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US Contractor Freed by Taliban in Swap for Drug Trafficker

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By ERIC TUCKER and RAHIM FAIEZ, Associated Press

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WASHINGTON (AP) — An American contractor held hostage in Afghanistan for greater than two years has been launched in alternate for a convicted Taliban drug lord jailed in the United States, the White House mentioned Monday, saying a uncommon success in U.S.-Taliban talks for the reason that militant group took energy a little bit greater than a yr in the past

Mark Frerichs, a Navy veteran who had spent greater than a decade in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor, was kidnapped in January 2020 and is believed to have been held since then by the Taliban-linked Haqqani community. He was traded for Bashir Noorzai, a Taliban affiliate convicted of heroin trafficking conspiracy who had spent 17 years behind bars earlier than his launch Monday.

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The alternate is among the most important prisoner swaps to happen below the Biden administration, coming 5 months after a cope with Russia that resulted in the discharge of Marine veteran Trevor Reed. Though his case has obtained much less public consideration than these of different Americans held overseas, together with WNBA star Brittney Griner and company safety government Paul Whelan — who’re each held in Russia and whose kin met with President Joe Biden on Friday — U.S. officers mentioned the deal for Frerichs dwelling the fruits of months of quiet negotiations.

Those discussions gained new momentum in June when Biden granted Noorzai aid from his life sentence, setting the stage for what one administration official described as a “very slim window of alternative this month” to hold out the deal.

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Biden mentioned in a press release launched by the White House, “Bringing the negotiations that led to Mark’s freedom to a profitable decision required troublesome choices, which I didn’t take calmly.”

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Frerichs, 60, had been engaged on civil engineering initiatives on the time of his Jan. 31, 2020, abduction in Kabul. He’s believed to have been lured into a gathering to debate a brand new venture after which transported to Khost, a stronghold of the Taliban-linked Haqqani community close to the border with Pakistan.

He was final seen in a video posted final spring by The New Yorker in which he appeared in conventional Afghan clothes and pleaded for his launch. He was accompanied Monday by the administration’s particular presidential envoy for hostage affairs and was in secure well being, a U.S. official mentioned. His final vacation spot was not instantly clear.

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A sister of Frerichs, who’s from Lombard, Illinois, thanked U.S. officers who helped safe her brother’s launch.

“I’m so joyful to listen to that my brother is secure and on his method dwelling to us. Our household has prayed for this every day of the greater than 31 months he has been a hostage. We by no means gave up hope that he would survive and are available dwelling safely to us,” mentioned a press release from the sister, Charlene Cakora.

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Noorzai, on the time of his 2005 arrest, hardly appeared an excellent recipient for presidential clemency. He’d been designated on an inventory reserved for a number of the world’s most prolific drug traffickers, and was prosecuted in federal court docket in New York on costs that accused him of proudly owning opium fields in Kandahar province and counting on a community of distributors who bought the heroin.

When he was sentenced to life imprisonment, the then-top federal prosecutor in Manhattan mentioned Noorzai’s “worldwide narcotics community supported a Taliban regime that made Afghanistan a breeding floor for worldwide terrorism.”

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The deal underscored the 2 sides to the Taliban’s strategy to unlawful medication. In April, they introduced a ban on harvesting the poppies that produce opium for making heroin — an order that additionally outlawed the manufacture and transportation of narcotics. However, throughout the years-long Taliban insurgency, they reportedly made tens of millions of {dollars} taxing farmers and center males who moved their medication outdoors Afghanistan.

A senior administration official who briefed reporters on situation of anonymity below floor guidelines set by the administration mentioned that the U.S. authorities had now decided that Noorzai’s launch would “not materially change any danger to Americans or basically alter the contours of the drug commerce there.” Officials additionally took into consideration that Noorzai had spent 17 years in jail.

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At a press convention Monday, Noorzai expressed thankfulness at seeing his “mujahedeen brothers” — a reference to the Taliban — in Kabul.

“I pray for extra success of the Taliban,” he added. “I hope this alternate can result in peace between Afghanistan and America, as a result of an American was launched and I’m additionally free now.”

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Even earlier than their takeover of Afghanistan in August final yr, the Taliban had demanded the U.S. launch Noorzai in alternate for Frerichs. But there had been no public signal of Washington continuing alongside these traces.

Eric Lebson, a former U.S. authorities nationwide safety official who had been advising Frerichs’ household, mentioned in a press release that “all the pieces about this case has been an uphill struggle.” He criticized the Trump administration for having given away “our leverage to get Mark dwelling shortly by signing a peace accord with the Taliban without ever having requested them to return Mark first.”

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“Mark’s household then needed to navigate two administrations, the place many individuals seen Mark’s secure return as an obstacle to their plans for Afghanistan,” the assertion mentioned.

The collapse of the Western-backed Afghan authorities and takeover by the Taliban in August 2021 raised further concern that any progress in negotiations may very well be undone or that Frerichs may very well be forgotten. But his identify was invoked final month when Biden, who had earlier known as for Frerichs’ launch, was mentioned by his advisers to have pressed officers to contemplate any danger posed to Frerichs by the drone strike in Afghanistan that killed al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri.

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The Taliban-appointed international minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, hailed the alternate Monday as the beginning of a “new period” in U.S.-Taliban relations and the opening of a “new door for talks.”

U.S. officers have been extra circumspect. Though it doesn’t acknowledge the Taliban authorities, the U.S. does have pursuits at stake in Afghanistan and can proceed to have interaction with the Taliban in addressing the starvation and humanitarian disaster gripping the nation, administration officers mentioned Monday. But officers say they continue to be involved about whether or not the Taliban are dedicated to preventing terrorism and by the exclusion of ladies from excessive faculties there, a difficulty that drew a United Nations reprimand on Sunday.

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Faiez reported from Islamabad. Associated Press author Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed to this report.

This story has corrected a model earlier in the day that cited Taliban claims that Noorzai was held at Guantanamo Bay; the declare was disproved by U.S. officers.

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Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials is probably not revealed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Warriors 0-6 on Road, Fall to Pelicans With 4 Starters Out

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By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The defending champion Golden State Warriors fell to 0-6 on the street, shedding 114-105 to Brandon Ingram and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night time with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins sidelined.

Ingram scored 26 factors in his return from a four-game absence due to a concussion and reserve Larry Nance Jr. scored 20 factors for the Pelicans, together with a number of fourth-quarter dunks that saved Golden State at bay. CJ McCollum scored 20 factors and Zion Williamson added 16 for New Orleans.

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Jordan Poole had 20 factors and 9 assists for the Warriors. Kevon Looney was the one common starter in uniform for Golden State’s second sport in two nights on the finish of a winless five-game journey.

The Warriors are 3-7 total. Among Western Conference groups, solely Houston (1-8) has extra losses.

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Curry, Thompson, Green and Wiggins all had been scratched after taking part in the earlier night time in a loss at Orlando.

The Warriors will not be taking part in Thompson on back-to-back nights due to his anterior cruciate ligament and Achilles tendon accidents in 2019 and 2020. Green is beneath related limitations due to a again damage final season. Curry was being rested due to elbow soreness and Wiggins due to a sore left foot.

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A beginning lineup that as an alternative included Poole and fellow guard Moses Moody, together with forwards Anthony Lamb and Jonathan Kuminga, made the sport aggressive into the fourth quarter.

Ty Jerome, who scored 18 factors, hit a 3 to pull the Warriors inside 99-96 earlier than the Pelicans steadily pulled away through the closing six minutes.

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Trey Murphy III’s 3-pointer capped a 7-0 Pelicans spurt that started with Nance’s dunk and layup and made it 111-101 with two minutes to go. Ingram, who additionally had 5 rebounds, 5 assists and two blocks, obtained a standing ovation when he checked out of the sport within the closing minute.

New Orleans led by as many as 11 within the second quarter when Jose Alvarado intercepted Poole’s go and located Williamson for a breakaway, windmill dunk.

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But the Warriors chipped away and trailed 50-49 on James Wiseman’s putback dunk.

Nance scored the ultimate 4 factors of the quarter on a finger roll and dunk, placing the Pelicans up 61-54 at halftime.

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Warriors: Kuminga completed with 18 factors, whereas Lamb scored 16 and Moody had 14. … Went 12 of 32 from 3-point vary. … In addition to the 4 starters who sat, G/F Andre Iguodala (hip) and G Donte DiVincenzo (hamstring) remained inactive. Iguodala has but to play this season, whereas DiVicenzo hasn’t performed since Oct. 23.

Pelicans: Alvarado and Murphy every scored 10 factors and every hit three 3s to assist New Orleans go 12 of 29 from lengthy vary … Shot 50.6% total (41 of 81) and outrebounded Golden State 51-36.

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr stated he appreciates that followers paid “good money” to see gamers on his staff who sat out with the objective of preserving their long-term well being.

“Ultimately the gamers’ well being is the No. 1 consider our staff’s success and even our followers’ satisfaction in the long term,” Kerr stated.

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He added that whereas some absences are unpredictable, “it will be smart” for followers to research schedules of groups they need to see and handle expectations when these groups are taking part in on consecutive nights on the finish of a visit, because the Warriors had been.

“Especially once you get a staff with gamers who’ve previous accidents like we do, or guys who’re superior age-wise,” Kerr stated. “I apologize to any followers on the market who had been hoping to see these guys.”

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Warriors: Host Sacramento on Monday.

Pelicans: Visit Atlanta on Saturday.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials will not be revealed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Twitter Slashes Its Staff as Musk Era Takes Hold on Platform

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By BARBARA ORTUTAY and MATT O’BRIEN, AP Technology Writers

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Twitter started widespread layoffs Friday as new proprietor Elon Musk overhauls the corporate, elevating grave issues about chaos enveloping the social media platform and its capacity to struggle disinformation simply days forward of the U.S. midterm elections.

The pace and size of the cuts additionally opened Musk and Twitter to lawsuits. At least one was filed alleging Twitter violated federal regulation by not offering fired workers the required discover.

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The San Francisco-based firm informed staff by e mail Thursday that they’d study Friday if they’d been laid off. About half of the corporate’s employees of seven,500 was let go, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of security & integrity, confirmed in a tweet.

Musk tweeted late Friday that there was no alternative however to chop the jobs “when the corporate is dropping over $4M/day.” He didn’t present particulars on the each day losses on the firm and mentioned workers who misplaced their jobs have been supplied three months’ pay as a severance.

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No different social media platform comes near Twitter as a spot the place public businesses and different important service suppliers — election boards, police departments, utilities, faculties and news retailers — preserve individuals reliably knowledgeable. Many worry Musk’s layoffs will intestine it and render it lawless.

Roth mentioned the corporate’s front-line moderation employees was the group the least impacted by the job cuts.

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He added that Twitter’s “efforts on election integrity — together with dangerous misinformation that may suppress the vote and combatting state-backed info operations — stay a prime precedence.”

Musk, in the meantime, tweeted that “Twitter’s sturdy dedication to content material moderation stays completely unchanged.”

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But a Twitter worker who spoke with The Associated Press Friday mentioned it is going to be so much more durable to get that work executed beginning subsequent week after dropping so many colleagues.

“This will influence our capacity to offer help for elections, positively,” mentioned the worker who spoke on the situation of anonymity out of issues for job safety.

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The worker mentioned there’s no “concrete sense of route” aside from what Musk says publicly on Twitter.

“I comply with his tweets they usually have an effect on how we prioritize our work,” mentioned the worker. “It’s a really wholesome indicator of what to prioritize.”

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Several workers who tweeted about dropping their jobs mentioned Twitter eradicated their complete groups, together with one centered on human rights and world conflicts, one other checking Twitter’s algorithms for bias in how tweets get amplified, and an engineering crew devoted to creating the social platform extra accessible for individuals with disabilities.

Eddie Perez, a Twitter civic integrity crew supervisor who give up in September, mentioned he fears the layoffs so near the midterms may permit disinformation to “unfold like wildfire” in the course of the post-election vote-counting interval specifically.

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“I’ve a tough time believing that it doesn’t have a cloth influence on their capacity to handle the quantity of disinformation on the market,” he mentioned, including that there merely might not be sufficient workers to beat it again.

President Joe Biden, at a marketing campaign occasion in Illinois Friday night time, mentioned: “Now what are all of us anxious about? Elon Musk, who goes out and buys an outfit that sends and spews lies all the world over. … How can we count on children to have the ability to perceive what’s at stake?”

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Twitter’s workers have been anticipating layoffs since Musk took the helm. He fired prime executives, together with CEO Parag Agrawal, and eliminated the corporate’s board of administrators on his first day as proprietor.

As the emailed notices went out, many Twitter workers took to the platform to specific help for one another — typically merely tweeting blue coronary heart emojis to indicate its blue chicken brand — and salute emojis in replies to one another.

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A Twitter supervisor mentioned many workers discovered they’d been laid off after they may now not log into the corporate’s methods. The supervisor mentioned the way in which the layoffs have been carried out confirmed a “lack of care and thoughtfulness.” The supervisor, who spoke to the AP on the situation of anonymity out of issues for job safety, mentioned managers weren’t given any discover about who can be getting laid off.

“For me as a supervisor, it’s been excruciating as a result of I needed to discover out about what my crew was going to seem like by tweets and thru texting and calling individuals,” the worker mentioned. “That’s a very arduous approach to care in your individuals. And managers at Twitter care so much about their individuals.”

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A coalition of civil rights teams escalated their calls Friday for manufacturers to pause promoting buys on the platform. The layoffs are significantly harmful forward of the elections, the teams warned, and for transgender customers and different teams dealing with violence impressed by hate speech that proliferates online.

In a tweet Friday, Musk blamed activists for what he described as a “huge drop in income” since he took over Twitter late final week.

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Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg mentioned there may be “little Musk can say to appease advertisers when he’s maintaining the corporate in a continuing state of uncertainty and turmoil, and seems detached to Twitter workers and the regulation.”

“Musk wants advertisers greater than they want him,” she mentioned. “Pulling advertisements from Twitter is a fast and painless resolution for many manufacturers.”

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A lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court docket in San Francisco on behalf of 1 worker who was laid off and three others who have been locked out of their work accounts. It alleges Twitter violated the regulation by not offering the required discover.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification statute requires employers with not less than 100 staff to reveal layoffs involving 500 or extra workers, no matter whether or not an organization is publicly traded or privately held, as Twitter is now.

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The layoffs affected Twitter’s workplaces all over the world. In the United Kingdom, it could be required by regulation to offer workers discover, mentioned Emma Bartlett, a accomplice specializing in employment and partnership regulation at CM Murray LLP.

The pace of the layoffs may additionally open Musk and Twitter as much as discrimination claims if it seems, for example, that they disproportionally affected ladies, individuals of shade or older staff.

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AP Business Writers Mae Anderson, Alexandra Olson and Ken Sweet in New York, James Pollard in Columbia, S.C., Frank Bajak in Boston and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this story.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials might not be printed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Settlement Reached in Suits Over FBI Posing as AP Reporter

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By LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press will get a $145,000 settlement following a pair of lawsuits filed after an FBI agent posed as a reporter for The Associated Press and created a faux story.

The long-running Freedom of Information Act instances led to appeals court docket selections that may assist bolster entry to public information, stated Adam Marshall, an lawyer for the group. The instances additionally make clear FBI brokers posing as members of the media, a tactic that free press advocates say undermines media credibility and blurs strains between legislation enforcement and the press.

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The company did not comply with its personal guidelines over such undercover operations when an agent posed as an AP reporter and despatched a link to a faux story in an investigation in Washington state in 2007, in keeping with paperwork uncovered in the lawsuit filed together with The Associated Press.

Then-FBI Director James Comey known as the approach “correct and acceptable” below FBI pointers on the time, although he stated it might require higher-level approvals when the incident got here to gentle seven years later, in 2014. No precise story was revealed and it led to an arrest, he maintained.

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The agent posing as an AP reporter despatched a link to the faux article to a 15-year-old suspected of creating bomb threats at a highschool. When the teenager clicked the link, a monitoring instrument revealed his pc’s location and helped brokers affirm his id.

The FBI declined to remark Friday.

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Kathleen Carroll, then government editor of the AP, stated in 2014 that the FBI’s “unacceptable techniques undermine AP and the important distinction between the federal government and the press.” A letter signed by two dozen news organizations known as the revelations “inexcusable” and the Reporter’s Committee particularly known as out using the AP’s title as “cowl for delivery of digital surveillance software program.”

Lauren Easton, an Associated Press spokeswoman, declined extra remark Friday.

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The lawsuits had been filed as a part of an effort to get information about FBI news-media impersonations, and finally resulted in vital court docket selections about how far businesses should go in looking for requested paperwork and the requirements they need to meet in order to withhold paperwork, Marshall stated. The settlement will cowl lawyer’s charges and prices.

“This has proven that there are important, regarding and ongoing points with respect to federal legislation enforcement impersonation of the press in the United States,” Marshall stated. The instances have additionally “proven that the Reporters Committee and The Associated Press had been dedicated to discovering out as a lot as we might about what occurred right here for the general public to know.”

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Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials might not be revealed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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