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Iran arrests eight ‘linked to CIA’ in street unrest

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Iran has arrested eight people accused of links to the CIA and gathering information to send abroad during deadly street violence that erupted after a fuel price hike triggered demonstrations.

A near-total internet blackout was imposed by the Islamic republic on November 16, the day after it made the shock announcement that petrol prices were immediately going up by as much as 200 percent.

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Reports of deaths and arrests emerged as security forces were deployed to rein in demonstrations which turned violent in some areas, with dozens of banks, petrol pumps and police stations torched.

New York-based Human Rights Watch on Wednesday accused Tehran of “deliberately covering up” more than 100 deaths and thousands of arrests during the crackdown.

Officials in Iran have confirmed five people were killed and so far announced about 500 arrests, including of some 180 “ringleaders”.

But Amnesty International said on Monday that at least 143 demonstrators have been killed since November 15 in the crackdown.

The latest to have been detained in Iran were eight people “linked to the CIA during recent riots”, state news agency IRNA said late Wednesday.

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“Some elements who tried to collect information about the recent riots and send them out of the country… were identified and arrested,” it quoted the director-general of the intelligence ministry’s counter-espionage department as saying.

Six of them were alleged to have been “attending the riots and carrying out orders,” IRNA reported, without naming the official.

Two others accused of trying to collect information and transfer it abroad were arrested before they could leave the country, the news agency said.

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They had all been “trained in different countries on how to collect information… as citizen-journalists,” it added.

Iran’s arch-foe, the United States, said on Tuesday it had received thousands of messages from the Islamic republic about the protests, including photos and videos, after issuing an appeal for people to defy the internet restrictions.

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“We’ve received to date nearly 20,000 messages, videos, pictures, notes of the regime’s abuses through Telegram messaging services,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, referring to the encrypted app.

– ‘Dangerous conspiracy’ –

The unrest, triggered by a sharp rise in petrol prices, came after a year and a half of biting sanctions reimposed by President Donald Trump that aim to contain Iran’s regional role.

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The sanctions followed Trump’s decision in May 2018 to unilaterally withdraw the United States from an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme.

AFP / ATTA KENARE Pro-government supporters held a mass rally earlier this week to condemn days of ‘rioting’ which Iran has blamed on foreign foes

Iran has blamed the unrest on “thugs” backed by its foreign enemies, including the United States, Israel and the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, an exiled armed opposition group it considers a “terrorist” cult.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday said his sanctions-hit country had foiled a “very dangerous” plot.

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“The people foiled a deep, vast and very dangerous conspiracy on which a lot of money was spent for destruction, viciousness and the killing of people,” Khamenei was quoted as saying on state television.

On Twitter, Khamenei expressed his “heartfelt gratitude and appreciation” to the Iranian nation in a post that featured pictures of a massive pro-government rally held Monday in Tehran.

“The people proved again that they are powerful and great, and defeated the big conspiracy of the enemy with their presence on the scene,” he said.

“Police and security forces… performed their duty, but what the nation did during this week was more important than any other measure,” said another tweet.

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The tweets accused the “#GlobalArrogance and #Zionism” — referring to Iran’s arch-enemies the US and Israel — of being behind the street violence.


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Catholic peaders promised transparency about child abuse — but they haven’t delivered

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It took 40 years and three bouts of cancer for Larry Giacalone to report his claim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a Boston priest named Richard Donahue.

Giacalone sued Donahue in 2017, alleging the priest molested him in 1976, when Giacalone was 12 and Donahue was serving at Sacred Heart Parish. The lawsuit never went to trial, but a compensation program set up by the archdiocese concluded that Giacalone “suffered physical injuries and emotional injuries as a result of physical abuse” and directed the archdiocese to pay him $73,000.

Even after the claim was settled and the compensation paid in February 2019, however, the archdiocese didn’t publish Donahue’s name on its list of accused priests. Nor did it three months later when Giacalone’s lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, criticized the church publicly for not adding Donahue’s name to the list.

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Mike Pompeo’s behavior is straight out of Nixon VP’s playbook: historians

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s expletive-laden dust-up with NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly is on message for the Trump-led Republican Party. Complaining that Kelly’s question about Ukraine was “another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this Administration,” Pompeo has rallied the Republican base by slamming a journalist doing her job.

Whether he knows it or not, Pompeo is drawing from a playbook written a half century ago and perfected by a politician once voted the worst vice president in American history. Secretary Mike Pompeo, meet Vice President Spiro Agnew.

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‘Our chances of ever exiting the nightmare are shrinking’: Paul Krugman explains how the GOP is getting worse

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It is a great detriment to civil discourse that the divide between left and right in the United States is often depicted as being purely cultural — as if one’s politics were solely mediated by aesthetics, such as whether one prefers shooting guns or drinking lattes. This fabulist understanding of politics is harmful inasmuch as it masks the real social effects of the policy agendas pushed by left versus right. Seeing politics as aesthetic transforms what should be a quantitative debate — with statistics and numbers about taxation and public policy, questions of who benefits more or less from policy changes — and devolves it into a rhetorical debate over values.

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