Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at some of the day’s most notable stories. Sign up here and we’ll deliver it directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.
- After watching more than 5,000 hours of security-camera footage, British police have reportedly identified two suspects thought to have been involved in the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter.
- A human rights organization has released a report saying that members of Myanmar’s military undertook a ‘systematic’ approach to clearing out Rohingya from the country.
- A Brazilian plastic surgeon is on the run after a woman he operated on died.
- Missed The National last night? Watch it here
Police may have ID’ed suspects in British poisoning cases
British police may have cracked the case of the nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, identifying at least two suspects.
According to multiple media reports, officers have matched CCTV footage taken near Skripal’s Salisbury home with video recorded of people entering and leaving the country around the March 4 attack, using facial recognition technology. The U.K.’s Press Association, citing a source close to the investigation, says that detectives are “sure” the suspects are Russian. CNN adds that the departure of the men from the UK on a commercial flight was confirmed by a coded message sent to Moscow shortly after the attack and intercepted by British spies.
Police have been poring over more than 5,000 hours of security camera footage in the months since the poisoning of the 66-year-old Skripal, a former Russian intelligence agent, and his 31-year-old daughter, Yulia. The pair were found near death on a park bench in the centre of the city, but ultimately survived after weeks of intensive medical treatment.
The breakthrough in the case appears to have come following a second Novichok poisoning at the beginning of July, in the nearby town of Amesbury, which killed Dawn Sturgess, 44, and hospitalized her 45-year-old partner, Charlie Rowley.
Police have identified the source of the nerve agent — believed to be from the same batch of Novichok used in the Skripal attack — as a small bottle found in Sturgess’s home. Rowley has since recovered enough to tell investigators that Sturgess found it in a Salisbury park, and, believing it to contain perfume, sprayed some of the contents on her wrists. Reports say that the dead woman was exposed to as much as 10 times the amount of the agent as the Skripals.
The working theory of the Skripal case is that someone sprayed the front door of Sergei’s home with Novichok, but authorities had been unable to find the container it was carried in. There was about a five-hour window on March 3, when the former-agent-turned-British-informer left his home to travel to Heathrow airport to pick up Yulia, who was returning from a visit to Moscow.
Ben Wallace, the UK minister of security, responded to the first Press Association report with a tweet this morning. “I think this story belongs in the ‘ill informed and wild speculation folder.'”
Both the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office, who are overseeing the investigation, declined to comment.
Alexander Yakovenko, Russia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, seemed unfazed by the reports during a Moscow event today,
“We don’t have official statements of the British side,” he told reporters. “Every time we read a new version in the British papers, we ask the Foreign Office to confirm what is true or not.”
- Like this newsletter? Sign up and have it delivered by email.
- You may also like our early-morning newsletter, the Morning Brief — start the day with the news you need in one quick and concise read. Sign up here.
Report details ‘systematic’ removal of Rohingya
Myanmar’s military armed and trained locals to carry out attacks against Rohingya civilians last summer, says a new report by a human rights group, as part of an “extensive and systematic” effort to cleanse the Muslim minority from the country.
The report, from the Bangkok-based Fortify Rights, identifies 22 military and police officers responsible for the “clearance operations” in northern Rakhine State — including the country’s top generals — and asks that they be criminally investigated for genocide and crimes against humanity.
“Genocide doesn’t happen spontaneously,” Matthew Smith, the organization’s CEO, told reporters in Thailand. “Impunity for these crimes will pave the path for more violations and attacks in the future. The world can’t sit idly by and watch another genocide unfold, but right now, that’s exactly what’s happening.”
Based on testimony from Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and independent investigations, the report, entitled “They Gave Them Long Swords”, says the violence last summer that forced more than 700,000 people to flee Myanmar was planned long in advance. Starting in the fall of 2016, military, police and local authorities began to enact a series of measures designed to leave the Rohingya defenceless — such as seizing household items that might be used as weapons, tearing down fencing around homes and villages, expelling foreign aid groups from the region and cutting off food supplies. A Muslim-only curfew was also imposed.
At the same time, the report charges, non-Rohingya locals were given swords and guns, and trained how to use them. At least 11,000 soldiers and 900 police were moved into the state shortly before the attacks began.
Myanmar’s military has maintained the violence was a security response to a series of coordinated attacks on police outposts by a Rohingya separatist group last Aug. 25. But the Fortify Rights reports casts doubt on that narrative, saying the operations by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army were smaller and less organized than has been reported, and that the clearance plan was already in place, with the Myanmar military almost immediately descending on villages and activating its trained militias.
“These civilian perpetrators were not vigilantes — they acted under the Myanmar military and police in razing hundreds of Rohingya villages throughout northern Rakhine State, brutally killing masses of unarmed Rohingya men, women and children,” says the report.
It’s not the first time such charges have been levelled against Myanmar’s generals. Late last month, Amnesty International named 13 military officers and police that it believes are responsible for crimes against humanity, and demanded the U.N. Security Council refer their cases to the International Criminal Court.
Myanmar’s government says that around 700 people were killed in the violence in Rakhine, but outside organizations have estimated that the death toll could have been as high as 43,000.
Seven low-ranking soldiers have been investigated in connection with the deaths of 10 Rohingya men, but it’s not clear if they were punished. And no senior officers have been held to account.
Canada and the European Unionhave imposed economic sanctions on seven Myanmar generals, freezing their assets and imposing travel bans. All seven of those targeted are named as possible war criminals in today’s report.
Brazil’s ‘Dr. Bumbum’ on the run
A Brazilian cosmetic surgeon known as “Dr. Bumbum” is on the run from authorities after a botched buttocks enhancement procedure left a 46-year-old woman dead.
Police in Rio de Janeiro have issued a murder warrant for the arrest of Denis Furtado — a quasi-celebrity in the nip and tuck-obsessed nation — and are offering 1,000 reais (about $343 Cdn) for information on his whereabouts.
The move follows the death on Sunday of Lilian Calixto, a bank employee from the city of Cuiabá in central Brazil. According to police, she had travelled to Rio for a Saturday appointment with Furtado at his penthouse apartment in the seaside neighbourhood of Barra de Tijuca, the main site of the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Furtado, who is a physician but not a trained plastic surgeon, had gained social media fame for the before-and-after photos of his clients on Facebook and Instagram. His nickname is derived from his specialty — reshaping women’s buttocks with an acrylic glass filler known as PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate). Brazil’s National Agency of Sanitary Surveillance permits the use of small amounts of the filler in cosmetic procedures, despite its well-known health risks.
Calixto’s heart rate and blood pressure reportedly shot up after her Saturday injections. Security camera footage broadcast by local media shows Furtado, his mother and his girlfriend — who doubles as receptionist — dropping Calixto off at a hospital that evening. She died a few hours later after suffering four heart attacks.
Rio police say they were close to arresting Furtado yesterday, after spotting him at a shopping mall, but that he “escaped” as they moved in. His girlfriend, Renata Fernandes, is already in custody, as is the family maid. A homicide warrant has also been issued for Furtado’s mother, Maria Barros, who was herself a doctor until her license was revoked in 2015.
In 2015, Brazilian doctors performed 1.2 million plastic surgeries, placing the country a close second worldwide to the United States, which did 1.4 million that year. Liposuction was the most popular procedure, followed by breast enhancements and eye tucks. Aumento de bumbum — butt injections — ranked eighth, with 56,000 operations.
Brazil has recognized what it calls the “right to beauty” since the 1960s, and cosmetic procedures are covered under its universal healthcare program. As American anthropologist Alvaro Jarrin has noted, many Brazilian women perceive physical attractiveness as essential to career advancement and social mobility. But the wait times for free or low-cost surgery are long, and many turn to private clinics.
The dangers of bum enhancement are not limited to South America, however.
Last summer, a New York City woman died after being pumped full of what the New York Post termed “toxic tush material” in a Manhattan apartment by a phony doctor. (The fact that the man had his patients meet his “nurse” at a local Dunkin’ Donuts might have been a tipoff.)
In 2015, a Toronto court sentenced a Newmarket, Ont., woman to eight years in jail for sickening, “maiming and disfiguring” eight women with her “cash-only” butt injections.
The women all thought they were getting PMMA, which is not approved for human use in Canada, but instead received industrial silicone oil, often administered via a caulking gun.
A few words on…
Quote of the moment
“He’s a great guy. I’ve got a lot to learn from him.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, on his new BFF, Scott Moe of Saskatchewan. The two provincial leaders are teaming up to fight Ottawa’s plans to impose a carbon tax.
What The National is reading
- Israel passes controversial Jewish nation-state bill after stormy debate (Haaretz)
- U.S. officials scramble to clarify Trump’s ‘verbal agreements’ with Putin (Washington Post)
- Record-breaking temperatures heating up the globe (CBC)
- Winnipeg radio host fired following controversial transgender comments (CBC)
- Spain drops warrant for arrest of Puigdemont, other Catalan leaders (BBC)
- Philippines to expel ‘undesirable’ Australian nun who irked Duterte (Reuters)
- Astronomers spy nearby star that could be eating a planet (CBC)
- World’s first artificial meteor shower set for 2020 in skies over Japan (Sky News)
Today in history
July 19, 1983: ‘Mighty Mouth’ Howard Cosell faces off with Barbara Frum
The bloviating American sports commentator trashes pro-boxing, defends his Battle of the Network Stars as “honest entertainment” and expresses extreme disdain for his print counterparts, all the while showering the Journal host with condescension. “Barbara, this has been the greatest thrill of my life,” he concludes. Frum asks if he really expects her to believe that. “No,” says Cosell, “but it would be great if you did.”
Sign up here and have The National Today newsletter delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.
Please send your ideas, news tips, rants, and compliments to email@example.com.