Pogba to miss derby as Man Utd decide not to appeal red card

The 24-year-old was sent off against Arsenal and is set to miss the crucial game against Pep Guardiola’s runaway leaders on Sunday

Paul Pogba will miss Manchester United’s crucial Premier League game against Manchester City after the club decided not to appeal his suspension.

After setting up two goals for his side, the 24-year-old was sent off in the 3-1 win over Arsenal for a stamp on Hector Bellerin in the second half.

Jose Mourinho’s side are looking to narrow the eight-point gap between them and the unbeaten leaders when they meet at Old Trafford on Sunday.

But reports in the UK state they have accepted they will be without the star midfielder, who has three goals and five assists in eight league appearances this term.

As a result, Pogba will miss the clash against Pep Guardiola’s team, as well as games against Bournemouth and West Brom.

However, he will still play in Tuesday’s Champions League game against CSKA Moscow, Mourinho confirmed.

“He’s very happy to play tomorrow. It’s the next match, the match that matters. He plays tomorrow,” the Portuguese said.

“Of course he’s maybe a bit tired and has only had a few days to recover, but he’s very happy and he’ll try to keep his momentum, because since he’s been back he’s been phenomenal.”

United sit top of Group A with 12 points and will seal first place with a draw against the Russian side on Tuesday.

Mourinho’s opposite number Pep Guardiola had been keen for Pogba to be available for the derby at the weekend.

“I would like it if Paul could play against us because I like to face the teams with the best players possible to see if we are able to beat them,” said Guardiola after City beat West Ham 2-1 on Sunday.

Meanwhile, former United captain Gary Neville has outlined how he thinks Mourinho may set his team up against City in the absence of Pogba.

“I was excited by what I was watching in the first 20 minutes against Arsenal, the counter-attacking was fantastic,” he told Sky Sports.

“[Jesse] Lingard, [Anthony] Martial and [Romelu] Lukaku were brilliant, and you could see a little bit how [Nicolas] Otamendi or [Vincent] Kompany could get caught. You could see how that tactic could work in the Manchester derby.

“Pogba makes a big, big difference. So, when they went to Anfield, they couldn’t connect the deep defence to the midfield and into attack. He connects that, he links it, with those runs forward and his composure on the ball.

“It [Pogba’s red card at Arsenal] was a cloud over a very good day for United because he is such an important player in the connection between the front and the back.

“The composure he shows travelling with the ball, you see West Ham when they were deep with 20 minutes to go, they didn’t have anybody that could travel with the ball, past [Kevin] De Bruyne and [David] Silva.

“You think about Pogba, he would beat Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva with the ball at his feet and break that line. Once you break that line you’re onto the weakness, you’re onto those two centre-backs with Lukaku and Martial.

“City is a big game to not have Pogba. The person who can break the line is gone, but Jose Mourinho will be looking at how he can do it differently.

“I was trying to think myself what Jose will be thinking. Do you play split strikers with Martial and Lukaku? City bring their full-backs in narrow while two centre-backs push up the pitch, [so United could] just leave two strikers stretched wide and you play three central midfielders and five at the back, and say to City that’s what we’ll do, trust that the front two will get into those areas.”

U.S. defense chief arrives in Pakistan but few signs of progress for Trump strategy

U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in Islamabad on Monday to ask Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership to do more to rein in militants accused of using the country as a base to carry out attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.

More than 100 days since President Donald Trump announced his South Asia strategy, however, U.S. officials and analysts say there has been only limited success and it is not clear how progress will be made.

U.S. officials have long been frustrated by what they see as Pakistan’s reluctance to act against groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network that they believe exploit safe haven on Pakistani soil to launch attacks in Afghanistan.

“We have heard from Pakistani leaders that they do not support terrorism … we expect them to act in their own best interest, and in support of peace and regional stability,” Mattis said told reporters traveling with him this week.

Mattis, who is visiting Pakistan for the first time as defence secretary, said the goal for his trip would be to find “common ground” and work together.

In August, Trump outlined a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, chastising Pakistan over its alleged support for Afghan militants. But beyond that, the Trump administration has done little to articulate its strategy, experts say.

Senior U.S. officials say they have not seen a change in Pakistan’s support for militants, despite visits by senior U.S. officials, including one by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently.

“We have been very direct and very clear with the Pakistanis … we have not seen those changes implemented yet,” General John Nicholson, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, said this week.

Pakistan says it has done a great deal to help the United States in tracking down militants and Pakistani officials have pushed back on the U.S. claims.

LIMITED LEVERAGE

U.S. official expressed hope that relations between the two countries could improve after a kidnapped U.S.-Canadian couple and their three children were freed in Pakistan in October, after the couple was abducted in Afghanistan.

However, while the Trump administration has used tougher words with Pakistan, it is has yet to change Islamabad’s calculus and if the United States is seen as bullying, it is unlikely to succeed, experts say.

While Mattis traveled to the region earlier this year, he did not make a stop in Pakistan, although he did visit its arch rival, India, a relationship that has grown under the Trump administration.

“There is not an effective stick anymore because Pakistan doesn’t really care about U.S aid, it has been dwindling anyway and it is getting the money it needs elsewhere … treat it with respect and actually reward it when it does do something good,” Madiha Afzal, with the Brookings Institution, said.

Mattis’ brief visit to Islamabad comes a week after a hardline Pakistani Islamist group called off nationwide protests after the government met its demand that a minister accused of blasphemy resign.

Separately, a Pakistani Islamist accused of masterminding a bloody 2008 assault in the Indian city of Mumbai was freed from house arrest. The White House said the release could have repercussions for relations between Washington and Islamabad.

“I think for Pakistan, the timing in very bad. There is talk about progress being made against extremists and here you have a situation where religious hardliners have basically been handed everything they wanted on a silver platter,” said Michael Kugelman, with the Woodrow Wilson think-tank in Washington.

Kugelman said that rather than pushing Pakistan, Mattis should explain that not dealing with militants on its border could see those same militants turning on Islamabad.

Kremlin says Putin not influenced by ex-Trump official Flynn

MOSCOW – The Kremlin said on Monday Russian President Vladimir Putin had taken a decision to hold off responding to new U.S. sanctions last year independently and had not been influenced by former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors delving into the actions of President Donald Trump’s inner circle before he took office.

U.S. prosecutors said Flynn and Sergei Kislyak, then Russian ambassador to the U.S., last December discussed economic sanctions that the Obama administration had just imposed on Moscow for allegedly interfering in the U.S. presidential election, something Moscow denies.

Obama at the time expelled 35 Russian diplomats and the U.S. authorities seized two Russian diplomatic compounds in the United States.

But Putin said he would wait to see how relations developed with the new Trump administration before responding. Russia only went ahead and took retaliatory measures this summer.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had taken the decision to hold off retaliating independently and had not known of Flynn’s alleged request to Russia to refrain from an immediate response.

Flynn was not in a position to ask Kislyak, the then Russian Ambassador to the U.S., to do anything, said Peskov, calling the idea “absurd.”

“Of course Putin took the decision, it was his decision,” Peskov told a conference call with reporters.

“It (the decision) could not have been connected to any requests or recommendations. The president takes his decisions absolutely independently.”

HRW: ’62 killed’ as DRC forces, rebels quashed dissent

At least 62 people were killed as security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) recruited former rebel fighters to quash protests against President Joseph Kabila last year, a rights group claims.

In a report on Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said more than 200 former M23 fighters were mobilised, during country-wide protests that erupted after Kabila refused to step down at the end of his term.

As well as killing scores of people, Congolese security forces and M23 fighters arrested hundreds more between December 19-22, 2016, HRW said.

The accusations come amid renewed fears that DRC could witness a repeat of violence, as Kabila has delayed a new vote until December 2018.

Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at HRW, said the government’s covert operations to recruit fighters “from an abusive armed group to suppress any resistance show how far President Kabila and his coterie are willing to go to stay in power”.

HRW said its findings were based on more than 120 interviews, including 21 M23 fighters, commanders and political leaders.

‘Explicit orders to use lethal force’

The mainly Tutsi ethnic group was the largest of dozens of armed groups in eastern Congo, until its defeat by Congolese and UN forces in November 2013. Hundreds of fighters fled, taking refuge in Rwanda and Uganda.

Many live in military camps there, awaiting amnesties promised under a peace deal.

Between October and December 2016, as protests against Kabila escalated, senior Congolese officers drafted the former rebels, gave them new uniforms and weapons and deployed them to Congo’s main cities, Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and Goma.

“To protect the president and quash protests, the M23 fighters were given explicit orders to use lethal force, including at ‘point-blank range’ if necessary,” HRW said.

The rights group renewed calls on the international community for “sustained, targeted and well-coordinated pressure” on Kabila to step down and allow for credible and peaceful elections.

Kabila had taken power after his father was assassinated in 2001, and was elected in 2006 and 2011.

According to the constitution, Kabila cannot seek a third term.

The sex trafficking trail from Nigeria to Europe

Sandra knew there was always a chance that her clients would kill her.

For three years, she was forced to work as a prostitute on the streets of Moscow, repaying a $45,000 debt to the trafficker who brought her from Nigeria.

“There were five of them,” she recalls of one occasion. “They were brutal, they beat me up, they brought out a knife and tried to stab me.”

Instead, they pushed her out of the two-story window for not submitting.

Often times, there were more men — 10, 15, 20 per call.

“They might even kill you if you try to defend yourself,” she says. “That’s the reason why it is very horrible. And in that process most Nigerian girls lose their life, because not every girl can withstand the pressure of 10 men.”

Sandra, not her real name, is one of tens of thousands of Nigerian women who have been trafficked into Europe for sexual exploitation. And many of those women come from a single city.

For decades, Benin City, the capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria, has been tied to trafficking to Europe. Here, a potent mix of poverty and spiritualism drives thousands of young women to make the dangerous journey.

Along its often unpaved, mud-ridden streets there are houses with wide gates and high walls. These belong to the families with a relation who has “made it,” says Roland Nwoha, a local NGO worker who has devoted his career to stopping the trade. “Almost every family has a contact in Europe.”

Organizations like Nwoha’s help educate people about the risks. But he says these few stories of success continue to be a powerful motivator in a city where so many live in desperate conditions.

And in Benin City, the push to leave comes from every direction.

Trapped by fear

Sandra says she was convinced to go by a man she met at church, who said he was an assistant pastor.

She says he told her he had a vision from God that she traveled overseas, that his sister in Russia could get a job in a hair salon. For added insurance, the man had given the items she left behind to a traditional priest.

“We always have had this belief that your future lies in the hand of God,” says Nwoha. “Religious leaders, both the traditional and the Christian, are capitalizing on this.”

Like so many, Sandra feared the juju — traditional witchcraft — as much as she trusted her friend.

Her trafficker took much more than just her passport. “My pants, my bra, the hair from my head, the armpit and my private parts,” she says.

The items were for a juju oath, so powerful, a local priest said, that no one dares break it.

For Sandra, it bound her to her home thousands of miles away in Benin City, and the assistant pastor that convinced her to go.

“I saw it with my own eyes. It’s like a danger to weak girls, especially when it has to do with sensitive parts of your body.”

She believed that her passage to Europe would cost her no more than $2,000. She ended up owing her trafficker $45,000.

The average debt for girls trafficked from Nigeria is around $25,000, but it can be as much as $60,000. None of them have any idea that they will owe these extortionate amounts. The debt, and the fear of juju, keeps them trapped.

Sea of misery

Sandra’s journey took her through Lagos and then an onward flight to Europe.

But increasingly the trafficking trade is flowing through the lawlessness of Libya and across the Mediterranean where, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), over the past three years there has been a 600 percent rise in the number of potential sex trafficking victims arriving into Italy by sea.

The IOM estimates 80 percent are from Nigeria. The majority are from Benin City.

“When the Europeans started their search and rescue operations, many people in Benin said, ‘the road has opened, once you get on the boats you will be rescued,” says Nwoha.

But just last month, the bodies of 26 Nigerian women were recovered from the Mediterranean in a single day, bringing this year’s total number of migrant deaths in that sea to at least 3,000.

Often, the journey ends in tragedy. More often, the tragedy happens in Libya.

Ede’s story

Physically, 28-year-old Ede is finally free, but the pain of what she endured is still raw.

“He used to hurt me, apart from work,” she says of the man who purchased her. She was sold into sexual slavery in Libya as she tried to make her way to Europe.

“That is how they do there,” says Ede, “When you finish paying your money [to your captor], if you are staying with a wicked somebody, they will sell you to another people so you start all over again.”

She was freed after a police raid and eventually deported to Nigeria.

Now, back in Benin City, she sits next to 18-year-old Jennifer, who is too traumatized to talk. They are recent rescues, kept in a safe house run by the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

“Especially they hate us, we Nigerians … they don’t even want to hear anything concerning Nigerians,” Ede remembers. “They treated us like a slave, as if we are nothing. So we went through a lot there.”

Outside, the house is a non-descript, high walled compound, just like the others in the neighborhood.

Inside, the young women sit in a dark living room, where the hum of an overhead fan, and the Nigerian soap opera on TV are the few comforts in this temporary home as they wait for their cases to be investigated and to be reunited with their families.

Reducing demand

But few cases end up in court. Fewer still end in convictions.

According the US State Department’s latest Trafficking In Persons report, last year NAPTIP reported 654 investigations, with 23 convictions for trafficking offenses.

“We’re prosecuting the small fries in Nigeria,” says Julie Okah-Donli, director general of NAPTIP. “Absolutely the number one problem is the inability of destination countries to clamp down on their own criminal networks.

“We’ve looked at the root causes in Nigeria without addressing the root causes in the destination countries,” she says. “What is being done to reduce the demand for this crime?”

Sandra’s case is one of the rare prosecutions. Her trafficker was arrested, as was his sister, who was Sandra’s “madam” in Russia, pimping her out to clients. They are both awaiting trial.

“When I was in Russia I said to myself, if I get back to Nigeria alive I will expose her,” says Sandra. “She is not going to go unpunished. The wicked don’t have any place here, they have to face the law.”

Her former church admits her trafficker was a member of the congregation but denies that he was an assistant pastor.

The betrayal that stretched across two continents is now even closer to Sandra.

“Even my own father he said I am not his daughter,” she says.

The trafficking is not Nigeria’s problem to solve alone, says Okah-Donli, but it is Nigeria’s tragedy.

“It’s our young boys and girls who are trafficked. Many are not making it back alive and the ones that do are battered and bruised.”

Malta police arrest 10 suspects in murder of blogger, PM says

VALLETTA, Dec 4 (Reuters) – Maltese police have arrested 10 suspects in the murder of anti-corruption blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, the country’s prime minister said on Monday, almost two months after she was killed when her car was blown up.

All of the suspects are Maltese nationals and most have a criminal record, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said, without providing any further details. The police have 48 hours to question the suspects, arraign them or release them.

Muscat initially announced eight arrests at a press conference, then later said on Twitter that two more had been apprehended.

“Authorities have all areas of interest under control since early this morning and searches are underway,” he said.

A section of Lighters Wharf in Marsa was sealed off early on Monday as helicopters circled above. Military and police used sniffer dogs to search.

Caruana Galizia, 53, was murdered on Oct. 16 as she was driving away from her house in northern Malta.

She wrote a popular blog in which she relentlessly highlighted cases of alleged graft targeting politicians from across party lines.

Galizia was following leads from the Panama Papers, which were leaked in 2015 and show how the world’s rich use offshore firms to hide their wealth. She had also accused senior figures in the government and opposition of corruption and money laundering.

All have denied the accusations and Galizia was hit with 36 libel suits in the nine months preceding her death.

Her murder shocked Malta and raised concern within the European Union about the rule of law on the Mediterranean island. Concluding a fact-finding mission on Friday, a group of EU lawmakers said there was a “perception of impunity” in Malta .

Honduran incumbent ahead after recount

The incumbent in the presidential poll in Honduras has retained a lead of 1.59 percentage points over his closest rival after a partial recount of votes, electoral authorities have announced.

With 99.96% of votes counted, President Juan Orlando Hernández had won 42.98% against Salvador Nasralla’s 41.39%.

The electoral tribunal has yet to declare an outright winner.

The closely fought poll has triggered a political crisis with Mr Nasralla alleging his votes had been “stolen”.

No change after recount

The head of the electoral tribunal, David Matamoros, said a recount of approximately 6% of the votes had concluded and that President Hernández remained in the lead.

He said that the tribunal would not yet declare an official winner because the parties could still file legal challenges and the tribunal could still consider a wider recount than the one it had carried out.

The delay in publishing the final results of the election, which was held eight days ago, has caused anger among Hondurans, who have taken to the streets outside the electoral council in protest.

At least three people have been killed in violent clashes and hundreds have been arrested.

Supporters of Mr Nasralla cried foul after their candidate’s initial lead of five percentage points dwindled and he was overtaken by Mr Hernández, who is running for an unprecedented second term in office.

Distrust over the count is partly due to the fact that the tribunal is appointed by Congress, which is controlled by Mr Hernández’s National Party, and partly due to the sudden reversal of Mr Nasralla’s initial lead.

Mr Nasralla and his supporters boycotted Monday’s recount because in their view it did not go far enough, examining only just over 1,000 boxes instead of the more than 5,000 they were demanding be probed.

Without an official election result, tension in the country remains high.

A night-time curfew is still in place but has been largely ignored by protesters who burned tyres and erected barricades in the capital, Tegucigalpa.

Iraq death toll at lowest level in five years

The death toll from violence in Iraq has fallen to its lowest monthly level in five years following the Islamic State group’s military collapse, the United Nations said Monday.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq said new lows were recorded in October and November.

In November, a total of 117 civilians and police were killed and 264 wounded in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict, UNAMI said.

The highest death tolls by province were recorded in Baghdad, at 51, and Salaheddin, with 24 deaths.

“Two bombings in Tuz Khurmatu, Salahaddin governorate, and in Baghdad governorate in November, which caused numerous casualties among civilians, are a horrible reminder that the terrorists can still inflict blows at peaceful citizens,” said UN envoy Jan Kubis.

“All measures need to be taken by the authorities to protect civilians against the barbarism of the terrorists.”

The UN mission said violence in Iraq cost 114 lives in October and that the total since the start of the year had reached 3,229 dead.

But the figures for October and November were the two lowest monthly death tolls since November 2012.

The highest toll, of 1,775 dead, came in June 2014 as IS jihadists swept across swathes of Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

The group has since suffered major military defeats and seen its self-declared “caliphate” collapse.

Trump lawyer offers new defense of tweet: president ‘cannot obstruct justice’

The attorney for Donald Trump who sought to take the blame for a tweet that could signal the president took part in the obstruction of justice has offered a new defence of Trump’s actions: the president cannot obstruct justice.

“The president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case,” John Dowd told the Axios website.

Dowd spoke after legal experts voiced surprise and concern over his original claim. On Monday, he said any suggestion the Trump tweet had admitted obstruction of justice, whoever wrote it, would be “an ignorant and arrogant assertion”.

Axios quoted Bob Bauer, a New York University law professor and former White House counsel to Barack Obama, as saying: “It is certainly possible for a president to obstruct justice.

“The case for immunity has its adherents, but they based their position largely on the consideration that a president subject to prosecution would be unable to perform the duties of the office, a result that they see as constitutionally intolerable.”

Under pressure as the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the election accelerates,Trump said in a tweet on Saturday that he fired Michael Flynn as national security adviser in February “because he lied to the vice-president and the FBI” about his discussions with Russia’s ambassador to the US last December.

Flynn pleaded guilty in court on Friday to lying to FBI agents. Experts told the Guardian that the wording of his plea agreement suggested he may already have been wearing a wire or recording conversations with other figures in the investigation.

If Trump did fire Flynn for lying to the FBI, that would mean the president knew the retired general had committed a serious crime when, according to the former FBI director James Comey, the president asked Comey the next day to halt an FBI investigation into Flynn.

On Sunday Trump, who later fired Comey, again denied making such a request.

In an attempt to contain the fallout from the Saturday tweet, Dowd took the blame, saying he had composed the post and that it was “sloppy”. He elaborated in an interview with Reuters, saying he had drafted the tweet and made “a mistake” when he composed it.

“The mistake was I should have put the lying to the FBI in a separate line referencing his plea,” Dowd said. “Instead, I put it together and it made all you guys go crazy. A tweet is a shorthand.”

Dowd said the first time the president knew for a fact that Flynn lied to the FBI was when he was charged. It was the first and last time he would craft a tweet for the president, he said.

“I’ll take responsibility,” he said. “I’m sorry I misled people.”

Talking to NBC, Dowd said: “I’m out of the tweeting business. I did not mean to break news.”

However, the suggestion that he wrote the tweet was met with incredulity by Democrats and legal experts.

Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor, wrote: “Anyone who buys Trump’s lawyer’s alibi for his corruptly treacherous client is a complete fool.”

Richard Painter, who was chief ethics lawyer in the White House of George W Bush, said: “A lawyer who writes a tweet like that incriminating a client should be disbarred. He can tell Mueller he wrote it.”

To some critics, Dowd’s denial that the president can obstruct justice carried echoes of Richard Nixon’s assertion, to David Frost in an interview in 1977, that “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal”. Others pointed out that the articles of impeachment against Nixon opened with the charge that he “obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice”.

Dowd joined Trump’s legal team in June 2017, as investigations by special counsel Robert Mueller began heating up.

The White House has yet to comment.