Trump called Mexico the 2nd-deadliest country in the world, but the numbers say differently

Donald Trump

  • President Donald Trump asserted that Mexico was ranked the “second deadliest country in the world” on Thursday evening and cited “drug trade” as the cause.
  • When homicide numbers are compared on a per-capita basis, Mexico’s number of homicides per 100,000 people puts it on somewhat different ground, pushing it to the middle of the pack in Latin America.
  • The Mexican government was previously critical of the report, saying “Violence related to organized crime is a regional phenomenon” that goes beyond Mexico’s borders.

President Donald Trump on Thursday evening tweeted that “Mexico was just ranked the second deadliest country in the world, after only Syria. Drug trade is largely the cause. We will BUILD THE WALL!”

Trump was likely referring to a recent study by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies that named Mexico the second-deadliest conflict zone in the world, behind Syria and ahead of Iraq.

The president retweeted a link to a CNN story about the report when it came out in early May.

However, that study was highly disputed, and a number of factors undercut the assertion. (It should also be noted that a wall would not stop much of the drug flow into the US, and that drug-related violence in Mexico has largely not spilled over into the US.)

According to the IISS report, Mexico’s nearly 23,000 intentional homicide victims in 2016 fell short of the 50,000 seen in Syria and exceeded the 17,000 recorded in Iraq and the 16,000 registered in Afghanistan. The next country in the ranking — Yemen — was below 10,000 victims, and the following two, Somalia and Sudan, were both below 5,000.

As Trump said, organized crime related to the drug trade is behind much of Mexico’s violence, and the IISS ranking put Mexico on its list because, in its estimation, criminal violence in the country had reached “a level akin to armed conflict.”

Mexico Playa del Carmen nightclub shooting police

While Mexico did indeed have 23,000 intentional homicide victims in 2016 (and looks set to exceed that this year), not all of those deaths were related to organized-crime-related violence. According to research by the Justice in Mexico project, only about one-third to half of those deaths appear to be related to organized crime.

The IISS told Business Insider that it did not assess a more precise tally of organized-crime-related deaths because the Mexican government does not release it. (Indeed, it has been several years since such a figure was made public.) “If they released this number monthly, or at least annually, we would be happy to use it,” the think tank said.

Moreover, the comparison made by the IISS is based on absolute numbers. By that measure, other countries in Latin America — one of the most violent regions of the world — are close to or surpass Mexico.

The basis of the measure on absolute numbers was also disputed by a number of observers, as homicide comparisons are more often made based on per-capita numbers — typically the number per 100,000 people.

Ciudad Juarez Chihuahua Mexico crime violence homicide drug cartel killings

Measuring homicides by absolute numbers puts Mexico close to or behind other countries in Latin America.

In Venezuela, one nongovernment organization counted more than 28,000 violent deaths in 2016, more than 18,000 of which the government there classified as homicides. In Brazil, the last several years have seen total homicide counts close to 60,000. Colombia recorded about 12,000 homicides in 2016, its lowest tally in 32 years.

By comparison, the US had 15,700 homicides in 2016, according to the FBI.

When homicide numbers are compared on a per-capita basis, Mexico’s homicide rate puts it on somewhat different ground.

Homicide rates in Latin America

It falls to the middle of the pack just in Latin America. Comparatively, Mexico’s 2014 homicide numbers put it behind all the countries of the Northern Triangle — Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala — as well as Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, and small countries like the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Mexico’s official per capita homicide rate in 2016 was 17 per 100,00.

The IISS also told Business Insider in a statement that inclusion on the list was based on three criteria:

“1-Sustained wide-ranging threat to state authority through years (not just spikes) from well-armed groups. 2-Groups control territorial spaces in several cities or rural areas 3- armed forces deployed frequently or permanently.”

By those standards, other countries in the region likely deserve inclusion but didn’t make the list. In Brazil, large armed gangs fight each other and have retaliated against police operations with public violence, and in Venezuela, organized armed groups challenge the state’s control in some areas.

brazil

Those two countries and the countries of the Northern Triangle — which also deals with powerful criminal groups like MS-13 and Barrio 18 — have all, like Mexico, deployed their militaries and militarized police forces to combat violence.

“They cite countries like Brazil, which have higher homicide rates per 100k inhabitants. The rate is a different measure, which is usually released much later in the year and is not doable for the ACD/ACS (since many conflict countries are measured in absolute number of fatalities, not rate per 100k),” the IISS told Business Insider in a statement when asked about these criticisms.

“Plus, we don’t follow Brazil, Venezuela and others because they don’t quite fit the criteria above,” the statement said. “There, criminal violence is much more fragmented and involves a great deal of micro-criminality, rather than heavy-calibre clashes for territories that we see in Mexico.”

The Mexican government was critical of the report when it was first issued in May.

“Violence related to organized crime is a regional phenomenon” that goes beyond Mexico’s borders, it said in a statement. “The fight against transnational organized crime should be analyzed in a comprehensive manner.”

Members of the military police carry out a routine foot patrol at El Pedregal neighbourhood Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera

Other experts who study crime and violence criticized the comparison.

“Equating these [countries] with Syria is analytically lazy and lends itself to the wrong policies,” Tom Long, a professor at the UK’s University of Reading, said on Twitter. “They aren’t mainly political conflicts.”

“Yes there’s tragedy in Mexico, but not accurate to suggest it’s like Syrian war,” Brian J. Phillips, a professor at the CIDE in Mexico City, said on Twitter, “and per capita other countries have much more violence.”

While the report itself was enough to elicit frustration in Mexico, Trump’s retweet of a Drudge Report tweet linking to a CNN story about the report added to the ire.

“I hope these morons are happy,” Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope tweeted. “Their idiotic report was already retweeted by @realDonaldTrump.”

SEE ALSO: No, Mexico isn’t more dangerous than Iraq and Syria

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The fired Han Solo movie directors who nearly finished it could now lose millions

Phil Lord Chris Miller Getty final

The Directors Guild of America is suddenly a major player when it comes to what happens with the director credit on the untitled Han Solo-focused “Star Wars” movie.

On Tuesday, directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord were reportedly fired from the movie by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy following creative differences. The two had spent months shooting the movie and now with a few weeks left of principal photography, Lucasfilm is scrambling to find a replacement to finish the movie.

Many in Hollywood are now turning to the DGA, which protects the interests of feature film and television directors, to bring clarity to the options Miller and Lord have when it comes to director credit and residuals on the movie.

The Hollywood Reporter points out that the DGA has a strict rule, which prohibits replacing the director with someone else from the film’s team, except in the case of an emergency. The rule was created to discourage producers from forcing out the director and taking over a picture.

So even though reports have the movie’s screenwriter, Lawrence Kasdan, as a potential replacement, according to this rule he would not be allowed.

That leaves other names floating around like Ron Howard and Joe Johnston (1995’s “Jumanji”). But if either takes the job another question comes up: Who gets director credit on the finished film?

han solo cast photoThe DGA frowns upon multiple director credits. In the DGA Creative Rights Handbook, it states “only one Director may be assigned to a motion picture at any given time.” There are exceptions, as waivers can be sent to get a directing duo the same credit (presumably this would have happened for Miller and Lord). But it’s very hard to know if in this case, the DGA would allow a three-name credit.

There is no appeals process with the DGA. What they decide is final. 

Currently, Lord and Miller have not taken their names off the movie. But if they do, they would potentially lose millions of dollars. 

THR reports that the rules state if a director pulls their name from a movie, a pseudonym is put in their place (often the DGA uses the name “Alan Smithee”). The fired directors might also have to forfeit all residuals, which for a “Star Wars” movie would be a good chunk of change. It is not clear if the duo would lose their residuals if they don’t pull their names but are just off the movie.

The DGA did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment, but it’s obvious the lawyers and agents for the directors, Lucasfilm, and the DGA will be working some late hours trying to figure all this out. 

SEE ALSO: Everything we knew about the about the Han Solo movie directors being fired — and what happens next to the “Star Wars” spinoff

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Here's how the police officer who shot Philando Castile described the shooting

FILE PHOTO - Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez, charged in connection with the shooting death of a black motorist Philando Castile last July, is shown in this booking photo taken November 18, 2016 in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S..   Courtesy of Ramsey County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS

The Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile said he thought Castile would act recklessly because he smelled marijuana in his car.

Jeronimo Yanez told the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in an interview the day after the shooting that he initially pulled Castile over as he thought he matched the description of a suspect in a gas-station robbery he had responded to a week prior to the shooting.

Yanez said he smelled the odor of “burnt” marijuana in Castile’s car as he walked up to the driver’s side window.

He didn’t tell Castile that he smelled the marijuana at first because he didn’t want Castile to “react in a defensive manner.”

Yanez told Castile that he had had a busted taillight.

Yanez said he was worried that Castile may be carrying a weapon for protection from drug dealers or others trying to “rip” or steal from him.

“It appeared to me that he had no regard to what I was saying,” Yanez said. “He didn’t care what I was saying. He still reached down.”

“And at that point I was scared and I was in fear for my life and my partner’s life,” Yanez said. He said he saw Castile grab something near his right thigh.

“I know he had an object — and it was dark,” Castile said.

Yanez said he was concerned for the “little girl” in the back, who was Castile’s girlfriend’s daughter.

“As that was happening, as he was pulling at, out his hand I thought, I was gonna die and I thought if he’s, if he has the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the 5-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me?” Yanez added.

Yanez said he remembered “smelling the gun smoke” and the “bright flashes from the muzzle.”

“And then I heard, a couple pops from my firearm,” Yanez said.

He shot Castile seven times just 38 seconds after he first pproached Castile’s window.

Yanez was acquitted by a jury last Friday of second-degree manslaughter.

SEE ALSO: Minnesota officials have released the dashcam footage showing Philando Castile’s shooting

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

russian flag

Since 2003, more than two dozen murders or mysterious deaths in multiple countries seem to trace back to Moscow.

But no one seems to be doing much about it.

At least 33 people in the UK, US, Ukraine, Greece, India, and Kazakhstan have been murdered or died mysteriously in the last 14 years, according to recent reports by BuzzFeed News and USA Today.

Last week, BuzzFeed News released the first two parts of a two-year investigation detailing how US spy agencies gave the British government, upon its request, evidence linking the murders or deaths of 14 Russians and Brits in the UK to the Kremlin, the FSB — Russia’s security agency — or the Russian mafia, which sometimes works with the government. But the British government has ruled out foul play in each case.

The report was based on a large volume of documents, phone records and secret recordings, as well as interviews with American, British and French intelligence and law enforcement officials.

In early May, USA Today also reported that “38 prominent Russians” had been murdered or died suspiciously since 2014. Nineteen of the incidents happened outside of Russia: 3 in the US (2 in New York and 1 in Washington DC), 1 in Greece, 1 in India, 1 in Kazakhstan, and 12 in Ukraine. 

USA Today named three other victims, but could not determine the locations of the incidents.

On June 1, a Chechen assassin posing as a French journalist also tried to kill a married couple, Amina Okuyeva and Adam Osmayev, in Kiev. The Kremlin had accused the couple, whom later fought against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, of trying to assassinate Putin in 2012.

When the Chechen assassin, Artur Denisultanov-Kurmakayev, was interviewing the couple in a car, he pulled out a gun and shot Osmayev. Okuyeva then pulled out a gun and shot the assassin four times. The assassin and Osmayev both survived, and the Ukrainian government has accused Russia of ordering the hit. 

Amina Okuyeva

The 14 victims BuzzFeed News has revealed had all gotten in the way or run afoul of powerful Russians. They were either stabbed, killed in mysterious crashes, hanged, driven to suicide after repeated threats against their lives, or poisoned. 

One victim, Alexander Litvinenko, a whistleblower, had traces of radioactive polonium 210 in his system, a substance only made in Russia, BuzzFeed News said. 

Even the scientist who found the trail of polonium all over London, Matthew Puncher, was eventually found stabbed to death, BuzzFeed News said. 

Scotland Yard’s former counter-terror commander, Richard Walton, told BuzzFeed News that Russia is skilled at “disguising murder” by using biological or chemical agents that leave no trace. 

But what all these deaths have in common is that the British government has done nothing, ruling out foul play in all cases, according to BuzzFeed News.

That’s because the British government is scared of any political, cyberwarfare or traditional warfare retaliation by the Russians, according to 17 US and British intelligence officials who spoke with BuzzFeed. They also have the incentive to keep Russian oligarch money in their banks. 

The Washington D.C. Police Department did not respond to request for comment on any ongoing investigation into the death of Mikhail Lesin, the founder of Russia Today and former Gazprom executive who was found dead in his D.C. hotel with blunt force head injuries. 

The New York Police Department declined to comment to Business Insider about the murder of Sergei Krivov, saying information could only be released via a Freedom of Information Act request. The NYPD pointed Business Insider to the United Nations when asked about the death of Vitaly Churkin, the former Russian diplomat to the UN, who died of an apparent heart attack.

Vitaly Churkin

The UN said to contact the Russian government. The Russian Embassy in D.C. did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

One glaring difference between the deaths in the UK or US, and those in Ukraine, are the methods used. Almost every victim in Ukraine was shot, tortured or killed in a bombing, USA Today reported. 

The possible reasons for this are many, according to Stratfor Chief Security Officer Fred Burton.

Russian mobsters, who only know violent methods, may have been contracted, or Russia could be trying to send signals to Ukraine. It could also be because Russia is trying to evade the US and UK’s more sophisticated intelligence communities. 

As for recourse, the US and UK could make the Russian ambassadors persona non grata, ramp up surveillance of known Russian agents, or even put out Interpol warrants out on suspected assassins, Burton said. 

“But with that could come foreign policy blowback,” Burton told Business Insider. “I’m not optimistic.”

SEE ALSO: Ukraine has arrested suspects allegedly tied to the murder of a Putin critic

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What happens now that Bill Cosby's sexual-assault case has been declared a mistrial

Bill Cosby trial June 2017

Early this month, Bill Cosby went on trial on sexual-assault charges involving Andrea Constand, alleged to have happened more than a decade ago.

After five days of deliberation, the jury couldn’t reach a unanimous decision and the judge declared a mistrial.

Constand, a former Temple University employee, told police that the now 79-year-old comedian drugged and violated her at his home near Philadelphia in 2004.

It’s the first criminal case against Cosby over his conduct with women. Over the past few years, over 60 women have accused him of sexual assault. 

Here are the major developments during the trial, and what could happen next after the mistrial:

SEE ALSO: Bill Cosby accuser gives emotional testimony: ‘I had a secret about the biggest celebrity’

The juror selection process took days.

Ultimately, seven men and five women were selected. According to Philly.com, more than a third of the 100 potential jurors said that they had already decided whether Cosby was innocent or guilty. 

 

Day 1: One of Cosby’s many accusers took the stand.

She worked as Cosby’s former agent’s assistant. She described in detail how Cosby had allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted her at a Los Angeles hotel 20 years ago.

Besides Constand, she was the only accuser out of more than 60 women who was permitted to testify at the trial.

Source: Philly.com

Day 2: Andrea Constand took the stand and spoke about her alleged assault for the first time in public.

Her testimony took three hours. Constand went to police about a year after she says Cosby assaulted her, but at the time a prosecutor said her case was too weak for any charges. 

Source: Philly.com

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Meet the all-star team of lawyers Robert Mueller has assembled for the Trump-Russia investigation

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller

As the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia gains traction, special counsel Robert Mueller has begun quietly assembling a formidable team of top lawyers and investigators.

Mueller has so far hired 12 people and intends to bring on more, his spokesman Peter Carr told The New York Times.

Only a handful have been named publicly so far, but legal experts and fellow lawyers who have spoken to media in recent days lauded the new hires as a powerhouse team of experienced professionals with sterling credentials who rank among the best in their field.

“That is a great, great team of complete professionals,” Kenneth Starr, the former independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton, told ABC News.

The members of Mueller’s team who’ve been named have a cumulative 37 years of experience at the FBI and 85 years at the Department of Justice, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

Yet despite the lawyers’ resumes and reputations, several members of the team have come under fire for their previous donations to Democrats, prompting some critics to cry foul on the investigation and urge Trump to fire Mueller.

Trump himself has even weighed in:

“You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history — led by some very bad and conflicted people!” Trump said Thursday on Twitter.

Here are some of Mueller’s new hires:

SEE ALSO: There’s a theme emerging in Mueller’s Russia probe that could prove damning for Trump

Michael Dreeben

Dreeben, the deputy solicitor general overseeing the Department of Justice’s criminal docket, is widely regarded as one of the top criminal law experts in the federal government. He will work for Mueller on the investigation part-time as he juggles the DOJ’s criminal appellate cases.

Dreeben is best known for having argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court — a feat that fewer than 10 other attorneys have accomplished in the court’s history. Peers say his hiring reveals how seriously Mueller is taking the investigation, and how wide-ranging it ultimately could be.

“That Mueller has sought his assistance attests both to the seriousness of his effort and the depth of the intellectual bench he is building,” Paul Rosenzweig, a former Homeland Security official and Whitewater investigator, wrote on the Lawfare blog.

Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York who was recently fired by Trump, called Dreeben one of the DOJ’s top legal and appellate minds in modern times:

Tweet Embed:
https://twitter.com/mims/statuses/873207655468335104
More importantly, Michael Dreeben is careful, meticulous, non-partisan, and fair-minded. His loyalty is to the Constitution alone. https://t.co/9a7jwHVH1K

Beyond possessing an “encyclopedic” knowledge of criminal law, lawyers who have worked with Dreeben say he also has a gift for anticipating questions his arguments will likely prompt, allowing him to prepare answers accordingly.

“He answers [questions] directly. He answers them completely. And he answers them exquisitely attuned to the concerns that motivated them,” Kannon Shanmugam, a partner at the law firm Williams & Connolly who worked with Dreeben at the solicitor general’s office, told the Law360 last year.

Andrew Weissmann

Weissmann joined Mueller’s team after taking a leave of absence from his current job leading the DOJ’s criminal fraud unit. He formerly served as general counsel to the FBI under Mueller’s leadership.

Weissman also headed up the Enron Task Force between 2002 and 2005, for which he oversaw the prosecutions of 34 people connected to the collapsed energy company, including chairman Kenneth Lay and CEO Jeffrey Skilling.

He spent 15 years as a federal prosecutor in the eastern district of New York, where he specialized in prosecuting mafia members and bosses from the Colombo, Gambino, and Genovese families.

“As a fraud and foreign bribery expert, he knows how to follow the money. Who knows what they will find, but if there is something to be found, he will find it,” Emily Pierce, a former DOJ spokeswoman under the Obama administration, told Politico.

Weissman is one of several attorneys in Mueller’s team that has donated to Democrats, although he does not appear to have donated in the 2016 election. He gave $2,300 to President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and $2,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 2006, according to CNN’s review of FEC records.

Jeannie Rhee

Rhee is one of several attorneys to resign from the WilmerHale law firm to join Mueller’s investigation.

She also has two years of DOJ experience, serving as deputy assistant attorney general under former Attorney General Eric Holder. She advised Holder and Obama administration officials on criminal law issues, as well as criminal procedure and executive issues, according to her biography on WilmerHale’s website.

As many critics of Mueller’s investigation have pointed out, Rhee represented Hillary Clinton in a 2015 lawsuit that sought access to her private emails. She also represented the Clinton Foundation in a 2015 racketeering lawsuit.

Rhee is also one of the members of Mueller’s team under scrutiny for her political donations, and has doled out more than $16,000 to Democrats since 2008, CNN reported. She maxed out her donations both in 2015 and 2016 to Clinton’s presidential campaign, giving a total of $5,400.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Sheriff David Clarke has reportedly withdrawn his acceptance of a Homeland Security job

David Clarke

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke will not join the Department of Homeland Security as an assistant secretary, his adviser Craig Peterson told The Washington Post on Saturday.

“Late Friday, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. formally notified Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly that he had rescinded his acceptance of the agency’s offer to join DHS as an assistant secretary,” Peterson said.

“Sheriff Clarke is 100 percent committed to the success of President Trump and believes his skills could be better utilized to promote the president’s agenda in a more aggressive role.”

Clarke previously said he would start the DHS job in June.

The news comes just weeks after Clarke was embroiled in a plagiarism controversy, after CNN’s KFile reported that he had failed to properly cite sources in at least 47 parts of his master’s thesis.

Clarke has also faced longtime criticism over the conditions at the Milwaukee County Jail, which he oversees. Since April 2016, one newborn baby and three inmates have died at the jail, and prosecutors have alleged that one of the deaths was caused by dehydration after jail staff cut off water access to his cell.

Clarke’s job offer at the DHS was never publicly announced by the Trump administration, but Clarke had announced on a Wisconsin radio station in May that he accepted the post. He told WISN host Vicki McKenna he would work as a “liaison with the state, local, and tribal law enforcement” in the Office of Partnership and Engagement.

Soon after Clarke’s announcement, dozens of Democratic lawmakers urged Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to reject the appointment, citing concerns over the Milwaukee County Jail deaths as well as Clark’s previous criticisms of the Black Lives Matter movement, which he has called a “hateful ideology.”

Clarke, who has been a prominent Trump surrogate since the early days of his presidential campaign, met with President Trump in Wisconsin on Tuesday to discuss other potential roles he could fill, the Post reported.

“The sheriff is reviewing options inside and outside the government,” Peterson said.

“Sheriff Clarke told Secretary Kelly he is very appreciative of the tremendous opportunity the secretary was offering, and expressed his support for the secretary and the agency.”

SEE ALSO: Sheriff David Clarke reportedly plagiarized parts of his master’s thesis

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Trump's hardline on US relations with Cuba could create a blind spot in a major drug-trafficking corridor

Donald Trump Cuba dissident

President Donald Trump announced on Friday the reversal of several key parts of Barack Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba, which started in December 2014.

Before an enthusiastic anti-Castro crowd in Miami, Trump signed a directive that restricted Americans’ ability to travel to the island, prohibited financial dealings with the Cuban military, and laid out several stipulations on which future US-Cuban negotiations would be based.

One of the four goals of Trump’s police change is to “Further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and those of the Cuban people,” according to a fact sheet distributed by the White House.

“The policy clarifies that any further improvements in the United States-Cuba relationship will depend entirely on the Cuban government’s willingness to improve the lives of the Cuban people,” the fact sheet states, “including through promoting the rule of law, respecting human rights, and taking concrete steps to foster political and economic freedoms.”

Trump’s directive reinstates many of the restrictions that were in place prior to the Obama-led opening. But beyond limiting travel and financial dealings, Trump’s reversal may limit or end recent cooperation on security issues, particularly on drug trafficking, which appears to be returning to the Caribbean in force.

Cocaine Seized in Fort Lauderdale Feb. 16

While Cuba was awash in drugs prior to Castro’s arrival, once he took over and imposed a hardline anti-narcotics policy, they largely disappeared.

In the wake of an incident in the late 1980s in which several Cuban officials were executed for conspiring with drug traffickers, Cuba increased its cooperation with the US to counter smuggling in the area.

Now, despite Cuba’s location between major drug producers in South America and a major drug consumer in the US, the island “is not a major consumer, producer or transit point of illicit narcotics,” the US State Department reported in 2016.

And over the last decade, despite political differences, Cuban and US officials have worked closely together to track and intercept drug shipments transiting the Caribbean.

According to Col. Victor Lopez Bravo of Cuba’s coast guard and border patrol, Havana has notified US officials of more than 500 drug-smuggling operations over the last 10 years. Between 2003 and 2016, Cuban authorities seized or recovered more than 40 tons of marijuana, cocaine, and hashish.

Cuba coast guard drug smuggling trafficking

“We have prevented a huge quantity of drugs from coming into the US,” Bravo told CNN. The US Drug Enforcement Administration has confirmed it is exchanging information about narcotics smuggling with Cuban officials.

After Obama’s opening in late 2014, drug-enforcement officials from both countries starting having meetings in Cuba and Florida regularly. Last year, they reached an agreement that allowed US and Cuban personnel pursuing drug traffickers in the area to communicate directly for the first time — cutting down on delays and giving suspected traffickers less time to flee.

That deal came as a number of incidents in the latter half of 2016 indicated that drug trafficking was swinging back to the Caribbean — a once prominent smuggling corridor that saw drug flows wither in the face of increased enforcement and the growing popularity of routes through Mexico and the Pacific.

The freeze Trump has put on dealings with the Cuban government during his review of US policy toward the island — which now looks set to endure — has thrown that cooperation into doubt.

Cuban soldiers

Two meetings between Cuban security officials and their US counterparts scheduled this year have already been canceled.

“We are waiting to see if it happens,” Bravo told CNN about US-Cuba meetings where law-enforcement officials discuss tactics and share intelligence.

“It’s up to the United States to announce and invite us to the next meeting,” he said. “We hope it happens because it really is beneficial for both countries.”

The recent US-Cuba thaw hasn’t only facilitated cooperation on drug trafficking.

Lt. Col. Yahanka Rodriguez, the commander of Cuba’s military cybersecurity center, told NBC news this month that over the last year and half, Cuba has given the US information on at least 17 cybercrime cases involving the US.

That information has included internet addresses thought to be part of a suspected identity-theft attempt — “addresses that we traced to the United States, for both the suspected attackers and the potential victims,” Rodriguez told NBC.

Cuban officials also said they’d contacted a Homeland Security Department cybersecurity team about hacking attacks on Cuban infrastructure that appeared to come from the US — though they were not aware of an any US action taken in response to such Cuban reports made in January and May this year.

For some US officials, the security concerns related to a US reversal on Cuba extend to the geopolitical sphere.

Russia Cuba Vladimir Putin Raul Castro

With internal strife and economic turmoil consuming Venezuela, one of Havana’s main energy suppliers and trading partners has been able to provide less and less.

“[Russia] has already started trying to make up the gap in petroleum imports to Cuba that have fallen off dramatically with the chaos in Venezuela,” retired Army Brig. Gen. David L. McGinnis, a member of the Consensus for American Security at the American Security Project, said on an Atlantic Council conference call this week.

Russia has also recently forgiven billions in Cuban government debt and won a bid to build a railroad on the island.

“They’re in a market for products from both Russia and China, and both of those countries have the resources to provide the loans to allow them to purchase their weapons and equipment,” McGinnis said.

China Cuba Fidel Castro Li Keqiang

These are not new concerns.

In 2010, nine retired generals wrote to then-House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Howard Berman to say that Cuba did not pose a threat to the US and to call for the travel ban to be lifted.

“Lifting the overall travel ban would extend this cultural and economic engagement and … [enhance] our security by removing unnecessary sources of discontent in a country so close to the United States,” the generals wrote.

For its part, Havana has not fully embraced Russia (or China, which is Cuba’s largest trading partner and the largest holder of its foreign debt).

According to McGinnis, that is likely because of the Cuban government “wanting to have a balanced foreign policy to the best extent they can, hoping that we will step forward and do the right thing.”

This isn’t a return to the Cold War, but the Cuban mood may quickly change if avenues for engagement with the US appear to be closed.

“If we would step back, that would kind of take the hope away from the Cuban government that there was going to be rapprochement,” the retired general said, “and obviously they would be forced toward the two eager adversaries of the United States in our own backyard.”

SEE ALSO: Trump’s rollback of Obama’s Cuba policies may harm the Cubans it means to help

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'Bachelor in Paradise' contestant says the scandal cost him his job and video will clear his name

demario jackson bachelor in paradise inside edition

DeMario Jackson, the “Bachelor in Paradise” contestant accused of sexual assaulting a female cast member, suggests tapes from the alleged incident will clear his name.

“My character has been assassinated, my family name has been drug through the mud,” Jackson told “Inside Edition” for a segment to air on Thursday. “The only thing I want is for the truth to come out. I feel like the truth will be able to come out in those videos.”

Jackson’s interview with the newsmagazine show echoes his official statement released on Wednesday, in which he called claims that he sexually assaulted Corinne Olympios when she was too intoxicated “false” and “malicious.” “Bachelor” cameras were reportedly rolling as the alleged incident took place. He also said that he has sought out legal counsel.

Jackson told “Inside Edition” that the scandal has cost him his job as an executive recruiter, but he doesn’t blame anyone for what’s happened.

“I don’t blame anyone right now, all I want [are] the tapes,” he said in addition to asking for privacy for himself and his family.

Olympios also released a statement on Wednesday. The alleged victim announced that she had hired famed attorney Marty Singer to represent her and said she had very little memory of what occurred that night, adding, “I’m a victim.”

Currently, production on the show has been suspended pending Warner Horizon’s investigation into the incident as a result of a complaint filed by a producer. The incident occurred on the show’s first day of taping on Sunday, June 4.

Watch Jackson’s interview with “Inside Edition” below:

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The key to Republicans' success on Obamacare repeal could come down to John Kasich

Ohio Governor and former presidential candidate John Kasich speaks to reporters after an event honoring the Cleveland Cavaliers, the 2016 NBA championship team, at the White House in Washington in this file photo dated November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The road to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, the law better known as Obamacare, has been rocky for Republicans. And Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s approach going forward could signal which path the party takes.

While the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act, their plan to overhaul the healthcare system, in early May, the legislation was unpopular with the public. And Senate Republicans have since indicated that they are writing their own version of the bill.

The House bill, which was altered from an initial version to gain the support of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus, has no chance of passing the far more moderate Senate, where Republicans operate with a slim 52-to-48 majority.

One of the most contentious aspects of the AHCA is its proposed rollback of Medicaid, the government-run health program that provides insurance primarily to pregnant women, single mothers, people with disabilities, and seniors with low incomes.

The AHCA would end the government’s commitment to funding the expansion to Medicaid established by Obamacare, which extended eligibility for the program to include any adult living under 138% of the federal poverty level.

Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have chosen to participate, leading to more than 11 million new people nationwide gaining coverage, a number that continues to grow. 

The Medicaid expansion has been extremely popular, both with the public and elected officials on both sides of the aisle. While 16 Republican governors have come out in favor of the expansion, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has been the most outspoken. It has made him something of a kingmaker when it comes to healthcare reform in Washington.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose two votes in order to pass a Senate bill. Four Republican senators  — Sens. Rob Portman, Shelley Moore Capito, Cory Gardner, and Lisa Murkowski — all came out against the AHCA in March due to its handling of the Medicaid expansion. 

Kasich’s stance on the bill could signal or even dictate where Portman, a senator from Ohio, or the other senators in the group stand.

bi graphicsmedicaid expansion

Nowhere was the importance of Kasich’s opinion more apparent than when the New York Times reported Tuesday that Kasich had said he would accept “phasing down the enhanced federal payments” provided by the Medicaid expansion, so long as such a phaseout provided more funds than the AHCA and more flexibility in how to administer the program. 

“I don’t have a problem with phasing down the enhanced federal payments,” Kasich told the Times. “But it can’t be done overnight, and it has to be done with the resources and the flexibility that are needed so people don’t get left behind. You just can’t be cutting off coverage for people.”

Kasich said, according to the Times, that a seven-year phaseout of the Medicaid expansion — which Senate Republicans, including Portman, are reportedly discussing in closed-door meetings — would be acceptable if states were given more autonomy over the program. The AHCA, the House’s bill, would end funding the expansion in 2020, among other sweeping changes.

Kasich’s statements would seem to suggest that Senate Republicans could be close to a workable compromise on Medicaid, and therefore a healthcare bill as a whole.

But several hours after the Times’ story published, Kasich published a cryptic statement:

John Weaver, a Kasich strategist, then said on Twitter that Kasich does not support any “CURRENT plan” in either the Senate or the House, which he said included the seven-year phaseout. 

Kasich and Weaver’s quick response to the Times story suggests the Ohio governor is well aware how much his “rubber stamp” could mean to Senate Republicans stuck in a difficult and increasingly unpopular bid to pass healthcare reform. 

The Senate GOP must forge a compromise bill that will not only make it out of the upper chamber, but gain enough support among the more conservative elements of the House to pass there. Additionally, procedural rules in the Senate prevent major overhauls to Obamacare, as GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst acknowledged in May.

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