U.S. Decries Violence During Turkish President’s Washington Visit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

U.S. decries violence during Turkish president’s Washington visit

 (My question is, why were these protesters so close to a visiting President in the first place?)
By Yeganeh Torbati | WASHINGTON

The United States on Wednesday said it was voicing its “strongest possible” concern to Turkey over violence that erupted between protesters and Turkish security personnel during Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington.

Police said the fighting that flared outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence on Tuesday injured 11 people, including a Washington police officer, and led to two arrests.

“We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

A video posted online showed men in dark suits chasing protesters and punching and kicking them as baton-wielding police tried to intervene. Two men were bloodied from head wounds as bystanders tried to assist dazed protesters.

Erdogan was in the U.S. capital on Tuesday to meet with President Donald Trump.[nL2N1II15R] A spokesman for the Turkish embassy could not be reached for immediate comment.

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati and Ian Simpson; Editing by Richard Chang and Tom Brown)

Former Obama Justice Department official slams Sessions over drug sentencing reversal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF YAHOO NEWS)

Former Obama Justice Department official slams Sessions over drug sentencing reversal

Caitlin Dickson

Breaking News Reporter
Yahoo News May 15, 2017

Vanita Gupta, the former head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, called Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ harsh new sentencing policy “incredibly disappointing” in an interview Monday.

Last week, Sessions directed all federal prosecutors to pursue “the most serious, readily provable offense,” including those that carry mandatory minimum sentences — effectively reversing course on Obama-era policies aimed at drug sentencing reform.

Gupta, who also served as principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration, said the move was not entirely surprising given Sessions’ record in the Senate of resisting criminal justice reform. Still, she told Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric, the new policy marked a “resounding step backwards into the 1980s of failed policies in our criminal justice system that resulted in us having the highest incarceration rate of industrialized nations in the world.”

“It’s a real throwback in a lot of ways, and very troubling,” Gupta said, arguing that Sessions seems more guided by politics and rhetoric than evidence showing that mass incarceration is ineffective as a means of promoting public safety.

Evidence-based criminal justice reform is “one of the few issues that has brought Americans of all political stripes together over the last several years,” she said. “Yet the attorney general and [the Trump] administration seem to be out of line with the evidence and the momentum for reform.”

Gupta’s comments echoed a statement issued by former Attorney General Eric Holder last week, in which he called Sessions’ new tough sentencing policy “dumb on crime.”

Gupta had some equally harsh words for the president’s newly created commission to target voter fraud and its co-chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a leading proponent of restrictive voting laws.

Obama Deputy AG’s concerns over Trump’s Election Integrity Commission in two words: ‘Kris Kobach’

Vanita Gupta, former principal deputy assistant attorney general and acting head of the Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division under President Obama, spoke to Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric about President Trump’s creation of an Election Integrity Commission. She described her concerns in two words: “Kris Kobach,” the Kansas secretary of state.

In addition to the fact that several studies have found no evidence of mass voter fraud in the U.S., Gupta said there is “simply no way to take this commission seriously or to think that it is in any way independent, given that Kris Kobach has been named at the helm of it.”

Kobach, who has publicly supported Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud during the 2016 election, insisted on CNN Monday that the commission “is not set up to disprove or to prove President Trump’s claim, nor is it just looking at the 2016 election.”

“We’re looking at all forms of election irregularities — voter fraud, voter registration fraud, voter intimidation, suppression — and looking at the vulnerabilities of the various elections we have in each of the 50 states,” he said.

But Gupta isn’t buying it.

“It really just feels like a response to a political promise,” she said, adding that more than anything, the commission “seems to be setting the stage for efforts at mass voter suppression down the road.”

“I think those of us who care about voting rights are deeply, deeply troubled by this commission,” Gupta said.

Obama Deputy A.G. on Sessions, Comey’s firing and Trump’s Election Integrity Commission

Vanita Gupta, the former principal deputy assistant attorney general and acting head of the Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division under President Obama, spoke to Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric about Attorney General Sessions rolling back Obama- era guidance on sentencing, the firing of FBI Director James Comey and President Trump’s newly created Election Integrity Commission.

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Donald Trump thinks he invented the phrase ‘priming the pump.’ That’s telling

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Donald Trump thinks he invented the phrase ‘priming the pump.’ That’s telling.

President Donald Trump walks from Marine One across the South Lawn to the White House in Washington, Sunday, May 7, 2017, as he returns from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.

(CNN) There’s a very odd — and telling — moment in President Donald Trump’s interview with The Economist released Thursday morning. Here it is:

TRUMP: We have to prime the pump.
ECONOMIST: It’s very Keynesian.
TRUMP: We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. Have you heard that expression before, for this particular type of an event?
ECONOMIST: Priming the pump?
TRUMP: Yeah, have you heard it?
ECONOMIST: Yes.
TRUMP: Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.
Trump, quite clearly, believes he came up with the phrase “prime the pump.” Or at least that he is the first person to use it in regards the potential kick-starting effect of tax cuts on an economy.
Not so, according to the increasingly cheeky Twitter account of the Merriam Webster Dictionary that noted shortly after Trump made the claim that “the phrase ‘priming the pump’ dates to the early 19th century,” adding: “‘Pump priming’ has been used to refer to government investment expenditures since at least 1933.”
A simple slip of the tongue by Trump? I don’t think so.
Here’s the thing with Trump: He is someone who has always created his own version of events and reality. One of his tried and true tactics as a businessman was, no matter the outcome of a deal, to declare victory and move on. He would aim to win the next day’s press story — knowing that for lots of people not paying close attention that would be all they would hear.
And he didn’t stop doing it once he became a candidate for president. He would simply say things — Muslims were celebrating on the roofs in northern New Jersey after 9/11, Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in JFK’s assassination (or maybe he wasn’t!), all the polls showed him beating Hillary Clinton — that weren’t factually true but seemed right to him. His gut — the much-ballyhooed origin of most of Trump’s political instincts — told him this stuff was right, so who were fact checkers and biased media types to tell him — or his supporters — differently?
Trump kept building his own world once in the White House. He would have won the popular vote except for the 3 to 5 million votes cast by undocumented immigrants. His inauguration crowd was the biggest ever. His first 100 days were among the most successful of any president ever. And so on and on and on.
It didn’t matter that all of these things were provably false. What mattered (and matters) is that Trump believed them. That made them truth to him.
Which brings us back to him inventing the phrase “prime the pump.” Of course he didn’t do that. But Trump came up with it in relation to his tax reform plan — raising the deficit in the near term via tax cuts in the belief they will “prime the pump” for future economic growth — so he, naturally, believed he was the first one to think it up.
That takes some significant self-regard. But also a sense that if you say it, it must be new and true. And Donald Trump believes that whatever he says is, by definition, new and true.

Boko Haram releases 82 Chibok girls three years after kidnapping:

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Boko Haram releases 82 Chibok girls three years after kidnapping: Nigerian officials

By Ulf Laessing | ABUJA

Boko Haram militants have released 82 schoolgirls out of a group of more than 200 who they kidnapped from the northeastern town of Chibok in April 2014, officials said on Saturday.

The girls were released through negotiations with the government, one official said, asking not to be named.

A military source said the girls were currently in Banki near the Cameroon border for medical checks before being airlifted to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

The kidnapping was one of the high-profile incidents of Boko Haram’s insurgency, now in its eighth year and with little sign of ending. About 220 were abducted from their school in a night-time attack.

More than 20 girls were released last October in a deal brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Others have escaped or been rescued, but 195 were believed to be still in captivity prior to this release.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said last month the government was in talks to secure the release of the remaining captives.

Although the Chibok girls are the most high-profile case, Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of adults and children, many of whose cases have been neglected.

The militants have killed more than 20,000 people and displaced more than 2 million during their insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria.

Despite the army saying the insurgency is on the run, large parts of the northeast, particularly in Borno state, remain under threat from the militants, and suicide bombings and gun attacks have increased in the region since the end of the rainy season late last year.

(Reporting by Felix Onuah, Tife Owolabi, Ahmed Kingimi and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Hugh Lawson)

Watchdog: Mexico One of most Dangerous Countries for Journalists

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

Watchdog: Mexico One of most Dangerous Countries for Journalists

Mexico

Mexico has been slammed for successive presidents’ failure to stop violence against journalists or to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

A report from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said that Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, and the few cases in which killers go to jail have not made a dent in such violence.

The group added that “endemic impunity allows criminal gangs, corrupt officials, and cartels to silence their critics” in Mexico, where it said over 50 journalists and media workers have been killed since 2010.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urged President Enrique Pena Nieto to prioritize protection for the media in the last year of his government, after at least 21 journalists were slain in the past decade with “complete impunity.”

“The pursuit of justice has failed categorically,” CPJ said in a report on Mexico. “The system seems to be corrupt down to its very foundation; either that or it’s simply incapable of achieving justice.”

Mexico, where battles among rival drug cartels have left tens of thousands dead in recent years, has the sixth worst record in the world for resolving the murders of journalists, according to the CPJ.

Despite promises of action by Pena Nieto and his predecessors Felipe Calderon and Vicente Fox, Mexico’s impunity rating has more than doubled since 2008, it added.

The CPJ’s impunity index is based on unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of a country’s population.

The drug-ravaged state of Veracruz is now the deadliest region for the media in the Western hemisphere, the CPJ said.

A case in point was the January 21, 2016, killing of Marcos Hernandez Bautista, who was a reporter for the newspaper Noticias, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca.

In March, a court in the southern state of Oaxaca convicted a former municipal police commander in the killing and sentenced him to 30 years. But the former mayor who the commander said ordered the slaying was not tried.

Journalists came under fire across the country in the ensuing weeks, resulting in March becoming the deadliest month for the press in Mexico in recent memory.

“Convictions in journalists’ murders are infrequent and when they do occur …. they are often limited to the perpetrator and authorities fail to establish a motive,” the report by Committee to Protect Journalists said.

“By not establishing a clear link to journalism or providing any motives for the killings most investigations remain opaque,” the report added. “This lack of accountability perpetuates a climate of impunity that leaves journalists open to attack.”

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Taiwan moved up six spots on this year’s World Press Freedom Index. Here’s why that’s troubling.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

WorldViews

Taiwan moved up six spots on this year’s World Press Freedom Index. Here’s why that’s troubling.

May 3 at 12:18 PM

Taiwan appeared to make a sudden leap forward in press freedom this year, moving up six places to secure the 45th spot in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

However, its climb should concern people about the state of media freedom — especially in Asia, according to Reporters Without Borders, the media watchdog nonprofit that releases the annual ranking.

That’s because Taiwan’s jump “does not reflect real improvements, but rather a global worsening of the situation in the rest of the world,” the group said in a statement. In particular, it masks the decline of media freedoms in other Asian countries, as well as the growing threat of “press freedom predators” in the region, such as China and North Korea.

“In this area, the situation reflects the global situation that prevails in the 2017 RSF World Press Freedom Index: a world in which strongmen are on the rise and attacks on the media have become commonplace, even in democracies,” the group said.

The Paris-based organization (also known internationally by its French name, Reporters sans Frontières, or RSF) pointed to China exerting economic and political pressure to influence Taiwanese media. Taiwan is a self-governing democratic island that China considers part of its territory, and Beijing is extremely sensitive to questions about Taiwan’s status.

It is not unusual for some Taiwanese media outlets to take stances that echo Chinese Communist Party propaganda, Taipei RSF bureau director Cédric Alviani told The Washington Post by phone Wednesday, which the United Nations has declared World Press Freedom Day.

“In Taiwan, the Taiwanese tycoons also have their own businesses in China,” Alviani said. “It’s easy for China to put pressure on the business executives and say, ‘Okay, you have to be nice with the media you own. We want you to cover the story this way or we don’t want you to mention that.’ ”

Alviani also pointed to Apple TV recently allegedly blocking a satirical comedy show that is critical of the Chinese government — ironically titled “China Uncensored” — not only in mainland China but also in Hong Kong and Taiwan, which are not subject to Chinese law. Reporters Without Borders last month condemned the tech company’s move as setting a dangerous precedent for “international corporate submission to the demands of Chinese censorship.”

“This kind of self-censorship is much more serious than the one a single reporter would apply to himself,” Alviani said.

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told The Post “there was a couple day period” when the show was not available in Taiwan and Hong Kong but that it has since been made accessible there.

Despite the obstacles, Taiwan continues to hold the highest rank for press freedom among Asian countries, followed by South Korea (at 63rd place) and Mongolia (69th), according to this year’s index. Coverage of political scandals in South Korea — which led to the impeachment and ouster of Park Geun-hye this year — proved that the media there maintained its independence, the group said.

“However, the public debate about relations with North Korea, one of the main national issues, is hampered by a national security law under which any article or broadcast ‘favourable’ to North Korea is punishable by imprisonment,” the group pointed out.

It was Taiwan’s relative freedom that led Reporters Without Borders to decide this year to open its first Asia bureau in Taipei, rather than in Hong Kong or elsewhere in Asia.

Hong Kong dropped four places on the World Press Freedom Index from 2016, coming in at 73rd this year. Media there continue to face challenges when covering stories that are critical of mainland China, and reporters have faced physical intimidation and oppression.

“This is the kind of thing that made us think twice, because if we open an office in Hong Kong, our communications and safety might not be ensured,” Alviani said. “To open an original bureau, you need to find a place that is stable, a place where you could foresee what is happening in coming years.”

Alviani said that RSF journalists have been reporting from Taipei since last month, in a sort of “soft opening” for the new bureau, and that it will be fully operational in the coming months.

Part of the bureau’s focus will be on the countries that hold “many of the worst kinds of records” for media freedom in the Asia-Pacific region, including:

  • The world’s biggest prisons for journalists and bloggers: China (176th) and Vietnam (175th).
  • Most dangerous countries for journalists: Pakistan (139th), the Philippines (127th) and Bangladesh (146th).
  • Second-biggest number of “press freedom predators” at the head of the world’s worst dictatorships: Laos (170th), China (176th) and North Korea (180th).

The group called out Chinese President Xi Jinping as “the planet’s leading censor and press freedom predator” and one of the biggest reasons China ranks 176th among 180 countries on this year’s index. Only Syria, Turkmenistan, Eritrea and North Korea are ranked lower.

On Wednesday, World Press Freedom Day, China further clamped down on the media, issuing regulations that go into effect June 1, according to Reuters.

The rules “apply to all political, economic, military, or diplomatic reports or opinion articles on blogs, websites, forums, search engines, instant messaging apps and all other platforms that select or edit news and information,” Reuters reported. “All such platforms must have editorial staff who are approved by the national or local government Internet and information offices, while their workers must get training and reporting credentials from the central government.”

The Chinese government’s censorship and restrictions on media and the Internet, combined with its growing economic and political power, have the potential to affect other countries and private companies, Alviani said.

“China’s philosophy is more like everyone is free to do whatever they want to report — but within a certain limit, and this limit is never very clear,” he said. “In philosophical terms, freedom has to be unconditional. If you’re free within certain limits, you are not free.”

The Washington Post Hosts Reporters Without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom Index

 

Play Video67:57
The Washington Post and Reporters Without Borders held a conversation on freedom of press around the world. The program featured a presentation of the 2017 World Press Freedom Index followed by a conversation with Tom Malinowski, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and journalists from Syria, Turkey and Canada, moderated by The Post’s Dana Priest. (Washington Post Live)

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In an era of profound cultural transformation, elections and referendums have very real consequences

 

THE WEEKEND ROUNDUP 

In an era of profound cultural transformation, elections and referendums have very real consequences ― such as the repeal of environmental regulations or crackdowns on press freedom. But as much as they reveal how markedly divided societies are at this historical moment, they settle little. For those who are nostalgic for an ideal past, the challenges of a complex future wrought by globalization, digital disruption and increasing cultural diversity remain unresolved. For those looking ahead, there is no going back. The present political reaction is only the first act, not the last. It is the beginning, not the end, of the story of societies in fluid transition.

The recent Turkish referendum, like Brexit and U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, fits a pattern of a territorial divide. Residents in large cities and coastal zones linked to global integration and cosmopolitan culture represented just under half of the vote; rural, small-town and Rust Belt regions linked more to the traditions and economic structures of the past were just over half. But there is also a major difference. The populist, nationalist narrative that won the day in Great Britain and the United States championed the “left behind” and splintered the unresponsive mainstream political parties. In Turkey, the day was won by a conservative, pious and upwardly mobile constituency already empowered by some 15 years of rule by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party. The cultural duel there, backed up by neo-Islamist and nationalist statism, will thus be more intense than elsewhere.

In an interview following the historic vote in her country, novelist Elif Shafak says, “The referendum has not solved anything. If anything, it deepened the existing cultural and ideological divisions.” She also laments the decline of Turkey’s long experiment as a majority-Muslim country attempting to balance culture, secularism and Western democracy. “This is the most significant turning point in Turkey’s modern political history,” she declares. “It is a shift backwards; the end of parliamentary democracy. It is also a dangerous discontinuation of decades of Westernization, secularism and modernization; the discontinuation of Atatürk’s modern Turkey.”

Writing from Istanbul, Behlül Özkan explains the details of the constitutional referendum, how the playing field was tilted in Erdoğan’s favor and how it will have massive implications for Turkey’s future. He also emphasizes the historic importance of Turkey’s reverse. Özkan cites the political theorist Samuel Huntington who, in an essay decades ago on transitions from authoritarian rule, once defined Turkey as a clear example of a one-party system becoming more open and competitive under the constitution put in place by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. It is rare in history to move in the other direction, as Erdoğan has now accomplished.

Also writing from Istanbul, Alev Scott believes Turkey is in for “a decade of paranoia under a modern-day Sultan” who was unnerved by the slim margin of his victory. Noting a widely circulated photograph of the president at his moment of triumph, she saw a man not “celebrating victory” but “a man alarmed by near-defeat.”

Even as critics within Turkey and others abroad expressed concern over the extinguishing of democracy, Trump again showed his affinity for strongman politics by calling to congratulate Erdoğan on his victory. Yet, as with other countries from India to Argentina, there is likely another element as well to this potentially budding bromance. Sam Stein and Igor Bobic report on ethical issues raised by Trump’s business ties with Turkey. In 2012, Erdoğan joined Trump and his family to mark the opening of Trump Towers Istanbul.

Exclusive: Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 U.S. election – documents

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Exclusive: Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 U.S. election – documents

By Ned Parker, Jonathan Landay and John Walcott | WASHINGTON

A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters.

They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. U.S. intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies [en.riss.ru/], after the election.

The institute is run by retired senior Russian foreign intelligence officials appointed by Putin’s office.

The first Russian institute document was a strategy paper written last June that circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government but was not addressed to any specific individuals.

It recommended the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama, the seven officials said.

A second institute document, drafted in October and distributed in the same way, warned that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was likely to win the election. For that reason, it argued, it was better for Russia to end its pro-Trump propaganda and instead intensify its messaging about voter fraud to undermine the U.S. electoral system’s legitimacy and damage Clinton’s reputation in an effort to undermine her presidency, the seven officials said.

The current and former U.S. officials spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the Russian documents’ classified status. They declined to discuss how the United States obtained them. U.S. intelligence agencies also declined to comment on them.

Putin has denied interfering in the U.S. election. Putin’s spokesman and the Russian institute did not respond to requests for comment.

The documents were central to the Obama administration’s conclusion that Russia mounted a “fake news” campaign and launched cyber attacks against Democratic Party groups and Clinton’s campaign, the current and former officials said.

“Putin had the objective in mind all along, and he asked the institute to draw him a road map,” said one of the sources, a former senior U.S. intelligence official.

Trump has said Russia’s activities had no impact on the outcome of the race. Ongoing congressional and FBI investigations into Russian interference have so far produced no public evidence that Trump associates colluded with the Russian effort to change the outcome of the election.

Four of the officials said the approach outlined in the June strategy paper was a broadening of an effort the Putin administration launched in March 2016. That month the Kremlin instructed state-backed media outlets, including international platforms Russia Today and Sputnik news agency, to start producing positive reports on Trump’s quest for the U.S. presidency, the officials said.

Russia Today did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Sputnik dismissed the assertions by the U.S. officials that it participated in a Kremlin campaign as an “absolute pack of lies.” “And by the way, it’s not the first pack of lies we’re hearing from ‘sources in U.S. official circles’,” the spokesperson said in an email.

PRO-KREMLIN BLOGGERS

Russia Today and Sputnik published anti-Clinton stories while pro-Kremlin bloggers prepared a Twitter campaign calling into question the fairness of an anticipated Clinton victory, according to a report by U.S. intelligence agencies on Russian interference in the election made public in January. [bit.ly/2kMiKSA]

Russia Today’s most popular Clinton video – “How 100% of the 2015 Clintons’ ‘charity’ went to … themselves” – accumulated 9 millions views on social media, according to the January report. [bit.ly/2os8wIt]

The report said Russia Today and Sputnik “consistently cast president elect-Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional media outlets.”

The report said the agencies did not assess whether Moscow’s effort had swung the outcome of the race in Trump’s favor, because American intelligence agencies do not “analyze U.S. political processes or U.S. public opinion.” [bit.ly/2kMiKSA]

CYBER ATTACKS

Neither of the Russian institute documents mentioned the release of hacked Democratic Party emails to interfere with the U.S. election, according to four of the officials. The officials said the hacking was a covert intelligence operation run separately out of the Kremlin.

The overt propaganda and covert hacking efforts reinforced each other, according to the officials. Both Russia Today and Sputnik heavily promoted the release of the hacked Democratic Party emails, which often contained embarrassing details.

Five of the U.S. officials described the institute as the Kremlin’s in-house foreign policy think tank.

The institute’s director when the documents were written, Leonid Reshetnikov, rose to the rank of lieutenant general during a 33-year-career in Russia’s foreign intelligence service, according to the institute’s website [bit.ly/2oVhiCF]. After Reshetnikov retired from the institute in January, Putin named as his replacement Mikhail Fradkov. The institute says he served as the director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service from 2007 to 2016. [bit.ly/2os4tvz]

Reuters was unable to determine if either man was directly involved in the drafting of the documents. Reshetnikov’s office referred questions to the Russian institute.

On its website, the Russian institute describes itself as providing “expert appraisals,” “recommendations,” and “analytical materials” to the Russian president’s office, cabinet, National Security Council, ministries and parliament. [bit.ly/2pCBGpR]

On Jan. 31, the websites of Putin’s office [bit.ly/2os9wMr] and the institute [bit.ly/2oLn9Kd] posted a picture and transcript of Reshetnikov and his successor Fradkov meeting with Putin in the Kremlin. Putin thanked Reshetnikov for his service and told Fradkov he wanted the institute to provide objective information and analysis.

“We did our best for nearly eight years to implement your foreign policy concept,” Reshetnikov told Putin. “The policy of Russia and the policy of the President of Russia have been the cornerstone of our operation.”

(Reporting by Ned Parker and Jonathan Landay, additional reporting by Warren Strobel and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by David Rohde and Ross Colvin)

Bill O’Reilly is officially out at Fox News

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Bill O’Reilly is officially out at Fox News

Bill O’Reilly let go from Fox News Channel amid sexual harassment claims
 
Bill O’Reilly, longtime host of Fox News’s top-rated show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” will not return to the network. His departure comes after six women alleged he sexually harassed them.(Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)
April 19 at 2:41 PM
Fox News has ended its association with Bill O’Reilly, the combative TV host and commentator who has ruled cable-news ratings for nearly two decades and was the signature figure in the network’s rise as a powerful political player.The conservative-leaning host’s downfall was swift and steep, set in motion less than three weeks ago by revelations of a string of harassment complaints against him. The questions about his conduct represented yet another black eye to Fox, which had dealt with a sexual harassment scandal involving its co-founder and then-chairman Roger Ailes, just last summer.

“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” 21st Century Fox, the news channel’s parent company, said in a statement Wednesday.

After Ailes’s departure, Fox and 21st Century Fox — both controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his family — had vowed then to clean up an apparent culture of harassment at the news network. Instead, the allegations kept coming — against Ailes, O’Reilly and some of the remaining senior executives that Ailes had hired.

Fox has also lost popular hosts Greta Van Susteren and Megyn Kelly since the turmoil began last summer. The network, however, continued to roll in record ratings, driven in part by viewer interest in Donald Trump, a longtime friend of Ailes, Murdoch and O’Reilly and a frequent interview guest for years.

The loss of O’Reilly, however, is of a different magnitude: His program, “The O’Reilly Factor,” has been the network’s flagship show for nearly 20 years, and in many ways has embodied its conservative-oriented spirit.

It was just last month that Fox re-signed O’Reilly to a multimillion-dollar, three-year contract, fully aware of the long history of complaints against him.

He still seemed to be at the peak of his popularity and prestige only three weeks ago. His 8 p.m. program, which mixes discussion segments with O’Reilly’s pugnacious commentary, drew an average of 4 million viewers each night during the first three months of the year, the most ever for a cable-news program. His popularity, in turn, helped drive Fox News to record ratings and profits. O’Reilly was also the co-author of two books that were at the top of the bestseller lists in April.

But the fuse was lit for his career detonation when the New York Times disclosed that O’Reilly and Fox had settled a series of harassment complaints lodged against him by women he’d worked with at Fox over the years.

The newspaper found that O’Reilly and Fox had settled five such allegations since 2002, paying out some $13 million in exchange for the women’s silence. Two of the settlements, including one for $9 million in 2004, were widely reported. But the others had been kept secret by O’Reilly, Fox and the women involved.

In addition, a sixth woman, a former “O’Reilly Factor” guest named Wendy Walsh, alleged that O’Reilly had harassed her in 2013. Although Walsh never sued or sought compensation, she spoke against him in public, drawing more negative attention to Fox and O’Reilly over the past few weeks. A seventh, still anonymous woman filed a complaint with the company on Tuesday, alleging that he made disparaging racial and sexual remarks to her while she was employed at Fox in 2008.

O’Reilly has never acknowledged that he harassed anyone. In his only public statement about the matter in early April, he said his fame made him a target of lawsuits and that he settled the harassment claims against him to spare his children negative publicity.

After the revelations, Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, were forced to decide whether the economic and reputational fallout from the O’Reilly scandal was irreversible.

O’Reilly had previously survived several controversies during his 21 years at Fox, including a lurid sexual harassment case in 2004 that was fodder for New York’s tabloid newspapers. He also beat back a wave of headlines in 2015, when reporters examined his claims about his days as a young reporter and found them to be dubious. All the while, O’Reilly’s audience not only stuck with him, but continued to grow.

But this time, the intense media coverage surrounding O’Reilly led to a stampede of advertisers away from O’Reilly’s program, leaving it almost without sponsorship over the past two weeks. Various organizations, including the National Organization for Women, called for O’Reilly’s firing, and intermittent protests began outside Fox News’s headquarters in New York. Morale among employees at the network reportedly was suffering, too.

The Murdochs also had more than just O’Reilly’s TV career to consider: The O’Reilly controversy was casting a shadow over 21st Century’s $14 billion bid to win the British government’s approval to buy Sky TV, the British satellite service. Leaving O’Reilly in place would likely have been a public-relations nightmare for James and Lachlan Murdoch, the sons who head 21st Century Fox, Fox News’s parent.

The Murdoch family abandoned a 2011 offer for Sky amid another scandal, the phone-hacking conspiracy perpetrated by employees of the Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid in London. A parliamentary panel later declared Rupert and James Murdoch to be “unfit” to run a public company — a description they hoped would not be revived by regulators with the O’Reilly matter hanging over them.

In the wake of the Ailes scandal last summer, the Murdoch brothers vowed to clean up a workplace environment that women at Fox had described as hostile under Ailes. In one of their few public statements on the matter, they said at the time, “We continue our commitment to maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect.”

But those efforts have seemed unavailing, and at times have even seemed hypocritical. Since the Ailes scandal, the company has continued to employ almost all of the senior managers who were in charge when Ailes was allegedly harassing employees, including Bill Shine, currently Fox’s co-president. Shine was accused of enabling Ailes’s retaliatory efforts against an accuser, Fox contributor Julie Roginsky, in a sexual-harrassment lawsuit Roginsky filed earlier this month.

The external and internal pressure left the Murdochs with a dilemma: Keep the networks’ most valuable asset and hope to ride out the storm around him, or cut him loose and end the drama.

In the end, even an endorsement from President Trump could not save O’Reilly: In an interview with Times reporters on April 5, Trump called O’Reilly “a good person” and said he should not have settled the complaints made against him. “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” Trump said.

Fox said that Tucker Carlson, host of a discussion program now airing at 9 p.m., will take over O’Reilly’s 8 p.m. time slot. “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” in turn, will be replaced at 9 p.m. by Fox’s 5 p.m. show, “The Five,” starting on Monday. “The O’Reilly Factor” will continue for the remainder of the week, with guest hosts Dana Perino and Greg Gutfeld. Martha MacCallum and Sean Hannity will remain in their current spots at 7 p.m and 10 p.m., respectively, and the 5 p.m. hour will be occupied by a new show, hosted by Eric Bolling, starting May 1.

United Nations: North Korea Threatens U.S. With Nuclear War

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

United Nations (CNN) Only at a North Korean press conference at the United Nations, can you hear a diplomat say he hoped journalists had a good holiday weekend and then warn of possible thermonuclear war.

North Korea has consistently issued threats of war toward the United States in recent decades, but the Trump administration’s announced end of a “strategic patience” policy with Pyongyang has upped the ante in terms of warnings and bellicose rhetoric. North Korea’s UN deputy representative, Kim In Ryong, on Monday unleashed at a hastily called UN press conference a torrent of threats, war scenarios and rhetoric aimed at the United States.
The press event was held hours after US Vice President Mike Pence visited the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Pence warned North Korea not to test the resolve of the United States “or the strength of our military forces.”
In New York, North Korea returned verbal fire. North Korea’s UN ambassador condemned the US naval buildup in the waters off the Korean Peninsula, plus the US missile attacks on Syria.
Kim said, “It has created a dangerous situation in which thermonuclear war may break out at any moment on the peninsula and poses a serious threat to world peace and security.”
While reporters at the United Nations have heard similar rhetoric from North Koreans before, Monday’s forceful wording was on a higher level
The deputy ambassador, reading from a statement, told reporters, “The US is disturbing the global peace and stability and insisting on the gangster-like logic that its invasion of a sovereign state is ‘decisive, and just, and proportionate’ and contributes to ‘defending’ the international order in its bid to apply it to the Korean Peninsula as well.”
Kim said his country is ready to react to any “mode of war” from the United States. Any missile or nuclear strike by the United States would be responded to “in kind,” said the North Korea representative.
The USS Carl Vinson carrier-led Navy strike group was sent to the Korean Peninsula. North Korea’s UN representative said the maneuvers show the “US reckless moves for invading the DPRK (North Korea) have reached a serious phase.”
The United Nations is clearly worried. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told journalists, “We’re obviously deeply concerned about the rising tensions that we’ve seen in the Korean Peninsula. We call on all to redouble their diplomatic efforts. “
The North Korean deputy ambassador was asked to respond to President Donald Trump’s comment that North Korea should “behave better.” He declined, instead wrapping up numerous questions about US policy and Pence’s visit to the DMZ into a long series of criticisms of the United States.
He denounced the United States for introducing into the Korean Peninsula — what he called “the world’s biggest hotspot” — its “huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously threatening peace and security of the Peninsula and pushing the situation there to a brink of war.”
North Korea staged a failed missile launch over the weekend. Dujarric said, “I think the latest launch that we saw over the weekend from the DPRK was troubling. We call on the DPRK to take all the steps necessary to deescalate the situation and return to a dialogue on denuclearization.”
North Korea is upset that the UN Security Council will hold a meeting on the situation later this month, with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presiding.
Pyongyang again said it has sent letters demanding its own hearing at the Security Council for alleged US abuses, but they have been ignored by a council which has seen numerous council resolutions violated by North Korean missile and nuclear tests.
To add to the list of warnings, the North Korean diplomat said his country would hold the United States accountable “for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions.”
Journalists were asked to give their names on a sheet passed around by the North Koreans, but the sign-up sheet was left behind apparently when the news conference concluded.

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