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Westlake Legal Group > News Releases (Page 138)

The 72-Hour War Over Christmas

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The first shot was fired in the middle of the afternoon in early October, back when the Appalachian leaves had barely turned orange and store shelves were lined with Halloween candy.

It came in the form of a nondescript event announcement on the city’s official Facebook page.

“The Charleston Winter Parade will begin at the corner of the Kanawha Boulevard and Capitol Street,” the post read.

For years, the city has put on an old-fashioned “Christmas Parade” each December in downtown Charleston. Marching bands, fire trucks, Shriners in their tiny cars and Santa in his red sleigh wind through the city streets with children chasing candy flung from floats decked out in holiday themes. Now, without any notification of a name change, officials were calling it a “Winter Parade.”

Charleston’s 72-hour war on Christmas was on.

Mayor Amy Goodwin didn’t see her decision to rename the parade as a war on anything. She thought the move would signal that this capital city situated along the Kanawha River was a place for people of all faiths and cultures. It was the same impulse that drove her when she first took office at the start of the year to invite Christian preachers, a rabbi, an imam along with people of other faiths to say prayers before City Council meetings. Renaming the parade was an extension of that open-door spirit, she believed.

“I wanted to show that Charleston is a welcoming and inclusive city,” she said.

That is not how many Charleston residents saw it.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164057352_4e23cedf-f24c-407d-93fb-399b691dc8f0-articleLarge The 72-Hour War Over Christmas Shriners Politics and Government Parades christmas CHARLESTON, W.Va.

Mayor Amy Goodwin, who was elected last year, said she “wanted to show that Charleston is a welcoming and inclusive city.”Credit…Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

“The new mayor needs to be voted out if she does away with the Christmas parade,” read one comment on the initial Facebook post. “Christmas is all about Christ, not some winter parade.”

A local lawyer and newspaper columnist, Mark Sadd, said he didn’t understand why the mayor needed to show the city as more welcoming. It wasn’t like there were a lot of complaints.

“A Christmas parade is about as inclusive as we can get,” he said.

Some people thought renaming the parade was an attack on Christianity and traditions held dear in a city of 48,000 that feels more like a small town.

But for some, it hit at something deeper. Replacing “Christmas” with “winter” was a shot against a way of life that had already changed so much in recent decades as the coal industry in the region collapsed, jobs in chemical manufacturing disappeared, shops closed and large numbers of people moved out of town altogether, leaving a place so different from the one longtime residents remember from their youth.

Across America, the mention of “Christmas” in holiday greetings and decorations has become another measure of political divisiveness.

Schools and government buildings have replaced Christmas trees and nativity sets with holiday lights and reindeer. Starbucks is just saying “Merry Coffee” this year.

President Trump has weighed in on several occasions with his support for the traditional seasonal greeting, occasionally casting his electoral victory as a seasonal win, too.

“I told you that we would be saying Merry Christmas again, right?” he said at a 2017 speech in Missouri.

In the hours after the mayor’s announcement, it seemed to many residents as though Charleston was going the same direction they believed Starbucks had — waging an assault on the holiday, and one that could affect the grades of 12-year-old trumpet players, a small and longtime community of Muslims, and Christians marking the season in poinsettia-lined pews.

City Council members learned about the name change the same way as most every other resident — from the Facebook post. Did we vote on that, asked Courtney Persinger, so sleep deprived from nighttime stirrings by a new infant he briefly wondered if he somehow missed an action by fellow council members.

But Ms. Goodwin had launched the change unilaterally, unaware of what she would unleash. Word about it quickly spread that day in early October, across Facebook and Twitter, church sanctuaries, classrooms and dining rooms.

People in the overwhelmingly white, Christian city talked about an insult to “the almighty Supreme Being.” Some said they had stopped watching N.F.L. games when players protesting police brutality and racial inequality knelt during the national anthem. Now, they felt a similar sense of revulsion about the parade name change.

“The community reaction was a collective groan,” said Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce in Charleston, explaining how a simple name change could elicit such outrage. “It’s a cute little parade with cute little kids and can’t we just have a Christmas parade?”

Caitlin Cook, a City Council member, got a call from her parents. “What’s going on?” they demanded, trying to grasp what was behind a decision to tinker with tradition. Other constituents were calling and texting with similar questions. Ms. Cook didn’t know what to tell them. She supported the move — she thinks Charleston needs to signal it’s a welcoming city — but was caught off guard by it.

The first afternoon when the name change was announced, Brandon Willard, a junior high band teacher, was scrolling through his phone at John Adams Middle School watching the negative comments about it pile up on social media. He recognized some commenters’ names as parents or relatives of his band students.

Mr. Willard thought about his musical selection for his students in the parade this year: Sleigh Ride. It was secular. But with all the outcry, Mr. Willard worried that parents would pull their children in protest and leave him lacking enough musicians to play it.

That would be a big disappointment to the students, who march every year in Santa hats and with decorated instruments. Mr. Willard had even ordered light-up necklaces for this parade. The parade also counted toward their grade. Concerned about the fallout on his band, he tracked down the principal.

“We are going to need to have a plan,” Mr. Willard told him.

The whole city seemed to be talking about the name change. An idea circulated to boycott the event and instead attend the Christmas parade in nearby South Charleston. The issue came up at the church youth group attended by Ms. Goodwin’s 15-year-old son. He arrived home that evening and assured his mother all the teenagers supported her.

“You’re totally good on this,” the mayor recalled him telling her.

But outrage continued to mount. People pored over the rules put in place by the shopping mall that sponsors the parade. One stated that religious-themed floats were banned. That rule had been on the books for years, officials said, but amid the anger over the new parade name it took on new meaning and inspired a new round of vitriol when people started sharing it on social media.

The next day on the city’s largely African-American West Side, Rev. Matthew J. Watts kept bumping into congregants from his Grace Bible Church who were upset about the mayor’s decision. He didn’t like it either. The small black population in Charleston has long felt shunned by government officials, Mr. Watts said. This was on another level. This time it felt like the mayor was shunning Jesus.

To Mr. Watts, who has lived in Charleston for 41 years, it was a painful reminder that America was becoming more secular and that the Christian church was losing the influence it once had.

“I’m a traditionalist, and I grew up with a strong background of celebrating the birth of Christ,” he said.

Ms. Goodwin was busy with a packed agenda. There were “7,000 kids in foster care, people dying every day from opioid overdoses,” as she put it, plus the normal tasks of mothering two teenage boys. She recalled being in a meeting at city hall when a staff member approached her and calmly explained, “There’s some pushback on the parade.”

She had been in office barely 10 months. Her election had already brought about major change: She is Charleston’s first female mayor. And unlike the last mayor, who served for 16 years, she wasn’t a lifelong community resident. She was raised in Wheeling, 180 miles away.

“She didn’t come to Charleston until I was 45 years old,” said Ms. Goodwin’s mayoral predecessor, Danny Jones.

Mr. Jones, a Charleston native, who said he moved away only long enough to serve in the United States Marine Corps in the Vietnam War, rarely missed a Christmas Parade when he was little. The city center back then was a miniature Chicago, he said. Sparkling shop windows were lined with toys that he would try to convince his mother to buy for their Christmas tree. Shoppers with bags hustled along crowded sidewalks downtown.

“Now,” he said, “it’s not so much.”

On a recent afternoon, sidewalks there were almost empty. So was downtown’s Town Center Mall, which sponsors the parade. It has just one anchor store, J.C. Penney, after Sears and Macy’s moved out, leaving darkened windows across from the Frosty Forest display where Santa will greet children.

To Mr. Jones, Ms. Goodwin represents a more progressive, and a more urban, way of life, not the small-town one that is so familiar to him.

“To want to change the name of the Christmas Parade is very urban,” Mr. Jones said. “It’s a big city thing.”

For the Republican State Senate president, Mitch Carmichael, it was a liberal thing. Late on the second evening of the battle of the “winter parade,” he released a blistering statement in opposition to the name change.

“It is clear, these radicals have no interest in our Christmas traditions or in following our United States Constitution,” Mr. Carmichael said. “We are calling on Mayor Goodwin and her liberal allies to end this madness and allow our citizens to freely and fully exercise their Freedom of Religion with a CHRISTMAS PARADE.”

The Republican state attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, piled on, turning to Twitter to call the mayor’s decision “political correctness run amok” and telling her to “reverse course.”

The state capitol, just a few blocks away from Charleston’s city hall, had itself been the site of controversy earlier this year. In March, on “West Virginia G.O.P. Day,” when party members set up booths inside the capitol dome, a group calling itself ACT For America displayed a large poster depicting Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat and the first Muslim woman elected to Congress, juxtaposed with the burning World Trade Center.

A fracas broke out over the display.

The incident, said Ibtesam Sue Barazi, vice president of the local Islamic Association, “gave us the most heartache.”

Ms. Barazi, who has lived in Charleston since 1975 when she arrived from Damascus, Syria, said she thinks anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric has been on the rise since the 2016 presidential election.

“People have been given a right to declare their hate,” she said.

When Ms. Barazi heard about the parade name change, she welcomed it as a sign the mayor was trying to heal wounds and make Charleston a more inclusive city. The parade name, though, had never stopped her from bringing her children to watch the police kick off the parade and to marvel at the floats.

For two full days, Hoppy Kercheval had been hearing about the name change at the studio where he broadcasts Talkline, a popular statewide morning radio talk show. He sat down to write a story for the station’s website.

“Was this really a problem? Was city hall deluged with taxpaying citizens who viewed the Christmas parade as not inclusive?” Mr. Kercheval wrote in the column posted shortly after midnight. The decision, he argued, “has created a division where none existed.”

By early morning of the third day after the announcement, Fox News had picked up the story.

The criticism exploded onto a national stage, and allies of the mayor decided to show her their support.

Rabbi Victor Urecki had welcomed the parade name change as good for Charleston, home to about 250 Jewish families. Still, as a minority here and in other communities where he has lived, the rabbi had long ago learned, he said, that “there are certain things you grow to understand that’s the way they are, certain things you’re not going to push too hard on.”

“I texted her and told her I’m with you whatever decision you want to make,” he said.

The mayor phoned him back to tell him she was considering retreat. By 10 a.m. on Oct. 10, the third morning after the announcement, Mr. Kercheval’s radio show had become the theater of war.

Mr. Jones, the ex-mayor, phoned in to demand Ms. Goodwin reverse her decision. Two hours later, Ms. Goodwin herself called in with an announcement.

“It has been an amazing process, an enlightening process the last two days,” she began. “I will say the type of vitriol, the kind of vitriol that has come forth since we announced this suggested change has actually been really hurtful and disappointing. But let me say this: I respect everyone’s individual freedoms to bring that to my doorstep.”

The Winter Parade was no more, she announced. The Christmas Parade was back on.

“Everybody is going to be happy again,” Mr. Kercheval told her.

And for the most part, it seemed like everyone was. People wrote supportive comments on the mayor’s Facebook page, thanking her for changing her mind. “I appreciate a politician that listens. Well done!” one comment said. Mr. Jones praised her for the reversal. So did the attorney general. Muslim community leaders said they appreciated the mayor’s efforts, regardless.

“We and our Jewish brothers and sisters as well, we will continue to support it. We respect the right to celebrate Christmas as they see it should be. We as Muslims continue to cherish Jesus as a prophet,” said Ms. Barazi, from the Islamic association.

But some were still grumbling, chiefly a local unit of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine called the Beni Kedem Shriners. Every year the men hop into tiny cars or golf carts for the parade, some in clown suits, tossing candy to children lining the route. One member, a retired police officer, is a parade staple, drawing huge cheers as he wields a giant sword to a musical score.

As part of her changes to the parade, the mayor had also moved the date this year from a weekend morning to a weekday night. She hadn’t retreated on that. But parade night happens to conflict with the Shriners’ long-ago scheduled regular business meeting, said Johnny Miller, the group’s recorder.

“This will be the first time in years,” he said, “that we haven’t been there.”

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Saints beat Falcons to clinch NFC South title

ATLANTA — Taysom Hill’s rare moment in the spotlight came in an important game for the New Orleans Saints.

CONTRACT APPROVED FOR SUPERDOME OVERHAUL

Hill blocked a punt to set up his 3-yard touchdown catch before scoring again on a 30-yard run, and the New Orleans Saints clinched their third straight NFC South title by beating the Atlanta Falcons 26-18 on Thursday night.

Hill stole the show on a roster filled with more established stars.

Westlake Legal Group AP19333179248493 Saints beat Falcons to clinch NFC South title fox-news/sports/nfl/new-orleans-saints fox-news/sports/nfl fnc/sports fnc Associated Press article 3e0f3c39-ab33-5cb0-bfa3-486b1b266fab

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees eats a drumstick after defeating the Atlanta Falcons 26-18. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

“When you have guys like Mike Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook, the list goes on, it kind of creates opportunities for little old me because it creates so much attention that’s put on those guys,” Hill said.

“Coach (Sean Payton) is one of the best at being creative and putting guys in positions to be successful. I got lucky because I was that guy tonight.”

The Saints (10-2) atoned for their 26-9 home loss to the Falcons on Nov. 10, their only defeat in the last 10 games.

With Julio Jones inactive due to a shoulder injury, the Falcons had too little offense to keep pace with Drew Brees and the Saints. Atlanta recovered two onside kicks in the closing minutes, including one with 1:54 remaining, to make things interesting.

Matt Ryan was sacked by Cameron Jordan on a fourth-down play from the New Orleans 44 with 38 seconds remaining. Ryan was sacked nine times, including four by Jordan.

“We had to drop back and pass at the end of the game,” Ryan said. “When you do that and there’s really no threat of run, it’s tough sledding, particularly when you’re going against a good defense, a very good defensive line and one of the better pass rushers in the game in Cam Jordan.”

The versatile Hill blocked Ryan Allen’s punt to end Atlanta’s first possession. The Saints took over at the Falcons 30, and four plays later Hill scored his first touchdown on a short pass from Brees.

Hill took a direct snap and ran 30 yards for his first rushing touchdown of the season to give New Orleans a 17-6 lead late in the first half.

“If I can step on the field eight to 10 to 15 times, whatever that number is, my goal is to add a spark whenever I can,” Hill said. “I love to be able to go in and add some energy.”

The disappointing Falcons (3-9) solidified their hold on last place in the division with their second straight home loss.

Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman returned after missing two games with a foot sprain. Freeman ran for 51 yards on 17 carries.

Ryan committed three second-half turnovers — two interceptions and a lost fumble. Saints nose tackle Shy Tuttle and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson had interceptions.

Ryan fumbled in the fourth quarter when hit by Marcus Davenport. Vonn Bell’s recovery set up Will Lutz’s fourth field goal, from 45 yards.

Eli Apple’s 22-yard pass-interference penalty helped extend an Atlanta drive that ended with a fourth-down incompletion from the Saints 2.

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Apple drew another pass interference call, this one a 35-yarder, and on the next play Ryan found tight end Jaeden Graham for an 18-yard touchdown pass that cut the Saints’ lead to 7-6, following Younghoe Koo’s missed extra point.

Koo also missed a 42-yard field goal before making a 45-yarder with 3 seconds remaining in the first half. Koo was good from 43 yards late in the game.

Westlake Legal Group AP19333179248493 Saints beat Falcons to clinch NFC South title fox-news/sports/nfl/new-orleans-saints fox-news/sports/nfl fnc/sports fnc Associated Press article 3e0f3c39-ab33-5cb0-bfa3-486b1b266fab   Westlake Legal Group AP19333179248493 Saints beat Falcons to clinch NFC South title fox-news/sports/nfl/new-orleans-saints fox-news/sports/nfl fnc/sports fnc Associated Press article 3e0f3c39-ab33-5cb0-bfa3-486b1b266fab

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Hong Kong Police End 2-Week Campus Siege

Westlake Legal Group 29hongkong1-facebookJumbo Hong Kong Police End 2-Week Campus Siege Kowloon (Hong Kong) Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Polytechnic University Hong Kong

HONG KONG — The police returned control of Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s campus to school officials on Friday, bringing to an end one of the most intense periods of conflict since protests began to engulf the city earlier this year.

The police, who arrested hundreds of people during their two-week siege of the campus, said they found no protesters there during a final search on Friday morning. Investigators found nearly 4,000 firebombs on the campus over the past two days, as well as other explosive items and bottles of corrosive liquids, the police said.

The siege, which was punctuated by days of clashes between the police and protesters, ended quietly as university officials resumed control of the shattered campus on the southeastern side of the Kowloon Peninsula.

There will not be “any ceremony or event to shake hands or stuff like that,” Chow Yat-ming, an assistant police commissioner, said Friday morning before officers left the campus.

The protests began in June over legislation, since withdrawn, that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China. It has continued over other issues, including calls for expanded elections and an investigation into the police’s use of force.

Hong Kong universities became the centers of especially large protests this month after the death of a student, Chow Tsz-lok, who fell from a parking garage during a police operation.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong was occupied by protesters for five days in mid-November, and several other schools saw large demonstrations. Many campuses cut their semesters short because of the unrest.

Protesters also set fire to tollbooths near the campus, leading to the two-week closure of a major tunnel linking the Kowloon Peninsula with Hong Kong Island.

The police said more than 5,800 people had been arrested in connection with the protests since early June, including nearly 1,500 people over the past two weeks.

Polytechnic University and the streets around it saw large-scale clashes between riot police officers and protesters who were trying to help others flee the besieged campus. The police fired more than 1,400 tear gas rounds on Nov. 18 alone, as large numbers of protesters tried to break through the police cordon around the school.

Protesters hurled bricks and firebombs at the police, and at one point an armored police vehicle was engulfed in flames. One officer was hit in the leg with an arrow.

Some protesters managed to escape the campus by jumping fences when the police were not watching. In one dramatic moment, a few rappelled onto a roadway and were taken away by people on motorcycles. Others tried but failed to escape through sewers.

The police detained about 1,100 people near the campus on Nov. 18 and 19.

The protests in Hong Kong quieted dramatically in the days before Sunday, when elections were held for district councils across the city. Pro-democracy candidates dominated the vote, which had been seen as a referendum on the protest movement, taking 87 percent of the seats.

On Wednesday, President Trump signed legislation that authorized sanctions on officials deemed responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong. Demonstrators in Hong Kong celebrated that legislation with a peaceful gathering Thursday night.

Ezra Cheung and Elaine Yu contributed reporting.

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New York Times columnist’s Republican brother pens column blasting 2020 Dems, praising Trump

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_5125599573001_caeeaa22-3ecf-4982-b650-a3dc45c48369 New York Times columnist’s Republican brother pens column blasting 2020 Dems, praising Trump fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc Edmund DeMarche article a89e5ee0-f589-5213-8147-ee44a365a139

And you thought there was tension at your Thanksgiving table.

Once a year, Maureen Dowd, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at the New York Times, allows her Republican brother Kevin Dowd to take over her column and opine about anything that he sees as a matter of importance. This year, he laid out his argument for President Trump’s second term and what he sees as a flawed Democratic field.

To say his sister is no fan of Trump could be an understatement. Some of her most recent columns were titled, “Impeaching the Peach One,” “Blowhard on the Brink” and “A Down and Dirty White House.”

But her brother seems to see things differently. He began his column by pointing out that readers have asked his sister how it is possible that he can still support the president. He responded, “Have you looked at the alternative?”

Kevin Dowd praised Trump over his handling of Iran and North Korea and pointed to economic gains seen during his presidency. He praised Trump for supporting law enforcement and criticized 2020 candidates – Michael Bloomberg in particular—for “apologizing” for reducing crimes in big cities. Bloomberg has apologized for employing stop-and-frisk during his tenure as the mayor of New York City and then defended the practice after he left office.

He said Trump may be a bully at times, but overall he’s been “pleasantly surprised that he has done exactly what he promised despite a hostile press.” He went on to criticize the media over its attempt to “valorize” bureaucrats taking part in the impeachment inquiry armed with second and third-hand information. He said, “if these people were that conflicted, they should have quit.”

He called the inquiry into the allegation that Trump withheld military funding from Ukraine in an attempted quid pro quo a “farce,” and said he thinks all “aid is a quid pro quo.”

“The Democrats have never recovered from the 2016 election when they nominated the worst candidate in political history and lost to a political novice,” he wrote.

Maureen Dowd wrote something of a disclaimer at the beginning of the column and it appears her brother is not the only GOP supporter in the family. She wrote that her sister admires Rep. Jim Jordan.

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“My sister thinks Jim Jordan is hot,” she wrote. “Well, she didn’t say “hot” exactly, but the words “admire,” “forceful,” and fighter have been thrown around.”

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_5125599573001_caeeaa22-3ecf-4982-b650-a3dc45c48369 New York Times columnist’s Republican brother pens column blasting 2020 Dems, praising Trump fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc Edmund DeMarche article a89e5ee0-f589-5213-8147-ee44a365a139   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_5125599573001_caeeaa22-3ecf-4982-b650-a3dc45c48369 New York Times columnist’s Republican brother pens column blasting 2020 Dems, praising Trump fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc Edmund DeMarche article a89e5ee0-f589-5213-8147-ee44a365a139

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Washington Post restaurant critic exposed husband’s affair, woman says

Westlake Legal Group restaurant-table Washington Post restaurant critic exposed husband’s affair, woman says New York Post fox-news/food-drink/food/restaurants fnc/food-drink fnc article 99720afe-943d-56f2-a7b3-b1a01b97aa1b

A Washington Post food critic unwittingly became embroiled in a married man’s affair when the cheater was photographed dining with his mistress in a recent restaurant review, his alleged wife is claiming.

The revelation was made on Wednesday during a weekly online Q&A with the Post’s Tom Sietsema when an unnamed woman claimed her husband was photographed with a mystery woman in the critic’s most recent restaurant review.

“Well Tom your latest review is accompanied by a picture of my husband dining with a woman who isn’t me!” the woman wrote.

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“Once confronted with photographic evidence, he confessed to having an ongoing affair.”

“Just thought you’d be amused to hear of your part in the drama.” she added. “This Thanksgiving I’m grateful to you for exposing a cheat!”

Sietsema was stunned, and a little dubious, before pleading the fifth.

“Please, please, please tell me this is a crank post. I’d hate to learn otherwise,” he wrote.

“I file two reviews a week, for Food and the Magazine, so I’m not sure which restaurant this is.”

Sietsema, who has been a food critic with the Post since 2000, later addressed the furor on Twitter, writing: “Cheaters, take heed!”

Click for more in The New York Post

Westlake Legal Group restaurant-table Washington Post restaurant critic exposed husband’s affair, woman says New York Post fox-news/food-drink/food/restaurants fnc/food-drink fnc article 99720afe-943d-56f2-a7b3-b1a01b97aa1b   Westlake Legal Group restaurant-table Washington Post restaurant critic exposed husband’s affair, woman says New York Post fox-news/food-drink/food/restaurants fnc/food-drink fnc article 99720afe-943d-56f2-a7b3-b1a01b97aa1b

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3 Islamic State-inspired militants sentenced for Christmas 2016 plot in Australia

Three men, who were inspired by the Islamic State group, were given lengthy sentences Friday for plotting a Christmas 2016 attack in Australia’s second largest city, a published report said.

The men, Ahmed Mohamed, Abdullah Chaarani and Hamza Abbas, were preparing a mass attack involving explosives and knives at Federation Square, a popular downtown restaurant and entertainment precinct in Melbourne, The Associated Press reported.

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Justice Christopher Beale, seated at the Supreme Court of Victoria, said Chaarani, 29, and Mohamed, 27, must serve at least 28 years and six months in prison for their parts in the plot.

Westlake Legal Group 8bffbed0-sentencing-cropped-1210am 3 Islamic State-inspired militants sentenced for Christmas 2016 plot in Australia Jack Durschlag fox-news/world/world-regions/australia fox-news/world/terrorism fox news fnc/world fnc article 714a8bbe-62e1-5347-a283-bcccd430dfc9

In this composite image of Hamza Abbas, left, Ahmed Mohamed and Abdullah Chaarani, right, arrive at the Supreme Court of Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. Mohamed, Chaarani and Abbas were given lengthy prison sentences over preparing a mass attack around Christmas 2016 involving explosives and knives at Federation Square, a popular downtown restaurant and entertainment precinct in Melbourne. (James Ross/AAP Image via AP)

Meanwhile, Hamza Abbas, 24, who was involved in the conspiracy for a shorter period, was jailed for 22 years with a non-parole period of 16 years and six months, the AP reported.

“Each of you, to a greater or lesser degree, accessed materials on the internet supportive of Islamic State and violent jihad. Their views became so warped they had come to believe the mass slaughter of innocent civilians would be a glorious act, pleasing to Allah.”

— Justice Christopher Beale, Supreme Court of Victoria

“The stupidity of that belief was only matched by its malevolence,” he added.

CONAN, DOG INJURED IN AL BAGHDADI RAID, HONORED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP AT WHITE HOUSE

Self-confessed ringleader Ibrahim Abbas was sentenced last year to 24 years in prison. He served as a prosecution witness against his brother Hamza Abbas and co-conspirators Mohamed and Chaarani, the AP reported.

Last month, at a plea hearing before Beale, Mohamed and Chaarani claimed they had renounced Islamic State and had worked toward deradicalization since being arrested on Dec. 22, 2016, the report said.

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At Friday’s sentencing, Beale accepted the three men were on the path to rehabilitation.

This is the second terrorism conviction for Mohamed and Chaarani, who are already serving 22-year prison terms for firebombing a Shiite mosque in Melbourne just weeks before the planned Christmas attack.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group sentencing-cropped-1210am 3 Islamic State-inspired militants sentenced for Christmas 2016 plot in Australia Jack Durschlag fox-news/world/world-regions/australia fox-news/world/terrorism fox news fnc/world fnc article 714a8bbe-62e1-5347-a283-bcccd430dfc9   Westlake Legal Group sentencing-cropped-1210am 3 Islamic State-inspired militants sentenced for Christmas 2016 plot in Australia Jack Durschlag fox-news/world/world-regions/australia fox-news/world/terrorism fox news fnc/world fnc article 714a8bbe-62e1-5347-a283-bcccd430dfc9

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Beijing threats over bill supporting Hong Kong ’laughable,’ China expert says

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6110092682001_6110094991001-vs Beijing threats over bill supporting Hong Kong ’laughable,’ China expert says fox-news/world/world-regions/hong-kong fox-news/person/donald-trump fox news fnc/politics fnc Edmund DeMarche b9b96b2e-374c-54fb-abb2-6b787971ec18 article

Gordon Chang, the author of “The Coming Collapse of China,” said Thursday that Beijing’s threats of taking “countermeasures” over the U.S. law backing the protests in Hong Kong are “laughable” and is in no position to “anger its best customer” as its economy slumps.

Beijing was quick to admonish President Trump and Congress for passing two bills aimed at supporting human rights in Hong Kong.  The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement that the bills will only “strengthen the resolve of the Chinese people, including the Hong Kong people, and raise the sinister intentions and hegemonic nature of the U.S,” and promised  vague “countermeasures.”

Chang said in an email that anything Beijing can do “will hurt itself more than us, and given how close its economy is to the edge of the cliff the regime could end up doing itself in by retaliating.”

He continued, “For four decades, we were told by elites and policymakers that we could not afford to upset China. Wednesday, President Trump did what his predecessors would not do—defend America from a China that is going after us. The same power that is encroaching on Hong Kong’s autonomy is attacking our society across the board.”

Hong Kong, a former British colony that was granted semi-autonomy when China took control in 1997, has been rocked by six months of sometimes violent pro-democracy demonstrations after an extradition bill surfaced last summer that– if passed– would have sent alleged criminals in Hong Kong to China for trial.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., requires that the U.S. conducts yearly reviews into Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing. If ever found unsatisfactory, the city’s special status for U.S. trading could be tossed.

Up until Wednesday’s announcement, Trump did not indicate whether or not he would sign the bill. Secretary of  State Mike Pompeo refused to answer a reporter’s question about the president’s leanings as recent as Tuesday.

“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong,” Trump said in a statement. “They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all.”

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., requires that the U.S. conducts yearly reviews into Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing. If ever found unsatisfactory, the city’s special status for U.S. trading could be tossed.

The bills were applauded by protesters who see them as a warning to Beijing and Hong Kong.

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“In any event, let the Chinese huff and puff over the bills President Trump signed,” Chang wrote. “Wednesday was a great day for America, and a great day for free societies across the world.”

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6110092682001_6110094991001-vs Beijing threats over bill supporting Hong Kong ’laughable,’ China expert says fox-news/world/world-regions/hong-kong fox-news/person/donald-trump fox news fnc/politics fnc Edmund DeMarche b9b96b2e-374c-54fb-abb2-6b787971ec18 article   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6110092682001_6110094991001-vs Beijing threats over bill supporting Hong Kong ’laughable,’ China expert says fox-news/world/world-regions/hong-kong fox-news/person/donald-trump fox news fnc/politics fnc Edmund DeMarche b9b96b2e-374c-54fb-abb2-6b787971ec18 article

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US House Panel Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

Westlake Legal Group Jxc20wQCZUyAmtUhMtwcNmoCgR_byM2g4BOTDMjuWjk US House Panel Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Bill r/politics

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Italy police uncover plot to form new Nazi party, authorities say

Italian police said Thursday that they had seized weapons and far-right propaganda material from the homes of 19 suspected extremists who were hoping to form a Nazi party in the country.

The Polizia di Stato said that searches had taken place in 16 cities and towns, including Milan, Genoa, Livorno, Turin, Padua and Verona.

It was not immediately clear how many people, if any, were arrested and police gave no estimate of how many people were members of the self-styled Italian National Socialist Workers Party.

Westlake Legal Group weapons720 Italy police uncover plot to form new Nazi party, authorities say Samuel Chamberlain fox-news/world/world-regions/italy fox-news/world/world-regions/europe fox-news/world/world-politics fox news fnc/world fnc article 8adc74df-d74e-50d5-a40a-aa0eeffad5a7

Some of the weapons and other items seized in the raids. (Twitter/Polizia di Stato)

Authorities said the raids, dubbed “Operation Black Shadows,” stemmed from “the monitoring of extreme right-wing local groups all united by the same ideological fanaticism and intending to constitute a pro-Nazi, xenophobic and anti-Semitic movement.” They added that some suspects “had a vast amount of weapons and explosives at their disposal” while others tried to recruit new members by posting anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying material on social media.

The Italian news agency ANSA identified a senior member of the group as a 50-year-old woman from Padua who police say called herself “Hitler’s Sergeant Major” in private group chats. Another reported suspect is a 26-year-old woman from Sicily who won an online “Miss Hitler” beauty contest and spoke at a far-right conference in Lisbon this past August.

GERMAN CITY OF DRESDEN DECLARES IT HAS ‘NAZI EMERGENCY’

Police identified one suspect as a former convict believed to be a senior figure in the ‘Ndrangheta mafia and a former member of the Forza Nuova (New Force) far-right party.

Authorities said the group had made contact with far-right parties in Portugal, Britain and France.

It is illegal under Italian law to try to revive fascist parties or practice “defense of fascism.”

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A survey published last week by the Anti-Defamation League found that 18 percent of Italians held anti-Semitic attitudes, down from 29 percent in 2015. However, activists say anti-Semitic attacks in Italy are on the rise, especially online.

Westlake Legal Group ItalyNazis2 Italy police uncover plot to form new Nazi party, authorities say Samuel Chamberlain fox-news/world/world-regions/italy fox-news/world/world-regions/europe fox-news/world/world-politics fox news fnc/world fnc article 8adc74df-d74e-50d5-a40a-aa0eeffad5a7

Nazi flags, books and other paraphernalia were among the items seized.   (Polizia di Stato)

The Milan-based Center of Contemporary Jewish Documents’ Observatory on Anti-Jewish Prejudice said it had received reports of 190 anti-Semitic incidents through the first nine months of this year, 120 of them on social media. That compares with 153 anti-Semitic incidents for all of 2018 and 91 for all of 2017.

Earlier this month, 89-year-old senator-for-life Liliana Segre, a Holocaust survivor, was given police protection after revealing that she received 200 social media attacks each day. Segre had called for the creation of a parliamentary committee to combat hate, racism and anti-Semitism. Parliament approved her motion — but without votes from Italy’s three main right-wing parties.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group ItalyNazis2 Italy police uncover plot to form new Nazi party, authorities say Samuel Chamberlain fox-news/world/world-regions/italy fox-news/world/world-regions/europe fox-news/world/world-politics fox news fnc/world fnc article 8adc74df-d74e-50d5-a40a-aa0eeffad5a7   Westlake Legal Group ItalyNazis2 Italy police uncover plot to form new Nazi party, authorities say Samuel Chamberlain fox-news/world/world-regions/italy fox-news/world/world-regions/europe fox-news/world/world-politics fox news fnc/world fnc article 8adc74df-d74e-50d5-a40a-aa0eeffad5a7

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The left smells a rat in Bloomberg, Patrick bids – Progressives charge latecomer candidacies are an attempt to crush an ascendant left wing.

Westlake Legal Group IxYNkm-WxLwejEu8vOXkHWZTUCLwZDy55zlj7bUnPRc The left smells a rat in Bloomberg, Patrick bids - Progressives charge latecomer candidacies are an attempt to crush an ascendant left wing. r/politics

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