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Updated: 2 hours 27 min ago

US House Panel Agrees to 10-day Hold in Fight for Trump Financial Data

2 hours 29 min ago

A House of Representatives committee on Monday told the U.S. Supreme Court it would agree to a 10-day hold - but not a longer delay - on a lower court ruling directing President Donald Trump's accounting firm to hand over his financial records to the Democratic-led panel.

The case represents an important showdown pitting the powers of the presidency against the authority of Congress, with Trump fighting doggedly to keep details of this finances private.

The delay agreed to by the House Oversight Committee would give the nine justices a chance to decide whether to grant Trump's emergency request, filed on Friday, seeking to block the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling.

Trump turned to the justices after the lower court last week refused his request to reconsider its October decision backing the House committee's authority to subpoena the records from Mazars LLP, Trump's longtime accounting firm.

The Republican president had asked the justices for at least a temporary hold on the enforcement of the subpoena. Trump's lawyers would also want the matter to be put on hold for a longer period while the litigation is resolved.

In a letter to the court, the committee's lawyers said they would agree to a 10-day delay "out of courtesy for this court," but would oppose Trump's request for a longer pause. The Supreme Court has yet to act on Trump's request or the committee's offer to allow the 10-day delay.

If the Supreme Court declines to hear Trump's appeal, the documents would have to be handed over to lawmakers. Five votes among the justices are needed to grant a stay request. The court has a 5-4 conservative majority.

In a separate case, Trump last Thursday asked the Supreme Court to review a New York-based federal appeals court's ruling that local prosecutors can enforce a subpoena also issued to Mazars demanding Trump's personal and corporate tax returns from 2011 to 2018.

The House committee subpoenaed Mazars this year, saying it needed the records to determine if Trump complied with laws requiring disclosure of his assets, and to assess whether those laws needed to be changed.

Trump Says He Would 'Strongly Consider' Testifying at His Impeachment Inquiry

2 hours 36 min ago

U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday he would "strongly consider" testifying at the House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry targeting him for allegedly abusing his office.

"Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!" Trump said on Twitter.

....that I testify about the phony Impeachment Witch Hunt. She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2019

In an interview Sunday on the news show "Face the Nation," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that if Trump "has information that is exculpatory — that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame — then we look forward to seeing it."

She added, "The president could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants ... or he could do it in writing. He has every opportunity to present his case."

Whether Trump would actually testify in person is uncertain.

Almost two years ago, Trump said he was ready and willing to testify in person as special counsel Robert Mueller investigated Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, and whether as president, Trump had attempted to obstruct the probe.

Ultimately, he never testified face to face with investigators, preferring to only answer their questions in writing without cross-examination by prosecutors.  In his written responses, Trump said more than 30 times he could not remember or recall an event.

FILE - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during a session with journalists, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 10, 2019.

'Perfect' call

Trump has described as "perfect " his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during which he asked Zelenskiy for "a favor" investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter's work for a Ukrainian natural gas company, and a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.  Mueller and the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russia interfered with the election.

Trump released a rough transcript of the call, but Pelosi said the full transcript "is tucked away in a high- highly sensitive, compartmentalized intelligence server so that we can't see that."

At the time of the call, Trump was blocking release of $391 million in U.S. military aid that Kyiv wanted to help fight pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country. Trump eventually released the money to Ukraine on Sept. 11 without Ukraine opening the Biden investigations.

Trump has denied a reciprocal agreement with Ukraine in exchange for the military aid. On Tuesday, a second week of testimony from current and former government diplomatic and national security officials begins. The witnesses are expected to testify that they understood a quid pro quo is exactly what Trump initially had in mind.

In a separate Tweet Monday, Trump said the impeachment hearing "is a great fraud being played out against the American people by the Fake News Media & their partner, the Do Nothing Democrats." He claimed the impeachment hearing rules "are rigged" by Pelosi and Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence panel.

"But we are winning, and we will win!" Trump contended.   

Never has the Republican Party been so united as it is now. 95% A.R. This is a great fraud being played out against the American people by the Fake News Media & their partner, the Do Nothing Democrats. The rules are rigged by Pelosi & Schiff, but we are winning, and we will win!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2019

More testimonies

Eight more officials are set to testify this week, with a central figure, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, scheduled to appear Wednesday.

In amended closed-door testimony, Sondland, a million dollar Trump political donor who was nominated by Trump for the EU posting in Brussels, said he had warned an aide to Zelenskiy in early September that it was unlikely Ukraine would get the U.S. military assistance it wanted unless Zelenskiy publicly committed to opening the investigation of the Bidens.

The claim of a quid pro quo is key to the efforts of Democratic lawmakers to impeach the country's 45th president. Soliciting foreign assistance for help in a U.S. election violates campaign finance law.

Gordon Sondland, US Ambassador to the European Union

Other figures linked to the impeachment inquiry have corroborated Sondland's testimony. In a transcript of private testimony released Saturday, Tim Morrison, a White House national security aide, said in October that Sondland had spoken with Trump about a half-dozen times in recent months and had talked with a top Ukraine official about winning release of the military assistance Kyiv wanted in exchange for investigations that benefited Trump politically.

"His mandate from the president was to go make deals," Morrison said of Sondland.

Morrison is set to testify publicly before the impeachment panel on Tuesday, alongside former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker. Volker has testified that Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer named by Trump to oversee Ukraine affairs, was the driving force to get Kyiv to open the politically tinged investigation to help the U.S. leader.

Last week, David Holmes, an aide to William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Kyiv, told impeachment investigations in private testimony that he overheard a July 26 cellphone conversation between Trump and Sondland at a Kyiv restaurant in which the president inquired whether Zelenskiy was going to pursue the Bidens and political investigations.

Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence for Europe and Russia and who is a career Foreign Service officer, arrives for a closed-door interview on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 7, 2019.

On Tuesday, the House Intelligence panel is also set to hear from Jennifer Williams, a foreign affairs aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European affairs at the National Security Council. Both of them listened in on Trump's July 25 call with Zelenskiy and voiced concerns about Trump asking for the investigations of the Bidens.

Trump disparaged Williams on Sunday, tweeting, "Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released ststement (sic) from Ukraine," that it did not feel threatened by Trump's request for the political investigations while the military aid was pending. "Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!"

Aside from Sondland, the intelligence panel is also hearing Wednesday from Laura Cooper, a Defense Department official, and David Hale, the undersecretary of state for political affairs. Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia, is testifying Thursday.

Lengthy hearings process

Political analysts in Washington say the Trump impeachment process could last for several months. If Trump is impeached by a simple majority in the House, a trial would be held in January in the Republican-majority Senate, where a two-thirds vote is needed for a conviction and removal from office.

The time frame could bump up against the first Democratic Party presidential nominating contests starting in February, when voters will begin casting ballots on who they want as the party's nominee. Six Democratic senators are among those in the running, but could be forced to stay in Washington to sit as jurors in the 100-member Senate as it decides Trump's fate.

Trump's removal from office remains unlikely — at least 20 Republican Senate votes are needed for his conviction.

To date, a small number of Republicans have criticized Trump for his actions on Ukraine, but no Republican senator has called for his impeachment.

 

 

 

 

 

Africa 54

2 hours 36 min ago

Trump's Border Wall Could Again Become Obstacle in Last Minute Budget Talks

4 hours 13 min ago

During his run for the presidency in 2016, Donald Trump found a surefire method for changing the mood at his political rallies. Whenever he sensed that he was losing the crowd, he told the editorial board of the New York Times, "I just say, We will build the wall!' and they go nuts."

This week, with impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives dominating the headlines, the border wall may reappear as a distraction for Trump's staunchest supporters.  Lawmakers have agreed in principle to adopt a stop-gap spending bill to avert a partial shutdown of the federal government on Thursday, with the hope that negotiators from Congress and the administration can use the 30-day reprieve it grants to finalize spending authorizations for the remainder of the fiscal year.

A possible sticking point? Funding for the president's wall.

Last year, when Democrats refused to provide $5 billion in wall funding in a budget deal, the result was a 35-day shutdown.

So, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared on the political talk show Face the Nation on Sunday, and said that she was optimistic that a deal would be reached to avoid a shutdown, the natural follow-up question was whether that meant that Democrats would be providing wall funding.

Pelosi replied with a definitive "No." She went on to suggest that she doesn't believe that the president is truly committed to the effort.

"The President hasn't built any new wall in a whole term of office," she said. "I think that his comments about the wall are really an applause line at a rally, but they're not anything that he's serious about."

Pelosi's comments pointed to a central issue with regard to the border wall: widespread confusion about its current status.

The first panels of levee border wall are seen at a construction site along the U.S.-Mexico border, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, in Donna, Texas. The new section, with 18-foot tall steel bollards atop a concrete wall, will stretch approximately 8 miles.

President Trump asserts that wall construction is moving ahead. In both his Twitter feed and his public remarks, Trump regularly touts the "great progress" being made on constructing the barrier. In September, a Department of Defense spokesperson made a statement to reporters that implied new sections of wall were being built at the rate of a mile per day.

However, the reality is somewhat different.

On Friday, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters that 78 miles (125 kilometers) of new border wall had already been built. However, under questioning, he acknowledged  it was actually 78 miles of replacement wall for "an existing form of barrier."

However, he added, workers have begun breaking ground in places in the Rio Grande Valley where no barrier currently exists.

It may actually be a number of years before the government is able to begin construction on many sections of the proposed wall, according to analysts, because it does not own the land. Hundreds of private individuals hold title to land along the United States' border with Mexico, and in order to build the wall on their land, the Trump administration would either have to convince them to sell it to the government or use its Eminent Domain authority to take the land without the owners' consent.

Many landowners have expressed unwillingness to sell, either because of opposition to the wall or for other reasons. The Trump administration has indicated that as soon as this week it could begin filing the court documents necessary to take possession of the land from owners who don't want to give it up.

According to reporting by NBC News, the government is considering the use of an expedited process that could avoid lengthy court battles over the land seizures. Success would hinge on convincing the courts that a state of emergency exists that justifies depriving owners the right to contest the seizures in court.

"It's a challenge to go through that process," Morgan told reporters. However, he added, "I still think we're on track to get the land we need for 450 miles" (724 kilometers) of new wall construction.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is exploring a novel way of calling public attention to the wall construction. Jared Kushner, a White House adviser and the president's son-in-law, has reportedly proposed the installation of cameras that would allow the administration to live-stream video from construction sites.

The Army Corps of Engineers and the CBP have both objected to the proposal, which is being driven, according to the Washington Post, directly by the president himself. The idea is that a 24-hour-per-day video stream showing construction in progress would silence critics -- like Pelosi -- who regularly dismiss the wall as more of a publicity stunt than a serious piece of border control policy.

The web-cam proposal drew immediate fire from Democrats, who derided it as an election-year stunt for the president's political benefit. Corey Booker, the New Jersey senator running for the Democratic presidential nomination, co-sponsored a bill to block the use of federal funds for a wall camera.

"The only thing more senseless and wasteful than an ineffective border wall is installing a camera to livestream its construction," he said in a statement.

Democratic arguments that the wall is ineffective received further support earlier this month, when multiple news reports confirmed that drug smugglers have been able to breach border walls with the help of a portable reciprocating saw -- a power tool available in hardware stores for under $100.

Riot Police Advance on Protesters in Tbilisi, Fire Water Cannons, Tear Gas

4 hours 28 min ago

Riot police in Tbilisi have begun using water cannons and launching volleys of tear gas at protesters who were blocking the entrance to parliament until early elections are called.

Hundreds of demonstrators were gathered for a fourth day on Monday to protest parliament's rejection of constitutional amendments on the transition to a proportional electoral system when riot police moved in.

Live broadcasts from the scene showed demonstrators huddled in large groups as they were sprayed with water.

The move appeared to have little immediate effect, and soon after clouds of tear gas could be seen wafting through the area and large groups of riot police slowly moved forward on the crowd, forcing many protesters to retreat.

The rally "has gone beyond the law," the Interior Ministry said earlier in the day in a statement.

Concern that the protest could spill over into violence has risen among Western diplomats.

On November 17, the United States and the European Union called on the Georgian government, political parties, and civil society to engage in a "calm and respectful dialogue" over the snap elections.

Changing the system from a mixed system to a proportional one from 2020 was one of the demands of thousands of demonstrators who rallied for weeks in Tbilisi in June and July.

The legislature currently has proportional representation for about half of the body's seats.

Opposition parties say the current electoral system unfairly favors the ruling Georgian Dream party.

The Georgian Dream party, including its billionaire founder and leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, backed the accelerated reforms, but the measure still failed to pass.

That prompted some lawmakers, including Deputy Speaker Tamar Khangoshvili, to resign from the party.

Nonetheless, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, who is also the Georgian Dream general secretary, said voters should wait to voice their opinions at the ballot box.

"It's less than a year before an election. Accordingly, we are no longer going to consider any new initiative in connection with the election system. Elections will be held in constitutional terms, with the highest democratic standard and with a high inclusion of society," he said.

"Therefore, we urge opponents to prepare for the elections and not to blame the lack of popular support for the electoral system," the former international football star added.

The EU delegation to Georgia and the U.S. Embassy said in a joint statement on November 17 that they "recognize the deep disappointment of a wide segment of Georgian society at the failure of Parliament to pass the constitutional amendments."

The halting of the transition to proportional elections "has increased mistrust and heightened tensions between the ruling party and other political parties and civil society," the statement said.

The vote has also prompted criticism from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). 

Iran Spokesman Says Protesters Took Police Officers Hostage

4 hours 43 min ago

Iran's government spokesman is saying that violent protesters angry over higher gasoline prices took police and security personnel hostage during the unrest.
                   
Ali Rabiei did not elaborate during remarks to journalists Monday, though the acknowledgment shows the level of unrest gripping Iran since Friday.
                   
Rabiei says the government should soon unblock internet access across the country, and estimates attendance in demonstrations has dropped by 80% compared to the day before.
                   
Security forces have deployed heavily in many cities and towns to try to put down the unrest.
                   
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani separately warned that those who abandon their cars in the street could face legal action. That was one way people protested gas prices rising by 50% and the imposition of tighter fuel rationing.

Anger As Policeman Charged with Murder of Aboriginal Australian Teenager

5 hours 18 min ago

There have been protests around Australia after the alleged murder in police custody of an Aboriginal man by a police officer in the Northern Territory. 

Kumanjayi Walker, 19, was shot dead on November 9 in the remote Indigenous settlement of Yuendumu, 300 kilometers north-west of Alice Springs in Central Australia.

He died at the local police station after two police officers had tried to arrest him for parole breaches.

Northern Territory police allege the teenager had attacked the officers.  There are reports the Aboriginal man was armed, possibly with a knife.

But his family argues that unnecessary force was used, and that the police should have used a Taser, an electronic stun gun, to subdue him.

The death sparked demonstrations in Alice Springs and Darwin as well as in Sydney and Melbourne.

Moogy Sumner, an Indigenous elder, believes police stationed in Aboriginal settlements should not be allowed to carry guns.

“The police should be disarmed.  If they are going into communities they need to take a Taser with them," said Sumner. That is better than shooting them dead.  You take guns to war, you do not take guns to a place where you are going to be friendly towards people.  If people need guns to protect themselves, why not give us guns to protect ourselves?”

The accused officer intends to plead not guilty, according to the police union.  

Walker is the second Aboriginal person to have died in the past two months after being shot by police.

Joyce Clarke, who was 29, was fatally wounded in Western Australia in September.  Authorities say the investigation into her death is continuing.

A royal commission in the late 1980s investigated Aboriginal deaths in custody over a 10-year period, but few of the inquiry's 330 recommendations were implemented.

In 2017, prominent Indigenous rights campaigner Noel Pearson said that Aboriginal Australians were “the most incarcerated people on…planet Earth”.  

Official figures released in September show that Aboriginal prisoners represented 28% of the total full-time adult inmate population in Australia.  

The nation’s original inhabitants make up just over 3 per cent of the Australian population.

Buttigieg Touts Military Service, Wary of Overstating Role

5 hours 22 min ago

Pete Buttigieg strides past an oversized photograph of himself dressed in fatigues, the Afghan horizon behind him, as he enters a Des Moines arena for an Iowa Democratic Party gala.

In his first Iowa television ad, he holds a rifle and points it toward the rubble at his feet, introducing himself, “As a veteran ... .”

Like candidates from the time of George Washington, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor is leaning hard on his seven-month deployment as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan as a powerful credential. As he does, he walks a narrow path between giving his wartime service its due and overstating it.

He is careful not to call himself a combat veteran even as he notes the danger he faced. One of his former competitors for the Democratic nomination, Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, has drawn a sharp contrast between his four combat tours in Iraq and Buttigieg’s service. And a former commanding officer, who said he thinks Buttigieg would be within his rights to say he is a combat veteran, nonetheless questions the use of a rifle in his ads.

Poll: Buttigieg Surges Ahead of Democratic Rivals in IowaButtigieg's support climbed to 25%, a 16-point increase since the previous survey in September, CNN reported

As support for his campaign grows, Buttigieg can expect more intense scrutiny of his military record in a political climate where military service is far from sacred, as past attacks on the records of Republican John McCain and Democrat John Kerry show.

Buttigieg addressed the subject with reporters during a recent bus tour in northern Iowa. “It kind of felt like combat when the rocket alarm went off,” he said. “But I don’t feel prepared to use that term for myself.”

Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard are the only Democratic candidates with military experience. He would not only be the first Democratic president to have served in the armed forces since Jimmy Carter, he would be the first veteran of a post-9/11 war.

He volunteered for service and was quickly recognized for his intellect. Retired Col. Guy Hollingsworth chose Buttigieg as the lead analyst tracking the flow of money to terrorist cells in Afghanistan, information that would inform combat operations.

Though more of Buttigieg’s time in Afghanistan was spent working in a secured intelligence office as an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, his dozens of trips outside U.S./NATO headquarters in the fortified Green Zone make him a combat veteran in the eyes of Hollingsworth, Buttigieg’s commanding officer.

During these movements, Buttigieg, in body armor and an M4 rifle nearby, would typically drive a team of officials, navigating an armored SUV through Kabul’s chaotic streets.

“That is the definition, going down range into a combat zone,” Hollingsworth said. “He is a combat veteran.”

Kabul’s streets possessed threats such as crowds that could turn aggressive toward a vehicle found to contain U.S. military or parked vehicles that could hide improvised explosive devices.

“Anytime somebody would go in a vehicle and drive, no matter how close it would be — even six city blocks away — over there, that’s a life-or-death situation,” said retired Col. Paul Karweik, who succeeded Hollingsworth as Buttigieg’s commanding officer.

But Buttigieg never fired his weapon nor was he fired on, criteria for the Combat Action Badge, which is Karweik’s definition of a combat veteran and the one Buttigieg observes.

That doesn’t mean Buttigieg holds back while campaigning in emphasizing the more dangerous aspects of his time in the war zone to distinguish himself subtly from his top-tier Democratic rivals and directly with President Donald Trump.

“I don’t have to throw myself a military parade to see what a convoy looks like, because I was driving in one around Afghanistan right about the time this president was taping season seven of ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’” Buttigieg told Iowa Democrats at the state party’s marquee fundraiser in Des Moines this month.

Buttigieg also often notes he has “seen worse incoming than a misspelled tweet.” There were sporadic, often inaccurate, but sometimes deadly rocket attacks when he was stationed at Bagram Air Force Base before being transferred to Kabul.

He weaves his experience into campaign events with voters, especially when it reinforces his proposal to ban assault weapons.

“This is definitely not the sense of peace and security I thought I was protecting when I was carrying one of these damn things around a war zone,” Buttigieg told voters in Charles City, Iowa, this month.

And while Buttigieg says he relishes the chance to compare records with the Republican president, who received five draft deferments during the Vietnam War, there are warning signs for Buttigieg of overplaying his service.

Moulton, who left the race in September, pointedly noted his four deployments to Iraq as a Marine combat officer was a better test of leadership than Buttigieg’s.

“It’s good that Mayor Pete served, but there’s a world of difference between driving a Chevy Suburban in Kabul, where plenty of foreigners walk around without a problem, and closing on the enemy in combat,” Moulton told the Washington Examiner in September. Moulton declined to be interviewed for this report.

Though Buttigieg’s commanding officers say he accurately describes his service, he could face questions. “It boils down to a bit of semantics,” Hollingsworth said.

A combat convoy is defined as two or more vehicles moving together in unprotected space, not necessarily a long string of vehicles towing heavy weapons.

“Pete’s statement would be accurate in the strict sense,” Hollingsworth said. “I might question the quote of ‘driving in one around Afghanistan.’ That implies something most likely bigger than what his assignment required under my command time, but I recognize his intent.”

Hollingsworth also said Buttigieg might face questions about whether the image of him holding the rifle suggests to the viewer he was engaged in exchange of hostile fire.

“If I were writing his bio ad, I wouldn’t start with that,” Hollingsworth said. “The bulk of his time was not strapping on all kinds of weapons of war and taking your chances.”

Buttigieg dismissed whether the picture embellished his real mission. It was taken when he and a handful of others were on a hike within the Green Zone, he said.

“If you’re watching closely, you’ll notice I’m not wearing body armor,” he told The Associated Press. “It was manageable risk, but you still wanted to have your weapon.”

Distinctions such as these have begun stirring Republican critics on social media to cast doubt on Buttigieg’s credibility.

They are reminiscent of Trump’s 2015 criticism of McCain’s capture as a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, which showed the president’s willingness to challenge even valorous service.

In the fall of 2004, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a political group that was by law allowed to raise unlimited sums from undisclosed donors, challenged Kerry’s version of events from 1969 that had earned the Navy veteran a Silver Star. Kerry’s campaign opted not to respond to the ads, as to not legitimize them, a decision the Massachusetts senator later suggested was a key to his loss to Republican President George W. Bush.

Candidates must abandon the idea that their service can inoculate them from attacks and should prepare early a strategy to confront them aggressively, said David Wade, Kerry’s campaign spokesman and longtime adviser.

“Bottom line, if it’s a character issue, you have to match dollar-for-dollar on advertising,” Wade said.

Emirates Announces Order For 50 Airbus A350s Worth $16 Billion

5 hours 34 min ago

Dubai-based carrier Emirates announced on Monday it would be buying 20 additional wide-body Airbus A350s, bringing its total order for the aircraft to 50 in a deal worth $16 billion at list price.

Separately, the Emirati budget carrier Air Arabia announced the purchase of 120 new Airbus planes in deal worth $14 billion.

Also, Turkey's SunExpress announced it will be buying 10 of the troubled Boeing 737 Max jets, grounded globally after crashes that killed nearly 350 people after take-off from Indonesia and Ethiopia.

SunExpress, based in the Turkish coastal city of Antalya, said this brings its Max fleet order to 42 overall. The order was for the 737 Max 8 valued at $1.2 billion at list prices. It's likely the airline would negotiate for a better price as Boeing talks to airlines about compensations for the grounding of the aircraft and reaches settlements with relatives of victims who perished.

The announcements were the first major purchasing agreements to be unveiled at the biennial Dubai Airshow this year amid a slowdown in mega purchases by the Middle East's big Gulf airlines. The airshow opened on Sunday and runs until Thursday on the grounds near Dubai's newest international airport.

The announcement by the Emirates essentially confirms a February order for 30 of the A350-900 planes that Emirates had announced that month and tacks on another 20 of Airbus' newest generation wide-body aircraft, bringing the total to 50.

Emirates Group Chairman and CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said the new deal "replaced" February's agreement for an intent to purchase 70 Airbus aircraft, which had included 40 of the A330neo. That deal was valued around $21.4 billion.

Air Arabia, which operates mainly out of the emirate of Sharjah, already has a fleet entirely made up of 53 Airbus aircraft, 52 A320s and one A321 Neo. The new deal announced Monday will include 73 A320neos, 27 A321neos and 20 A321 XLRs, with first delivery in 2024.

It comes as one of the country's main carriers, Abu Dhabi Etihad Group, announced recently a joint venture with Air Arabia to launch Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, the first low-cost airline based in Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi's flagship carrier Etihad Airways said Monday it's launching one of the world's most fuel-efficient long-haul airplanes as the company seeks to save costs on fuel and position itself as a more environmentally-conscious choice for travelers.

Etihad's "Greenliner" is a Boeing 787 Dreamliner that will depart on its first route from Abu Dhabi to Brussels in January 2020. Etihad's CEO Tony Douglas described the aircraft as a flying laboratory for testing that could benefit the entire industry.

With fuel costs eating up around a quarter of airline spending, Douglas said the goal of the Greenliner is to be 20% more fuel efficient than other aircraft in Etihad's fleet.

"This is not just a box-ticking exercise," he told reporters at the unveiling of the initiative at the Dubai Airshow alongside executives from Boeing.

Douglas said the aircraft "not only makes sense economically from a profit and loss account point of view, but because it also directly impacts the CO2 because of the fuel burn."

Etihad has reported losses of $4.75 billion since 2016 as its strategy of aggressively buying stakes in airlines from Europe to Australia exposed the company to major risks.

Despite its financials, the airline continues to be among the most innovative.

This year, Etihad flew the world's first passenger flight using sustainable biofuel made from a plant that grows in saltwater. It also became the first in the Middle East to operate a flight without any single-use plastics on board to raise awareness of the effects of plastic pollution.

Aviation accounts for a small but rapidly growing share of greenhouse-gas emissions _ about 2.5% worldwide. But forecasters expect air travel to grow rapidly in the coming years.

There's a small but growing movement in Europe and North America that's shunning air travel because it produces high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The trend is most prominent in Sweden, where the likes of teen climate activist Greta Thunberg have challenged travelers to confront the huge carbon cost of flying.

Some campaigners are also "flight shaming" travelers for their carbon footprint. Most recently, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan were criticized for flying on private jets this summer while calling for more action on climate change.

Etihad says it plans to make the Greenliner a "social media star" to bring under sharper focus its developments and achievements worldwide. Douglas said anything that Eithad learns with Boeing from this aircraft's operations will be open domain knowledge ``because it's about moving the industry forward in a responsible fashion.''                   

"We're like a millennial and like all good millennials, they're really focused on the environment and the sustainability agenda," Douglas said, referring to Etihad's 16 years in operation.

The Greenliner will be the only aircraft of its kind in Etihad's fleet of Dreamliners. The company currently has 36 of the 787s in its fleet with plans to operate 50.

"This is a small step today, but in a very, very long journey," Douglas said.

Indonesia Arrests 43 People Following Suicide Attack

5 hours 47 min ago

Indonesian police said Monday that they have arrested 43 suspected militants believed to have links to last week’s suicide attack at a busy police station in the country’s third-largest city.

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said those arrested are suspected members of a local affiliate of the Islamic State group known as the Jama’ah Anshorut Daulah. He said police seized explosives, guns, knives, arrows and jihadi documents from the suspects.

The arrests were made in seven provinces and include the group’s leader, Prasetyo said at a news conference in the capital, Jakarta.

The Nov. 13 suicide bombing involving a lone attacker in Medan wounded six people.

Suicide Bomber Attacks Police Station in IndonesiaAuthorities say suspected bomber was the lone fatality in attack in the city of Medan, while some officers were wounded

Among the suspects arrested in the raids were 20 members of JAD who have attended military-style jihadi training in North Sumatra’s Mount Sibayak, Prasetyo said.

Police on Saturday killed two suspected militants in a shootout in North Sumatra province’s Hamparan Perak village. Police said they believe the two were the bombmakers in the Medan attack.

A day later, four suspects surrendered to authorities, Prasetyo said.

JAD has been implicated in numerous attacks in Indonesia over the past two years and was designated a terror organization by the U.S. in 2017.

An Indonesian court banned the network a year later and asked the government to strangle its funding and support.

In May last year, two families carried out suicide bombings at churches in Indonesia’s second-largest city, Surabaya, killing a dozen people. Police said the father was the head of a local JAD cell.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has been battling militants since bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. Attacks aimed at foreigners have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces and local “infidels.”

Student Protesters Trapped at Besieged Hong Kong Campus

6 hours 21 min ago

Dozens of student protesters in Hong Kong made frantic efforts Monday to escape a university that has been surrounded by riot police, as the campus siege entered a second day. As VOA’s Bill Gallo reports from Hong Kong, there are concerns the incident could end in a violent crackdown.

Russia Hands Back 3 Seized Ships to Ukraine

6 hours 22 min ago

Russia's Foreign Ministry says three Ukrainian naval ships that were seized in a shooting confrontation nearly a year ago have been returned.
                   
The two gunboats and a tug were taken by the Russian coast guard on Nov. 25, 2018, as they passed through the Kerch Strait that connects the Black Sea with the Azov Sea, en route to their home port in Mariupol.
                   
The Kerch Strait runs between mainland Russia and Russia-annexed Crimea. Russia claimed the ships violated procedures for transiting the strait.
                   
The Russian coast guard fired shots and seized 24 Ukrainian sailors. The sailors were detained for 10 months and returned home in September as part of a prisoner exchange.
                   
A Russian ministry statement said the ship handover took place Monday but did not give further details.

Pelosi Invites Trump to Testify as New Witnesses Prepare for Impeachment Hearings

6 hours 33 min ago

 Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited President Donald Trump to testify in front of investigators in the House impeachment inquiry ahead of a week that will see several key witnesses appear publicly.

Pushing back against accusations from the president that the process has been stacked against him, Pelosi said Trump is welcome to appear or answer questions in writing, if he chooses.

"If he has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it," she said in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." Trump "could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants if he wants," she said.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer echoed that suggestion.

"If Donald Trump doesn't agree with what he's hearing, doesn't like what he's hearing, he shouldn't tweet. He should come to the committee and testify under oath. And he should allow all those around him to come to the committee and testify under oath," Schumer told reporters. He said the White House's insistence on blocking witnesses from cooperating begs the question: "What is he hiding?"

The comments come as the House Intelligence Committee prepares for a second week of public hearings as part of its inquiry, including with the man who is arguably the most important witness. Gordon Sondland, Trump's ambassador to the European Union, is among the only people interviewed to date who had direct conversations with the Republican president about the situation because the White House has blocked others from cooperating with what it dismisses as a sham investigation. And testimony suggests he was intimately involved in discussions that are at the heart of the investigation into whether Trump held up U.S. military aid to Ukraine to try to pressure the country's president to announce an investigation into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 candidate, and Biden's son Hunter.

Multiple witnesses overheard a phone call in which Trump and Sondland reportedly discussed efforts to push for the investigations. In private testimony to impeachment investigators made public Saturday, Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council aide and longtime Republican defense hawk, said Sondland told him he was discussing Ukraine matters directly with Trump.

Morrison said Sondland and Trump had spoken approximately five times between July 15 and Sept. 11 - the weeks that $391 million in U.S. assistance was withheld from Ukraine before it was released.

And he recounted that Sondland told a top Ukrainian official in a meeting that the vital U.S. military assistance might be freed up if the country's top prosecutor "would go to the mike and announce that he was opening the Burisma investigation." Burisma is the gas company that hired Hunter Biden.

Morrison's testimony contradicted much of what Sondland told congressional investigators during his own closed-door deposition, which the ambassador later amended.

Trump has said he has no recollection of the overheard call and has suggested he barely knew Sondland, a wealthy donor to his 2016 campaign. But Democrats are hoping he sheds new light on the discussions.

"I'm not going to try to prejudge his testimony," Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said on "Fox News Sunday." But he suggested, "it was not lost on Ambassador Sondland what happened to the president's close associate Roger Stone for lying to Congress, to Michael Cohen for lying to Congress. My guess is that Ambassador Sondland is going to do his level best to tell the truth, because otherwise he may have a very unpleasant legal future in front of him."

The committee also will be interviewing a long list of others. On Tuesday, it'll hear from Morrison along with Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, Alexander Vindman, the director for European affairs at the National Security Council, and Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine.

On Wednesday the committee will hear from Sondland in addition to Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, and David Hale, a State Department official. And on Thursday, Fiona Hill, a former top NSC staffer for Europe and Russia, will appear.

Trump, meanwhile, continued to tweet and retweet a steady stream of commentary from supporters as he bashed "The Crazed, Do Nothing Democrats" for "turning Impeachment into a routine partisan weapon."

"That is very bad for our Country, and not what the Founders had in mind!!!!'' he wrote.

He also tweeted a doctored video exchange between Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, in which Schiff said he did not know the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint triggered the inquiry. The clip has been altered to show Schiff wearing a referee's uniform and loudly blowing a whistle.

In her CBS interview, Pelosi vowed to protect the whistleblower, whom Trump has said should be forced to come forward despite longstanding whistleblower protections.

"I will make sure he does not intimidate the whistleblower," Pelosi said.

Trump has been under fire for his treatment of one of the witnesses, the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump criticized by tweet as she was testifying last week.

That attack prompted accusations of witness intimidation from Democrats and even some criticism from Republicans, who have been largely united in their defense of Trump.

"I think, along with most people, I find the president's tweet generally unfortunate," said Ohio Republican Rep. Mike Turner on CNN's "State of the Union."

Still, he insisted that tweets were "certainly not impeachable and it's certainly not criminal. And it's certainly not witness intimidation," even if Yovanovitch said she felt intimidated by the attacks.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said Trump "communicates in ways that sometimes I wouldn't," but dismissed the significance of the attacks.

"If your basis for impeachment is going to include a tweet, that shows how weak the evidence for that impeachment is," he said on ABC's "This Week."

And the backlash didn't stop Trump from lashing out at yet another witness, this time Pence aide Williams. He directed her in a Sunday tweet to "meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don't know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!''

 

Libyan Officials: Airstrike Kills 7 Workers in Tripoli

6 hours 39 min ago

An airstrike slammed into a biscuit factory in the capital, Tripoli, on Monday killing at least seven workers including five foreign nationals and two Libyans, health authorities said.

Tripoli has been the scene of fighting since April between the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter, and an array of militias loosely allied with the U.N.-supported but weak government which holds the capital.

The Tripoli-based health ministry said the airstrike took place in the capital's Wadi el-Rabie neighborhood, the south of the city center where fighting has been raging for months.

Malek Merset, a spokesman with the ministry, told The Associated Press that the dead included five workers from Bangladesh, and two Libyan nationals.

The airstrike also wounded at least 15 foreign workers, mostly from Niger and Bangladesh, who were taken to nearby hospitals for urgent treatment.

Footage shared online showed wounded people with bandages and blood on their legs on stretchers before being taken by ambulances to hospitals.

Fighting for Tripoli has stalled in recent months, with both sides dug in and shelling one another along the city's southern reaches. The months of combat have killed hundreds of people and displaced thousands.

The fighting threatens to plunge Libya into another bout of violence on the scale of the 2011 conflict that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Libya has been divided into rival governments, with Tripoli controlling parts of the country's west, and a rival government in the east aligned with Hifter's force. Each side is backed by an array of militias and armed groups fighting over resources and territory.

 

 

 

HRW: Sudan Attacks May Be Crimes Against Humanity

6 hours 55 min ago

A prominent human rights groups said Monday that fatal attacks on protesters in Sudan in June of this year may amount to crimes against humanity.

Human Rights Watch has released a 59-page report entitled "They Were Shouting 'Kill Them': Sudan's Violent Crackdown on Protesters in Khartoum."  

The report details the abuses the Sudanese security forces leveled on protesters, beginning on June  3, 2019 and afterwards in the protesters' camp in Khartoum.  The account also documents the security forces abuses leading up to the June attack.

The protests had first targeted price increases in Sudan but then expanded into protests against Sudan's president of 30 years, Omar al-Bashir and his administration.

Large numbers of security forces descended on the protesters' sit-in area on June 3, HRW said,  "and opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing many instantly."  It added," The forces raped, stabbed, and beat protesters, and humiliated many, cutting their hair, forcing them to crawl in sewer water, urinating on them, and insulting them."

US May Remove Sudan From List of State Sponsors of Terrorism, Official SaysThe assistant secretary for African affairs cautioned that doing so was a process with conditions

At least 120 people were killed on June 3 and in the following days, the rights group said.  "Hundreds were injured and dozens more are missing.  Witnesses said they saw security forces throwing bodies into the Nile.  At least two were retrieved from the river with bricks tied to their bodies and gunshot wounds to their heads and torsos."

The government initially denied the attacks, but later a government spokesman apologized for "mistakes," according to the rights group.

Sudan has established a committee to investigate the June 3 violence.  "Victims' groups have raised concerns about the committee's lack of independence, with members including officials from the Interior and Defense Ministries, both of which oversee the armed forces.  The committee does not include women or experts on sexual violence," HRW said.

HRW is urging Sudan to establish a committee to investigate the crimes that meet international standards of fairness and independence.  "To this end," said HRW Associate Africa Director Jehanne Henry, "they should urgently request expertise from Sudanese, regional, and international bodies, including from experts in investigating sexual violence and serious crimes." 

Iraqi officials: Protesters Block Roads to Crucial Port

7 hours 4 min ago

Anti-government demonstrators in southern Iraq blocked roads leading to the country's main port on Monday, while the country's central bank reduced working hours because of ongoing demonstrations, security officials said.
                   
Protesters burned tires, blocking the roads to the Umm Qasr port, responsible for the bulk of the country's commodities imports, a Basra security official said.
                   
Protesters also cut roads to the airport with burning tires in the holy city of Najaf.
                   
This is the second time the port has been blocked since the protests began on Oct. 1, when thousands of Iraqis, mostly youth, took to the streets denouncing rampant government corruption, failing state services including electricity cuts, and a lack of job opportunities.
                   
“It was tough times when the port was closed,” said a senior port official, referring to previous closures on Oct. 29 that lasted nearly a week. The source said productivity had been cut by nearly half as a result but imports had been rebounding gradually since. The port is an important source of revenue for the government.
                   
Meanwhile, working hours were reduced for employees of the Central Bank in Baghdad, located on the famous Rasheed Street, because of the ongoing protests.
                   
“We are still working normally but we reduced working hours,” said a senior director-general in the bank.
                   
On Sunday, two protesters were wounded when security forces fired tear gas in renewed confrontations with demonstrators on Rasheed Street, close to the central bank building.
                   
At least 320 people have been killed and thousands wounded in the capital and the mostly Shiite southern provinces since the unrest began. Almost daily clashes have seen security forces use heavy tear gas, live rounds and stun guns to repel demonstrators from reaching the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq's government and also home to various foreign embassies including the U.S.

Indian Students Face Off With Police Amid Fee Protest

7 hours 26 min ago

Hundreds of students from a New Delhi university faced off Monday with police, who stopped their march toward Parliament to protest increased student housing fees.
                   
The students from Jawaharlal Nehru University chanted slogans and attempted to cross police barricades. Police detained several students during the march.
                   
The Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union said in a statement that the students were attacked by the police during the protest.
                   
“The police used brutal force to disrupt our peaceful march and several students have been injured,” the statement said.
                   
The students wanted to appeal to lawmakers to intervene in their university's decision to hike the fees, which they have been protesting for more than two weeks. Last week, hundreds of protesting students clashed with the police during the university's graduation ceremony.
                   
Rent for a single-bedroom was increased to the equivalent of more than $8 per month from less than $1 per month. The security deposit more than doubled to more than $160.
                   
Many students said they fear the fee structure would make education inaccessible to underprivileged students.
                   
“I am the first from my family to study at a university. By raising housing fees, the university administration is putting a price on affordable education,” said Jyoti Sharma, a student at the march.
                   
Students held signs at the march reading ``Save public education'' and ``Ensure affordable hostels for all.''
                   
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury offered his support to the protesting students.
                   
“A peaceful protest march to Parliament against the unprecedented fee hikes is being forcibly stopped by the police. Strongly condemn this denial of basic democratic right to protest,” he tweeted.
                   
The students marched despite the university saying it would partially roll back the fees.
                   
“The students will not pay the increased fee,” said Ashutosh Verma, a student.

China Calls on US to 'Stop Flexing Muscles' in South China Sea

8 hours 8 min ago

China on Monday called on the U.S. military to stop flexing its muscles in the South China Sea
and to avoid adding "new uncertainties" over Taiwan, during high-level talks that underscored tension between the world's two largest economies.

The remarks by Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe to U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, recounted by a Chinese spokesman, came just two weeks after a top White House official denounced Chinese "intimidation" in the busy waterway.

It also came a day after Esper publicly accused Beijing of "increasingly resorting to coercion and intimidation to advance its strategic objectives" in the region.

During closed-door talks on the sidelines of a gathering of defense ministers in Bangkok, Wei urged Esper to "stop flexing muscles in the South China Sea and to not provoke and escalate
tensions in the South China Sea", the spokesman, Wu Qian, said.

China claims almost all the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, where it has established military outposts on artificial islands. However, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the sea.

The United States accuses China of militarizing the South China Sea and trying to intimidate Asian neighbors who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.

The U.S. Navy regularly vexes China by conducting what it calls "freedom of navigation" operations by ships close to some of the islands China occupies, asserting freedom of access to international waterways.

Asked specifically what Wei sought for the United States to do differently, and whether that included halting such freedom of navigation operations, Wu said: "We (call on) the U.S. side
to stop intervening in the South China Sea and stop military provocation in the South China Sea."

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Esper, in his meeting with Wei, noted China's "perpetual reluctance" to adhere to international norms.

"Secretary Esper pointedly reiterated that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows - and we will encourage and protect the rights of other sovereign nations to do the same," Hoffman said.

Chinese carrier transit

Despite warm words exchanged in front of reporters, Wei and Esper also discussed thorny issues, including Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, which has seen months of anti-government protests.
They also talked about democratic Taiwan, which is claimed by China as a wayward province and is the Communist Party's most sensitive and important territorial issue.

Fenghe underscored to Esper China's position that it would "not tolerate any Taiwan independence incident", Wu said, adding that it opposed any official or military contact with Taiwan. China has in the past threatened to attack if Taiwan, set to hold a presidential election next year, moves towards independence.

"The Chinese side also requires the U.S. side to carefully handle the Taiwan related-issue and to not add new uncertainties to the Strait," Wu said.

The exchange came a day after news that China sailed a carrier group into the sensitive Taiwan Strait, led by its first domestically built aircraft carrier.

Nigeria's Oscar Disqualification Sparks Push for Films in Native Languages

8 hours 14 min ago

Nigeria's Oscar Committee is urging the country's filmmakers to use more native languages in their productions.  This, after the U.S. Academy Awards disqualified a Nigerian entry in the International Feature Film category because the movie used too much English.  While some in Nigeria’s Hollywood – known as Nollywood - support the idea of more native languages in films, others argue that non-English films limit their audience reach. 

Nollywood filmmaker Desmond Utomwen is aiming for a U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Award, popularly known as an Oscar, by producing a film in a native Nigerian language.

“It's actually a Hausa-based film, so it's a language film, it's not English.  I've done a couple of them in English but, that's actually my first film in Hausa,' he says.

Most Nigerian filmmakers make English-language movies to reach a larger audience globally but also inside Nigeria, where the former British colony made English the official language.

Filmmaker Darlington Abuda has been in the industry for years.

“In Nigeria, if I do a purely language film, I have made my film a regional film," Abuda says.  "It will not get the appeal and audience traction that it needs in the other parts of the country."

But that tide may be slowly turning after the Academy Awards this month disqualified Nigeria’s first entry in the International Feature Film category.

Only 11 minutes of Genevieve Nnaji's "Lion Heart" - the first Nollywood film by Netflix - was in the native Igbo language.  To qualify for the international feature award, at least 50 percent of a film's dialogue must be in a language other than English.

While the rejection was roundly criticized in Nigeria, C.J. Obasi, a member of a Nigerian Oscar committee which was set up five years ago, is optimistic.

“If you look at the bigger picture you realize that it's a victory in that we made a submission for the first time ever," Obasi says.  "What that does is that it re-positions the hearts and minds of filmmakers as to how we are going to tell our stories moving forward.”

Nigeria's Oscar Selection Committee says the rejection should motivate Nollywood filmmakers to create more movies in the country’s over 500 native languages.

But convincing Nigerian filmmakers to turn away from English – the language that ties the country together and with the world - will remain a challenge.

And, for some Nollywood filmmakers like Jim Iyke, the language used is not the point.

"If someone sits in their living room and decide where my movie should be, and what platform or what awards I should get, that is on them," Iyke says. " I've done my job.  I've fed the artist in me.”

While Lion Heart won’t make the February Academy Awards, being rejected and having the backing of Netflix are already drawing more international attention to Nollywood -- and what Nigerian filmmakers will produce next.

 

Report: US Agriculture Uses Child Labor, Exposes Them to Health Hazards

18 hours 48 min ago

New research has found that U.S. agriculture uses child workers without proper training and care for their safety. The report published last week in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine says 33 children are injured every day while working on U.S. farms, and more child workers die in agriculture than in any other industry. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports rights groups blame loopholes in U.S. laws for failing to protect child workers in agriculture

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