PHILADELPHIA — Sixteen years after their research at the University of Pennsylvania paved the way for billions to be vaccinated against COVID-19, two scientists have been honored with a $3 million Breakthrough Prize. The award for Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, one of five such honors announced Thursday morning for achievements in science and math, recognizes their success in modifying the genetic molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA) so it can instruct human cells to make customized proteins. That concept could prove useful in treating all sorts of maladies — years ago, Karikó explored the ...
Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi has had her sentence reduced from four years to two after a partial pardon by the head of the military-appointed government, the country's state television reported on Monday.
Earlier on Monday, a court in Myanmar found Suu Kyi, ousted in a February 1 coup, guilty of charges of incitement and breaching coronavirus restrictions, drawing international outrage at what some critics described as a "sham trial".
President Win Myint was sentenced to four years' detention, Myanmar's state-run broadcaster MRTV reported.
Both Suu Kyi and Win Myint will serve their sentences where they are currently being detained, an undisclosed location, suggesting they will not be sent to prison.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup against Suu Kyi's democratically elected government led to widespread protests and raised international concern about the end of tentative political reforms following decades of military rule.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi, 76, has been detained since the coup along with most senior leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party. Others are abroad or in hiding and no party spokesperson was available for comment.
"The conviction of the State Counsellor following a sham trial in secretive proceedings before a military-controlled court is nothing but politically-motivated," UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in comments echoed by the European Union and others.
The military has not given details of where Suu Kyi has been detained and it was not immediately clear if the sentencing would mean any immediate change in her circumstances.
Dr. Sasa, a spokesperson for Myanmar's shadow civilian government set up following the coup, called on the international community to step up sanctions against Myanmar's military rulers.
The trial in the capital Naypyitaw has been closed to the media and the junta's public information outlets have not mentioned the proceedings. Suu Kyi's lawyers have been barred from communicating with the media and public.
Suu Kyi faces a dozen cases that include multiple corruption charges plus violations of a state secrets act, a telecoms law and Covid-19 regulations, which carry combined maximum sentences of more than a century in prison.
They had denied the charges.
Western countries have demanded Suu Kyi's release and condemned the violence since the coup in which some 1,300 people have been killed, according to rights groups.
Liz Truss, the foreign minister of former colonial power Britain, condemned Suu Kyi's sentencing as "another appalling attempt by Myanmar’s military regime to stifle opposition and suppress freedom and democracy".
The EU's top diplomat condemned the verdict as "politically motivated".
China, which has long had good relations with the military as well as Suu Kyi's government, urged all parties to "bridge their differences under the constitutional and legal framework, and continue to advance the hard-earned democratic transition", a foreign ministry spokesperson said.
Japan, a major investor in Myanmar, said in a statement that the verdict was an "unfavourable development" and called for the restoration of democracy in the country.
Suu Kyi's supporters say the cases against her are baseless and designed to end her political career and tie her up in legal proceedings while the military consolidates power.
Her jailing had been widely expected.
"I don’t expect anything out of this broken justice system," Maw Htun Aung, a deputy minister in the opposition parallel government, told Reuters after the sentencing.
The junta says Suu Kyi is being given due process by an independent court led by a judge appointed by her own administration.
Suu Kyi, the daughter of the hero of Myanmar's independence, spent years under house arrest for her opposition to military rule but was freed in 2010 and led her NLD to a landslide victory in a 2015 election.
Her party won again in November of last year but the military said the vote was rigged and seized power weeks later. The election commission dismissed the military's complaint.
Rights group Amnesty International said the charges against Suu Kyi were farcical and her jailing showed the military’s determination to eliminate opposition and suffocate freedoms.
Historian and author Thant Myint U said military leaders thought their predecessors who introduced reforms more than a decade ago had gone too far in allowing Suu Kyi back into politics and the entire reason for the coup was to exclude her.
"She remains far and away the most popular (figure) in Myanmar politics and may still be a potent force in what's to come," he told Reuters.
But Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said the more severe criminal charges that Suu Kyi had yet to face would most likely ensure that she "is never allowed to be a free woman again".
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Sidney Powell raised nearly $15 million off election lies -- but questions remain about how it was spent
Donald Trump-loving attorney Sidney Powell raised millions from donors as she fought legal battles to overturn the 2020 election, but questions about spending isolated her from other election deniers and even her own staff.
Financial records show that Powell's nonprofit group Defending the Republic raised nearly $15 million, reported the Washington Post, but previously unreported records show the group's other leaders became suspicious about where the money was going -- and now federal prosecutors and Congress are investigating.
“Business is good and accountability is low, which means we’re just going to see continued use of this playbook,” said Matt Masterson, who tracked 2020 election integrity for the Department of Homeland Security. “Well-meaning folks that have been told that the election was stolen are giving out money that they might not otherwise be able to give.”
Financial statements show Powell's nonprofit raised $14.9 million between Dec. 1, 2020, and July 31, and it spent about $5.6 million of that on mostly legal fees and unspecified awards and grants, and it gave $550,000 to the Arizona election "audit."
Defending the Republic had nearly $5.3 million in assets and $4 million in mutual funds at the end of July, according to an audit.
It's not clear how much Powell raised before she established the organization Dec. 1, after she spent several weeks filing dubious legal challenges and appearing in conservative media to spread conspiracy theories and ask for donations, which were made payable to her law firm before Defending the Republic was set up.
Powell was listed as the group's agent, while former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and his brother Joseph Flynn were added as directors later that month.
A seemingly affiliated group was set up the same day in Delaware and applied to the IRS as a 501(c)4 social welfare organization, which may not make political activity their primary focus.
A new Defending the Republic organization was incorporated in Florida in late February, with MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell listed as its director, but he claims he asked to be removed as soon as he found out.
Powell and Michael Flynn asked former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, another Trump election conspiracist, to take over the Florida operation, and he agreed to assist until July, and he hired a small staff that included Robert Weaver, a co-founder of the pro-Trump religious group Jericho March, and Emily Newman, a former White House liaison to the Health and Human Services Department, along with the Flynns.
Powell clashed with staffers from the start, especially over her handling of the billion-dollar defamation suit filed against her by Dominion Voting Systems, and Byrne took their side -- and eventually joined them -- as they started resigning one after another in March.
Byrne and Michael Flynn soon set up a new nonprofit, the America Project, and started raising money off the Arizona ballot review, to which they contributed $3.25 million, and Byrne and Defending the Republic have spent months in a legal dispute over payments from his time with Powell's group.
The Biden administration is considering a set of sanctions against Russia designed to deter Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine, CNN reports. The new sanctions will target Putin's inner circle and Russian energy producers.
"The officials said final decisions hadn't been made on whether and when to apply the new sanctions, and said the Biden administration is currently in talks with European partners — many of whom have closer economic relationships to Russia — in the hopes of coordinating action," CNN's Kevin Liptak writes. "People familiar with the discussions said new economic sanctions could target a variety of sectors, including energy producers and Russian banks. The new sanctions could also go after Russia's sovereign debt."
Top Russian oligarchs will also be targeted by the sanctions by limiting their ability to travel as well as their access to banking and credit card systems.
Speaking to reports on Friday, Biden said he was "putting together what I believe to be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do."