Day: December 5, 2019

Giuliani in Kyiv; Ukraine Officials Steer Clear…


In this handout photo provided by Adriii Derkach's press office, Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for U.S President Donald Trump, left, meets with Ukrainian lawmaker Adriii Derkach in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. A Ukrainian lawmaker says he has met up with Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, in Kyiv to discuss an anti-corruption project. Derkach, who has previously accused the son of former Vice President Joe Biden of embezzling money from a gas company in Ukraine, posted photos of Thursday’s meeting on his Facebook page. (Adriii Derkach's press office via AP)

In this handout photo provided by Adriii Derkach’s press office, Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for U.S President Donald Trump, left, meets with Ukrainian lawmaker Adriii Derkach in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. A Ukrainian lawmaker says he has met up with Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, in Kyiv to discuss an anti-corruption project. Derkach, who has previously accused the son of former Vice President Joe Biden of embezzling money from a gas company in Ukraine, posted photos of Thursday’s meeting on his Facebook page. (Adriii Derkach’s press office via AP)

© ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Bloomberg) — Rudy Giuliani, whose work in Ukraine is at the heart of U.S. impeachment proceedings, is back in the country — and officials in Kyiv appear to be keeping their distance.

People with knowledge of his trip say Giuliani flew into Kyiv from Budapest on Wednesday, the same day that U.S. hearings stemming from his shadow diplomacy in Ukraine kicked over to the House Judiciary Committee. Social media postings show him meeting with current and previous Ukrainian political figures as part of a cable news documentary series that’s critical of the impeachment inquiry.

But President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine won’t be meeting with him, according to the president’s spokeswoman. Igor Kolomoisky, a Ukrainian billionaire who had ties to Zelenskiy, also said he wasn’t planning to meet Giuliani. Zelenskiy’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, met Giuliani twice in Kyiv in 2017; through a spokesman, he, too, said he had no plans to see Giuliani during his trip.

Andriy Yermak, a key aide to Zelenskiy who figured prominently in the House’s impeachment report, was in London for a conference on Ukraine. He also said he wasn’t meeting Giuliani. “How can I? I’m in London,” he said.

Giuliani has been accompanied in Kyiv by Andriy Telizhenko, a Ukrainian who worked at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in 2016 and is the source of unsubstantiated allegations that his country interfered with the 2016 U.S. election.

Telizhenko, who featured in the first episode of the documentary series on the One America News Network, declined to comment on the meetings, citing security issues.

Others who have figured prominently in Giuliani’s Ukraine overtures in the past year — former prosecutors Viktor Shokin and Kostyantyn Kulyk — didn’t respond to requests for comment on whether they would be meeting Giuliani.

Giuliani’s decision to descend on Kyiv to meet with some key people in the impeachment saga comes after months of public testimony in Washington about his back-channeling in Ukraine. Journalists in Kyiv clambered to learn where he was holding meetings. A group of reporters rushed to the Fairmont Grand Hotel, which declined to comment on whether he was staying there.

With his visit, Giuliani appears to be doubling down on his efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on political opponents of President Donald Trump. He met, among others, with Andriy Derkach, a Kremlin-friendly Ukrainian parliamentarian who recently wrote a letter to Giuliani beseeching him to support criminal justice reform in the country — an effort that could help Giuliani take on the mantel of corruption fighter rather than dirt digger.

Meanwhile, Zelenskiy’s government is pursuing its own anti-corruption efforts. Giuliani’s visit to Kyiv coincided with a visit by Philip Reeker, the acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. On the same day Giuliani met with former Ukraine prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko — who is accused of corruption in the House impeachment report — Reeker was meeting with Ruslan Ryaboshapka, Zelenskiy’s new prosecutor general, to discuss changes to the country’s law enforcement structures.

“The new prosecutor office will be oriented at society’s trust,” Ryaboshhapka’s office said in a written statement. “It must be effective and fair.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Stephanie Baker in London at stebaker@bloomberg.net;Daryna Krasnolutska in Kiev at dkrasnolutsk@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeffrey D Grocott at jgrocott2@bloomberg.net, David S. Joachim

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



Source link

truck.jpg

UPS Driver Carjacked In Miami, Held Hostage During Wild Police Chase, Shootout…




Source link

181009-alexander-petrov-mc-11432_0d79885fc6f68f5515008dba16b8e1de.nbcnews-fp-1200-630.JPG

Russian agents planned hit from assassins' lairs in French Alps, say intel officials…


WASHINGTON — A group of elite Russian military intelligence officers, including some of those who planned the poisoning of a defector in Britain, have been operating out of picturesque villages in the French Alps, Western intelligence officials tell NBC News.

Confirming a report in France’s Le Monde daily that could have been ripped from the pages of a John le Carré spy novel, the officials said European and American intelligence agencies had been tracking up to 15 members of the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU who had lived for a time in France. Le Monde published what it said were the names of the officers, some of which had already been published by Bellingcat, an open source investigative group.

Le Monde reported that among the Russians who stayed in France’s Haute-Savoie department in the Alps were Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov — the alleged cover names of the two GRU agents accused of carrying out the attack on Skripal. French officials told the newspaper they considered the area to have been the unit’s rear base for covert operations in Europe.

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

“It’s good that our European partners are taking the Russian threat so seriously,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior CIA officer with expertise in Europe and Russia. “Russia behaves at times like an outlaw regime, attempting to kill dissidents abroad and fomenting unrest in European democracies. It takes the sustained efforts of European security services working together to counter this threat.”

This week, Germany expelled two Russian diplomats after authorities concluded Russian agents orchestrated an execution-style killing in Berlin of a 40-year-old Russian-Georgian citizen who has been designated as a terrorist by Moscow.

The victim had fought with a Georgian unit defending South Ossetia during the 2008 Georgia-Russia war, German prosecutors said in a statement.

British authorities say Russian agents used a nerve agent in March 2018 to poison a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal. His daughter was also stricken. Both have since recovered.

In September, the Crown Prosecution Service charged the Russian GRU officers who used the aliases Petrov and Boshirov with attempted murder, conspiracy and possession of a nerve agent for the Skripal attack.

In addition to the Skripals, the nerve agent harmed three others who came in contact with it. One of them, Dawn Sturgess, died.

Russia has denied involvement in the poisoning, and Russian officials have called the allegations propaganda.

Emergency workers at the scene where a man and a woman were found in 2018 in critical condition at The Maltings shopping center in Salisbury, England. Ben Stanstall / AFP – Getty Images file

Given Europe’s open borders, Russian operatives don’t have much problem getting in and out to undertake spying operations, intelligence officials say. What’s notable about the revelations about the Alps base is that French authorities decided to make the information public.

The FBI is tracking as many as 200 Russian operatives in the United States, current and former officials say. But some slip through unnoticed, as was demonstrated by special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments accusing Russians of using social media propaganda to influence the 2016 election. The indictment said some of the defendants traveled to the U.S. under false pretenses “for the purposes of collecting intelligence.” But their scheme was not discovered until much later.

Michele Neubert reported from London.



Source link

43eda501f34ed284f445bedf3e2b740d

TROUBLES: MCCLATCHY Fears 'Ghost Papers'…


(Bloomberg Opinion) — When I interviewed Craig Forman, the chief executive officer of McClatchy Co., last week, shares of the regional newspaper chain stood at 39 cents. Like its peers, it has struggled as print advertising has dwindled and subscribers have abandoned ship. Last month, the company said in a regulatory filing that it might not be able to continue “as a going concern” because of a pension overhang. That explains the depressed stock price.

Coincidentally, last month was also when Alden Global Capital LLC bought a 25% stake in another struggling media company, Tribune Co. As I’ve noted before, the Alden Global business model is to treat newspapers as declining assets and bleed them for cash until there’s nothing left but a carcass. It will no doubt be imposing its draconian business model on the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and the other Tribune papers.

Meanwhile, in August, the New Media Investment Group announced that it was buying Gannett Co. and combining it with its GateHouse Media subsidiary, which instantly created the largest newspaper chain in the country. New Media is controlled by Fortress Investment Group, and its approach is not terribly different from Alden Global’s. People are starting to call papers owned by hedge funds “ghost papers” — defined by the New York Times as “thin versions of once robust publications put out by bare-bones staffs.”

Although they’ve had their share of layoffs, McClatchy’s 30 media properties, which include the Miami Herald, the Kansas City Star and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, are not ghost papers. A little more than a year ago, Julie K. Brown, a journalist at the Miami Herald, published an extraordinary expose of the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein; that series sparked an outcry that led to Epstein’s arrest in July. In October, the well-regarded McClatchy Washington bureau documented a disturbing rise in the rate of cancer treatments at Veterans Affairs hospitals. And just a few weeks ago, the Kansas City Star published a powerful examination of Missouri’s public defender system.

“We are still determined to do essential journalism of genuine impact in our communities,” Forman told me in an email a few days before we met.

The “death of local news” has become a meme among journalists. According to a study by University of North Carolina researchers, 1 in 4 papers has shut down since 2004. Newspaper employment has been cut in half. Combined weekday circulation has shrunk from 122 million to 73 million. The New York Times ran a series of articles over the summer called “The Last Edition,” which examined “the collapse of local news in America.”

But Forman believes that, notwithstanding that 39 cent stock price, McClatchy can beat the odds and craft a model that will allow it to avoid the clutches of a rapacious hedge fund. In fact, he says, that’s what McClatchy is doing. That’s what I wanted to talk to him about.

To be clear-eyed about this, it will be not be easy. In 2006, with industry-wide circulation already in steep decline, McClatchy bought another regional chain, Knight Ridder, for $4.5 billion. When the deal was completed, McClatchy was saddled with $5 billion in debt. (The “ball and chain of debt,” Forman called it when we spoke.) The company has to pay $124 million into its pension in 2020 — cash it doesn’t have. In the first three quarters of 2019, its adjusted earnings were a slim $64.9 million. Its revenue has declined 27 consecutive quarters on a year-over-year basis.

On the other hand, McClatchy has reduced its debt from $5 billion to $700 million and has pushed off further payments to 2026. McClatchy family members haven’t received a dividend in a decade. And it is negotiating with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. to take over its pension, which holds $1.3 billion in assets. These three moves — assuming the latter happens — will free up the cash McClatchy needs.

To do what, exactly? Forman’s goal is to complete a digital transformation that will allow McClatchy to thrive again by going from a business that relies primarily on advertising to one that relies mainly on digital subscribers, just as the New York Times and the Washington Post have done so successfully.

That may sound obvious, but no other regional chain has been able to accomplish it. That is partly because most of them were too busy cutting costs as revenue fell to spend the millions it would take to create a winning digital platform. And it’s partly because most of them lacked the scale to take full advantage of the ways digitalization could help revive them.

“It’s not just about putting your content on a website,” Forman told me. “Any digital effort has to be centralized.” A sophisticated digital platform is far too expensive for any one of McClatchy’s papers to do on its own — it has to be done companywide. If done right, it offers data analysis and analytics, targeting of potential customers, site personalization and so on.

Because McClatchy lacked a robust digital infrastructure during the 2016 election, “we mostly missed the Trump bump,” Forman said. The New York Times and the Washington Post have signed up millions of digital subscribers since the election. McClatchy hasn’t.

“We have newspapers in much of purple America,” Forman said, pointing to states such as Florida and Georgia where Democrats suddenly have at least a fighting chance. “That’s where the 2020 election is going to be decided.” This time, he wants McClatchy to be ready to offer digitized political news to a national audience hungry to consume it.

That may help on the margins, but for a company like McClatchy, the core subscriber is still going to live in the 30 metropolitan areas its papers serve. Forman told me that the top five categories McClatchy’s readers want are local opinion, breaking local news, sports, news-you-can-use service articles and investigations. That’s what his papers are trying to deliver. “You have to be essential to your community,” he said. The papers run by hedge funds have largely lost that ability because they are too thinly staffed. McClatchy is betting that high-quality digital journalism will be a winning strategy.

So far, McClatchy has 200,000 digital subscribers and nearly 500,000 “paid digital relationships,” which include print subscribers who have activated their digital accounts. This year, for the first time, its revenue is split 50-50 between subscriptions and advertising. But given that the chain’s total circulation is close to 1 million (1.3 million on Sundays), it has a long way to go.

“We’re in a race,” Forman told me. A race against the debt that will come due in six years. A race against the 2020 election that could boost its digital fortunes. A race to replace advertising dollars with subscription dollars while there’s still time.

Forman and McClatchy are running as fast as they can.

To contact the author of this story: Joe Nocera at jnocera3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Niemi at dniemi1@bloomberg.net

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Joe Nocera is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He has written business columns for Esquire, GQ and the New York Times, and is the former editorial director of Fortune. His latest project is the Bloomberg-Wondery podcast “The Shrink Next Door.”

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



Source link

4683202.vpx

Cellphone-linked face injuries on rise…


Add facial cuts, bruises and fractures to the risks from cellphones and carelessly using them.

That’s according to a study published Thursday that found a spike in U.S. emergency room treatment for these mostly minor injuries.

» Study: Cellphone use is causing ‘horns’ to grow in skulls of young people

The research was led by a facial plastic surgeon whose patients include a woman who broke her nose when she dropped her phone on her face. Dr. Boris Paskhover of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School said his experience treating patients with cellphone injuries prompted him to look into the problem.

Paskhover and others analyzed 20 years of emergency room data and found an increase in cellphone injuries starting after 2006, around the time when the first smartphones were introduced.

Some injuries were caused by phones themselves, including people getting hit by a thrown phone. But Paskhover said many were caused by distracted use, including texting while walking, tripping and landing face-down on the sidewalk.

Most patients in the study weren’t hospitalized, but the researchers said the problem should be taken seriously.

The study involved cases in a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission database that collects emergency room visit information from about 100 hospitals. The researchers tallied 2,500 patients with cellphone-related head and neck injuries from 1998 through 2017.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology.

» Study: Georgia cellphone law reduced distracted driving

Nationwide, they estimated there were about 76,000 people injured during that time. Annual cases totaled fewer than 2,000 until 2006, but increased steeply after that. About 40% of those injured were ages 13 to 29, and many were hurt while walking, texting or driving.

Cellphone use also has been linked with repetitive strain injuries in the hands and neck, and injuries to other parts of the body caused by distracted use.

“I love my smartphone,” Paskhover said, but he added that it’s easy to get too absorbed and avoiding injury requires common sense.

“People wouldn’t walk around reading a magazine,” he said. “Be careful.”

» Keeping your cellphone too close to your body can compromise your health, California officials warn