Trump gloats about Andrew McCabe's firing, calls it 'a great day for Democracy'

Donald Trump

  • President Donald Trump said it was “a great day” on Friday, not long after FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe was fired, just hours away from his retirement.
  • Trump also railed against former FBI director James Comey, whom he called “sanctimonious.”
  • After his termination was announced, McCabe said he was being “singled out” for being a witness to Comey’s May 2017 ouster from the bureau.

President Donald Trump weighed in on the firing of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe on Twitter Friday night, calling it “a great day for Democracy.”

“Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy,” Trump said in a tweet.

“Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy,” Trump said, referring to the former FBI director whom he fired in May 2017. “He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI,” Trump claimed.

McCabe served the bureau for 21 years.

He released a statement immediately after his firing: “Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey.”

McCabe was one of three top FBI officials Comey told about his conversations with Trump, many of which are now the subject of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump sought to obstruct justice when he fired Comey.

McCabe was forced out of the FBI earlier this year amid an internal investigation by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) into his approval of unauthorized disclosures to the media in October 2016 related to the bureau’s inquiry of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

The Department of Justice inspector general, Michael Horowitz, reportedly concluded in a report that McCabe was not forthcoming during the OIG review. The FBI Office of Personal Responsibility (OPR) subsequently recommended that Attorney General Jeff Sessions fire McCabe, according to The New York Times.

Sessions said in a statement Friday that “both the OIG and FBI OPR reports concluded that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.”

Sonam Sheth contributed reporting.

SEE ALSO: MCCABE OUT: FBI deputy director fired day before he was set to retire

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'The United States had lost its mind': What the Parkland shooting looked like in a country emerging from civil war

FILE PHOTO: People put flowers among other mementoes at the fence of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, after the police security perimeter was removed, following a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

  • The response to the shooting at Marjory Stonemen Douglas High School in the US has been strong and lasting.
  • Overseas, the deadly incident has prompted more concern about life in the US.
  • In Colombia, which is struggling to emerge from a half-century of civil conflict, the scale of violence in the US is alarming.

Since 1990, there have been 22 shootings at US elementary or secondary schools in which two or more people were killed, in addition to several deadly shootings at American universities over that period.

Violent incidents at US schools often pass with little notice, but the recent shooting at Marjory Stonemen Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed, has prompted a sustained response — including National Walkout Day, during which students around the US and the world called for a response to gun violence.

The Parkland shooting also drew attention overseas, where news of deadly violence in American schools has long been greeted with surprise and dismay.

“When I was there it was kind of jarring,” Adam Isacson, the director for defense oversight at the Washington Office in Latin America, said of attitudes toward the US and President Donald Trump in Colombia, where Isacson spent most of February on a research trip.

“I think people, to the extent they wanted to talk about Trump, just kind of felt the United States had lost its mind,” Isacson told Business Insider. “But this was magnified because I was there during the Parkland shooting and everything after, and that was reverberating around the news in Colombia too.”

Mourners visit a memorial for Jaime Guttenburg, one of the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting.

“It was very jarring to be in places that in the recent past had had horrific massacres, and people, even in the countryside, [were] saying, ‘What was that school shooting? What is going on in the United States?'” Isacson said. “Because it’s true — ‘Here in Norte de Santander, we have problems, but nobody’s killed 17 people at once in a very long time.'”

“And then, of course, when it comes out that Trump wants to arm teachers and everything else — they really do think that we are a danger to ourselves and others right now,” Isacson added.

‘A relatively even keel’

Colombia’s recent history has been marked by periods of protracted violence. Political disputes provoked a decade-long period of conflict between 1948 and 1958 — known simply as “La Violencia.” The end of that was followed a few years later by a civil conflict in which the Marxist rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC, and groups like it clashed with the government and right-wing forces.

That latter conflict lasted for more than a half-century, until the FARC and Colombia’s government signed a peace deal in late 2016. Other rebel and criminal groups remain active in Colombia, and the implementation of the FARC peace accord has been uneven at best, but the country has seen significant improvements.

In 2017, Colombia saw its lowest homicide rate in 42 years — 24 homicides per 100,000 people — President Juan Manuel Santos said in early January. The US homicide rate is around 5 per 100,000, but Colombia is in better shape than some of its neighbors in Latin America, home to 42 of the 50 most violent cities in the world in 2017. Colombia had three cities on the list (down from four in 2016), compared to 17 in Brazil, 12 in Mexico, and five in Venezuela.

Medellin Colombia soldiers police gangs

At the end of December, Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said the country had about 320 fewer homicides in 2017 than it had in 2016.

Villegas said that in 2000, Colombia had 25,000 homicides and in 2017 it had “something more than 11,000, that is, less than 1,000 monthly.” He called the decline in homicide rate “an immense advance in terms of public tranquility.”

Villegas highlighted the capital, Bogota, where local officials said the 2017 homicide rate was about 14 per 100,000 people, the lowest since 1979 — around the time Pablo Escobar got started in international drug trafficking. (Medellin, Escobar’s home turf, saw a slight increase in deadly violence, with 33 more homicide cases in 2017 than in 2016 — over half attributed to clashes between criminal groups.)

More than 300 of the country’s municipalities had passed 2017 with no homicides, Villegas added. Many of them were in Norte de Santander and the neighboring department of Santander — in the latter department, 51 of 78 municipalities reportedly went without homicides last year.

This is not to say political violence has disappeared from Colombia. Violence targeting activists and social leaders has attracted international concern — between January 1, 2016 and February 27, 2018, 262 people “dedicated to the defense of the community or of human rights” were killed, with 22 slain so far during 2018, the Colombian government said at the beginning of March.

There have also been attacks involving the National Liberation Army, or ELN, another leftist rebel group. The government suspended peace talks with the ELN in January, after the group bombed police stations in northern Colombia.

Rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN) hold a banner in the northwestern jungles in Colombia, August 30, 2017. Picture taken August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Federico Rios

Earlier this month, the Colombian military bombed an ELN camp in northwest Colombia, killing 10 rebels. But Santos, heartened by the FARC peace accord, has also ordered his chief negotiator to resume talks with the ELN.

Overall, Isacson said, there were reasons for hope and for concern about Colombia.

“If you look at Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, even the urban areas of Brazil right now, I think Colombia’s in better shape,” he said. The election held on March 11, in which Isacson said many Colombians voted for “status quo candidates” indicated “that, for the most part, the country’s on a relatively even keel.”

However, he said, the struggle to implement the peace accord — and the murky political outlook for the deal itself — led him to “fear Colombia is squandering a historic opportunity.” While the FARC’s broad unpopularity colors perceptions of the deal, the agreement does contain what Isacson said was a good blueprint for dealing with many of Colombia’s historic problems.

“If they would actually even carry that out halfway, I think you could prevent a resurgence of violence, and you could help the country really modernize and integrate into the world economy,” he told Business Insider, “but then I don’t see any movement in that direction right now.”

SEE ALSO: The US’s top military-intelligence official described how the war on Mexico’s cartels has produced even more violence

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ESPN boss who shocked the media world by resigning says he did it because of a cocaine extortion plot

John Skipper

  • John Skipper resigned suddenly as ESPN president in December, citing a long struggle with “substance addiction.”
  • In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Skipper shed light on the days leading up to his resignation, a time he said included being caught up in an extortion plot over a cocaine purchase.
  • Skipper said he resigned after disclosing the extortion to Disney CEO Bob Iger, agreeing at the time that he had “placed the company in an untenable position.”

In December, John Skipper resigned suddenly from his role as president of ESPN and cochairman of Disney Media Networks, citing a long struggle with “substance addiction.”

The move came as a shock to the sports-media world at the time. But in a new interview with the ESPN historian James Andrew Miller for The Hollywood Reporter, Skipper described the difficult days leading up to his resignation, which he said included being caught up in an extortion plot over a cocaine purchase.

In the interview, Skipper said he had been an “infrequent” cocaine user and that his drug use did not interfere with his work at ESPN. When Miller pressed him on that, saying the behavior Skipper described didn’t sound like an addiction, Skipper said that in December someone he had not previously bought cocaine from “attempted to extort” him and that this ultimately brought about a discussion with Disney CEO Bob Iger that led to his resignation.

“They threatened me, and I understood immediately that threat put me and my family at risk, and this exposure would put my professional life at risk as well,” Skipper said. “I foreclosed that possibility by disclosing the details to my family, and then when I discussed it with Bob, he and I agreed that I had placed the company in an untenable position and as a result, I should resign.”

“It was inappropriate for the president of ESPN and an officer of The Walt Disney Co. to be associated in any way with any of this,” he later said. “I do want to make it clear, however, that anything I did in this regard, and anything else resulting from this, was a personal problem. My drug use never had any professional repercussions, but I still have profound regret.”

Skipper described spending the day after his resignation by himself in New York City, crying as he “realized the profundity of what I’d done to myself, to my family, and that I’d given up the best job in sports on the planet.”

He went on to call James Pitaro, the man who replaced him as ESPN president on March 5, “a good, smart executive” whose “style will work at ESPN.”

Read the interview here.

SEE ALSO: John Skipper has unexpectedly resigned as president of ESPN, citing substance addiction

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Pharmacy startup Blink Health just filed a $250 million lawsuit against a company it claims is an 'unlawful copycat scheme'

Geoff & Matt 2 (1)

  • Blink Health, a pharmacy startup that provides discounts to prescription drugs and has raised $165 million in funding, is suing a competitor it claims is an “unlawful copycat scheme.” 
  • The lawsuit alleges Hippo, a new startup founded by former Blink Health executives, got ahold of Blink Health’s trade secrets and unfairly uses them to compete with Blink Health. 
  • Blink Health is seeking $50 million in damages already caused, along with $200 million in punitive damages for a total of $250 million. 

Blink Health is suing a pharmacy startup it claims is an “unlawful copycat scheme.”

Blink Health, a startup that helps negotiate lower drug prices, was founded by 35-year-old Geoffrey Chaiken and 32-year-old Matthew Chaiken. The company is now suing Hippo, a company founded by former Blink Health executives that operates under a similar format to deliver prescription drug discounts. 

In its complaint, Blink Health claims violations of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, alleging that Hippo got ahold of Blink Health’s trade secrets and has and continues to use “stolen property for its own benefit and in unfair competition with Blink at thousands of ‘pharmacies nationwide.'”

The company is seeking $50 million in damages, along with $200 million in punitive damages, for a total of $250 million. 

“No company should be allowed to cheat and steal its way into existence, as Hippo is trying to do,” Blink Health’s attorney Orin Synder said in a statement sent to Business Insider.

8VC, which led Blink’s Series A and B rounds, said in a statement, “We are fully supportive of Blink Health and its actions.”

Hippo was not immediately available to comment.

Here’s how Blink Health’s prescription discounting

When it comes to lowering prescription costs, there are a number of different approaches startups are taking, from comparing the price at one pharmacy to another nearby so consumers shopping around for a lower price can get a sense of where they might go. Others have delivery components as well as discounts. 

Blink Health operates a little differently. Instead of having people go from one pharmacy to another, Blink Health negotiates to get the same price at different pharmacies for generic medications and some branded diabetes medications. Blink Health works at Rite Aid, Walmart, Kroger and K-Mart, but it doesn’t currently work at Walgreens or CVS Health.

Say you need to pick up a prescription for your medication, but you have a high deductible plan that requires you to pay $3,000 out of your own pocket before your insurance starts picking up the rest of the tab. Instead of going to the pharmacy and accepting whatever price they offer (which can vary from pharmacy to pharmacy), you could download the Blink Health app, or go to the company’s website. 

In the app, you can find your prescription and purchase it directly through the app. Then, when you get to the pharmacy counter, you show your phone to the pharmacist who rings it up instead.  In return, Blink gets a cut of the transaction.

Where Hippo and Blink Health have similarities

The system of having the same price at any pharmacy and presenting a virtual card is the same model Hippo is using, according to its website. 

For example, here’s how Blink Health describes the process:

Screen Shot 2018 03 14 at 9.17.31 AMAnd here’s how Hippo’s site describes it: 

Screen Shot 2018 03 12 at 1.25.48 PM


Hippo was started by two former Blink Health executives: former chief financial officer Eugene Kakaulin and former general counsel Charles Jacoby. In 2016, Kakaulin sued Blink Health claiming breach of contract and violations of federal whistleblower law when Kakaulin came to the founders with information about securities violations. The case was later settled.

Blink Health’s complaint alleges that Hippo got confidential marketing plans, such as strategies and slogans, information about how Blink Health set up relationships and contracts with pharmacy benefit managers, as well as some of the back-end coding that helps fill the prescription when someone using the app/website uses their card, and that these are trade secrets belonging to Blink Health.

SEE ALSO: The lines around healthcare are being redrawn — and all eyes are on pharmacy giant Walgreens to make the next move

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Here's how the UK could hit back against Russia after accusing Moscow of attempted assassination

sergei skripal salisbury military masks

  • British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday that Russia was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack against double agent Sergei Skripal.
  • May said that if Russia didn’t respond that it would consider the attack an “unlawful use of force” on Russia’s part.
  • Two analysts separately told Business Insider that NATO getting involved is unlikely, but that the UK will probably impose sanctions on Russia and expel some of its diplomats to deter Moscow from such actions in the future.
  • One analyst even said that the UK might not even participate in the World Cup this summer. 

British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday that Russia was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack, known as Novichok, against double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England.

“Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down … the Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and [his daughter] Yulia Skripal,” May said.

“Either this was a direct action by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others,” May said, adding that if Moscow doesn’t respond by Tuesday night that the UK will consider the attack an “unlawful use of force” on Russia’s part.

While it’s unclear exactly how London might respond if Russia remains silent, one British Parliamentary Member, John Woodcock, tweeted that he has “urged [May] to consider calling for a collective response from our NATO allies.”

Vladimir Putin

NATO released a statement on Monday, saying “the use of any nerve agent is horrendous and completely unacceptable. The UK is a highly valued ally, and this incident is of great concern to NATO.” 

But a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Mark Simakovsky, as well as a senior security analyst for Stratfor’s Threat Lens, Ben West, both told Business Insider that NATO getting involved is highly unlikely. 

Simakovsky and West each said that the UK will most likely expel a number of Russian diplomats, possibly the ambassador in London, and impose sanctions on Russian officials.

This will likely deter the Kremlin from such future actions, and show them “that there will be real costs associated with” these moves, Simakovsky said.

Sanctions “will make it hurt for the Russian government,” Simakovsky said, and expelling diplomats will “limit the ability of the Russian government to be effective on the ground.”

Simakovsky also said that the UK could work with the EU to tighten sanctions, publicize information about the attack, limit the access of Russian officials and Russians living in or visiting the UK.

“And to be honest,” he said, “I could see real consideration for the UK not participating in the World Cup this year.”

sergei skripal 2004

West also said that Russia is skilled in using “asymmetric warfare — whether meddling in US elections, whether its operations in Ukraine, or before that in the Causcasus’ — but not pushing the envelope so far that they get invaded or attacked.”

West said that such actions on the part of Russia is an ultimate sign of weakness.

“The whole point of intelligence work is to avoid drama,” West said. “You want to be able to operate quietly and under the radar … whenever you see an intelligence operation … get so much publicity and it’s so obviously connected to one actor, that really shows its weakness.”

“If they can’t pursue their policies covertly, to me, that shows that things are not good.”

SEE ALSO: Russia is reportedly behind a disturbing number of assassinations outside its borders

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Apple exec: 'We think free speech is important but we don't think it's everything' (AAPL)


  • Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue spoke at the South by Southwest festival on Monday.
  • Cue discussed everything from Apple’s acquisitions philosophy to the Warriors basketball team.
  • He also touched on the issue of free speech and why Apple has banned apps that sell guns.

At the South by Southwest conference in Austin, CNN’s Dylan Byers conducted a far ranging interview with Eddy Cue, Apple senior vice president of Internet Software and Services.

Topics ranged from why Apple should (or shouldn’t buy Netflix) to the playoff hopes of the Bay Area’s basketball team, the Golden State Warriors (Cue is known to be a huge basketball fan).

Naturally Byer’s also quizzed Cue on the topic de jour: the tech industry’s responsibility in everything from the epidemic of fake news influencing the election, to its role in brain-hacking, app addiction.

When asked if Facebook, Google and Reddit have a responsibility to do better on those areas, Cue wouldn’t call out any particularly tech adversary by name. But he did say, “I think everybody has a responsibility.”

And he added that “free speech” is not an excuse. “We think free speech is important but we don’t think it’s everything.”

No guns and no bomb-making apps 

“It’s important for Americans to have debates on certain issues,” he said,”but we don’t think hate speech from white supremacists is important free speech.”

He gave as an example, how Apple has always banned “bomb-making apps. We don’t think that kind of content belongs on our platform.” 

Ditto for apps that sell guns, which are also not allowed.

At the same time, Cue explained Apple’s decision not to ban or yank the National Rifle Association’s TV app, which streams videos for gun enthusiasts. Cue said that it doesn’t violate Apple’s rules.

In the wake of the Florida shootings, gun safety activists on Twitter were calling on Amazon, not Apple, to ban the app from its platforms in a campaign called #StopNRAmazon.

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Trump pardons Navy sailor who became conservative talking point after conviction for taking illegal photos on a submarine

Trump navy uss gerald r ford military

  • President Donald Trump pardoned a Navy sailor who took photographs of classified areas of a military submarine.
  • The sailor, Kristian Saucier, served 12 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information.
  • It’s Trump’s second pardon, after he pardoned the former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt.

President Donald Trump has pardoned a Navy sailor who took photographs of the classified areas of a military submarine.

Kristian Saucier pleaded guilty in 2016 to taking the photos inside the USS Alexandria in 2009. He served a 12-month prison sentence for the crime.

Trump referenced Saucier’s case often on the campaign trail as he criticized his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

Saucier has said he merely wanted service mementos. But federal prosecutors said he was a disgruntled sailor who compromised national security and then obstructed the investigation by destroying a laptop and camera.

The news was announced by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee at a briefing Friday. It is only Trump’s second pardon, after the president pardoned Joe Arpaio, an ardent Trump supporter and former Phoenix sheriff who was convicted of criminal contempt, in August 2017.

The investigation began in March 2012, when Saucier’s cellphone, with pictures of the submarine still on it, was found at a waste-transfer station in Connecticut. Saucier was charged with taking photos of classified spaces, instruments, and equipment in July 2015 and pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information in May 2016.

In addition to a year in jail, he was given an “other than honorable” discharge from the Navy.

trump rally

Trump referenced Saucier’s case numerous times during his campaign — in one speech, Trump referred to Saucier — a 22-year-old sailor at the time the photos were taken — as “the kid who wanted some pictures of the submarine.”

Vice President Mike Pence also said during an October 2016 debate that a service member who handled classified information the way Clinton did would “absolutely” face court-martial, though The Washington Post found it was far from clear that would happen. Saucier’s lawyer also compared the six photos his client took to the 110 classified emails the FBI found were on the private email server Clinton used while she was secretary of state.

The judge in the case appeared to dismiss the comparison, as well as the argument that Saucier was being treated differently, saying “selective enforcement is really not a good argument” that didn’t “really carry much water.”

Saucier was released to house arrest at the end of summer 2017 and said later that year he thought “punishment isn’t doled out evenly” and that he hoped Trump would “make right by it.”

On Saturday morning, hours after Huckabee said the president was “appreciative” of Saucier’s service to the country, Trump tweeted his congratulations to the former sailor, calling him “a man who has served proudly in the Navy.”

“Now you can go out and have the life you deserve!” Trump said.

SEE ALSO: Trump tweeted about Hillary Clinton and ‘sailors pictures on submarine’ — here’s what he’s talking about

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Mexico's surging narco violence is intensifying at the edges of one of its biggest tourist hotspots

Playa del Carmen Quintana Roo Mexico police soldiers beach

  • High-profile incidents in Playa del Carmen in recent weeks have prompted new travel warnings from the US government.
  • The incidents come amid spiraling violence on the peripheries of one of Mexico’s most popular tourist areas.
  • Criminal groups in the area thrive on tourist traffic — and corruption, weak institutions, and social conditions have facilitated their activity.

The calm in Playa del Carmen was shattered on February 21, when a blast erupted from the side of a ferry, injuring more than 20 people.

That was followed by the March 2 discovery of explosives on a ferry off the island of Cozumel, another tourist hub in the state of Quintana Roo.

The March incident led to a US Embassy alert for the area. This week, after getting information about “a security threat” in the area, the embassy barred US government workers from travel to Playa del Carmen.

The ferries are owned by the same company — run by the father of a former governor who is currently jailed on corruption charges — and while the second ferry was out of service and moored hundreds of yards from Cozumel, Mexican authorities suspended the company’s license while they investigate.

The origins of the explosives and the motive behind them remains unclear. While the involvement of organized crime doesn’t appear to be ruled out, the state’s attorney general said no group had been identified as having a role.

Mexico Cancun soldiers mall shooting

But crime around tourist hotspots in Quintana Roo has been rising for some time, driving concern that the narco violence plaguing much of Mexico over the past decade is intensifying in one of the country’s most popular areas.

The state saw a decline from 232 homicide victims in 2015 to 165 in 2016. But 2017 saw a 118% increase, to 359 homicide victims, according to data from the federal government. The state’s homicide rate rose from 10.19 homicides per 100,000 people in 2016 to 21.57 in 2017, just above the national average. The spike overwhelmed state forensic officials, who sent unidentified cadavers to a mass grave to reduce crowding in its morgue.

In Benito Juarez and Solidaridad municipalities, home to Cancun and Playa del Carmen, respectively, a similar trend has emerged.

In 2015, Benito Juarez had 132 homicide cases, which can contain more than one victim. (Forensic officials said there 227 organized-crime-related killings in Benito Juarez last year.) That fell to 86 in 2016, but rose to 250 in 2017. In Solidaridad, there were 20 homicides cases in 2015, 26 in 2016, and 49 in 2017.

Other crime statistics point to growing insecurity.

Homicide victims in Quintana Roo 2015 to 2018

In Benito Juarez, there were 1,955 robberies of businesses in 2017 — more than triple the number in 2016 and a 54% increase over the total in 2015.

In Solidaridad, the 377 robberies of businesses in 2017 were more than twice the 2016 total and over one-third more than reported in 2015.

2017 had a violent start, with a mid-January shooting at a Playa del Carmen nightclub leaving several people dead, followed hours later by a deadly attack on a state prosecutor’s office in Cancun.

Disputes between criminal groups over territory, drug sales, and extortion rackets were the principal causes of the violence, according to a report seen by El Universal early last year.

The major players, according to the report, were the Zetas cartel and an independent group, known as the Cartel de Cancun, led by Leticia Rodriguez Lera, a former federal-police officer. (The Gulf cartel and the ascendant Jalisco New Generation cartel are also present in the state.)

The Cartel de Cancun was reportedly made up of several former judicial officials and ex-members of other criminal groups, like the Zetas and the Gulf cartel.

Her group, which infiltrated police forces and the state prosecutor’s office, controlled drug trafficking and other criminal activities in northern Quintana Roo and was looking to expand to Playa del Carmen. But the group had been stymied by leadership changes in the prosecutor’s office, which the Zetas were taking advantage of to regain lost territory, the report said.

She was captured in August in Puebla, in central Mexico. Federal police attributed a wave of violence in northern Quintana Roo to her arrest. “There has been an imbalance in organized crime,” the federal police commissioner said last year. “The cartels have been accommodating.”

That same month, the US listed Quintana Roo and Baja California Sur, home to the Los Cabos resort area, on a travel warning for the first time — as did other governments, including Canada, France, and the UK.

Mexico nightclub shooting Playa del Carmen blue parrot police

“The presence of such crime is due to the selling of drugs. It’s not on a grand scale, but it is still quite prominent,” Quintana Roo state prosecutor Miguel Angel Pech Cen told PBS late last year. “There are groups fighting over having power to sell drugs here.”

“Since tourists are the consumers, this also creates havoc,” he added. “The drug lords immediately recognize them as revenue generators.”

Quintana Roo state security chief Rodolfo del Angel Campos said in December that additional police units were dispatched to areas where crime was elevated, including tourist spots in Playa del Carmen and Cancun. In late February, he said security forces increased inspection and surveillance efforts to prevent the arrival of more criminal groups from other parts of the country — movement known as “the cockroach effect” — and that members of the military, federal police, and municipal police were coordinating to address insecurity.

“Organized criminal groups are present in Cancun, and they cause a lot of violence. It’s extremely important to protect the tourists, but we care about everyone’s safety,” the Benito Juarez police chief told CGTN America in February.

Nevertheless, vigilantes have appeared, condemning state authorities and calling for a crackdown on criminals.

Tourists arrivals have continued, however, rising 9% in 2017. Visitors told CGTN America and PBS they never felt unsafe during their trips. But locals outside tourist areas said there was no respite from crime and corruption.

Mexico Cancun mall shooting shoppers soldier

“Cancun has become a focal point for narco-trafficking, and all the violence that comes with it,” activist leader David Sanchez Reyes told TRT World in summer 2017. “Murders have been a daily occurrence in the past six months, and if you walk around … you will see many shops are shut due to the extortion of the gangsters.”

Extortion reports dropped between 2015 and 2016 but rose slightly in 2017. But “almost no one reports” extortion or extortion attempts, security analyst Alejandro Hope wrote in December 2016. And the burden of those payments forced some 100 businesses in Playa del Carmen to close in 2016, according to Hope.

“We’ve been robbed with pistols and with other larger guns, but they never catch them. Everyone here gets robbed, because there’s no security presence in Cancun,” Laura, an employee at a pharmacy outside of Cancun’s hotel zone, told CGTN America.

A former Cancun police officer told PBS that police in the city were compromised and that criminals and police leadership often worked together.

Playa del Carmen Quintana Roo Mexico ferry dock tourists

“We see homicides every day on the street, in broad daylight, kidnapping, assaults … This didn’t happen before,” he said. “The boss in charge of the operation will tell you directly to let someone go and ignore all evidence.”

“The police officers who don’t respond to the criminals’ demands are laid off,” he added. “The police make a deal with the criminals that ensures disobedient officers will be fired.”

Insecurity is likely exacerbated by social conditions.

Quintana Roo has a large concentration of young men with dim economic prospects and has seen large population growth — 5.9% in the 1990s and 4.1% in the 2000s, the highest growth rates in Mexico during those periods — and disordered urban expansion, Hope noted in early 2017.

Alejandro Schtulmann, a security analyst in Mexico, told PBS that the pace of tourism would probably continue, as violence remains below levels elsewhere in Mexico and is largely outside tourist areas. But that violence looks unlikely to abate.

Days after the explosives were discovered on the ferry near Cozumel, gunmen burst into a private hospital in Cancun, killing a patient, who was believed to be a local boss for the Gulf cartel, and his female companion.

The state security secretary, Rodolfo del Angel Campos, called the attack “a possible settling of accounts by members of organized crime.”

SEE ALSO: The US has barred government workers from traveling to a popular tourist area after a bombing — but the investigation is getting more complicated

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7 crazy stories of Russia's enemies mysteriously getting poisoned — like when a Cold War dissident was hit with a poison-tipped umbrella

sergei skripal trial 2006

Britain has warned of a robust response if it finds evidence of Russian involvement in the collapse of a former Russian agent convicted of betraying dozens of spies to British intelligence.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, are critically ill after being exposed to what police called an unknown substance. Russia’s embassy in London has expressed concern about British media reporting of the incident, which has included suggestions that Skripal and his daughter were poisoned.

Interestingly, if Russia is behind some or all of these poisonings, it is technically legal under Russian law. In 2006, the Russian Parliament passed a law allowing the Russian President to eliminate enemies of the state overseas, according to BuzzFeed News and BBC.

Below is a list of some previous incidents in which critics or enemies of Moscow have been victims of poisoning or suspected poisoning, or have cried foul after suddenly falling ill:

SEE ALSO: Russia is reportedly behind a disturbing number of assassinations outside its borders

SEE ALSO: Russian ambassadors keep dying in mysterious ways

A Russian colonel and his daughter hit with an unidentified substance.

Skripal, 66, was once a colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service.

He and his 33-year-old daughter were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in the English city of Salisbury on Sunday. Police are investigating what made them ill.

The Kremlin says it is ready to cooperate if Britain asks it for help investigating the incident, and that it has no information about it. Asked about British media speculation that Russia had poisoned Skripal, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said: “It didn’t take them long.”

A Bulgarian dissident stung with a poison-tipped umbrella.

During the Cold War, Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident, was killed with a poison-tipped umbrella. Markov, a writer, journalist and opponent of Bulgaria’s then communist leadership, died on Sept. 11, 1978 after someone fired a ricin-laced pellet into his leg on London’s Waterloo Bridge.

According to accounts of the incident, Markov, who defected to the West in 1969, was waiting for a bus when he felt a sharp sting in his thigh. A stranger fumbled behind him with an umbrella he had dropped and mumbled “sorry” before walking away.

Markov later died of what is believed to be ricin poisoning, for which there is no antidote. Dissidents accused the Soviet KGB of being behind the killing.

An ex-KGB agent drunk green tea laced with polonium-210.

In 2016, ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, 43, died after drinking green tea laced with polonium-210, a rare and potent radioactive isotope, at London’s Millennium Hotel.

Putin probably approved the killing, a British inquiry concluded in 2016. The Kremlin has denied involvement.

An inquiry led by a senior British judge found that former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoy and another Russian, Dmitry Kovtun, carried out the killing as part of an operation that he said was probably directed by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the main heir to the Soviet-era KGB.

An outspoken critic of Putin, Litvinenko fled Russia for Britain six years to the day before he was poisoned.

Later that year, Matthew Puncher, the British scientist who later found traces of polonium-210 all over London, was later found stabbed to death, according to BuzzFeed News. 

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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'Pharma bro' Martin Shkreli has been sentenced to 7 years in prison

Martin Shkreli

  • Former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli has been sentenced to seven years in prison.
  • Best known for a 2015 price-gouging scandal involving a decades-old drug that his company acquired, Shkreli was convicted of securities fraud during his time running a hedge fund.
  • At the sentencing, Shkreli broke into tears, apologized to investors, and accepted responsibility for what he had done.

Former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

A federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, on Friday heard from Shkreli, his lawyer, and the prosecution before determining a sentence based on his conviction on securities fraud.

The judge, Kiyo Matsumoto, said her decision did not have to do with Shkreli’s reputation, track record with drug pricing, or politics. She spent a while going through the letters she received — against and in support — of Shkreli’s character.

Shkreli had been facing as long as 20 years in prison.

Shkreli is best known for a 2015 price-gouging scandal involving a decades-old drug that his company acquired. As CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, he raised the price of Daraprim, a drug used to treat a parasitic infection, by more than 5,000%, earning him the nickname “pharma bro.” The incident brought a lot of attention to the high costs of prescription drugs, an issue that still plagues the prescription-drug industry.

But Shkreli’s sentence isn’t related to that price hike; it stemmed from events earlier in his career while he managed a hedge fund. In August 2017, he was convicted of securities fraud during his time running a hedge fund. He’s been jailed since September after he offered a $5,000 bounty for some of Hillary Clinton’s hair.

At Friday’s hearing, Shkreli’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, made his case for a lighter sentence, expressing his frustration with some of the things Shkreli had said, saying there were times he wanted to “punch him in the face.”

Shkreli also got to speak at the hearing, apologizing to investors and accepting responsibility for his actions, according to CNBC reporter Meg Tirrell.

“There is so much more I want to do, and I will do it, the right way,” Shkreli said, while starting to break into tears.

On Monday, the judge ordered Shkreli to forfeit $7.36 million in assets, which could include Shkreli’s $5 million E-Trade account, stake in the pharmaceutical company Vyera Pharmaceuticals (formerly Turing Pharmaceuticals), the Wu-Tang Clan album Shkreli purchased in 2015, a Lil Wayne album, an enigma machine, and a Picasso painting.

SEE ALSO: Shkreli ordered to give up the Wu-Tang album he paid $2 million for

DON’T MISS: ‘Pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli found guilty of securities fraud

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