Spain Says ex-Venezuelan Spy Chief Wanted by US is Missing

Spanish police said Wednesday they have been unable to locate a Venezuelan former spymaster wanted by the United States for extradition on charges of drug trafficking.

Police told The Associated Press that its officers have been unable to find Maj. Gen. Hugo Carvajal.

News website El Español reported on Friday that a Spanish court had reversed an earlier ruling throwing out the U.S. arrest warrant and that it had ordered authorities to proceed with the extradition request. A spokesman for the National Court said Wednesday that no decision on the case has been made public at this time.

Carvajal’s lawyer, Maria Dolores de Arguelles, said her client couldn’t be considered a fugitive because the defense has not been officially notified of the court ruling granting the extradition, and no court summons or arrest warrant has been issued.

Carvajal is free on bail, but his passport has been confiscated and he is not allowed to leave the Madrid region, according to the bail terms. He also needs to sign in at the court every 15 days — the next time is Friday.

Anti-drug prosecutors in Spain had appealed a mid-September decision by the National Court rejecting the extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on drug smuggling and other charges.

The extradition needs to be cleared by the Spanish Cabinet, which typically holds weekly meetings every Friday. Appeals can be filed before the country’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights, but that wouldn’t necessarily stop the extradition.

The U.S. had been seeking Carvajal’s extradition since the former head of Venezuela’s military intelligence fled to Spain in late March after publicly supporting the opposition’s efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Prosecutors in New York say Carvajal should face trial for “narcoterrorism” as part of a group of Venezuelan officials who were charged with “flooding” the U.S. with drugs.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration ties Carvajal to a 5.6-ton cocaine shipment busted in Mexico in 2006 and accuse him of aiding and protecting Colombian guerrillas.

Moscow Accuses US Of ‘Hunting’ Russians After Israel Extradites Suspected

Russia’s Embassy to Washington says it has lodged a formal diplomatic protest after Israel extradited a Russian national to the United States, where he is suspected of stealing more than $20 million from U.S. consumers through credit card fraud.

In a Wednesday Facebook statement, the embassy also accused Washington of “hunting” Russian citizens across the world.

The statement said that Russia had formally sent an official note to the U.S. State Department, demanding Aleksei Burkov’s rights be respected.

The U.S. Justice Department says Burkov was “charged with wire fraud, access device fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, computer intrusions, identity theft, and money laundering” in the Eastern Court in Virginia on November 12.

“According to court documents, Burkov allegedly ran a website called “Cardplanet” that sold payment card numbers (e.g., debit and credit cards) that had been stolen primarily through computer intrusions. Many of the cards offered for sale belonged to U.S. citizens. The stolen credit card data sold on Burkov’s site has resulted in over $20 million in fraudulent purchases made on United States credit cards,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

If convicted on all counts, Burkov may face up to 80 years in prison.​

Burkov was arrested in December 2015 while leaving Israel.

Last month, Israeli Justice Minister Amir Ohana signed an extradition order to the United States for the suspect.

On November 10, the Supreme Court of Israel rejected Burkov’s appeal amid Russia’s protests.

Russia had proposed to exchange Burkov for a U.S.-Israeli national Naama Issachar, who was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison in Moscow last month for possession of marijuana.

A potential pardon for Issachar, 26, was reportedly discussed last month when Russian President Vladimir Putin called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to congratulate him on his 70th birthday.

Born in New Jersey, Issachar was arrested in April after police found nine grams of cannabis in her luggage during a layover at a Moscow airport.

Issachar was flying from India to Israel when she was detained and wasn’t supposed to exit the airport in Russia.

3 Witnesses Kick Off First Week of Historic Impeachment Hearings

The U.S. House of Representatives holds its first public hearings this week on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump with testimony by three top diplomats on Wednesday and Friday.

William Taylor, the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior State Department official in charge of U.S. policy toward Ukraine, are set to testify on Wednesday, followed by Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, on Friday.

All three diplomats have previously testified behind closed doors about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and probe a discredited conspiracy theory regarding the 2016 president election.

Democrats say the open hearings will allow the public to assess the credibility of the witnesses and their testimonies.  Republicans are likely to attempt to discredit the impeachment proceedings and poke holes in the witnesses’ testimony.

Here is what you need to know about the three witnesses and their role in the Ukraine affair.

 

Former Ambassador William Taylor leaves a closed door meeting after testifying as part of the House impeachment inquiry into…
Former Ambassador William Taylor leaves a closed door meeting after testifying as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

William Taylor

Taylor has served as chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv since June after Trump abruptly recalled Yovanovich. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked Taylor to step into her role.  A West Point and Harvard-educated former Army officer and career diplomat, Taylor previously served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009. In what Democratic House member Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida called “the most damning testimony I’ve heard,” Taylor told House investigators last month that Trump had explicitly demanded that Ukraine investigate Biden, his son Hunter and other Democrats in exchange for releasing U.S. military aid. The testimony, based on Taylor’s conversation with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. envoy to the European Union and a Trump campaign donor, contradicted Trump’s assertion that there was no “quid pro quo” with Ukraine.  The White House dismissed the testimony as hearsay. Taylor’s text messages to Sondland, in which he said it was “crazy” the administration was freezing Ukraine aid for political investigations, are among the impeachment evidence against Trump.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent leaves Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 15, 2019, after testifying before congressional lawmakers as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent leaves Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 15, 2019, after testifying before congressional lawmakers as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

George Kent  

As the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, Kent oversees U.S. policy toward Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Like Taylor, Kent, a 27-year veteran of the foreign service, was sidelined by what he described as “unusual channels” of diplomacy toward Ukraine run by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Sondland and Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special representative for Ukraine.  In his closed-door testimony last month, Kent told investigators that Giuliani had been pressing the Ukrainians to conduct “politically motivated prosecutions that were injurious to the rule of law, both in Ukraine and the U.S. He also testified that Sondland “had talked to the president … and POTUS wanted nothing less than (Ukrainian) President (Volodymyr) Zelenskiy to go to a microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton.”
 

Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch (C) flanked by lawyers, aides and Capitol police, leaves the US Capitol…
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, center, flanked by lawyers, aides and Capitol police, leaves the Capitol, Oct. 11, 2019, in Washington, after testifying to the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees.

Marie Yovanovitch

A career diplomat, Yovanovitch was U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from July 2016 to May 2019, when she was unceremoniously recalled to Washington after Giuliani and his allies waged what her colleagues and Democrats have described as a smear campaign against her.  Two Giuliani associates recently arrested for campaign finance violations are accused of lobbying former Republican House member Pete Sessions of Texas for her ouster. Her removal sent shockwaves through the foreign service, with more than 50 former female U.S. ambassadors writing a letter to Trump and Pompeo to protect foreign service officers from political retaliation.  Yovanovitch testified last month that she felt threatened, and worried about her safety after Trump said “she’s going to go through some things.” She also told lawmakers that Sondland had recommended she praise Trump on Twitter if she wanted to save her job.

За всю історію спостережень у Києві видалася найтепліша ніч – метеорологи

У Центральній геофізичній обсерваторії імені Бориса Срезневського повідомили, що за 139 років спостережень минула ніч у Києві була найтеплішою.

«Температура в ніч на 13 листопада не опустилася нижче +9,2 за Цельсієм, а це значить, що попереднє рекордне значення 1963 року було перевищено на 0,9 градуса», – йдеться в повідомленні.

Метеорологи заявили, що це вже п’ятий температурний рекорд листопада у столиці.]

За прогнозами Українського гідрометцентру, 13 листопада в Україні мінлива хмарність. На півночі температура повітря прогріється до 9-14 градусів, на заході – 13-17, на півдні – 14-18, на сході – 9-12, у центральних областях – 10-14.

Venezuelan Leader Puts Militias on Patrol Ahead of Protests

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is beefing up patrols by civilian militias across the nation as political rivals call for mass demonstrations against him.

Maduro in a national broadcast Tuesday ordered the nation’s 3.2 million militia members to patrol Venezuela’s streets. He gave the command seated between the nation’s top-ranking military leaders.

The heightened patrols overlap with a Saturday protest called by opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido, who has led a nearly year-long campaign to oust Maduro with backing from the U.S. and 50 other nations.

Guaido has not managed to rally large demonstrations in recent months.

However, a wave of political unrest has struck several Latin American nations, and Bolivian socialist leader Evo Morales abruptly resigned Sunday.

Maduro says the same “imperialist” forces that undermined Bolivia’s president seek to oust him.
 

 

 

Michigan Teen Who Vaped Received Double Lung Transplant

A Michigan teenager was the recipient of what could be the first double lung transplant on a person whose lungs were severely damaged from vaping, health officials said Tuesday.

Doctors at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit described to reporters Tuesday the procedure that saved the 17-year-old’s life and pleaded for the public to understand the dangers of vaping.

The teen was admitted in early September to a Detroit-area hospital with what appeared to be pneumonia. He was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit and taken Oct. 3 to Henry Ford Hospital where the transplant was performed Oct. 15. The double lung transplant is believed to be the first performed on a patient due to vaping.

Doctors found an “enormous amount of inflammation and scarring” on the teen’s lungs, said Dr. Hassan Nemeh, surgical director of thoracic organ transplant at Henry Ford. “This is an evil I haven’t faced before. The damage that these vapes do to people’s lungs is irreversible. Please think of that — and tell your children to think of that.”

Health officials declined to release the teen’s name and said he is expected to recover. They also did not specify what the teen vaped or how long he vaped.

A photo of a patient being transported is displayed while medical staff at Henry Ford Hospital answer questions during a news conference in Detroit, Nov. 12, 2019.
A photo of a patient being transported is displayed while medical staff at Henry Ford Hospital answer questions during a news conference in Detroit, Nov. 12, 2019.

“We asked Henry Ford doctors to share that the horrific life-threatening effects of vaping are very real!” his family said in a statement released by the hospital. “Our family could never have imagined being at the center of the largest adolescent public health crisis to face our country in decades.”

“Within a very short period of time, our lives have been forever changed. He has gone from the typical life of a perfectly healthy 16-year old athlete — attending high school, hanging out with friends, sailing and playing video games — to waking up intubated and with two new lungs, facing a long and painful recovery process as he struggles to regain his strength and mobility, which has been severely impacted.”

The boy had his 17th birthday after initially being admitted to the hospital.

More than 2,000 Americans who vape have gotten sick since March, many of them teenagers and young adults, and at least 40 people have died.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week announced a breakthrough into the cause of a vaping illness outbreak, identifying the chemical compound vitamin E acetate as a “very strong culprit” after finding it in fluid taken from the lungs of 29 patients. Vitamin E acetate previously was found in liquid from electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices used by many who got sick and only recently has been used as a vaping fluid thickener.

Many who got sick said they had vaped liquids that contain THC, the high-inducing part of marijuana, with many saying they received them from friends or bought them on the black market.

E-cigarettes and other vaping devices heat a liquid into an inhalable vapor. Most products contained nicotine, but THC vaping has been growing more common.

FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2019 file photo, a man blows a puff of smoke as he vapes with an electronic cigarette. Months into an…
FILE – A man blows a puff of smoke as he vapes with an electronic cigarette, Oct. 18, 2019.

Henry Ford doctors did not say Tuesday what the lung transplant recipient vaped. They did say that he was critically ill when he arrived at Henry Ford where he was placed Oct. 8 on an organ transplant waiting list. His lung damage due to vaping was so severe and he was so close to death that the teen immediately was placed at the top of the transplant waiting list, they said.

“Vaping-related injuries are all too common these days. Our adolescents are faced with a crisis,” said Dr. Lisa Allenspach, pulmonologist and the medical director of Henry Ford’s Lung Transplant Program. “We are just beginning to see the enormous health consequence jeopardizing the youth in our country … these vaping products should not be used in any fashion.”

The 17-year-old’s case does not open any new ethical considerations about transplants for people how who irreparably damage their own lungs by vaping, Nemeh told The Associated Press.

“It won’t change what we do on a routine basis. We will still evaluate every patient as an individual patient,” he said. “We hope sharing this patient’s story prevents anyone else from experiencing a vaping injury that would require a transplant.”

Nemeh added that lung transplants have been considered for ex-smokers who have quit and demonstrated that they quit smoking, but transplants are not routinely done for people over the age of 70.
“Children do receive priority over an adult for a transplant from a pediatric donor,” he said. “The United Network for Organ Sharing creates the rules and then offers the organs to recipients who are a match. We don’t decide who gets an offer.”

 

US Supreme Court to Decide DACA Fate

The fate of about 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children is in the hands of nine U.S. Supreme Court justices. The court will decide if the Trump administration has the right to end the program, called DACA, which protects the young immigrants, known as dreamers, from deportation. For most of them, the United States is the only home they have ever known, and they are protesting losing their protected status. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports the U.S. high court heard arguments for both sides on Tuesday.

Former Republican Governor Abandons Trump 2020 Challenge

Mark Sanford, a former governor of South Carolina, abandoned his longshot bid on Tuesday to challenge President Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination.

Sanford, 59, announced he was dropping out of the race at an event in New Hampshire, which holds the first Republican presidential primary, his hometown newspaper, The Post and Courier, reported.

Sanford’s bid to challenge the sitting president for the Republican nomination failed to gain much traction since he threw his name into the ring two months ago.

His departure from the race leaves two other Republicans waging longshot bids to win the Republican nomination — former Massachusetts governor William Weld and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh.

Sanford was governor of South Carolina from 2003 to 2011, and served two separate stints in the House of Representatives, but lost a party primary in 2018 after Trump urged voters to back his challenger.

Violent Protests at Chinese University of Hong Kong Continued Tuesday Night

Clashes between protesters and riot police continued well into Tuesday night at a prominent Hong Kong university, extending one of the more violent stretches in the five months of demonstrations.

Police fired rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and students responded by throwing bricks and gasoline bombs.

Clashes continued until police eventually used a water cannon truck and then began a retreat.

The weekday clashes — thus far unusual for the Hong Kong protests which have largely occurred on weekends — followed a day of chaos as protesters erected barricades on roads and subway tracks.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam called the protesters who threw Tuesday’s rush hour commute into chaos “extremely selfish.”

Dozens of passengers aboard a commuter rail line were forced to exit the train when it stopped short of the station.   

Thousands of protesters staged a “flash mob” demonstration in the city’s central business district at midday, chanting “five demands, not one less, a reference to their demands for democracy, an independent probe into allegations of police brutality and other issues.

Tensions have escalated in Hong Kong after a policeman shot a 21-year-old protester Monday as he was physically struggling with another protester he was attempting to arrest.  The city’s hospital authority says the protester was in critical condition.  A man set on fire after he was doused with gasoline in a separate incident is also in critical condition. 

Lam denounced the violence Monday, telling protesters it is “wishful thinking” that the Hong Kong government will give into protesters “so-called political demands” in order to quell the violence.  

The protests were initially sparked by a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China to face trial, but have since evolved into demands for full democracy for Hong Kong.  More than 3,000 people have been arrested since the demonstrations erupted

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus issued a statement Monday condemning “violence on all sides” and urged “all parties — police and protesters — to exercise restraint.”

 

Jordan Ends Land Lease with Israel

Jordan’s King Abdullah visits one of two small parcels of land which, until recently, was leased to Israel as part of the neighbors’ 1994 peace agreement. Jordan’s decision not to renew the lease was made at a time of brewing tensions between the peace partners. Jordanians blame Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for antagonizing the relationship, with action against Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque and the detention of Jordanian citizens, among others.
 
During Monday’s visit to Baqura, a 81-hectare enclave along the Jordan River in Jordan’s north, King Abdullah tweeted that “Jordan’s sovereignty over its territory is above all other considerations.” Jordan announced last year that it would not renew its peace treaty annexes with Israel on Baqura and al-Ghamr that gave Israeli farmers free access to the Jordan’s sovereign land. The decision is now in effect.

Jordanian political analyst Osama al-Sharif says the move is “absolutely within Jordan’s rights” under the deal. Still, he says the country’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, has underscored Jordan’s commitment to the peace treaty.
Israel’s foreign ministry expressed regret over the move, but says Jordan will allow farmers to harvest their remaining wheat and other crops.  Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel described the relations to Reuters as: “We are not on a honeymoon but rather in a period of ongoing arguments.”  He says the Israeli government, however, should have tried earlier to convince Jordan to extend the deal.

Al Sharif sees Israeli Prime Netanyahu as responsible for whittling away at Israel’s relationship with Jordan — only one of its two Arab peace partners.

“It’s not Jordan that has been trying to wriggle out of its commitments under the peace treaty,” said Al Sharif. “It’s Israel and the continuation of the building of settlements, Netanyahu’s threat to annex the Jordan Valley and most Israeli settlements in the West Bank, contrary to the Jordan’s position that demands the two-state solution. So, relations after 25 years are not at their best. It also underlines the fact that we have a very frigid peace between Jordan and Israel and the culprit in all of this has always been Benjamin Netanyahu.”

 “Not allowing Israel to continue to utilize the two pieces of land or doing Netanyahu any favors was not only logical, but became an urgent public demand,” among Jordanians, Jawad Anani, a lead negotiator for the 1994 peace treaty, told The Washington Post.

Many Jordanians blame Netanyahu for ruining peace chances between Israel and the Palestinians.  Al-Sharif says almost daily incursions at the al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, where Jordan has a special role as custodian, and other actions by Netanyahu’s government – that Palestinians see as provocative – have soured ties.