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Ex-Trump adviser George Papadopoulos jailed in Russia inquiry

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Washington , Sep 8 :Former Donald Trump adviser whose remarks in a London pub sparked the US inquiry into possible collusion with Russia has been sentenced to 14 days in jail.

George Papadopoulos, 31, on Friday told the court in Washington he was a “patriotic American” who made a mistake by lying, BBC reported.

He pleaded guilty last October to lying to the FBI about the timing of meetings with alleged go-betweens for Moscow.

He was the first former Trump aide arrested in the probe into an alleged Kremlin plot to sway the 2016 US vote.

US President Donald Trump reacted by taking an apparent swipe at the cost of the investigation into the former aide.

In Friday’s sentencing, Papadopoulos was also handed 12 months of supervised release, 200 hours of community service, and a fine of $9,500.

He said in court that his “entire life has been turned upside down” and he hoped “for a second chance to redeem myself”.

Papadopoulos concluded by saying “this investigation has global implications, and the truth matters”.

The Chicago native was a London-based petroleum analyst before he joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 as a volunteer foreign policy adviser.

Papadopoulos soon made contact with a mysterious Maltese academic, Joseph Mifsud.

The professor told Papadopoulos the Russians had “dirt” on Trump’s Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails”.

The young political operative told Trump, then a Republican presidential candidate, and other members of the campaign’s national security team that he could set up a meeting with President Vladimir Putin ahead of the November 2016 election.

A pre-sentencing statement last week read: “While some in the room rebuffed George’s offer, Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr Sessions, who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it.”

Papadopoulos told CNN in an interview aired on Friday that Trump “gave me a sort of a nod” and “wasn’t committed either way” about the idea of a meeting with the Russian leader.

But he said then-senator and now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions “was actually enthusiastic”. Last November, Sessions testified to Congress that he had “pushed back” against Papadopoulos’ offer.

American authorities were alerted in mid-2016 after Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat during a drinking session in a London pub about his meetings with Professor Mifsud. The envoy alerted US investigators.

When the FBI interviewed him in January 2017, Papadopoulos falsely claimed he had met two individuals with Russian ties before he joined the president’s team in March 2016.

He had actually met them after joining Trump’s campaign.

One individual was a Russian woman who Papadopoulos believed had connections to the Russian government.

Outside court on Friday, Papadopoulos’ lawyer, Thomas Breen, said his client was a “fool” and had acted “stupidly” in lying to the FBI.

But the attorney said “the president of the US hindered this investigation more than Papadopoulos ever could”.

He said Mr Trump had hampered the inquiry by calling it a “witch hunt” and “fake news”.

Business

Pakistan’s economy shows positive indicators: PM’s Office

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Imran Khan Pakistan PM

Islamabad, Feb 28 : Pakistan’s economic indicators are seeing a constant improvement due to efforts made by the current government to overcome the serious economic challenges, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Friday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, chairing a meeting of his economic team, expressed satisfaction over the improvement in all sectors, adding that his government is making efforts to bring a trickle-down effect of the improving economy on general public and in this regard steps are being taken to provide relief to low income and salaried class of the country, Xinhua reported.

He also directed the economic team to keep the public updated about the positive indicators of the economy in a bid to win the confidence of the local businessman to invest in the country.

Earlier this month, the prime minister approved subsidy of Pakistani Rs 10 billion ($65 million) on five essential food items for controlling rampant inflation in the country.

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Iranian vice president tests positive for coronavirus

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Tehran, Feb 28 Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar has tested positive for the coronavirus, an official said on Thursday.

Ebtekar’s adviser Fariba Ibtihaj said the vice president tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Iran’s official IRNA news agency  reported.

“Everyone in the vice president’s team was also tested and the results will be available on Saturday,” she said.

Ebtekar is not the first high-ranking Iranian official to contract the virus.

Ebtekar, joins the deputy health minister, the head of the national security commission and a reformist MP who have been infected with the virus, reports Efe news.

She tested positive on Thursday after showing symptoms the previous day during a cabinet meeting, according to state TV.

The politician is one of the most recognizable in the Islamic Republic and previously held the position of environment minister.

Iran has reported 26 deaths from the deadly disease and 245 cases total with a dramatic surge of 106 new infections registered on Thursday, the Health Ministry said.

Tehran authorities have decided to close down schools and universities in the country to curb the spread of the disease.

Friday prayers in the capital have also been cancelled.

Amid the spread of the virus, neighbouring countries have closed their land borders with Iran and most airlines have suspended their flights or imposed restrictions on air travel to the country.

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COVID-19 cases in South Korea reach 2,022, 13 deaths

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Seoul, Feb 28 The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea increased to 2,022 on Friday, with a total of 13 fatalities as the nation aggressively counters the fast-spreading virus with massive testing, particularly for 210,000 followers of a religious sect at the centre of the epidemic.

The 256 new cases brought the nation’s total infections to 2,022, the Yonhap News Agency quoted the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) as saying.

Only two days ago, the number of infections exceeded 1,000.

More than half of newly confirmed cases were linked to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southeastern city of Daegu, 300 km southeast of Seoul.

Of the 256 new cases, 182 are in Daegu, and 49 are in the neighbouring North Gyeongsang Province.

Since raising the virus alert level to “red”, the highest level, on Sunday, health authorities have focused on halting the spread of the virus in Daegu, the epicentre of the virus outbreak in South Korea, and North Gyeongsang.

Experts said the number of confirmed cases is expected to jump in the coming days as health authorities have begun testing more than 210,000 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

The government also ordered another 1,638 Shincheonji followers to self-isolate as they have shown symptoms, Yonhap News Agency said in its report.

Since the first coronavirus case — a Chinese woman from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak — on January 20, the pace of infections had not been alarming until February 18, when a 61-year-old woman who is tied to the Daegu religious sect tested positive for the virus.

Since then, the nation has seen an explosion in infections as it accelerated virus tests on potential cases.

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