LATEST ARTICLES

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Nazi, Mark Meechan

A British man fined £800 for filming a pet dog giving Nazi salutes and posting the footage online has raised more than £100,000 to fund an appeal against his conviction.

Mark Meechan recorded his partner’s pug responding to statements such as “gas the Jews” and “sieg heil” by raising its paw before putting the clip on YouTube in April 2016.

He was found guilty of breaching the Communications Act by posting material that was “grossly offensive” and “anti-Semitic and racist in nature”, in an offence aggravated by religious prejudice, following a trial at Airdrie Sheriff Court.

Meechan, 30, said he made the video as a joke to annoy his partner and has raised issues about freedom of speech.

Following his sentencing yesterday, an online fundraiser was launched to help pay the costs of an appeal, estimated to be £100,000, and surpassed the target within 24 hours.

The GoFundMe page, set up by Meechan and featuring an image of him and a pug, states: “This conviction will be used as an example to convict other people over the things they say and the jokes they make, it sets a standard where courts will be able to willfully (sic) ignore the context and intent of a persons (sic) words and actions in order to punish them and brand them as criminals.

“This is the amount that has been quoted by my lawyer, the reason it has been quoted so high is my lawyer wishes to bring in top legal representatives to ensure that we have the highest chance of reversing the standard that this case sets, I cannot allow the two years of litigation I went through and having my life put on hold, to happen to anyone else.”

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Nuclear Deal, Emmanuel Macron, Mike Pence, Congress
Emmanuel Macron speaks to a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Emmanuel Macron’s proposal for a new deal with Iran received a warm welcome from the UK, which said it was ready to work with allies to deal with issues like Tehran’s ballistic missile programme and its regional ambitions.

During his state visit to Washington, the French president acknowledged a “disagreement” with Donald Trump over the 2015 deal to rein in Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, which his US host has repeatedly threatened to tear up.

Mr Macron said he believed he and Trump could overcome their differences with a new broader deal which would also restrict Iran’s regional influence and ballistic missile program.

The new deal would also create a framework for controlling Tehran’s nuclear activities after the current Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) expires in 2025.

“I always said we should not tear apart the JCPOA and have nothing else,” Mr Macron told a joint press conference. “I think this would not be a good solution.

“No matter the decision now that President Trump will take, I would like us to work as from now on a new deal with four pillars, including what is already covered by the JCPOA.”

Mr Trump, who had earlier denounced the Obama-era JCPOA deal as “insane” and “ridiculous”, told the French president he was ready to be “flexible” on the issue.

“You know, in life you have to be flexible, and as leaders of countries, you have to show flexibility,” said the US leader.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman made clear that the UK was ready to work with allies on the issues identified by Mr Macron.

“We have worked very closely with our French and German partners in relation to this (JCPOA) deal,” said the spokesman.

“Our priority is preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. The nuclear deal was the product of 13 years of diplomacy and is working, Iran having reduced its stock of enriched uranium by 95%.

“At the same time, we recognise that there things that the deal does not cover, but which we need to address, including ballistic missiles, what happens when the deal expires and Iran’s destabilising regional activity.

“We are working closely with our allies on how to address the range of challenges Iran poses in the Middle East, including those issues which President Macron proposed a new deal might cover.”

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Bill Cosby, Sexual Assault

Bill Cosby has arrived at court with jurors set to start deliberating at the comedian’s sexual assault retrial.

The 80-year-old Cosby arrived on a rainy Wednesday at the suburban Philadelphia courthouse.

He gave a quick fist pump and sashayed toward people chanting “We love Bill!”

The jury of seven men and five women are to start weighing charges, one day after more than five hours of closing arguments that portrayed Cosby as a calculating predator and the victim of a multi-million-dollar scheme to frame him.

The prosecution and defence gave jurors plenty to think about after a two-week trial on charges Cosby drugged and molested Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in January 2004.

Ms Constand has given permission to be named in reports.

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Liverpool FC, Roma FC, Football, Champions League 2018
Liverpool 5 - Roma 2: First Leg

Mohamed Salah savaged his former side Roma with a brilliant individual performance in a superb 5-2 Champions League semi-final first-leg victory undermined by two late goals for the visitors.

The Egypt international was the star of a performance which began as a slow-burner before turning into a blistering evisceration of Serie A’s third-placed team.

However, Roma showed they are still a threat with a late rally which may yet give Jurgen Klopp’s side a nervous 90 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico next week.

Klopp had predicted Salah would face a rough time against the side he left in the summer but in truth none of his former team-mates could do anything to stop him.

He scored two brilliant first-half goals – his 42nd and 43rd of an incredible season – with two also for Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane on target as well as Liverpool made the most of their first Champions League semi-final in a decade.

Liverpool FC, Roma FC, Football, Champions League

The downside were goals from Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti and a knee injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who left the pitch on a stretcher with his head in his hands and his knee in a brace to put his World Cup in some doubt.

Roma almost silenced Anfield when goalkeeper Loris Karius misread the flight of former Manchester City defender Aleksandar Kolarov’s driven shot but managed to get enough of a hand on it to divert it onto the crossbar.

But it was not long before the hosts had one of those passages of play which has become all too familiar to opposition teams.

They blew away City in the quarter-final with three goals in 19 first-half minutes and it is no exaggeration to suggest they could have put this tie beyond the visitors in the final 17 minutes before the interval.

Mane could have had a hat-trick, hitting two good chances over and having a sliding effort disallowed for offside, while Salah had a shot palmed away by Alisson having cut in from the right – a precursor of what was to come.

Liverpool FC, Roma FC, Football, Champions League

Roma did not heed the warning and a few minutes later Salah was again allowed to cut in and shape a trademark shot with his left foot.

He placed a curling shot in the only spot Alisson could not reach it, jamming it against the angle of post and crossbar on its way over the line.

It was a goal befitting of the occasion but Salah’s second was equally brilliant.

The unmarked Lovren headed over as Roma threatened to buckle under the pressure before the Egypt international struck in first-half added time.

His exquisite lay-off to Firmino saw the Brazilian storm through midfield before playing a wonderfully-weighted return pass which Salah took one touch to control before dinking a shot over Alisson – a finish of which Lionel Messi would have been proud.

After the break Salah turned provider, racing onto Trent Alexander-Arnold’s ball down the line to cross for Mane to turn home from close range.

When Alexander-Arnold and Salah combined again, the latter leaving Juan Jesus completely bamboozled, Firmino was the beneficiary from a couple of yards out.

Firmino’s header from a corner made it 5-0 but Dzeko’s neat finish and Perotti’s penalty gave Roma hope of repeating their brilliant quarter-final comeback at home to Barcelona.

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Donald Trump, U.S., Midterm Elections
US President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump has declared that if the Iranians “restart their nuclear programme, they will have bigger problems than they have ever had before”.

President Trump issued his warning alongside French President Emmanuel Macron in the Oval Office, where the two allies discussed the multinational nuclear agreement, the war in Syria and trade issues during a day of meetings at the White House.

President Trump was asked by reporters if he might be willing to stay in the Iran agreement on nuclear enrichment. He replied, “People know my views on the Iran deal. … It’s insane, it’s ridiculous. It should have never been made.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned the Trump administration that pulling out would undermine America’s talks with North Korea by proving the US reneges on its promises.

He said in an interview that if President Trump withdraws, Iran would “most likely” abandon the deal as well.

Speaking before President Trump’s comments with Mr Macron, Mr Zarif added that Iran would no longer be bound by the deal’s international obligations.

That would free Iran to resume enrichment activity beyond the limits imposed by the 2015 accord.

President Trump remains publicly undecided on the deal, saying on Tuesday “no one knows” what he will do at the deadline he set to determine America’s position.

But he reminded his French counterpart of what he sees as flaws in the agreement, which he said fails to address ballistic missiles or Iran’s activities in Yemen or Syria.

President Trump suggested he was open to “doing something” on the Iran agreement as long as it was done “strongly.”

He told Mr Macron, “We could have at least an agreement among ourselves very quickly”.

But when he was asked by reporters what that agreement would be, President Trump said, “You’ll find out.”

During the press conference, Mr Macron added that he and President Trump discussed pursuing a “new agreement” with Iran on the broader regional concerns, including Syria.

But it was not clear whether President Trump would be willing to keep the US in the current deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in the meantime.

US military and intelligence officials have urged the president not to pull out of the agreement, arguing it has halted Iran’s nuclear programme.

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Twitter, Data, Technology

Twitter has announced it is updating its privacy policy to show users what data it collects on them and how it is being used.

The refreshed policy will be rolled out ahead of the introduction of the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which gives greater power to users to control how their personal data is used.

It comes into effect on May 25, which Twitter said is when its new privacy policy will also go live.

In a blog post, Twitter’s data protection officer Damien Kieran said the company’s policy had been revised to ensure the “legalistic or technical language is as clear as possible”.

“We think it’s absolutely essential that you know exactly what we mean when we refer to location data or data from advertising partners,” he said.

Mr Kieran added that direct links to user privacy settings would now be woven throughout the policy.

“Here you can see what data Twitter has relating to your account and you can decide whether you want to share it or not,” he said.

“Over time, as we learn how people use these controls, we’ll continue to work to improve them and Twitter as a whole.”

The social media giant said it was also making its privacy policy “visually clear and easy to use”, and would make a plain text version of it available for users to download.

On May 25 when GDPR goes live, Twitter users will be shown a prompt that will confirm the platform’s updates are taking effect.

“We’ll also show you a simple chart that categorises the legal basis for the personal data we process,” Mr Kieran said.

“Specifically, you’ll be encouraged to review our updated policies in full. You’ll then be brought to your individual Settings and Privacy section, where we will ask you to review your key current settings.

“You can leave them all as they are, modify each, and learn more about any of the individual settings before making a change – the choice is entirely in your hands.”

Technology and internet companies have come under increased scrutiny over their data privacy policies following the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Many are now beginning to publicly announce their plans to adhere to GDPR ahead of its rollout.

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World Cup, Gianni Infantino

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has called for an emergency meeting of the governing body’s council to discuss a 25billion US dollars (€20.5billion) plan to overhaul the Club World Cup and set up a new national league.

Press Association Sport understands that the proposal, which was first revealed by The New York Times earlier this month, would see the current Club World Cup change from a seven-team tournament held every winter to a 24-team competition staged every fourth summer.

The first possible edition of the expanded tournament would be in 2021 and it would feature 12 European teams made up of the finalists from the four previous Champions Leagues and the four previous winners of the Europa League.

If, as likely, that did not add up to 12 different teams, the dozen would be completed by the next best-ranked teams according to UEFA. South America’s Copa Libertadores would provide four more teams and Africa, Asia and North America would get two places each, with the champions of the tournament host and the winner of a play-off between a South American club and the Oceania champions getting the last two spots.

The teams would be split into eight groups of three, with the winners of each group then entering a straight knock-out tournament. Each team, therefore, would play at least two games and the finalists would play five.

FIFA believes the 31 games could be played in 18 days but, perhaps most importantly, generate €2.5billion – a massive increase on the value of the current Club World Cup.

The details of Infantino’s new national league are sketchier but it is understood that the competition would involve leagues at confederation level – as UEFA and North and Central America’s CONCACAF region have already scheduled – with the eight best teams then progressing to an international knock-out tournament.

The first edition of the “Final 8” would be in 2021 and it would be worth a guaranteed €800million in broadcast rights, with subsequent quadrennial tournaments worth almost €3.5billion.

All of these figures, however, are based on a rights offer from a mystery consortium of investors, which is understood to include SoftBank, the Japan-based technology conglomerate.

Under the proposed agreement, FIFA would cede control and all revenue streams to the investors in return for a guaranteed lump sum. This would enable Infantino to repair the damage caused to the governing body’s bank balance by the 2015 corruption scandal and meet his 2016 election pledge of quadrupling the amount of development cash each member association receives – a timely boost ahead of his attempt to secure a second term as FIFA boss next year.

The plan, however, faces considerable opposition. When it was first raised at a FIFA Council meeting in the Colombian city of Bogota last month, UEFA representatives voiced their concerns about the new tournaments’ potential impact on Europe’s existing competitions and player burnout, while several councillors were annoyed that Infantino would not tell them more about the investors.

The president claimed he could not reveal more because he had signed a non-disclosure agreement with the group but said he wanted the council’s backing to continue negotiations with the investors, as they wanted an answer within 60 days.

This apparent need for haste is why Infantino has now written to the other members of the 35-strong FIFA Council asking for a rare, emergency meeting in the coming weeks. It is understood it has been tentatively scheduled for mid-May.

In a statement, a FIFA spokesperson said: “As agreed in Bogota during the last council meeting, the council members were given detailed information on the ongoing discussion with potential partners.

“A meeting with the confederations will take place in due course but no date has been set yet. Further consultation is also ongoing with the different stakeholders on potential changes to the FIFA Club World Cup.”

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A UN prosecution lawyer has urged appeal judges to convict former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on a second genocide count and increase his 40-year sentence for overseeing Serb atrocities during the Bosnian war to a life term.

Prosecutor Katrina Gustafson told a five-judge appellate panel at the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals that Karadzic “abused his immense power to spill the blood of countless victims”, adding: “Justice requires that he receive the highest possible sentence – a life sentence.”

As a two-day appeals hearing concluded, Karadzic’s lawyers said that not only should he not be convicted of a second genocide count, but the genocide conviction imposed by trial judges in 2016 for Karadzic’s role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre should be overturned on appeal.

Judges will probably take months to issue their appeals judgment.

Karadzic, 72, was convicted in March 2016 on 10 counts including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as the political mastermind behind Serb crimes in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzi. Photo: Yves Herman, pool photo via AP
However, he was acquitted of one genocide charge relating to a 1992 campaign to drive Croats and Muslims out of Serb-claimed areas in Bosnia.

Ms Gustafson said that crimes during the campaign – including murders, deportations and imprisoning people in inhumane conditions – were committed with genocidal intent by Karadzic and his forces who wanted to permanently remove non-Serbs.

Judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal repeatedly stopped short of convicting Serbs of genocide for their involvement in the campaign, most recently acquitting ex-Bosnian Serb military chief General Ratko Mladic, saying that the horrors do not amount to genocide.

Karadzic’s lawyer, Peter Robinson, urged the appeals judges not to depart from the jurisprudence.

Mr Robinson argued that all of Karadzic’s convictions should be overturned because of legal and procedural errors by trial judges and a new trial ordered.

“What happened in Prijedor, as well as the other municipalities, was horrible,” Mr Robinson said. “Crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed there but… it didn’t amount to genocide.”

The northern Bosnian municipality of Prijedor was the scene of some of the worst mistreatment of Muslims and Croats by Serbs in 1992.

Thousands were forced from their homes and many were imprisoned in camps where torture and killings were commonplace. Several Serbs have been convicted of crimes in the region.