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Three Big Things

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  • Iran calls new US sanctions ‘outrageous and idiotic’

    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran on Tuesday sharply criticized new U.S. sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader and other top officials, saying the measures spell the “permanent closure” for diplomacy between the two nations. Iran’s president described the White House as “afflicted by mental retardation.”

    President Hassan Rouhani went on to call the sanctions against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “outrageous and idiotic,” especially as the 80-year-old Shiite cleric has no plans to ever travel to the United States.

    From Israel, Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton said talks with the U.S. were still possible and that the U.S. is leaving an “open door” for Iran to walk through.

    But the comments from Tehran clearly show its leaders think otherwise at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran over its nuclear program and Iran’s downing of a U.S. military surveillance drone last week.

    “The fruitless sanctions on Iran’s leadership and the chief of Iranian diplomacy mean the permanent closure of the road of diplomacy with the frustrated U.S. administration,” said Abbas Mousavi, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

    The crisis gripping the Middle East is rooted in President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. a year ago from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal and imposing crippling new sanctions on Tehran. Recently, Iran quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium to be on pace to break one of the deal’s terms by Thursday while also threatening to raise enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels on July 7 — if Europe doesn’t offer a new deal.

    Citing unspecified Iranian threats, the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to the Middle East and deployed additional troops alongside the tens of thousands already there. All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise in tensions could push the U.S. and Iran into an open conflict, 40 years after the Islamic Revolution.

    Trump enacted the new sanctions on Monday against Khamenei and his associates.

    The sanctions follow Iran’s downing last week of a U.S. surveillance drone, worth over $100 million, over the Strait of Hormuz, an attack that sharply escalated the crisis in the Persian Gulf. After the downing of the drone, Trump pulled back from the brink of retaliatory military strikes but continued his pressure campaign against Iran.

    https://www.apnews.com/67299afa909d44a7ad83ae5690c7dde2

  • Coast Guard searching for missing sailor, boat in Perdido Bay

    ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) A sailor missing in Peridido Bay was seen on a sinking boat before he disappeared, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard.

    Coast Guard crews will resume their search for the missing man and his boat early Tuesday morning.

    Another boater called 911 after he spotted the man on a small sailboat, which was taking on water. The boater told officials the man refused his help. When emergency crews arrived, there was not sign of the boat or the missing sailor.

    The search area is near Lillian Highway in Perdido Bay at the mouth of the Perdido River.

    https://www.wkrg.com/news/breaking-coast-guard-searching-for-missing-sailor-boat-in-perdido-bay/

  • Police release more than 1,000 files from Smollett probe

    CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago police on Monday released more than 1,000 files from the investigation into Jussie Smollett’s claim he was attacked by two men, including video footage that for the first time shows the “Empire” actor with a thin, white rope wrapped around his neck that he told detectives was a noose.

    The footage from body cameras worn by police officers who responded on Jan. 29 to what Smollett said was a racist and homophobic attack by two large men has Smollett’s face blurred out because, as police explained, he was considered a victim at that point. The footage shows officers walking into the apartment, where they encounter the actor wearing the rope, before one asks him, “Do you want to take it off or anything?”

    “Yeah, I do. I just wanted you all to see it,” Smollett says before unwinding the rope, loosening it and placing it on the kitchen counter.

    Police have said he told them the attackers wrapped the rope around his neck.

    In the video, he tells officers that the attackers poured bleach on him. After he is informed about the recording Smollett says he doesn’t want to be filmed and the camera is turned off.

    In all, police released nearly 1,200 different individual files on Monday, including thousands of pages of documents, arrest reports and handwritten notes from police. Added up, there is more than 90 hours of video, much of it hour after hour of surveillance cameras high above city streets.

    As the hunt for the two men Smollett said attacked him continued for weeks, some in the city started to wonder if the whole thing was a hoax. And those suspicions made it into the documents.

    On Feb. 1, Cmdr. Edward Wodnicki urged investigators to confirm key information given by Smollett about the night in question: “Verify and I mean verify that the victim got off a plane at O’Hare. Big issue if that was a lie. CALL me as soon as this is completed.”

    It was, in fact, confirmed.

    Then on Feb. 25, a sergeant sent an email saying that she’d received a tip from a caller whose name is redacted. “He has a friend close to the inner circle of the subject,” the email reads. “The friend shared that the entire event was orchestrated by (redacted).”

    The footage itself illustrates the growing skepticism within the Chicago Police Department, starting with the fact that much of it was retrieved from surveillance cameras. Police collected the footage as they tried to piece together the route that two brothers took across the city to the spot where police say they acted out a staged attack of the actor.

    The department released footage that shows the two brothers, Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, in a cab the night of the incident. Both are wearing what appear to be light-colored hazmat suits and gloves, with one of the brothers tightening his around his face.

    There is also footage of officers handcuffing the brothers — who have acknowledged participating in a staged attack — on the tarmac at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport when they returned on a flight to Chicago from Nigeria, and putting them in police cars for a trip to a city police station where they were detained.

    Monday’s release of documents and video files was not expected to shed much new light on what happened — largely because so much information has already been made public in the case. In February, for example, when the charges were announced, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson laid out in minute detail how investigators came to conclude that the incident was not a hate crime as Smollett claimed but a carefully staged hoax directed by the actor himself to promote his career.

    https://www.apnews.com/286a6b6e2de249a3b611d6c896d1dd6f

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