Ecuador’s president says “the road is clear” for Julian Assange to leave embassy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS)

 

Ecuador’s president says “the road is clear” for Julian Assange to leave embassy

QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuador’s president has ramped up pressure on Julian Assange to leave the country’s embassy in London. Lenin Moreno said Britain had provided sufficient guarantees the WikiLeaks founder won’t be extradited to face the death penalty abroad.

Moreno’s comments in a radio interview Thursday suggest that months of quiet diplomacy between the U.K. and Ecuador to resolve Assange’s situation is bearing fruit at a time when questions are swirling about the former Australian hacker’s legal fate in the U.S.

“The road is clear for Mr. Assange to take the decision to leave,” Moreno said, referring to written assurances he said he had received from Britain.

Lenin Moreno

Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno said conditions have been met for Assange to leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

 GETTY

Moreno didn’t say he would force Assange out, but said the activist’s legal team is considering its next steps.

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012, when he was granted asylum while facing allegations of sex crimes in Sweden that he said were a guise to extradite him to the U.S.

But his relations with his hosts have soured to the point that Moreno earlier this year cut off his access to the internet, purportedly for violating the terms of his asylum by speaking out on political matters.

Assange in turn sued, saying his rights as an Ecuadorian — he was granted citizenship last year as part of an apparent attempt to name him a diplomat and ferry him to Russia — were being violated.

Julian Assange

Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador on May 19, 2017, in London, England.

 GETTY

The mounting tensions has drawn Moreno closer to the position of Britain, which for years has said it is barred by law from extraditing suspects to any jurisdiction where they would face capital punishment.

But nothing is preventing it from extraditing him to the U.S. if prosecutors there were to pledge not to seek the death penalty.

Assange has long maintained the he faces charges under seal in the U.S for revealing highly sensitive government information on his website.

Those fears were heightened when U.S prosecutors last month mistakenly referenced criminal charges against him in an unrelated case.

The Associated Press and other outlets have reported Assange is indeed facing unspecified charges under seal, but prosecutors have so far provided no official confirmation.

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Thursday’s development comes after a revelation that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort traveled to Ecuador in 2017 in an effort to broker an investment deal between that country and China, his spokesman told CBS News. And during that trip, the spokesman said, Ecuador’s president raised the possibility of a deal that would remove Assange from the embassy.

Manafort’s trip to Ecuador and what he discussed regarding Assange has become a subject of speculation in recent weeks. Manafort recently dismissed a story that he met with Assange in person during the 2016 campaign as “false and deliberately libelous.”

On Monday, The New York Times reported that Manafort discussed Assange’s fate with Moreno at least twice.

General Flynn Supplies Lots Of Information To Mueller Investigation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE JOURNAL TIMES)

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser provided so much information to the special counsel’s Russia investigation that prosecutors say he shouldn’t do any prison time, according to a court filing Tuesday that describes Michael Flynn’s cooperation as “substantial.”

The filing by special counsel Robert Mueller provides the first details of Flynn’s assistance in the Russia investigation, including that he participated in 19 interviews with prosecutors and cooperated extensively in a separate and undisclosed criminal probe.

It was filed two weeks ahead of Flynn’s sentencing and just over a year after he became the first of five Trump associates to accept responsibility by pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Though prosecutors withheld specific details of Flynn’s cooperation because of ongoing investigations, their filing nonetheless underscores the breadth of information Mueller has obtained from people close to Trump as the president increasingly vents his anger at the probe — and those who cooperate with it.

This week, Trump lashed out at his former legal fixer, Michael Cohen, saying he is making up “stories” to get a reduced prison sentence after his latest guilty plea to lying to Congress. Trump also praised longtime confidante Roger Stone for saying he would “never testify against Trump,” adding in his tweet, “Nice to know some people still have ‘guts!'”

Mueller filing: Flynn gave substantial assistance
CNN
Special counsel Robert Mueller told a federal court that former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn has given “substantial assistance” to the Russia investigation and should not get jail time.
Published at: 9:39 PM, Tue Dec 04 2018

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It’s unclear if Trump will now turn his fury on Flynn, whom Trump grew close to during the 2016 campaign and who has drawn the president’s sympathy since he came under investigation.

Trump has repeatedly lamented how Flynn’s life has been destroyed by the special counsel’s probe. At one point, he tried to protect Flynn by asking former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into his alleged false statements, according to a memo Comey wrote after the February 2017 encounter.

That episode, which Trump has denied, is among those under scrutiny by Mueller as he probes whether the president attempted to obstruct the Russia investigation.

Federal sentencing guidelines recommend between zero and six months in prison for Flynn, leaving open the possibility of probation.

Mueller’s office said Flynn’s cooperation merits a sentence at the bottom end of that range. But prosecutors also say the long military and government service that sets him apart from all other defendants in the investigation makes his deception even more troublesome.

“Senior government leaders should be held to the highest standards,” they wrote. “The defendant’s extensive government service should have made him particularly aware of the harm caused by providing false information to the government, as well as the rules governing work performed on behalf of a foreign government.”

Flynn’s case has stood apart from those of other Trump associates, who have aggressively criticized the investigation, sought to undermine it and, in some cases, been accused of lying even after agreeing to cooperate.

Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, stands accused of repeatedly lying to investigators since his guilty plea last September. Another Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, is serving a 14-day prison sentence and, though he pleaded guilty to the same crime as Flynn, was denied probation because prosecutors said his cooperation is lacking.

But Flynn has largely remained out of the public eye, appearing only a handful of times in media interviews or campaign events, and dutifully avoided criticizing the Mueller probe despite widespread encouragement from his supporters to go on the offensive. He has instead spent considerable time with his family and worked to position himself for a post-conviction career.

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Flynn’s false statements stemmed from a Jan. 24, 2017, interview with the FBI about his and others’ interactions with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s then-ambassador to the U.S., as the Obama administration was levying sanctions on the Kremlin in response to election interference.

In Tuesday’s filing, Mueller’s office blamed Flynn for other senior Trump transition officials making misleading public statements about his contacts with Russia, an assertion that matches the White House’s explanation of Flynn’s firing.

“Several senior members of the transition team publicly repeated false information conveyed to them by the defendant about communications between him and the Russian ambassador regarding the sanctions,” the filing said.

As part of his plea deal, Flynn said members of Trump’s inner circle, including his son-in-law and White House aide Jared Kushner, were involved in — and at times directing — his actions in the weeks before Trump took office.

According to court papers, in mid-December 2016, Kushner directed Flynn to reach out to several countries, including Russia, about a U.N. Security Council resolution regarding Israeli settlements. During those conversations with Kislyak, Flynn asked Russia to delay or vote against the resolution, a request the Kremlin ultimately rejected.

Flynn also admitted that later in December 2016 he asked Kislyak not to retaliate in response to the Obama administration sanctions, something he initially told FBI agents he didn’t do. Flynn made the request after discussing it with deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland, who was at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, and being told that Trump’s transition team did not want Russia to escalate the situation.

Flynn was forced to resign his post on Feb. 13, 2017, after news reports revealed that Obama administration officials had warned the Trump White House about Flynn’s false statements. The White House has said Flynn misled officials— including Vice President Mike Pence — about the content of his conversations.

Flynn also admitted to making false statements about unregistered foreign agent work he performed for the benefit of the Turkish government. Flynn was under investigation by the Justice Department for the work when he became national security adviser.

In Yemen, Lavish Meals for Few, Starvation for Many

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

In Yemen, Lavish Meals for Few, Starvation for Many and a Dilemma for Reporters

A woman in the poor mountain village of Al Juberia, Yemen.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
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A woman in the poor mountain village of Al Juberia, Yemen. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

SANA, Yemen — At a restaurant in the Yemeni capital, Sana, a waiter brought bowls of slow-cooked lamb served with mounds of rice. For dessert there was kunafa, the classic Arab dish of golden brown pastry filled with cheese.

An hour later I was back at work, in a hushed hospital ward filled with malnourished children with skeletal faces, hanging between life and death for want of money and a good meal.

If that juxtaposition strikes you as jarring, even distasteful, it felt that way to me, too.

Crisis zones are often places of stark contrast, but in Yemen the gulf is particularly uncomfortable. The problem isn’t a lack of food; it’s that few people can afford to buy what food is available.

Years of blockades, bombs and soaring inflation have crushed the economy. A crushed state means there is no safety net.

As a result, beggars congregate outside supermarkets filled with goods; markets are filled with produce in towns where the hungry eat boiled leaves; and restaurants selling rich food are a few hundred yards from hunger wards filled with desperation, pain and death.

For a reporter, that brings a dilemma. Journalists travel with bundles of hard currency, usually dollars, to pay for hotels, transport and translation. A small fraction of that cash might go a long way for a starving family. Should I pause, put down my notebook and offer to help?

It’s a question some readers asked after we published a recent article on Yemen’s looming famine.

Many were touched by a powerful photograph by Tyler Hicks of Amal Hussain, an emaciated 7-year-old girl whose haunting stare brought the war’s human cost into shocking focus.

And many were devastated to learn that, soon after we left, Amal’s mother brought her back to the shabby refugee camp they call home, where she died a few days later.

Amal Hussain, who died at age 7 from malnutrition soon after this photograph was taken.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
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Amal Hussain, who died at age 7 from malnutrition soon after this photograph was taken.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times

Some, in their anguish, turned the focus back on us.

Why didn’t we do something to save Amal’s life, they wanted to know. Did we just take the photo, conduct the interview and move on? Couldn’t we have somehow ensured that her family would get help?

“You can take the picture AND provide assistance,” one woman said on Twitter. “One doesn’t rule out the other.”

The questions resonated. Reporters are trained to bear witness; aid workers and doctors have the job of helping people.

Donating money, or other forms of assistance, can be fraught with ethical, moral and practical complications. Is it fair to single out one person or family for help? What if they embellish their story for the next foreigner who comes along, thinking they could get more money?

Plus, we have a job to do.

Doctors show us around, and sometimes we end up acting like them — examining stick-like limbs and flaccid skin with clinical detachment; tabulating figures about weight and age; listening as families recount their tragedies with amazing calm. The prospect of death is discussed. We nod sagely, make a note, move on.

But while we may try to mimic a stone, we are not stones, and every day in Yemen someone told me something that made a lump rise in my throat.

COMMENT OF THE MOMENT

Sandra commented November 30

Sandra
Times Pick

Let’s cut to the chase and get the U.N. and it’s agencies in there. Just do it. The USA should be spear heading the effort. War between armies is one thing. War on starving people is quite another….no grey area! NONE!

SEE MORE

Usually it was a mundane detail, like the lack of a few dollars to take a dying child to the hospital. Yemen, you realize, is a country where people are dying for lack of a taxi fare.

An injured Yemeni fighter with the Saudi-led Arab coalition that is battling Iran-allied Houthis for control of Yemen at a field hospital in Durayhimi.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
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An injured Yemeni fighter with the Saudi-led Arab coalition that is battling Iran-allied Houthis for control of Yemen at a field hospital in Durayhimi.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times

Yemenis have to navigate such terrain, too.

While some are dying, others are getting on with living. One night we returned to our hotel in Hajjah, a town ringed by rocky ridges in a province that has been pummeled by Saudi airstrikes. Lying in bed, I was startled by a loud bang then a burst of light that filled the sky — not a bomb, but fireworks.

Since the start of the war, the rate of marriage in Yemen has gone up. And so, in this town where malnourished infants were perishing at the city hospital, others were dancing and celebrating through the night.

But the surge in weddings, it turned out, was a survival mechanism.

Across the social spectrum, Yemenis are sliding down the poverty ladder. Where once a mother bought a sack of rice to feed her family, now she can afford only a small bag. The hand of a daughter in marriage brings a bride price, and so weddings can be a source of income for stretched families.

Disturbingly, many of the brides are children. According to Unicef, two-thirds of Yemeni girls are married before the age of 18, up from 50 percent before the war.

As we crossed Yemen — from the battle-scarred port of Hudaydah to the Houthi-held mountains — on a bumpy 900-mile journey, we saw scenes of heartbreaking suffering that unfolded against a backdrop of spectacular mountains, and customs that stubbornly endure despite everything.

Every day, town centers bustled with men buying khat, the narcotic leaf beloved by Yemenis. The khat bazaars are a social event. Men, some with guns over their shoulders, gather to trade news, meet friends and prepare for the afternoon chew.

Women in black cloaks flitted between them; in one place, a loud argument erupted into fisticuffs. Even as starvation bites, some are reluctant to cut back on their habit.

In one health clinic, Ibrahim Junaid, a worried father standing over his ailing 5-month-old son, was chewing a lump of khat that left a green stain on his teeth and lips.

Mr. Junaid was 60; his wife, 25, stood silently by his side. The nurses wrapped the boy in a gold foil blanket to keep him warm.

Ibrahim Ali Mohammed Junaid, 60, and his wife Zahra Ali Ahmed, 25, taking their son, Ahmed Ibrahim al Junaid, 5 months old, to a clinic to treat his malnutrition.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
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Ibrahim Ali Mohammed Junaid, 60, and his wife Zahra Ali Ahmed, 25, taking their son, Ahmed Ibrahim al Junaid, 5 months old, to a clinic to treat his malnutrition.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times

Mr. Junaid regretted that his son hadn’t enough to eat, adding that he had a lot of mouths to feed; he had married twice, and fathered 13 children.

The value of practices like chewing khat may be hard to understand in such turbulent times. But for men like Mr. Junaid, it is an integral part of their day. And it is a mark of the resilience of an ancient society, one of the oldest civilizations of the Middle East.

“People say Yemen is in a state of chaos, but it’s not,” said Thierry Durand, an aid worker who has worked in Yemen since the 1980s, and now runs a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Mocha. “There is still structure.”

“You can’t put it in three lines in your paper or describe it in three minutes on TV,” he continued. “This country is structured by family, tribe, traditions — and despite everything, those structures are still there, and they are strong.”

Still, Yemeni society is being ravaged by war. Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, aided by American bombs, have killed thousands of civilians, and displaced many more. But for most Yemenis, war strikes their lives in quieter, more insidious ways.

Bombs blow up bridges or factories, killing jobs, causing the currency to crumble and prices to soar, and forcing families to abstain from meat, then vegetables. Soon, they are dependent on international food aid or, in the worst cases, resort to meals of boiled leaves.

A bridge in Bani Hassan was damaged by a Saudi airstrike.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
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A bridge in Bani Hassan was damaged by a Saudi airstrike.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times

Small but vital things, like a cab fare, become unattainable.

As we drove away from the small hospital in Aslam, where Amal Hussain was being treated, we passed a young couple hitching a ride on the side of the road. They were holding a small infant. We stopped and offered them a ride.

They squeezed into the passenger seat — the father, Khalil Hadi, enveloped by the black cloak of his wife, Hanna, who held their fragile 9-month-old son, Wejdan, who had just been released from the malnutrition ward.

Theirs was a typical story. Their home near the Saudi border had been bombed, so they rented a room in a house near Aslam. Mr. Hadi tried to earn money driving a motorbike taxi, and by foraging for wood to sell at the market.

But it wasn’t enough, and when he tried to go home, the Houthi soldiers told him the area was a military zone. Their diet was reduced to bread, tea and halas, the vine that grew locally. His wife was four months pregnant with their second child.

Mr. Hadi wasn’t looking for pity; many people were in similar trouble, he said. “I’d do anything to make some money,” he said. “The situation is so hard.”

At a junction in the road, the couple stepped out, offered thanks and began to walk away. Fumbling in my pocket, I called them back.

I pulled out a wad of Yemeni notes — about $15 worth — and pressed it into his hand. It seemed so futile, in the greater scheme of things. What could it buy them? A few days respite, if even that?

Mr. Hadi accepted the money with a gracious smile. As we drove off I saw the couple amble down a dusty road, toward their shelter, their ailing son held tight.

Khalil Hadi and his pregnant wife, Itanna Hassan Massani, carrying their 9-month-old son, Wejdan, from a clinic in Aslam.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
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Khalil Hadi and his pregnant wife, Itanna Hassan Massani, carrying their 9-month-old son, Wejdan, from a clinic in Aslam.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times

Follow Declan Walsh on Twitter:@declanwalsh

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Contrast in Crushed State Presents Journalists With Ethical Dilemma. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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Senator Corker mocks White House as ‘public relations firm’ for Saudi Crown Prince

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HILL NEWS)

 

Corker mocks White House as ‘public relations firm’ for Saudi crown prince

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday criticized the White House for acting like a “public relations firm” for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman after President Trump issued a statement defending U.S.-Saudi relations.

“I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” Corker wrote in a retweet of Trump’s statement questioning whether the crown prince was responsible for the death of U.S.-based dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Corker, who is set to retire as chairman of the Foreign Relations panel at the end of the year, recently criticized the White House for not sharing intelligence about the details of Khashoggi’s murder. He was killed last month by a team of Saudi agents after entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

The CIA recently concluded that Prince Mohammad was involved in the plan to kill Khashoggi based on an intercepted phone call and other evidence, according to multiple reports.

Trump, however, on Tuesday noted that King Salman and the crown prince have vigorously denied any knowledge of the planning or execution of Khashoggi’s murder.

“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in his statement.

Corker was the third prominent Senate Republican to criticize Trump’s statement on Tuesday.

He called earlier this month for sanctions against Saudi Arabia that went beyond the punishments the Trump administration has leveled against the 17 Saudi agents found to be directly involved in Khashoggi’s murder.

Corker praised those individual sanctions as “a significant step in that process that hopefully will involve additional action as well.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Senate’s State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, earlier on Tuesday issued a statement warning Trump not to look past Saudi Arabia’s behavior.

“It is not in our national security interests to look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” Graham said in a statement released late Tuesday afternoon.

Graham argued Tuesday that the Senate should act by voting on sanctions legislation.

“I firmly believe there will be strong bipartisan support for serious sanctions against Saudi Arabia, including appropriate members of the royal family, for this barbaric act which defied all civilized norms,” he said in his statement.

“While Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of the Crown Prince — in multiple ways — has shown disrespect for the relationship and made him, in my view, beyond toxic,” he added.

Graham is one of several Republican cosponsors of the Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act, which would suspend weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, prohibit U.S. planes from refueling Saudi coalition aircraft involved in the civil war in Yemen, and require a report on human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.

The other GOP cosponsors are Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), members of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another member of the Foreign Relations Committee, earlier on Tuesday criticized Trump’s statement as promoting a “Saudi Arabia First” policy instead of an “America First” doctrine, as the president claimed.

Paul has called for a vote on legislation blocking an arms sale to Saudi Arabia that Trump has valued at $110 billion.

 

Federal Judge Orders White House To Restore CNN’s Jim Acosta’s ‘Hard Pass’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND ABC NEWS)

 

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump White House to immediately restore the press pass of CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta as the case progresses after the network filed a lawsuit suit claiming that revoking it violated the First Amendment.

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The judge repeatedly emphasized that his decision was based on the Fifth Amendment and that Acosta was denied his right to due process.

“If at some point after restoring the hard pass the government would like to move to vacate the restraining order on the grounds that it has fulfilled its due process obligations then it may, of course, do so and I will promptly address that and then the remaining basis of the (temporary restraining order),” U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly said.

Speaking after the ruling, Ted Boutros, an attorney for CNN said the news organization is “extremely pleased with the ruling today.”

“A great day for the First Amendment and journalism,” he said. “We’re very excited to have Mr. Acosta be able to go back and get his hard pass and report the news about the White House.”

Acosta thanked journalistic colleagues for their support and the judge for his ruling.

“Let’s go back to work,” Acosta said.

PHOTO: CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta smiles as he departs after a judge temporarily restored his White House press credentials following a hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, Nov. 16, 2018.Carlos Barria/Reuters
CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta smiles as he departs after a judge temporarily restored his White House press credentials following a hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, Nov. 16, 2018.more +

CNN and Acosta filed suit against President Donald Trump and top aides on Tuesday for stripping Acosta, without warning, of his access to the White House, where he works daily. The indefinite revocation of Acosta’s press credentials, known as a “hard pass,” came on the heels of a heated exchange between Trump and Acosta on Nov. 7.

PHOTO: CNNs White House correspondent Jim Acosta arrives for a hearing at the U.S. District Court on Nov. 16, 2018 in Washington.Mark Wilson/Getty Images
CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta arrives for a hearing at the U.S. District Court on Nov. 16, 2018 in Washington.more +

Earlier in the week, CNN and Acosta filed an emergency motion to have Acosta’s press pass immediately reinstated as the court case continues and asked for a ruling from Kelly, a Trump-appointed U.S. district judge.

The American Civil Liberties Union in a statement applauded Friday’s ruling saying it “reaffirms that no one, not even the president, is above the law.

“The White House surely hoped that expelling a reporter would deter forceful questioning, but the court’s ruling will have the opposite effect,” Ben Wizner, the ACLU’s director of speech, privacy and technology project wrote in a statement. “The freedom of the press is a bedrock principle, and our democracy is strengthened when journalists challenge our leaders rather than defer to them.”

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Turkey gives recordings on Khashoggi’s death to Saudis, US, Britain

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Turkey gives recordings on Khashoggi’s death to Saudis, US, Britain — Erdogan

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) Recordings related to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death have been passed on to Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday.

Khashoggi was killed after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain paperwork for his marriage.
Speaking before his departure to Paris for World War I commemorations, Erdogan said: “We passed on the recordings. We gave them to Saudi Arabia, to America, to the Germans, French and the English — we gave them all.”
He did not elaborate on what was on the recordings.
Erdogan said the killer, or killers, would be known to the 18 suspects identified by Turkish authorities — including 15 men who arrived from Saudi Arabia shortly before Khashoggi’s death.
He again called on Saudi Arabia to provide answers as to what happened to Khashoggi and his body, which has not yet been found.
Erdogan has previously demanded that Saudi Arabia hand over the 18 suspects for prosecution in Turkey but the kingdom has insisted that those responsible for Khashoggi’s death will be tried in Saudi Arabia.
The Turkish chief prosecutor said 10 days ago that Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the Saudi consulate, as part of a premeditated plan, and his body dismembered.
Sons of slain Saudi journalist speak to CNN

Erdogan’s confirmation that recordings relating to Khashoggi’s death have been handed to key international players is the latest in a drip-feed of details released by Turkey in the weeks since the journalist disappeared.
Revelations from the Turkish side have helped to keep up diplomatic pressure on Saudi Arabia to explain what happened.
US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron both want to get “greater detail” about the events surrounding Khashoggi’s killing, a French presidential spokesman said following a meeting between the pair Saturday in Paris.
Both leaders agreed “something very serious happened — that this assassination was serious and unacceptable,” the spokesman said at a briefing on the bilateral talks.
However, neither leader wants to do anything that could destabilize Saudi Arabia, the spokesman said, adding that the United States considered Saudi Arabia to be the “cornerstone of everything in the Middle East.”
The leaders did not discuss what should happen to the culprits, the spokesman noted, describing it as an “internal Saudi matter.”
The Saudis have presented shifting stories about the journalist’s fate, initially denying any knowledge before arguing that a group of rogue operators, many of whom belong to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s inner circle, were responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
The Saudi attorney general then said the Turkish side had provided information indicating that the killing was premeditated. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister and Energy Minister have both described Khashoggi’s death as “murder.”
Riyadh has maintained that neither bin Salman nor his father, King Salman, knew of the operation to target Khashoggi. US officials have said such a mission — including the 15 men sent from Riyadh — could not have been carried out without the authorization of bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler.
After Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi was killed in its Istanbul consulate, five high-ranking officials were dismissed, including bin Salman’s media chief and the deputy head of the Saudi intelligence service. Eighteen people were arrested.

Why the Arab World Needs Democracy Now

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

(BY JAMAL KHASHOGGI)

Why the Arab World Needs Democracy Now

In April Jamal Khashoggi gave this speech, saying the dangerous idea of the benevolent autocrat, the just dictator, is being revived in the Arab world.

By Jamal Khashoggi

Mr. Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist.

Image
A Saudi flag at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Jamal Khashoggi was killed. Credit Ozan Kose/Agence France-Press — Getty Images

Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian journalist who was killed by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, was the keynote speaker at a conference in April organized by the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver and the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington. Excerpts from his speech, edited for clarity and length, are below.

I am from Saudi Arabia, where the issues of democracy and Islam are very much relevant. When a Saudi official wanted to brush away the question of democracy, in the past, he would always raise the question of whether democracy is compatible with Islam.

The debate about the relationship between Islam and democracy conclusively ended with the coming of the Arab Spring, when the people of the Arab world, — especially the youth, and even the Islamist, including some Salafis, who were always critical of democracy — supported the protests for democratic and political change. Other Salafis remained very critical of democracy, viewing it as “kufr,” or un-Islamic, based on the belief that democracy represents a rejection of religious values.

The long voting lines during the 2012 elections in Tunisia and Egypt clearly demonstrated that the people of the Arab world were ready for change. They enthusiastically participated in democratic elections, including Islamist parties that had often been the focus of the debate on Islam’s compatibility with democracy.

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Those images from Egypt and Tunisia of men, women, young, and old going to the polls should be contrasted with the sham elections we see today in Egypt and in other parts of the Arab world. This is an argument we can use against anyone who might claim that “Arabs are not ready for democracy.”

Today, Saudi Arabia is struggling with different aspects of modernity — with cinemas, art, entertainment, mixing of the sexes, opening up to the world, rejecting radicalism. The tight grip that the religious establishment has had on social life is gradually loosening.

But while we’re pursuing all these forms of modernity, the Saudi leaders are still not interested in democracy, They aren’t advancing the old, lame excuse that democracy is not compatible with Islam, however. Instead, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic they’re saying that absolute monarchy is our preferred form of government.

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Indeed, we are living in the age of authoritarianism. Some people believe that it is a better form of political rule. They argue that societies need a great leader and that democracy will undermine the ability of the great leader to guide his people to a better future.

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Today around a dinner table in Riyadh, Cairo or Amman, you are likely to hear intellectuals who were once considered liberals, who once supported liberty, political change and democracy, say, “Arabs are not ready for democracy.” If you push back against this argument, you would be told: “Even if Arabs are ready for democracy, they don’t know how to take advantage of it. They always make the wrong choice.”

A related argument is, “The Islamist and the Muslim Brotherhood have kidnapped the Arab Spring.” In my country, a variant of this argument is: “The Saudis don’t know how to choose. If we have democracy, they will not vote out of their conscience, they will vote based on their tribal loyalties.”

A popular argument in the Arab world is that we need a strong leader. You can hear it in Egypt from an Egyptian businessman who supports the ruling regime. You can hear it from a doubtful Jordanian, maybe even a doubtful Tunisian who seeks a return to the old order.

A Saudi friend of mine who was raised abroad openly defends the term “benevolent autocracy.” He is prepared to write about the value of benevolent autocracy in an American newspaper and thinks it is the best choice for Saudi Arabia.

It is the old notion of the “mustabidu al-adl,” or the just dictator, that died with the rise of Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi, a late-19th-century Arab-Muslim reformist of Syrian origin. The Arab and Muslim intellectuals who followed Kawakibi supported democracy or at least some variant of it.

Regrettably, though, the idea of the benevolent autocrat, the just dictator, is being revived in the Arab world. A chorus of anti-democratic Arab and non-Arab voices are using the media and the lobbyists to oppose democracy. I’m told that at the Riyadh International Book Fair in March, which I was not able to attend, one of the books on display was called “Against the Arab Spring.”

Democracy in the Arab world is also under attack from radical Islamists who are making a comeback as the so-called Islamic State or as the Salafis fighting in Libya alongside Khalifa Hifter (who was a general in Muammar Gaddafi’s army and is now backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt). They preach against democracy in the mosques — and through acts of violence.

We must reassure people in the Arab world who either have lost hope in democracy because of its perceived failures or because they fell victim to the concentrated propaganda about democracy coming from television networks run by states and the intellectuals aligned with them.

When I use the term “democracy” I mean it in the broader sense of the term that overlaps with values such as liberty, checks and balances, accountability and transparency. We were aiming for these goals in the form of good governance, equality, and justice in the Arab world. There is another reason we need democracy now in the Arab world: to stop mass violence.

Today, there are two kinds of Arab countries. Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco, need democracy for good governance and the checks and balances it brings.

But for war-torn countries like Libya, Syria and Yemen, democracy would lead to some form of power sharing. It can be along the lines of the Afghanistan arrangement, where you bring all of the factions in one huge room and force them into an agreement on how to share power. The chief reason the wars in these countries are continuing is the lack of a mechanism for power sharing.

The immediate need for Libya, Syria and Yemen is not good governance, but a mechanism to stop the killing. Inevitably, the question of good governance will emerge. There is great hope for democracy in other countries that have not been mired in civil or internal conflict, such as Tunisia, which is struggling toward a lasting democratic system.

Many of my Tunisian friends, despite the progress they have made, are also worried about democracy. They do not want to appear to be preaching to the rest of the Arab world. They simply want to be left alone. Yet I still think that Tunisians have an important responsibility.

News channels that are supportive of freedom and political change in the Middle East should spend a considerable amount of time covering even municipal elections in Tunisia. Every Saudi, every Egyptian and every Syrian should see what the Tunisians are enjoying. I hope it will inspire the rest of the Arab world to work for a similar form of government for themselves.

We need to defend the rights of the Arab people to have democracy in our own countries, in our own localities, but at the same time we must speak to foreign leaders, foreign powers and foreign parliamentarians. They have a role to play and many of them have begun to lose hope in the prospects of Arab democracy.

Some of them are now repeating the old racist statement, “Arabs are not ready for democracy [because they are Arabs].” The Trump administration has zero interest in supporting democracy in the Arab world. Even the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has suggested that there will be little political change in Egypt or in Saudi Arabia.

People are losing hope in democracy because of the failure of the Arab Spring revolts. They’re afraid of ending up like Syria. Many Arab regimes, their television networks, their writers, their commentators, are trying to scare people off democracy by actively promoting this idea.

Both Arab citizens and foreign leaders are affected by the limited reforms that Arab leaders are pursuing. In Saudi Arabia there are serious reforms that Prince Mohammed is leading. Many of my Saudi colleagues are saying I should support them. I do support them.

My position is that we should take what we have and build on it.

When Mr. Macron stood next to Prince Mohammed, he made this point and he was correct to do so. We need to support the crown prince in his effort to reform Saudi Arabia because if we let him down, he will come under pressure from radical elements who are not willing to reform.

These limited reforms and the general political condition of the Arab world today are adding strength to the argument of the anti-democracy forces. This unfortunate reality puts more responsibility on our shoulders to resume our work and to redouble our efforts to push for democracy in the Arab world as a realistic choice for people and a solution to the failure of many Arab states.

Jamal Khashoggi was a Washington Post Global Opinions contributing columnist.

Jamal Khashoggi’s Son Meets Saudi King And Crown Prince In Disgraceful Photo Op

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Jamal Khashoggi’s Son Meets Saudi King And Crown Prince In Disgraceful Photo Op

Salah Khashoggi likely had no real choice to refuse the man who allegedly ordered his father’s murder.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) shakes hands with Salah Khashoggi, son of Jamal Khashoggi, in Riyadh on Oct. 2

SAUDI PRESS AGENCY VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) shakes hands with Salah Khashoggi, son of Jamal Khashoggi, in Riyadh on Oct. 23, 2018.

Officials in Saudi Arabia summoned Salah Khashoggi, the eldest son of the late journalist Jamal Khashoggi, to a palace in Riyadh on Tuesday, where he posed for photos with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

While the Saudis claim that the son “expressed … great thanks to the Saudi King and Crown Prince for their condolences,” the pictures suggest otherwise, and with good reason.

Mohammed bin Salman reportedly ordered the operation that resulted in the death, allegedly by torture, of Jamal Khashoggi earlier this month. His body was allegedly then dismembered. Under international pressure, the Saudis admitted last week that Khashoggi died in an altercation in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist, was living in the U.S.

King Salam (right) speaks to Salah Khashoggi during the photo op.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
King Salam (right) speaks to Salah Khashoggi during the photo op.

Salah Khashoggi himself has been barred from leaving Saudi Arabia since last year because of his father’s criticism of the Saudi regime, a friend of the Khashoggi family told the Associated Press.

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Regardless of the intent behind the staged photos, the event didn’t sit well with observers on Twitter, many of whom noted its similarity to other forced photo ops with murderous tyrants:

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Jorge Guajardo

@jorge_guajardo

MBS meeting with Khasshogi’s son in Saudi Arabia (left) reminded me of Saddam Hussein meeting with foreign “guests” (unable to leave) in Iraq before Desert Storm.

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Elizabeth Tsurkov

@Elizrael

The photo shoot of Khashoggi’s son with MbS, the man who probably ordered the murder of his father, reminds me of the time @WJoumblatt had to go meet Hafez al-Assad, shortly after apparently Hafez ordered the murder of Walid’s father, Kamal. Video: http://bit.ly/2R4wfwS 

Piers Morgan

@piersmorgan

REPULSIVE.
Saudi tyrant ‘MBS’ – aka Mohammed Bone Saw – forces Jamal Khashoggi’s son to do a PR photo-op handshake, days after ordering his father’s torture, dismemberment & murder.
A new low, even by the medieval standards of this barbaric crown prince.

Rula Jebreal

@rulajebreal

This is sickening! I’m outraged
The Saudi Regime is forcing Salah Jamal Khashoggi, Jamal Khashoggi’s own son, to shake the hand of the mastermind behind his father’s murderer.
The international community must pressure King Salman to lift the travel ban on Salah Jamal Khashoggi.

Ragıp Soylu

@ragipsoylu

BREAKING — Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince MbS met two members of #Khashoggi family, one of them is son Salah – SPA

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Saudi Shura Council Calls for Unity to Confront Media Campaigns against Kingdom

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi Shura Council Calls for Unity to Confront Media Campaigns against Kingdom

Monday, 22 October, 2018 – 17:30
The Saudi Shura Council meets in Riyadh. (SPA)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The Saudi Shura Council called on Monday for unity to confront the media campaigns that are targeting the Kingdom, reported the Saudi Press Agency.

Speaker of the Council Sheikh Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al Al-Sheikh vowed that the campaign is doomed to fail.

He made his remarks during the opening of the 57th regular session of the Shura Council held in Riyadh.

He added that Saudi Arabia is victim of a fierce biased campaign that is targeting its regional and international image and is seeking to drive a wedge between its leadership and people.

He urged the people to display unity to defend the Kingdom’s achievements.

The Shura Council members must remain in contact with impartial media circles to help clarify facts and highlight the Kingdom’s role in maintaining regional and international stability and security, he added.

Houston Chronicle endorses Beto O’Rourke (Not Ted Cruz) in Texas Senate race

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HILL NEWS)

 

Houston Chronicle endorses Beto O’Rourke in Texas Senate race

The Houston Chronicle on Friday endorsed Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke in his bid to unseat incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the closely watched Texas Senate race.
“With eyes clear but certainly not starry, we enthusiastically endorse Beto O’Rourke for U.S. Senate,” the Chronicle’s editorial board wrote in its endorsement. “The West Texas congressman’s command of issues that matter to this state, his unaffected eloquence and his eagerness to reach out to all Texans make him one of the most impressive candidates this editorial board has encountered in many years.”
The board notes that O’Rourke, a congressman in an El Paso-based district, faces “long odds” to become the first Democrat Texas could vote into the Senate in three decades. The board writes that a victory for O’Rourke would be beneficial for the state “not only because of his skills, both personal and political, but also because of the manifest inadequacies of the man he would replace.”
The board, which notes that it endorsed Cruz’s candidacy in the 2012 Senate race, criticized Cruz in its endorsement of O’Rourke, saying the incumbent has exhibited “little interest in addressing the needs of his fellow Texans during his six years in office.”
“For Cruz, public office is a private quest; the needs of his constituents are secondary,” the board wrote, also citing his pivotal role in a federal government shutdown in 2013, as well as his “nay” vote for the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act — a law that authorized $60 billion for relief agencies that were aiding Hurricane Sandy victims.
The board also pointed to the negative public comments Cruz has received from his Republican colleagues.
Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) once said, “I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the board notes, once said: “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”
“What sets O’Rourke apart, aside from the remarkable campaign he’s running, are policy positions in keeping with a candidate duly aware of the traditionally conservative Texas voter he would be representing in the U.S. Senate,” the board continues.
The board then goes on to conclude that O’Rourke would serve as a check to President Trump, whom it describes as a “danger to the republic.”
“Cruz is unwilling to take on that responsibility.”
O’Rourke has gained a national following in his quest to unseat Cruz for his Senate seat. Still, polls have shown Cruz maintaining a solid lead. A poll released by CNN this week showed Cruz with a 7-point advantage. The nonpartisan Cook Political report has rated the race a “toss-up.”

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