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FBI Uncovers Massive Militia Plot to Kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

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Thirteen men, including members of the anti-government militia “Wolverine Watchmen,” are facing charges for allegedly conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer from her summer vacation home and “storm” the state Capitol building with 200 men.

The plot was revealed in an FBI criminal complaint, which named six people as federal defendants, from Michigan, Delaware and Ohio. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced state terrorism charges against an additional seven individuals Thursday, all tied to Wolverine Watchmen, and praised the FBI for thwarting what she described as a “serious and credible threat to public safety.” 

At the same time, the scale of the plot is just coming into focus; 200 state and federal law enforcement officials executed search warrants in more than 13 cities in Michigan. There’s also an ongoing investigation into a property in Munith, which the defendants used as a training ground, according to the FBI.

Whitmer, a Democrat, became vilified in right-wing and far-right circles since she decided to institute a lockdown in Michigan amid rising cases of COVID-19. The Capitol in Lansing became Ground Zero for the anti-lockdown protest movement that rippled across the U.S. In May, armed men, including many militia members even stormed the Capitol building.

President Donald Trump was criticized for egging on anti-lockdown protesters, at one point even tweeting “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” in April.

The FBI said that they started monitoring an online network who were discussing “the violent overthrow of certain government and law enforcement components” in early 2020. They zeroed in on the conversations between two individuals: Barry Croft of Delaware, and Adam Fox of Michigan, who were allegedly developing a recruitment plan with the end goal of taking violent action against “multiple state governments that they believe are violating the U.S. Constitution.”

On June 6, right as the anti-lockdown protests were heating up, Fox, Croft and around 13 others — including the person who would later become the government’s confidential source — met up in Dublin, Ohio to discuss logistics. At that meeting, Fox said that he would need “200 men” to “storm the Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, and take hostages including Gov. Whitmer, according to the affidavit. The end goal would be to try Whitmer for treason before the Nov. 2020 election.

The conclusion of that meeting was that Fox would need a lot more help if he was going to actually kidnap the governor of Michigan, and so he decided to reach out to a Michigan-based militia to see if they’d be interested in coming on board.

As it just so happened, Wolverine Watchmen the militia group had been on the federal government’s radar since March, when members were allegedly plotting to target and kill police officers, and they had successfully turned a member of that militia into a confidential informant.

Wolverine Watchmen’s leadership got on a call with Fox after one of their “field training sessions” held on a remote property in Michigan, and made a plan to meet up at his business in Grand Rapids.

Fox was taking no chances with security for that meeting on June 20, despite unwittingly inviting a confidential FBI informant who was wearing a recording device. They met in the basement of his shop, accessed through a trap door hidden under a rug. Fox collected everyone’s phones, put them in a box and “carried them upstairs to prevent any monitoring.” In that meeting, they discussed plans to attack Michigan’s Capitol, and throwing “Molotov cocktails” at police vehicles.

A few days later, Fox live-streamed a video to a private Facebook group – which again, included the confidential informant — and complained about Michigan’s judicial system and Whitmer’s decision not to open the gyms due to Coronavirus.

“This tyrant bitch,” Fox said. “I don’t know boys, we gotta do something.”

From there, the plan was put into action. In July, Fox, Croft and others met up with the militia to participate in training. They tried to make explosive devices, but failed. They even shared videos of some of their activities on Facebook. They later met up in Ohio, where they talked about shooting up Whitmer’s vacation home, located in Western Michigan, or abducting her while she was leaving or entering her home.

“Snatch and grab, man,” Fox said, according to the FBI. “Grab the fuckin’ governor. Grab the bitch.”

They later successfully built explosive devices, which they discussed setting off as a distraction for police near Whitmer’s vacation home. They conducted surveillance near her home, and explored a nearby bridge to plant explosives.

Overnight, the FBI arrested the six men — Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta — who had been charged in the federal complaint with conspiring to kidnap the governor.

Nessel said that the seven individuals associated with Wolverine Watchmen were also in custody.

“The individuals in custody are suspected to have attempted to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them, made threats of violence intended to instigate a civil war, and engaged in planning and training for an operation to attack the capitol building of Michigan and to kidnap government officials including the governor of Michigan,” Nessel said.

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Malaysia rulers to meet amid talk of emergency declaration

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Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah will meet the country’s sultans to discuss proposals put forward by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the palace said on Saturday without elaborating on their content, amid reports that Muhyiddin wants to impose a state of emergency.

Muhyiddin met the king on Friday to present a proposal that would lead to the suspension of parliament, sources told the Reuters news agency. The potential move has been widely condemned by the country’s opposition politicians and greeted with alarm by Malaysians.

The king would meet the other rulers “soon”, Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, the Comptroller of the Royal Household, said in a statement. The prime minister’s office has not commented on the proposal.

Muhyiddin has faced questions over his support in the 222-seat parliament since he was appointed prime minister in March, and pressure has grown since the opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said last week he had secured the backing required to become prime minister.

Malaysia is also battling a sudden resurgence in the outbreak of COVID-19.

The country now has more than 24,000 cases of COVID-19, more than double the number a month ago. Upwards of 700 and 800 cases a day have been reported for the past week and on Friday the country recorded 10 deaths, the highest since the pandemic began.

Malaysia has endured a sudden resurgence of COVID-19 and new restrictions were imposed earlier this month [Mohd Rasfan/AFP]

COVID-19 spike

Most have been in Sabah, where a state election took place on September 26, but the outbreak there has also helped seed clusters in the peninsula – a two-hour flight across the South China Sea – and Kuala Lumpur and Selangor – the country’s richest state – have been under a partial lockdown since October 14.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said he was “deeply concerned” at the reports of an emergency.

“A state of emergency is declared when there is a threat to our national security,” he said in a statement. “But when the government is itself the source of that threat then a state of emergency is nothing more than the descent into dictatorship and authoritarianism.”

On Friday, Muhyiddin’s cabinet held a special meeting that included the chief of police and head of the armed forces. He then flew to the east coast for a two-hour audience with the king. Local media reported unnamed sources within the government saying an emergency was necessary because of “political instability” and the COVID-19 outbreak.

In an open letter, seven former presidents of the Malaysian Bar Council said Malaysia’s success in tackling earlier waves of the disease showed existing laws were sufficient.

“There is no violence, or threat to the security of our nation,” they wrote, urging the government to reconsider the situation.

“If the predominant objective of the suggested declaration is to suspend parliament, and to gain emergency powers then it will obviously be an unlawful design which, if unchecked, will disenfranchise and deceive Malaysians.”

Budget vote

The next session of Malaysia’s parliament is scheduled to begin on November 2, with the government facing its first test within days when the budget is presented on November 6.

A failure to pass the spending plans could be seen as a vote of no-confidence in the government and lead to a general election.

During the last session in July, Muhyiddin, who governs in a loose alliance with a number of ethnic Malay and Islamic parties, won the vote to replace the speaker by a majority of just two.

Multi-ethnic Malaysia was last governed under an emergency in 1969, after race riots in Kuala Lumpur left scores of people, most of then ethnic Chinese, dead.

Under the order, the constitution was suspended, parliament dissolved, and the functions of government moved under a National Operations Council. A curfew restored order to the streets, but the media was muzzled and prominent opposition politicians were arrested under provisions that allowed for indefinite detention.

Parliament reconvened in February 1971, and political life resumed, but the actual emergency ordinance was not fully repealed until 2013.

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Galapagos sees record rise in penguins, flightless cormorants

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A drop in tourism and weather patterns associated with La Nina are thought to have helped the bird species in the remote archipelago.

The population of Galapagos penguins and flightless cormorants, two species endemic to the remote islands, has seen a record increase, according to study results released on Friday.

The Galapagos penguin is one of the smallest species of penguins in the world, measuring up to 35 centimetres (14 inches) and the cormorants on the islands are the only type to have lost their ability to fly. They have developed diving skills instead.

“The number of cormorants has reached a record number, according to historical data dating back to 1977, while the number of penguins is at the highest since 2006,” said a statement from the Galapagos National Park, which carried out the census.

The population of Galapagos penguins, the only ones living on the earth’s equator, increased from 1,451 in 2019 to 1,940 in 2020, it added.

Flightless cormorant numbers increased from 1,914 to 2,220 over the same period.

The COVID-19 pandemic has kept tourists away from the Galapagos, helping the species that live on the archipelago recoup [File: Rodrigo Buendia/AFP]

The Galapagos Islands lie 1,000 kilometres (625 miles) off the coast of Ecuador and are home to species found nowhere else in the world.

The study was carried out by the park and the Charles Darwin Foundation in September. The main colonies present on the Isabela and Fernandina islands and the Marielas islets which are to the west of the archipelago have been classified as a natural heritage site.

Paulo Proano, Ecuador’s minister of environment and water, said the census results reflect the “good state of health of the population” of the Galapagos’ birds.

The park said the presence of the La Nina climatic phenomenon, which helps to provide more food for the birds, had contributed to the increase in their populations.

Another factor was the coronavirus pandemic, which has reduced disturbances to their nesting areas because of the drop in tourism, the park added.

The islands, which served as a natural laboratory for the English scientist Charles Darwin for his theory of the evolution of species, takes their name from the giant tortoises that live there.

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US to base Coast Guard ships in western Pacific to tackle China

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The United States will deploy Coast Guard patrol ships in the western Pacific to counter what it described as “destabilizing and malign” activities in the region by China, the country’s top security adviser said on Friday.

The US Coast Guard was “strategically homeporting significantly enhanced Fast Response Cutters … in the western Pacific,” White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said in a statement.

Describing the US as a Pacific power, the statement added that China’s “illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and harassment of vessels operating in the exclusive economic zones of other countries in the Indo-Pacific threatens our sovereignty, as well as the sovereignty of our Pacific neighbors and endangers regional stability”.

It said US efforts, including by the Coast Guard, were “critical to countering these destabilizing and malign actions.”

The Coast Guard did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the statement, which came just ahead of a planned visit to Asia by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) and Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne pose prior to their bilateral meeting in Tokyo on October 6, 2020 ahead of the four Indo-Pacific nations’ foreign ministers meeting. – (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / POOL / AFP)

Pompeo led a meeting of the so-called Quad in Tokyo this month. Washington hopes the grouping of the US, Japan, India and Australia can act as a bulwark against China’s growing assertiveness and extensive maritime claims in the region, including to nearly all of the South China Sea.

On Sunday, Pompeo will begin a five-day tour of India – where he will be accompanied by US Defense Secretary Mark Esper – and then he will continue on to Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Indonesia. Maritime security and a “free and open Indo-Pacific” will be high on the agenda, the State Department said.

Incursions

In July, Esper condemned a “catalogue of bad behaviour” in the South China Sea over the previous months, accusing the Chinese military of having sunk a Vietnamese fishing boat, harassing Malaysian oil and gas vessels and escorting Chinese fishing fleets into Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

O’Brien added that the Coast Guard, which is under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was also studying whether to permanently station several of its patrol ships in the area of American Samoa in the South Pacific.

Last month, Indonesia protested after Chinese coastguard ships travelled into its exclusive economic zone, which is situated between its own territorial waters and international waters and where the state claims exclusive rights to develop natural resources.

China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea as its own. Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines also claim the parts of the sea nearest to their shores.

The US Navy regularly conducts what it calls “freedom of navigation” operations in the disputed sea – angering China, which has developed military outposts on islands and islets.

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