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A judge has dismissed one of the six allegations of sexual assault against the disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Appearing in court while wearing a GPS monitor and out on a $1m (£757,000) bail, the judge agreed to throw out the charge relating to Lucia Evans, who has accused Weinstein of forcing her to perform oral sex in 2004.

Lawyers representing the 66-year-old, a father of five, claim the development taints the entire case against him.

Predicting the judge may throw out all of the allegations, Weinstein’s lawyer Ben Brafman told reporters: “”This is obviously a very positive development.”

In a story published by The New Yorker magazine a year ago, Ms Evans alleged the assault happened during a meeting in his office when she was a 21-year-old student.

Harvey Weinstein
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The 66-year-old was forced to wear a GPS monitor

Ms Evans’ lawyer, Carrie Goldberg, claimed that the prosecutors’ decision not to oppose the dismissal of the charge had seen them “abandon” her client.

She said: “Let me be clear: the decision to throw away my client’s sexual assault charges says nothing about Weinstein’s guilt or innocence.

“Nor does it reflect on Lucia’s consistent allegation that she was sexually assaulted with force by Harvey Weinstein.

“It only speaks volumes about the Manhattan district attorney’s office and its mishandling of my client’s case.”



Harvey Weinstein in New York, one year after allegations against him emerged








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One year on, Weinstein avoids questions

Mr Brafman told the judge that Ms Evans had lied to both a grand jury and to The New Yorker about her encounter with Weinstein.

He also claimed a police officer had corruptly attempted to influence the case by keeping a witness from testifying about her misstatements.

“The integrity of these proceedings has been compromised,” Mr Brafman said.

Weinstein’s defence lawyer later suggested, outside court, that Ms Evans should be criminally prosecuted for perjury.

He added: “The case against Mr Weinstein is, in my view, not sustainable. I’m not certain he [the judge] will have any choice but to dismiss the entire indictment against Harvey Weinstein.”

Details of the potential problems with Ms Evans’ testimony were not discussed in court, but were expected to be included in court filings set to be unsealed on Thursday.

Five remaining charges in the criminal case include claims Weinstein raped a woman in 2013 and forced a sex act on a different woman in 2006.

Weinstein denies assaulting anyone.

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Assistant district attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said the rest of the prosecution’s case was strong, telling the judge: “In short, your honour, we are moving full steam ahead.”

The revelation of numerous allegations about Weinstein, beyond the three women involved in the criminal case, helped spark the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault.

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HQ Trivia co-founder Colin Kroll, 35, found dead in his New York home

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Colin Kroll, the co-founder of the HQ Trivia app and Vine, has been found dead in his New York apartment.

Mr Kroll, 35, was discovered by police who were called to his lower Manhattan home by the tech entrepreneur’s girlfriend soon after midnight on Sunday.

She had been unable to raise him on the phone and asked officers to carry out a welfare check.

When police arrived at his apartment on Spring Street near the Soho district, they found him unconscious and unresponsive on his bed.

Celebrity website TMZ said there was “drug paraphernalia nearby”, and that he had died of an apparent overdose.

Colin Kroll (R) and business partner Rus Yusupov at the 2014 Variety Breakthrough of the Year Awards
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Colin Kroll (r) and business partner Rus Yusupov at the 2014 Variety Breakthrough of the Year Awards

He was pronounced dead at the scene, with the cause of death to be determined by a medical examiner.

Mr Kroll was the chief executive of the real-time trivia game app, which live-streams short trivia shows to users and became popular after its release in 2017.

It reached the top of Apple’s free game app chart in the first couple months of 2018 but has since fallen out of the top 100 free games list on the iTunes app store.

In 2012, Mr Kroll was part of the team that invented short-form video platform Vine, and followed the company when it was bought by Twitter.

He was sacked by Twitter and in 2017, he and business partner Rus Yusupov formed Intermedia Labs, the company behind HQ Trivia.

Mr Yusupov tweeted his sadness, saying his “brother” had a “kind soul and big heart… made the world and internet a better place.”

HQ Trivia’s Twitter account also shared a message of condolence, describing its “deep sadness”.

Intermedia Labs is reportedly in turmoil as it has struggled to find a new audience and in October launched a new game, HQ Words.



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Russia using ‘hardcore propaganda’ against UK, warns top diplomat

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Latvia has raised concerns with Britain over what one diplomat described as “hardcore propaganda” against the UK and its allies aired by two Russian-language television channels that are registered in London.

A letter seen by Sky News from the Latvian foreign ministry to Sir Alan Duncan, a foreign office minister, alleges “malicious” reporting by NTV Mir and Ren TV – which broadcast into the Baltic states – in their coverage of the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, is investigating NTV Mir Baltic over two news programmes that aired a month after the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter last March.

Baiba Braze, the Latvian ambassador to the UK
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Baiba Braze, the Latvian ambassador to the UK

It is understood that the Latvian side had expected the probe to have been concluded by the end of October, but Ofcom has yet to publish its findings.

Baiba Braze, the Latvian ambassador to the UK, said what she regards as disinformation put out by the channels makes the Kremlin-funded broadcaster RT look mild.

“For us Russia Today seems just like little flowers. It is not so bad,” she said in an interview, using RT’s former name.

“These TV channels, these Russian language TV channels that are broadcast into our country they are really hard-core propaganda. It is not the soft western type of Russia Today. That is why Britain should care.”

NTV Mir and Ren TV are able to transmit programmes from Russia within the European Union thanks to Ofcom licences held by Baltic Media Alliance Ltd, a company registered to an address in central London.

Baltic Media Alliance Ltd is a company registered to an address in central London
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Baltic Media Alliance Ltd is a company registered to an address in central London

Margus Merima, chief executive officer of Baltic Media Alliance Ltd, rejected the ambassador’s allegations.

He said the company is a commercial entity with no ties to the Russian state and the main focus of the two TV channels is entertainment and culture.

“We respectfully disagree with Ms Braze,” Mr Merima said in an emailed response to questions.

“Although we are pleased Ms Braze is our loyal viewer it is not our aim to please Ms Braze or anyone else in [the] Latvian establishment. Freedom of speech includes right to different opinions, not only those of Ms Braze.”

The letter sent to Sir Duncan, dated 21 May, from Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica, parliamentary secretary at Latvia’s ministry of foreign affairs, included a list of examples of Russian television programmes that contain alleged Russian disinformation.

On the list was a show from the Russian broadcaster NTV, which appeared to dismiss British claims that Russia was behind the Salisbury poisoning. It was also aired on NTV Mir Baltic in Latvia, according to Latvian sources.

The Latvian ambassador to the UK said what she regards as disinformation put out by the channels makes the Kremlin-funded broadcaster RT look mild
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NTV Mir and Ren TV are able to transmit programmes from Russia within the EU

The letter was written to raise concerns about the channels ahead of Latvia’s general election in October.

Separately, the East StratCom Task Force, a European Union unit that exposes anti-Western disinformation in the media, has flagged up content by NTV including a piece from September alleging Russia-phobia and the presence of Nazis in the Baltic states. Russians were urged to stop visiting a seaside resort called Palanga in Lithuania and another seaside resort in Latvia.

NTV Mir Baltic has fallen foul of Ofcom’s rules on due accuracy and due impartiality in the past. It was found in breach for a November 2016 news item about parades in Latvia to commemorate a 1919 victory by Latvian freedom fighters over Russian and German forces.

Ms Braze said the regulator was more aware about the dangers posed to Western democracies by Russian disinformation – designed to exploit divisions in a country as part of an unconventional form of warfare – and is improving its ability to respond.

But the ambassador said she feels more could be done.

“We bear the consequences which is not really a fair proportion or situation, is it?” she said, explaining that Latvia’s broadcasting regulator has no power over channels licensed outside the country even if their content can be viewed inside.

She also said this left a weak spot in the UK’s response to Russian hostility.

For example, efforts to expose subversive attacks by the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency accused of carrying out the Salisbury poisoning, could be undermined by pro-Kremlin broadcasters rubbishing the UK government’s actions.

Ofcom regulates the television, radio, telecoms and postal sectors in Britain
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Ofcom regulates the television, radio, telecoms and postal sectors in Britain

Ms Braze said she would like Ofcom investigations to be completed faster and for there to be greater penalties for broadcasters found in breach.

She also suggested the regulator adopts a more pro-active approach, by monitoring the Russian language content of the stations it licences as well as responding to complaints.

An Ofcom source said the regulator does launch investigations based on its own concerns.

The source also defended the length of time it was taking to investigate the NTV Mir Baltic broadcasts on Salisbury because of the complexity of the cases and the need for fairness.

A spokesman for Ofcom said: “We work closely with authorities in Latvia, and other EU countries, to share information on content that may raise concerns.

“We recently held a constructive meeting with the Latvian Ambassador, and we are aware of her concerns about NTV Mir and REN TV.

“All Ofcom licensed channels must comply with our broadcasting rules, which include strict requirements around due accuracy and due impartiality. If a broadcaster breaks our rules, we take robust action.”

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Anti-migration protest turns violent in Brussels

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Police have fired tear gas and water cannons at anti-migration protests at the European Commission in Brussels.

Flemish nationalists were prominent among the thousands of people who marched in the European capital, in protest at a UN migration pact that was signed earlier this month.

They were met with tear gas and water cannons, as riot police closed off wide streets in the city centre and confronted some protesters who had broken off from initial gathering.

People wave the flag of the Flanders as they take part in a gathering called by the right-wing Flemish party Vlaams Belang and other organisations, in Brussels, on December 16, 2018 to protest against the UN Marrakech global pact on migration signed last week by Belgian Prime Minister. - Brussels mayor forbade the venue of this march but State council ruled against that decision and the mach is wel authorized. A counter march is also organised for a solidary Belgium.
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People wave the flag of the Flanders in the protest

Demonstrators object to the UN compact on migration, a non-binding agreement among the majority of member states to cooperate in ensuring safe and orderly migration and upholding the rights of migrants around the world.

The compact, which was signed in Marrakesh last week, has been criticised by conservative and far-right voices who say it threatens national sovereignty.

Protesters improvised weapons
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Protesters improvised weapons

In Belgium, Prime Minister Charles Michel was left leading a minority government after the Flemish nationalist party N-VA quit in protest at the signing of the deal.

Flags of a another Flemish group, Vlaams Belang, were on show at Sunday’s march, where protesters called for Mr Michel to resign and accused politicians of ignoring the “will of the people”.

Police, who later said protesters became violent when they were asked to disperse, were filmed hitting people with batons.

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