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California Democrat facing possible discipline after sexual misconduct allegations

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Members of the California state Senate are scheduled Wednesday to consider disciplinary action against a Democrat who “more likely than not” made inappropriate sexual advances toward six women, including four subordinates.

The allegations against Sen. Tony Mendoza were the subject of a recently concluded independent investigation.

Investigators spoke to 47 witnesses, including Mendoza, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The findings, released Tuesday, that found Mendoza “more likely than not” engaged in behavior such as offering a 19-year-old intern alcohol in a hotel suite at a Democratic Party event, suggesting a young woman in a Senate fellowship take a vacation with him and rent a room in his house, and asked several of the women about their dating lives.

Several accusations against Mendoza first became public last fall in a report by the Sacramento Bee. Under pressure from other lawmakers, Mendoza took a leave of absence. He was suspended after his leave of absence was expected to end before the independent investigation into the claims could be concluded.

Mendoza sued for reinstatement last Thursday, arguing the suspension was unconstitutional and he was being treated differently than other colleagues also under investigation.

The California Legislature is one of many statehouses nationwide grappling with a tidal wave of sexual misconduct allegations following the #MeToo movement in which millions of women shared their experiences with sexual harassment or assault on social media.

Mendoza is the only lawmaker who has been suspended since allegations of sexual misconduct at the Capitol broke last fall. Two assemblymen voluntarily resigned, and their seats haven’t been filled.

Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who has denied accusations including groping, took a voluntary leave of absence last Friday.

Sen. Bob Hertzberg is also facing an investigation after at least three female colleagues alleged he made them uncomfortable with hugs. He has not been asked to step aside.

As early as Thursday, the chamber could vote to censure, expel, suspend or reinstate Mendoza.

Mendoza called the investigation “unfair and secret.” He warned action against him by his colleagues could set a “dangerous precedent.”

“Past precedent has been to only expel members who have been convicted of a felony,” Mendoza said in a statement released late Tuesday. “This raises the stakes for future perceived infractions by members of this body.”

Mendoza will be allowed to defend himself on the Senate floor.

The investigation found no instances of Mendoza being “physically aggressive” or “sexually crude.” But the women “understood that Mendoza was suggesting sexual contact,” the report said.

In two cases, the report found the Los Angeles-area senator stopped when asked by either the woman or human resources staff.

The investigation does not name any of the women, although some have previously spoken to media. Four worked for Mendoza, while a fifth is a lobbyist and a sixth was a Senate fellow in another office.

The incidents span from 2007 to 2017, covering both Mendoza’s time in the Assembly and in the Senate.

The investigation outlines three other cases that weren’t publicly known.

It cleared him of allegations he fired three staff members who reported his behavior toward the Senate fellow last fall. One of the former employees has filed a complaint with the state alleging retaliation.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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India: Head of ‘world’s largest family’ Ziona Chana dies – leaving behind 39 wives and 94 children | World News

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A man said to be the head of the world’s largest family has died in northeastern India.

Ziona Chana had 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren – all of whom lived together in a four-storey pink house with about 100 rooms in Baktawng in Mizoram state.

The 76-year-old was the leader of a local Christian sect, named Chana, founded by his father in 1942 and with a current membership of hundreds of families.

Ziona married his first wife when he was 17 and claimed he once married 10 women in a year.

They shared a dormitory near his private bedroom and locals said he liked to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times.

The chief minister of Mizoram confirmed his death on Twitter, saying the village of Baktawng had become a “major tourist attraction” because of the family.

With a total of 167 members, the family is the world’s largest, according to local media, although this depends on whether you count Mr Chana’s grandchildren.

In a 2011 interview with Reuters, Ziona said: “I am ready to expand my family and willing to go to any extent to marry.

“I have so many people to care for and look after, and I consider myself a lucky man.”

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Vladimir Putin: ‘Where is the proof’ Russia is waging a cyber war against the United States? | World News

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Russian leader Vladimir Putin has denied claims his country is waging a cyber war against the United States.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News, the Russian president rebuffed accusations Russian hackers, or the government itself, is using technological warfare against America – as baseless.

He said claims his country was involved in cyber attacks had become “farcical”, asking: “Where is the evidence? Where is the proof?”

Mr Navalny at a court hearing earlier this year
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Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny remains in prison

“We have been accused of all kinds of things: election interference, cyber attacks and so on and so forth. And not once, not one time did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof,” he said.

Evidence has been put forward by US intelligence services of Russian hackers targeting the federal government and meddling in US elections.

Mr Putin also denied ordering the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Pressed on whether he had any involvement, he said: “Look, such decisions in this country are not made by the president.”

Russian intelligence services have been accused of poisoning Mr Navalny, who survived the incident but now remains in a Russian prison.

Asked whether the former opposition leader would make it out of prison alive, Mr Putin said: “He will not be treated any worse than anybody else.”

Joe Biden will be meeting Vladimir Putin on Wednesday
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Joe Biden will be meeting Vladimir Putin on Wednesday

Mr Putin’s comments come just two days before he and Joe Biden are due to sit down for talks in Geneva on Wednesday.

The US president will be fresh from his meeting with NATO leaders, who have signalled that Russia remains a security risk to Western allies.

In his interview with NBC, Mr Putin said Russia would be willing to engage with other countries including the US and would value “predictability and stability”.

The Russian president has made no secret that he supported Mr Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, who he called “extraordinary” and “talented”.

Mr Putin and Mr Biden have had somewhat more rocky relations, with the current US president agreeing when asked whether he thought the Russian president was a killer.

When this was put to Mr Putin, he replied: “Over my tenure, I’ve gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles. And none of it surprises me.”

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Finke Desert Race crash: Spectator killed and two injured at Australian off-road event | World News

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A man has died and two others have been injured after a car crashed into spectators during a race in Australia.

The car, which was taking part in the 285-mile (460km) Finke Desert Race, struck a group of people around 22 miles (35km) from the finish.

A 60-year-old man died at the scene.

A man in his 50s was seriously injured and taken to Alice Springs Hospital, while the driver, a woman in her 50s, suffered minor injuries, Northern Territory police confirmed.

Police have issued an appeal for information as they continue to investigate the circumstances.

Motorsport Australia issued a statement calling it “tragic news” and offering “sympathies to the families, friends and all those impacted”.

The governing body also said it would begin its own investigation and provide counselling to all competitors, officials and people associated with the race.

The track is described on its website as having a “reputation for being one of the most difficult off-road courses in one of the most remote places in the world”.

The two-day off-road, multi-terrain race for motorcycles, cars, buggies and quads through desert country between Alice Springs and the town of Aputula, also known as Finke, takes place every June.

The car section of the race has now been cancelled.

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