UK Lawmakers Urge Tougher Facebook Rules

The U.K. government should increase oversight of social media like Facebook and election campaigns to protect democracy in the digital age, a parliamentary committee has recommended in a scathing report on fake news, data misuse and interference by Russia.

The interim report by the House of Commons’ media committee, to be released Sunday, said democracy is facing a crisis because the combination of data analysis and social media allows campaigns to target voters with messages of hate without their consent.

Tech giants like Facebook, which operate in a largely unregulated environment, are complicit because they haven’t done enough to protect personal information and remove harmful content, the committee said.

“The light of transparency must be allowed to shine on their operations and they must be made responsible, and liable, for the way in which harmful and misleading content is shared on their sites,” committee Chairman Damian Collins said in a statement.

The copy of the study was leaked Friday by Dominic Cummings, director of the official campaign group backing Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Social media companies are under scrutiny worldwide following allegations that political consultant Cambridge Analytica used data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts to profile voters and help U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign. The committee is also investigating the impact of fake news distributed via social media sites.

Collins ripped Facebook for allowing Russian agencies to use its platform to spread disinformation and influence elections.

“I believe what we have discovered so far is the tip of the iceberg,” he said, adding that more work needed to be done to expose how fake accounts target people during elections. “The ever-increasing sophistication of these campaigns, which will soon be helped by developments in augmented reality technology, make this an urgent necessity.”

The committee recommended that the British government increase the power of the Information Commissioner’s Office to regulate social media sites, update electoral laws to reflect modern campaign techniques and increase the transparency of political advertising on social media.

Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to address the issue in a so-called White Paper to be released in the fall. She signaled her unease last year, accusing Russia of meddling in elections and planting fake news to sow discord in the West.

The committee began its work in January 2017, interviewing 61 witnesses during 20 hearings that took on an investigatory tone not normally found in such forums in the House of Commons.

The report criticized Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg for failing to appear before the panel and said his stand-ins were “unwilling or unable to give full answers to the committee’s questions.”

One of the committee’s recommendations is that the era of light-touch regulation for social media must end.

Social media companies can no longer avoid oversight by describing themselves as platforms, because they use technology to filter and shape the information users see. Nor are they publishers, since that model traditionally commissions and pays for content.

“We recommend that a new category of tech company is formulated, which tightens tech companies’ liabilities, and which is not necessarily either a ‘platform’ or a ‘publisher,” the report said. “We anticipate that the government will put forward these proposals in its White Paper later this year.”

The committee also said that the Information Commissioner’s Office needed more money so it could hire technical experts to be the “sheriff in the Wild West of the internet.” The funds would come from a levy on the tech companies, much in the same way as the banks pay for the upkeep of the Financial Conduct Authority.

“Our democracy is at risk, and now is the time to act, to protect our shared values and the integrity of our democratic institutions,” the committee said.

US, Turkish Diplomats Discuss Detained American Pastor

The U.S. State Department said Saturday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is being detained in Turkey on terrorism and espionage charges.

Details of the conversation were not disclosed, but State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the two diplomats were “committed to continued discussions to resolve the matter and address other issues of common concern.”

Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, was indicted on charges of helping a network led by U.S.-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for a failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in addition to supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The detention of Brunson has strained relations between Turkey and the U.S., both NATO allies. U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened sanctions as part of a pressure campaign to free the pastor.

Brunson had been in jail for 21 months before being put under house arrest Wednesday. His transfer came one week after a court inside a prison complex in the western Turkish town of Aliaga ruled to keep Brunson in detention while he is tried. The court dismissed Brunson’s attorney’s request for Brunson to be freed pending the outcome of the trial, which was adjourned until October 12.

Brunson, 50, who denies the charges, could face up to 35 years in prison if convicted. 

Pompeo wrote Wednesday on Twitter that Brunson’s transfer was “long overdue news” but added that the U.S. expected Ankara to do more.

Trump has repeatedly demanded Brunson’s release. The U.S. president has tweeted that Brunson’s detention is “a total disgrace” and added, “He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!”

Brunson is among tens of thousands of people Erdogan detained on similar charges during the state of emergency he declared following the failed coup.

The state of emergency ended July 18, but the Turkish legislature passed a new “anti-terror” law Wednesday that gives authorities more power to detain suspects and restore public order.

Vatican Meets #MeToo: Nuns Denounce Their Abuse by Priests

The nun no longer goes to confession regularly, after an Italian priest forced himself on her while she was at her most vulnerable: recounting her sins to him in a university classroom nearly 20 years ago.

At the time, the sister only told her provincial superior and her spiritual director, silenced by the Catholic Church’s culture of secrecy, her vows of obedience and her own fear, repulsion and shame.

“It opened a great wound inside of me,” she told the Associated Press. “I pretended it didn’t happen.”

After decades of silence, the nun is one of a handful worldwide to come forward recently on an issue that the Catholic Church has yet to come to terms with: The sexual abuse of religious sisters by priests and bishops. An AP examination has found that cases have emerged in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia, demonstrating that the problem is global and pervasive, thanks to the universal tradition of sisters’ second-class status in the Catholic Church and their ingrained subservience to the men who run it.

Some nuns are now finding their voices, buoyed by the #MeToo movement and the growing recognition that adults can be victims of sexual abuse when there is an imbalance of power in a relationship. The sisters are going public in part because of years of inaction by church leaders, even after major studies on the problem in Africa were reported to the Vatican in the 1990s.

The issue has flared in the wake of scandals over the sexual abuse of children, and recently of adults, including revelations that one of the most prominent American cardinals, Theodore McCarrick, sexually abused and harassed his seminarians.

The extent of the abuse of nuns is unclear, at least outside the Vatican. Victims are reluctant to report the abuse because of well-founded fears they won’t be believed, experts told the AP. Church leaders are reluctant to acknowledge that some priests and bishops simply ignore their vows of celibacy, knowing that their secrets will be kept.

However, this week, about half a dozen sisters in a small religious congregation in Chile went public on national television with their stories of abuse by priests and other nuns — and how their superiors did nothing to stop it. A nun in India recently filed a formal police complaint accusing a bishop of rape, something that would have been unthinkable even a year ago.

Cases in Africa have come up periodically; in 2013, for example, a well-known priest in Uganda wrote a letter to his superiors that mentioned “priests romantically involved with religious sisters” — for which he was promptly suspended from the church until he apologized in May. And the sister in Europe spoke to the AP to help bring the issue to light.

“I am so sad that it took so long for this to come into the open, because there were reports long ago,” Karlijn Demasure, one of the church’s leading experts on clergy sexual abuse and abuse of power, told the AP in an interview. “I hope that now actions will be taken to take care of the victims and put an end to this kind of abuse.”


The Vatican declined to comment on what measures, if any, it has taken to assess the scope of the problem globally, what it has done to punish offenders and care for the victims. A Vatican official said it is up to local church leaders to sanction priests who sexually abuse sisters, but that often such crimes go unpunished both in civil and canonical courts.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the issue, said only some cases arrive at the Holy See for investigation. It was a reference to the fact that the Catholic Church has no clear measures in place to investigate and punish bishops who themselves abuse or allow abusers to remain in their ranks — a legal loophole that has recently been highlighted by the McCarrick case.

The official said the church has focused much of its attention recently on protecting children, but that vulnerable adults “deserve the same protection.”

“Consecrated women have to be encouraged to speak up when they are molested,” the official told the AP. “Bishops have to be encouraged to take them seriously, and make sure the priests are punished if guilty.”

But being taken seriously is often the toughest obstacle for sisters who are sexually abused, said Demasure, until recently executive director of the church’s Center for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University, the church’s leading think tank on the issue.

“They (the priests) can always say ‘she wanted it,’” Demasure said. “It is also difficult to get rid of the opinion that it is always the woman who seduces the man, and not vice versa.”

Demasure said many priests in Africa, for example, struggle with celibacy because of traditional and cultural beliefs in the importance of having children. Novices, who are just entering religious life, are particularly vulnerable because they often need a letter from their parish priest to be accepted into certain religious congregations. “And sometimes they have to pay for that,” she said.

And when these women become pregnant?

“Mainly she has an abortion. Even more than once. And he pays for that. A religious sister has no money. A priest, yes,” she said.

There can also be a price for blowing the whistle on the problem.

In 2013, the Rev. Anthony Musaala in Kampala, Uganda wrote what he called an open letter to members of the local Catholic establishment about “numerous cases” of alleged sex liaisons of priests, including with nuns. He charged that it was “an open secret that many Catholic priests and some bishops, in Uganda and elsewhere, no longer live celibate chastity.”

He was sanctioned, even though Ugandan newspapers regularly report cases of priests caught in sex escapades. The topic is even the subject of a popular novel taught in high schools.

In 2012, a priest sued a bishop in western Uganda who had suspended him and ordered him to stop interacting with at least four nuns. The priest, who denied the allegations, lost the suit, and the sisters later withdrew their own suit against the bishop.

Archbishop John Baptist Odama, leader of the local Ugandan conference of bishops, told the AP that unverified or verified allegations against individual priests should not be used to smear the whole church.

“Individual cases may happen, if they are there,” he said Thursday. “Individual cases must be treated as individual cases.”


Long before the most recent incidents, confidential reports into the problem focused on Africa and AIDS were prepared in the 1990s by members of religious orders for top church officials. In 1994, the late Sr. Maura O’Donohue wrote the most comprehensive study about a six-year, 23-nation survey, in which she learned of 29 nuns who had been impregnated in a single congregation.

Nuns, she reported, were considered “safe” sexual partners for priests who feared they might be infected with HIV if they went to prostitutes or women in the general population.

Four years later, in a report to top religious superiors and Vatican officials, Sr. Marie McDonald said harassment and rape of African sisters by priests is “allegedly common.” Sometimes, when a nun becomes pregnant, the priest insists on an abortion, the report said.

The problem travelled when the sisters were sent to Rome for studies. They “frequently turn to seminarians and priests for help in writing essays. Sexual favors are sometimes the payment they have to make for such help,” the report said.

The reports were never meant to be made public. The U.S. National Catholic Reporter put them online in 2001, exposing the depths of a scandal the church had long sought to keep under wraps. To date, the Vatican hasn’t said what, if anything, it ever did with the information.

Sister Paola Moggi, a member of the Missionary Combonian Sisters — a religious congregation with a significant presence in 16 African countries — said in her experience the African church “had made great strides” since the 1990s, when she did missionary work in Kenya, but the problem has not been eliminated.

“I have found in Africa sisters who are absolutely emancipated and who say what they think to a priest they meet who might ask to have sex with them,” she told the AP.

“I have also found sisters who said ‘Well, you have to understand their needs, and that while we only have a monthly cycle a man has a continuous cycle of sperm’ — verbatim words from the ’90s,” she said.

But the fact that in just a few weeks scandals of priests allegedly molesting sisters have erupted publicly on two other continents — Asia and Latin America — suggests that the problem is not confined to Africa, and that some women are now willing to break the taboo to denounce it publicly.

In India, a sister of the Missionaries of Jesus filed a police report last month alleging a bishop raped her in May 2014 during a visit to the heavily Christian state of Kerala, and that he subsequently sexually abused her around a dozen more times over the following two years, Indian media have reported. The bishop denied the accusation and said the woman was retaliating against him for having taken disciplinary action against her for her own sexual misdeeds.

In Chile, the scandal of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, an order dedicated to health care in the diocese of Talca, erupted at the same time the country’s entire Catholic hierarchy has been under fire for decades of sex abuse and cover-ups. The scandal got so bad that in May, Francis summoned all Chilean bishops to Rome, where they all offered to resign en masse.

The case, exposed by the Chilean state broadcaster, involves accusations of priests fondling and kissing nuns, including while naked, and some religious sisters sexually abusing younger ones. The victims said they told their mother superior, but that she did nothing. Talca’s new temporary bishop has vowed to find justice.

The Vatican is well aware that religious sisters have long been particularly vulnerable to abuse. Perhaps the most sensational account was detailed in the 2013 book “The Nuns of Sant’Ambrogio,” based on the archives of the Vatican’s 1860s Inquisition trial of abuse, embezzlement, murder and “false holiness” inside a Roman convent. Once word got out, the Vatican poured the full force of its Inquisition to investigate and punish.

It remains to be seen what the Vatican will do now that more sisters are speaking out.


The sister who spoke to the AP about her assault in 2000 during confession at a Bologna university clasped her rosary as she recounted the details.

She recalled exactly how she and the priest were seated in two armchairs face-to-face in the university classroom, her eyes cast to the floor. At a certain point, she said, the priest got up from his chair and forced himself on her. Petite but not frail, she was so shocked, she said, that she grabbed him by the shoulders and with all her strength, stood up and pushed him back into his chair.

The nun continued with her confession that day. But the assault — and a subsequent advance by a different priest a year later — eventually led her to stop going to confession with any priest other than her spiritual father, who lives in a different country.

“The place of confession should be a place of salvation, freedom and mercy,” she said. “Because of this experience, confession became a place of sin and abuse of power.”

She recalled at one point a priest in whom she had confided had apologized “on behalf of the church.” But nobody ever took any action against the offender, who was a prominent university professor.

The woman recounted her story to the AP without knowing that at that very moment, a funeral service was being held for the priest who had assaulted her 18 years earlier.

She later said the combination of his death and her decision to speak out lifted a great weight.

“I see it as two freedoms: freedom of the weight for a victim, and freedom of a lie and a violation by the priest,” she said. “I hope this helps other sisters free themselves of this weight.”

US Prelate McCarrick Resigns From College of Cardinals Following Sexual Abuse Allegations

Pope Francis has accepted U.S. prelate Theodore McCarrick’s offer to resign from the College of Cardinals following allegations of sexual abuse, including one involving an 11-year-old boy, and ordered him to conduct a “life of prayer and penance” in a home to be designated by the pontiff until a church trial is held, the Vatican said Saturday.

Francis acted swiftly after receiving McCarrick’s letter of resignation Friday evening, after recent weeks have brought a spate of allegations that the 88-year-old prelate in the course of his distinguished clerical career had sexually abused both boys and adult seminarians. The revelations posed a test of the pontiff’s recently declared resolve to battle what he called a “culture of cover-up” of similar abuse in the Catholic’s church’s hierarchy.

McCarrick had been already removed from public ministry since June 20, pending a full investigation into allegations he fondled a teenager over 40 years ago in New York City. A man, who was 11 at the time of the first alleged instance of abuse, says a sexually abusive relationship continued for two more decades. McCarrick has denied the initial allegation.

The prelate rose steadily up the U.S. Church’s ranks, from auxiliary bishop in New York City, to bishop in Metuchen, New Jersey, to archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, and then to Archbishop of Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, the city where the papal ambassador to the United States is based.

While most of the scandals involving pedophile clergy have involved rank-and-file priests, some cases involved bishops, and there are a few involving cardinals, including a current case in Australia of one of Pope Francis’ closest advisers, Cardinal George Pell, who now faces a criminal trial in his homeland.

In the case of Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, accused by former seminarians in 2013 of sexual misconduct, Francis only accepted his resignation after the Vatican’s top abuse prosecutor conducted a full investigation, two years after the first revelations came out.

But the Holy See’s announcement about McCarrick said that Francis was taking action, by isolating McCarrick and ordering penance even before “accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial.” In addition, Francis, “ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry,” indicating he was approving the measure already in effect since last month.

A Catholic University canon law expert, Kurt Martens, noted that this was the first time an order of penance and prayer had been issued before a church trial could take place.

Since he is over 80, McCarrick was already no longer eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a pope. But being a “prince of the church,” as cardinals are sometimes called, is a top honor of the church, and those elevated to that rank are called upon to advise the pope.

Bishops have been implicated in the sexual abuse scandals that have stained the Catholic church’s reputation worldwide for decades now, but often for their roles in covering up for pedophile priests by shuffling them from parish to parish and keeping the faithful in the dark about the allegations about clergy whose pastoral duties often bring them into contact with minors.

Earlier this month, an Australia bishop became the most senior Roman Catholic cleric to be convicted of covering up child sex abuse. Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson was sentenced to 12 months in detention by an Australian court in a landmark case welcomed by some abuse survivors as a strong warning to institutions that fail to protect children.

Ex-Catalan Chief Back in Belgium, Meets Successor

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has returned to Belgium to drum up support for Catalonia’s separatist movement after Spain’s bid to extradite him on rebellion charges from Germany failed.


Puigdemont arrived in Brussels Saturday morning and shook hands with the current regional president of Catalonia, Quim Torra, who had traveled from Spain to meet his predecessor.


Puigdemont fled Spain in October following an illegal and ineffective declaration of independence by secessionist lawmakers in northeastern Catalonia.


He had been in Germany since March when he was arrested on a Spanish warrant while traveling in car from Finland back to Belgium.


But a Spanish judge withdrew the international warrant for Puigdemont after a German court refused to extradite him for rebellion.


Puigdemont can be arrested, however, if he returns to Spain.

Robotic Tools Could Revolutionize Cancer Screening

Not counting certain types of skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women in the U.S. and worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Now researchers in Europe have come up with a robotic device that may speed detection of cancer tumors, potentially saving thousands of lives. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more.

Some Music Festivals Fuel Rightist Extremism, German Officials Say

Music festivals have gained serious significance for right-wing extremists in their effort to draw more supporters in Germany and across Europe, the country’s domestic intelligence agency told VOA on Friday.

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, or BfV, said it estimated the number of right-wing extremists in Germany at 24,000 in 2017, up from 23,100 in 2016. Over half of them were thought to have no affiliation with organized groups while 4,500 showed allegiance to the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD).

Unlike previous years, when a small number of organized music festivals by right-wing members attracted only few participants, they now draw thousands of participants, said Elke Altmuller, a spokesperson for BfV.

“These events are very attractive for young people to bring them into the right-wing extremism scene,” Altmuller said. They are also important for networking and “bring a lot of money to the local right-wing extremism scene,” she added.

According to BfV, the biggest right-wing concert, “Rock Against Foreign Domination,” was held last July in Themar, where 6,000 people gathered, including supporters from Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland and Slovakia.

Videos obtained from the event by police showed dozens of people displaying the Hitler salute and chanting anti-immigrant slogans.

Nazi symbols are illegal in Germany and their display is associated with anti-Semitism and glorification of Nazi crimes.

Despite the surge in the number of supporters, German authorities point to a significant decline in violence by right-wing extremists, from 907 recorded cases in 2016 to 286 in 2017. Most of the attacks targeted accommodation centers for asylum seekers.

According to the BfV spokesperson, the drop in the violence is mainly due to country’s courts imposing long prison sentences against perpetrators and the fading of the anti-asylum debate within the right-wing extremist arena.

“But in general, you have to notice that the decline of violence does not mean there is not any danger of violence by the individual actors in this scene,” Altmuller added.

Debate over immigration

In recent years, Germany has been faced with divisions and fierce debate about the country’s immigration and asylum policies. Far-right leaders blame “the refugee crisis” and “the asylum problem” for security breaches in the country.

In its annual report published Tuesday, the BfV estimated that in 2017 there were over 25,000 “Islamist followers” in the country, with more than 10,000 having links to Salafists.

The report warned that the risk of attacks by lone jihadists and those who returned from fighting in Syria and Iraq remained high in Germany.

“It still has to be expected that there will be members, supporters and sympathizers of extremist and terrorist organizations covertly entering Germany among the migrants,” the report concluded.

The agency’s investigation found that violence committed by extremists in various politically motivated areas in Germany had declined, but the number of potential extremists had gone up.

Armenian Court Announces Arrest of Former President Kocharyan

An Armenian court on Friday announced the arrest of former president Robert Kocharyan, whom special investigators had recently charged with usurping power.

Yerevan City Court of General Jurisdiction announced Kocharyan’s detention less than a day after Armenian investigators filed a motion to have him arrested.

One of Kocharyan’s defense lawyers, Aram Orbelyan, refused to give any further details of the arrest, citing the confidentiality of the preliminary investigation. He said his team is preparing a response that will be read at a news conference July 28.

Mikael Harutyunyan, Kocharyan’s former defense chief, has also been charged in the case. It is not known whether he has been arrested.

Kocharyan’s arrest comes three months after a transfer of power in the ex-Soviet country following weeks of mass protests against corruption and cronyism.

Kocharyan served as Armenia’s second president from 1998 to 2008, and investigators have charged him with an attempt to overthrow the constitutional order during post-election events in March 2008 when his ally, Serzh Sarksyan, was elected the next president.

In February-March 2008 the opposition held protest rallies, contesting the results of the election and claiming that their candidate, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, had won the vote.

The protests were dispersed and 10 people were killed in clashes with police. The Constitutional Court upheld the election results.

Nikol Pashinyan, an opposition activist at the time who was imprisoned in June 2009 on charges of fomenting unrest during post-election protests, was elected prime minister by parliament on May 8 this year.

Kocharyan, who just returned from Europe, said the latest charges were politically motivated, but added he was ready to spend time in prison.

“These charges are fiction, fabricated, unjustified and have a political implication,” he told an independent Armenian Yerkir Media TV, adding that he would refuse to testify or cooperate with investigators “because of the trumped up nature of charges.”

However, Kocharyan said, he did not intend to run away.

“I’m going to go sit in prison and fight to the end.”

U.S. reaction

After the deadly clashes, the United States issued a report condemning what it called “arbitrary and unlawful killings.”

On Friday, a State Department spokesperson said: “The United States has consistently urged Armenia’s authorities to conduct a serious, credible and independent investigation into these events. We continue to stress to our Armenian partners the importance of respecting internationally recognized standards that relate to the administration of justice.”

Numerous allies of former presidents Sarksyan and Kocharyan have been involved in a series of unrelated anti-corruption probes launched under Pashinyan’s administration.

In a recent interview with VOA’s Armenian Service, Ararat Mirzoyan, Pashinyan’s deputy prime minister, said none of the anti-corruption probes are politically motivated.

“This is not our fault that the 99 percent of all discoveries deal with people from a certain political party,” he said. “That is the party that has been in power. That is the party that refused to transfer the power. That is the party that used all levers to extend their personal power. There is no intent there, rather just statistics. We said that there will be no political vendetta, and we are confident in that.”

This story originated in VOA’s Armenian Service. Some information is from Reuters.

Greek PM Assumes ‘Political Responsibility’ for Wildfires

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Friday that he assumes political responsibility for the Greek wildfires that have killed at least 87 people this week.

In a cabinet meeting broadcast in Greek media, Tsipras said he wants to “assume completely before the great Greek people the political responsibility for this tragedy” because, in his words, “that is what the prime minister and the government should do.”

He also said the country will quickly undertake the task of identifying building violations, which are believed to have been a factor in the failure of many victims to escape. He also reiterated other reports that the fires are believed to have been caused by arson.

Forensics experts and coroners are working to identify dozens of people known to have perished in the country’s deadliest wildfires in decades.

Authorities say that the identification process is likely to take several more days to complete, because most of the bodies were completely carbonized.

“We have serious indications and significant findings of criminal activity,” Public Order Minister Nikons Tasks said Thursday. “We are troubled by many factors, and there have been physical findings that are the subject of an investigation.”

The fires broke out Monday and tore through a coastal area northeast of Athens popular with tourists. Rescuers and volunteers searching what is left of homes and small towns reported scenes of horror — charred bodies, including a group of 26 people huddled together, some embracing.

Relatives crowded morgues looking for loved ones. Forensic experts said many of the victims are impossible to identify without dental records or DNA samples.

Survivors said they ran to the beach to escape the flames. Some people who were already burned waded into the water and were picked up by ferries or fishing boats and the Coast Guard.

Many people are angry at what they say was the government’s slow response to the disaster and its failure to issue warnings. They also said authorities did not have an evacuation plan ready.

Firefighters said they were battling blazes on several fronts and that gale force winds helped spread the flames.

Bolton May Meet Russian Security Official By End of Summer

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton may meet the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, by the end of summer, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday.

Ryabkov said a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was also being discussed but there had been some difficulties over scheduling.

“We are looking into different options of where minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Pompeo could possibly meet, including the sidelines of international events,” Ryabkov said.