Syria using ‘crematorium’ to hide mass killing: US

Warning Moscow it should not turn a blind eye to Bashar al-Assad’s crimes, the State Department released satellite images that it said backed up reports of mass killings at a Syrian jail.

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“The United States is on record, has stated many times, that we are appalled by the atrocities that have been carried out by the Syrian regime,” said Stuart Jones, the top US diplomat for the Middle East.

“And these atrocities have been carried out seemingly with the unconditional support from Russia and Iran.”

And he added a warning to President Vladimir Putin’s government: “Russia must now, with great urgency, exercise its influence over the Syrian regime to guarantee that horrific violations stop now.”

Images of the alleged crematorium 

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One newly released image, a commercial satellite photograph dating back to January 2015, shows snow melting on the roof of a building attached to the Saydnaya military complex north of Damascus.

This, along with an earlier picture allegedly showing heavy-duty ventilation systems on the structure, appear to support earlier claims by rights groups that Saydnaya is an execution center.

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“Beginning in 2013, the Syrian regime modified a building within the Saydnaya complex to support what we believe is a crematorium,” said Jones, currently an acting assistant secretary of state.

“Although the regime’s many atrocities are well documented, we believe that the building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of the mass murders taking place in Saydnaya.”

Jones said Washington’s information came from credible humanitarian agencies and from the US “intelligence community” — implying that classified evidence beyond the commercial pictures exists.

“The regime holds as many as 70 prisoners in Saydnaya in cells that have a five-person capacity,” Jones alleged.

“And according to multiple sources, the regime is responsible for killing as many as 50 detainees per day at Saydnaya.”

A satellite image of what the US State Department described as a building in a prison complex in Syria that was modified to support a crematorium. AAP

He did not give an official estimate for the total number killed, but cited an Amnesty International report that between 5,000 and 11,000 had died between 2011 and 2015 in the prison.

Assad’s regime, he alleged, has detained between 65,000 and 117,000 people over the same period — the first five years of a civil war that has left hundreds of thousands dead.

One satellite photograph presented by Jones dated to January 2015, more than two years ago, and it was not immediately clear why the United States waited to present its evidence.

Jones told reporters Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had raised concerns about Assad’s brutality with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during his visit to Washington last week.

“These allegations are totally unfounded, they are nothing but the product of the imagination of this administration and its agents,” state news agency SANA quoted the foreign ministry as saying.

“Successive US administrations have repeatedly fabricated lies and allegations to justify their aggressive and interventionist policies in other sovereign countries,” the ministry said.

“Yesterday the US administration pulled out a new Hollywood screenplay disconnected from reality, accusing the Syrian government of having, according to the administration, built a crematorium at the Saydnaya prison.”

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Moscow, along with Iran, is the Assad regime’s main foreign backer and Washington believes Russian pressure is the only thing that will compel its ally to negotiate a peace deal.

“I would say that this information has been developing,” Jones said on the timing of the crematorium allegation.

Jones said Washington is not specifically accusing Moscow or Tehran of complicity in the alleged Saydnaya killings, but said Russia is aware of and has supported other abuses.  

And he said last week’s visit by Lavrov to the White House was “an opportune time to remind people about the atrocities that are being carried out inside of Syria all the time.”

US President Donald Trump came to office vowing to focus US efforts in Syria on defeating the Islamic State group, a jihadist force that exploited the civil war to seize the east of the country.

And he said he hoped to work with Putin, whose forces are in Syria to protect Assad’s regime, in this goal.

But relations with Moscow, already dire under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, have not improved and Assad has continued to bombard civilian areas in his battle with opposition rebels.

Then last month, when Assad was again accused of using the banned nerve agent sarin in a strike on his own people, Trump ordered a retaliatory US cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base.

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Tigers review another AFL heartbreaker

Richmond forward Jack Riewoldt calls the analysis of yet another close AFL loss a steep learning curve.

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The Tigers had the lead with less than a minute left on Sunday at the MCG, but Fremantle took the ball from the centre bounce.

David Mundy marked and then kicked a goal after the siren to give them a two-point win.

It was the second time in three seasons a late Mundy goal gave the Dockers a tight win over Richmond.

The Tigers have made a bad habit of losing matches decided by less than a goal.

In the last two seasons, their cliffhanger record is 1-5.

“Just one piece of the puzzle went wrong,” Riewoldt told Fox Footy.

“We had a pretty honest discussion about it today and fortunately it’s a very steep learning curve.

“We certainly looked at this and thought ‘we need to be better than this’ – we needed to have someone come off the back of the square.”

But Riewoldt pointed out there was no point spending an hour of Tuesday’s game review on the last 21 seconds, given their first three quarters against Fremantle were poor.

Richmond were five goals down at three-quarter time.

“The ball bounces up in the air and (Shaun) Grigg misses it, just,” Riewoldt said of the last centre clearance.

“Sometimes the ball falls that way.

“But I will continue to harp on, is there’s no point focussing on the last 21 seconds if you are not going to get the first three quarters right.

“We were outplayed.”

Melbourne veteran Jordan Lewis said looking at the match footage, Richmond seemed to set up well for the last centre bounce.

“The funny thing is, when you do go in front with 21 seconds to go, you try and get as many numbers behind the ball as you possibly can,” he said.

“Now what that may do is relax some of the defenders who are already on forwards, because you have to go out there covering space.

“You might think ‘I don’t have to go as tight on my man, because someone else will actually come over and cover me.’

AFL’s Jesse Hogan diagnosed with cancer

Tony Hogan’s death might have saved his son’s life.

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AFL star Jesse Hogan underwent surgery on Tuesday after he went to Melbourne club doctor Zeeshan Arain last week, complaining of discomfort.

The 22-year-old key forward was subsequently diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Hogan is expected to make a full recovery and, remarkably, could be back playing in four to eight weeks, although he is on indefinite leave.

His manager Matt Bain sent a text to Triple M radio, saying Hogan was awake after the operation and it had gone well.

The surgery to remove the growth, most likely a seminoma, is only scheduled as a day procedure.

It is just three weeks since Tony, a former WAFL player, died after a long struggle with a different cancer.

His son is as lucky as he is desperately unlucky – the cancer had been diagnosed early and his prognosis is excellent.

Dr Arain said his father’s illness meant Hogan wasted no time in seeking medical advice.

He added there was no link between the illnesses suffered by father and son, saying Jesse Hogan was simply unlucky.

“He’d been feeling a bit of vague discomfort and – probably going through what he had with his father – people become a little hyper-vigilant as well so, in that setting, it was great that he did come to me,” the doctor said.

“He wasn’t feeling unwell and had no other symptoms or problems other than just feeling a lump.

“As a male, if you’re going to a get a cancer, this is the one to get.”

Hogan told his teammates on Friday and Melbourne general manager of football Josh Mahoney said the key forward was in good spirits, watching their VFL team play on the weekend.

In the AFL, no one felt more for Hogan than Hawthorn captain Jarryd Roughead and Carlton defender Sam Rowe.

It is a year to the day that a routine check-up had revealed Roughead’s recurrence of melanoma.

The star immediately started treatment that sidelined him for the rest of the year.

Roughead, who made a full recovery to play every game this season, offered Hogan his best wishes.

“I was talking to my wife last night and saying it’s 12 months – a lot has happened in that 12 months,” Roughead said.

“When you hear something like this, this morning, it just flattens you because you just don’t wish this upon anyone.

“That’s not what our game is about.”

Rowe has also made a full recovery after having treatment for testicular cancer.

“I have reached out to him and, no doubt, I’ll have a chat to him at some stage,” Rowe said.

In a weird twist to the terrible bond they now shared, Hogan was suspended earlier this season for striking Rowe.

The forward, on contract with the Demons until the end of 2019, has only played four games this season, having missed the club’s round-six clash with Essendon to return to Adelaide for his father’s funeral.

US teen died after drinking caffeine too quickly

Davis Allen Cripe, 16, drank a latte from McDonald’s, a large Mountain Dew soda, and a highly caffeinated energy drink in just under two hours, said Gary Watts, the coroner of Richland County, South Carolina.

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Watts told Reuters by phone that physicians on his staff determined that Cripe died from a “caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia”.

It was likely that caffeine would not have been seen as a factor in his death if it had not been for witnesses who could tell officials what Cripe had to drink before he collapsed during a high school class, Watts said.

He said the primary witness to what Cripe drank could not definitely say what brand of energy drink he had but said it was from a container the size of a large soft drink.

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“The energy drink was basically chugged,” Watts said.

Watts said Cripe was considered a healthy teenager and did not have an undiagnosed heart condition. There was no sign of a heart condition in an autopsy of the 16-year-old.

“This is not a caffeine overdose,” Watts said. “We’re not saying that it was the total amount of caffeine in the system, it was just the way that it was ingested over that short period of time, and the chugging of the energy drink at the end was what the issue was with the cardiac arrhythmia.”

Davis weighed a little more than 90 kg but would not have been considered morbidly obese, Watts said. He died about an hour after collapsing in a high school near Columbia, South Carolina.

Cripe may have had the same amount of caffeine on another day and been all right, Watts said.

“We’re not trying to speak out totally against caffeine,” Watts said.

“We believe people need to pay attention to their caffeine intake and how they do it, just as they do with alcohol or cigarettes.”

The Mayo Clinic said in a March report that up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day “appears to be safe for most healthy adults”.

According to caffeineinformer长沙桑拿按摩论坛,, a McDonald’s latte has 142 milligrams of caffeine, a 20-ounce Mountain Dew has 90 milligrams, and a 16-ounce energy drink can have as much as 240 milligrams.

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Trump defends sharing info with Russians

US President Donald Trump has acknowledged that he shared intelligence information with top Russian envoys at an Oval Office meeting last week.

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“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining … to terrorism and airline flight safety,” he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

“Plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,” he continued.

Trump’s early morning tweet appeared to fly in the face of repeated White House denials of a Washington Post report on Monday.

The newspaper reported that Trump revealed highly classified information about the Islamic State terrorist group during his talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak on May 10, citing current and former administration officials.

Late on Monday, the White House released several statements that blasted the story as “false.” The Russian Foreign Ministry called the story “fake.”

Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Foreign Ministry, left a dismissive post about the report on her Facebook page: “Guys, have you been reading the American newspapers again?” she wrote. “You shouldn’t read them. You can put them to various uses, but you shouldn’t read them. Lately it’s become not only harmful, but dangerous, too.”

Secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, issued statements on Monday saying no sources, methods or military operations were discussed at the Russian meeting.

McMaster said the story, initially reported by the Washington Post, was false.

The US officials told Reuters that while the president has the authority to disclose even the most highly classified information at will, in this case he did so without consulting the ally that provided it, which threatens to jeopardise a long-standing intelligence-sharing agreement.

Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the allegations “very, very troubling.”

“Obviously, they’re in a downward spiral right now,” he said on Monday, “and they’ve got to come to grips with all that’s happening.”

The latest controversy comes as the White House continues to reel from the fallout over Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey last week and amid congressional calls for an independent investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.