Nov 01 2018

Vladimir Putin on nuclear war: U.S. is pushing world ‘closer to a very dangerous line’

Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Thursday that the world is underestimating the threat of nuclear war and blamed the U.S. for risking a collapse in global arms controls.

The U.S. is threatening to suspend a Cold War treaty limiting medium-range missiles because it says one of Russia’s weapons violates the agreement.

During his annual marathon news conference Thursday, Putin insisted that Washington was to blame.

“Now they are leaving the treaty on eliminating the short and middle-range missiles,” Putin said referring to the Trump administration. “What’s next? It’s hard to imagine how the situation will evolve. What if those missiles appear in Europe? What do we do then?”

Most experts agree Russia has been violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

However, many of those same analysts have criticized President Donald Trump for walking away from the INF Treaty. They argue that quitting it won’t bring Russia into line, and instead could trigger an arms race with ground-based nuclear missiles returning to Europe for the first time in decades.

On Thursday, Putin also said there “have not been any negotiations” with the U.S. to extend New START, a separate treaty that caps arsenals of intercontinental ballistic missiles and other weapons. It expires in 2021. “Not interested? Don’t need it? Fine,” he said.

And he warned that nuclear war could “lead to extermination of the whole civilization.”

Putin added: “We know how to secure our safety. But, in general, it’s very bad for humanity as it takes us closer to a very dangerous line. It is a very serious question and it is a shame it is being underestimated … We are now witnessing the collapse of the international system of nuclear containment.”

Vladimir Putin

The Russian president also claimed double standards when it came to Sergei Skripal, the former spy allegedly poisoned by Russia on British soil, and Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist who was murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

“Khashoggi was killed. It is obvious and recognized by everyone. Skripal, thank God, is alive,” Putin said.

“However, there is a flurry of sanctions against Russia and non-stop talk about it still. In the other case, however, there is total silence. Complete silence,” he added. “This is the politicized, Russophobic approach. It is a reason, only just a reason for another attack on Russia.”

On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed a new round of sanctions on Russia in response to its “continued disregard for international norms,” which includes Moscow’s interference in 2016 U.S. election.

Sep 30 2018

Former Pennsylvania pediatrician admits to assaulting dozens of young patients

Former Pennsylvania pediatrician

Nearly two decades after Pennsylvania state regulators let him off the hook, a former pediatrician admitted in court Thursday that he sexually assaulted 31 children, most of them patients.

Dr. Johnnie Barto of Johnstown pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two family members and admitted to sexually assaulting more than two dozen patients.

The abuse spanned decades and typically involved girls and boys between ages 8 and 12, prosecutors said. One of the victims was 2 weeks old. Barto molested children in the exam room at Laurel Pediatric Associates in Cambria County and at local hospitals, according to the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office.

Barto, 71, was arrested in January and charged with groping a 12-year-old girl during an office visit several weeks earlier. Suspecting she might not be alone, the attorney general’s office put out a call for other accusers to come forward — and they did, by the dozen, with claims going back to the late 1980s.

“They came to their pediatrician seeking care. Instead they were victimized by a serial sexual abuser hiding in a doctor’s coat,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a videotaped statement released after Barto’s plea.

Barto, whose medical license was suspended, remains behind bars pending his sentencing on multiple counts of aggravated indecent assault, child endangerment and other offenses.

Former Pennsylvania pediatrician

“What happened today was good for everybody, because without a public acknowledgement of wrongdoing, there would be no healing,” said Barto’s lawyer, David Weaver. “This way the healing could begin for his family, his victims and for himself.”

The Pennsylvania Board of Medicine had a chance to stop Barto nearly two decades ago, when he faced administrative charges that he sexually assaulted 4-year-old Lee Ann Berkebile and another young patient during office visits. But state regulators threw out the case and allowed him to keep practicing medicine, and Barto went on to molest more than a dozen more young patients, according to prosecutors.

Berkebile, who is now 29, said Thursday she’s gratified that Barto will be held accountable.

“After 20-some years, I’m just glad it’s finally over, and he can’t do it again. He’s a real sicko,” she told The Associated Press. “He just makes me really disgusted.”

The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, as Berkebile has done.