Tropical Storm Idalia on Thursday inundated the Carolinas with torrential rains that threatened to trigger dangerous flash flooding while Florida’s Gulf Coast began recovery efforts after the system tore through the region as a Category 3 hurricane.
The backend of the storm was producing heavy downpours that could amount to 9 inches (23 cm) in some spots along the region’s coastline early on Thursday, the National Weather Service said.
The service warned of possible life-threatening flash flooding, especially in low-lying areas and along rivers, through the morning and into the afternoon. Storm surge warnings were also in effect for several oceanfront communities as heavy rains and fierce winds remained in the forecast.
“Driving conditions may become dangerous,” the service said in an advisory, urging residents to remain vigilant after many motorists became stranded on Wednesday. “Extreme rainfall rates could result in urban and flash flooding which may prompt water rescues.”
As of Thursday morning, the storm was about 65 miles (105 km) southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, carrying winds of 60 mph as it drifted northeast. Idalia was expected to curl eastward and out into the Atlantic on Thursday night.
The rough conditions in the Carolinas come a day after Idalia crashed ashore at Keaton Beach in Florida’s Big Bend region, lashing the coast with sustained winds of up to 125 miles per hour (201 kph), torrential rains and pounding surf.
Local, state and federal authorities will assess the full extent of damage in the days ahead. Insured property losses in Florida were projected to run $9.36 billion, investment bank UBS said in a research note.
While coastal communities sustained major damage, Idalia appeared to have been far less destructive than Hurricane Ian, a Category 5 storm that struck Florida last September, killing 150 people and causing $112 billion in damage.
“The community is resilient and we are going to work hard to make sure people get what they need,” Governor Ron DeSantis said during a news briefing on Thursday.
Florida has requested a major disaster declaration from the federal government for all 25 counties that fell under the hurricane warning, he said.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said during the news briefing that she would tour the area with DeSantis to assess the damage and that the governor and U.S. President Joe Biden have remained in close contact.
The surge of storm-driven seawater that accompanied Idalia rushed inland for miles, flooding low-lying communities and roadways in its path. No deaths had been reported from the storm surge, considered the greatest hazard posed by major hurricanes.
Florida Highway Patrol reported that two motorists had died in separate rain-related crashes early Wednesday before Idalia made landfall. DeSantis later said state authorities were investigating one unconfirmed storm-related traffic death.
In Taylor and Hernando counties, National Guard troops pulled stranded motorists to safety on Wednesday, while emergency teams plying submerged streets in boats rescued dozens of people from floodwaters in St. Petersburg, about 200 miles south of landfall.
Boat rescues also took place in at least one town in the neighboring state of Georgia, which a weakened Idalia strafed as it pushed northward out of Florida.
Electricity outages from fallen trees, utility poles and power lines were widespread. In all, more than 283,000 homes and businesses were without power in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas early on Thursday, according to Poweroutage.us.
Florida officials said crews would restore most of the state’s power outages within 48 hours.
The heart of the state’s rural Big Bend region – where its northern Gulf Coast panhandle curves into the Florida Peninsula – bore the brunt of the storm.
Idalia left a tableau of toppled houses and destroyed vehicles in its wake, but overall the destruction was not as severe as feared.
John “Sparky” Abrandt, a 77-year-old retiree who lives in Horseshoe Beach, about 30 miles south of landfall, said he felt relieved when he saw the damage to his home, even though the windows were blown out and household items were scattered about.
“I’m feeling great. The house is still here,” he said.
The state’s priorities in hard-hit areas were restoring traffic signals, clearing debris and bringing in more portable generators, said Jared Perdue, who heads the state’s Transportation Department.
All state bridges in storm-stricken areas had been found to be structurally sound. A total of 30 of the 52 school districts that closed ahead of the storm reopened on Thursday, officials said. Eight others were expected to resume classes on Friday.
While Idalia proved less formidable than was feared, it highlighted a trend of cyclonic storms that tend to intensify rapidly, a phenomenon scientists say is symptomatic of climate change.
Feeding on the warm, open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Idalia quickly gained strength as it churned toward Florida after skirting the western tip of Cuba on Monday as a tropical storm.
It reached hurricane status on Tuesday and attained Category 4 intensity on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale early Wednesday shortly before landfall but had weakened into Category 3 by the time it entered the Florida mainland.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on Thursday to a wide-ranging Georgia criminal indictment related to his attempts to overturn his 2020 election defeat, according to a court filing.
The plea means that Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, will not appear in person in Fulton County Court in Atlanta next week to face the charges.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has charged Trump with 13 felony counts, including racketeering, for pressuring state officials to reverse his 2020 election loss and allegedly setting up a fake slate of electors to undermine the congressional certification of Democratic President Joe Biden’s victory.
The latest charges mark Trump’s fourth indictment since launching his reelection campaign for president.
“As evidenced by my signature below, I do hereby waive formal arraignment and enter my plea of NOT GUILTY to the Indictment in this case,” Trump said in the court filing made in the Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday.
Gabrielian – Henry case is the propaganda ploy: It clearly conveys the pro-Ukrainian and pro-Azerbaijani messages and sentiments on one hand, and the anti-Russian and anti-Armenian ones on another.
This points to the original authors of this soap-operatic, trans-phobic drama.
How witting or unwitting were their FBI partners? That’s the question.
This slogan has nothing to do with Trump, he appropriated it from me, see dates.
It means: investigate the FBI and all its criminal misdeeds and tendencies on the completely bipartisan level.
“Azerbaijan and Ukraine officially consider each other “strategic partners” and have consistently supported each other’s territorial integrity and inviolability of their internationally-recognized borders,”
— Michael Novakhov (@mikenov) August 31, 2023
“Azerbaijan and Ukraine officially consider each other “strategic partners” and have consistently supported each other’s territorial integrity and inviolability of their internationally-recognized borders,” writes Vasif Huseynov in this op-ed for commonspace.eu. “Azerbaijan’s support to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders exemplifies the country’s broader foreign policy principles. Having itself experienced invasion and ethnic cleansing by neighboring Armenia, Azerbaijan possesses a clear understanding and empathy for Ukraine’s current challenges,” he writes.
On 1 June, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan had a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during the second gathering of the European Political Community in Chișinău, Moldova. It is noteworthy that President Aliyev was the only leader from the South Caucasus to meet with the Ukrainian President, which holds particular political significance in the context of Ukraine’s ongoing struggle against Russian invasion.
During their meeting, both leaders expressed mutual support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of their respective countries within their internationally recognized borders. One intriguing and quite symbolic aspect that drew observers’ attention was the use of English as the language of the meeting, despite the fact that both leaders are more comfortable speaking in Russian.
Azerbaijan and Ukraine officially consider each other “strategic partners” and have consistently supported each other’s territorial integrity and inviolability of their internationally-recognized borders. In January 2022, just a month before the full-scale invasion, and amidst the escalation of hostilities, President Aliyev was conspicuously the only leader from the post-Soviet space (excluding the Baltic States) who travelled to Kyiv, where he signed a number of agreements on deepening bilateral cooperation and declared his support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Hence, the latest meeting between the two leaders demonstrated Azerbaijan’s consistency in its support to Ukraine, despite all the pressure from the Russian side. According to the Azerbaijani government, Baku has provided around €20 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale war. Azerbaijan’s state energy company, SOCAR, has been providing free fuel at its gas filling stations in Ukraine specifically for ambulances and vehicles operated by the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (DSNS). Considering that there are more than 50 such stations of SOCAR in Ukraine, this assistance may have been important for the DSNS.
Azerbaijani humanitarian aid for Ukraine draws “bewilderment” from Moscow
Furthermore, Azerbaijan has extended its humanitarian support to Ukraine by sending various forms of aid, including medical supplies and clothing. Azerbaijan dispatched 45 power transformers and 50 generators to regions in Ukraine that were experiencing power shortages and lacked heating. Interestingly, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed “bewilderment” over Azerbaijan’s provision of transformers and generators, portraying them as military assistance to Ukraine.
“Such a step on the part of Baku is puzzling. As part of a special military operation, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are destroying the critical infrastructure of Ukraine used by the Kyiv regime for military needs. Azerbaijani supplies, which are unlikely to fundamentally change the situation, do not amount to humanitarian aid,” a representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry said to local media in December 2022.
This reaction has, however, not stopped Azerbaijan from providing this support. In a recent act of solidarity, Azerbaijan provided humanitarian aid consisting of pumps, boats, protective suits and uniforms to mitigate the consequences of the collapse of the dam at the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant on 6 June.
In the course of the 1 June meeting, President Zelensky thanked the Azerbaijani leader for Baku’s assistance provided for the reconstruction of Ukraine’s infrastructure. “We highly appreciate Azerbaijan’s participation in the restoration of infrastructure facilities in Kyiv Oblast. We hope for assistance in the further reconstruction of Ukraine. In the post-war period, we look forward to Azerbaijan’s active participation in investment projects in Ukraine,” the country’s president said.
Increasing speculation that Armenia is helping Russia evade sanctions
Along with providing humanitarian support to Ukraine, Azerbaijan has been one of the few countries in the entire post-Soviet space that has refused to help Russia evade Western sanctions. This approach by the Azerbaijani government, which is in line with the country’s overall support to Ukraine, appears in a stark contrast to that of some other former Soviet countries, including Armenia.
For example, a latest international report reveals that “Armenia’s exports to Russia surged in 2022, at a staggering growth rate of 187% compared to the previous year. Moreover, over half of these exports were re-exports originating from third countries, adding fuel to speculation that Armenia is playing a key role in the rerouting of Western imports to Russia to avoid sanctions”. This is presented as the reason why the US has also identified Armenia as one of five countries that pose challenges in terms of evading sanctions.
This situation forms a contradiction to the statement of the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan who tries to convince the Western public that “Armenia is not Russia’s ally in its war against Ukraine”. Some commentators explain Azerbaijan’s more independent standing in this present geopolitical context due to the country’s resources and geographical position as a necessary link on both the Middle Corridor and on the international North-South Transportation Corridor.
Baku has never aligned its foreign policy with Russia, or joined Moscow-led integration projects
This analysis disregards the fact that Azerbaijan’s balanced approach in foreign policy and independent stance against Russia’s regional ambitions date back to the mid-1990s. As opposed to Armenia, who joined Russia’s military and economic blocks decades ago and benefitted from the Russian support to maintain a some three-decade long occupation of 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory, Baku never aligned its foreign policy with that of Russia and avoided Moscow-led integration projects despite the Kremlin’s insistence and pressure.
That said, Azerbaijan’s support to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders exemplifies the country’s broader foreign policy principles. Having itself experienced invasion and ethnic cleansing by neighboring Armenia, Azerbaijan possesses a clear understanding and empathy for Ukraine’s current challenges.
source: Dr Vasif Huseynov, is a Senior Advisor at the Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center) and Adjunct Lecturer at Khazar University in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The views expressed in opinion pieces and commentaries do not necessarily reflect the position of commonspace.eu or its partners
The U.S. Attorney’s Office plans to retry two Maryland doctors who are accused of obtaining and disclosing private medical records to an undercover FBI special agent they believed was a representative of the Russian government.
In a one-page court document filed on Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron Zelinsky and P. Michael Cunningham informed U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher that the government is “prepared to proceed to retrial” against Anna Gabrielian, a former anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and her spouse, U.S. Army Maj. Jamie Lee Henry, a physician who had been stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, as soon as the court’s schedule permits.
Gabrielian, 37, and Henry, 40, both of Rockville, are charged with conspiracy and wrongful disclosure of individually identifiable health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. Federal prosecutors allege that the couple abused their authority and leaked private medical records to help Russia.
The investigation started after Gabrielian sent an email offering assistance to the Russian Embassy on March 1, 2022.
The FBI special agent testified while wearing a “light disguise” and using the pseudonym of Lena Simon. The press and public were not permitted in the courtroom in the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse during her testimony.
The government presented almost five hours of surreptitiously recorded videos.
Christopher Mead, Gabrielian’s attorney, and David Walsh-Little, Henry’s attorney, argued that their clients were humanitarians who wanted to save lives and did not act with the intent to commit the crimes. They also contended that the government entrapped their clients.
Gabrielian testified for hours in her own defense and admitted that she breached the confidentiality of her patients. But she said she thought she was dealing with a Russian intelligence agent and provided the medical records out of fear.
Both Gabrielian and Henry remain free but on 24-hour lockdown at their home except for approved activities.
One of 12 jurors believed the government tricked two Maryland doctors into passing private medical records to an agent posing as a Russian official, and that they shouldn’t be found guilty as a result.
That juror’s stance led to a deadlock in the federal jury’s deliberations and prompted U.S. District Stephanie A. Gallagher to declare a mistrial Thursday, following five days of trial and two more of jury deliberations.
Dr. Anna Gabrielian, a former Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist, and her spouse, Dr. Jamie Lee Henry, a physician and U.S. Army major, are still charged with conspiring to assist Russia after it invaded Ukraine and disclosing the health information of several patients. The charges carry maximum penalties of decades in prison.
Prosecutors can retry the doctors if they wish, and a spokeswoman for the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement Thursday that officials would “review the matter and make a determination as to next steps.”
Defense lawyers for Gabrielian and Henry declined to comment after court, as did the doctors, who left the federal courthouse in downtown Baltimore hand-in-hand after the mistrial.
At trial, prosecutors said the doctors violated their duty to protect their patients’ information as well as their respective oaths to America, all to aid Russia, which violently attacked its neighbor.
“These two defendants want to be ‘long-term weapons’ for Russia,” said prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, deputy chief of the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office’s National Security and Cybercrime Section, in closing arguments.
Zelinsky was quoting language Gabrielian used in a meeting with an undercover FBI agent. The government presented hours of footage captured by that agent’s covert camera during several meetings with Gabrielian and Henry last August. During one of those meetings, the doctors provided medical information of eight of their patients to the agent.
Defense lawyers for the couple contend the doctors only wanted to help save lives during the nascent war and that the undercover agent coerced them to break the law. They also said the government had no evidence that their clients’ actions were motivated by causing “malicious harm” to America or for personal gain, the elements of intent required to find them guilty.
“This was not about helping Russia and hurting the United States. This was about offering humanitarian aid,” said Henry’s attorney, David Walsh-Little, in closing.
The FBI launched an investigation into Gabrielian after she emailed the Russian embassy five days after the war broke out, identifying her and Henry as doctors.
“We are ready to help if there is a need for that,” she wrote. “We are for life, and do not want to cut Russia off from the international community.”
The undercover agent approached Gabrielian outside a garage at the Johns Hopkins Hospital on Aug. 17, 2022, calling to her in Russian. They met four more times, at least twice with Henry present.
The undercover FBI agent testified in “light disguise” using her undercover name, Lena Simon. For the duration of the agent’s testimony, the courtroom was physically closed to everybody but attorneys in the case, court personnel and the jury. An audio feed of the agent’s testimony was broadcast into another courtroom for others to listen.
During their meetings, the agent spoke in Russian to Gabrielian, who was born in Russia, according to the footage from the agent’s camera played in court. Lawyers on the case agreed on a translation of the conversations, and the video featured English subtitles. The jury also got a binder with an English transcription of the meetings.
Near the end of her second meeting with the undercover agent, Gabrielian appeared to notice the agent’s camera.
Gabrielian testified that was around the time she started believing she was dealing with a Russian intelligence officer, rather than an embassy official. She said she feared for her and her family’s safety, noting that she has relatives who live in Russia and Ukraine, and only complied with the undercover agent’s requests for medical records out of fear of retribution.
Christopher Mead, Gabrielian’s attorney, said the lack of evidence that the doctors intended to provide records before the agent began probing for them made entrapment a “slam dunk,” and that the jury should acquit them as a result.
If the government proves it did not induce the defendants to commit the crime or that they would have committed crimes regardless of whether a government agent approached, then there is no entrapment, according to federal jury instructions. It also is not entrapment if government agents “merely provide an opportunity” for someone to commit a crime.
The jury spent much of two days deliberating about entrapment, sending several questions to the court about the concept.
“Does it need to be proven that the defendants would’ve committed the crimes for certain if the agent had not approached?” a note from the jury Wednesday afternoon read.
The Evening Sun
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The FBI’s probe, testified the agent who led the investigation, Matthew Walker, evolved when investigators realized Gabrielian was married to Henry. The agency was concerned Russian officials might take advantage of the doctors’ offer of help and convince Henry to abuse his “secret” security clearance with the Army to provide classified documents.
It’s unclear from trial testimony whether Henry, who was trying to leave the military, still had a security clearance at the time of the crimes charged.
During her testimony, Gabrielian said she knew it was illegal to disclose patient records.
The records Henry and Gabrielian showed the undercover agent were considered individually identifiable health information, and violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Prosecutors charged them with felonies for each record, arguing they disclosed them for personal gain or malicious harm to America.
The jury never got as far as their intent during deliberations, and several members of the panel declined to comment.
Juror Denise Fortson, however, apologized for the panel being unable to reach a consensus.
“I believe the government proved its case,” Fortson said.
Originally Published: May 31, 2023 at 6:00 am
Baltimore, Maryland – A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Anna Gabrielian, age 36, and her husband, Jamie Lee Henry, age 39, both of Rockville, Maryland, with conspiracy and for the disclosure of individually identifiable health information (“IIHI”), related to their efforts to assist Russia in connection with the conflict in Ukraine. The indictment was returned on September 28, 2022 and unsealed today upon the arrest of the defendants.
Gabrielian is scheduled to have initial appearance at 11:30 a.m. today, in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brendan A. Hurson. Henry is also expected to have an initial appearance today, although a time has not yet been set.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron and Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.
As stated in the indictment, Gabrielian is an anesthesiologist and worked at Medical Institution 1, located in Baltimore, Maryland. Henry, a Major in the United States Army, who held a Secret-level security clearance, is Gabrielian’s husband and a doctor. During the time of the alleged conspiracy, Henry worked as a staff internist stationed at Fort Bragg, the home of the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, headquarters of the United States Army Special Operations Command, and the Womack Army Medical Center.
According to the eight-count indictment, Gabrielian and Henry conspired to cause harm to the United States by providing confidential health information of Americans associated with the United States government and military to Russia. Specifically, the indictment alleges that beginning on August 17, 2022, Gabrielian and Henry conspired to provide IIHI related to patients at Medical Institution 1 and at Fort Bragg to an individual they believed to be working for the Russian government in order to demonstrate the level of Gabrielian’s and Henry’s access to IIHI of Americans; their willingness to provide IIHI to the Russian government; and the potential for the Russian government to gain insights into the medical conditions of individuals associated with the United States government and military in order to exploit this information.
Gabrielian and Henry met with an individual they believed to be associated with the Russian government, but who was, in fact, a Federal Bureau of Investigation Undercover Agent (“UC”), in order to convey to the UC their commitment to aid Russia, and to discuss ways in which they could help the Russian government. Gabrielian told the UC that she had previously reached out to the Russian embassy by email and phone, offering Russia her and her husband’s assistance. Gabrielian told the UC that, although Henry knew of Gabrielian’s interaction with the Russian Embassy, she never mentioned Henry’s name to the Russian Embassy. Gabrielian wanted to make sure Henry could deny any knowledge of her actions. On August 17, 2022, Gabrielian met with the UC at a hotel in Baltimore. During that meeting, Gabrielian told the UC she was motivated by patriotism toward Russia to provide any assistance she could to Russia, even if it meant being fired or going to jail. Gabrielian proposed potential cover stories for meeting the UC and stressed the need for “plausible deniability” in the event she was confronted by American authorities about meeting with the UC. Gabrielian also told the UC that, as a military officer, Henry was currently a more important source for Russia than she was, because he had more helpful information, including how the United States military establishes an army hospital in war conditions and information about previous training provided by the United States military to Ukrainian military personnel. Gabrielian arranged to meet with the UC and Henry later that evening.
At about 8:10 p.m. that evening, the indictment alleges that Gabrielian and Henry met with the UC in the UC’s hotel room. During the meeting, Henry explained to the UC he was committed to assisting Russia and had looked into volunteering to join the Russian Army after the conflict in Ukraine began, but Russia wanted people with “combat experience” and he did not have any. Henry further stated, “the way I am viewing what is going on in Ukraine now, is that the United States is using Ukrainians as a proxy for their own hatred toward Russia.” Henry and Gabrielian allegedly offered to provide the UC with private medical records from the United States Army and Medical Institution 1 in order to help the Russian government. During the same meeting, Gabrielian demanded that if she were put at significant risk of arrest, she wanted her and Henry’s children to, “have a nice flight to Turkey to go on vacation because I don’t want to end in jail here with my kids being hostages over my head.” Henry also indicated that he was concerned about passing a background check for his security clearance, telling the UC, “I don’t want to know your name . . . because I want plausible deniability too. In a security clearance situation they want to know names and people and all this stuff.”
As detailed in the indictment, a few days later Gabrielian and the UC again met at the hotel in Baltimore to discuss providing Army medical records to the UC. Gabrielian told the UC that Henry was concerned about violating HIPAA, but Gabrielian had no such concerns. Gabrielian stated that she would check with Henry about providing medical records from Fort Bragg patients and get back in touch. The next day, Gabrielian sent a text to the UC, using coded language, to advise that Henry would provide Army medical records to the UC. On August 31, 2022, Gabrielian and Henry allegedly met the UC at a hotel room in Gaithersburg, Maryland. According to the indictment, Gabrielian provided the UC with IIHI related to two individuals, including the spouse of an employee of the Office of Naval Intelligence, whom Gabrielian pointed out had a medical condition Russia could “exploit.” Henry also allegedly provided IIHI related to five individuals who were military veterans or related to military veterans.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for the conspiracy, and a maximum of 10 years in federal prison for each count of disclosing IIHI. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the FBI for its work in the investigation and thanked the U.S. Army Counterintelligence for its collaboration Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron S.J. Zelinsky, who is prosecuting the federal case.
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A former Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist and her spouse, an Army doctor — who are charged with providing sensitive medical information to an undercover FBI agent who they believed was a representative of the Russian government — are seeking to argue that they were entrapped, new court records show. Selected Articles – Michael Novakhov’s favorite articles […]
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