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    Czechs are paying tribute to a university student who burned himself to death in Prague 50 years ago to inspire resistance against the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Jan Palach's self-immolation shocked the country but failed to produce an immediate impact. The hard-line communist regime established after the invasion harshly persecuted dissenters. But Palach's action on Jan. 16, 1969 did inspire weeklong protests two decades later and the Velvet Revolution led by Vaclav Havel later in 1989 that ended Czechoslovakia's communist era. The 20-year-old Palach set himself on fire five months after the Warsaw Pact countries crushed liberal reforms known as the Prague Spring. He died three days later. Commemorative events are being held at Charles University, where Palach was a student, and elsewhere in the Czech Republic.
  • It began with cars exploding and several armed young men, wrapped in ammunition belts, sauntering onto the scene. It was declared over nearly 20 hours later with at least 14 people killed, 700 people evacuated and the Islamic extremist attackers 'eliminated.' Overnight, scores of frightened people hid in washrooms, offices and elsewhere as gunfire popped and security forces hunted the gunmen. Here's a rough timeline of what occurred in the deadly attack on a luxury hotel complex in Kenya's capital. ___ Tuesday, 3 p.m. Reports begin to spread of an explosion and gunfire at the Riverside Drive complex, which includes a hotel, shops, restaurants and offices in Nairobi's upscale Westlands neighborhood. Several cars are ablaze in a parking lot as security forces stream in and people run or are carried from the scene. Police quickly call it a terror attack. ___ 4:30 p.m. Plainclothes police with guns drawn hurry from shop to shop to look for trapped civilians and an unknown number of attackers. A black plume of smoke rises from the scene. Sporadic gunfire continues. ___ 5 p.m. The Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab claims responsibility and says its members are still fighting inside. Survivors rushing from the scene, some in tears, report seeing bodies. ___ 6 p.m. Kenya's national police chief says special forces are trying to flush out the attackers and look forward to 'bringing the situation to normalcy in the shortest time possible.' Kenyans watch the police response closely after officers took hours to respond to a deadly attack on the nearby Westgate Mall in 2013. ___ 7 p.m. A Kenyan police officer among the first responders says 'there was no time to count the dead,' with bodies seen in restaurants downstairs and in offices upstairs. Gunfire continues. ___ 8:30 p.m. Kenya's national police chief gives the first official details of the attack, saying it began with an explosion that targeted three vehicles outside a bank while a suicide bomber blew up in the hotel lobby, severely wounding bystanders. He calls the operation 'still ongoing.' ___ 11 p.m. Kenya's interior minister says all buildings have been secured and security forces are in the final stages of 'mopping up.' There is still no official toll of dead or wounded. ___ 11:30 p.m. Kenya's Citizen TV airs what it calls surveillance footage that shows four attackers, young men in ammunition bandoliers, splitting up as they calmly walk across an outdoor area of the complex. ___ Wednesday, 1 a.m. Some family members say loved ones are still trapped inside even after Kenyan authorities called all buildings secure. One woman says her brother is hiding with over 10 other people. ___ 2 a.m. A Kenyan police officer says 15 bodies have been taken to the morgue. Anguished family and friends gather there. ___ 4 a.m. Kenya's interior ministry says 'no further threat to the public exists' and that civilians who had been 'secured' in one building have been safely evacuated. ___ 6:45 a.m. Another explosion and gunfire are heard, shortly after scores of survivors who had still been holed up in part of the complex are freed. They reunite with relieved friends and family and recount a long night of cowering in hiding places while listening to nearby gunfire. ___ 9:00 a.m. Bursts of gunfire are still heard from the complex. ___ 10:30 a.m. Kenya president says 14 'innocent people' are dead and declares the attack over, saying all the terrorists have been eliminated.' ___ 3:30 p.m. A new blast is heard at the complex, 24 hours the attack began. Witnesses say security forces are conducting a painstaking sweep for any explosives the attackers left behind in a final attempt at carnage.
  • Federal authorities in Australia say a cabin crew smuggled millions of dollars worth of heroin and methamphetamines between Asia and Australia. Two flight crew and six others were arrested as part of a six-month investigation called Operation Sunrise, CNN reported. The crew members worked for Malindo Air, an air carrier based in Malaysia which is a subsidiary of Lion Air from Indonesia. >> Read more trending news  Investigators said at least 20 smuggling trips have been made by the flight crew to bring drugs into Australia. Officials said the airline employees hid the drugs on their bodies, 9News in Australia reported. The accused were said to have worked with a “highly organized” Vietnamese crime syndicate. The crime syndicate was based out of Melbourne and had been active for more than five years. Officials seized 17 pounds of heroin valued at about $10.5 million in U.S. funds, or 42,000 street deals, officials told CNN. An additional 13 pounds of methamphetamines, with a street value of $4.6 million was seized, as well as a half kilo of cocaine, cars including a Porsche and cash, 9News reported.
  • A senior German official says neighboring countries are closely watching Germany's political debate on phasing out the use of coal. Brandenburg governor Dietmar Woidke said Wednesday that 'it's really important to create positive examples' of countries taking decisions to curb climate change. A panel of experts, including Woidke, has been discussing how and when to close down Germany's remaining lignite mines. It is expected to deliver its recommendations to the government this month. A key question is what kind of financial support affected regions will get to tackle the transition away from coal. Woidke said Europe has 41 regions where coal is mined, including in less prosperous countries such as Poland, Slovakia and Bulgaria, and 'they are looking to us to see whether we can tell a positive story.
  • An imprisoned model from Belarus who claimed last year that she had evidence of Russian involvement in helping elect Donald Trump president has told Russian media that she can't wait to be released. Anastasia Vashukevich who has been in a Thai prison since February last year was given a suspended sentenced on Tuesday and ordered to be deported after she pleaded guilty to soliciting and conspiracy. Vashukevich, also known as Nastya Rybka, earlier claimed to have recordings of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska talking about interference in the 2016 U.S. election, but never released them. State-owned news agency RIA Novosti in Vashukevich's first interview since her arrest quoted her as saying that she is looking forward to a free life. She made no comment about her allegations about Deripaska.
  • A popular Naples pizzeria is the latest target of bombings in the area which Italian authorities have linked to mobsters. A small blast outside Pizzeria Sorbillo in the city's historic center early Wednesday damaged the eatery's metal grating. The ANSA news agency said eight bombs have targeted Naples-area businesses in recent days. Last month, a pizzeria was bombed in the nearby town of Afragola. The attacks are under investigation. Chamber of Deputy President Roberto Fico, a Neapolitan, decried 'vile' intimidation attacks by the Camorra, the Naples-area crime syndicate. Gino Sorbillo's pizzeria, which was torched five years ago, draws lines of residents and tourists. Extortion is a Camorra mainstay. Businesses refusing to pay 'protection' money risk attacks. Italy's interior minister said there's state funding to hire 100 more Naples police officers.
  • Vladimir Putin has accused the U.S. and the West of destabilizing the Balkans with NATO expansionist policies as Serbia prepares a hero's welcome for the Russian president. Putin arrives in Serbia on Thursday for his fourth visit to the Balkan country since 2001. A fountain on Belgrade's main square has been lit in the colors of the Russian and Serbian flags, bookstores in the capital are displaying works about Putin, and a plateau in front of the biggest Orthodox Church in the Balkans is being hastily paved before his planned visit to the temple. Serbia has maintained close links with traditional Slavic ally Russia even as the country formally seeks European Union membership. Belgrade has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine and has promised it will stay out of NATO. Putin told two Serbian pro-government newspapers in an interview published Wednesday that 'the policy of the United States and certain Western countries aimed to foster their dominance in the region constitutes a major destabilizing factor.' Despite strong Russian opposition, Montenegro joined NATO in 2017 while Macedonia is trying to settle its name dispute with Greece in order to join the Western military alliance. Last week, NATO foreign ministers restarted a program that could also lead to Bosnia's membership. Serbia's four other neighbors are already members. 'In 2017, Montenegro was drawn into NATO in disregard of the opinion of half of its population,' Putin said. 'They did not dare to hold a relevant referendum. The country is going through a period of political instability as a result.' Two Russian military secret service operatives have been accused in Montenegro for trying to stage a coup in in the tiny Adriatic state in 2016 to stop it from joining NATO. Putin said that in Macedonia 'last year, the process of adoption of constitutional amendments, renaming of the country, and revision of fundamentals of the Macedonian national identity was launched in the Republic of Macedonia for the purpose of accelerating its inclusion in NATO.' He said that while the West leads wrong policies in the Balkans, Russia 'knows and understands the complexity of the Balkans and history of the region.' Putin said Russia 'has always viewed (the Balkans) as a space for constructive cooperation. So Russia has many friends here today, and the strategic partner Serbia holds a special place.' Historically close ties between Russia and Serbia have recently been visibly revived after Putin stepped up efforts to restore Moscow's influence in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe.
  • A number of U.S. service members were killed in an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria on Wednesday, the U.S. military said, an attack that came less than a month after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw troops from the war torn country. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the rare morning attack, which local groups said killed 16 people in the U.S.-patrolled town of Manbij. The claim, which could not be independently confirmed, calls into question Trump's claim that IS has been defeated in Syria — his stated reason for pulling 2,000 American troops out of the country. 'We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,' Trump tweeted in December in announcing his intention to bring back U.S. troops 'NOW.' Trump has been clear about his desire to pull out of Syria, a country he described as 'sand and death.' But critics have said a pullout was premature, that IS was still not defeated and a pullout could lead to a power vacuum that would fuel even more violence. Video released by local activists and news agencies showed a restaurant that suffered extensive damage and a street covered with debris and blood. Several cars were also damaged. Another video showed a helicopter flying over the area. A security camera showed a busy street, and then a ball of fire and people running for cover as the blast went off. A local town council and a Syrian war monitoring group said the blast occurred outside a restaurant near the town's main market, near a patrol of the U.S.-led coalition, killing and wounding more than a dozen people. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 16 people were killed including nine civilians and others were wounded in the blast. It added that at least five U.S.-backed Syrian fighters were also among the dead. The U.S. military released a statement on Twitter that said: 'U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time.' The rare attack came days after the U.S. began the process of withdrawing from Syria, pulling out equipment from the northeast into neighboring Iraq. Trump's initial announcement about a rapid withdrawal took some of his closest aides by surprise, upset allies in the region, and led to the resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Since then, U.S. officials and Trump himself have suggested the withdrawal would be slower than initially believed. The Kurdish Hawar news agency, based in northern Syria, and the Observatory, which monitors the war through activists on the ground, reported U.S. troops were among the casualties. Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency, citing unnamed local sources, said a number of U.S. soldiers were injured in the blast and that the U.S. military evacuated soldiers by helicopter. It was not the first time that forces of the U.S.-led coalition were subjected to attacks in the area, although they have been rare. In March last year, a roadside bomb killed two coalition personnel, an American and a Briton, and wounded five in Manbij.
  • A harsh weather front brought sandstorms, hail and rain to parts of the Middle East on Wednesday, with visibility down in the Egyptian capital as an orange cloud of dust blocked out the sky and pedestrians covered their faces from the wind gusts. Dusty winds whipped through Israel and the West Bank as well, with hail falling near Tel Aviv and meteorologists announcing that snow was expected later in the day in Jerusalem. In Cairo, winds reached over 50 kilometers per hour (30 mph), bending palm trees along the Nile River, while in Libya rain, wind and cold weather was driving increased demand for electricity that overloaded the electricity grids and led to power outages. Sandstorms are common in the region in late winter and early spring and Egypt's Meteorological Commission urged caution but did not advise anyone to change their daily routines. Jerusalem braced for its first snow storm in years, with police preparing to shut down major highways and many local schools and universities said they would close early. High desert winds swept through Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, carrying sand and dust, while snow was already falling in Israel's mountainous north, where torrential rain and hail stranded some cars and turned streets into rivers of mud. In Gaza, fishermen returned to port and docked their boats to protect against the stormy sea.
  • A prominent American anchorwoman on Iranian state television's English-language service has been arrested by the FBI after flying into the U.S., the broadcaster reported Wednesday. The FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The reported detention of Press TV's Marzieh Hashemi, born Melanie Franklin of New Orleans, comes as Iran faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual nationals and others with Western ties, previously used as bargaining chips in negotiations with world powers. Iran's state broadcaster held a news conference and launched a hashtag campaign for Hashemi, using the same techniques families with loved ones held in the Islamic Republic use to highlight their cases. 'We will not spare any legal action' to help her, said Paiman Jebeli, deputy chief of Iran's state IRIB broadcaster. Press TV said Hashemi, who has worked at the state broadcaster service for 25 years, had been arrested after arriving at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Sunday. Jebeli alleged that her son, Reza Hashemi, had been arrested as well. Lambert Airport spokesman Jeff Lea declined comment, referring questions to the FBI. He said he could not confirm what flight Hashemi arrived on or when. St. Louis police said they were not involved. Rebecca Wu, St. Louis' FBI spokeswoman, directed questions to the press office at FBI headquarters. FBI headquarters in Washington did not respond to requests for comment. There were no references to any case against Hashemi in U.S. federal courts, nor in Missouri. Press TV said Hashemi had traveled to the U.S. 'to visit her family members, including her brother, who is suffering from cancer.' The broadcaster said she was a grandmother and aired footage of her anchoring news programs and talking about her experience as a reporter discussing the yearslong war in Syria, set to dramatic music. 'Unfortunately, because of the job that we do, here at Press TV and our position, there have been many stories that have been very, very difficult, very heavy,' she said. Hashemi describes herself online as having studied journalism at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She converted to Islam in 1982 at age 22 after meeting Iranian activist students in Denver. Hashemi's brother, Milton Leroy Franklin of Metairie, a New Orleans suburb, told The Associated Press he knows only what his niece has put on Facebook. He said he believed his sister had been in custody since Sunday. 'We don't have any detailed information except she's being held. And her son is being held in a hotel in (Washington) and she's being held in some form of prison or incarcerated area,' Franklin said. 'I'm very concerned. There's no way of getting any word to her and she can't send any out, apparently. We're all in the dark and just waiting and praying that they release her.' He said she had visited to help plan a family reunion. 'We all got together, a small celebration, and prepared for the next time she would come,' Franklin said. 'They detained her on her way back home, from what I understand. We're looking to find out more.' Milton Franklin said his sister lives about half the time in Colorado, where her children live, and half the time in Iran. She married Hossein Hashemi, whom she had met while in journalism school at LSU; they had two sons and a daughter, Franklin said. He said her husband is dead. His sister remains an American citizen. Last week, Iran confirmed it is holding U.S. Navy veteran Michael R. White at a prison in the country, making him the first American known to be detained under President Donald Trump's administration. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told state TV that Hashemi's arrest indicates the 'apartheid and racist policy' of the Trump administration. 'We hope that the innocent person will be released without any condition,' Ghasemi said. There are four other known American citizens being held in Iran, including Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his 82-year-old father Baquer, both serving 10-year sentences on espionage charges. Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences respectively. Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang was sentenced to 10 year in prison. Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a U.S. permanent resident from Lebanon who advocated for internet freedom and has done work for the U.S. government. He was sentenced to 10 years on espionage-related charges. Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, though his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance. Tehran now says it has no information about him. ___ Associated Press writers Jim Salter in St. Louis, Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans, Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

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  • The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is welcoming back K9 Officer Jeremy Mason, nearly 18 months after he was shot in the face while chasing a robbery and carjacking suspect. The shooting happened in July 2017, when police were called to 103rd Street and Old Middleburg Road, after community tips led them to believe a bank robbery suspect was in that area. Police say that suspect- since identified as 28-year-old Michael Harris- carjacked and kidnapped a woman there by getting in her car and forcing her to drive off. JSO says Mason was shot in the ensuing chase, but continued to pursue the suspect. The suspect vehicle got in a crash with a civilian car, and Mason and a detective ultimately fatally shot Harris when he refused to disarm, according to police. Mason has undergone 12 surgeries through his recovery, according to JSO. Today marks the first day back on the job for Mason and K9 Echo.
  • With a partial government shutdown showing no signs of being resolved, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday basically ‘disinvited’ President Donald Trump from a scheduled January 29 State of the Union Address, saying that the Secret Service and Homeland Security Department should not be tasked with such a major event while they are in a shutdown status. “Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened,” Pelosi wrote in a letter sent to the President on Wednesday morning. There was no immediate reaction from the White House or the President. The President gives the State of the Union at the invitation of the Congress, as the House and Senate must agree to use the House chamber for such an event. The reaction in Congress split down party lines. “It is very ironic that Democrats reference security concerns in their latest grandstanding tactic, delaying the State of the Union, but will not address the security concerns that are creating a humanitarian crisis at the border,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN). “We know the state of our union,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), as Democrats said there should be no speech from the President while the partial shutdown continues. In an interview with NBC News, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the President had been “disinvited” by Pelosi.
  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi asked President Donald Trump on Wednesday to postpone his State of the Union address as the partial government shutdown that started Dec. 22 continues. >> Read more trending news Earlier this month, Pelosi invited Trump to deliver the annual State of the Union address on Jan. 29. However, the California Democrat said Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Secret Service -- the agency tasked with coordinating and implementing security for certain special events, including the State of the Union address -- have not been paid for 26 days. >> State of the Union 2019: What day, what time, who will be there? “Given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th,” Pelosi said. Pelosi noted that State of the Union addresses were routinely brought to Congress in writing up until the presidency of Woodrow Wilson in 1913. >> Who is Nancy Pelosi? California Democrat elected as House speaker 'Since the start of modern budgeting in Fiscal Year 1977, a State of the Union address has never been delivered during a government shutdown,' Pelosi said. Several federal agencies have been closed and thousands of government employees have been compelled to wok without pay since last month, when lawmakers failed to approve of a budget to keep the federal government running. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Coast Guard misses paychecks as partial shutdown reaches Day 25 At issue is funding for a proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that Democrats have opposed. Trump has signaled that he’ll refuse to sign any budget passed by lawmakers that fails to include $5.7 billion to build the wall.
  • Police in California are hoping the public can help them identify a toddler found dead nearly 15 years ago. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's 'Help ID Me' page, hikers discovered the remains of the boy, known as 'Baby Doe,' in May 2004 near the Rancho Bernardo Community Park in San Diego. >> Read more trending news  'The remains were found by two hikers who noticed a green padded winter-type coat lying over a green and white duffel bag,' read the Facebook post shared Tuesday. 'When they removed the coat and looked in the bag, they saw a human skull and bones.' The 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-year-old boy likely died at least a year before he was discovered, authorities said. He had been 'wearing red warm-up pants, gray-tan socks, a blue vest and two sweatshirts,' the Facebook post said. Investigators also released sketches of what the child may have looked like. >> See the images here Forensic tests showed that the boy's mother 'likely spent time in the Southeast while pregnant and may have lived in Texas shortly after the child was born before ultimately moving to the southern California area,' the post said. >> Watch the video here If you have information about the case, please call 1-800-THE-LOST.
  • The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is interviewing witnesses and trying to speak to victims after six people were shot in the Spring Park area.  Officers believe the scene happened around the Spring Park and Emerson area.  According to JSO, a Chevy Tahoe with multiple bullet holes pulled up to Memorial Hospital around 2:00 am with the victims inside. One person died, the others have injuries ranging from minor to critical. None of the victims are children. Police say the victims are between their 20’s and 40’s. Details are very limited about the person who died, all police were able to say is that the person is 25-years-old.  During the briefing, police were unable to say what exactly led up to the shooting and they’re not even sure if someone called 911.  The Sheriff’s Office does not have any type of suspect information. They are asking anyone with information to call them or Crime Stoppers. This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the morning. 

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