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Iran billionaire Babak Zanjani sentenced to death

Billionaire Iranian businessman Babak Zanjani has been sentenced to death for corruption, justice officials say.
He was arrested in December 2013 after accusations that he withheld billions in oil revenue channelled through his companies. He denies the allegations.
Zanjani, 42, was convicted of fraud and economic crimes, a judiciary spokesperson said at a press briefing.
One of Iran's richest men, Zanjani was blacklisted by the US and EU for helping Iran evade oil sanctions.
Two others were sentenced to death along with him and all were ordered to repay embezzled funds. The ruling can be appealed.

Zohreh Rezalee, a lawyer for Zanjani, told the BBC the verdict was politically motivated and an appeal would be lodged.
"We believe that Babak Zanjani in this case is just a debtor," the lawyer said.

Who is Babak Zanjani?

  • Played a key role in helping Iran get around sanctions to sell oil abroad during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
  • From Dubai, he controlled a global network of more than 60 companies involved in everything from cosmetics to air travel and banking
  • Accused of impropriety after Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who pledged to tackle high-level corruption, became president in 2013
  • Born in Tehran, attended a Turkish university and became a driver for Iran's central bank head in 1999, when he started out in currency exchange
  • Said he was worth $13.5bn but was reported to have significant debts
Downfall of a billionaire

Zanjani had acknowledged using a web of companies in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Malaysia to sell millions of barrels of Iranian oil on behalf of the government since 2010.
Before his arrest, Zanjani had argued that international sanctions were preventing him from handing over $1.2bn still owed to the government.
But at his recent trial, prosecutors said he still owed the government more than $2.7bn in oil revenue.
He was taken into custody a day after President Hassan Rouhani ordered his government to fight "financial corruption", particularly "privileged figures" who had "taken advantage of economic sanctions" under the previous government.

'Corrupt parasites'

The trial, unusually, was held in public, AFP news agency reports.
In a 2013 interview with the BBC, Zanjani played down his political connections in Iran, saying: "I don't do anything political, I just do business."

Zanjani has said he is worth about some $13.5bn.
For years things worked well for the businessman who appeared in photos with some high-ranking officials and was not shy of showing off his wealth, such as private jets and luxury cars, Amir Azimi of BBC Persian reports.
But when the local media started to report on his wealth, he came under the spotlight and under suspicion.
The death sentence could have wider implications for Iran's economy, where many were involved in finding ways to avoid the sanctions, our analyst adds.
International sanctions on Iran were lifted in January after a watchdog confirmed it had complied with a deal designed to prevent it developing nuclear weapons.
Oil minister Bijan Zanganeh has urged foreign investors to avoid middlemen, whom he describes as "corrupt parasites".
Zanjani was convicted of "corruption on earth", the most serious offence in Iran's criminal code.
Other wealthy individuals have been executed after being found guilty of similar charges.

US election 2016: Super Tuesday to test candidates

Candidates bidding for their party's nomination in the US presidential election face their biggest test yet in the "Super Tuesday" primary polls.
Eleven states cast votes for candidates from either the Republican or Democratic parties or both in a contest seen as make-or-break for the hopefuls.
Contests stretch from Vermont in the east to Texas and Georgia in the south.
Donald Trump leads the Republican field and Hillary Clinton is ahead in the Democratic race.
There have been earlier votes in four states.
The first Super Tuesday polls opened in Virginia at 06:00 local time (11:00 GMT).
  • Follow the latest live updates here
  • US expats in UK voting on Super Tuesday
  • Jon Sopel: Headwinds could ruffle more than Trump's hair
  • Trump rally police 'ejected' black students
Senator Ted Cruz cannot afford to lose to Mr Trump in Texas, Mr Cruz's home state, while a reverse for Mr Trump in Massachusetts, with its moderate voters, could break the property tycoon's nationwide momentum.
Mrs Clinton is hoping to build on her weekend victory in South Carolina, where she polled heavily among African-Americans, to restore her political fortunes after a bruising defeat in New Hampshire to Bernie Sanders, her self-styled democratic socialist rival.
On 8 November, America is due to elect a successor to Barack Obama, a Democratic president standing down after two terms in office which have seen the Republicans take control of both houses of Congress.

What's so super about Super Tuesday?
In depth: Primary calendar
Why we should have seen Trump coming

Opinion polls give Mr Trump a lead in almost all of the 11 states holding Republican contests on Tuesday: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Alaska and Minnesota.
The colourful campaign of the billionaire, who won three of the four early voting states, has divided Republicans.
On the eve of the polls, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse became the highest-ranked elected party member to come out and say he would not back him for president.
He said he was "frustrated and saddened" and would look for a third option if Mr Trump won the Republican nomination.
Marco Rubio, the third-placed Republican contender after Mr Trump and Mr Cruz, is hoping to stay competitive, gambling on a win in his home state of Florida on 15 March.
Mr Trump's commitment to several controversial immigration pledges, including the wholesale deportation of illegal immigrants and construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border, was called into question on Monday after reports describing an off-the-record conversation with the New York Times editorial board.
Mr Cruz, Mr Rubio and former Republican candidate Mitt Romney have called on Mr Trump to authorise the release of the transcript, in which Mr Trump reportedly says his hardline immigration policies would be flexible if he were elected.
Mr Cruz said: "Apparently there is a secret tape that the New York Times editorial board has of Donald Trump saying that he doesn't believe what he's saying on immigration... I call on Donald: ask the New York Times to release the tape and do so today before the Super Tuesday primary."
Andrew Rosenthal, the editor of the Times editorial page, told Buzzfeed News he would not comment on an off-the-record conversation without Mr Trump's permission.
"If [Trump] wants to call up and ask us to release this transcript, he's free to do that and then we can decide what we would do," Mr Rosenthal said.
Mr Trump has faced heavy criticism ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries over his failure to disavow David Duke, a leader of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan, who has endorsed the Republican candidate.
Protesters, including some from the Black Lives Matter movement, repeatedly disrupted a Trump rally in Radford, Virginia, on Monday after his refusal to condemn Mr Duke.
On Tuesday, Mr Trump said he had on several occasions in the past disavowed Mr Duke.
Mr Trump told ABC: "There's nobody who's done so much for equality as I have."

Democratic race

Democrats are voting in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Minnesota, as well as in the US territory of American Samoa.
Democrats abroad will also submit their votes. There is also a caucus in Colorado, but the vote then goes to a state convention.
Mrs Clinton is eyeing black voters in places like Alabama, Georgia and Virginia after taking eight out of 10 black votes in South Carolina.
Bernie Sanders voted early in his home state of Vermont.
He told reporters that if turnout was high "we are going to do well. If not, we're probably going to be struggling".
But he pledged: "This is a campaign that is going to the Philadelphia convention in July."
Follow the primaries race with the delegate tracker, provided by the Associated Press (AP)

newsmax : A spate of terrible news stories from the Paris attacks to mass shootings in the US has challenged TV comics like never before, writes Jennifer Keishin Armstrong.

newsmax :
Late Show host Stephen Colbert was finishing up work on Friday 13 November when he heard the news: more than 100 people had been killed in orchestrated attacks in Paris. He sat behind his desk, looked into the camera and let his tears fall as he told the audience, “Folks, we end tonight's show with a heavy heart because we taped all of tonight's show, and then we found out about the horrific attacks in Paris.”
When he returned to work the following Monday, he had a more cogent response, one that, against all odds, even mixed a little humour with its empathy. “New York is a city that sadly knows all too well the horror the French experienced,” he said. “We stand with the people of France as a friend and as an ally, and offer the hope that there is a way through the unspeakable tragedy.” He also read a few tweets from people who seemed to claim sincerely that they were watching the animated film Ratatouille, which is set in Paris, as a gesture of support. It was exactly the kind of silly sentiment Colbert would normally lacerate with his next remark, but instead he defended it: “Watching a cartoon Parisian rat cook soup is certainly as valid as anything I will say tonight, I promise you that. If it makes you feel a connection to the people of France, go drink a bottle of Bordeaux, eat a croissant at Au Bon Pain, slap on a beret and smoke a cigarette. Anything that is an attempt at human connection is positive.”

His band, Jon Batiste & Stay Human, punctuated the moment with a sombre version of La Marseillaise instead of Colbert’s standard theme song.
Tragic events can often bring out the finest in professional comedians. It seems unlikely but on further examination, this makes sense. In the US, popular comics are regular presences in public life, as hosts of daily late-night talk shows and as social media personalities. They’re forced to address topical events, since they usually play off the news of the day for material. And as large-scale tragedies, particularly terrorist events and mass shootings, have sadly become regular headlines, comedians have become awfully good at helping to guide audiences through their grief with just the right amounts of outrage, pathos and humour – a welcome break from the constant drumbeats of bad news and dangerous speculation that emerge online and from on 24-hour US news networks.

Getting serious
Colbert wasn’t the only late-night host addressing the tragedy in Paris. On HBO, John Oliver took advantage of cable TV’s more liberal atmosphere to unleash a profanity-laced takedown of the terrorists we all needed to hear. The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah delivered a heartfelt speech in the mode of his predecessor, Jon Stewart – a standout moment for Noah, a South African whose strength lies in his international perspective. The Nightly Show’s Larry Wilmore skipped the mourning and used his show’s unique strength – a diverse cast – to poke fun at US media and politicians’ debate over what to call Muslim terrorists: he staged a faux interview with correspondent Fariaz Rabbani, playing a Muslim surfer upset that terrorist groups had given the word “radical” – a beloved exclamation of those who ride the waves – such a bad rap.
Before 9/11, comedians tended to stay away from tragic news events
It was David Letterman who pioneered switching from comic to serious modes, as he did most notably after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.  But Stewart, who had been hosting The Daily Show for only two years and still had something to prove at the time, did the same to standout effect. Toggling with ease between real emotion, genuine outrage, and ironic humour became Stewart’s defining feature.

Before 9/11, US comedians tended to stay away from tragic news events. Tonight Show host Johnny Carson conducted an awkward interview with JFK assassination conspiracy theorist Jim Garrison – five years after Kennedy’s death. But faster news cycles, the rise of international terrorism and an increased number of domestic mass tragedies have changed the nature of American TV comedy. Over the past decade, and particularly the last five years, hosts have been forced to react to tragedy again and again, from the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the country’s many mass shootings. It may just be that with repetition, this new generation of hosts has – sadly – perfected the form.
Channels for anger
American late-night hosts, however, weren’t the only comedians speaking fans’ truths in the wake of recent tragedies. In fact, comedians of every type across the world have used their platforms to reflect what many were thinking. British comedian Jason Manford took to Facebook to rant against the Paris attackers, whom he called “cowards” in a post so full of expletives, as well as Muslim extremist-bashing, that the social media network removed it as a violation of its policies. “I hope you are all caught and murdered in a similar agonising way,” he wrote in the post, which was widely shared before it was taken down.
We've only been on the air for nine months, and it baffles me that we have to talk so often about mass shootings and tragedy
By the time of another US mass shooting a month later, even the comedians seemed to have run out of expletives. The violence at an office party in San Bernadino, California in early December pushed everyone, even comedians, past a point of exhaustion. "This is really unacceptable, coming off the heels of the shooting last week at Planned Parenthood," Wilmore stated simply on The Nightly Show. "It's just so overwhelming.” Later he added, “Let me just see if I can put it in perspective for you: There have been 355 mass shootings this year, and we are only on calendar day 336. This has really got to stop."

Talk show hosts are in a unique position, culturally, to give us what we need during these times. News reporting is often confusing and contradictory: terrifying one minute and numbing the next. The internet is freaking out about everything, always. But late-night shows allow viewers a break from 24-hour news and Twitter cycles while still acknowledging the event weighing on everyone’s minds. Colbert’s Monday-after defense of connecting to Paris any way we could – even if that meant watching a cartoon about a Parisian rat – soothed many of us who wanted to grieve in our own ways, even if we weren’t doing it ‘correctly’. Oliver gave voice to our outrage.
Such attacks should and must feel personal to us all. Our late-night hosts can help us process them, can guide us through, in a way few other media can. Here’s to hoping we don’t need them to use that power nearly as much in 2016.

news 8 austin : South Africa v England: Alastair Cook says side can 'do something special'

news 8 austin :
Captain Alastair Cook said "there is still a hell of a lot to come" from his England side after they sealed a series win in South Africa.
Their seven-wicket victory in the third Test gave England an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match series.
Stuart Broad took 6-17 to help bowl the number one Test side out for 83 on a pulsating third day in Johannesburg.
"If we keep doing the right things we should be able to do something special," Cook told Test Match Special.
"It's a privilege to captain these guys because they can change games as quickly as that."

The Test series victory is England's first overseas since they beat India in 2012-13.
Broad took the man-of-the-match award for his sensational spell on the third afternoon, which included taking five wickets for one run in 31 balls.
"Winning in South Africa has been a dream of mine, so to do it in their own back yard is very special," he said.
England's high points under Cook
Jan 2011: Win 3-2 in Australia to retain the Ashes
Dec 2012: Win 2-1 in India
Aug 2015: Regain the Ashes in England with a 3-2 series win
Jan 2016: Beat South Africa, the world's top-ranked Test side
South Africa, having bowled England out for 323 to limit them to a first-innings lead of 10, were 23-0 shortly after lunch.
But Broad claimed the first five wickets with a hostile spell on a Wanderers surface offering pace and bounce to effectively settle the contest.
Cook said coach Trevor Bayliss had given the team a "kick" in the lunch interval, adding: "Rather than sulking about it the lads looked at themselves, led by Broady, and there was a real intensity in the field for that two-hour session.

"It was a realisation from a guy that doesn't say too much that this is the time: if you want to win the series then you've got an opportunity."
South Africa captain AB de Villiers said: "I haven't seen a team bowl like that for a long time. We were outplayed in the second innings - credit to them."
Broad added: "I'd take that wicket everywhere with me. It offered a bit of seam, a bit of bounce, and it was swinging a little bit."
Broad, 29, said Joe Root "probably deserved" the match award for his counter-attacking 110, which rescued England from 91-4 on the second day in alliance with Ben Stokes, who made 58.
The story of the series
First Test, Durban: England won by 241 runs
Second Test, Cape Town: Match drawn
Third Test, Johannesburg: England won by seven wickets
Fourth Test, Centurion: 22-26 January
Full tour schedule
Broad said: "It's sort of what you've come to expect from Joe. That will go down as one of his best hundreds."
Although Steven Finn took a wicket with his second ball on Saturday, he spent part of the South Africa innings off the field with a side strain.
Cook said the pace bowler is "unlikely" to play in the final Test in Centurion starting on 22 January.

newsela : Iran nuclear deal: 'New chapter' for Tehran as sanctions end

newsela :
Iran "has opened a new chapter" in its ties with the world, President Hassan Rouhani said, hours after economic sanctions on Tehran were lifted.
On Saturday the international nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, confirmed Iran had complied with a deal designed to prevent it developing nuclear weapons.
Mr Rouhani, quoted by Press TV, said the deal did not harm any nation.
Most Western governments hailed the move but Israel's PM insists Tehran still wants to build a nuclear bomb.
What it means for world markets
Six key points in the crisis
Will Tehran now get a McDonald's?
"Without an appropriate reaction to every violation, Iran will realise it can continue to develop nuclear weapons, destabilise the region and spread terror," Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Before the deal, the BBC's Bethany Bell reports from Vienna, Iran could have enriched enough uranium, had it so wanted, to make a nuclear bomb within a matter of weeks.
Now it would take more than a year and it is something international inspectors would see, she says.

'Iran reached out'

Mr Rouhani said everyone was happy with the deal, apart from those he described as warmongers in the region - Israel and hardliners in the US Congress.
"We Iranians have reached out to the world in a sign of friendliness, and leaving behind the enmities, suspicions and plots, have opened a new chapter in the relations of Iran with the world," he said in a statement to the nation on Sunday morning.
The lifting of sanctions was "a turning point" for Iran's economy, he added, saying the country needed to be less reliant on oil revenues.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Iran's compliance and the lifting of sanctions would contribute to improved regional and international peace and security.

Yukiya Amano, the head of the IAEA, will visit Tehran on Sunday for talks on how to continue monitoring Iran's nuclear programme.
"A lot of work has gone into getting us here, and implementation of this agreement will require a similar effort," he said.
As part of the deal, Iran had to drastically reduce its number of centrifuges and dismantle a heavy-water reactor near the town of Arak, both of which could be used in creating nuclear weapons. The reactor was then filled with concrete.

Planes and oil trade coming?

Estimates say close to $100bn (£70bn) of Iranian assets will be unlocked under the deal.
Hours before the sanctions were lifted, Iran's transport minister was quoted by the official Irna news agency on Saturday as saying a deal had been struck with the Airbus consortium in Europe to buy 114 new passenger planes.
And in November, Iran said it expected to immediately double its daily export of 1.1m barrels of crude oil as soon as the sanctions were lifted.
Iran has always maintained its nuclear programme is peaceful, but opponents of the deal - such as some US Republicans - say it does not do enough to ensure the country cannot develop a nuclear bomb.

On Saturday, the IAEA, said its inspectors had verified that Tehran had taken the required steps.
As a result, US Secretary of State John Kerry ordered that US nuclear-related economic sanctions against Iran be lifted.
Speaking in Vienna, where he had been holding talks with his Iranian counterpart, Mr Kerry said Iran had "undertaken significant steps" which many people "doubted would ever come to pass".
The IAEA said it had installed a device at the Natanz plant to monitor Iran's uranium enrichment activities in real time, in order to verify that uranium enrichment levels were kept at up to 3.67% as agreed in the deal with world powers.

The response

"I thank God for this blessing and bow to the greatness of the patient nation of Iran" - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Twitter
"Today, as a result of the actions taken since last July, the United States, our friends and allies in the Middle East, in the entire world are safer because the threat of a nuclear weapon has been reduced" - US Secretary of State John Kerry
"Even after signing the nuclear deal, Iran has not relinquished its ambition to obtain nuclear weapons, and continues to act to destabilise the Middle East and spread terror throughout the world while violating its international commitments" - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
"Today, the Obama administration will begin lifting economic sanctions on the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism" - US Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan in a statement
"Years of patient and persistent diplomacy, and difficult technical work, have borne fruit as we now implement the deal" - British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond

Earlier on Saturday it emerged that Iran had released Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and three other Iranian-American prisoners in an apparent prisoner swap with the United States.
Rezaian, 39, was jailed on charges, including espionage, last November.

The US said it was offering clemency to seven Iranians being held in the US for sanctions violation.
Mr Kerry said said he was "very happy to say that as we speak five Americans have been released from custody and they should be on their way home to their families shortly".
A fifth American, Matthew Trevithick, was also released on Saturday.
President Barack Obama would give more details of the releases later, Mr Kerry said.

What is the nuclear deal?

In July 2015, Iran agreed a landmark nuclear deal with six world powers to limit its sensitive nuclear activities for more than a decade in return for the lifting of crippling sanctions. The US is confident the agreement will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Iran says it has the right to nuclear energy - and stresses that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.

What does Iran stand to gain?

The sanctions have cost Iran more than more than $160bn (£102bn) in oil revenue since 2012 alone. Once they are lifted, the country will be able to resume selling oil on international markets and using the global financial system for trade. Iran has the fourth largest oil reserves in the world and the energy industry is braced for lower prices. Iran will also be able to access more than $100bn in assets frozen overseas.
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