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US judge sets bail of $1 million for police officer charged with George Floyd’s death

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(Last Updated On: June 9, 2020)

Derek Chauvin, a former US police officer was charged with the murder of George Floyd, whose death sparked protests in the country, the CBS News reported.

Disturbing footage released on social media shows Chauvin pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, the 46-year-old African-American man until he expired.

Derek made his first appearance court on Monday. A Minneapolis judge set an unconditional bail at A$1.25 million or $1 million with conditions.

According to reports, meeting the conditions would require Derek to surrender his firearms, not work in law enforcement or security in any capacity, and have no contact with the family of Floyd.

Chauvin, 44, appeared in Hennepin County court via a video feed Monday afternoon from the state’s maximum-security prison in Oak Park Heights, wearing an orange jumpsuit and a face mask, with his hands cuffed, the report noted.

The next court hearing was set for June 29.

Floyd’s death on May 25 has led to nationwide protests and calls to end police brutality and systemic racism in law enforcement.

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Israel’s new government begins, Netanyahu era ends

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(Last Updated On: June 14, 2021)

The first Israeli government in 12 years not led by Benjamin Netanyahu got down to business on Monday, with the former prime minister shying away from a handover ceremony with successor Naftali Bennett.

The right-wing leader’s record run in office ended on Sunday with parliament approving, by a razor-thin majority of 60-59, a new administration led by Bennett, a nationalist whose views mirror Netanyahu’s on many issues.

In Tel Aviv, thousands turned out to welcome the result, after four inconclusive elections in two years.

“I am here celebrating the end of an era in Israel,” said Erez Biezuner in Rabin Square.

“We want them to succeed and to unite us again,” he added, as flag-waving supporters of the new government sang and danced around him.

A combative Netanyahu, 71, said he would be back sooner than expected.

“If we are destined to go into the opposition, we will do so with our heads held high until we can topple it,” he told parliament before Bennett was sworn in.

The traditional handover ceremony was not scheduled at the prime minister’s office, where Netanyahu was expected to meet Bennett later on Monday to brief him on state matters.

The last time Netanyahu was unseated as Israel‘s leader, in 1999, he ended his first term in office with a glass of wine in his hand and affable words of welcome to then-Labour party leader Ehud Barak, who defeated him at the polls.

 

“Sour, grumpy, not stately – Trump-like until the final moment,” Yossi Verter, a political affairs commentator, wrote in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.

Asked why there would be no such scene now, Topaz Luk, a senior aide to Netanyahu, told Army Radio: “That’s just what happens.”

Netanyahu, he said, was “filled with motivation to topple this dangerous government as quickly as possible”. Luk declined to disclose Netanyahu’s comeback strategy, pointing only to the new administration’s slim margin of support in parliament.

Luk said the incoming government was receiving briefings from Netanyahu’s diplomatic and security advisers to ensure an orderly handover.

After holding its first meeting late on Sunday, Bennett’s new cabinet was invited for a traditional group photograph, showcasing incoming governments, at the official residence of President Reuven Rivlin.

With little in common other than a desire to unseat Netanyahu, the patchwork coalition of right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Arab parties largely plans to avoid sweeping moves on hot-button issues such as policy towards the Palestinians, and to focus instead on domestic reforms.

Palestinians were unmoved by the change of administration, predicting that Bennett, a former defence chief who advocates annexing parts of the occupied West Bank, would pursue the same right-wing agenda as Netanyahu.

Under the coalition deal, Bennett, a 49-year-old Orthodox Jew and high-tech millionaire, will be replaced as prime minister in 2023 by centrist Yair Lapid, 57, a popular former television host.

U.S. President Joe Biden congratulated Bennett and Lapid, saying he looked forward to strengthening the “close and enduring” relationship between the two countries.

Addressing parliament on Sunday, Bennett put Biden on notice that he would follow in Netanyahu’s footsteps in opposing any U.S. return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal abrogated by former President Donald Trump.

Netanyahu was Israel‘s longest-serving leader, and had served consecutive terms as prime minister since 2009.

He used his global stature to resist calls for Palestinian statehood, describing it as a danger to Israel‘s security. He sought to bypass the Palestinian issue by forging diplomatic deals with regional Arab states, on the back of shared fears of Iran and its nuclear programme.

But he was a divisive figure at home and abroad, weakened by repeated failure to clinch a decisive election victory, and by a corruption trial in which he has denied any wrongdoing.

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CENTCOM chief says Washington still mulling embassy safety plans

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(Last Updated On: June 14, 2021)

Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said this weekend that he has provided plans to secure the US embassy in Afghanistan with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin who is still deciding.

In an interview with Military Times, McKenzie said: “We’re in a back-and-forth process, refining them, so unfortunately right now, because of that, there’s not much more I can share with you about the development of those plans.

He went on to state that the US knows “with a high degree of certainty, that al-Qaeda and ISIS, and the version of ISIS that’s in Afghanistan — ISIS Khorasan is what we call it — they both have aspirations to attack the United States”.

“Long-standing, very public track record of wanting to attack our homeland, and the homelands of our partners as well in Europe and in other places. So, this is well established and well-documented from their own mouths.

“We believe that what has prevented these attacks from being developed, both from Afghanistan and from Syria as well over the last few years, is the pressure that’s been put on these groups.

“And so in Syria, for example, we and our SDF partners work very hard to keep that pressure on them so they don’t have — particularly ISIS — the ability to generate those attack plans because they’re busy scrambling around for their own survival,” he said.

“Sort of the same thing occurs in Afghanistan. So, what would concern me the most in the long term would be a future situation in Afghanistan where there wasn’t adequate pressure kept on these groups, because we know left unmolested that they are certainly going to rebuild, restrengthen themselves, and we have no reason to doubt they don’t mean what they say when they say, repeatedly and earnestly over the past few years, that they want to attack us in our homeland,” he said.

He highlited that the US was withdrawing from Afghanistan and that the only thing that will remain, “if we can protect it”, will be the US embassy and its diplomats.

Despite withdrawing, he again noted that Washington plans to the Afghan military from just over the horizon.

“We’re still going to support them with funding. We’re going to try very hard to support the Afghan air force over the horizon; some things will come out of the country to be worked on.

“We will do some televised remote advising with them as we go forward. All those things, we will continue to do that. I don’t want to minimize this, because I think they’re going to be tested, but we will continue to support them, just not in the way we are supporting them now.”

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Khalilzad says US ‘not leaving Afghanistan’ despite troop pullout

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(Last Updated On: June 14, 2021)

The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has said the United States will not abandon the war-torn country even after the withdrawal of its forces.

Addressing a press conference during his visit to Kazakhstan’s capital, Nur-Sultan on Sunday, Khalilzad said: “Our forces are leaving Afghanistan, but the United States is not leaving Afghanistan. We will work hard for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.”

“We will continue our security assistance, and we will continue our economic and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan,” he added.

This comes as concerns continue to grown around the uncertainty in Kabul amid a spike in violence and stalled peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan Republic.

In Nur-Sultan, Khalilzad said he regularly discusses Afghanistan with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative Zamir Kabulov, RFE\RL reported Monday.

“Russia and the United States are working well together in promoting peace in Afghanistan,” according to him.

Khalilzad is currently on a visit to the region in a drive to muster support for the peace process ahead of the US and NATO troops withdrawal, which is expected to be finalized by September 11.

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