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Donald Trump’s defense team starts telling senators why he is NOT guilty 

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Donald Trump‘s defense team begins their case for the president’s acquittal on Saturday after Democrats spent three days outlining their arguments for impeachment.

The president laid out their attack line in a tweet ahead of the trial – saying his lawyers will go after prominent Democrats Adam Schiff, Chuck Schumer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has had no formal role in the making the impeachment case before the Senate. 

‘Our case against lyin’, cheatin’, liddle’ Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nervous Nancy Pelosi, their leader, dumb as a rock AOC, & the entire Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrat Party, starts today at 10:00 A.M. on @FoxNews, @OANN or Fake News @CNN or Fake News MSDNC!,’ Trump tweeted Saturday morning about 20 minutes before the trial began. 

Trump’s team – led by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and personal attorney Jay Sekulow  – are expected to argue the president did nothing wrong when asking the Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden, claiming he was worried about corruption in the country.

And they will also argue the president committed no crimes. Democrats have argued Trump was trying to use a foreign power to win re-election. 

President Trump's defense team begins their case for his acquittal on Saturday

President Trump's defense team begins their case for his acquittal on Saturday

President Trump’s defense team begins their case for his acquittal on Saturday

Adam Schiff leads the House impeachment managers to the Senate to hear Trump's defense team

Adam Schiff leads the House impeachment managers to the Senate to hear Trump's defense team

Adam Schiff leads the House impeachment managers to the Senate to hear Trump’s defense team

The president spent Saturday morning tweets quotes from his supporters and defenders.  

Trump’s defense team has offered previews of their argument in the days leading up to Saturday and are expected to amount a vigorous defense of the president that will portray Trump as the victim of Democrats trying to undo the 2016 election.

‘It’s really trying to remove the president from the ballot in 2020. They don’t trust the American people to make a decision,’ Sekulow told reporters in the Capitol on Thursday.

Their tactics are also expected to put Joe Biden on the defensive as he campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Iowa caucuses – the first nominating contest – are two weeks away.

Some Democrats fear Trump’s team will present previously undisclosed documents as part of its defense – after the White House refused to release such records to House impeachment investigation. 

‘You know that’s exactly what they’re going to do,’ said Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono told The Hill newspaper. ‘This whole trial is calculated to not provide any relevant evidence that the White House should have provided, not provide any witnesses that the White House prevented from being deposed. And the whole thing is to try and just push this through.’

‘I consider it a whitewash and a sham,’ she added.

Trump’s lawyers will try to flip the case back on Democrats, arguing it is them who accepted foreign help in 2016 via the infamous – and unproven – Steele dossier.

Based upon research from former British spy Christopher Steele, and paid for by lawyers who also did work for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the dossier claimed the Russians had blackmail material on Trump.

Trump has denied this.

Trump’s lawyers will also point to a recent report criticizing the FBI for the way it obtained a surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. 

‘They put their case forward,’ Sekulow said of the Democrats. ‘It’s our time next.’ 

Saturday’s session will be a shorter one than the 12-plus hours senators have been holding this week.

The White House legal team has agreed to only use a portion of its allotted 24 hours so the Senate is in session from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

They will put on a full presentation on Monday.

‘I guess I would call it a trailer, coming attractions — that would be the best way to say it,’ Sekulow said.  

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone

Trump personal attorney Jay Sekulow

Trump personal attorney Jay Sekulow

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal attorney Jay Sekulow will take the lead on the president’s defense

Trump's legal team is expected to go after Hunter and Joe Biden

Trump's legal team is expected to go after Hunter and Joe Biden

Trump’s legal team is expected to go after Hunter and Joe Biden

They said this is to give senators a break – exhaustion has set in – and not because Trump complained about his team’s Saturday start time, saying it was ‘death valley’ on television. Viewership numbers tend to be lower on weekends.

The president blamed Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff for the time slot but it was Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell who set the rules that govern the impeachment trial, including the timing for both sides to speak. 

‘After having been treated unbelievably unfairly in the House, and then having to endure hour after hour of lies, fraud & deception by Shifty Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer & their crew, looks like my lawyers will be forced to start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.,’ the president wrote on Twitter.

Democrats wrapped their case Friday evening and warned President Trump will continue to abuse his executive power unless Congress intervenes.  

‘Give America a fair trial,’ said Adam Schiff, the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, in his closing argument. ‘She’s worth it.’

THE TRUMP DREAM TEAM: WHO’S DEFENDING PRESIDENT IN SENATE

Lead counsel: Pat Cipollone, White House Counsel

Millionaire conservative Catholic father-of-10 who has little courtroom experience. ‘Strong, silent,’ type who has earned praise from Trump’s camp for resisting Congress’ investigations of the Ukraine scandal. Critics accused him of failing in his duty as a lawyer by writing ‘nonsense letters’ to reject Congressional oversight. His background is commercial litigation and as White House counsel is the leader of the Trump administration’s drive to put conservative judges in federal courts. Trump has already asked aides behind the scenes if he will perform well on television. 

Jay Sekulow, president’s personal attorney

Millionaire one-time IRS prosecutor with his own talk radio show. Self-described Messianic Jew who was counsel to Jews for Jesus. Longtime legal adviser to Trump, but he is himself mentioned in the Ukraine affair, with Lev Parnas saying that he knew about Rudy Giuliani’s attempts to dig dirt on the Bidens but did not approve. Michael Cohen claimed that Sekulow and other members of Trump’s legal team put falsehoods in his statement to the House intel committee; Sekulow denies it. The New York Times reported that he voted for Hillary Clinton.

Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor

Shot to worldwide fame for his part in the ‘dream team’s’ successful defense of OJ Simpson but was already famous for his defense of Claus von Bulow, the British socialite accused of murdering his wife in Rhode Island. Ron Silver played Dershowitz in Reversal of Fortune. In 2008 he was a member of Jeffrey Epstein’s legal team which secured the lenient plea deal from federal prosecutors. But Dershowitz was a longtime friend of Epstein and was accused of having sex with two of Esptein’s victims. He denies it and is suing one of them, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, for libel, saying his sex life is ‘perfect.’ He admits he received a massage at Epstein’s home – but ‘kept my underwear on.’ Registered Democrat who spoke out against Trump’s election and again after the Charlottesville violence. Has become an outspoken defender of Trump against the Robert Mueller probe and the Ukraine investigation.     

Ken Starr, former Whitewater independent counsel

Famous and reviled in equal measure for his Whitewater investigation into Bill and Hillary Clinton’s finances in Arkansas which eventually led him to evidence of Bill’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. He was a federal appeals judge and George H.W. Bush’s solicitor general before that role. He later became president and chancellor of Baylor University in Waco but was removed as president in May 2016 for mishandling the investigation into allegations of multiple sexual assaults by football players and other students, then quit voluntarily as chancellor. Is the second Jeffrey Epstein defender on the team; he was present  in 2008 when the plea deal with prosecutor Alex Acosta was made which let Epstein off with just 13 months of work release prison.       

Pam Bondi, White House attorney

Florida’s first female attorney general and also a long-time TV attorney who has been a Fox News guest host – including co-hosting The Five for three days in a row while still attorney general. Began her career as a prosecutor before moving into elected politics. Has been hit by a series of controversies, among them persuading then Florida governor Rick Scott to change the date of an execution because it clashed with her re-election launch, and has come under fire for her association with Scientology. She has defended it saying the group were helping her efforts against human trafficking; at the time the FBI was investigating it over human trafficking. Went all-in on Trump in 2016, leading ‘lock her up’ chants at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Joined the White House last November to aid the anti-impeachment effort.

Robert Ray, Ken Starr’s successor

Headed the Office of the Independent Counsel from 1999 until it closed for business in 2002, meaning it was he, not Ken Starr, who wrote the final words on the scandals of the Clinton years. Those included the report on Monica Lewinsky, the report on the savings and loan misconduct claims which came to be known as Whitewater, and the report on Travelgate, the White House travel office’s firing and file-gate, claims of improper access to the FBI’s background reports. Struck deal with Clinton to give up his law license. Went into private practice. Was charged with stalking a former lover in New York in 2006 four months after she ended their relationship. Now a frequent presence on Fox News. 

Jane Raskin, private attorney

Part of a husband-and-wife Florida law team, she is a former prosecutor who specializes in defending in white collar crime cases. Their connection to Trump appears to have been through Ty Cobb, the former White House attorney. She and husband Martin advised Trump on his response to Mueller and appear to have been focused on avoiding an obstruction of justice accusation. That may be the reason to bring her in to the impeachment team; Democrats raised the specter of reviving Mueller’s report in their evidence to the impeachment trial.

Patrick Philbin and Michael Purpura, Deputy White House Counsels

Lowest-profile of the team, they work full-time for Cipollone in the White House. Philbin (left) was a George W. Bush appointee at the Department of Justice who helped come up with the system of trying Guantanamo Bay detainees in front of military commissions instead of in U.S. courts. He was one a group of officials, led by James Comey, who rushed to seriously-ill John Ashcroft’s bedside to stop the renewal of the warrant-less wiretap program. Unknown if Trump is aware of his links to Comey. Purpura (right) is also a Bush White House veteran who shaped its response to Congressional investigations at a time when there were calls for him to be impeached over going to war in Iraq. His name is on letters telling State Department employees not to testify. Has been named as a possible Trump nominee for federal court in Hawaii.

 

Source: CNN – Daily Mail

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Youtuber Natalia Taylor fakes holiday to Bali in Ikea 

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A YouTube star who wanted to prove how easy it is to ‘pretend you are someone you’re not’ online revealed how she faked a holiday to Bali with pictures taken in Ikea.

Natalia Taylor, 23, from California, boasts 316,000 followers on Instagram and almost 2 million followers on YouTube.  

The vlogger revealed that she decided to test how easy it was to pretend she was on an exotic holiday, after noticing an increasing number of influencers being caught pretending they were away or Photoshopping themselves onto fake backgrounds. 

The influencer decided to take photographer Ally Amodeo to her local Ikea, and have an impromptu photoshoot in front of confused customers and staff, before looking up tags from travelers at Bali airport and reposting them, ensuring there was a ‘realistic’ timeline which included travel on her stories – before she posted the Ikea pictures with the geo location tags. 

However Natalia did leave one clue in her pictures – Ikea tags in the background to see if any of her followers would spot the clue she was faking it.

 

Natalia Taylor, 23, from California, faked a vacation to Bali on Instagram by sharing images of herself that were taken in a local Ikea, proving to her followers how easy it is to pretend online

Natalia Taylor, 23, from California, faked a vacation to Bali on Instagram by sharing images of herself that were taken in a local Ikea, proving to her followers how easy it is to pretend online

Natalia Taylor, 23, from California, faked a vacation to Bali on Instagram by sharing images of herself that were taken in a local Ikea, proving to her followers how easy it is to pretend online

The influencer, who has 316,000 Instagram followers, took photographer Ally Amodeo to her local Ikea for an impromptu photoshoot in front of confused customers and staff

The influencer, who has 316,000 Instagram followers, took photographer Ally Amodeo to her local Ikea for an impromptu photoshoot in front of confused customers and staff

The influencer, who has 316,000 Instagram followers, took photographer Ally Amodeo to her local Ikea for an impromptu photoshoot in front of confused customers and staff

Speaking in a video which showed her arriving at Ikea, she explained: ‘So many influencers have been caught in the act pretending they’re away, Photoshopping themselves into a picture or sharing a post that’s not even them. 

‘I wanted to test my followers to see how many of them would notice if I pretended to be away.’

She was then seen in full hair and makeup, posing in one of the shop floor’s bathtubs, before using a bedroom as a would-be hotel and pretending to order room service.

She admitted: ‘It was slightly awkward as everyone was watching us and we were nervous about getting caught by an Ikea worker.’

Natalia used the Bali geotag for all posts shared on her main feed, while also posting fake snaps of herself 'traveling' on her Instagram Stories

Natalia used the Bali geotag for all posts shared on her main feed, while also posting fake snaps of herself 'traveling' on her Instagram Stories

Natalia used the Bali geotag for all posts shared on her main feed, while also posting fake snaps of herself ‘traveling’ on her Instagram Stories 

The influencer documented the entire experiment in a video posted to her YouTube, where she has close to 2 million followers, with Natalia admitting she wanted to 'test' her followers

The influencer documented the entire experiment in a video posted to her YouTube, where she has close to 2 million followers, with Natalia admitting she wanted to 'test' her followers

The influencer documented the entire experiment in a video posted to her YouTube, where she has close to 2 million followers, with Natalia admitting she wanted to ‘test’ her followers

Before sharing the Ikea shoot on her main feed, Natalia posted several fake photos of herself supposedly traveling to Bali to make the entire prank more believable

Before sharing the Ikea shoot on her main feed, Natalia posted several fake photos of herself supposedly traveling to Bali to make the entire prank more believable

Before sharing the Ikea shoot on her main feed, Natalia posted several fake photos of herself supposedly traveling to Bali to make the entire prank more believable

Before sharing the Ikea shoot on her main feed, Natalia posted several fake photos of herself supposedly traveling to Bali to make the entire prank more believable

Before sharing the Ikea shoot on her main feed, Natalia posted several fake photos of herself supposedly traveling to Bali to make the entire prank more believable  

Natalia then added: ‘I told my photographer Ally to intentionally leave in some of the Ikea tags and if you look closely you can see some of them.

‘I wanted to leave some Easter eggs for those followers who were a little too clever.’

Explaining how she wanted to make her story more convincing, she explained: ‘The timeline on Instagram had to be believable so I started with my stories and literally took pictures from the internet for this. I looked up the hashtag Bali and found airport snaps that I took. 

‘The point of this video was to show people how easy it is to trick people into thinking you’re someone you’re not’. 

And Natalie admitted that once the scene was set and she was ready to post her first snap, she felt nervous about betraying her followers’ trust. 

Her photographer Ally is seen taking pictures as confused customers wandered by in the background - but luckily the staff didn't stop them from taking photos

Her photographer Ally is seen taking pictures as confused customers wandered by in the background - but luckily the staff didn't stop them from taking photos

Her photographer Ally is seen taking pictures as confused customers wandered by in the background – but luckily the staff didn’t stop them from taking photos

However Natalia did leave one clue in her pictures - Ikea tags in the background - to see if any of her followers would spot them and realize she was faking it

However Natalia did leave one clue in her pictures - Ikea tags in the background - to see if any of her followers would spot them and realize she was faking it

However Natalia did leave one clue in her pictures – Ikea tags in the background – to see if any of her followers would spot them and realize she was faking it

Natalia admitted that she did feel bad for tricking her followers, the majority of whom didn't realize she was pranking them

Natalia admitted that she did feel bad for tricking her followers, the majority of whom didn't realize she was pranking them

Natalia admitted that she did feel bad for tricking her followers, the majority of whom didn’t realize she was pranking them 

She said: ‘I have such a close trust with my followers that posting the first picture made me really nervous.’

She continued: ‘Everyone believed I was there, no one is questioning it – even though the Ikea tag is there in the second picture, along with an Ikea iPad.’

Revealing that three pictures later none of her followers had caught on to her trick, she admitted: ‘I feel like a jerk that I broke my trust with my followers. All the comments are nice. I’m just a big fat liar who doesn’t deserve these amazing followers!

‘I can’t believe I got away with fooling everyone into thinking that I went to another country, when really I just went down to the local Ikea.

‘This video has a lesson – don’t trust everything you see on the internet! 

‘Sometimes people want to lie about who you are as a person, and it’s not hard to do apparently. ‘

She was then seen in full hair and makeup, posing in one of the shop floor's bathtubs, before using a bedroom as a would-be hotel and pretending to order room service

She was then seen in full hair and makeup, posing in one of the shop floor's bathtubs, before using a bedroom as a would-be hotel and pretending to order room service

She was then seen in full hair and makeup, posing in one of the shop floor’s bathtubs, before using a bedroom as a would-be hotel and pretending to order room service

Following the shoot Natalia said: 'This video has a lesson - don't trust everything you see on the internet!'

Following the shoot Natalia said: 'This video has a lesson - don't trust everything you see on the internet!'

Following the shoot Natalia said: ‘This video has a lesson – don’t trust everything you see on the internet!’

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Humanitarian aid for near-starving Yemen population blocked by Houthi rebels

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Yemen’s Houthi rebels have blocked half of the United Nations’ aid delivery programs in the war-torn country — a strong-arm tactic to force the agency to give them greater control over the massive humanitarian campaign, along with a cut of billions of dollars in foreign assistance, according to aid officials and internal documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The rebel group has made granting access to areas under their control contingent on a flurry of conditions that aid agencies reject, in part because it would give the Houthis greater sway over who receives aid, documents and interviews show.

READ MORE: More than 30 civilians killed by Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen, UN says

The Houthis’ obstruction has hindered several programs that feed the near-starving population and help those displaced by the nearly 6-year civil war, a senior U.N. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the situation.

“Over 2 million beneficiaries … are directly affected,” the official said.

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The Houthis have been pushing back against U.N. efforts to tighten monitoring of some $370 million a year that its agencies already give to government institutions controlled mostly by the rebel group, documents show. That money is supposed to pay salaries and other administration costs, but more than a third of the money spent last year wasn’t audited, according to an internal document leaked to the AP.

The U.N. has largely kept quiet in public about the pressure, but behind the scenes the agency and international donors are digging in against the Houthi demands. The AP spoke to seven workers and officials from U.N. and independent agencies about the situation. All spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. The AP also saw dozens of documents, including emails of aid officials.

In October, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, sent a letter to the Houthi-appointed prime minister complaining about a long list of demands.

The “overwhelming majority” of them impede or delay delivery of aid and many violate humanitarian principles, she said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the AP.

U.N. Secretary General expresses concern, says ‘growing instability’ in Middle Eastern Countries
U.N. Secretary General expresses concern, says ‘growing instability’ in Middle Eastern Countries

For months, the Houthis demanded a 2% cut from the entire aid budget be given to them, a condition the U.N. and donors rejected. In an email to the AP, a spokesperson for the U.S. Agency for International Development said Houthi attempts “to implement a tax on humanitarian assistance are unacceptable and directly contradict international humanitarian principles.” The United States donated $686 million to Yemen in 2019, according to USAID.

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Last week, the Houthis appeared to back off the 2% demand, but continue to press for other concessions, according to aid officials.

During a meeting in Brussels last Thursday, aid agencies and international donors threatened to reduce aid if Houthis continue to impose restrictions on U.N. operations in Yemen.

The situation “has reached a breaking point,” they said in a statement.

At least one agency, the World Food Program, is currently considering cutting back the monthly food aid it delivers to 12 million Yemenis every other month, a U.N. official said. ”It’s unfortunate that people will suffer but this is on the Houthis,” the official said. “They can’t use people as hostages for too long.”

The Houthis’ demands have stoked longtime concerns among aid agencies over the rebels’ diverting of humanitarian funds and supplies into their own or their supporters’ pockets or toward their war effort.

Delivering aid in a war zone has always posed a problem for U.N agencies. But officials said the situation in Yemen has been especially challenging.

READ MORE: Situation ‘very dire’ in Yemen as dengue fever cases escalate: Red Cross

The Houthis have withheld visas and permissions for equipment and supplies and refused to grant clearances for U.N. missions to move through rebel-controlled areas. Aid workers said agency leaders’ past willingness to concede to some of the rebels’ demands has emboldened the Houthi leaders to push for more.

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Nearly 300,000 pregnant and nursing mothers and children under age 5 haven’t received nutrition supplements for more than six months because the Houthis “held beneficiaries hostage to the 2%” demand, another U.N. official said.

In another example, Houthi authorities for months delayed permission to distribute 2,000 tons of food — enough to feed 160,000 people — in the district of Aslam, where the AP previously found starving villagers reduced to eating boiled leaves. When approval came in November, the food had spoiled “beyond the point of salvage,” another aid official said.

Houthi leaders have remained defiant in the face of U.N. pushback.

“Yemen will survive” if agencies suspend aid, Abdul-Mohsen Tawoos, secretary-general of the Houthi agency coordinating international aid, told European donors during a Jan. 20 Skype call. Minutes of the call were obtained by the AP.

U.N. says war in Yemen is ’eminently resolvable’
U.N. says war in Yemen is ’eminently resolvable’

He said the Houthis wanted to reach an agreement with the U.N. and its donors, but “won’t be bullied.”

Tawoos accused Grande, the top U.N. official in Yemen, of sending false reports about Houthis restricting the movement of U.N. humanitarian operations. Houthi leaders have threatened to expel her from the country.

The U.N.’s massive aid program, totaling $8.35 billion dollars since 2015, is vital to keeping many Yemenis alive. The U.N. calls the situation in Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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Ten million people in the country are on the brink of famine and 80% of the population of 29 million in need of aid, according to the U.N.

More than 3 million people have been displaced, cholera epidemics have killed hundreds, and at least 2.2 million children under 5 suffer from severe malnutrition, the agency said.

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels control the capital, Sanaa, and much of the country’s north, where most of the population lives and the need for aid is greatest. They are at war with a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition fighting on behalf of the internationally recognized government.

READ MORE: Yemen’s government signs deal with separatists to stop infighting

With the economy in freefall, the U.N. aid effort is a major source of foreign currency into the country.

The U.N received around $3 billion in 2019 in international donations for its campaign, short of its $4.2 billion goal.

The Houthi demand for 2% of that budget would funnel $60-$80 million into the coffers of their aid-coordination agency, the Supreme Council for Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and International Cooperation, known as SCMCHA.

Qassim Hussein al-Houthi, the head of the international agencies department in the Houthi presidency, said the money was necessary for SCMCHA’s operating expenses.

“It carries heavy financial burden. It’s in charge of facilitating, distributing, security, and organizing the work of the agencies,” he said.

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Al-Houthi argued that it’s the U.N. agencies that spend a much larger percentage of their budgets on administration without “real oversight.” He said the U.N. aid delivery programs blocked by the Houthis “are not a priority for the Yemen people.”

Harassment, intimidation and suspected embezzling of funds by Houthis have been going on for years, aid workers said, and have gotten worse since the rebels created their aid coordination agency in early 2018. Since then, Houthi-led security agencies have arrested local workers, blocked aid missions or held up supplies, according to internal emails and documents seen by the AP.

“Not even a simple project can be carried out in northern Yemen without the consent and supervision of this body,” said a Yemeni chief of a local aid organization.

The U.N. rarely pushed back, calculating that aid had to be delivered at any cost.

No end in sight as Yemen war hits four-year mark
No end in sight as Yemen war hits four-year mark

U.N. agencies continued to put hundreds of millions of dollars into Houthi accounts for “capacity building,” a common practice in humanitarian programs to ensure government bodies function.

Some of the money went to salaries for doctors, teachers and other vital employees who have otherwise gone without pay amid the war. Millions more went to the Houthi aid agency for administrative costs and salaries.

Aid workers privately expressed concerns about the funds from U.N. aid agencies being diverted into the coffers of Houthi leaders or their supporters.

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UNICEF told the AP in a statement that its funds were strictly monitored and no instances of diversions were found. The World Health Organization said all its spending was “subject to internal and external audit,” as well as frequent internal reviews on multiple levels. WHO also said it found no evidence that its funds have been diverted.

Still, last summer, the U.N. requested all agencies report how much they were giving in direct cash transfers. In 2019, the total reached $370 million, around 10% of the entire international aid budget for Yemen, according to a U.N. spreadsheet obtained by the AP. Around $133 million was marked in the spreadsheet as “not audited.”

Some officials in the Houthi aid body, SCMCHA, appear to be receiving multiple salaries, the data shows. For a time, three U.N. agencies were each giving salaries to the body’s president, his deputy and general managers. Each of the officials received a total of $10,000 a month from the agencies, the spreadsheet shows.

The U.N. refugee agency also gave SCMCHA $1 million every three months for office rental and administrative costs, while the U.N. migration agency gave the office another $200,000 for furniture and fiber optics.

U.N. officials said Grande was “genuinely shocked when she learned about the arrangements.”

“She had no idea about the scale of it,” said one senior U.N. official. “Her reaction after that was, we have to fix the situation.”

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Over the past year, U.N. agencies, lead by Grande, began pushing back against Houthi demands.

First, the World Food Program suspended aid for a couple of months in some areas around Sanaa and demanded biometric registering of beneficiaries to ensure deliveries go to those truly in need. The Houthis initially agreed but later refused to follow through with the biometric registering.

The U.N. then moved to prevent double-paying of salaries, and its agencies tightened auditing of the funds it provided.

UNICEF, for example, said it decided in November to re-assess all 243 partners it works with, including government ones, and cut down dramatically on funds put into Houthi coffers. The agency said it would start paying suppliers and contractors directly.

The moves by the U.N. have prompted the Houthis to launch a media campaign denouncing the humanitarian agency as corrupt and wasteful.

READ MORE: Yemen’s Houthi rebels claim drone attacks on major oil sites in Saudi Arabia

Further escalation came after the Houthi aid body in November was put under the leadership of the Houthi president’s chief of staff, making it more powerful, several aid officials said.

An already difficult environment to work in “became extremely suffocating with threats (and) directives,” one of the officials said.

SCMCHA’s new leadership imposed more than 200 new directives on humanitarian agencies, six aid officials told the AP.

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Some directives — such as requiring agencies to disclose the identities of aid recipients and involving Houthi authorities in assessments of need — would give the rebels even greater power to steer aid to their supporters, aid workers fear.

Other demands seemed aimed at monitoring and intimidating, such as ordering local Yemeni staffers to get Houthi permission to take U.N. training courses abroad and then to report back the content of those workshops. Houthis officials also require the segregation of women and men in U.N.-run programs in some areas.

The Houthis also demanded a new agreement giving them a hand in assigning U.N. contracts with suppliers and picking local partners to implement programs, according to a draft of their proposal seen by the AP. It also gives them the right to screen U.N. hires in Yemen and take over the budget of monitoring programs.

Aid agencies have refused to sign the agreement.

Several humanitarian workers said the Houthis are also trying to force the U.N. to work with NGOs they favor, particularly an organization known as Bonyan, which is filled with Houthi affiliates. The brother of Houthi leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi, Ibrahim al-Houthi, was a board member until his death last summer. Houthi leaders stopped the U.N. agencies from delivering food in Yemen’s Hodeida province, unless they used Bonyan for the distribution.

Despite the disputes between the Houthis and the U.N, aid officials continue to appeal to international donors for money to address the crisis in Yemen.

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Over the summer, Grande pleaded to donor countries for more funds to meet the $4.2 billion goal.

“When money doesn’t come, people die,” she said.

But one international aid official said more money isn’t the issue.

“I don’t want more funds. I want the space to spend what I have,” he said.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

Source: Global News

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BREAKING: Rapper Pop Smoke, 20, is shot and killed during ‘home invasion robbery’ in Hollywood Hills

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Rapper Pop Smoke was shot dead in an apparent home invasion robbery early Wednesday morning, officials say. 

The 20-year-old artist, whose real name is Bashar Barakah Jackson, was at a home in Hollywood Hills when two masked men broke in at around 4.30am, TMZ reported. 

The suspects opened fire on Pop Smoke and left him critically injured before fleeing on foot.    

The rapper was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood, where he was pronounced dead. 

The suspects are still at large and it is unclear whether they’ve been identified by authorities. 

One man was taken into custody immediately after the shooting but he was released after police determined he was not involved.   

Rapper Pop Smoke was shot dead in an apparent home invasion robbery in Hollywood Hills early Wednesday morning, officials say

Rapper Pop Smoke was shot dead in an apparent home invasion robbery in Hollywood Hills early Wednesday morning, officials say

Rapper Pop Smoke was shot dead in an apparent home invasion robbery in Hollywood Hills early Wednesday morning, officials say

Two masked men broke into the home and opened fire on the rapper. Medics are seen carting him to an ambulance that transported him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead

Two masked men broke into the home and opened fire on the rapper. Medics are seen carting him to an ambulance that transported him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead

Two masked men broke into the home and opened fire on the rapper. Medics are seen carting him to an ambulance that transported him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead 

Pop Smoke, a rising star on the rap scene, released his debut mixtape Meet the Woo last summer. The lead single on that album, Welcome to the Party, reached number five on Billboard’s Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart and was remixed by Nicki Minaj. 

He also featured on the hit song Gatti with JackBoys and Travis Scott.  

Minutes after news of the shooting broke, Minaj posted a photo of Pop Smoke on Instagram, writing: ‘The Bible tells us that jealousy is as cruel as the grave. Unbelievable. Rest in Peace, Pop.’ 

The cryptic caption suggests Pop Smoke may have known the suspects – but law enforcement sources have not said if they think there is a connection.    

Pop Smoke, a rising star on the rap scene, released his debut mixtape Meet the Woo last July

Pop Smoke, a rising star on the rap scene, released his debut mixtape Meet the Woo last July

Pop Smoke, a rising star on the rap scene, released his debut mixtape Meet the Woo last July

Minutes after news of the shooting broke, Nicki Minaj posted a photo of Pop Smoke on Instagram, writing: ' The Bible tells us that jealousy is as cruel as the grave. Unbelievable. Rest in Peace, Pop.' The cryptic caption suggests Pop Smoke may have known the suspects

Minutes after news of the shooting broke, Nicki Minaj posted a photo of Pop Smoke on Instagram, writing: ' The Bible tells us that jealousy is as cruel as the grave. Unbelievable. Rest in Peace, Pop.' The cryptic caption suggests Pop Smoke may have known the suspects

Minutes after news of the shooting broke, Nicki Minaj posted a photo of Pop Smoke on Instagram, writing: ‘ The Bible tells us that jealousy is as cruel as the grave. Unbelievable. Rest in Peace, Pop.’ The cryptic caption suggests Pop Smoke may have known the suspects

The house where the attack took place is owned by actor and producer Edwin Arroyave, the husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Teddi Mellencamp. 

Arroyave owns several homes in the Los Angeles area, and TMZ speculated that Pop Smoke may have been renting the property on Hercules Drive.  

This is a developing story.  

The house where the attack took place is owned by actor and producer Edwin Arroyave, the husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Teddi Mellencamp (pictured together)

The house where the attack took place is owned by actor and producer Edwin Arroyave, the husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Teddi Mellencamp (pictured together)

The house where the attack took place is owned by actor and producer Edwin Arroyave, the husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Teddi Mellencamp (pictured together)

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