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Michael Cohen, United States President
Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer,
said overnight he paid a firm to manipulate
on-line polling data “at the direction of and
for the sole benefit of ” Trump.
The Wall Street Journal reported that
Cohen had paid the data firm Red Finch
Solutions to manipulate two public opinion
polls in favour of Trump before the 2016
“As for the @WSJ article on poll rigging,”
Cohen wrote on Twitter on Thursday, “what
I did was at the direction of and for the sole
benefit of @realDonaldTrump @POTUS. I
truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who
doesn’t deserve it.”
The attempts to influence the polls
ultimately proved largely unsuccessful but
shed a light on the tactics of the Trump
campaign and Cohen’s role within it. On
the campaign trail, Trump frequently
referred to his polling numbers to help fuel
Cohen was sentenced last month to three
years in prison for his role in making illegal
hush-money payments to women to help
Trump’s campaign and for lying to Congress
about a proposed Trump Tower project in
Cohen has said Trump had directed him
to commit the campaign-finance violations,
which Trump has denied.
The Journal said Cohen commissioned
John Gauger, who runs Red Finch Solutions,
to write a computer script to repeatedly
vote for Trump in a February 2015 Drudge
Report poll on potential Republican
candidates. The move came as Trump was
preparing to enter the 2016 presidential
election race, the newspaper reported.
Trump ranked fifth in the Drudge Report
poll, with about 24,000 votes, or 5% of the
total, according to the Journal.
Cohen also commissioned Gauger to
do the same for a 2014 CNBC on-line
poll identifying the country’s top business
leaders, although Trump was unable to
break into the top 100 candidates, the
“The president has no knowledge of the
polls being rigged,” Trump lawyer Rudy
Giuliani said in an inter view.
Trump tweeted about a CNBC poll on
business leaders in 2014, calling it “a joke”
and suggested he was removed from the list
because of “politics.”
Reuters was not immediately able to
confirm the details of the newspaper report.
Cohen did not immediately respond to
a request for comment, and neither did
representatives for Red Finch Solutions and
the Trump Organisation. Charles James, a
lawyer for Gauger, declined to comment.
Gauger said Cohen paid him in cash
out of a blue Walmart bag, although not
for the total amount he was owed. Cohen
also promised Gauger work on the Trump
campaign that never materialised, according
to the Journal.
Cohen worked for Trump for many years
as his self-proclaimed fixer, and once said he
would take a bullet for Trump.
But the relationship has since publicly
soured. Trump has called Cohen a “rat,”
while Cohen has cooperated with US Special
Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of
links between the Trump campaign and
Russia during the campaign. Both Trump
and Moscow have denied any wrongdoing.
Cohen has also agreed to testify publicly
in front of the House of Representatives’
Oversight Committee in a hearing
scheduled to take place next month.
Trump directed poll rigging — Cohen
Facebook says it has removed
hundreds of Russia-linked pages,
groups and accounts it says were
part of two big disinformation
operations, in its latest effort to fight
The social media company says
it took action after finding two
networks that engaged in “co-
ordinated inauthentic behaviour”
on its Facebook and Instagram
Facebook head of cybersecurity
policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in a
blog post overnight that one network
operated in central and eastern
European counties, the Baltics,
central Asia and the Caucasus.
The other focused on Ukraine.
The people running the accounts
independent news sources and
posted on topics like anti-Nato
sentiment and protest movements.
“ We didn’t find any links between
these operations, but they used
similar tactics by creating networks
of accounts to mislead others about
who they were and what they were
doing,” Gleicher said.
Gleicher said one network of 364
pages and accounts was linked to
employees of Sputnik, a Russian
state-run English-language news
About 790,000 accounts followed
one or more of the network’s pages.
The operation spent about
$200,000 over six years for Facebook
advertisements, which it paid for in
euros, rubles and dollars. The most
recent ad ran in January.
Sputnik criticised Facebook’s
“The decision is clearly political.
This is tantamount to censorship,” it
said in a statement.
Sputnik adding that Facebook
blocked the accounts of seven of its
bureaus in former Soviet republics.
“Sputnik editorial offices deal
with news and they do it well,” the
“If this blocking is Facebook’s only
reaction to the quality of the media’s
work, then we have no questions,
everything is clear here. But there
is still hope that common sense will
prevail.” — Reuters
A far north Queensland couple
struggled for 10 minutes to prise a 3m
scrub python off their son after it sank its
teeth into his hand.
The Royal Flying Doctor Ser vice
said the snake attacked the boy, 14,
on January 8, coiling around his right
arm, sinking its teeth into his hand and
refusing to let go.
Emma and Neville Jackson woke to the
sound of screams from their son Ryan,
the ABC has reported.
They tried desperately to pull their son
free, but the snake only tightened its grip
and sank its teeth further into his left
After a 10-minute struggle, Mr Jackson
used a platypus money box to force the
snake’s jaw open far enough for Ryan to
free his hand, the public broadcaster says.
“ We’ve taught our children not to fear
snakes because they ’re everywhere, but
this one was hungry and aggressive and
not keen to let go,” Mrs Jackson told the
The family was grateful the snake did
not attack their four-year-old daughter
who may not have survived if attacked.
“Ryan took one for the team in a way
because I think the snake would have
killed her, the aggression behind that
snake, it would have taken her,” she told
The boy, who was flown to Cairns
hospital by the flying doctor, was not
The scrub python is common in
Australia and can grow to 8.5m, making
it the sixth largest snake in the world.
The snake’s diet generally consists of
birds, bats, rats, possums, and other small
mammals. — A AP
Python tries to
Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince
Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, 97,
was involved in a traffic accident while
driving near the Sandringham estate in
eastern England, Buckingham Palace
said. He was not hurt.
“The Duke of Edinburgh was
involved in a road traffic accident with
another vehicle this afternoon,” it said
in a statement. “ The D uke was not
injured. The accident took place close
to the Sandringham Estate. ”
Local police attended the scene, the
The BBC reported that Philip was
driving a Range Rover and that the
vehicle landed on its side after a
collision. It quoted a witness as saying
the D uke was very shaken.
A palace spokeswoman later
confirmed the Duke was at the wheel
and that he was checked by a doctor
after wards. He did not go to hospital
and was now back at Sandringham.
Philip married Elizabeth in 1947 and
has been by his wife’s side throughout
her long reign.
The former naval officer did not
accompany the Q ueen to a church
ser vice on Christmas Day last month
though a royal source said he was in
Philip, who had successful hip
replacement surgery last year, retired
from public life in 2017. — Reuters
The scene of the crash with the Range Rover on its side.
Prince Philip involved in car crash
federal workers are
having trouble putting
groceries on the table,
but at least they can get
a free beer, thanks to a
who want to brighten the
mood of those caught up
in the long government
An ad hoc group, called
Pay It Furloughed, has
set up a website that
allows furloughed federal
workers or those working
without pay to grab a
several craft breweries in
Atlas Brew Works, DC
Brau and Shop Made in
“ Free beer is a great way
to pick people up when
they ’re feeling down,”
As of late Wednesday
afternoon, nearly 1500
beers were available.
There is no limit to
the number of free beers
furloughed and unpaid
federal workers can claim.
Free beer for
Dogs, cats and birds were
blessed at a church in Madrid
overnight on the feast day of
Saint Anthony, the patron
saint of animals, with many of
the owners making an annual
pilgrimage for their pets.
St Anthony the Abbot ’s
church priest Angel Garcia
expected up to 15,000 pets to
be brought in for this year’s
cared a great deal about dogs
healing and feeding them.
That ’s where the tradition
comes from,” said the priest,
who blesses each animal.
“ We come here every year
since I have her and we come
together, right Rita?” Madrid
resident Maria Diaz said to
her dog as she was hugging
it. “Saint Anthony is going to
bless you. Do not tremble!”
Diana Castillo, another dog
owner, said she was keeping
up a family tradition, started
by her grandparents who
would bring their pets to the
ceremony, first celebrated 35
“ We are from Madrid for
several generations and Saint
Anthony has always been a
very important church for our
family ... I come here since we
adopted her seven years ago
and we come every year.”
Pet owners f lock to church
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