A woman who told security she was running late for her flight and forgot she had a gun in her carry-on bag was arrested Friday at Newark Liberty International Airport, officials said. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa resident was taken into custody after an X-ray monitor detected the loaded 9mm handgun at a security checkpoint in an inside pocket of her handbag, the Transportation Security Administration said Monday. The TSA confiscated the weapon, which contained five bullets, including one in the chamber. Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms only in checked baggage if they are properly pac...
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After a polarizing campaign, Brazil votes for its next president Sunday in a combative heavyweight bout threatening to test its young democracy: far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro versus leftist former leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Lula, the charismatic but tarnished ex-metalworker who led Brazil through an economic boom from 2003 to 2010, leads in the polls, seeking to stage a stunning comeback four years after being jailed on controversial corruption convictions -- since annulled by the Supreme Court.
Bolsonaro, the pugnacious ex-army captain whose popularity has suffered from the carnage of Covid-19 and a sputtering economy, is gunning for a come-from-behind win and has strongly hinted he would not accept a loss.
He has repeatedly alleged, without evidence, that Brazil's electronic voting system is plagued by fraud.
Lula enters the home stretch leading Bolsonaro 50 percent to 36 percent, according to the latest poll from the Datafolha institute, released Thursday.
The figures, which exclude voters planning to cast blank or spoiled ballots, put Lula on the cusp of winning outright and avoiding a runoff on October 30.
Lula is pulling out all the stops for a first-round victory, crisscrossing the country and summoning the star power and sex appeal of celebrity supporters like pop superstar Anitta and singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso to convince wavering Brazilians to cast a "tactical vote" for him.
"What's at stake is democracy versus fascism," the gravelly voiced 76-year-old told a cheering crowd decked out in the red of his Workers' Party (PT) at a rally last month.
It is a line heard often these days in the sprawling country of 214 million people, deeply divided after four years of Bolsonaro's social media polemics, anti-establishment attacks, disregard for deforestation in the Amazon and no-holds-barred battle on behalf of his "Bible, bullets and beef" coalition -- Evangelical Christians, security hardliners and the powerful agribusiness sector.
Leading mass marches and motorcycle rallies by supporters draped in the green and yellow of the flag, Bolsonaro has tapped the popularity of his telegenic, devoutly Christian first lady, Michelle, and got a high-voltage endorsement of his own Thursday from football superstar Neymar.
With Bolsonaro, 67, having vowed his re-election bid can only have three outcomes -- "prison, death or victory" -- the election could be turbulent for Latin America's biggest country, which emerged from two decades of military dictatorship in 1985.
"The stakes are huge... Democracy is on the ballot," said political analyst Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank, calling Bolsonaro "the most anti-democratic president" since the military regime.
Some degree of unrest and violence "is probably likely," he told AFP.
The "million-dollar question" is exactly what shape this unrest would take, said Guilherme Casaroes, a political scientist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation.
Bolsonaro, who is openly nostalgic for the dictatorship, has given the military a big role in his government and enthusiastically courted its support.
But defense experts say an all-out military coup is unlikely.
A Bolsonaro court challenge or bid to delay the runoff election are stronger possibilities, analysts say.
More troubling is what Casaroes calls the "Capitol riot scenario": a Brazilian version of the turmoil unleashed by supporters of former US president Donald Trump -- Bolsonaro's political role model -- when he refused to accept electoral defeat.
Gun ownership has boomed under Bolsonaro's firearm-friendly policies: since he took office on January 1, 2019, the number of registered gun owners has more than quintupled to 673,000.
That, combined with die-hard support for Bolsonaro among some sectors of the military and police, is making observers nervous in Brazil and beyond.
The White House warned against violence Tuesday, saying the United States will be watching "closely."
Brazil's 156 million voters will also be electing the lower house of Congress, one-third of the Senate and governors and state legislators in all 27 states.
Polls open at 8:00 am and close at 5:00 pm (1100-2000 GMT), with results expected some two hours later.
© 2022 AFP
Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the "Star Wars" film series, announced Thursday his support for a fundraising drive to buy drones for Ukraine as it battles "the evil empire."
Hamill is the latest celebrity ambassador to back Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's UNITED24 fundraising platform, which was launched following Russia's invasion.
The actor, who as Skywalker used his X-wing spacecraft to disrupt the diabolical "Galactic Empire," will specifically spearhead a project to provide drones to the Ukrainian army.
"I know for certain that Ukrainians need drones to protect their land, their freedom and the values of the entire democratic world," Hamill said in a statement.
"Right now is the best time for everyone to come together and help Ukraine stand up in this war with the evil empire."
The "Army of Drones" project acquires remote-controlled flying drones, and funds their maintenance and pilot training, in order for the Ukrainian army to "constantly monitor the 2,470- kilometer- (1,500-mile-) long frontline and provide an effective response to enemy attacks," according to its website.
The Ukrainian military has received almost 1,000 drones via the program, which also allows people to donate their own drones as well as cash.
Other UNITED24 ambassadors include actor-singer Barbra Streisand and former Ukrainian football player Andriy Shevchenko.
Zelensky earlier posted on his Telegram account photos of himself on a video call with Hamill, with a caption describing the actor's "difficult yet very important mission."
"The light will win over darkness. I believe in this, our people believe in this," added Zelensky in a joint statement with Hamill.
© Agence France-Presse
In a column for the Daily Beast, former federal prosecutor turned white collar criminal defense attorney Shan Wu chastised the Department of Justice for undermining their chances of indicting Donald Trump by investigating him while also defending him at the same time.
According to the attorney, an ongoing decision by the agency to defend the former president over his attacks on a sexual assault accuser is nothing less than an "embarrassment for DOJ."
As Wu wrote, "The Justice Department’s decision to take former President Donald Trump as (essentially) its client, defending him in the writer E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit, has put DOJ in the awkward position of not only investigating its own client for potential criminal conduct—but also contradicting its client’s other lawyers," before adding, "This is a mess of DOJ’s own making."
As the attorney explained, the decision to intercede on Trump's behalf dates back to former Attorney General Bill Barr's time heading the DOJ, and it is as wrong now as it was then.
"Barr’s theory was that since Trump made the denials while he was president, then he must have been acting within his official capacity when he denied raping Carroll. Given the chance to disavow this strained reading of the law, Attorney General Merrick Garland’s DOJ, instead, doubled-down on it. It even fought for the right to defend Trump up to the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed with DOJ’s position on the matter," he wrote. "Garland’s decision to side with Bill Barr—presumably made while Garland was wearing his institutionalist cape—might have been merely distasteful if not for the Mar-a-Lago search warrant and ongoing criminal investigation. But critical to DOJ’s rationale that it can represent Trump—and what the Second Circuit agreed about—is that Trump was a federal employee when he made the allegedly defaming statements."
Central to the problem now is that the DOJ may have handed Trump's lawyers a weapon that can be used if he is indicted and goes to court.
"As already noted, it may afford Trump defenses in other civil actions brought by victims of the violence on Jan. 6, but it also creates potential problems with DOJ’s criminal investigation into the removal and handling of national security information involving Trump’s actions at Mar-a-Lago," he explained before adding, "The fact that DOJ is, at once, defending Trump and potentially investigating him for criminal charges is a no-brainer conflict of interest argument, and one which Trump’s legal team may use in his defense."
Suggesting that the DOJ should instead "appoint a special counsel to handle the Carroll defense, since that is an easier case to segregate than the investigation involving Mar-a-Lago," he added, "withdrawing from the Carroll case is the best option."
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