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Myanmar’s Suu Kyi makes first in-person court appearance

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Myanmar’s Suu Kyi makes first in-person court appearance

BANGKOK — Myanmar’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, appeared in court in person Monday for the first time since the military arrested her when it seized power on Feb. 1.

One of her lawyers, Min Min Soe, told The Associated Press by phone that Suu Kyi was able to meet with her defense team for about 30 minutes before the hearing began at a special court set up inside the city council building in Naypyitaw, the capital.

The lawyers also met with Win Myint, who was president of the government Suu Kyi led as state counsellor and faces some of the same charges.

Suu Kyi’s only previous court appearances have been by video link and she had not been allowed to meet in person with any of her lawyers.

Min Min Soe said Suu Kyi wanted to tell Myanmar’s people that her National League for Democracy party will stand by them.

She said that “since the NLD was founded for the people, the NLD will exist as long as the people exist,” Min Min Soe said after the hearing. She appeared to be referring to the ruling junta’s threat to dissolve the party.

Khin Maung Zaw, head of Suu Kyi’s legal team, said “she seems fit and alert and smart, as always.”

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is always confident in herself and she is confident in her cause and confident in the people,” he said, using an honorific for a respected older woman.

Monday’s hearing concerned several of the six charges Suu Kyi faces and was largely procedural.

There are two counts of violating the Natural Disaster Management Law for allegedly violating COVID-19 pandemic restrictions during the 2020 election campaign; illegally importing walkie-talkies that were for her bodyguards’ use; unlicensed use of the radios; and spreading information that could cause public alarm or unrest.

The most serious charge that Suu Kyi faces is breaching the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a penalty of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, but that is being handled by a separate court.

Suu Kyi’s supporters say the proceedings are politically motivated and are meant to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power. If convicted of any of the offenses, she could be banned from running in the election that the junta has pledged to hold within one or two years of its takeover.

The military ousted Suu Kyi’s government after her party won a landslide victory in a general election last November that would have given it a second five-year term in office. Before the start of democratic reforms a decade ago, Myanmar was ruled by the military for 50 years.

The junta claims it was justified in taking power because of alleged widespread election fraud, especially irregularities in voting lists. The Asian Network for Free Elections, a non-partisan poll watching organization, in a report issued last week rejected the military’s allegations of massive fraud, saying the results of the voting were representative of the will of the people.

The junta has accused Suu Kyi of corruption and presented on state television what it said was evidence that she took bribes, but has so far only said it intends to pursue charges for that offense. Her lawyers dismiss the allegations.

Several cases are also pending against other senior members of Suu Kyi’s party in addition to Win Myint.

According to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which has been keeping a detailed tally of arrests and deaths since the coup, almost 4,300 people are in detention, including 95 who have already been sentenced.

Resistance to military rule is widespread. About 100 young people gathered Monday in a lightning protest in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, carrying banners and chanting pro-democracy slogans before hurriedly dispersing.

Flash mobs have replaced the mass demonstrations that were held in February and March because of the deadly response of security forces.

According to the Assistance Association, 818 protesters and bystanders have been killed by security personnel since the coup.

Junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said in an interview last week with Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television that the death toll had been exaggerated and was actually about 300 and that 47 police had been killed and more then 200 injured..

Most resistance to the junta is still non-violent, particularly in a boycott of public schools, but armed resistance appears to be growing.

There are reports virtually every day of small homemade explosives being set off in Yangon and elsewhere and of some killings of alleged informers and local administrators appointed by the junta.

Reports on social media over the weekend said there was heavy fighting between security forces and members of a grassroots anti-junta People’s Defense Force in Kayah state — also known as Karenni state — in eastern Myanmar. Such reports, especially in remote areas, are difficult to independently verify.

As many as 40 members of the security forces were killed in joint attacks launched by the People’s Defense Force and ethnic Karenni guerrillas, online news services The Irrawaddy and Myanmar Now reported. The Irrawaddy also said four civilians were killed when artillery fired by government forces hit a Catholic church in Kayah.

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New Hampshire bar patron leaves staff $16K tip

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New Hampshire bar patron leaves staff $16K tip

A New Hampshire bar patron who ordered two chili dogs, fried pickle chips and drinks earlier this month left the staff a whopping $16,000 tip, according to reports.

The generous tip, which was tacked onto a $37.93 tab, was left by a man at the Stumble Inn Bar and Grill in Londonderry on June 12, WMUR reported.

“Don’t spend it all in one place,” the tipper, who wished to remain anonymous, told his shocked bartender, according to the bar’s owner, Mike Zarella.

“That’s what made her flip it over and look, and she’s like, ‘Oh my god, are you serious?,” Zarella said.

The bar’s owner, Mike Zarella, said he thought the customer may have made a mistake, but the man reassured him he meant to leave that amount.

“He just said that they deserve it, they work very hard,” Zarella said, referring to his workers.

Zarella told Fox News that the bar and kitchen staff split the tip.

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Virginia woman used inmate names to help $700k pandemic relief scheme

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Virginia woman used inmate names to help $700k pandemic relief scheme

A Virgina woman stole nearly $700,000 in pandemic relief funds — using the personal information of unsuspecting prison inmates to help her scheme, according to federal prosecutors.

Farren Ricketts, 30, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to defraud the government from May 2020 to February 2021 by filing over 100 fake pandemic unemployment benefit claims, according to the US Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia.

As part of the scheme, Ricketts created a state-registered business that billed itself as a financial services company that provided help with completing pandemic unemployment claims, the feds said.

Ricketts even filed fraudulent claims for her husband, who in actuality was ineligible to receive the payments, prosecutors said.

Many of the claims were also accompanied by doctored IRS forms that falsely reported pre-pandemic income, according to prosecutors.

Ricketts pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of mail fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Her sentencing is scheduled for October 29.

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Graham calls cartels, Taliban, China ‘winners’ in Biden administration

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Graham calls cartels, Taliban, China 'winners' in Biden administration

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) accused the Biden administration Tuesday of practicing “incompetent domestic and foreign policy” that is only benefitting criminals and US adversaries.

“All these policies are blowing up in the Biden-Harris administration’s face,” Graham told Fox News’ “Hannity”. “Six months since they’ve been in charge — let’s name the winners in the past six months.

“Drug cartels in Mexico, human traffickers and coyotes in Mexico, the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Iranian ayatollah, Russia, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, and China have all been the biggest winners of incompetent domestic and foreign policy,” the senator added.

The Department of Homeland Security is set to announce Wednesday that thousands of asylum-seekers whose claims were dismissed due to failure to appear in immigration court will get a chance to come to the US make their case, a move Graham described as another example of the White House being “incompetent and foolish when it comes to managing illegal immigration.”

Turning to the coronavirus pandemic, Graham called for a revival of federal legislation that would allow Americans to sue the Chinese government for damages.

“I think I could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the virus came from a lab, not from a bat to animal into human beings … You can convict somebody in a court of law,” Graham told host Sean Hannity.

“So what do we need to do? We need to allow the American people to go to an American court and sue the Chinese Communist Party for ruining their lives and their businesses by waiving sovereign immunity like we did after 9/11 for Saudi Arabia,” the South Carolinian continued. “So I’m going to challenge my Democratic colleagues to open the American court system up so we can get to the bottom of what happened in China.

“The best way to get to the truth is to have a trial over where it came from and how it got to America, and I’m convinced this came from a lab leak,” Graham added. “I don’t think it was intentional, but it didn’t come from nature.”

A bill waiving sovereign immunity for China was introduced last year by then-Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee but died without receiving a floor vote.

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