Category: New Posts

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Mass rally in London for new Brexit vote…


The crowds stretched so far back that plenty of people never even made it to the rally.

Masses overflowed through the streets of London for more than a mile, from Hyde Park Corner to Parliament Square, as an estimated 670,000 protesters took their demand for a fresh Brexit referendum right to Theresa May’s doorstep.

They came from every corner of the UK, in what is believed to be the largest demonstration since the Iraq War march in 2003, when more than a million people turned out in the capital to oppose the conflict.

Amid the swathes of EU flags and banners, there was also a growing sense that campaigners, MPs and activists were realising, perhaps for the first time, that this was a battle that could be won.

“We were the few, and now we are the many,” Tory MP Anna Soubry told the crowds crammed into Parliament Square.

“We are winning the argument and we are winning the argument most importantly against those who voted Leave.”

She said: “We will not walk away. We will take responsibility and sort out this mess with a people’s vote.”

Speaking to The Independent beforehand, she said many Tory MPs were privately supportive of a second referendum amid bitter divisions in the party.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said the sheer scale of the event showed that “confidence is growing” in the fight for a fresh vote.

To huge cheers, London mayor Sadiq Khan said the march marked a “historic moment in our democracy”.

He told protestors: “We’ve heard some complain that a public vote would be undemocratic and unpatriotic. But the opposite is true.

“There’s nothing more democratic – nothing more British – than trusting the people to have the final say on our future.”

MPs from across the political spectrum addressed the rally, including Green MP Caroline Lucas, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, Labour’s Chuka Umunna and Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, who drew huge cheers when she compared Brexit to a botched operation.

Christian Broughton, editor of The Independent, told the crowds: “Theresa May says that the Final Say referendum will be a politicians’ vote, not a people’s vote, but we can all remember what some politicians told us in 2016.

“We, the people, can all now see what’s really coming. And from where I’m standing it looks like a people’s vote to me.”

He revealed that The Independent’s petition for a Final Say had achieved more than 940,000 signatures, adding: “We have to keep on showing up and signing up.”

People did show up in their thousands for the march, which was extremely cheerful, except for a handful of Ukip protestors who screamed “Losers” at passers-by from outside Downing Street.

An army of students, college pupils and young activists led the march in a sign of the impact of the Brexit vote on the younger generation, some 1.4 million of whom have become eligible to vote since the referendum.

Femi Oluwole, from the youth group Our Future Our Choice, told The Independent: “What we are trying to do is bring people together, as nobody has any confidence in what the government is doing.”

He said young people were going to be hit hardest by Brexit, both economically and in the opportunities to live and work abroad.

Among the crowds was Piero Passet, a 71-year-old restaurant owner from Turin, said he was marching because he was concerned for the future of the younger generation.

He said: “I’ve lived in London for 49 years but I am more concerned about my children and my grandchildren.

“I still have my Italian passport but I don’t want to be stuck at Gatwick airport in long queues.”

Mr Passet said he was already struggling to recruit staff, as many eastern European and Spanish workers no longer felt welcome in the UK.

Ruby Savins, 13, had travelled from Brighton with her parents Nick and Celia.

She said: “I’ve come because of my future. I think Brexit is wrong and I think we should stop it altogether. 

“We all think that it is wrong and we think we should remain together.”

Jo Law, 31, and her partner Phuong La, 23, came to protest about how Brexit was creating a toxic atmosphere.

Ms Law, from south London, said: “I’m here because of my girlfriend. Trying to get a visa for her is just impossible.

“It’s all about immigration.”

Corinna Lewis, a 37-year-old German student, had travelled from her home in Canterbury to show her support for a Final Say vote, as she was not eligible to vote during the 2016 referendum.

She said: “I’ve been in England for 10 years but I couldn’t vote. I don’t think that’s fair.


Editor of The Independent Christian Broughton speaks at the People’s Vote march in London

“I think there are lots of people who are absolutely engaged but were excluded from the vote.” 

Also among the crowds was Lord Of The Rings actor Andy Serkis, who described it as “one of the most, if not the most important march of a generation”.

Other famous faces included Sir Bob Geldof, TV presenter Richard Bacon, Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden, comedian Jenny Eclair and Holby City actors Catherine Russell and Hugh Quarshie.

Ahead of the march, a Downing Street spokeswoman told The Independent that people had a right to speak out, but that the prime minister had made clear her position in regards to a new referendum.

While the protestors gathered, Ms May visited an exhibition in her constituency, entitled Maidenhead And Me, featuring work by local artists.


The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.

Sign our petition here



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King asserts authority…


DUBAI (Reuters) – So grave is the fallout from the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi that King Salman has felt compelled to intervene, five sources with links to the Saudi royal family said.

Last Thursday, Oct. 11, the king dispatched his most trusted aide, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, governor of Mecca, to Istanbul to try to defuse the crisis.

World leaders were demanding an explanation and concern was growing in parts of the royal court that the king’s son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to whom he has delegated vast powers, was struggling to contain the fallout, the sources said.

During Prince Khaled’s visit, Turkey and Saudi Arabia agreed to form a joint working group to investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance. The king subsequently ordered the Saudi public prosecutor to open an inquiry based on its findings.

“The selection of Khaled, a senior royal with high status, is telling as he is the king’s personal adviser, his right hand man and has had very strong ties and a friendship with (Turkish President) Erdogan,” said a Saudi source with links to government circles.

Since the meeting between Prince Khaled and Erdogan, King Salman has been “asserting himself” in managing the affair, according to a different source, a Saudi businessman who lives abroad but is close to royal circles.

Saudi officials did not immediately respond to Reuters questions about the king’s involvement in helping to supervise the crisis. A spokesman for Prince Khaled referred Reuters to government representatives in Riyadh.

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and leading critic of Prince Mohammed, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Turkish officials say they believe the Saudi journalist was murdered there and his body removed, allegations which Saudi Arabia has strongly denied.

Initially the king, who has handed the day-to-day running of Saudi Arabia to his son, commonly known as MbS, was unaware of the extent of the crisis, according to two of the sources with knowledge of the Saudi royal court. That was partly because MbS aides had been directing the king to glowing news about the country on Saudi TV channels, the sources said.

That changed as the crisis grew.

“Even if MbS wanted to keep this away from the king he couldn’t because the story about Khashoggi’s disappearance was on all the Arab and Saudi TV channels watched by the king,” one of the five sources said.

“The king started asking aides and MbS about it. MbS had to tell him and asked him to intervene when Khashoggi’s case became a global crisis,” this source said.

Since he acceded to the throne in January 2015, the king has given MbS, his favorite son, increasing authority to run Saudi Arabia. But the king’s latest intervention reflects growing disquiet among some members of the royal court about MbS’s fitness to govern, the five sources said.

MbS, 33, has implemented a series of high-profile social and economic reforms since his father’s accession, including ending a ban on women driving and opening cinemas in the conservative kingdom.

But he has also marginalized senior members of the royal family and consolidated control over Saudi’s security and intelligence agencies.

His reforms have been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, a purge of top royals and businessmen on corruption charges, and a costly war in Yemen.

Khashoggi’s disappearance has further tarnished the crown prince’s reputation, deepening questions among Western allies and some Saudis about his leadership.

“Even if he is his favorite son, the king needs to have a comprehensive view for his survival and the survival of the royal family,” said a fourth Saudi source with links to the royal court.

“In the end it will snowball on all of them.”

Saudi officials did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

MISCALCULATION

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied any role in Khashoggi’s disappearance. But the sources familiar with the royal court said the reaction from the United States, an ally for decades, had contributed to the king’s intervention.

“When the situation got out of control and there was an uproar in the United States, MbS informed his father that there was a problem and that they have to face it,” another source with knowledge of the royal court said.

The crown prince and his aides had initially thought the crisis would pass but they “miscalculated its repercussions”, this source said.

Turkish officials have made clear they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, and two Turkish sources have told Reuters police have audio recordings to back up that assertion.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican close to President Donald Trump, on Tuesday accused MbS of ordering Khashoggi’s murder and called him a “wrecking ball” who is jeopardizing relations with the United States. He did not say what evidence he was basing the allegation on.

Trump said on Thursday he presumed Khashoggi was dead but that he still wanted to get to the bottom of what exactly happened. Asked what would be the consequences for Saudi Arabia, Trump said: “Well, it’ll have to be very severe. I mean, it’s bad, bad stuff. But we’ll see what happens.”

Trump has previously said “rogue killers” may have been responsible and has ruled out cancelling arms deals worth tens of billions of dollars. On Tuesday, Trump said he had spoken with MbS and that the crown prince told him he did not know what had happened in the consulate where Khashoggi went missing.

The case poses a dilemma for the United States, as well as Britain and other Western nations. Saudi Arabia is the world’s top oil exporter, spends lavishly on Western arms and is an ally in efforts to contain the influence of Iran.

But in a sign of the damage, a succession of international banking and business chiefs, including IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, JP Morgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon and Ford Chairman Bill Ford, have pulled out of a high-profile investment conference in Saudi Arabia this month.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday also abandoned plans to attend, as did Britain’s trade minister and the French and Dutch finance ministers, putting the event in question.

Saudi officials have said they plan to move forward with the conference, scheduled for Oct. 23-25, despite the wave of cancellations.

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud is seen during a meeting with U.N Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the United Nations headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. March 27, 2018. To match Insight SAUDI-POLITICS/KING REUTERS/Amir Levy/File Photo

Neither JP Morgan nor Ford would elaborate on the reasons for the decision not to attend and did not comment on whether concerns about the disappearance of Khashoggi were a factor.

Lagarde had previously said she was “horrified” by media reports about Khashoggi’s disappearance. An IMF spokesperson did not give a reason for her deferring her trip to the Middle East.

TAKING CONTROL

Before the king’s intervention, Saudi authorities had been striking a defiant tone, threatening on Sunday to retaliate with greater action against the U.S. and others if sanctions are imposed over Khashoggi’s disappearance. A Saudi-owned media outlet warned the result would be disruption in Saudi oil production and a sharp rise in world oil prices.

“Reaction and threats to the possible sanctions of the last 24 hours were still (coming) from the crown prince,” the businessman close to royal circles said on Monday. “The king is now holding the file personally … and the tone is very different.”

The king has spoken directly with Erdogan and Trump in recent days. Both the king and his son met U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he visited Riyadh on Tuesday.

King Salman, 82, spent decades as part of the inner circle of the Al Saud dynasty, which long ruled by consensus. In four decades as governor of Riyadh, he earned a reputation as a royal enforcer who punished princes who were out of line.

Whether he is willing or able to resume that role in this crisis remains unclear, palace insiders say. One source with links to the royal court said the king was “captivated” by MbS and ultimately would protect him.

Still, there is precedent for the king’s intervention.

He stepped in this year to shelve the planned listing of national oil company Saudi Aramco, the brainchild of MbS and a cornerstone of his economic reforms, three sources with ties to government insiders told Reuters in August. Saudi officials have said the government remains committed to the plans.

And when MbS gave the impression last year that Riyadh endorsed the Trump administration’s still nebulous Middle East peace plan, including U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the king made a public correction, reaffirming Riyadh’s commitment to the Arab and Muslim identity of the city.

Despite these rare instances of pushback, several of the sources close to the royal family said that King Salman had grown increasingly detached from decisions taken by MbS.

“He has been living in an artificially-created bubble,” said one of the sources. Lately, though, the king’s advisers have grown frustrated and begun warning him of the risks of leaving the crown prince’s power unchecked.

“The people around him are starting to tell him to wake up to what’s happening,” the source said.

Reporting by Reuters correspondents; Editing by Nick Tattersall

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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White privilege symposium will feature 'racial justice' board game…


Board game ‘supports and encourages cross-cultural understanding’

A community college will host a “white privilege symposium” today and tomorrow that will explore such topics as “constructive white conversations” and “the n!gga(er) word” as well as a “racial justice” board game.

North Shore Community College’s Power, Privilege, Progress: Awareness to Action event is billed as an “engaging, deep learning experience with an exchanging of ideas on the issues of privilege and power in the history of our country.”

Attendees of the event will hear from keynote speakers and participate in workshops such as “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys” and “Ten Reasons Why America Can’t Talk about Race.” The cost of attendance is $75; students will pay $50 and North Shore Community College students will attend free.

One workshop at the event will be devoted to a play-through of the board game “Road to Racial Justice,” which, according to the game’s website, “supports and encourages cross-cultural understanding and compassionate action in order to help create a more loving and just world.” The board game was created by Kesa Kivel, “a Los Angeles-based educator, artist and activist engaged in social justice issues.”

Some of the game’s discussion prompts include situations such as: “The mascot for your school’s football team is a person dressed up as a warlike Native American” and “Under U.S. law, farmworkers — who are mostly Latino — have no right to overtime pay, and children as young as 12 are allowed to work in the fields.”

One scenario the game provides for the farmworker prompt is: “Find out which stores and restaurants buy fruits and vegetables from unethical farmers, and encourage your friends and family to boycott these places.”

“Players will become more aware that racism exists in many everyday situations (interpersonal and institutional), learn why the situations are racist (stereotyping, tokenism, cultural appropriation, etc.), and acquire tools to interrupt these kinds of situations,” the website says of the board game.

Other workshops scheduled for the symposium include “Unpacking The N!gga(er) Word,” “Constructive White Conversations” and “Completely Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack: The Liabilities of White Privilege How White Privilege Hurts White Peopl [sic].”

The event’s website states: “This is not about blame; it is about listening deeply, talking with each other, and increasing our awareness bringing us closer to the understanding we all desire.”

Laurie Carlson, listed as a contact for the event on the school’s website, did not respond to requests for comment on the expected attendance at the symposium or the content of its workshops. As of Thursday evening, 22 guests indicated they are attending on the symposium’s Facebook event page.

The symposium is organized in part by the Privilege Institute, which states that its mission it to “equip and empower people, organizations, institutions, and communities committed to action and accountability related to issues of diversity, power, privilege and leadership.” The Privilege Institute also organizes the larger White Privilege Conference, begun twenty years ago at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa.

While costs for the event were not readily available, at least one speaker, Claudia Fox Tree, who is hosting a panel titled “Whose History Matters? A Reflection on First Nations Stereotypes and Myths,” charges between $1500 and $2500 to speak in the Concord, MA area.

MORE: ‘White Privilege Symposium’ allows people to play ‘social justice’ video game

MORE: University workshops help white people develop ‘positive white racial identity’

IMAGE: Fotmya / Shutterstock.com

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First case of Mad Cow in decade on UK farm…


Scotland’s government says a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, had been discovered on a farm in Aberdeenshire, in Scotland.

The disease was discovered after the animal died.

Four others in the herd were destroyed as a precaution.

The government said other precautionary movement restrictions have been put in place at the farm, while further investigations are carried out to identify the origin of the disease.

“I have activated the Scottish government’s response plan to protect our valuable farming industry, including establishing a precautionary movement ban being placed on the farm,” Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s farming minister, said in a statement.

It’s the first case of the disease in Scotland in 10 years, the BBC reports.

© RAW 2018



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Assembles team of cooperators…


Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE has assembled a list of figures cooperating with his Russia investigation that could provide him with substantial insight into the workings of the Trump campaign.

Mueller’s ability to turn associates of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration ‘clamped down’ on Saudi intel, canceled briefing MORE into cooperators has been a key facet of his investigation, lending both strength to a probe that has pressed on for nearly a year and a half amid withering public scrutiny.

Legal analysts expect former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortMueller assembles team of cooperators in Russian probe Hillicon Valley: Russia-linked hackers hit Eastern European companies | Twitter shares data on influence campaigns | Dems blast Trump over China interference claims | Saudi crisis tests Silicon Valley | Apple to let customers download their data Mueller’s team asking Manafort about Roger Stone: report MORE and other recruits to bring the special counsel closer to getting to the bottom of whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow, though doing so may hinge on Mueller striking deals with even more figures.

With Mueller’s probe advancing behind closed doors, it is impossible for onlookers to judge the value or extent of any one witness’s cooperation.

At the same time, observers say the deals Mueller has struck signal he believes their cooperation to have significant value.

“If they have struck a deal where they’re going to cooperate, then that’s a pretty good indication that special counsel’s office believes they have something worth cooperating over,” said Jack Sharman, a former special counsel to Congress for the Whitewater investigation.

In Manafort, the newest cooperator, the special counsel has a window into the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between top campaign aides and a lawyer with connections to the Russian government.

The key question surrounding the Trump Tower meeting and other key events is whether members of the campaign conspired with Russia to damage Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMueller’s team asking Manafort about Roger Stone: report O’Rourke targets Cruz with several attack ads a day after debate GOP pollster says polls didn’t pick up on movement in week before 2016 election MORE’s presidential ambitions, and to what level any such conspiracy rose in the campaign.

One-time national security adviser Michael Flynn is also viewed as valuable to Mueller’s investigation because of his role in the campaign and, briefly, the administration, and because of his own contacts with Russians.

Flynn pleaded guilty last December to lying to FBI investigators about his discussions with then Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions on Moscow during the presidential transition. Court documents show he also talked about those conversations with other members of the Trump campaign.

Mueller asked a federal court to move forward with Flynn’s sentencing last month, a signal the special counsel believes he has gleaned all the information he can from the former adviser, and a sentencing date has been set for Dec. 18.

Other campaign associates also have been ensnared in the investigation.

Richard Gates, Manafort’s longtime business partner, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and false statements charges in February and began to cooperate with Mueller’s team in their case against Manafort related to illegal foreign lobbying.

It was Gates’ testimony that ultimately helped prosecutors secure a guilty verdict against Manafort on eight counts of bank and tax fraud in Virginia federal court over the summer. Manafort was due to begin a second trial in D.C. in September, but instead agreed to plead guilty and work with prosecutors.

Others who have agreed to assist the special counsel but are not considered key figures.

Richard Pinedo, a California man who pleaded guilty and cooperated in the case against the Russian troll farm, was sentenced to six months in prison. Mueller also secured an obscure cooperator in Sam Patten, a GOP operative and former Manafort associate. Neither was involved in the Trump campaign.

The first person known to be cooperating with Mueller’s probe was George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosMueller assembles team of cooperators in Russian probe Calif. man ensnared in Mueller probe sentenced to 6 months in prison The Mueller investigation: Where it stands at the midterms MORE.

Mueller’s team, however, has signaled that it gleaned little from the former campaign adviser, whose guilty plea made headlines last October when it revealed he had been told the Russians possessed “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails” — before WikiLeaks began releasing hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee.

“It was at best begrudging efforts to cooperate and we don’t think they were substantial or significant in any regard,” Andrew Goldstein, one of Mueller’s prosecutors, said at Papadopoulos’s sentencing hearing last month.

Papadopoulos was sentenced to 14 days in federal prison for lying to FBI agents about his Russia contacts. He subsequently told CNN he has “no recollection” of sharing information about emails possessed by the Russians but couldn’t “guarantee” it.

Mueller’s team has also reportedly interviewed Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, though no formal agreement cementing his cooperation has been publicly released. 

Sharman said the value of various people now talking to Mueller’s team could vary depending on what offenses they are looking into, and who they are considering charging with crimes.

He also acknowledged the opacity of the matter, something exacerbated by the fact that Mueller never speaks to the press.

“Nobody knows outside of that office and outside of the grand jury, what the substance of anyone’s cooperation is,” Sharman said.

Trump has long scorned the Mueller investigation as a witch-hunt and claimed charges against Manafort and others have nothing to do with his presidential run.

He acknowledged in August, however, that the Trump Tower meeting was predicated on getting “information on an opponent,” undermining a statement by his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpMueller assembles team of cooperators in Russian probe Election Countdown: O’Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage Senate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia MORE, last year that it primarily focused on American adoptions of Russian children. The participants have said that the meeting did not ultimately bear fruit.

“My son’s a good young guy. He did what every other person in Congress would do if somebody came up to them, said, ‘Hey, I have information on your opponent,’” Trump told the Associated Press in an interview Tuesday. “There was nothing wrong with having an opposition research meeting and nothing happened from the meeting.”

Manafort, who attended the meeting along with Trump Jr. and Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerMueller assembles team of cooperators in Russian probe Secret Service: Agent who blocked reporter questioning Kushner reacted to ‘abrupt movement’ Kushner and Saudi crown prince communicated informally on WhatsApp: report MORE, would have been privy to discussions concerning the meeting and could potentially speak to Trump’s knowledge of it. The president claims he had no advanced knowledge of the meeting.

“He can talk about the conversations that took place before, during and after,” said Seth Waxman, a former federal prosecutor in D.C.

“I would put Manafort leaps and bounds above everyone else simply because of the time and effort the government put in to flip him,” Waxman said. “When the government goes as hard and as deep on someone like Manafort, it’s because they want him for a purpose and they believe he has very valuable information.”

Manafort’s value extends beyond his involvement in the Trump Tower affair. Having spent five months as campaign chairman, Manafort could answer questions about the softening of language in the Republican Party’s platform on Ukraine and any possible accords with the Russians.

Former federal prosecutors also expect Mueller’s team to question Manafort on whether the campaign had advanced knowledge of Democratic emails hacked by Russia.

Court filings and proceedings have offered glimpses of the information provided by other players.

It was not initially clear whether Gates, who also worked on the Trump campaign and later on the transition, was cooperating beyond the Manafort case. However, a recent filing from his attorney suggests he is helping Mueller on other aspects of the investigation.

In a motion asking the court to remove Gates’ GPS tracker and lift some of his travel restrictions last week, his attorney, Tom Green, wrote that Gates’ interviews with the special counsel’s team “have been numerous and they continue to this day.”

Neither Manafort nor Gates have been sentenced, though Manafort will appear in federal court in Virginia on Friday as Judge T.S. Ellis looks to move forward with his sentencing for the bank and tax fraud charges.

There is broad agreement that Mueller is unlikely to take major overt steps in the investigation before the midterm elections, reflecting what has become routine practice of Justice Department officials to avoid moves that could be construed as political close to an election.

Bloomberg, citing anonymous officials, reported Wednesday that Mueller is expected to issue findings on his inquiries into collusion and obstruction of justice after the elections, under pressure from Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinRosenstein says Mueller probe is ‘appropriate and independent’ The Hill’s 12:30 Report — Trump requests Turkey’s evidence on missing journalist | Takeaways from Texas Senate debate | Key Mueller findings could be ready after midterms Mueller to present key findings related to Russia probe after midterms: report MORE to complete the probe as quickly as possible.

Trump said Tuesday that his legal team was reviewing a series of written questions that Mueller had submitted for him on the collusion inquiry.

“We are looking at certain questions having to do with the word collusion,” Trump told the AP. “Of course there was no collusion. So we are looking at that, and we’ll make a determination.”

Meanwhile, recent grand jury appearances by associates of Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneMueller assembles team of cooperators in Russian probe Mueller’s team asking Manafort about Roger Stone: report Collusion judgment looms for key Senate panel MORE suggest that Mueller is circling the longtime Trump ally, who has been scrutinized for his links to WikiLeaks.

It is possible that Mueller has brought other cooperators into the fold who are unknown to the public; this could include individuals who have plea agreements that are under seal, who have not yet been charged, or who have voluntarily agreed to cooperate.

“Your job as a prosecutor is to go as high up the chain of the organization as you can and prosecute the most culpable people and put an end of their criminal conduct,” said Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney in Alabama.

“He’ll want to keep going so that the people who he prosecutes are the people who are the most responsible for any criminal conduct he uncovers. No prosecutor wants to stop at the midway point, [though] sometimes you have to because you don’t acquire enough evidence to go higher,” Vance said.

 

 



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Newly published files confirm plan to move Assange to Russia…


LONDON (AP) — Julian Assange: Hacker. Journalist. Diplomat?

Newly released Ecuadorean government documents have laid bare an unorthodox attempt to extricate the WikiLeaks founder from his embassy hideaway in London by naming him as a political counselor to the country’s embassy in Moscow.

But the 47-year-old Australian’s new career in international affairs was nipped in the bud when British authorities vetoed his diplomatic status, effectively blocking him from taking up the post in Russia.

The files were made public late Tuesday by Ecuadorean opposition lawmaker Paola Vintimilla, who opposes her government’s decision to grant Assange nationality. They largely corroborate a recent Guardian newspaper report that Ecuador attempted the elaborate maneuver to get Assange to Moscow just before Christmas last year.

Russian diplomats called the Guardian’s story “fake news,” but the government files show Assange briefly was made “political counselor” to the Ecuadorean Embassy in Moscow and eligible for a monthly salary pegged at $2,000.

Ecuador also applied for a diplomatic ID card, the documents show, but the plan appears to have fallen apart with the British veto.

A letter dated December 21, 2017 from Britain’s Foreign Office said U.K. officials “do not consider Mr. Julian Assange to be an acceptable member of the mission.”

An eight-page memo to Vintimilla summing up the episode noted that Assange’s position as counselor was scrapped a few days later.

WikiLeaks did not return messages. The British Foreign Office and the Russian Embassy in London declined to comment.

Assange’s relationship with Russian authorities has been the subject of intense scrutiny following the 2016 U.S. election, when Russian spies are alleged to have handed WikiLeaks leaked emails from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign in a bid to help elect her rival, Donald Trump.

Assange has denied receiving the files from the Russian government or backing the Trump campaign, despite a growing body of evidence suggesting he received material directly from Russia’s military intelligence agency and coordinated media strategy with Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.

Last month, the AP published internal WikiLeaks files showing Assange tried to move to Russia as early as 2010.

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Online:

The Ecuadorean government’s letter to Vintimilla: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5004881-Carta-Canciller.html

Internal Ecuadorean government documents: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5004882-Annexes.html

The AP’s WikiLeaks files: https://www.documentcloud.org/search/projectid:40593-WikiLeaks

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Raphael Satter can be reached on: http://raphaelsatter.com



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Half Births Now Happen Outside Marriage, Signaling Cultural Shift…


The EU likely sees more births out of wedlock because many member countries have welfare systems that support gender-balanced child care, said Michael Hermann, UNFPA’s senior adviser on economics and demography, in an interview. Public health care systems, paid paternal leave, early education programs and tax incentives give unwed parents support beyond what a partner can provide.



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Meet man poised to battle Dems from White House…


Pat Cipollone is poised to take on one of the most difficult jobs in Washington: counsel for President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O’Rourke’s debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF’s Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE’s White House.

The commercial litigator has been chosen by the president to replace outgoing White House counsel Don McGahn at a time when Democrats are salivating at the prospect of congressional power.

Many might not want to take on the high-profile assignment, which could be grueling and demanding come January. If Democrats take control of the House after the Nov. 6 midterm elections, Cipollone would be the lead defense against an investigative assault being readied on Capitol Hill.

Experts say the seats that flip next month from red to blue will likely become occupied by lawmakers who promised to serve as a check on Trump through investigations and subpoenas. Some even campaigned on promises to impeach him.

Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University professor of law and opinion contributor to The Hill, said McGahn has faced one of the most trying periods as a White House counsel in the history of the position, working for a client who was unpredictable and often uncooperative.

“The new White House counsel is going to face a different but equally challenging set of issues,” he said. “He will very likely face a House of Representatives under the control of the Democrats, which means he will likely face a hostile house of Congress with subpoena power.”

Democrats need to net 23 seats to take back the House in November. Polling analysis site FiveThirtyEight said Democrats have around an 84 percent chance of winning the majority.

Democrats are said to be eyeing an ambitious legislative agenda, and they appear ready to flex their oversight muscles.

“What I have been asking my Republican chairmen to do all along is to gather basic facts about the crisis of corruption in the Trump Administration,” Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsTrump makes new overtures to Democrats Dems eye ambitious agenda if House flips Oversight Dems call for probe into citizenship question on 2020 census MORE (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement. “The waste, fraud, and abuse is plain to see — and the most important thing for the Oversight Committee to do is to get back to regular order by obtaining documents and interviewing witnesses, and actually holding the Trump Administration accountable to the American people.”

If Democrats are wielding committee gavels, they are expected to launch various investigations into administration actions ranging from its separation of families crossing into the U.S. illegally to the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Investigations into Trump’s tax returns and possible violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution are also likely.

But some former officials say it shouldn’t be the counsel’s job to defend the president against personal criminal wrongdoing.

“There should be outside counsel hired by the White House to do that,” said Alberto Gonzales, who served as White House counsel in the George W. Bush administration before becoming U.S. attorney general.

The in-house counsel’s main job, Gonzales said, should be brokering deals between Congress and the White House when it comes to investigations and requests.

“Congress is going to want access to information, documents and emails in connection to certain decisions, and the White House is going to push back,” he said. “The White House counsel negotiates with Congress to reach an accommodation, maybe give a briefing or written summary.”

If all else fails, Gonzales said, executive privilege can be exerted, but it should be a weapon of last resort.

McGahn is expected to step down at some point this fall, though that date has not been announced. Asked when McGahn plans to leave his post, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said Tuesday that the administration does not have any announcements at this time. Trump told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Cipollone would be the next White House counsel.

Cipollone, a litigation partner at the D.C. firm Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner LLP, has donated at least $23,000 to Republican candidates since 2004, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, which did not indicate he contributed to Trump’s campaign. But he was an early supporter of Trump, according to multiple media reports.

As White House counsel he will be expected to put the office above his allegiance to the man who helms it.

“The White House counsel is there to protect the integrity of the White House and the office of the presidency,” Turley said. “It’s an unpleasant task to tell the president he’s contemplating an action that is either unlawful or unwise.”

Trump is known for demanding loyalty from the people he appoints, and for excoriating those he feels have betrayed him. Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDepartment of Justice right to go after Hezbollah Sessions defends media following disappearance of Saudi journalist Trump goes on 12-tweet Twitter tirade MORE has seen it firsthand. The former senator from Alabama has been the subject of repeated attacks stemming from his decision in 2017 to recuse himself from oversight of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump said he would not have hired Sessions as the nation’s top prosecutor if he had known that would happen.

“I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,” Trump told Hill.TV last month.

Experts say that when Cipollone takes the job he should be particularly mindful of the fact that there is no absolute attorney–client privilege protecting the White House counsel’s conversations with the president.

“He’s at grave risk to himself, his bar license and perhaps even criminal prosecution if he does everything Trump tells him to do,” said Richard Painter, former chief ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush White House. “He’s going to have his work cut out for him.”

McGahn provided detailed accounts to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s team regarding an inquiry into whether Trump obstructed justice in the Russia probe, The New York Times reported in August.

Painter, who launched an unsuccessful bid for former Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenMinnesota GOP Senate candidate compared Michelle Obama to a chimp in Facebook post Former campaign aide to New Jersey governor says she was sexually assaulted by his ex-staffer Prosecutor drops some charges against Harvey Weinstein MORE’s (D) seat in Minnesota after switching to the Democratic Party, said Trump is a client who doesn’t understand the legitimate functions of the Justice Department, the federal government or its intelligence agencies.

“He believes they are there to serve his political purposes. He says it on Twitter,” Painter said.

“It’s a challenging job,” he added. “For a White House lawyer, you either have to say no to Trump or risk assisting him in the obstruction of justice.”



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Film lifts lid on secretive GLOCK pistol empire…


VIENNA (AFP) – 

From Hollywood to hip hop, it’s the weapon that is wielded by cops and outlaws alike. The Glock pistol has achieved global cult status but the business is still shrouded in mystery in its native Austria.

A new documentary about the Glock, titled “Weapon of Choice”, says that since it was invented in the early 1980s by a previously unknown Austrian engineer called Gaston Glock, the brand has been the object of a “cult of secrecy”.

Directors Fritz Ofner and Eva Hausberger have tried to shed some light on the company, whose 89-year-old founder has always shunned publicity.

“Hundreds of press articles (on Glock) have appeared in Austria but they’re almost all about the company’s charitable activities or society events,” Ofner told AFP.

That could be because the firm is not reticent about taking action in the courts against those it deems to have unfairly damaged its reputation.

Ofner said the filmmakers were threatened with legal action when the documentary was in its early stages, followed by a letter from the company’s lawyers once it was finished, “asking for a list of all the people we had worked with on the film”.

That “sword of Damocles” meant a year’s delay to the release date, said Ofner.

– ‘Steve Jobs’ of the pistol –

The strict secrecy around the Glock empire is of a piece with the character and background of its mould-breaking founder, said Ofner.

In the early 1980s Gaston Glock was running a business making knives and curtain rods when he decided to answer a call for tenders put out by the Austrian army, which wanted to update its pistols.

He devised a firearm that revolutionised the field: made largely of non-metal components, “lighter, easier to take apart, more reliable, able to carry more bullets” than other brands.

“You can really compare Glock — who had no experience at all in firearms — to Steve Jobs who invented the first Apple product in his garage,” says Ofner.

Once the contract with the Austrian army was in the bag, the company’s worth soared when it entered the American and then the global market, being adopted by police, gangsters and even jihadists.

Between 2014 and 2017, the company’s worth is estimated to have risen by almost 50 percent to 464 million euros ($538 million).

It employs some 1,325 people in four production sites, including at its headquarters in the town of Deutsch-Wagram, 20 kilometres (12 miles) outside Vienna.

American pop culture in particular has helped Glock attain its iconic status.

“It’s a new weapon which coincided with a new music: some hip hop and gangsta rap artists immediately adopted this minimalist black object, which fitted so well with their aesthetic,” Ofner said.

And as luck would have it, Gaston Glock’s surname offers ample rhymes: lock, pop, cop, shock, drop…

“At the end of the 1990s, Glock was the most mentioned brand in the American Top 50,” according to Ofner.

As for security forces, the Glock is also used by most US police forces as well as the US, Iraqi and Norwegian armies.

– Larger-than-life characters –

The film adds to the air of intrigue surrounding the firm with interviews with two notorious ex-associates of the company — the only ones who would talk to the filmmakers.

Gaston Glock’s former right-hand man in the United States, Paul Jannuzzo, was jailed for fraud before being released in 2013 when the conviction was quashed under the statute of limitations.

Jannuzzo said he was the victim of a vendetta on the part of his old employer.

The filmmakers also travelled to a Luxembourg prison to interview Charles Ewert — also known as “Panama Charly” — who is currently serving a 20-year sentence for attempting to have Glock killed in 1999 after they fell out over financial disagreements.

Faced with a cast of such larger-than-life characters, the directors don’t even attempt to get into the story of Glock’s ex-wife Helga, with whom he has been embroiled in a legal battle for years over the terms of their divorce.

Now remarried to a woman 50 years his junior, the billionaire has lately been investing in horse-racing, opening a vast equestrian complex in southern Austria.

The Glock Horse Performance Center plays host both to races and red-carpet events graced by the likes of Robbie Williams and Naomi Campbell.

According to an investigation carried out jointly by the Dossier website and Austria’s Der Standard newspaper — and which was published to coincide with the film’s release — three government ministers from the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) have been hosted at the Center as guests of the Glocks.

© 2018 AFP



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Washington to Decide on First-of-Its-Kind Carbon Fee…


(Bloomberg) — Whatever you do, don’t call it a tax.

Voters in Washington state will go to the polls Nov. 6 to decide whether or not they want to impose a first-of-its-kind “fee” on carbon emissions. Ballot initiative 1631 marks the second time the state will vote to put a cost on emissions. A prior effort, labeled a carbon tax, failed when it was on the ballot two years ago.

Proponents including Democratic Governor Jay Inslee and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates are hoping the new proposal — which the state estimates would raise $2.3 billion for clean-energy investment by 2025 — will win more backing. If passed, it would be the first effort of its kind enacted by referendum anywhere in the world, making the state a global leader in climate policy at the same time the Trump administration is reversing some federal measures.

“If it passes, it would encourage carbon-tax supporters in other states — as a matter of political reality, this means ‘blue’ states — to pursue analogous referendums,” said Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates in Houston, said in an email.

Because Washington is already one of the cleanest U.S. states in terms of greenhouse gases, a carbon fee would be less of a burden for households there than in other places, according to Neelesh Nerurkar, vice president with the Washington-based research firm ClearView Energy Partners LLC.

Fifty percent of registered voters support the measure, with 36 percent opposed, and 14 percent undecided, according to a poll conducted Oct. 4 to Oct. 9 by Elway Research and Crosscut, an online news provider. The margin of error is 5 percent.

The idea is to make carbon pollution more expensive so people will use less fossil fuel. Though with abundant hydroelectric power, Washington is already among the least carbon-intensive states in the nation, ranking ninth lowest in U.S. Energy Information Administration data. It produces more hydroelectric power than any other state — more than double Oregon, which ranks second.

So the Washington measure isn’t likely to change the world, but “doing something is better than doing nothing,” said Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University’s environmental economics program.

Ballot initiative 1631 would impose a fee beginning in 2020 on major emitters of carbon dioxide, including refineries, power utilities and oil and gas producers. The amount would start at $15 per ton of emitted CO2 and increase by $2 a year, plus inflation, until the state meets its 2035 emissions goal to cut CO2 to 25 percent below 1990 levels.

The “NO on 1631” political-action committee estimates it would increase state gasoline prices as much as 14 cents a gallon. The group led by the Western States Petroleum Association — which faults the measure for exempting other major polluters — has amassed more than $21.3 million to fight the state proposal. Washington is the fifth-largest state in terms of refining capacity.

The measure “creates an un-level playing field within our industry, raising energy prices and failing to provide adequate transparency and accountability,” said Jamal Kheiry, a spokesman for Marathon Petroleum Corp., one of the top corporate donors along with Phillips 66 and BP Plc.

Backers of the measure — who have raised $8.49 million — were emboldened by two events last week:

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a 700-page report chastising world leaders for their inaction on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and William Nordhaus of Yale University won half of the 2018 Nobel Prize in economics for research on how carbon-emissions pricing can drive change in the energy sector and in consumer behavior.

“The UN report is a seal of approval, that we’ve accurately assessed the dangers to our state,” Inslee said in an interview. “It’s a scientific coda to what we’re feeling personally. We’re choking on smoke from fires the last two summers. We’re seeing our shellfish industry damaged because of ocean acidification.”

The money the measure would raise is earmarked for environmental and community programs — not the state treasury — meaning it’s technically not a tax, Harvard’s Stavins said.

In the 2016 referendum, 59 percent of Washington voters rejected the carbon tax, which would have used revenue from the levy to cut other taxes and provide rebates to low earners. Environmental activists broke ranks over what to do with the proceeds, with some pushing for spending on renewable energy, public transit and communities inundated with pollution.

The 2018 version, developed in consultation with labor and social justice groups, American Indian tribes, communities of color, health organizations and business groups, is more politically viable because it invests in programs people want, said Mo McBroom, director of government relations for The Nature Conservancy, which has pumped $1 million into the pro-carbon-fee campaign. A third of the money raised will go to addressing forest-fire risk and water-supply issues and the rest to carbon-reduction strategies.

‘Incentives and Activities’

“Our strategy is more focused on investing in the incentives and activities on the ground that will make us less reliant on fossil fuels,” she said. The 2016 measure “had no chance of passing” because the public “did not want to tax itself in order to pay for tax breaks.”

Average household fuel costs would rise by $13 a month, according to the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, a Seattle-based group that develops and analyzes economic and policy proposals.

“What we have found is that people understand that their children’s health is worth a few dollars a month,” Inslee said. “You have excess pollution and inadequate health and this simply tries to reduce that externality by imposing a cost on something that is a cost to all of us.”



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