Ms Mack is one of six people charged in relation to the sex trafficking investigation

Nxivm: Actress Allison Mack pleads guilty in ‘sex cult’ case

US actress Allison Mack has pleaded guilty to charges linked to an alleged sex trafficking operation disguised as a mentoring group.

Appearing in Brooklyn federal court, Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges related to the suspected sex cult Nxivm.

In a statement,Mack admitted to recruiting women by telling them they were joining a female mentorship group.

“I must take full responsibility for my conduct”, she said.

Mack, known for the US television series Smallville, is one of six people facing criminal charges as part of an investigation into Nxivm.

Prosecutors allege the group mirrors a pyramid scheme, in which members paid thousands of dollars for courses to rise within its ranks.

Keith Raniere is alleged to be at the top of this structure as the only man, while Mack served as one of his top female deputies.

Female recruits were allegedly branded with Mr Raniere’s initials and expected to have sex with him, as part of a “slave and master system.”

Keith Raniere
Keith Raniere, the leader of Nxivm, allegedly oversaw a “slave and master” system

“Allison Mack recruited women to join what was purported to be a female mentorship group that was, in fact, created and led by Keith Raniere,” Richard Donoghue, US attorney for the Eastern District in New York, said in a statement last year.

In court on Monday, Mack said she was instructed by Mr Raniere to collect compromising materials and images of two women within the group, threatening to make the photos public if they revealed information about the secret society.

“I believed Keith Raniere’s intentions were to help people”, Mack said in court on 8 April. “I was wrong.”

Mr Raniere was arrested by the FBI in Mexico last year. His defence team argued that the alleged sexual relationships were consensual.

Mack had previously pleaded not guilty in April 2018 to charges including sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and forced labour.

She is now scheduled to be sentenced in September and will face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each of the two charges.

Last month the co-founder of the group, Nancy Salzman, 65, also pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering. She is due to be sentenced in July.

Kirstjen Nielsen has served in her role since December 2017

Kirstjen Nielsen: US Homeland Security chief resigns

The US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, who enforced some of President Trump’s controversial border policies, has resigned.

Ms Nielsen called it “an honour of a lifetime” to work in the department.

President Trump tweeted she would be temporarily replaced by Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.

Ms Nielsen was responsible for implementing the proposed border wall and the separation of migrant families.

She gave no reason for her departure in her resignation letter, although she said this was “the right time for me to step aside” and said the US “is safer today than when I joined the Administration”.

The announcement she is leaving her post comes days after the president visited the southern border.

Mr Trump has recently threatened to shut the crossing, but has since backtracked and promised to give Mexico a year to stop drugs and migrants crossing into the US.

Who is Kirstjen Nielsen?

Ms Nielsen first joined Mr Trump’s administration in January 2017 as an assistant to the former Homeland Security chief John Kelly.

She became Mr Kelly’s deputy when he moved to become White House chief of staff, but returned to lead her former department later that year.

Ms Nielsen defended border policies such as holding children in wire enclosures in the face of strong condemnation and intense questioning by Democrats in Congress.

US child migrants: Five things to know

But she brushed off the demonstration, tweeting that she would “work tirelessly” to fix the “broken immigration system”.

Her relationship with Mr Trump is said to have been difficult, although in public she has been loyal to the administration.

Kirstjen Nielsen reportedly had been on thin ice in the Trump administration for more than a year. Her closest ally, former Chief of Staff John Kelly, exited the White House in December. Now, along the annual spring thaw, the ice beneath her has finally cracked.

Or perhaps the homeland security secretary simply reached her limit. The real story will have to wait for the inevitable leaks and insider accounts that spread every time this president makes a staffing change.

What seems clear, however, is that there are conflicts taking place behind the scenes in the White House – conflicts accompanying the president’s increasingly belligerent rhetoric on immigration.

Just two days ago, Mr Trump rescinded his nomination of Ronald Vitiello to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement because, he said, he wanted to go in a “tougher direction”.

Now his homeland security secretary – whom he had in the past viewed as not aggressive enough – is out.

Ms Nielsen’s name will forever be associated with the Trump administration’s family separation border policy that led to massive bipartisan outcry last year. The president eventually backed down from that fight, but these latest moves suggest a more confrontational approach to border security is all but assured.

Presentational grey line

What’s been the reaction?

Members of the Democratic party have already commented on her departure.

Bennie Thompson, Mississippi congressman and Chair of the Comittee on Homeland Security, said Ms Nielsen’s tenure was “a disaster from the start”, while Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey calling the move “long overdue”.

However, he said the fight is “far from over to ensure Trump’s assault on our immigrant community comes to an end”.

But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham praised Ms Nielsen, saying she “did her best to deal with a broken immigration system and broken Congress”.

And Texas congressman Michael McCaul said she was “a principled voice” who “wholly understands the threats we face”.

President Trump insists the situation on the southern border is a crisis and has declared a national emergency, bypassing Congress to secure funds for his border wall plan.

Democrats have protested against the move, and declared the emergency unconstitutional.

Trump: one-year warning for Mexico to stop drugs, people
Bret "Hitman" Hart has featured in several films and TV shows, including The Simpsons

Bret Hart: Wrestling legend attacked in ring during speech

Professional wrestler Bret Hart was attacked by a man while delivering a speech at a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) event in New York.

Video footage showed the attacker charging into the ring, grabbing Mr Hart and pulling him to the floor.

The suspect, identified by police as Zachary Mason, 26, faces charges of assault and trespassing.

Mr Hart, 61, better known by his wrestling name “Hitman”, has had a career spanning five decades.

Fellow wrestling stars Shane McMahon, Xavier Woods, Tyson Kidd, and Curtis Axel were among those who rushed to Mr Hart’s aid.

The suspect was held by security guards until police arrived to arrest him.

Following the incident on Saturday, Mr Hart did not need medical attention and continued with his speech.

Jennifer and Sarah Hart and their six children at a Bernie Sanders rally in Vancouver, Washington in 2016

Family cliff plunge case in California ruled murder-suicide

A family of eight who died after their car plunged off a California cliff were killed in a “murder-suicide”, the state’s coroner’s office has ruled.

The Mendocino County Sheriff-Coroner made the statement after a two-day inquest into the tragic 2018 deaths.

The parents had researched suicide online before the crash, officials say.

The crash, which killed six adopted children ages 12 to 19, came days after an inquiry was opened into allegations of child abuse against the parents.

Sheriff-Coroner Thomas Allman explained that a 14-panel jury had ruled unanimously that the two women – Sarah and Jennifer Hart – deliberately drove off a 100ft (30m) cliff with their children in tow.

Investigators say the couple, who had been living in Washington state, had researched methods of suicide on the internet for hours as they drove the family south along the northern California coast.

Car crash in Pacific Ocean
The car carrying the family landed in the Pacific Ocean

Sarah Hart, and several of the children, were found to have Benadryl – an allergy drug that causes drowsiness – in their bodies at the time of the crash.

The driver, Jennifer Hart, was over the legal limit for alcohol at the time, California Highway Patrol investigator Jake Slates said, according to the Associated Press.

“They both decided that this was going to be the end,” he said at a coroner’s inquest. “That if they can’t have their kids that nobody was going to have those kids.”

A witness who was camping nearby at the time told the jury that he heard a car engine revving up and screeching out around 03:00 local time (10:00 GMT) on 26 March.

Investigators had suspected the act had been deliberate, based on the car’s computer and the lack of braking skidmarks in the road, which would have indicated an accident.

The bodies of five of the children – Markis, 19; Hannah, 16; Jeremiah, 14; Abigail, 14; and Ciera, 12 – were found within or nearby to the vehicle, which landed upside down on a Pacific Ocean beach.

Devonte, 15, is still considered missing but is presumed dead.

Investigators found the that the couple had been accused of child abuse several times, and that days before the crash officials in Washington state had opened an investigation after Devonte rang a neighbours’ doorbell and said his parents were withholding food.

In 2010, Sarah Hart admitted to harming her daughter Abigail and was convicted of misdemeanour domestic assault.

Jeffree Star is one of YouTube's highest earners

Jeffree Star says $2.5m worth of his cosmetic line stolen

US make-up mogul Jeffree Star has revealed that $2.5m (£1.9m) of stock, including unreleased products, was stolen from his company’s warehouse.

Star shared details of the theft in a YouTube video posted on Wednesday.

In the clip he reveals it happened in the early hours of 16 March – alleging a team of “professionals” broke into the Los Angeles facility.

Star has said that local law enforcement and the FBI are investigating the crime.

The 33-year-old said he and investigators believe the products were stolen to be sold onto the black market.

Police have not yet commented publicly on the case.

Star revealed the crime after an unreleased concealer product, which had been under development for a year, began to appear on social media marketplace sites over the weekend.

Fans of the brand had expressed their confusion about the leak.

Born Jeffrey Lynn Steininger, the influencer launched his own beauty brand, Jeffree Star Cosmetics, in 2014.

The internet personality has had a large online fan-base since the days of MySpace and currently has more than 14 million subscribers on YouTube.

Jeffree Star lipsticks
The YouTube’s make-up line (pictured) has more than five million followers on Instagram

Forbes magazine has said he is one of the highest-paid beauty vloggers in the world.

On the video “My Concealer Line Was Stolen & Leaked” posted on his YouTube channel on Wednesday, Star revealed details about the robbery at one of the company’s storage facilities.

He said “thousands” of products were taken and described watching CCTV footage of the crime as “gut-wrenching”.

Images of the alleged crime scene were obtained by US celebrity website TMZ and appear to show a hole was cut through the building’s roof. The dangers of black market counterfeit beauty products

The theft comes one year after thieves were said to have taken $4.5m worth of eyeshadow from an LA warehouse storing Anastasia Beverly Hills cosmetics.

The global beauty industry is worth hundreds of billions of dollars and officials are increasingly warning about the dangers of unregulated black market sales.

The FBI has previously warned consumers about counterfeit beauty products, which have been found to contain substances like arsenic that are hazardous to health.

33-year-old Nipsey Hussle was shot dead outside his clothing store in Los Angeles.

Nipsey Hussle murder suspect named as vigil stampede hurts 19

Police have named a suspect in the murder of Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle, hours after a stampede at a vigil injured at least 19 people.

Authorities say Eric Holder is the man wanted in connection with the shooting on Sunday, which was ruled a homicide.

Most people suffered “trample injuries” at Monday’s vigil, a fire official said, as crowds tried to rush away.

Two are critically hurt and two seriously, with the rest suffering “non-life threatening injuries”.

One of those critically injured suffered “penetrating, traumatic injury with cause unknown”.

Footage from the scene shows mourners suddenly breaking and running from the scene. It is unclear what triggered the incident.

Police earlier asked for people to “disperse from the immediate area” and moved in to restore order, reportedly using riot gear and forming containment lines.

Reports of shots fired at the vigil “do not appear to be accurate”, the police tweeted.

Nipsey Hussle was shot dead outside his clothing shop on Sunday. Two other people were wounded.

Tributes have poured in for the 33-year-old, whose debut album Victory Lap was nominated for best rap album at this year’s Grammy Awards.

Hussle, real name Ermias Davidson Asghedom, grew up in south Los Angeles and was a member of the Rollin’ 60s street gang as a teenager.

He later became a community organiser, and was involved with the Destination Crenshaw arts project.

“I grew up in gang culture,” he told the Los Angeles Times in a 2018 interview. “We dealt with death, with murder. It was like living in a war zone, where people die on these blocks and everybody is a little bit immune to it.”

Earlier on Sunday, he had tweeted: “Having strong enemies is a blessing.”

Former Vice-President Joe Biden has denied allegations of misconduct ahead of his widely-expected announcement of a presidential run.

Joe Biden served as Barack Obama’s vice president for eight years

Joe Biden denies Lisa Flores’s misconduct allegations

Lucy Flores, a former Nevada Assembly member, says Mr Biden kissed her on the back of her head at a campaign event.

“I had never experienced anything so blatantly inappropriate,” she wrote.

Mr Biden said he had shown “expressions of affection” to people over the years, adding “not once – never – did I believe I acted inappropriately”.

“If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully,” he said.

Serving as Barack Obama’s vice-president for eight years and in the US Senate for nearly four decades, Mr Biden is seen as a possible frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination even though he has not announced his candidacy.

What are the allegations?

The allegations first appeared on Friday in an article Ms Flores wrote for The Cut magazine.

Ms Flores was running as the Democratic candidate for Nevada’s lieutenant governor in 2014 when the then-vice president flew in to support her bid.

As she prepared to go on stage, Ms Flores say Mr Biden placed two hands on her shoulders from behind.

“I felt him get closer to me from behind. He leaned further in and inhaled my hair. I was mortified,” she wrote. “He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head. My brain couldn’t process what was happening.”

Lucy Flores speaking at a 2014 Nevada campaign event with Joe Biden behind her
Lucy Flores alleges Mr Biden kissed her on the back of the head ahead of a 2014 campaign event

How did Mr Biden respond?

Mr Biden’s spokesman Bill Russo initially said neither the vice-president nor his staff had any idea that “Ms Flores had been at any time uncomfortable, nor do they recall what she describes”.

But on Sunday Mr Biden issued a statement himself, and promised to “pay attention” to Ms Flores – while reiterating he did not remember the incident.

“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. And not once – never – did I believe I acted inappropriately,” it read.

“But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will,” he added.

Speaking in a CNN interview on Sunday, Ms Flores said Mr Biden’s statement was “certainly better” than his spokesman’s initial response, but called his behaviour “completely inappropriate” and something to think about of a person “who is considering running for president”.

What’s been the reaction?

A number of candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have backed Ms Flores.

“I think what this speaks to is the need to fundamentally change the culture of this country,” Senator Bernie Sanders told Face the Nation on CBS, saying he had no reason not to believe Ms Flores.

She previously campaign for Mr Sanders in his 2016 nomination run.

Senator Elizabeth Warren said Mr Biden “needs to give an answer”, and Senator Amy Klobuchar said that in politics “people raise issues and they have to address them”.

Lucy Flores campaigning for Bernie Sanders at a Nevada event in 2016
Lucy Flores campaigned for Bernie Sanders in 2016

But many supporters have leapt to Mr Biden’s defence.

Cynthia Hogan, a former aide to the vice-president, told the New York Times that Mr Biden “treated us with respect and insisted that others do the same”.

And Stephanie Carter, the wife of former defence secretary Ashton Carter, defended her “close friend” in a blog post.

A photo of Mr Biden holding her shoulders during her husband’s swearing-in ceremony drew questions at the time and afterwards.

But in a blog post, Ms Carter wrote that the vice-president “could sense I was uncharacteristically nervous” at the event “and quickly gave me a hug”, she wrote.

“But a still shot taken from a video… came to be the lasting image of that day.”

New documents increase pressure on Trudeau in SNC-Lavalin affair

A former Canadian justice minister has released documents to bolster her version of events in the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Jody Wilson-Raybould submitted the documents, including an audio recording, to a commons committee that was looking into the matter.

The files were released publicly on Friday and are likely to increase pressure on PM Justin Trudeau.

He has struggled for weeks to contain the fallout from the controversy.

The Liberal prime minister has been accused of pressuring Ms Wilson-Raybould to push for a legal favour for SNC-Lavalin that would allow it to avoid prosecution and instead face alternate penalties like a fine.

The Canadian firm is facing allegations that former executives paid bribes to win contracts in Libya under Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, which fell in 2011.

The affair has seen the prime minister lose two top ministers – including Ms Wilson-Raybould, who resigned from cabinet in February – Canada’s top bureaucrat, and a senior aide.

Mr Trudeau has denied any wrongdoing by either him or his staff and maintains nothing untoward happened.

But opinion surveys indicate that the controversy has shaken Mr Trudeau and his government’s popularity months before a general election.

The documents made public include an audio recording, lasting nearly 18 minutes, of a December phone call between Ms Wilson-Raybould and Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick about the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

The former justice minister and attorney general said she took the “extraordinary and otherwise inappropriate step” of recording the call without Mr Wernick’s knowledge because she wanted a precise account of the conversation.

She said was concerned about what she saw as attempts to interfere in the case.

In the call, there is a lengthy back and forth between the pair, during which the senior public servant repeatedly notes that the prime minister is interested in having the firm avoid prosecution in favour of an agreement.

Mr Trudeau and his officials have said they are concerned that thousands of jobs are at risk if the engineering firm is convicted.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (centre)
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remains under pressure

She pushes back, warning she felt the conversation was inappropriate and that continued communications about the matter could cross the lines of her prosecutorial independence as attorney general.

“The recording allows members of the committee to decide for themselves” about whether or not she was pressured by Mr Wernick, Ms Wilson-Raybould writes.

Mr Wernick stepped down as Canada’s top bureaucrat this month.

The Liberal-dominated justice committee dropped the inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin affair earlier this month, saying its objectives have been achieved.

After the committee ended the inquiry, Ms Wilson-Raybould announced that she would submit further materials to back up her testimony.

Some 40-pages were released, which include copies of texts and emails, as well as Ms Wilson-Raybould’s elaboration on her view of the events.

Opposition parties had wanted Ms Wilson-Raybould to return to committee following her bombshell testimony in February, where she accused Mr Trudeau and members of his inner circle of spending months trying to politically interfere in the SNC-Lavalin matter.

Attorney General William Barr is releasing a redacted version of the 400-page report

Mueller report: Congress to get redacted version ‘by mid-April’

Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 US election will be made public “by mid-April”.

Attorney General William Barr says he is now redacting the 400-page document.

In a letter to the heads of the House and Senate judiciary committees, he says he expects to be able to publish by mid-April, “if not sooner”.

It comes a week after he published a four-page note summarising its conclusions – sparking demands for the report to be released in its entirety.

On Monday, six Democratic congressional committee chairs sent a letter to Mr Barr demanding the release of the full, “complete and unredacted” report by 2 April.

“Everyone will soon be able to read it on their own,” Mr Barr wrote in his letter to congressional committee chiefs – although it will be redacted to remove legally sensitive material.

What did the Mueller report find?

It investigated whether President Donald Trump’s campaign had colluded with Russia in 2016, in order to help steal the US election, but after a 22-month inquiry Special Counsel Mueller cleared the president of collusion.

His long-awaited report stopped short of exonerating Mr Trump of the charge of obstruction of justice.

But in his letter published on 24 March, Mr Barr said that the evidence presented in the report was not enough to charge the president with obstruction.

William Barr letter 24 March
William Barr’s four-page letter on the conclusions of the Mueller report, published on 24 March

Since former FBI director Mr Mueller was appointed to head up the investigation, his team has charged 34 people – including six former Trump aides and a dozen Russians – as well as three companies.

None of those charges are directly related to the allegations of collusion.

What else does Mr Barr’s letter say?

As well as promising to release a redacted version of the report, Mr Barr says that he won’t be giving a copy to President Trump to review before publication, because “he has stated publicly that he intends to defer to me”.

He adds that he will testify publicly before the Senate Judiciary Committee on 1 May, and the House Judiciary Committee the following day.

The attorney general also denies that his letter released last week was a “summary” of Mr Mueller’s report, instead referring to it as a “supplemental notification”.

“My March 24 letter was not, and did not purport to be, an exhaustive recounting of the Special Counsel’s investigation or report,” he writes.

“The Special Counsel’s report is nearly 400 pages long (exclusive of tables and appendices) and sets forth the Special Counsel’s findings, his analysis, and the reasons for his conclusions. Everyone will soon be able to read it on their own,” Mr Barr’s letter adds.

President Trump called the investigation a “hoax”

How has the president reacted?

Mr Trump has described the accusations against him as “treasonous”.

Asked about the report’s conclusions a day after they were released, the president said: “There’s a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things. I would say, treasonous things, against our country.”

He added: “It was a false narrative, it was a terrible thing, we can never let this happen to another president again, I can tell you that. I say it very strongly.”

Trump on Mueller probe: ‘We can never let this happen again’

In a rally on Thursday – his first since the report was submitted – the president claimed (incorrectly) that the report was a “total exoneration”.

“After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead, the collusion delusion is over,” he told a cheering crowd in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

He also called the investigation “a plan by those who lost the election to try and illegally regain power by framing innocent Americans – many of them, they suffered – with an elaborate hoax”.

BBC Graphic showing who has been charged in the Robert Mueller investigation, updated 23 March 2019
US President Donald Trump: No collusion

Russian hoax is finally dead’, Trump tells Michigan rally

At his first rally since the Mueller report was submitted, Donald Trump railed against his political opponents and reiterated his claim that the report was a “total exoneration”.

The report found no evidence of Russian collusion but did not exonerate Mr Trump of obstruction of justice.

In a typically free-form, 90-minute speech, Mr Trump used crude language to deride the investigation.

He was speaking at a rally in Grand Rapids in the state of Michigan.

Warning: this report contains strong language

“After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead. The collusion delusion is over,” the president told a cheering crowd of thousands.

Former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed to head an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election almost two years ago.

His team have charged 34 people – including six former Trump aides and a dozen Russians – as well as three companies. None of those charges directly related to the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

In his speech on Thursday night, Mr Trump called the investigation “a plan by those who lost the election to try and illegally regain power by framing innocent Americans – many of them, they suffered – with an elaborate hoax”.

Mr Mueller’s report was submitted on a week ago to the US Attorney General William Barr. After two days, Mr Barr released a four-page summary of the more-than 300-page report.

According to Mr Barr’s summary, Mr Mueller’s team did not establish that Trump campaign members colluded with Russians – a significant political victory for the president, who has lived for two years under a cloud of suspicion about alleged collusion.

President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Van Andel Arena on March 28, 2019 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
President Trump addressed the crowd at his rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan

After a period of uncharacteristic silence on the issue as Mr Mueller neared the end of his investigation, Mr Trump let loose this week in attacks on those who he saw as supporters of the investigation, as well as his Democratic opponents.

Speaking at the rally in Grand Rapids, he said: “These are sick people and there has to be accountability because it’s all lies and they know it’s lies.”

Using unusually crude language for a public appearance, he called the investigation “ridiculous bullshit”.

President Trump went on to repeat his claim that the report was a “total exoneration, complete vindication” – an expression which has jarred with some, given that Mr Mueller’s report explicitly stated that investigators were unable to exonerate the president of obstruction of justice.

The obstruction charge was a secondary plank of Mr Mueller’s investigation, alongside efforts to establish whether any collusion had taken place.

But Mr Mueller declined to draw a conclusion on whether Mr Trump had obstructed justice, saying only that the president could not be exonerated.

Attorney General Barr, who was appointed by the president, concluded in his summary of the report that there was not enough evidence to determine if the president had committed the offence.

Leading Democrats have called for the Mueller report to be published in full, and pledged to make use of the party’s majority control of House committees to continue investigating the president.

Despite the end of the Mueller investigation, Mr Trump still faces more than a dozen other criminal investigations and lawsuits looking into his businesses, family, and associates – including allegations that he instructed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to pay hush money to two porn stars over alleged sexual affairs.

Mr Cohen was sentenced in December to three years in prison. In all, six former Trump aides were indicted during the Mueller investigation, including his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

BBC Graphic showing who has been charged in the Robert Mueller investigation, updated 23 March 2019

Jussie Smollett: Donald Trump says case is ’embarrassment’

Donald Trump has called the Jussie Smollett case “outrageous” and an “embarrassment to the nation”.

All charges against the Empire star were dropped on Tuesday – he had been accused of arranging a fake racist and homophobic attack on himself.

The US president says the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) will now be investigating the case.

Separately, Jussie’s lawyer has accused authorities of “continuing their campaign” against the actor.

The mayor of Chicago – the city where the alleged attack happened – said dropping the charges was “a whitewash of justice”.

Jussie’s lawyer says “the case is closed” and “no public official has the right to violate” her client’s rights.

Patricia Brown Holmes says the 36-year-old star “is innocent until proven guilty in the court of law”.

She said: “We respectfully request all government agencies involved live up to the ethical tenants of their office.

“The case was dismissed. We should all allow Mr Smollett to move on with his life as a free citizen.”

Jussie Smollett claims two men beat him up and put a noose around his neck on 29 January.

In February he was charged with filing a false police report.

In yet another twist to the case, all the charges against him were dropped on 26 March.

But since then Chicago police and the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, have been publicly very critical of the actor.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson: “Smollett dragged city’s reputation through mud”

Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Jussie had dragged Chicago’s reputation “through the mud”.

While Rahm Emanuel maintains that Jussie has lied about the alleged attack for “self promotion”.

Illinois prosecutor Joe Magats said the charges were dropped because Jussie forfeited a $10,000 (£7,600) bond payment and carried out community service.

Mr Magats said Jussie “is not a victim of a hate crime”.

US-Mexico border official says migrant crisis ‘at breaking point’

The US-Mexico border has reached “breaking point”, US officials say, amid an “unprecedented” surge in migrant numbers.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said it is “a matter of time” before tragedy strikes at one of their facilities.

More than 13,000 migrants have been taken into custody along the border just this week, he said.

Most of the migrants entering the US are families or unaccompanied children.

“On Monday and Tuesday, CBP started the day with over 12,000 migrants in our custody,” Mr McAleenan said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Central American migrants are seen inside an enclosure in El Paso after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States illegally and turning themselves in to request asylum

“As of this morning, that number was 13,400. A high number for us is 4,000. A crisis level is 6,000. 13,000 is unprecedented.”

During previous immigration surges, many of those seeking entry were single adults, the commissioner said.

But because these are family units and children, they cannot be easily repatriated and instead, are “almost guaranteed to be released to remain in the US indefinitely”.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) still do not have the capacity to detain families and children, officials said.

Mr McAleenan said his agency expects 40,000 children to enter CBP custody in March after entering the US unaccompanied, “in the hands of violent and callous smugglers”.

“We are doing everything we can to simply avoid a tragedy in a CBP facility,” he added. “But with these numbers, with the types of illnesses we’re seeing…I fear that it’s just a matter of time.”

CBP officials are on pace to manage over 100,000 migrants this month – the highest in a month since 2008.

The agency has now redirected 750 agents from their roles at ports of entry to instead support the “humanitarian mission”.

“We have in some sectors an average of 40% of our Border Patrol agents all fully engaged in just the care, transport, and processing of migrants.”

CBP is asking for assistance from other federal agencies including the National Guard and Department of Defence to increase the capacity to process migrants.

Mr McAleenan has also asked for immediate legislative action from Congress so the agency can detain families together. as well as for the government to fix issues in the legal process for asylum seekers.

He noted that it often takes two to five years for asylum seekers to see a judge, and only around 10 to 15% of migrants actually have a legitimate claim.

Facebook said it no longer felt white nationalism could be seperated from white supremacy

Facebook to ban white nationalism and separatism

Facebook has said it will block “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism” on Facebook and Instagram from next week.

The social media giant also pledged to improve its ability to identify and block material from terrorist groups.

Facebook users searching for offending terms will be directed to a charity which combats far-right extremism.

The social network has come under pressure after a man livestreamed an attack on two mosques in New Zealand.

Facebook had previously allowed some white nationalist content it did not view as racist – including permission for users to call for the creation of white ethno-states.

The company said it had deemed white nationalism an acceptable form of expression on a par with “things like American pride and Basque separatism, which are an important part of people’s identity”.

But in a blog post on Wednesday it said that after three months of consultation with “members of civil society and academics” it found that white nationalism could not be “meaningfully separated” from white supremacy and organised hate groups.

‘Not just the postman’

In the wake of shootings earlier this month in New Zealand, several world leaders called on social media companies to take more responsibility for the extremist material posted on their platforms.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said social networks were “the publisher not just the postman”, in reference to their potential liability for the material shared on them.

Facebook has previously acknowledged that a video of the attack, which left 50 people dead, was viewed more than 4,000 times before being taken down.

The company said that, within 24 hours, it had blocked 1.2 million copies at the point of upload and deleted another 300,000.

A group representing French Muslims is suing Facebook and YouTube for allowing the footage to be posted on their platforms.

Other tech groups also took steps to clamp down on sharing of the video. Reddit banned an existing discussion forum on its site called “watchpeopledie” after clips of the attack were shared on the forum.

Valve, which runs the Steam gaming network, said it had removed more than 100 “tributes” by users that sought to memorialise the alleged shooter.

Jussie Smollett: Mayor says case makes Chicago look foolish

Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emanuel says the sudden move to drop charges against actor Jussie Smollett over a hoax attack has made a fool of the city.

The state’s attorney’s office maintains Mr Smollett has not been exonerated, while Mr Smollett’s lawyers say his record has been wiped clean.

“They better get their stories straight because this is actually making a fool of all of us,” the mayor told ABC News.

Police maintain Mr Smollett staged a racist and homophobic attack.

Mr Smollett has insisted throughout that he is innocent of all these allegations.

Speaking on Good Morning America on Wednesday, Mr Emanuel pilloried the Empire actor, saying he “abused the city of Chicago”.

“You have the state’s attorney’s office saying he’s not exonerated, he actually did commit this hoax. He’s saying he’s innocent and his words aren’t true.”

Mr Emanuel says he wants the court records unsealed so that all the evidence gathered by Chicago Police could be seen.

He said he also wants prosecutors to explain why they made such a sudden reversal.

The two sides in the Jussie Smollett case

The mayor said police had evidence that Mr Smollett had made up claims that he was attacked on 29 January in downtown Chicago by two masked men who he claimed shouted racist and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him and put a rope round his neck.

So what are prosecutors saying?

Illinois prosecutor Joe Magats made the decision to drop charges against the TV actor on Tuesday in a move that blindsided police – but he maintains that Mr Smollett is guilty.

“Our priority is violent crimes and the drivers of violence,” Mr Magats told CBS News. “Jussie Smollett is neither one of those.”

He added that community service and a fine is a common outcome for such a case. When asked if those penalties were sufficient for Mr Smollett, he said: “I feel that it is.”

Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for the Cook County state’s attorney, told NBC News that prosecutors “did not exonerate Mr Smollett”, but offered an agreement available “to any defendant with similar circumstances”.

“The charges were dropped in return for Mr Smollett’s agreement to do community service and forfeit his $10,000 bond to the City of Chicago.

“Without the completion of these terms, the charges would not have been dropped.”

Police, however, have disagreed, with Supt Eddie Johnson saying if Mr Smollett “wanted to clear his name, the way to do that was in a court of law so that everyone could see the evidence”.

A Chicago police union on Tuesday renewed calls for a federal inquiry looking into what role the state’s prosecutor Kimberly Foxx, who recused herself, played in the case.

In a statement to NBC, the Fraternal Order of Police said they are “outraged…but not surprised”.

The union said Ms Foxx had “transformed the prosecutor’s office to a political arm of the anti-police movement”.

The Fraternal Order of Police said their demand was based on reports of texts between Ms Foxx and a former Obama aide about the case.

Kimberly M. Foxx State's Attorney, Cook County State's Attorney's Office
Kimberly Foxx, the top Cook County prosecutor, had recused herself from the Smollett case

What’s this about a former Obama aide?

State’s Attorney Ms Foxx recused herself from the Smollett case last month, citing a conflict of interest “based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case”.

According to local media, attorney Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, connected Ms Foxx with Mr Smollett’s family in the days following the alleged attack.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this month that Ms Tchen had texted Ms Foxx on 1 February that the actor’s family had “concerns about the investigation”.

Ms Foxx later told the Sun-Times that those worries were regarding leaked information about the case from “police sources”, and that the family felt the FBI would keep a “tighter lid on the information”.

Days after the attack, Ms Foxx said she discussed transferring the case to the FBI with Supt Johnson, who she said seemed open to the idea.

She then contacted Ms Tchen and Mr Smollett’s relative to inform them about her call with the superintendent, according to records viewed by the newspaper.

“Spoke to the Superintendent Johnson,” she wrote to Ms Tchen in an email. “I convinced him to reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation. He is reaching out now and will get to me shortly.”

After Ms Foxx sent the relative a similar message, they replied: “OMG this would be a huge victory.”

Ms Foxx’s office did not immediately return a request for comment from the BBC.

Read our full timeline here.

Despite the dangers, vaccination rates for measles are declining in many countries

New York county declares measles outbreak emergency

A county in New York state has declared a state of emergency following a severe outbreak of measles.

Rockland County, on the Hudson river north of New York City, has barred unvaccinated children from public spaces after 153 cases were confirmed.

Violating the order will be punishable by a fine of $500 (£378) and up to six months in prison.

The announcement follows other outbreaks of the disease in Washington, California, Texas and Illinois.

Vaccination rates have dropped steadily in the US with many parents objecting for philosophical or religious reasons, or because they believe misleading information that vaccines cause autism in children.

“We will not sit idly by while children in our community are at risk,” Rockland County Executive Ed Day said.

“This is a public health crisis and it is time to sound the alarm.”

Why has this county taken action?

The outbreak in Rockland County is largely concentrated in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the New York Times reported. It is believed it could have spread from other predominantly ultra-Orthodox areas around New York which have already seen outbreaks of measles.

Mr Day said health inspectors had encountered “resistance” from some local residents, which he branded “unacceptable and irresponsible”.

“They’ve been told ‘We’re not discussing this, do not come back’ when visiting the homes of infected individuals as part of their investigations,” he said.

Dylan Skriloff, the editor of local newspaper the Rockland County Times, told the BBC the number of measles cases in the county had been increasing steadily in recent weeks.

“The first reports came six months ago, and each week we’ve had a new report with increased numbers,” he said.

“It’s become clear that it’s not abating, and the authorities… don’t want to accept [this reality] as the new normal.”

Skriloff said that the authorities had been making “steady progress” in encouraging religious communities to immunise children but communication had broken down in the last month.

“The rate of immunisation in the religious communities, for young people, it’s about 50%-60%, which is not nearly enough.”

Officials said the order, which bans anyone under the age of 18 who has not been vaccinated from places such as schools, shopping centres, restaurants and places of worship, would come into effect at midnight on Wednesday and last 30 days.

Rockland County has a population of more than 300,000.

What has happened elsewhere with measles vaccinations?

Measles is a highly infectious disease and can cause serious health complications, including damage to the lungs and brain.

But despite the dangers, vaccination rates are declining in many countries.

There have also been outbreaks of measles in Europe

In the UK, the government is seeking new legislation to force social media companies to remove content promoting false information about vaccines.

There were more than 82,500 cases in Europe in 2018  – the highest number in a decade and three times the total reported in 2017.

The World Health Organization has declared the anti-vaccine movement to be one of the top global health threats for 2019.

Democrats refuse to retreat on Trump legal issues despite Mueller disappointment

House committee chairs call on attorney general William Barr to send them full Mueller report by 2 April

As Donald Trump, declared victory following the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Democrats showed no signs of backing down from the numerous legal questions encircling the president and his associates.

The completion of the highly anticipated, Robert Mueller prompted an intense debate in Washington over how to proceed as Democrats said a summary of its findings by the attorney general, William Barr, “raises as many questions as it answers”, even though it probably laid the issue of collusion with Russia firmly to rest.

Since taking control of the House of Representatives in January, Democrats

have launched an onslaught of investigations into the president, his administration and his family business.

It thus came as an undeniable blow to Democrats that Mueller’s report did not find that the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to swing the 2016 election, or produce a more definitive conclusion on whether the president himself engaged in any criminal activity.

But as Trump and his allies seized on the account to falsely claim “total exoneration”, Democrats signaled the legal and political battle lines were far from settled, especially when it came to Barr’s decision not to pursue the obstruction of justice issue.

Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House judiciary committee, announced he would summon Barr, who was confirmed as Trump’s attorney general earlier this year, to testify on Capitol Hill as Democrats seek more answers from the conclusion of the nearly two-year federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In a four-page letter to Congress, Barr said Mueller’s report did not find criminal collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow during the 2016 presidential election but was inconclusive on the question of whether the president obstructed justice.

“It’s a shame that our country has had to go through this,” a defiant Trump said Sunday. “To be honest, it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this.”

Democrats nonetheless demanded the release of the full Mueller report, while suggesting Barr’s summary could not be trusted given his prior criticisms of the special counsel investigation.

Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris react to completion of Trump-Russia inquiry 

“The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay,” the Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

“Given Mr Barr’s public record of bias against the special counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.”

Democrats took particular issue with the claim by Barr and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, that Mueller’s evidence was insufficient to prove Trump had obstructed justice.

The special counsel examined several actions by Trump in considering the question of obstruction, including his firing of the former FBI director James Comey, public and private attempts to pressure the former attorney general Jeff Sessions, and role in misleading the public about a meeting between his campaign and a Russian lawyer during the campaign.

In a joint statement, the Democratic chairmen of the House intelligence, judiciary and oversight committees called for the complete release of Mueller’s report and “all underlying documents”.

“It is unacceptable that, after Special Counsel Mueller spent 22 months meticulously uncovering this evidence, Attorney General Barr made a decision not to charge the president in under 48 hours,” the chairmen said.

“The special counsel’s report should be allowed to speak for itself,” they added.

On Monday evening, six Democratic House committee chairs, including the chairmen of the intelligence and judiciary subcommittees, sent a letter to Barr requesting that he send them the full Mueller report by 2 April. They also asked Barr to start transmitting the evidence underlying the report to the relevant committees.

Barr has not made clear how much of the report he intends to make public, teeing up a potentially major dispute that may ultimately be settled in the courts. By a tally of 420-0, the House voted overwhelmingly last month in favor of making the Mueller report public.

But even as they seek a full accounting of Mueller’s investigation, Democrats have sought to temper expectations of impeachment – a subject that has polarized the American public.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has on multiple occasions thrown cold water on what several Democrats refer to as “the I-word”, leaving it to voters at the 2020 ballot box to determine Trump’s fate.

Some strategists said the initial read of the Mueller report may have lifted the burden of impeachment from Democrats’ shoulders, enabling them to focus instead on drawing a policy contrast to Trump as he seeks re-election next year.

“I think Democrats need to allow the investigations to continue while focusing on the rest of their legislative agenda,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist who served as an aide to the former Senate majority leader Harry Reid.

“It’s pretty clear impeachment is not in the cards, at least not right now.”

To impeach Trump, Democrats would need not just a majority in the House but also a two-thirds vote in the Republican-led Senate to convict – an outcome as unlikely as ever before given the widespread support Trump enjoys from members of his own party.

Polling has found Americans largely split on whether Trump should be impeached.

There are countless other legal perils looming over Trump’s presidency, however, that remain unresolved and which Democrats are likely to focus on.

Among them are hush money payments to women claiming affairs with Trump and attempts by the president and his allies to cover them up.

In public testimony on Capitol Hill last month, Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen directly implicated the president in the hush money payments – a violation of US campaign finance law – while also accusing Trump of various other criminal acts.

Those allegations are being investigated by prosecutors of the southern district of New York and increasingly a subject of the inquiries launched by House Democrats.

“Reading the coverage today one would assume that the release of the Mueller report ended the criminal investigations into Trump his inauguration, his business, and his foundation,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to Barack Obama, tweeted.

“It didn’t. He still has more criminal exposure than all the other presidents combined.”

As the fall-out from the Mueller report unfolds …

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Former Taliban hostage Joshua Boyle was arrested months after arriving back in Canada

Joshua Boyle: Canadian ex-hostage in court on assault charges

A Canadian man held hostage for five years in Afghanistan has gone on trial accused of sexual assault, unlawful confinement and other offences.

Joshua Boyle, 35, has pleaded not guilty to all 19 charges against him.

A court-ordered publication ban was lifted on Monday to reveal that one of the alleged victims is his estranged wife, Caitlan Coleman.

Pakistani soldiers rescued Mr Boyle, Ms Coleman, and their three children in October 2017.

Mr Boyle appeared in the Ontario court on Monday accompanied by his father.

Ms Coleman, who is American, did not attend the hearing but is due to begin giving testimony on Wednesday, Canadian broadcaster CBC reported.

The charges Mr Boyle faces include assault, sexual assault, unlawful confinement, uttering death threats and criminal harassment.

Police say all the alleged offences occurred after Mr Boyle and his family returned to Canada in 2017.

The identity of the second alleged victim remains subject to a publication ban.

File image of Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman
Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman were backpacking in Afghanistan

Mr Boyle and Ms Coleman were kidnapped while backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012 by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network.

She gave birth to their children while in captivity. After their release, Mr Boyle said their captors had killed a fourth child.

Their rescue made headlines around the world and on their return to Canada the family was invited to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

But less than three months later Mr Boyle was arrested and charged. He has been under house arrest since June 2018.

Fences already run along stretches of the US-Mexico border

US-Mexico border wall: Pentagon authorises $1bn transfer

The Pentagon has authorised the transfer of $1bn (£758m) to army engineers for new wall construction along the US-Mexico border.

The funds are the first under the national emergency declared by President Donald Trump to bypass Congress and build the barrier he pledged during his election campaign.

Democrats have protested against the move.

The funds will be used to build about 57 miles (91km) of fencing.

President Trump has called the situation at the southern border a “crisis” and insists a physical barrier is needed to stop criminals crossing into the US. His critics say he has manufactured the border emergency.

A Pentagon statement said acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan had “authorised the commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers to begin planning and executing up to $1bn in support to the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol”.

The statement cited a federal law that “gives the Department of Defence the authority to construct roads and fences and to install lighting to block drug-smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States in support of counter-narcotic activities of federal law enforcement agencies”.

As well the 18ft-high (5m) “pedestrian fencing”, the funds will cover road improvements and new lights.

Democratic senators complained that the Pentagon had not sought permission from the appropriate committees before notifying Congress of the funds transfer.

A group of about 30 Brazilian migrants who had just crossed the border in Sunland Park, New Mexico, on March 20, 2019, as they wait for US Border Patrol to pick them up
Thousands of people cross the border every year seeking a new life in the US

“We strongly object to both the substance of the funding transfer, and to the department implementing the transfer without seeking the approval of the congressional defence committees and in violation of provisions in the defence appropriation itself,” the senators wrote in a letter to Mr Shanahan, CNN reported.

Mr Trump declared the emergency on 15 February after Congress refused his requests for $5.7bn (£4.4bn) to construct the wall. By declaring an emergency he sought to bypass Congress and build the wall with military funding.

Democrats branded the declaration unconstitutional.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution to overturn the emergency last month, and 12 Republicans later sided with Democratic Senators to get it through the Senate.

US-Mexico border wall: Pentagon authorises $1bn transfer
Trump issues first veto of his presidency

However, Mr Trump vetoed the resolution earlier this month.

Congress will now need a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override him, which correspondents say is unlikely to happen.

Trump on Mueller probe: 'We can never let this happen again

Trump hints at payback for ‘evil’ enemies over Mueller report

President Donald Trump says his enemies who did “evil” and “treasonous things” will be under scrutiny after he was absolved of colluding with Russia.

Speaking in the Oval Office, he said no other president should have to be investigated over “a false narrative”.

He spoke a day after the attorney general released a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s completed report.

It clears Mr Trump of conspiring with Russia to steal the US 2016 election.

But the long-awaited report stops short of exonerating Mr Trump of obstruction of justice.

US Attorney General William Barr ruled there was no evidence requiring prosecution on the obstruction issue.

What did President Trump say?

Mr Trump was hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House on Monday when a reporter asked him about the outcome of the Mueller report.

“There’s a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things,” Mr Trump said, “I would say treasonous things, against our country.”

“And hopefully people that have done such harm to our country, we’ve gone through a period of really bad things happening.

“Those people will certainly be looked at, I’ve been looking at them for a long time.

“And I’m saying, ‘why haven’t they been looked at?’ They lied to Congress – many of them, you know who they are – they’ve’ done so many evil things.”

Mr Trump did not name the alleged culprits.

He added: “It was a false narrative, it was a terrible thing, we can never let this happen to another president again, I can tell you that. I say it very strongly.”

What’s the political reaction?

On Monday, Senate Judiciary chairman Lindsey Graham laid out the Republican strategy as he pledged to “unpack the other side of the story” of the Russia investigation.

The South Carolina senator, who spent the weekend with Mr Trump in Florida, said his panel would investigate the Department of Justice-led inquiry.

The FBI’s use of a dossier compiled to discredit Mr Trump by a former British spy, Christopher Steele, would be among aspects under scrutiny, said Mr Graham.

Meanwhile, Democrats are focusing on a line in the attorney general’s summary that says Mr Mueller’s report “does not exonerate” Mr Trump of obstruction of justice, even though Mr Barr concluded on Sunday there was insufficient evidence that Mr Trump had committed a crime.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said he would summon Mr Barr to testify soon “in light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the justice department”.

The House Appropriations Committee has set a hearing date of 9 April for the Department of Justice’ budget, which Mr Barr is expected to attend, Politico reported. Other committees could call him to testify even sooner.

On Monday Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell blocked a move by Democrats to urge Mr Barr to release the Mueller report to the public.

He said it was too early to release the full report as “the special counsel and the justice department ought to be allowed to finish their work”.

Senator McConnell also posted on Twitter: “No collusion. No conspiracy. No obstruction.”

On Monday evening, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her deputies will have a weekly meeting, after which a clearer Democratic strategy could emerge.

But California Congresswoman Katie Hill told Politico she does not think much will change.

“None of us were waiting on the Mueller report in terms of deciding what we were going to be doing,” she said. “Our investigations didn’t depend on the Mueller report.”

Trump hints at payback for 'evil' enemies over Mueller report

Chinese student Wangzhen Lu kidnapped in Canadian car park

A 22-year-old Chinese student has been kidnapped by four men with a stun-gun, police in Canada say.

Three men grabbed Wangzhen Lu and forced him into a van in an underground car park in Markham on 23 March.

Officers have now released images of the student and the clothing he was wearing at the time of the kidnapping.

The motive for the kidnapping is not yet known but a police spokesperson said the level of violence was “significant.”

Mr Lu was approached by three masked men as he walked in the car park with a female friend shortly before 6pm.

He was grabbed by the suspects and forced into a black wheelchair accessible Dodge Caravan which was driven away by a fourth man.

In the process, Mr Lu was shocked by the stun-gun.

Constable Andy Pattenden, spokesperson for York Regional Police said Mr Lu was taken “100 percent against his will” and his female friend was not harmed in the incident.

“Police as well as his family are very concerned for his wellbeing and we need to find him as soon as possible”, he added.

Mr Lu was wearing a black sweatshirt, black jeans and glasses at the time of the kidnapping.

Officers have also released CCTV images of the attackers and the vehicle.

Police are liaising with the Chinese consulate.

Officers have asked anyone who has seen the suspects, vehicle or the victim to call 911.