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Nation and World briefs for May 18

Venezuela leader: Officials treated like Jews under Nazis

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela’s embattled socialist president is complaining about ill treatment of his government’s officials abroad, comparing the harassment to that of Jews in Nazi Germany.

President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday night criticized Venezuelan expatriates who have been yelling at Venezuelan officials in other countries, or who use social media to post photos of officials living it up outside Venezuela while the country’s people are struggling with triple-digit inflation and food shortages.

“We are the Jews of the 21st century,” Maduro declared.

Maduro also suggested the anti-government protests that have convulsed the nation for six weeks are similar to the rallies presided over by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.

The South American country’s socialist administration often characterizes the political opposition as “fascist” and has recently been accusing its opponents of trying to stage a coup.

Stocks, bond yields drop as Washington turmoil roils Street

NEW YORK (AP) — The brewing political crisis in Washington rattled Wall Street Wednesday, knocking the Dow Jones industrial average down more than 370 points and giving the stock market its biggest single-day slump in eight months.

Investors worried that the possible fallout from a report alleging President Donald Trump asked now-fired FBI Director James Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may stymie the White House’s plans to cut taxes, roll back government regulations and other aspects of Trump’s pro-business agenda.

The steep drop ended an unusually long period of calm for the markets, which had been hovering near all-time highs.

Financial stocks, which had soared in the months since the election, declined the most as bond yields fell sharply. Bonds, utilities and gold rose as traders shunned riskier assets. The dollar fell.

“When you are at these valuations, the market has to reassess whether or not the agenda is actually going to be implemented,” said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial. “What you’re seeing is a classic run toward safety.”

Business, leisure travelers ponder flying without laptops

NEW YORK (AP) — International air travelers might soon rediscover magazines, paperbacks and playing cards.

Airline passengers have become hooked on their laptops and tablets to get work done or just kill time during long flights. But U.S. aviation-security officials appear determined to ban large electronic devices in the cabin of flights from Europe.

Business travelers are worried about lost productivity, laptops in checked baggage being stolen or damaged, or even leaving the machine home if their employer won’t let them check it on a plane. Parents are pondering how to keep children occupied.

On Wednesday, U.S. and European Union officials exchanged information about threats to aviation, believed to include bombs hidden in laptop computers. Airline and travel groups are concerned about the possibility that a ban on laptops and tablet computers that currently applies to mostly Middle Eastern flights will be expanded to include U.S.-bound flights from Europe.

The officials agreed to meet again next week.

Shariah court in Indonesia sentences gay couple to caning

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — An Islamic Shariah court in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province has sentenced two gay men to public caning for the first time, further undermining the country’s moderate image after a top Christian politician was imprisoned for blasphemy.

The court, whose sentencing Wednesday coincided with International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, said the men, aged 20 and 23, would each receive 85 lashes for having sexual relations. One of the men wept as his sentence was read out and pleaded for leniency.

The chief prosecutor, Gulmaini, who goes by one name, said they will be caned next week, before the holy Muslim month of Ramadan starts about May 25.

The couple was arrested in late March after neighborhood vigilantes in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, suspected them of being gay and broke into their rented room to catch them having sex. Cellphone video that circulated online and formed part of the evidence shows one of the men naked and visibly distressed as he apparently calls for help on his cellphone. The second man is repeatedly pushed by another man who is preventing the couple from leaving the room.

The lead judge, Khairil Jamal, said the men were “legally and convincingly proven to have committed gay sex.”

He said the three-judge panel decided against imposing the maximum sentence of 100 lashes because the men were polite in court, cooperated with authorities and had no previous convictions.

Newly freed Chelsea Manning: ‘I’m figuring things out’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, spared by presidential clemency from the rest of a 35-year prison term for giving classified materials to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, stepped out of a military lockup Wednesday and into a future she said she was eager to define.

“I’m figuring things out right now — which is exciting, awkward, fun, and all new for me,” Manning said by email hours after being released from confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, having served seven years behind bars for one of the largest exposing of classified information in U.S. history.

“I am looking forward to so much! Whatever is ahead of me is far more important than the past,” added Manning, 29.

Manning’s immediate plans, including living arrangements, remained unclear. The Oklahoma native had previously tweeted that she planned to move to Maryland, where she has an aunt, but her attorneys have cited security concerns in refusing to make public specifics about her release or where she was headed. The Army is allowing her to live where she pleases — still on active duty but under a special, unpaid status.

Manning relished her newfound freedom, posting on social media photos of her lunch — “So, (I’m) already enjoying my first hot, greasy pizza,” she declared of the slice of pepperoni — and her feet in sneakers, with the caption, “First steps of freedom!!”

MS-13 gang targeted in pre-dawn sweep across Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hundreds of federal and local law enforcement fanned out across Los Angeles in pre-dawn sweeps, serving arrest and search warrants as part of a three-year investigation into the ultra-violent street gang MS-13.

Federal prosecutors unsealed a sweeping indictment Wednesday morning charging dozens of members and leaders of the brutal street gang with a variety of crimes, including murder.

Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra Brown said the 127-page anti-racketeering indictment targets 44 members and associates of the gang, including the one-time leader of a Los Angeles faction of MS-13. Three people accused of murder could face the death penalty, she said.

Twenty-one people named in the indictment were arrested in pre-dawn raids across Los Angeles and Brown said warrants were served at more than 50 locations. Jail officials around the region also conducted cell searches, as some of those indicted were already in custody on unrelated charges. About a dozen of those arrested were so-called “shot callers” for the gang. At least three people were still at large Wednesday.

“It’s one of the largest and most entrenched gangs in Los Angeles,” Brown said. “Today’s actions will deal a critical blow to the top leadership.”

 

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