wavered about how to find the right balance with free expression.

In June, in the town of Kassel in central Germany, a 49-year-old man was on trial for comments made on Facebook that said Mr. Lübcke, the politician murdered in 2019, had “himself to blame.”

Dirk B., the defendant whose full name is being withheld because of Germany’s strict privacy laws, told a judge that the comments were taken out of context. His Facebook post, he said, had been about Mr. Lübcke’s refusal of police protection and that he had, in the same comments, expressed condolences for Mr. Lübcke’s family.

“This falls under the freedom of expression in our free democratic state,” the defendant said. He added that he would post the same thing again.

The judge disagreed. At the end of the two-hour hearing, she said he had effectively condoned Mr. Lübcke’s murder. He was ordered to pay a fine of €2,400.

Paula Haase contributed reporting from Kassel, Germany.

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Updates: Service Is Held for Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor, Her Final Resting Place

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin arrived on Monday afternoon at Windsor Castle, where the majesty of her state funeral and procession in London will give way to a more intimate service in St. George’s Chapel before she is interred, next to her husband, Prince Philip, in a private ceremony.

The queen’s arrival, after a 25-mile drive from London on a route lined by tens of thousands of people, was heralded by a grand procession on the Long Walk, the grand tree-lined boulevard that leads to the castle.

Tens of thousands of people watched earlier as the queen’s coffin made its way on a grand procession through the streets of London, flanked by honor guards and accompanied by King Charles III and other members of the royal family, following a solemn funeral service at Westminster Abbey.

The service began at 11 a.m. in the abbey, with King Charles III and his family in the front row, including his wife, Camilla, the queen consort; Prince William, and two of his children, Prince George, 9, and Princess Charlotte, 7.

“Here, where Queen Elizabeth was married and crowned, we gather from across the nation, from the Commonwealth and from the nations of the world,” the Rev. David Hoyle, the dean of Westminster, said to an assembly that included more than 100 world leaders, among them President Biden and Emperor Naruhito of Japan.

With the queen’s coffin before the dean, he called on those gathered “to mourn our loss, to remember her long life of selfless service, and in sure confidence to commit her to the mercy of God our maker and redeemer.”

The meticulously choreographed service included readings by Britain’s new prime minister, Liz Truss, and the secretary general of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland.

It is the culmination of 10 days of mourning since the queen died on Sept. 8 in Scotland — a time of unifying grief and disorienting change — and everything about the day will stretch precedents for such gatherings.

Hundreds of world leaders filled the seats in Westminster Abbey. Tens of thousands of people waited along the route the funeral cortege took through London on a grand procession to Windsor Castle. Thousands more will await the queen at Windsor.

Britain has not held a state funeral since 1965, when it buried Winston Churchill, the wartime leader who acted as a mentor to a young Elizabeth after she unexpectedly came to the throne upon the death of her father, King George VI, in 1952.

As with every other ritual since the queen’s death, the funeral was meticulously choreographed. At 10:35 a.m., pallbearers carried the queen’s coffin from Westminster Hall, where it had been viewed by tens of thousands of mourners, including Mr. Biden, to a gun carriage for the short procession to Westminster Abbey.

King Charles III and other members of the royal family walked behind the coffin, flanked by detachments of the queen’s corps of the Gentlemen at Arms, the Yeomen of the Guard and the Royal Company of Archers.

The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, delivered a eulogy, recalling the queen’s speech to the nation during the coronavirus pandemic in which she promised, “We will meet again” — the title of a beloved World War II-era song by Vera Lynn.

After a military bugler played “The Last Post,” signifying the end of the service, the abbey, and the nation, fell silent for two minutes in honor of the queen. The congregation then sang “God Save the King” and the queen’s piper played a lament as her coffin was lifted back onto the carriage.

From there, the cortege, a mile-and-a-quarter long, began a stately roll through the city center, retracing the route it took, in reverse, when her coffin was moved Wednesday from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall — a symbolic transfer of the queen, who was 96 at her death, from her family to the British state.

Unlike that stark procession, this one is choreographed to project the full splendor of the monarchy: seven groups, each with their own marching band; detachments from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and the British armed forces; and mounted soldiers from the Household Cavalry.

Soldiers lined the route from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch, which celebrates Britain’s victories in the Napoleonic Wars. It stands next to Hyde Park, where artillery guns were fired during the procession and where visitors were able to watch the proceedings on large screens.

This is also where the queen’s coffin was transferred from the carriage to a hearse for the 25-mile journey to Windsor. Huge crowds were expected to watch as the vehicle travels past Kensington and Hammersmith in west London, before swinging south to pass the runways of Heathrow Airport. As it did last week, the airport halted flights to keep the skies above the cortege still.

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Swedish right prepares for power as PM accepts election defeat

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STOCKHOLM, Sept 14 (Reuters) – The head of Sweden’s Moderate Party, Ulf Kristersson, said on Wednesday he would begin the work of forming a new government after Prime Minster Magdalena Andersson conceded her Social Democrats had lost the weekend’s general election.

The Moderates, Sweden Democrats, Christian Democrats and Liberals appear set to get 176 seats in the 349-seat parliament to the centre-left’s 173 seats, according to the latest figures from the election authority. read more

A handful of votes remain to be counted, but the result is unlikely to change significantly.

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“I will now start the work of forming a new government that can get things done,” Kristersson said in a video on his Instagram account.

The election marks a watershed in Swedish politics with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, a party with roots in the white supremacist fringe, on the threshold of gaining influence over government policy. read more

The success of the party, which took over from Kristersson’s Moderates as the country’s second biggest, has raised fears that Sweden’s tolerant and inclusive politics are a thing of the past.

However, their mantra that Sweden’s ills – particularly gang crime – are a result of decades of overgenerous immigration policies have hit home with many voters.

Kristersson said he would build a government “for all of Sweden and all citizens”.

“There is a big frustration in society, a fear of the violence, concern about the economy, the world is very uncertain and the political polarisation has become far too big also in Sweden,” he said. “Therefore my message is that I want to unite, not divide.”

Though Kristersson’s party is smaller, Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Akesson cannot get the broad backing from the right needed to oust the Social Democrats.

Kristersson is likely to try and form a government with the Christian Democrats and rely on support in parliament from the Sweden Democrats and Liberals.


Prime Minister Andersson accepted defeat, but warned that many Swedes were worried about the Sweden Democrats’ election success.

“I see your concern and I share it”, she said.

The Sweden Democrats aim to make Sweden the European Union’s toughest on immigration policy including legislation making it possible to deny people seeking asylum based on religious or LGBTQ grounds.

The party wants to slash economic benefits for immigrants and give more powers to police, including zones in troubled areas allowing searches without concrete suspicion of a crime.

The Sweden Democrats look set to win 20.6% of the vote, against 19.1% for the Moderates. The Social Democrats will be at 30.4%.

Commanding only a thin majority, Kristersson faces a number of challenges, not least the fact of his party’s junior status.

Forming an administration and agreeing a budget will not be easy as the Liberals and Sweden Democrats refuse to serve together – or separately – in government and differ on many policies.

“Sweden is now going to get an administration that is only one or two parliamentary seats away from a government crisis,” Andersson said.

She said the her door was open to Kristersson if he wanted to rethink his alliance with the Sweden Democrats.

In addition, Sweden is in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis and could be heading for recession next year.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has destabilised the Baltic region – Sweden’s backyard – and uncertainty remains over whether Turkey will finally agree to Stockholm’s application for NATO membership. read more

Measures to address climate change and long term energy policy also need to be thrashed out while holes in the welfare system exposed by the pandemic need to be plugged and a planned surge in defence spending financed. read more

The result still has to be officially confirmed, probably by the weekend.

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Reporting by Simon Johnson and Anna Ringstrom
Editing by Terje Solsvik, Mark Potter and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Live Updates: Ukraine Claims More Ground in Blitz in Northeast

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian forces entered the key Russian military stronghold of Izium on Saturday, continuing their rapid advance across the northeast and igniting a dramatic new phase in the more than six-month war.

“Izium was liberated today,” the city’s mayor, Valeriy Marchenko, said in an interview. While he was not yet in the city himself, he said that he was in contact with the police and that emergency services were working to clear it of possible hazards before residents could return.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense — which a day earlier had said that it was moving to reinforce its defensive positions in the region — confirmed on Saturday that it had pulled its forces out of Izium, six months after its forces laid siege to and then seized the city. In a statement, it presented the retreat as a preplanned move, intended to strengthen its efforts in the east where its army has been bogged down for weeks.

Maintaining control of towns and cities has at times proven tenuous over the course of the war, and it was not immediately clear how secure Ukraine’s control over Izium was and what efforts Russia might take to try to win it back.

But the loss of Izium — a strategically important railway hub that Russian forces seized in the spring after a bloody weekslong battle — could mark a turning point in the war, dwarfed only by Russia’s humiliating defeat around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in the spring.

The first signs that Russian forces would retreat rather than fight emerged late on Friday.

“Yesterday evening, Russians put a white flag nearby the railway station,” Yevhen, a Ukrainian officer who participated in the liberation of Izium, said in a telephone interview. “There was street fighting all over the night.” He asked to be identified by only his first name out of concerns for his security.

Much about the Ukrainian offensive in the Kharkiv region, where Izium is, was shrouded in uncertainty amid a lack of official confirmation, and military analysts cautioned that it was a fast-moving situation that could change by the hour.

But the lightning offensive in the country’s northeast has reshaped what had become a grinding war of attrition. In a matter of days, Russian front lines have buckled, Moscow’s troops have fled and one village after another has come once more beneath Ukraine’s yellow and blue banner — like the town of Kupiansk just north of Izium, which sits on key supply routes to the eastern front line.

Ukraine’s Security Service posted a photo on Telegram showing members of the special forces in Kupiansk.

“We move further!” the post read, according to the Ukrinform news agency.

As Ukrainian officials celebrated the turn of events, however cautiously, some prominent pro-Kremlin military bloggers expressed anger and frustration at the rapid developments.

A Russian military blogger, who goes by the name Rusich, has 278,000 followers on Telegram and claimed to be in the city on Friday, wrote that the surrender of Izium was a “small setback” and urged his followers not to “despair.”

With the Russians out of towns and cities they had battered in order to seize, the cost of their monthslong occupation was just starting to come into focus. Ukrainian officials said they had dispatched investigators to newly liberated towns to begin compiling evidence of Russian war crimes.

In his overnight address, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said the military had recaptured more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region.

“Actions to check and secure the territory continue,” he said. “We are gradually taking control of new settlements.”

The eastern offensive, which began earlier this week, has cleared Russian forces from more than 2,500 square kilometers of land in the Kharkiv region as of Friday, according to an estimate by the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank.

“There is still a lot that we don’t know about the offensive, but it is clear this was well planned and executed by Ukrainian forces,” said Rob Lee, a military analyst at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “It looks like a very effective combined arms operation with tanks, mechanized infantry, Special Operations forces, air defenses, artillery and other systems.”

Ukrainian and Western officials cautioned that the offensive operations were in their early days, that the situation was fluid and that any gains were far from secure. Some military analysts warned that the Ukrainians’ rapid advance could leave them stretched thin and vulnerable to counterattack.

In addition to the counteroffensive in the northeast, Ukraine has been making a push in the south to recapture territory in the Kherson region.

Mr. Marchenko, the mayor of Izium, said that about 12,000 residents had remained in the city and desperately needed humanitarian supplies.

He said he hoped that residents who had fled could start returning in three or four days but that devastation awaited them.

“There’s no single residential building that wasn’t damaged,” the mayor said.

“Heating is the biggest problem,” he added. “I doubt whether we would be able to restore the heating system before winter.”

Oleksii Reznikoff, Ukraine’s defense minister, did not comment on specific gains but at a conference in Kyiv on Saturday he said the Russian troops were on the run.

“Russian troops will run, and they will, believe me, because today we are destroying their logistics chains, warehouses, and so on,” he said. “And the question will arise: ‘And where should they go?’ It will be like an avalanche.”

One line of defense will shake and it will fall, he said, and then another and another.

Ivan Nechepurenko and Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.

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Two Russian embassy staff dead, four others killed in suicide bomb blast in Kabul

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KABUL, Sept 5 (Reuters) – Two Russian embassy staff in Kabul were among six people killed when a suicide bomber detonated explosives near the entrance of the embassy, in a blast that injured at least 10 others, the Russian Foreign Ministry and Afghan officials said on Monday.

Police said the attacker was shot dead by armed guards as he approached the gate, in one of the first such attacks since the Taliban took power last year.

“The suicide attacker before reaching the target, was recognised and shot by Russian embassy (Taliban) guards … there is no information about casualties yet,” Mawlawi Sabir, the head of the police district where the attack took place, told Reuters.

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The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that an unknown militant set off an explosive device near the entrance to the consular section of the embassy around at 10:50 a.m. Kabul time. read more

“As a result of the attack, two employees of the diplomatic mission were killed, and there are also victims among Afghan citizens,” the ministry said.

The four others killed were Afghan civilians, Khalid Zadran, a Kabul police spokesman said.

Russia is one of the few countries to have maintained an embassy in Kabul after the Taliban took over the country more than a year ago. Although Moscow does not officially recognise the Taliban’s government, they have been in talks with officials over an agreement to supply gasoline and other commodities.

The United Nations’ mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the blast.

“In light of recent events, UNAMA stresses the need for the de facto authorities to take steps to ensure the safety and security of the people as well as diplomatic missions,” the UN wrote on Twitter, in reference to the Taliban government.

During the decades-long Taliban insurgency against the western-backed Afghan government, bombings targeting foreign missions were a regular occurrence in Kabul, especially in recent years, with embassies and hotels fortifying themselves with razor wire and blast walls.

Such incidents have decreased dramatically since the insurgent group swept to power in August 2021.

Since then, attacks – some of them claimed by Islamic State – mainly targeted the Taliban and civilian targets such as mosques.

No group has claimed responsibility for Monday’s blast.

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Reporting by Mohammad Yunus Yawar and Gibran Peshimam; Writing by Charlotte Greenfield, Alasdair Pal and Shivam Patel, Editing by William Maclean and Hugh Lawson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Mother of two, widower aged 77 among those killed in Canada’s stabbing spree

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JAMES SMITH CREE NATION, Saskatchewan, Sept 5 (Reuters) – A mother of two, a 77-year-old widower and a first responder were the initial victims identified in a stabbing spree in Canada that killed 10 people and wounded at least 18 others.

Canadian police said on Monday they found one of the suspects in the mass stabbing spree dead while the other suspect, his brother, remained at large. read more

Police are still trying to determine a motive for Sunday’s attacks, mostly in a sparsely populated indigenous community, that shocked a country where mass violence is rare.

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The incidents took place in the James Smith Cree Nation and village of Weldon in the province of Saskatchewan, police said. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/3TIFx2F)

Reuters Graphics Reuters Graphics

Hours before the stabbings, Lana Head, a mother of two daughters, posted on Facebook that she had “so many good memories to cherish.”

Head’s friends and family were shocked by her death and paid tributes on social media. “Not the way I wanted her to leave this world,” said Melodie Whitecap, Head’s childhood friend who had planned to visit her before the stabbing.

Head’s former partner also spoke to local media and implied the stabbings might have been related to drugs and alcohol.

“It’s sick how jail time, drugs and alcohol can destroy many lives,” Michael Brett Burns, Head’s former partner, told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. A statement by indigenous leaders also indicated the attacks might have been drug related.

Ivor Burns and Darryl Burns from the James Smith Cree Nation told Reuters their sister, Gloria, was among the dead. They blamed drugs and alcohol as well.

“We have 10 people dead, including my sister. She was butchered … with her friend and a 14-year-old boy, all three of them,” Ivor Burns said in an interview.

However police told a press conference on Monday that the youngest victim was born in 1999.

Gloria was a first responder, who went to a crisis call, and died after being caught up in the violence, Darryl Burns said.

Police had not identified a motive but noted “it appears that some of the victims may have been targeted, and some may be random.”

An online fundraiser was launched to pay funeral, rehabilitation and counseling expenses for victims and their families.

Residents in the village of Weldon in Saskatchewan identified one of the victims in the community as Wes Petterson, a 77-year-old widower.

“He was just a lovely man,” said Doreen Lees, 89, of Weldon.

James Smith Cree Nation is an indigenous community with a population of about 3,400 people largely engaged in farming, hunting and fishing. Weldon is a village of some 200 people.

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Reporting by David Stobbe in James Smith Cree Nation, Kanishka Singh in Washington; additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg Manitoba; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Richard Chang and Lisa Shumaker

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Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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Sept 10 (Reuters) – Moscow has abandoned its main bastion in northeastern Ukraine, a sudden apparent collapse of one of the war’s principal front lines after Ukrainian forces moved to encircle the area in a shock advance. read more


* The state-run TASS news agency quoted Russia’s defence ministry as saying it had ordered troops to leave the area around the city of Izium in Kharkiv province, saying they would be sent to reinforce operations elsewhere in neighbouring Donetsk.

* The announcement came hours after rapidly advancing Ukrainian troops captured the city of Kupiansk, the sole railway hub supplying Russia’s entire frontline across northeastern Ukraine, cutting thousands of Russian troops off from supplies.

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* A Reuters journalist inside a vast area recaptured in recent days by the advancing Ukrainian forces saw Ukrainian police patrolling towns and boxes of ammunition lying in heaps at positions abandoned by fleeing Russian soldiers.

* Russia’s defence ministry said its air forces destroyed a Ukrainian radar tracking station the southern Mykolaiv region and six weapon and missile depots in eastern and southeastern areas, TASS reported.

* Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.


* Mark Hertling, a retired four-star general and former commander of U.S. ground forces in Europe: “Make no mistake, (Ukraine) is executing a brilliant maneuver focused on terrain objectives to ‘bag’ Russians. But the Russians are helping them – by doing very little to counter.”

* Russia’s defence ministry on TASS: “To achieve the stated goals of the Special Military Operation for the liberation of Donbas, it was decided to regroup the Russian troops located in the districts of Balakliia and Izium for the purpose of increasing efforts in the Donetsk direction.”


* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he had spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron about the situation at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, calling for it to be “demilitarized”.

* Shelling has destroyed power infrastructure in the city of Enerhodar where staff operating Zaporizhzhia live, posing a growing threat to the plant, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Friday. read more


* European Union energy ministers on Friday gave the European Commission the task of pressing ahead with a cap on the revenues of non-gas power producers benefiting from soaring energy prices, while backing away from capping Russian gas prices. read more


* Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday a deal to unblock Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea is being fulfilled “badly” and its extension, due in late November, will depend on how it is implemented, RIA reported. read more

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Compiled by Grant McCool, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Andrew Heavens

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Live Updates: Canadian Police Expand Search for 2 Men After Deadly Knife Attacks

Credit…David Stobbe/Reuters

A manhunt stretched into Monday in the province of Saskatchewan for two men suspected of a brutal stabbing spree early Sunday that killed 10 people and injured at least 15 in one of the province’s worst ever cases of mass violence.

Canadian authorities told residents in the James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby village of Weldon to shelter at home as they expanded the search nearly 300 kilometers south to Regina, the capital of the province. Police were investigating 13 crime scenes and believed that the suspects had targeted some victims while others were attacked randomly.

The first stabbing was reported at 5:40 a.m. on Sunday, followed minutes later by calls from nearby locations. At 7:14 a.m. the Royal Canadian Mounted Police sent out a dangerous persons alert for two men who were considered “armed and dangerous” and were later identified as Damien Sanderson and Myles Sanderson.

The men were believed to be traveling in a black Nissan Rogue, according to authorities, who said a driver had spotted the vehicle at 11:45 a.m. in Regina.

A dangerous persons alert was expanded in the afternoon to the provinces of Manitoba and Alberta. But the authorities cautioned that the men may have changed their vehicle, and their direction of travel was unknown.

Evan Bray, the Regina police chief, said in a video posted Sunday night on Twitter that the men “are likely” in the city, without offering details of how the police reached that conclusion.

He reassured residents of Regina, a city of about 226,000 people, that the police had dedicated “a lot of resources” to finding the men and asked residents to provide any relevant information to the police.

“The public is often the key to helping us resolve these situations quickly,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “shocked and devastated by the horrific attacks.”

“As Canadians, we mourn with everyone affected by this tragic violence,” he added.

Rhonda Blackmore, a commander with the Saskatchewan Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said at a news conference on Sunday that it “would be extremely difficult at this point in time” to speak to a motive in the attacks.

“If Damien and Myles are listening or receive this information, I would ask that they turn themselves into police immediately,” she added, addressing the two wanted men directly.

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Prosecutors Struggle to Catch Up to a Tidal Wave of Pandemic Fraud

In the midst of the pandemic, the government gave unemployment benefits to the incarcerated, the imaginary and the dead. It sent money to “farms” that turned out to be front yards. It paid people who were on the government’s “Do Not Pay List.” It gave loans to 342 people who said their name was “N/A.”

As the coronavirus shuttered businesses and forced people out of work, the federal government sent a flood of relief money into programs aimed at helping the newly unemployed and bolstering the economy. That included $3.1 trillion that former President Donald J. Trump approved in 2020, followed by a $1.9 trillion package signed into law in 2021 by President Biden.

But those dollars came with few strings and minimal oversight. The result: one of the largest frauds in American history, with billions of dollars stolen by thousands of people, including at least one amateur who boasted of his criminal activity on YouTube.

39,000 investigations going. About 50 agents in a Small Business Administration office are sorting through two million potentially fraudulent loan applications.

Officials already concede that the sheer number of cases means that some small-dollar thefts may never be prosecuted. This month, Mr. Biden signed bills extending the statute of limitations for some pandemic-related fraud to 10 years from five, a move aimed at giving the government more time to pursue cases. “My message to those cheats out there is this: You can’t hide. We’re going to find you,” Mr. Biden said during the signing at the White House.

$5 trillion in relief money in three separate legislative packages — an enormous sum that is credited with reducing poverty and saving the country from a prolonged, painful recession.

But investigators say that Congress, in its haste to get money out the door, devised all three packages with the same flaw: relying on the honor system.

For example, an expanded unemployment benefit gave workers an extra $600 per week in federal jobless funds on top of what they received from their state. The program was funded by the federal government but administered by states, which often had loose rules around qualifying. Applicants did not need to provide proof they had lost income because of Covid-19; they simply had to swear it was true.

A similar we’ll-take-your-word-for-it approach was used in two loan programs run by the Small Business Administration.

Paycheck Protection Program, in which the government guaranteed loans made by private lenders, and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, in which the government itself gave out loans and smaller advance grants that did not have to be repaid. In both, the government trusted businesses to self-certify that they met key requirements.

using the email address of a burrito shop.

In the Paycheck Protection Program, private banks were supposed to help with the screening, since in theory they were dealing with customers they already knew. But that left out many small businesses, and the government allowed online lenders to enter the program. This year, University of Texas researchers found that some of those “fintech” lenders appeared less diligent about catching fraud.

turning fraud into a franchise — helping other people cook up fake businesses in order to get loans from the Economic Injury Disaster program.

Andrea Ayers advised one client to tell the government she ran a baking business from home, although she was not a baker, prosecutors said.

YouTube videos, where scammers offered to help for a cut of the proceeds. Some used the money on necessities, like mortgage bills or car payments. But many seemed to act out of opportunism and greed, splurging on a yacht, a mansion, a $38,000 Rolex or a $57,000 Pokémon trading card.

responsible for selling the card.

music video on YouTube, bragging in detail about how he had gotten rich by submitting false unemployment claims. His song was called “EDD,” after California’s Employment Development Department, which paid the benefits.

first reported by The Washington Post. In the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, a watchdog found that $58 billion had been paid to companies that shared the same addresses, phone numbers, bank accounts or other data as other applicants — a sign of potential fraud.

“It’s clear there’s tens of billions in fraud,” said Michael Horowitz, the chairman of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, which includes 21 agency inspectors general working on fraud cases. “Would it surprise me if it exceeded $100 billion? No.”

The effort to catch fraudsters began as soon as the money started flowing, and the first person was charged with benefit fraud in May 2020. But investigators were quickly deluged with tips at a scale they had never dealt with before. The Small Business Administration’s fraud hotline — which had previously received 800 calls a year — got 148,000 in the first year of the pandemic. The Small Business Administration sent its inspector general two million loan applications to check for potential identity theft. At the Labor Department, the inspector general’s office has 39,000 cases of suspected unemployment fraud, a 1,000 percent increase from prepandemic levels.

But prosecutors face a key disadvantage: While fraud takes minutes, investigations take months and prosecutions take even longer.

pleaded guilty to mail fraud last month. His lawyers declined to comment.

first weeks of the pandemic, when the government gave out 5.8 million advance grants worth $19.7 billion in just over 100 days. In that program, fraud was easy to pull off, according to a government watchdog, which cited numerous loans given to businesses that were ineligible for funding.

Mr. Ware said he recently limited his agents to working 10 cases at a time, telling them: “You’re killing yourself. I have to protect you from you.”

told The New York Times in November.

“It’s a honey trap,” he added. “Richard Ayvazyan fell into that trap.” Mr. Ayvazyan was sentenced to 17 years in prison for participating in a ring that sought $20 million in fraudulent loans.

In the case of Mr. Oudomsine, the Pokémon card buyer, his lawyers argued in March that a judge should be lenient in deciding his sentence because the fraud had taken hardly any time at all.

“It is an event without significant planning, of limited duration,” said Brian Jarrard, who was Mr. Oudomsine’s lawyer at the time.

That did not work.

Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. of U.S. District Court sentenced Mr. Oudomsine to three years in prison, more than prosecutors had asked for, to “demonstrate to the world that this is the consequence” of fraud, according to a transcript of the sentencing.

Now, Mr. Oudomsine is appealing, with a new lawyer and a new argument. Deterrence, the new lawyer argues, is moot here because the pandemic-relief programs are over.

“There’s no way to deter someone from doing it, when there’s no way they can do it any longer,” said the lawyer, Devin Rafus.

Biden administration officials say they are trying to prepare for the next disaster, seeking to build a system that would quickly check applications for signs of identity theft.

“Criminal syndicates are going to look for weak links at moments of crisis to attack us,” said Gene Sperling, the White House coordinator for pandemic aid. He said the White House now aims to build a continuing system that would detect identity theft quickly in applications for aid: “The right time to start building a stronger system to prevent identity theft is now, not in the middle of the next serious crisis.”

In the meantime, the arrests go on.

Last week, prosecutors charged a correctional officer at a federal prison in Atlanta with defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program, saying she had received two loans totaling $38,200 in 2020 and 2021. The officer, Harrescia Hopkins, has pleaded not guilty. Her lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

“You can’t have a system where crime pays,” said Mr. Horowitz, of the federal Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. “It undercuts the entire system of justice. It undercuts people’s faith in these programs, in their government. You can’t have that.”

Seamus Hughes contributed reporting.

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Kenya’s Odinga says presidential election result a ‘travesty’

  • Odinga urges supporters to remain peaceful
  • Calm returns to the streets of Kibera slum and Kisumu city
  • Election result disowned by majority of election officials

NAIROBI/KISUMU, Aug 16 (Reuters) – Kenyan politician Raila Odinga rejected as a “travesty” the result of the Aug. 9 presidential election he was declared to have lost to Deputy President William Ruto and warned on Tuesday of a long legal crisis facing Kenya’s democracy.

His first comments on the result came after four of the seven election commissioners said they stood by their decision a day earlier to disown figures announced by electoral commission chairman Wafula Chebukati.

The dramatic series of events has raised fears of violence similar to what followed disputed polls in East Africa’s richest country in 2007 when more than 1,200 people were killed and again in 2017 when more than 100 people died.

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Overnight, Odinga’s supporters battled police and burned tyres in the western city of Kisumu and the capital Nairobi’s huge Kibera slum, but calm had returned to the streets by Tuesday morning.

“Our view is that the figures announced by Chebukati are null and void and must be quashed by a court of law,” said Odinga, a veteran opposition leader and five-time presidential candidate who was backed this time by outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“What we saw yesterday was a travesty,” he told reporters, but appealed to his supporters to remain peaceful. “Let no one take the law into their own hands,” he said.

Odinga broadcast the dissenting commission members’ news conference at his own venue before taking the stage. He said he was not yet prepared to announce specific legal steps.

Odinga has until next Monday to file a challenge with the supreme court.

Speaking for the four commissioners, electoral commission deputy chair Juliana Cherera said the results showing Ruto winning with 50.49% were erroneously aggregated and that Chebukati had disregarded concerns about the tally raised by other commissioners.

Cherera later said that one of her main claims was based on a mathematical error. She had originally highlighted that the vote percentages for the race’s four candidates added up to 100.01%, saying the additional 0.01% represented 142,000 votes, enough to potentially sway the election.

Ruto defeated Odinga by about 233,000 votes.

Responding to a Reuters query, Cherera later acknowledged that 0.01% of the 14.2 million votes cast was actually 1,420, but said the tally still showed a lack of quality control of the data.

Reuters was unable to reach the election commission’s spokesperson for comment.


With memories still fresh of post-election bloodshed, Odinga has faced calls from home and abroad to commit to resolving any concerns in the courts.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke with Ruto on Tuesday and hopes to speak with Odinga on Wednesday, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding Guterres hoped the electoral process would be completed in accordance with the law.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price urged parties to work together to “peacefully resolve any remaining concerns about the election” through existing dispute resolution mechanisms and called on political party leaders to urge supporters to remain peaceful.

“We hope to see that calm and patience prevail,” Price told reporters, adding that Washington will continue to be in close touch with Kenyan partners.

At a crowded restaurant in Odinga’s stronghold of Kisumu there was sporadic applause as supporters watched his statement rejecting the results and calling for peace. Outside the streets were quiet.

“There is no need for protest because we have evidence that Ruto rigged this thing,” said Justin Omondi, a businessman and Odinga supporter.

Even so, the protests overnight showed how quickly tensions could escalate. Many shops in Kisumu were shuttered on Tuesday, and roads were dotted with stones and marks from burned tyres.

Nancy Achieng arrived on Tuesday morning to find her roadside food stall in the Kondele neighbourhood destroyed.

“I’ve lost the election and I’ve also lost my business,” said Achieng, who had been selling beans, chapati and roasted maize there for two years.

Kenya’s Eurobonds slipped after the statements by Odinga and the commissioners but were still up on the day having recovered some of the sharp losses seen on Monday.

Its 2024 dollar-denominated bond was up 1.86 cents on the dollar at 88.5 cents at 1400 GMT compared to over 92 cents late last week.

Ruto would face an economic and social crisis as well as rising debt. Poor Kenyans already reeling from the impact of COVID-19 have been hit by soaring food and fuel costs while a devastating drought in the north has left 4.1 million people dependent on food aid.

The 55-year-old Ruto made Kenya’s class divisions the centrepiece of his campaign to become Kenya’s fifth president, promising to reward low-income “hustlers”, but in his victory speech on Monday vowed to be a president for all Kenyans. read more

Outgoing president Kenyatta, who could not run after serving two five-year terms, fell out with his deputy Ruto and backed Odinga.

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Reporting by Duncan Miriri, George Obulutsa and David Lewis in Nairobi, Ayenat Mersie and Kevine Omollo in Kisumu; Additional reporting by Rachel Savage in London, Michelle Nichols in New York and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Writing by James Macharia Chege and Aaron Ross; Editing by Catherine Evans, Tomasz Janowski and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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