Six Militants Killed in Special Operation in Russia’s Ingushetia Region

Russian policemen control the area near a damaged multi-storey residential building following an alleged drone attack in Saint Petersburg, Russia, 02 March 2024. (EPA)
Russian policemen control the area near a damaged multi-storey residential building following an alleged drone attack in Saint Petersburg, Russia, 02 March 2024. (EPA)
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Six Militants Killed in Special Operation in Russia’s Ingushetia Region

Russian policemen control the area near a damaged multi-storey residential building following an alleged drone attack in Saint Petersburg, Russia, 02 March 2024. (EPA)
Russian policemen control the area near a damaged multi-storey residential building following an alleged drone attack in Saint Petersburg, Russia, 02 March 2024. (EPA)

Russian security forces killed six alleged militants in a special operation in Russia's North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia, TASS news agency reported on Sunday, citing local law enforcement agencies.

On Saturday, authorities introduced counter-terrorism emergency powers in the town of Karabulak after the alleged militants had opened fire on law enforcement forces in a residential building.

"The special operation has ended. The counter-terrorism operation regime is still in place," a law enforcement source told TASS.

Identities of the alleged militants were being established, RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing a source.

Ingushetia, the smallest region in Russia, is wedged between North Ossetia and Chechnya. It has a population of about half a million people.

For almost a decade until 2017, Russian security forces were battling an armed insurgency conducted by an array of extremist militant groups in Ingushetia as well as in Dagestan and Chechnya.



Magnitude 5.6 Quake Hits Central Türkiye, Damaging Some Homes

A man looks at the damage caused by a moderately-strong earthquake that struck Tokat province, some 450 kilometers east of the capital, Ankara, Türkiye, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Dia Images via AP)
A man looks at the damage caused by a moderately-strong earthquake that struck Tokat province, some 450 kilometers east of the capital, Ankara, Türkiye, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Dia Images via AP)
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Magnitude 5.6 Quake Hits Central Türkiye, Damaging Some Homes

A man looks at the damage caused by a moderately-strong earthquake that struck Tokat province, some 450 kilometers east of the capital, Ankara, Türkiye, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Dia Images via AP)
A man looks at the damage caused by a moderately-strong earthquake that struck Tokat province, some 450 kilometers east of the capital, Ankara, Türkiye, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Dia Images via AP)

A moderately strong earthquake struck central Türkiye on Thursday, the country’s disaster management agency said, causing damage to some buildings. There were no immediate reports of any deaths or serious injuries.
The 5.6 magnitude quake hit in the town of Sulusaray, in Tokat province, some 450 kilometers east of the capital, Ankara, according to the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency.
It was felt in neighboring provinces, including in Yozgat, where a two-story building collapsed, the disaster agency said.
Several mudbrick and wooden homes and barns were damaged in the village of Bugdayli, near Sulusaray, according to Tokat's governor Numan Hatipoglu. Earlier in the day, Sulusaray was hit by two other earthquakes, measuring magnitude 4.7 and magnitude 4.1.
“The buildings, the lampposts, everything swayed like a cradle,” said Gazi Ay, a resident of the town of Turhal, some 80 kilometers north of Sulusaray.
“Everyone ran out of buildings,” he told The Associated Press by telephone, adding that many of his neighbors were too afraid to return to their homes.


US, UK Issue New Sanctions on Iran

FILE - The US Treasury Department building, June 6, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FILE - The US Treasury Department building, June 6, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
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US, UK Issue New Sanctions on Iran

FILE - The US Treasury Department building, June 6, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FILE - The US Treasury Department building, June 6, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The US and UK on Thursday imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran after Tehran’s unprecedented attack on Israel.
US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control targeted 16 people and two entities in Iran that produce engines that power the drones used in the April 13 attack on Israel. 
The Treasury, in a statement, said it was also designating five companies in multiple jurisdictions providing component materials for steel production to Iran’s Khuzestan Steel Company (KSC), one of Iran’s largest steel producers, or purchasing KSC’s finished steel products.
Also targeted were three subsidiaries of Iranian automaker Bahman Group, which it said had materially supported Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The statement said the US Commerce Department was also imposing new controls to restrict Iran’s access to technologies, such as basic commercial grade microelectronics.
The UK's sanctions, which include asset freezes and travel bans, target Iran's defense minister and other military figures and organizations including the Armed Forces General Staff and the IRGC Navy.
"The Iranian regime's attack against Israel was a reckless act and a dangerous escalation," British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement. "Today we have sanctioned the ringleaders of the Iranian military and forces responsible for the weekend's attack."
Britain's sanctions, amounting to 13 in total, also target individuals whom it described as key actors within Iran's drone and missile industries. 

US President Joe Biden said G7 leaders were committed to acting together to increase economic pressure on Tehran.
Biden said the United States and its allies had helped Israel beat back the April 13 missile and drone strike and were now holding Iran accountable with the new sanctions and export controls.
"Our allies and partners have or will issue additional sanctions and measures to restrict Iran’s destabilizing military programs," Biden added.
“We will continue to deploy our sanctions authority to counter Iran with further actions in the days and weeks ahead," US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
The action comes after US officials earlier this week warned that they were readying new sanctions in response to Iran’s activity in the region and to prevent future attacks. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill also have been quickly pushing forward legislation that would financially punish Iran and its leaders.
Iran’s attack on Israel early Sunday came in response to what it says was an Israeli strike on Iran’s consulate in Syria earlier this month. Israel’s military chief said Monday that his country will respond to the Iranian attack, while world leaders caution against retaliation, trying to avoid a spiral of violence.
European Union leaders also vowed on Wednesday to ramp up sanctions on Iran, targeting its drone and missile deliveries to proxies in Gaza, Yemen and Lebanon.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the existing EU sanctions regime would be strengthened and expanded to punish Tehran and help prevent future attacks on Israel. At the same time, he said, Israel needed to exercise restraint.
“I don’t want to exaggerate, but we are on the edge of a war, a regional war in the Middle East, which will be sending shockwaves to the rest of the world, and in particular to Europe,” he warned. “So stop it.”


Italy: Police Arrested 'Most Wanted' US Fugitive in St Peter's Square

Pope Francis sits on the popemobile surrounded by bodyguards during the weekly general audience on April 17, 2024 at St Peter's square in The Vatican. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)
Pope Francis sits on the popemobile surrounded by bodyguards during the weekly general audience on April 17, 2024 at St Peter's square in The Vatican. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)
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Italy: Police Arrested 'Most Wanted' US Fugitive in St Peter's Square

Pope Francis sits on the popemobile surrounded by bodyguards during the weekly general audience on April 17, 2024 at St Peter's square in The Vatican. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)
Pope Francis sits on the popemobile surrounded by bodyguards during the weekly general audience on April 17, 2024 at St Peter's square in The Vatican. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Italian police arrested a "most wanted" US fugitive last week who was carrying three concealed knives in a crowded St Peter's Square outside the Vatican, a judicial source said on Thursday.
The fugitive, now in police custody, was named as Moises Tejada, who is classified as violent by the New York state prison service's investigations unit.
He is listed among the department's most wanted individuals, Reuters reported.
The arrest was first reported by Italy's la Repubblica newspaper and confirmed by the source.
Tejada, whose name has the alternative spelling of Teiada, attracted the suspicion of police who detained him and found he was carrying knives that were 20 cm (8 inches) long.
St Peter's Square was busy with pilgrims and tourists as Pope Francis was holding a general audience that day, Wednesday April 10. It was not clear if Tejada, who has convictions for robbery and kidnapping, posed any threat to the pope.
Investigators have found that he had recently arrived in Rome from Moldova, having previously spent time in Ukraine.
He has told investigators he had been in Ukraine since 2022 fighting against the Russian invasion, la Repubblica reported.
The Italian authorities are waiting to hear if their US counterparts want to extradite him.


Intelligence Agency: Chinese Spies Target Dutch Industries to Strengthen Military

Visitors pass through at the Nanluoguxiang, the capital city's popular tourist spot in Beijing, China, Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
Visitors pass through at the Nanluoguxiang, the capital city's popular tourist spot in Beijing, China, Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
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Intelligence Agency: Chinese Spies Target Dutch Industries to Strengthen Military

Visitors pass through at the Nanluoguxiang, the capital city's popular tourist spot in Beijing, China, Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
Visitors pass through at the Nanluoguxiang, the capital city's popular tourist spot in Beijing, China, Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Chinese spies have targeted the Dutch semiconductor, aerospace and maritime industries to try to strengthen China's armed forces, the Dutch military intelligence agency MIVD said in its annual report published on Thursday.
As part of an ongoing trend of Chinese political espionage against the Netherlands and its allies, China is investing heavily in the collection of western knowledge and technical capabilities, the agency said.
"China wants to be independent from western knowledge and technology (and) wants to build a military that can match any other," Reuters quoted the MIVD as saying.
"To do so, it needs advanced technology it doesn't yet fully possess. It tries to get this abroad, using legal means such as research and investments, but also through its intelligence agencies."
Dutch intelligence agencies first publicly attributed cyber espionage to China in February, when they said state-backed cyber spies had gained access to a Dutch military network last year.
Last year, the Netherlands joined a US effort to keep certain chipmaking technology from China for national security reasons, restricting the export by leading chipmaking equipment maker ASML of certain deep ultraviolet (DUV) equipment for Chinese customers.
Earlier this month, the US government also pressed the Netherlands to stop ASML from servicing some tools in China, according to people familiar with the matter.
In its annual report, the MIVD said China continued to target western armed forces for their knowledge on modern weapon systems and operational expertise, while also seeking out other advanced industries.
"China tries to get hold of technology in the Netherlands in various ways, using a combination of (cyber) espionage, company insiders, acquisitions, circumvention of export restrictions and reverse engineering of technology for which no licenses are required," the agency said.
The agency said Chinese intelligence agencies had broadened the scope, intensity and technical level of its cyber campaigns over the last year.
Chinese universities also play an important role in gathering intelligence, it said, as scientists who work with western companies often also work for China's security services and state companies.


Strong Quake in Japan Leaves 9 with Minor Injuries, but No Tsunami

People visit Kameido Tenjin Shrine, a famous tourist spot for wisteria blossoms, in the Koto district of Tokyo on April 18, 2024. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)
People visit Kameido Tenjin Shrine, a famous tourist spot for wisteria blossoms, in the Koto district of Tokyo on April 18, 2024. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)
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Strong Quake in Japan Leaves 9 with Minor Injuries, but No Tsunami

People visit Kameido Tenjin Shrine, a famous tourist spot for wisteria blossoms, in the Koto district of Tokyo on April 18, 2024. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)
People visit Kameido Tenjin Shrine, a famous tourist spot for wisteria blossoms, in the Koto district of Tokyo on April 18, 2024. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)

A strong earthquake that struck southwestern Japan late Wednesday left nine people with minor injuries and caused damages such as burst water pipes and small landslides, authorities said, but there was no danger of a tsunami.
The magnitude 6.6 quake was centered just off the western coast of the southwestern main island of Shikoku, in an area called the Bungo Channel, a strait separating Shikoku and the southern main island of Kyushu.
The quake occurred 50 kilometers (30 miles) below the sea's surface and posed no danger of a tsunami, the Japanese Meteorological Agency said.
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Thursday that six in Ehime prefecture, two in neighboring Kochi and two others in Oita on Kyushu island suffered minor injuries, mostly from falling at home.
Water pipes were ruptured at a number of locations in Sukumo City in Kochi prefecture, and grave stones collapsed at a Buddhist temple in Ainan town in Ehime prefecture, according to local media reports. Falling rooftiles were also reported.
According to The Associated Press, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said no abnormalities were reported from four reactors operating at three nuclear power plants in Shikoku and Kyushu.
As part of the Pacific “ring of fire," Japan is one of the world's most earthquake-prone areas. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011 devastated large areas along Japan's northeastern coast, killing nearly 20,000 people and triggering the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdowns. On Jan. 1, a magnitude 7.6 quake struck the north-central region of Noto and left 241 people dead.


China Foreign Ministry Welcomes Blinken's Visit to China as Tensions Simmer

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Tamim (L) arrive for remarks at the State Department April 15, 2024 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Tamim (L) arrive for remarks at the State Department April 15, 2024 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP
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China Foreign Ministry Welcomes Blinken's Visit to China as Tensions Simmer

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Tamim (L) arrive for remarks at the State Department April 15, 2024 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Tamim (L) arrive for remarks at the State Department April 15, 2024 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP

China's foreign ministry on Thursday welcomed the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to China as tensions rise between the two countries over global trade, regional conflicts and the Russia-Ukraine war.
Blinken will depart on April 23 for a four-day trip to China, where he will meet with senior Chinese officials amid heightened tensions, including over China's alignment with Russia and aggressive moves against the Philippines in the South China Sea, Politico reported.
Blinken is also expected to raise US concerns that Beijing is helping Russia build up its defense industry to fight the war in Ukraine, Reuters said.
"China welcomes Secretary of State Blinken to visit China in the next few days," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Lin Jian, at a regular press briefing.
Blinken is visiting the world's second-largest economy to help smooth over recent strains, most notably after US President Joe Biden on Wednesday called for sharply higher tariffs on Chinese metal products.
"As a matter of principle, we have consistently demanded the United States earnestly respect the principles of fair competition, respect WTO rules, and immediately stop the trade protectionist measures aimed at China," Lin said.
Biden aides said the US president was proposing raising to 25% tariffs imposed by his predecessor Donald Trump on certain Chinese steel and aluminum products. The proposed higher tariff rate would apply to more than $1 billion worth of steel and aluminum products, a US official said. "China will take all necessary measures to protect its own legitimate rights and interests," Lin said.


Germany Arrests 2 for Allegedly Planning Sabotage Plot on Behalf of Russia

17 April 2024, Ukraine, Chernihiv: Rescuers are seen at a destroyed building following a missile attack by the Russian army. Photo: Sergei Chuzavkov/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
17 April 2024, Ukraine, Chernihiv: Rescuers are seen at a destroyed building following a missile attack by the Russian army. Photo: Sergei Chuzavkov/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
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Germany Arrests 2 for Allegedly Planning Sabotage Plot on Behalf of Russia

17 April 2024, Ukraine, Chernihiv: Rescuers are seen at a destroyed building following a missile attack by the Russian army. Photo: Sergei Chuzavkov/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
17 April 2024, Ukraine, Chernihiv: Rescuers are seen at a destroyed building following a missile attack by the Russian army. Photo: Sergei Chuzavkov/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Two German-Russian nationals have been arrested in Germany on suspicion of espionage, one of them accused of agreeing to carry out attacks on potential targets including US military facilities in hopes of sabotaging aid for Ukraine, prosecutors said Thursday.

The two men, identified only as Dieter S. and Alexander J. in line with German privacy rules, were arrested Wednesday in the Bavarian city of Bayreuth, federal prosecutors said.

They said Dieter S. had been discussing possible acts of sabotage in Germany with a person linked to Russian intelligence since October, and that the main aim was to undermine military support given by Germany to Ukraine. The suspect declared himself willing to carry out bombing and arson attacks on infrastructure used by the military and industrial sites in Germany, prosecutors said in a statement.

According to Spiegel magazine, the facilities included the Grafenwoehr army base in the southern state of Bavaria where Ukrainian soldiers receive training to use US Abrams tanks.

Dieter S. gathered information on potential targets, including US military facilities, they added. Alexander J. allegedly helped him to do so starting in March at the latest, while Dieter S. scouted out some of the sites, took photos and videos of military goods and passed the information to his intelligence contact.

A judge on Wednesday ordered Dieter S. kept in custody pending a possible indictment.

Dieter S. also faces separate accusations of belonging to an armed unit of pro-Russian separatist forces in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine between December 2014 and September 2016.


Trump Trial Jury Selection Process Follows a Familiar Pattern with an Unpredictable Outcome

In this courtroom sketch, former US President Donald Trump smiles to the jury pool as he is introduced to them at the beginning of his trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York, Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jane Rosenberg/Pool Photo via AP)
In this courtroom sketch, former US President Donald Trump smiles to the jury pool as he is introduced to them at the beginning of his trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York, Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jane Rosenberg/Pool Photo via AP)
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Trump Trial Jury Selection Process Follows a Familiar Pattern with an Unpredictable Outcome

In this courtroom sketch, former US President Donald Trump smiles to the jury pool as he is introduced to them at the beginning of his trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York, Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jane Rosenberg/Pool Photo via AP)
In this courtroom sketch, former US President Donald Trump smiles to the jury pool as he is introduced to them at the beginning of his trial over charges that he falsified business records to conceal money paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016, in Manhattan state court in New York, Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jane Rosenberg/Pool Photo via AP)

When the first batch of potential jurors was brought in for Donald Trump's criminal trial this week, all the lawyers had to go on to size them up — at first — were their names and the answers they gave in court to a set of screening questions.
Then the lawyers went to work, scouring social media for posts that might reveal whether people in the jury pool had hidden biases or extreme views, The Associated Press said.
One potential juror was dismissed by the judge after the former president's lawyers found a 2017 online post about Trump that said “Lock him up!” Trump's lawyers rejected another potential juror after discovering she had posted a video of New Yorkers celebrating President Joe Biden's election win.
It's all part of an effort by both sides to get a competent jury that — just maybe — might slant slightly in their favor.
Even experts in the art of jury selection say there are limits to what any lawyer can do.
“We never pick a jury. We unpick jurors,” said Tama Kudman, a veteran West Palm Beach, Florida, criminal defense lawyer who also practices in New Jersey and New York.
“We never get who we want. We are just careful to get rid of who we think are dangerous to our clients,” she said. “You know you’ve picked a good jury when nobody’s happy. The prosecution hasn’t gotten who they want. The defense hasn’t gotten who they want. But everybody’s kind of gotten rid of the people who really raise the hair on the back of our neck.”
Jury selection in Trump’s trial resumes Thursday. So far, seven jurors have been chosen for the trial over allegations that Trump falsified business records to cover up a sex scandal during his 2016 campaign. Ultimately, 12 jurors will determine the verdict, with six alternates on standby.
Nearly 200 potential jurors have been brought in so far. All potential jurors will be asked whether they can serve and be fair and impartial. Those who have said “no” so far have all been sent home.
Lawyers on both sides then comb through answers prospective jurors provide orally in court to a set of 42 questions that probe whether they have been part of various extremist groups, have attended pro- or anti-Trump rallies, or have been involved with Trump's political campaigns, among other things.
The judge can dismiss people that don't seem likely to be impartial. Under state law, each side also gets to “strike” up to 10 potential jurors they don't like.
A jury consultant has helped Trump's lawyers research the backgrounds of prospective jurors whose names are provided to lawyers on both sides, but not to the public.
Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, a jury consultant who worked on the O.J. Simpson trial team in the mid-1990s and remains employed in that capacity today, said a social media check has become critical in recent years. She likened it to a “juror polygraph” that can reveal whether a potential juror's answers to questions in court are false.
Still, Dimitrius said, such checks aren't foolproof. Potential jurors can scrub their online footprint before they show up or make their social media accounts private.
Some people considered but not selected for Trump's jury had things on their social media that looked problematic. Some had shared inflammatory posts, including a meme showing Trump beheaded.
In each case, the person was brought into the courtroom alone to confirm the posts indeed appeared or originated on their account — and, in one case, the account of a spouse. They were asked again about their feelings about Trump and whether they could act impartially.
A bookseller who’d previously declined to share his feelings about the former president admitted to holding a “highly unfavorable overall impression” of him after being confronted by a series of Facebook posts, including a video mocking Trump.
In those cases, the judge agreed with Trump’s attorneys that the prospective jurors should be dismissed with cause. But in other instances, Judge Juan M. Merchan said the posts did not rise to that level, forcing Trump’s attorneys to use their limited number of strikes to have the prospective jurors removed.
“The question is not whether someone agrees with your client politically or not, the question is whether or not they can be fair and impartial,” Merchan told Trump’s attorneys.
The process led Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee in this year's presidential race, to say in a Truth Social post Wednesday that he thought strikes were supposed to be unlimited, not capped at 10, "as the Witch Hunt continues! ELECTION INTERFERENCE!”
Among six people struck by the Manhattan district attorney's office was a prosecutor who works for the district attorney in the Bronx and a man who works in real estate and said he read Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal."
Perhaps the most memorable was a former corrections officer who said he may have once served on a jury for a case involving Trump and Merv Griffin. He was dismissed by prosecutors after acknowledging that he appreciated Trump’s style of humor.
That man had also expressed reservations about Trump, noting that he’d known relatives of the wrongly accused teenagers in the Central Park Five case — a group that Trump famously said should face the death penalty.
Sabrina Shroff, a criminal defense attorney, said she considers the jury selection process one of the “most stressful and fun” parts of any trial.
“It’s like setting up a blind date with 12 people and you’re hoping that the blind date is at least a friendship at the end. It’s such a roll of the dice,” she said.
Shroff said she goes by her gut when choosing jurors. Scrutinizing social media profiles, she said, can be challenging because what people put online “isn't who they are.”
“Maybe their affiliations are telling,” she said. “You're still guessing. We make the wrong call all the time. Sometimes, you really think the juror was pulling for you and then you find he was leading the charge to convict.”
Shroff added: “You're always worried you have it wrong. You've misread the scowl or the smile. Maybe they aren't smiling at you; just thinking about a movie they saw and liked.”


G7 Finance Leaders Pledge Cooperation on Iran Sanctions

Italian Carabinieri officers stand guard outside the Quisisana hotel, a venue of the G7 Foreign Ministers summit, in Capri, southern Italy, 17 April 2024. EPA/CIRO FUSCO
Italian Carabinieri officers stand guard outside the Quisisana hotel, a venue of the G7 Foreign Ministers summit, in Capri, southern Italy, 17 April 2024. EPA/CIRO FUSCO
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G7 Finance Leaders Pledge Cooperation on Iran Sanctions

Italian Carabinieri officers stand guard outside the Quisisana hotel, a venue of the G7 Foreign Ministers summit, in Capri, southern Italy, 17 April 2024. EPA/CIRO FUSCO
Italian Carabinieri officers stand guard outside the Quisisana hotel, a venue of the G7 Foreign Ministers summit, in Capri, southern Italy, 17 April 2024. EPA/CIRO FUSCO

Finance leaders from the Group of Seven industrial democracies on Wednesday condemned Iran's attack on Israel and pledged to continue work on "all possible avenues" to harness frozen Russian sovereign assets to aid Ukraine.
In a joint statement issued after a meeting, the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors said they would "ensure close coordination of any future measure to diminish Iran's ability to acquire, produce, or transfer weapons to support destabilizing regional activities."
The ministers met on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings in Washington and said that they view risks in the global economy as "more balanced" amid recent resilience to multiple shocks, with inflation receding.
"Central Banks remain strongly committed to achieving price stability and will continue to calibrate their policies in a data-dependent manner. Price and financial stability are a pre-requisite for sustainable and balanced growth," the G7 officials said.
But, according to Reuters, the group said there were significant geopolitical risks to the outlook, primarily from Russia's war in Ukraine and conflict in the Middle East, which "could affect trade, supply chains and commodity prices."
The G7 finance officials said they were strongly committed to help Ukraine meet urgent short-term financing needs as it struggles against Russia's invasion, including harnessing extraordinary revenues stemming from frozen Russian assets.
"We reaffirm our determination to ensure that Russia pays for the damage it has caused to Ukraine. Russia’s sovereign assets in our jurisdictions will remain immobilized until then, consistent with our respective legal systems," the G7 officials said.
The statement did not include a specific plan for the assets, but said they would "continue working on all possible avenues by which immobilized Russian sovereign assets could be made use of to support Ukraine" with a view to presenting options to G7 leaders at a June summit in Italy.


Congress Moving Swiftly on Bipartisan Action to Punish Iran after Revenge Attack on Israel

Capitol Hill in Washington (File/AFP)
Capitol Hill in Washington (File/AFP)
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Congress Moving Swiftly on Bipartisan Action to Punish Iran after Revenge Attack on Israel

Capitol Hill in Washington (File/AFP)
Capitol Hill in Washington (File/AFP)

Iran's attack against Israel over the weekend has spurred a flurry of bipartisan legislative action in Congress, uniting lawmakers against the country even as the risk of a larger regional war looms.
Several measures introduced and passed in the House and Senate seek to both publicly condemn Iran and punish Iran financially. Lawmakers have denounced Iran's actions, which came in response to a suspected Israeli strike weeks earlier on an Iranian consular building in Syria that killed two Iranian generals, The Associated Press said.
“The world is on fire, and history will judge us for our action,” said Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, during a news conference Tuesday.
The swift, bipartisan condemnation of Iran has put on sharp display the durability of American support for Israel, even amid growing partisan division over how the country is handling its more than six-month war with Hamas.
The House passed nearly a dozen bills by Wednesday that would, among other things, issue a slate of new sanctions and other financial restrictions against Iran and its leaders. Other legislation looks to prevent current Iranian officials sanctioned from evading those penalties and urge the European Union to “expeditiously” designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization as the US has already done.
On the other side of the Capitol, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday advanced five bills, including ones that targeted Iran for its human rights record and would require sanctions on ports and refineries that receive and process Iranian oil.
“Iran’s direct attack on Israel this week underscores the need to further cut off the Iranian regime’s key revenue streams,” Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said in a statement. "I urge my colleagues in the Senate to support this bill — which has already passed the House — so that we can send it to President Biden’s desk immediately.”
A number of the bills had passed the House weeks before Hamas' deadly attack on Israel in October but have been stalled in the Senate committee. An Israeli offensive in Gaza has since caused widespread devastation and killed over 33,000 people, according to local health officials. Israel's conduct of the war has revealed the depth of unease among US lawmakers as concerns over the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza have caused even some of President Joe Biden's closest allies to threaten conditioning future aid to Israel.
Congressional Democrats have been reluctant to challenge Biden's handling of the ongoing conflict and related regional tensions that have taken shape, mindful that criticism could further weaken Biden in his reelection campaign against former President Donald Trump.
But the attack on Saturday has proven to consolidate public support for the Biden administration's quick response as it ordered US forces to help Israel down “nearly all” the 300 drones and missiles that were headed its way.
It also comes as House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., released legislation Wednesday that would provide $95 billion in aid collectively to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. The aid package had been held up for months over Republican opposition to continuing wartime funding for Ukraine as it battles Russia. Iran's attack on Israel added urgency to Johnson's plans to bring the issue to the floor for a vote.
While the measures targeting Iran have received overwhelming support — with the series of House bills mostly passing with at least 300 votes — there has been a quiet but growing dissent among progressive Democratic lawmakers in both chambers, who warn that legislative efforts could risk further escalation in the Middle East.
“Following last weekend’s unprecedented response by Iran to Israel’s attack on its consulate, the Republican Majority is explicitly leveraging a series of bills to further escalate tensions in the Middle East," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said in a statement Tuesday. “This is a blatant attempt to distract from their own incompetence.”
The strike on Saturday marked the first time Iran has launched a direct military assault on Israel despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Iranian Revolution. Israel has vowed to retaliate against Iran, risking further expanding the shadow war between the two foes into a direct conflict.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, condemned Iran's attack in a statement but called on his colleagues to respond cautiously. He warned that further US action against Iran could lead to a dangerous escalation that could drag America into a war in the Middle East.
“Cooler heads must now prevail to ensure peace in the region and security for Israel,” Sanders said.