secretary Steve) Mnuchin who praised his perfect genes?" Scarborough said. "Was it Steve Mnuchin who said had he superhuman genes? And they said he would live to be 200 if he ate better?"

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Qantas backs legal action against will.i.am over racism claim

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Australia's Qantas on Monday rejected accusations of in-flight racism from US performer will.i.am, with the airline saying it would back legal action against the Black Eyed Peas frontman.

The multiple Grammy-winning artist had lashed out at a Qantas flight attendant and named her on Twitter after she called the police over an altercation during a flight from Brisbane to Sydney.

In his tweets, the star said the crew member had been "overly aggressive" and unnecessarily escalated the situation after he didn't hear an on-board safety briefing because he was wearing headphones.

Using the hashtag #RacistFlightAttendant, he said she was "beyond rude" and "took it to the next level by calling the police", five of whom were waiting for him when the 90-minute flight landed on Saturday.

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Pope to Hiroshima on mission against ‘immoral’ nuclear weapons

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Pope Francis, who years ago hoped to be a missionary in Japan, travels to the sites of the world's only atomic attacks this week seeking a ban on "immoral" nuclear weapons.

"Your country is well aware of the suffering caused by war," the Argentine pontiff, 82, said in a video message to the Japanese people on Monday.

"Together with you, I pray that the destructive power of nuclear weapons will never be unleashed again in human history. The use of nuclear weapons is immoral," said the head of the world's 1.3 billion Catholics.

Pope Francis flies to Asia on Tuesday, where he will first visit Thailand and then Japan, including the two cities destroyed by devastating US nuclear attacks during the Second World War.

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