Yujing Zhang, Chinese woman who entered Trump’s Mar-a-Lago pleads not guilty

FBI says Yujing Zhang was arrested at the Florida resort with mobile phones, a laptop and thumb drive carrying malware.
In this artist sketch, Yujing Zhang,  listens to a hearing on Monday, April 8, 2019, before federal Magistrate Judge William Matthewman in West Palm Beach [Daniel Pontet/AP Photo] 

In this artist sketch, Yujing Zhang, listens to a hearing on Monday, April 8, 2019, before federal Magistrate Judge William Matthewman in West Palm Beach [Daniel Pontet/AP Photo] [Daylife]

A Chinese woman charged with lying her way into US President Donald Trump‘s Florida resort last month entered a not guilty plea on Monday in federal court.

Yujing Zhang was formally indicted on Friday with making false statements to a federal officer and entering or remaining in a restricted area, charges that carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.

During her arraignment and detention hearing in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday, a federal prosecutor said Zhang could face more charges.

Federal Magistrate Judge William Matthewman refused to set bail for Zhang, saying there is an “extreme risk of flight” if she were released.

The FBI is examining whether Zhang has any links to intelligence agencies in China or political influence operations, two US government sources have told Reuters news agency.


Zhang was arrested on March 30 after Secret Service agents say she lied to gain access to the president’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago club. She carried two passports, four cellphones, a laptop, an external hard drive and a thumb drive carrying computer malware, agents said. In a later check of her hotel room, agents say, they found a device for detecting hidden cameras, more computer gear, $8,000 in cash and numerous debit and credit cards. She is not charged with espionage, but the FBI is still investigating.


Trump hotel under scrutiny for accepting payments

The Secret Service said Zhang gained access by telling an agent outside Mar-a-Lago that she was a member arriving for a swim. Agents say she wasn’t on the membership list, but a club manager thought Zhang might be a member’s daughter – about seven percent of Chinese nationals are named Zhang, that country’s third-most common surname. Agents then asked Zhang if the member was her father, but they say she did not answer definitively. They still admitted her.

Zhang’s story changed when she got inside, agents say, telling a front desk receptionist she was there to attend the United Nations Chinese American Association event scheduled for that evening. No such event was scheduled and agents were summoned. They say she became confrontational, so she was taken off the property and then to the local Secret Service office, undergoing about nine hours of questioning. She had arrived in the US two days earlier on a flight from Shanghai to Newark, New Jersey.

Her public defender, Robert Adler, suggested during last week’s hearing that Zhang may not have been lying but confused by the language barrier. But a Secret Service agent wrote in court documents that during questioning Zhang read and spoke English very well.

A Secret Service agent told Matthewman last week that when an agency analyst uploaded the malware found on Zhang’s thumb drive, it immediately began installing and corrupting his computer’s files. The Secret Service says when such tests are conducted the computer is not on any network, so no damage was done. Government analysts were still trying to determine the malware’s purpose.

Adler said wire records show Zhang paid $20,000 in February to Charles Lee, a Chinese national, for admission to the event. Lee ran the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association and was photographed at least twice with Cindy Yang, a Republican donor and former Florida massage parlor owner. She recently made news after it was learned she was promising Chinese business leaders that her consulting firm could get them access to Mar-a-Lago and mingle with the president.



Maine man, Kyle Long arrested on cross-country drive to confront Google execs

Police arrest a Waterville man for allegedly driving cross-country to confront Google officials after his YouTube channel was shut down. Claimed he would “get violent” if the confrontation didn’t go well, according to investigators.

PORTLAND, Maine — Police say a man from Maine drove cross-country to confront Google officials after his YouTube channel was shut down.

Investigators say Kyle Long was arrested in California with three baseball bats in the trunk of his car. They say the 33-year-old was on his way to Mountain View, California, which is where Google is based. Google owns YouTube.

The Waterville resident allegedly told police that he would get violent if his Google confrontation didn’t go well.

Long was arrested Sunday on suspicion of making criminal threats.

Trump threatens ‘national emergency’ over wall [when will he burn down the Reichstag?]

President Trump confirms he’s prepared to shut down the government for months or years

US President Donald Trump has said he could declare a national emergency to build a US-Mexico border wall without the approval of Congress.

It came after he met senior Democrats, who refused his requests for funding.

The stand-off has seen Mr Trump withhold support for a bill to fully fund the government until he gets money for the border wall.

He said he was prepared for the partial government shutdown – now in its third week – to last years.

Around 800,000 federal workers have been without pay since 22 December.

Trump aides and lawmakers will meet later on Saturday in a fresh bid to resolve the impasse.

What happened in Friday’s meeting with Democrats?

The Republican president initially gave a positive account of the 90-minute meeting at the White House, describing it as “very productive”.

But when asked whether he had considered using emergency presidential powers to bypass congressional approval of funding, Mr Trump said he had.

“I may do it. We can call a national emergency and build it very quickly. That’s another way of doing it.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (R) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (L) walk out of the West Wing,Democrats House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer walk out of the West Wing

“I’m very proud of doing what I’m doing,” the president added. “I don’t call it a shutdown, I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and safety of our country.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday’s meeting had been “contentious”, while Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said: “We told the president we needed the government open. He resisted.”

Can Trump declare a national emergency?

Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

Donald Trump says he can declare a “national emergency” and build his promised wall along the border without congressional approval. If that’s the case, the question becomes why he doesn’t go ahead and do that. Why put federal workers through the pain of forgoing pay and hamstring key government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, if he could bypass Democratic objections with the snap of his presidential fingers?

The answer is because the solution isn’t that simple. There are provisions of US law that allow the president to direct military construction projects during war or national emergency, but that money would have to come from Defence Department funds allocated by Congress for other purposes. Such a move may prompt Congress, including Republicans, to push back.

Then there’s the inevitable legal challenge from Democrats to such an exercise of presidential authority. Any presidential order to build a wall would be met by an equally imposing wall of court filings blocking its construction.

The president’s latest suggestions are best viewed as simply another attempt to gain the upper hand in negotiations with Democrats.

This may not be a threat, more a bluff.

What’s the background?

Democrats, who now hold the majority in the House, passed spending bills on Thursday to reopen the government, including $1.3bn (£1bn) of border security funds until 8 February.

But the legislation cannot take effect unless it passes the Republican-controlled Senate, where leader Mitch McConnell said his party would not back any measure without the president’s support.

The Kentucky senator called the Democratic budget “a time-wasting act of political posturing”.

In Friday’s news conference, Mr Trump also told reporters he might consider asking his cabinet to decline a $10,000 raise that is due to take effect because a pay freeze has expired as an inadvertent result of the shutdown.

The fiscal fiasco began when Congress and Mr Trump failed to reach an agreement over a budget bill in December.

The return of the woman Republicans love to hate

The Republicans had passed an initial funding bill including $5bn (£4bn) for the wall, when they still had a majority in the House, but they could not get the necessary 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate.

Two vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in 2020 – Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine – have broken ranks to back approving the budget and ending the shutdown.

graphic showing length of shutdowns since 1980

The White House is again floating the idea of a deal for “Dreamers” – immigrants who illegally entered the US as children.

Democrats want to ensure that these individuals are shielded from deportation, but have insisted that they will not support a deal over wall funding.

Vice-President Mike Pence told Fox News the deal was being “talked about”, but that Mr Trump said no deal was possible “without a wall”.

What does the partial shutdown mean?

  • About 25% of the US federal government has no funding
  • Nine departments have been affected, including Homeland Security, Justice, Housing, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and the Treasury
  • Native American tribes who receive substantial federal funding are struggling
  • National Parks have become hazardous without staff

#ShutdownStories: The impact of the government shutdown


Maine: Mark Penley, Suspect in South Paris double-murder of Heather Bickford and Dana Hill, had stalked, threatened couple

An affidavit released Friday details witness accounts of one of the victim’s fear of suspect Mark Penley, and mentions her plans to file an order of protection against him.

A Peru man charged with the double-murder of a couple found shot to death on New Year’s Day made his first court appearance Friday.

Mark Penley, 49, in cuffs and flanked by law enforcement, entered Oxford County court at about 2:30 p.m. Friday for an arraignment.

Penley is charged with the first-degree murders of Heather Bickford and Dana Hill, both 31, who were found dead Jan. 1 inside a South Paris apartment. He was arrested Thursday night at the Rumford Police Department.

According to an affidavit released Friday, police said Penley entered the apartment and shot Bickford – his ex-girlfriend – and Hill multiple times.

Penley called 911 to report the situation, police said, and court documents state that when police arrived they found Penley inside the apartment on the couch holding Bickford’s infant child and her 8-year-old daughter.

The affidavit detailed witness accounts of Bickford’s fear of Penley, and mentioned her plans to file an order of protection against him.

Witnesses listed in the court documents also detailed Penley’s jealousy of Bickford and Hill’s relationship, and his drawn out preparations to quote “blow his whole paycheck on bullets and kill them both.”

Shayanne Buck, ex-girlfriend of Mark Penley, told police Penley constantly issued threats toward Bickford. One threat issued was, “if I can’t have Heather, no one can have her.”

Colleen Elias tearfully remembered her childhood friend.

“[Bickford], I can say, was just what you would call a happy go lucky person,” Elias said. “[She] had this laugh that I wish I had recorded because everyone should hear it. She could make anyone laugh.”

Elias said Bickford and Hill were a happy couple.

“Dana was not in any way a negative part of Heather’s life,” she said. “They were very much in love and very happy together.”

Elias set up a GoFundMe to help both families cover expenses and take care of the children. As of Friday night it had reached half of its $10,000 goal.

Elias also organized a vigil to remember the couple, so that the community can grieve. It’s scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday in Moor Park in South Paris.

“The whole state of Maine is really a small town feel,” Elias said, “and for that reason I feel the community needs a place to go to express their emotions.”

Death of 19-year-old Alexie Adams: Six men plead guilty to providing a place for minors to consume alcohol

On the night of Alexie’s death by alcohol, she attended three parties starting around 8:30 p.m. Adams drank alcohol at all of the parties which were hosted by the six men who appeared in court Thursday.

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In a Bangor courtroom, prosecutors detailed the night 19-year-old Alexie Adams was found dead in a snowbank in Orono last year after a night of heavy drinking.

Six men who were UMaine students hosted parties where Adams drank alcohol on the night of her death. The six all pleaded guilty to charges in court on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.

On the evening of Feb. 3, 2018, Adams attended three parties beginning at approximately 8:30 p.m. Prosecutors say Adams drank alcohol at all of the parties that were hosted by the six men who appeared in court Thursday.

The first defendant, Matthew Greenlaw, hosted the first party Adams attended. He pleaded guilty to knowingly providing a place for minors to consume alcohol.

Greenlaw was sentenced to a  $500 fine.

The second defendant, who hosted the second party, was Blake Bickford. Bickford was also charged with knowingly providing a place for minors to consume alcohol.

Prosecutors say Bickford was the defendant that complied best with police, offering a voluntary interview and allowing police to take photos of the aftermath of his party in the early days of the investigation.

Prosecutors also say Bickford was very remorseful for his actions.

Prosecutors said there was also a 16-year-old at his apartment the night of Adam’s death.

Bickford will be sentenced to a fine of $1,220 to be paid by March 1. Bickford will spend the next few months speaking with high school seniors about the consequences of consuming alcohol.

“All I can say is my deepest remorse. I wish there was more I could have done that night to prevent what happened.” He said.

Christopher Dionne, Trevor Carter, Tristian Harvie and Ethan Smith also pleaded guilty to knowingly providing a place for minors to consume alcohol. They were the hosts of the third and final party of the night.

There were minors at this party as well, some as young as 15-years-old.

Prosecutors showed video from the party of Alexie Adams and others saying how intoxicated they were.

Dionne, Carter, Harvie and Smith were all given 50 hours of community service and a fine between $1,500 and $1,700.

Carter says that the incident has caused him a lot of anxiety but he wants to be a positive role model moving forward.

RELATED | Woman found dead in snowbank, police seeking answers

Judge Andersen said in Penobscot County District Court that the UMaine Students were not responsible for providing alcohol and cocaine to Alexie Adams and were not responsible for her death.

They were responsible for providing a place for minors to drink alcohol.

Decorated US Navy Seal Edward Gallagher accused of killing Iraqi citizens at random…

Chief Gallagher in a helicopterChief Gallagher has done eight tours of combat duty in the US Navy

A veteran US Navy Seal is accused of killing Iraqi civilians at random, stabbing to death a teenage prisoner and nearly a dozen other crimes.

Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher will plead not guilty when he appears at a hearing at a San Diego naval base, his lawyer said on Friday.

Prosecutors say the highly decorated sniper and medic killed innocent people during his eighth combat deployment.

The 19-year Navy combat veteran faces life in prison if found guilty.

Military investigators allege Chief Gallagher committed several crimes while in Mosul from February to September 2017, including the premeditated murder of a wounded Islamic State (IS) fighter around the age of 15.

Presentational grey line

He has been held in pre-trial confinement ahead of his criminal hearing, after prosecutors accused him of contacting witnesses.

His wife Andrea Gallagher has called the trial “an atrocity committed against America’s service members” and called upon President Donald Trump to intervene.

She, and handful of other supporters wearing “Free Eddie” shirts, cheered the combat veteran as he arrived at the courthouse in handcuffs on Friday.

Chief Gallagher arrived at court in handcuffs on FridayChief Gallagher arrived at court in handcuffs on Friday

Aaron Kahn, who said that he is a friend of the accused told CNN that “Eddie’s being demonised and not characterised as a good human being”.

He added that his service to his country is being “dismissed and not appreciated by the American public and government.”

Chief Gallagher 
Chief Gallagher denies all the charges against him

What is Chief Gallagher accused of?

According to the charges, Chief Gallagher allegedly stabbed a teenage IS fighter who had been wounded in an airstrike in May 2017.

Prosecutors say the wounded prisoner was being treated by medics from the Seal platoon that Chief Gallagher commanded when he allegedly attacked without any warning using a homemade knife.

He then had others take photos as he posed with the corpse and recited the Navy re-enlistment ceremony oath, prosecutors say.

A lawyer for Chief Gallagher said the fighter died from injuries sustained in the airstrike, and that his client is being falsely accused by Seals who wanted to get rid of their demanding platoon leader.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service Special Agent Joe Warpinski told the Associated Press that he had interviewed nine members of Seal Team 7, who said that the chief was known to fire indiscriminately into crowds of Iraqi civilians, and had shot and killed an old man and a girl from his sniper’s outpost.

At a hearing in November, prosecutors said the men under Chief Gallagher’s command considered him so deranged and bloodthirsty that they tampered with his sniper rifle to make it less accurate, and would fire warning shots to clear civilians from the area to protect them from him.

Chief Gallagher in a court sketchChief Gallagher wore his Navy uniform in court on Friday

Navy prosecutor Chris Czaplak said the chief had chosen “to act like the monster the terrorists accuse us of being”.

“He handed ISIS propaganda manna from heaven. His actions are everything ISIS says we are,” Mr Czaplak said, referring to the Islamic State.

The trial will begin on 19 February.

Maine: Skowhegan ‘armed and dangerous’ stabbing suspect Christopher Monroe on the loose; police looking for info

Skowhegan Chief David Bucknam said 32-year-old Christopher Monroe is being sought after an Alder Street stabbing early Tuesday morning.

Monroe is described as a black male, 6’2 inches tall and weighing approximately 160 lbs with short curly black hair.

Police say his last known address is Butler Court in Waterville. According to Bucknam, Monroe was last seen leaving the Alder Street residence with a woman in a red Chrysler Town and Country Van bearing Maine passenger plate: 6629UA.

Monroe is considered armed and dangerous and police say people should not approach him.

Bucknam said 29-year-old Christopher Hongo of Norridgewock was stabbed numerous times in the chest and neck area. Hongo underwent emergency surgery Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, at the Readington Fairview Hospital.

While his condition is unknown, police say his vital signs are stable.

Chief Bucknam asks anyone with knowledge of Monroe’s whereabouts to please contact Skowhegan Police Detective Michael Bachelder at 207-474-6908 or your local, County or State Law Enforcement agencies.

Pope Francis: US sex abuse scandal undermines Church’s credibility [really?!]

Pope Francis at a mass marking the World Day of Peace at the Vatican on 1 January 2019The Pope urges the US bishops to end internal bickering as they try to tackle the crisis

Pope Francis has said the credibility of the Catholic Church in the US has been severely damaged by the ongoing child sexual abuse scandal there.

Efforts to cover up the crimes had caused even greater harm, he said in a letter delivered to US bishops attending a retreat in Chicago.

He urged the bishops to end internal bickering and show unity as they tried to tackle the crisis.

The Pope’s comments on child abuse have grown stronger over time.

In an extensive letter released by the Vatican, the Pope says the “hurt caused” has generated “division and dispersion” within the ranks of US bishops.

“God’s faithful people and the Church’s mission continue to suffer greatly as a result of abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse, and the poor way that they were handled,” he wrote, adding bishops had “concentrated more on pointing fingers than on seeking paths of reconciliation”.

“Combating the culture of abuse, the loss of credibility, the resulting bewilderment and confusion, and the discrediting of our mission urgently demands of us a renewed and decisive approach to resolving conflicts,” the Pope wrote.

Attempts to restore the institution’s credibility must be based on rebuilding trust, he added.

Next month, US bishops will join their counterparts from across the world for an extraordinary meeting at the Vatican to find ways of tackling the crisis.

A report last year by a grand jury in Pennsylvania identified more than 1,000 victims abused by hundreds of priests over seven decades in that state alone.

In July of last year, the pontiff accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, one of the US Church’s most prominent figures, following allegations he had sexually abused a teenager.

In October, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington DC, stepped down over his handling of abuse cases.

Pope Francis called for “decisive action” when he was elected in 2013, but critics say he has not done enough to hold to account bishops who allegedly covered up abuse.

In late December, he urged priests who had offended to surrender to the law, in preparation for “divine justice”.

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Controversial tool emerges in opioid fight: fentanyl test strips

Test strip helps prevent fentanyl overdoses
Test strip helps prevent fentanyl overdosesTest strip helps prevent fentanyl overdoses 01:50

(CNN)A controversial tool has emerged in the fight against opioid overdose deaths. It’s a strip that allows people who use street drugs such as cocaine and heroin to test whether their drugs are laced with fentanyl.

If the drugs test positive, they might choose not to use them or choose to use less of them.
According to a new report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is now the deadliest drug in America and was linked to nearly 29% of all overdose deaths in 2016. The synthetic opioid is about 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine and produces a powerful high. It’s cheap and sometimes mixed into street drugs without the buyer even knowing. Given its potency, it can be deadly.
Fentanyl is the deadliest drug in America, CDC confirms

Fentanyl test strip technology was originally developed by a Canadian biotech company BTNX to test urine samples for the presence of the drug, but the strips work basically the same way when they’re dipped in the residue of cooked heroin or when a little water is added to empty baggies of cocaine.
It works like a pregnancy test in reverse. One line on the strip suggests that the drugs are positive for fentanyl. Two lines is interpreted as a negative result.
In a study, researchers at Johns Hopkins and Brown University determined that the test strips worked to detect even low concentrations of fentanyl in street drugs.
“Our findings bring to the table evidence that can inform a public health approach to the fentanyl crisis. Smart strategies that reduce harm can save lives,” Susan Sherman, a co-author on the study, said in a news release.
According to the study, several programs in the United States that distribute clean syringes to people who use drugs have started to distribute fentanyl test strips, as well.
This is fentanyl: A visual guide
In Los Angeles County, emergency departments, first responders and other heath care workers have been advised to discuss the potential risks and benefits of the strips with patients who use street drugs.
The test strips aren’t 100% effective at eliminating the risk of overdose, since they don’t identify all forms of fentanyl and can produce false negatives. They also don’t let users know how much fentanyl the drugs contain.
Still, the researchers see an opportunity to halt the increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths.
“We are at a pivotal moment in the overdose epidemic, and we need to embrace the full range of interventions that can save lives,” Sherman said.
In a video, the Urban Survivor’s Union, an organization that advocates on behalf of drug users, offers instructions on how to use the strips and what to do if the results are positive.
“Let’s say you had some drugs you were going to inject. … If it tests positive, you have options,” the video explains. “One, you can shoot half back into another sterile syringe, which may not only be life-saving but also cost-effective. Or two, you may even choose not to do it.”
The concept of drug checking has jarred some.
The Trump administration’s assistant secretary of Health and Human Services for mental Health and substance use, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, has expressed ardent opposition to the use of the fentanyl test strips.
In a blog post, Katz laid out several reasons. Among them is a concern that even if people who use drugs know that their drugs are laced with fentanyl, they will still use the drugs, despite the apparent danger. They might also use the strips to seek out drugs that contain fentanyl to achieve a stronger high.
“We can’t afford to create a false sense of security. … Let’s not rationalize putting tools in place to help them continue their lifestyle more ‘safely,’ ” McCance-Katz said.

Censorship: Netflix Pulls Episode of Hasan Minhaj’s Show for Criticizing Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi Killing

JAN 02, 2019

H8 minhaj mbs

Netflix is coming under fire for pulling an episode of U.S. comedian Hasan Minhaj’s show “Patriot Act” from Saudi Arabia, after officials from the kingdom complained to the streaming company. The episode, which became available in late October, a few weeks after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, was sharply critical of the Saudi royal family and, in particular, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Hasan Minhaj: ”MBS was shocked by all of the anger over the killing of one journalist. According to The Wall Street Journal, on a phone call with Jared Kushner, MBS asked, ‘Why the outrage?’ And frankly, MBS’s confusion is completely understandable. He has been getting away with autocratic [bleep] like this for years with almost no blowback from the international community.”

Minhaj slams the Saudi regime and the crown prince for their cover-up of Khashoggi’s killing, the persecution of women and human rights activists, and their central role in the ongoing war on Yemen. He also calls out the long-standing relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States, and skewers the Western portrayal of the crown prince as a modern reformer.