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Jussie Smollett case: Two men released after police interrogation reveals 'new evidence'

Jussie Smollett case: Two men released after police interrogation reveals 'new evidence'Chicago police arrested two men they previously identified as "potential suspects" for the Jan. 29 attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett. The men were released Friday.



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SpaceX kicks off a 'new era in spaceflight' with the Crew Dragon launch

SpaceX kicks off a 'new era in spaceflight' with the Crew Dragon launchIt's been a momentous Saturday for SpaceX, and for the future of crewed voyages into space. At 2:49 a.m. ET, the American aerospace company founded by Elon Musk staged its first launch of Crew Dragon. It's big news because this is the first time a commercial interest has launched a spacecraft that was built to carry humans. LIFTOFF! The next big leap in a new chapter of U.S. human spaceflight systems has left the pad. @SpaceX’s #CrewDragon demo flight will be the 1st commercially-built & operated American spacecraft designed for humans to dock at the @Space_Station. Watch: t.co/Fm5NQSfAXJ pic.twitter.com/YoiOf67kQL — NASA (@NASA) March 2, 2019 SEE ALSO: SpaceX launches moon lander, lands booster despite tough conditions American spaceflight has traditionally been the domain of NASA, but the past decade has seen a gradual shift toward having commercial interests share the responsibility. SpaceX and Boeing are leading that charge, so the successful Crew Dragon launch represents a major milestone moment. It's still just a first step, however. Although the Dragon capsule itself is designed to carry a crew of up to seven astronauts skyward, the one that launched on Saturday — Demo-1 is its designation — is more of a test run: it's carrying a few hundred pounds of cargo, plus a sensor-filled dummy named "Ripley." NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine hailed the launch as a "new era in spaceflight."  He added: "We are looking forward to being one customer of many customers in a robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit, so we can drive down costs and increase access in ways that, historically, have not been possible."  The cost savings Bridenstine mentioned are very real. After NASA retired its shuttle fleet in 2011, the U.S. has relied on Russia to bring astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Hitching a ride on a Russian Soyuz rocket costs roughly $ 80 million per seat, compared to the $ 51 million cost to fly on a SpaceX or Boeing vehicle. Bridenstine's comments don't make it very clear, but NASA is closely involved with the U.S. development of commercial spaceflight. The agency's influence shapes various aspects of third-party planning, including design, safety, and funding, under its Commercial Crew Program. Now that Demo-1 is in space, the next phase of its mission begins. Early on Sunday morning, the capsule will dock with the ISS to drop off its cargo. After that, Demo-1 will detach and begin its return trip to Earth. Assuming everything goes well for Demo-1, the first Crew Dragon launch to carry actual humans into space could come as soon as summer 2019. WATCH: This space harpoon could be a solution to our growing space junk problem



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'New party, who dis?': Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mocks Joe Lieberman after he said she wasn't future

'New party, who dis?': Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mocks Joe Lieberman after he said she wasn't futureAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old from New York, responded to Democrat Joe Lieberman after he said she wasn't the future of the party.



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China raises fears of 'new colonialism' with $60 billion investment across Africa

China raises fears of 'new colonialism' with $  60 billion investment across AfricaChinese President Xi Jinping on Monday pledged $ 60 billion in financing for projects in Africa in the form of assistance, investment and loans, as China furthers efforts to link the continent's economic prospects to its own. Speaking to a gathering of African leaders in Beijing, Mr Xi said the figure includes $ 15 billion in grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans, $ 20 billion in credit lines, $ 10 billion for "development financing" and $ 5 billion to buy imports from Africa. In addition, he said China will encourage companies to invest at least $ 10 billion in Africa over the next three years. China's outreach to Africa aims to build trade, investment and political ties with a continent often seen as overlooked by the US and other Western nations. That has provided lucrative opportunities for Chinese businesses, while African nations are often happy to accept China's offers that come without demands for safeguards against corruption, waste and environmental damage. President Xi told African leaders that China's investments on the continent have "no political strings attached" Credit: AFP China has denied engaging in "debt trap" diplomacy, and Mr Xi's offer of more money comes after a pledge of another $ 60 billion at the previous summit in South Africa three years ago. Mr Xi earlier said the money came with "no political strings attached".  No details were given on specific projects, although Mr Xi said China was planning initiatives in eight areas, including providing $ 147 million in emergency food aid, sending 500 agricultural experts to Africa, and providing scholarships, vocational training and trade promotion opportunities. During a speech at the summit South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday delivered a stinging rebuttal to criticism of China's development aid in Africa. Mr Ramaphosa said the meeting "refutes the view that a new colonialism is taking hold in Africa, as our detractors would have us believe". China's latest pledge comes on top of a 2015 promise to provide African countries with $ 60 billion in funding that Mr Xi said had either been delivered or arranged. Also Monday, Mr Xi promoted Beijing's initiative to build ports and other infrastructure as a tool for "common prosperity" in a world facing challenges from trade protectionism. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa rejected charges of a "new colonialism" Credit: Getty Addressing businesspeople prior to the formal opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Mr Xi said the "Belt and Road" initiative will expand markets. He tried to mollify concern that Beijing wants to build strategic influence, promising Chinese investment comes with "no political strings attached." "Unilateralism and protectionism are on the rise. Economic growth lacks robust drive," Mr Xi said in a speech. "China-Africa cooperation under the BRI is a way to common prosperity that brings benefits to both our peoples." African and other Asian leaders have welcomed "Belt and Road" but some projects have prompted complaints about debt and other problems. The initiative involves hundreds of projects, most of them built by Chinese contractors and financed by loans from Chinese state-owned banks, across an arc of 65 countries from the South Pacific through Asia to Africa and the Middle East. In a major blow to China's ambitions, Malaysia recently canceled Chinese-financed projects worth more than $ 20 billion, saying they were unnecessary and would create an unsustainable debt burden. Deeply indebted Pakistan is also reportedly reconsidering some projects in the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that is a key link in the BRI. The Beijing forum brings together leaders from China and more than 50 African countries. Dozens of African leaders met with Mr Xi ahead of the conference. Mr Xi made no mention of the political and debt concerns that overshadow some BRI projects. But Chinese officials previously have rejected accusations that projects leave host countries too deeply indebted to Chinese lenders. "China's investment in Africa comes with no political strings attached," Mr Xi said. "China does not interfere in Africa's internal affairs and does not impose its own will on Africa." 



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Satellite images show 'new Iranian base' outside Damascus to house missiles capable of hitting Israel

Satellite images show 'new Iranian base' outside Damascus to house missiles capable of hitting IsraelSatellite images reportedly show Iran has established a base outside of Damascus to house missiles capable of hitting Israel, crossing a “red line” for the Israeli government as it struggles to stop Iranian entrenchment in Syria. Images from the Israeli satellite firm ImageSat International appear to show a pair of newly built missile hangars on the base, which strongly resemble hangars at another Iranian compound that Israel bombed last year. The new base, located around eight miles north-west of Damascus, is being run by the Quds Force, the expeditionary arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which has spearheaded Iran’s involvement in Syria, according to Fox News. If the base is confirmed to hold Iranian missiles, its presence will likely increase the tensions between arch rivals Israel and Iran over Syria, which have been growing sharply in recent months. Those tensions erupted in early February when Israel shot down an Iranian drone that entered its airspace from Syria and in turn lost one of its F-16 fighter jets to a Syrian regime anti-aircraft missiles. Iran's presence in Syria Western diplomats and the UN have repeatedly warned such skirmishes could easily erupt into a devastating full-blown conflict, potentially pitting Israel against Iran and its allies in both Lebanon and Syria.  Israel has largely stayed out of the war that has raged in Syria for the past seven years, but it has laid down a series of what it calls “red lines” aimed mainly at limiting the presence in Syria of both Iran and its proxy group Hizbollah. One of those red lines is to prevent Iran from using its alliance with the Assad regime to establish any permanent military bases in Syria.  "Iran continues to try to cross those red lines," said Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, at the Munich security conference. “Israel will not allow the Iranian regime to put a noose of terror around our neck.” Last December Israeli jets and ground missiles struck an alleged Iranian base in the Syrian city of al-Qiswah, eight miles south of Damascus. Satellite images taken of the al-Qiswah facility before it was destroyed show a white hangar around 30 metres long and 20m wide.  ImageSat International said its satellites showed a pair of similar hangars at the newly spotted base at Jabal ash Sharqi, northwest of Damascus. Satellite images show hangars at the new base (right) which appear similar to one at a base attacked by Israel in December (left) Credit: ImageSat International The Israeli government’s policy is usually to neither confirm nor deny its strikes in Syria and senior officials rarely talk openly about its military activities against Iran and Hizbollah.    Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli defence minister, played down reports of the new base on Wednesday. “We are listening and following the events. We will also act in the international arena to achieve everything possible,” he said.  Maps published by the Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think tank, show Iran has dozens of long-term military facilities across Syria, ranging from headquarters to training facilities to drone bases.  While Israel has carried out periodic strikes against the most significant facilities, it has been unable to stop the proliferation of Iranian bases.  Repeated diplomatic efforts by Mr Netanyahu to try to convince Russian leader Vladimir Putin to rein in Iran's expansion in Syria have so far failed to win over the Kremlin. “I don’t think Israel has a grand vision of how it’s going to prevent Iran from consolidating its presence in Syria,” said Michael Horowitz, a senior analyst at the Le Beck geopolitical consultancy. “Israel has tactical measures that can delay the Iranian entrenchment but on a strategic level they are trying to talk to the Russians and it’s not working.” Benjamin Netanyahu (left) has tried unsuccessfully to convince Vladimir Putin (right) to rein in Iran in Syria Credit: Photo by Mikhail Metzel\\TASS via Getty Images A senior former Israeli air force commander said that in the absence of a political agreement with Russia on limiting Iran’s presence in Syria, Israel’s military would use air strikes try to “raise the cost” to Iran.  “An attack aimed at Israel from Iran would be very inefficient and Israel would have a long time to prepare. But an attack from Syria would be a different ball game because they are dramatically closer,” the commander said.    Iran’s arming of Hizbollah in Lebanon and its establishment of bases in Syria is usually presented by Israel as evidence of Iran’s determination to wipe out the Jewish state.  Iran regularly makes provocative anti-Semitic statements about Israel and at times even paints its missiles with Hebrew letters threatening Israel’s destruction. But many analysts believe that beneath the bluster, Iran is not eager for a war with Israel’s superior military and is focused mainly on trying to discourage attacks on its own territory by either Israel or the US.   “It’s more of a mechanism of deterence, especially at a time when Iran is uncertain of the intentions of the current US administration. For them having a presence in Lebanon and Syria is both offensive and defensive,” said Holly Dagres, the curator of the Iranist newsletter.



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Iran supreme leader is 'new Hitler' says Saudi crown prince

Iran supreme leader is 'new Hitler' says Saudi crown princeSaudi Arabia’s crown prince has called Iran’s supreme leader “the new Hitler of the Middle East” and warned that as in European history, “appeasement doesn’t work”. In his first comments since a widespread anti-corruption purge Mohammad bin Salman fired his strongest criticism yet of Saudi Arabia's regional arch-rival. “We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East,” bin Salman, known by his initials MbS, told The New York Times in an interview published on Thursday. The 32-year-old prince has positioned himself at the forefront of an economic and social upheaval in Saudi Arabia. But he has been criticised over the human costs of the intervention he has led in Yemen, seen as a proxy for the country's conflict with Iran. Oxfam on Saturday claimed that a further eight million people will be without running water due to fuel shortages arising from the Saudi-led blockade on the country’s northern ports. The coalition has given the United Nations permission to resume flights of aid workers to the Houthi-controlled capital, but not to dock ships loaded with wheat and medical supplies, a UN spokesman said.  Profile | Mohammad bin Salman Recent mass arrests in an anti-corruption drive led by Prince Mohammed, which saw dozens of princes, former officials and media tycoons held in Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton, are largely seen as an attempt to consolidate his power since becoming crown prince two and a half years ago.  Prince Mohamed has also touted his programme of modernisation, which has included curbing the power of Saudi’s religious police and preparing to allow women to drive and attend football matches. He repeated to the New York Times his pledge to tackle the intolerant, puritanical brand of Islam of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi clerics, and return Saudi Islam to the more open orientation that was eclipsed by fundamentalism in 1979, the same year Iran saw its own Islamic revolution. “We are ‘restoring’ Islam to its origins — and our biggest tools are the Prophet’s practices and [daily life in] Saudi Arabia before 1979,” he said. According to many of the records of life during the Prophet Muhammad’s time around 570-632 CE, women and men mixed more freely than they do in Saudi Arabia today, and Islam existed alongside Judaism and Christianity. The promise of a return to a more moderate Islam is coupled with a bid to encourage economic growth, and the kingdom hopes it will help Saudi Arabia’s bid to carve out greater influence regionally and internationally. The speed of Prince Mohammed’s reforms may have challenged older generations in the slow-moving kingdom, but are designed to reach out to younger Saudis.  There are, however, concerns about his sweeping corruption crackdown, seen as a purge as he tightens his grip on power. Many see the arrests of dozens of princes as a warning shot to those who may pose a challenge to the future king, and an attempt to silence all but his most loyal associates.



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