review

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz speaks at AIPAC in Washington
Israel’s Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz speaks at AIPAC in Washington, U.S., March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

March 25, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strongest election challenger, Benny Gantz, called on Monday for unity and moderation in a speech to a major pro-Israel U.S. lobby group that has been uneasy at Netanyahu’s courting of far-rightists.

Gantz’s appearance at AIPAC was overshadowed by a rocket strike on Israel from Gaza that prompted Netanyahu to cancel his own speech at the event so he could return and oversee retaliation.

Gantz, a retired army general who is a centrist newcomer to politics, went briefly off-script to commend Netanyahu’s decision, before delivering veiled censure of the conservative premier’s electioneering, which has included dismissive rhetoric about Israel’s Arab minority and appeals to ultranationalists.

“The divisive dialogue tearing our strong nation apart may serve – I doubt it, but it may serve – political purposes, but is shredding the fabric that holds us together,” he said.

If he succeeds Netanyahu after the April 9 election, Gantz said, “there will be no Kahanists running our country, there will be no racists leading our state institutions, and there will be no corruption leading our ways – no corruption whatsoever.”

Netanyahu forged a pre-election alliance last month with Jewish Power, an ultranationalist party that includes adherents of the late anti-Arab rabbi, Meir Kahane.

In a rare reprimand AIPAC, which is the largest U.S. pro-Israel lobby, called Jewish Power “a racist and reprehensible party.”

The four-term premier also faces criminal charges in three corruption cases, pending a review hearing after the election. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing and described himself as the victim of liberal media bias and judicial overreach.

U.S. Jews, a largely Democratic constituency, have at times fretted over Netanyahu’s alignment with President Donald Trump’s Republican administration, and Gantz talked up AIPAC’s bipartisan strategy.

Gantz called Trump “a true partner and ally of Israel,” but added: “We want all of America, Republicans and Democrats, to move forward in the spirit of true bipartisanship that served so well in the past.”

After the speech, Gantz met Vice President Mike Pence, who also addressed the gathering.

Posting a photo of himself shaking hands with Pence, Gantz wrote on Twitter: “I thanked him for his unequivocal support for Israel and for everything they are doing for us.”

Netanyahu, who opinion polls show running neck and neck with Gantz, has dismissed his rival as a “weak leftist,” accusing him of allowing Iran to hack his cellphone. Gantz outlined national security policies that were not significantly different from the prime minister’s, and laughed off the alleged breach.

Iran has denied targeting Gantz. Gantz has said he had been informed by Israel’s domestic security service of a breach but there was no sensitive information on the device.

Alluding on Monday to his military exploits against Iranian threats while in uniform, Gantz directed a warning toward Tehran: “You know me, and not only from my cellphone.”

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

A man enters the CME Group offices in New York
A man enters the CME Group offices in New York, U.S., October 18, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 25, 2019

PRAGUE (Reuters) – Broadcaster Central European Media Enterprises (CME) said on Monday that it has launched a review of strategic options including possibly selling the company.

The announcement sent the company’s shares surging more than 8 percent on the U.S. Nasdaq exchange.

The group, majority owned by AT&T, operates 30 television channels in five central and east European markets and has been slashing its debt burden in recent years. Its net debt dropped to $765 million by the end of last year from $1.1 billion in 2017.

CME shares jumped 6.5 percent in Prague after it announced its review, to 86.3 crowns, the highest since August 2018, and were up 8.1 percent on the Nasdaq.

“(Strategic alternatives) may include, among other things, the sale of part or all of the company, a merger with another strategic partner, a recapitalization, or continuing to execute on CME’s long-term business plan,” the company said in a statement, adding it had AT&T’s support.

CME, with a market capitalization of $877 million at Friday’s close on the Nasdaq, has seen profits rise in recent years and has forecast a 10-12 percent rise at constant prices in core profit, or operating income before depreciation and amortization (OIBDA), this year, from $222.7 million in 2018.

That has prompted analysts and investors to speculate it could soon pay dividends or announce share buybacks.

CME said the review did not have to lead to a transaction and there was no timetable for the process.

It said it had hired Allen & Company LLC and BofA Merrill Lynch as financial advisors, and Covington & Burling LLP as legal advisor.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Susan Fenton)

Source: OANN

Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz said the media must apologize to all Americans following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report.

“I look at the law not in terms of what I wish would happen, but what I know will happen based on 50 years of experience. I wish the folks over on CNN would have done the same thing,” Dershowitz said Monday on “Fox & Friends.”

“They didn’t. All they did was oh, he’s going to be indicted because we want him to be indicted,” he said. “He did collude because we want him to collude. He obstructed because we wanted him to have obstructed. That’s not news analysis. That’s advocacy journalism.”

WATCH:

“I think a lot of apologies are due to the American public about being mislead by many in the media who substituted wishful thinking for factual analysis,” he continued. “That’s not what media people want to hear. What we want to hear as the American public is a straight down analysis and what we don’t want to hear from Mueller is a law review article. … From a prosecutor we want, ‘No, we’re not indicting, end of inquiry. That’s it.’ But I think the end result is what the facts pointed toward.”

Attorney General William Barr delivered his report on the special counsel probe to Congress Sunday and wrote that President Donald Trump and his campaign team did not collude with any Russian entities during the election. Barr also said there was no evidence to suggest Trump obstructed justice either.

Dershowitz said he is still facing media backlash over his skepticism and claimed he’s been personally attacked because he won’t shill for Democrats(RELATED: Justice Department Delivers Mueller Conclusions To Congress — No Collusion)

“Well, they are still coming after me. The New Yorker has commissioned a hit piece on me, attacking my personal life because they don’t like what I’ve said about Donald Trump,” he said, adding:

“You know, you go all over the media — and I’m being attacked all over the place not because of anything I did but because of my truthful analysis, which people think shows I’m a big supporter of Trump. Look, I voted for Hillary Clinton, as I said. I’m a liberal Democrat. But I call them as I see them.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

Derek Hunter | Contributor

Today’s show is all about the Mueller report and how Democrats and the media are dealing with their grief. It turns out, they still aren’t letting the facts stand in the way of their narrative.

Listen to the show:

Nothing short of Robert Mueller frog-marching President Donald Trump out of the White House was ever going to be enough for leftists who were convinced the president has a sock drawer full of Rubles and Vladimir Putin’s direct number on his iPhone. The special counsel’s report ended the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election with no indictments of any Americans for anything related to collusion and no evidence either.

Democrats, both elected and in the media, who spent the last 2 years swearing there were bags full of smoking guns, spent the weekend scrambling to convince their audiences that they weren’t lied to. They failed. We have all the audio and analysis.

The usual suspects retreated to their safe spaces — CNN and MSNBC — to claim more investigation is needed. Journalistic fossil CNN contributor Carl Bernstein even had that gall to praise the media’s coverage of the whole affair. Apparently, like most of America, he doesn’t watch CNN.

You have to hear it all to believe it.

Please help spread the word about The Daily Daily Caller Podcast. Please take a minute to rate and review on iTunes, share on social media and be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode:

The Daily Daily Caller Podcast is a daily look and mocking of the news from a conservative perspective. Hosted by Derek Hunter, it is available in audio form Monday-Thursday and will have a video option on Fridays.

Derek Hunter is a columnist and contributing editor for The Daily Caller and author of “Outrage, INC: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood” from HarperCollins, available nowPick Up a copy, or several copies, here. Send compliments and complaints to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @derekahunter.

Source: The Daily Caller

Derek Hunter | Contributor

Today’s show is all about the Mueller report and how Democrats and the media are dealing with their grief. It turns out, they still aren’t letting the facts stand in the way of their narrative.

Listen to the show:

Nothing short of Robert Mueller frog-marching President Donald Trump out of the White House was ever going to be enough for leftists who were convinced the president has a sock drawer full of Rubles and Vladimir Putin’s direct number on his iPhone. The special counsel’s report ended the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election with no indictments of any Americans for anything related to collusion and no evidence either.

Democrats, both elected and in the media, who spent the last 2 years swearing there were bags full of smoking guns, spent the weekend scrambling to convince their audiences that they weren’t lied to. They failed. We have all the audio and analysis.

The usual suspects retreated to their safe spaces — CNN and MSNBC — to claim more investigation is needed. Journalistic fossil CNN contributor Carl Bernstein even had that gall to praise the media’s coverage of the whole affair. Apparently, like most of America, he doesn’t watch CNN.

You have to hear it all to believe it.

Please help spread the word about The Daily Daily Caller Podcast. Please take a minute to rate and review on iTunes, share on social media and be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode:

The Daily Daily Caller Podcast is a daily look and mocking of the news from a conservative perspective. Hosted by Derek Hunter, it is available in audio form Monday-Thursday and will have a video option on Fridays.

Derek Hunter is a columnist and contributing editor for The Daily Caller and author of “Outrage, INC: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood” from HarperCollins, available nowPick Up a copy, or several copies, here. Send compliments and complaints to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @derekahunter.

Source: The Daily Caller

The German share price index DAX graph at the stock exchange in Frankfurt
The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

March 25, 2019

By Medha Singh

(Reuters) – European shares fell on Monday on concerns over sluggish global growth but an unexpected rise in German business sentiment eased fears of a recession in the bloc’s largest economy.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index pared early losses to dip 0.12 percent while Frankfurt’s DAX, Milan’s, Madrid’s and Paris’s briefly turned positive after data showed German business morale improved unexpectedly in March, suggesting the country’s economy is likely to pick up in the coming months. London’s FTSE was marginally lower.

European stocks on Friday witnessed their biggest weekly decline this year following weak manufacturing data from Europe and the United States that inverted a part of the U.S. yield curve. In the past, that has signaled an upcoming recession.

“It’s the uncertainty around the outlook of the manufacturing sector which is causing the selloff which should be put into context of still a very healthy service sector,” said Mike Bell, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.

“There seem to be conflicting signals from the data with one survey telling things that things are deteriorating a bit in the manufacturing side but on the other hand the IFO survey is showing a pick up.”

Among the biggest weights on the pan-region index was Germany’s Bayer, down 2.1 percent. Its chief executive said over the weekend that management retained the backing of its supervisory board despite a second U.S. ruling that its glyphosate-based Roundup weed killer caused cancer.

While losses in health and technology sectors weighed on the index, a rise in auto stocks and banks limited losses.

Fiat Chrysler jumped 3.2 percent. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Italian carmaker had rebuffed merger approaches by Peugeot earlier this year.

British satellite operator Inmarsat jumped 8.6 percent to lead gains on STOXX after a private equity-led consortium agreed to buy the company for about $3.4 billion in cash.

Majestic Wine tanked 11.2 percent, on course for its worst day since November after it said it would review its dividend policy as it looks to focus on its online wine retail business Naked Wines.

Investors are also dealing with the uncertainty surrounding the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, with the risk of a potentially major “no-deal” shock to the European economy just over two weeks away.

Prime Minister Theresa May is under pressure to give a date for leaving office to swing Brexit-supporting rebel lawmakers in her party behind her twice-defeated European Union divorce treaty.

(Reporting by Medha Singh and Agamoni Ghosh in Bengaluru,; Editing by Keith Weir and Ed Osmond)

Source: OANN

The German share price index DAX graph at the stock exchange in Frankfurt
The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

March 25, 2019

By Medha Singh

(Reuters) – European shares fell on Monday on concerns over sluggish global growth but an unexpected rise in German business sentiment eased fears of a recession in the bloc’s largest economy.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index pared early losses to dip 0.12 percent while Frankfurt’s DAX, Milan’s, Madrid’s and Paris’s briefly turned positive after data showed German business morale improved unexpectedly in March, suggesting the country’s economy is likely to pick up in the coming months. London’s FTSE was marginally lower.

European stocks on Friday witnessed their biggest weekly decline this year following weak manufacturing data from Europe and the United States that inverted a part of the U.S. yield curve. In the past, that has signaled an upcoming recession.

“It’s the uncertainty around the outlook of the manufacturing sector which is causing the selloff which should be put into context of still a very healthy service sector,” said Mike Bell, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.

“There seem to be conflicting signals from the data with one survey telling things that things are deteriorating a bit in the manufacturing side but on the other hand the IFO survey is showing a pick up.”

Among the biggest weights on the pan-region index was Germany’s Bayer, down 2.1 percent. Its chief executive said over the weekend that management retained the backing of its supervisory board despite a second U.S. ruling that its glyphosate-based Roundup weed killer caused cancer.

While losses in health and technology sectors weighed on the index, a rise in auto stocks and banks limited losses.

Fiat Chrysler jumped 3.2 percent. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Italian carmaker had rebuffed merger approaches by Peugeot earlier this year.

British satellite operator Inmarsat jumped 8.6 percent to lead gains on STOXX after a private equity-led consortium agreed to buy the company for about $3.4 billion in cash.

Majestic Wine tanked 11.2 percent, on course for its worst day since November after it said it would review its dividend policy as it looks to focus on its online wine retail business Naked Wines.

Investors are also dealing with the uncertainty surrounding the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, with the risk of a potentially major “no-deal” shock to the European economy just over two weeks away.

Prime Minister Theresa May is under pressure to give a date for leaving office to swing Brexit-supporting rebel lawmakers in her party behind her twice-defeated European Union divorce treaty.

(Reporting by Medha Singh and Agamoni Ghosh in Bengaluru,; Editing by Keith Weir and Ed Osmond)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A view inside the lobby of the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square in New York
FILE PHOTO: A view inside the lobby of the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square in New York City, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

March 25, 2019

By Beth Pinsker

NEW YORK(Reuters) – It sounds like it should have been impossible to miss, but it took more than a year for an industrial equipment company to discover $12,000 worth of doggie day spa charges on an employee’s expense reports.

Level upon level of corporate management also failed to detect that the same employee was running a scheme to sell more than $200,000 in company equipment on eBay.

Only a fraction of expense reports are closely examined, so it is no wonder that companies experience more than $7 billion in annual losses from fraud, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

By using robots, instead of relying on random spot checks, companies are catching fraud more than twice as fast and fraud losses are halved, said Andi McNeal, director of research for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

That is what happened when the industrial equipment company put in place an artificial-intelligence program from Oversight Systems, which was able to quickly ferret out the culprit.

“It started out as a small infraction that led to an investigation that led to other things,” said Terrence McCrossan, chief executive of Atlanta-based Oversight Systems, which audits about $2 trillion worth of employee spending each year and works with employers like the U.S. Department of Defense, McDonald’s and General Electric.

The expense reporting universe is being overhauled to use artificial intelligence to get a 100 percent overview of employee submissions. In addition to monitoring fraud, companies are streamlining the way employees file expenses.

Soon, employees around the world will stop fussing with paper receipts and crying over hotel bills, then waiting weeks to get reimbursed while their paperwork travels through the corporate labyrinth. Managers will no longer be stuck in the middle of the process, policing spending, and companies will stop losing so much money to waste and fraud.

TEST CASES

Some changes have already occurred, ranging from corporate card charges that automatically attach to electronic expense reports to seamless experiences for business travelers who stay at approved hotels.

One of SAP Concur’s newest offerings is Concur Detect by AppZen, which does a 100 percent audit of incoming expense reports.

AppZen analyzes expenses by looking for risk. Only about 10 percent of expenses that flow through a company have a problem that needs to be addressed, said Anant Kale, CEO of AppZen, based in San Jose, California.

The algorithm can clear expense reports with no issues almost instantly, so that these employee outlays can be reimbursed as quickly as two days.

If a charge has a red flag, it goes to a human auditor. One Concur Detect customer, Portola Pharmaceuticals Inc, said it had reduced the number of expense reports that required review by one-third.

Kale has been surprised by the kind of problems that are popping up since AppZen’s 2016 launch.

“Employees are claiming the same expense multiple times. That happens more often than you can imagine,” Kale said. “It’s not fraud, but an honest mistake.”

AppZen also finds many expenses that are disallowed by corporate policy. Some of these are for strip clubs, in-room movies during business travel or charging gifts at a hotel shop.

Oversight Systems has identified questionable expenses like eyelash extensions, lost sunglasses and an employee who billed for a new shirt after he spilled coffee on himself on the way to a meeting.

There is also true fraud. Oversight Systems, for instance, found an employee who expensed for parking over and over using the same receipt each time. By the time the fraud was discovered, the parking lot no longer even existed.

What makes the difference between catching wrongdoers and companies’ losing money? Better compliance and making audits more efficient, said the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ McNeal.

As much as machines can learn and improve their performance, people are more complicated. AppZen, for instance, has yet to run a clean screen on a company where it catches no problems, no matter how much effort a company puts into employee education and catching disallowed expenses before they are filed.

“You’re never going to get all of them to comply – that’s just human nature,” McNeal said. “You’re just trying to let the fewest grains get through the sieve.”

(Editing by Lauren Young and by Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, on Caribbean tour
Britain’s Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive in Havana, Cuba, March 24, 2019. REUTERS/Phil Noble

March 25, 2019

By Sarah Marsh

HAVANA (Reuters) – Prince Charles and his wife Camilla landed in Havana on Sunday for the first official trip by the British royal family to Communist-run Cuba even as Britain’s top ally the United States seeks to isolate the island nation.

Shortly after arriving on a Royal Air Force plane, the heir to the British throne laid a wreath of flowers at the memorial to independence hero Jose Marti on Havana’s Revolution Square dominated by massive portraits of guerrilla fighters including Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

During his three-day historic visit, which is part of a broader Caribbean tour, the 70-year old Prince of Wales is set to dine with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, tour Havana’s restored colonial district, visit community and green energy projects and review a parade of antique British cars.

The royal visit, in line with a broader normalization in relations between the West and Cuba, comes three years after one by former U.S. President Barack Obama then billed as the start of a new chapter for ties between the old Cold War foes

Since Donald Trump became U.S. president, however, the United States has reverted to its decades-old strategy of seeking to pressure Cuba to change, including tightening its crippling trade embargo on the island.

The Trump administration has ramped up that pressure over the crisis in Cuba’s socialist ally Venezuela.

“It’s always good for Cuba to strengthen its relations with important international actors but all the more so when the United States has a president responding to the interests of extreme right-wing people who want to hurt Cuba,” said one Havana resident, Arian Rubio, 26, a historian.

William LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University, said such visits by high level delegations of major powers “lend legitimacy to the Cuban government and represent an implicit warning to the United States that hostile actions against Cuba may incur a diplomatic cost with important allies.”

The UK government had asked the royal couple to add Cuba to their Caribbean tour of former and current British territories in hopes of boosting commercial and cultural ties and political influence.

British trade with Cuba was less than $100 million last year while only a handful of well-known British companies have investments there through subsidiaries, for example Imperial Brands Plc, British-American Tobacco Plc and Unilever.

Opportunities to do business, however, are expected to grow as the Caribbean’s largest island continues opening up its beleaguered, state-dominated economy. Those include opportunities in its expanding tourism sector, that already attracts some 200,000 British tourists annually.

Moreover Britain has sought to drum up more trade with alternative partners since a referendum to exit the European Union three years ago.

Plans for high-level officials to accompany the Prince of Wales were scuttled by the political drama playing out in London over how best to leave the EU before a March 29 deadline.

Underscoring the thaw in British-Cuban relations, when Diaz-Canel receives Charles at the presidential Palace of the Revolution on Monday evening, it will be their second meeting in a year.

The 58-year old Cuban president paid the prince a visit last November in London on his first tour of several countries since replacing Raul Castro last April.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Additional reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Source: OANN

Kevin Daley | Supreme Court Reporter

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas did something extraordinary on Wednesday.

He spoke.

Appearing before the Supreme Court is rather like meeting your spouse’s family for the first time. The questions are relentless, probing and impolite. One hundred questions over the course of an hour-long argument is typical. Attorneys arguing cases can expect an interruption from a justice just moments into their presentation, and it is not unusual for the justices to interrupt one another.

Yet Thomas is generally an observer at the blood sport that is oral argument. Since taking the bench in 1991, he has rarely asked questions of the attorneys arguing before the Court. His silent stretches run so long (he did not ask one question from 2006 to 2016) that the very fact of his speaking is a news event.

The questions he asked Wednesday, in a dispute concerning racism in jury selection, were his first questions in almost three years and his second intervention this decade.

Thomas is alone in this approach to argument among his colleagues. His silence draws curiosity and ire in equal measure, particularly since he is widely regarded as the most gregarious of the justices.

Scholarly treatment of Thomas’s silence is similarly mixed. One 2017 journal article in the Northwestern University Law Review from Professors RonNell Andersen Jones and Aaron Nielson compiled and reviewed every question Thomas has ever asked during oral argument, encompassing his service on the Supreme Court and his prior work on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Jones and Nielson concluded that Thomas is an adept questioner who should intercede more often.

“Reviewing these questions demonstrates that although Thomas has not frequently spoken, when he has posed questions, they have been thoughtful, useful, respectful, and beneficial to his colleagues of whatever ideological stripe,” the study reads.

Jones and Nielson noted Thomas’s questions focus intensely on the text of the law. Following the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, they suggest oral arguments would benefit from a questioner with Thomas’s “laser-like focus on the text.”

“Putting aside the merits of textualism as an ending point, or even as a starting point, in statutory interpretation, the merits of having an active voice in oral argument that demands investigation of and discussion about the statutory language seem incontrovertible,” they write.

“With Justice Antonin Scalia’s departure from the Supreme Court, the need for a justice to ask these sorts of questions is obvious,” they add.

When Thomas does ask questions, Jones and Neilson say, they tend to come near the end of the argument. His Wednesday inquiries came during a brief rebuttal period, only after the attorney asked if there were any remaining questions. The justice himself speculated that his delicate approach to questioning is a function of his southern pedigree during an event at the University of Kentucky in April 2012.

“Maybe it’s the southerner in me,” Thomas wondered. “Maybe it’s the introvert in me, I don’t know. I think that when somebody’s talking, somebody ought to listen.”

Justice Clarence Thomas, at center, awaits the arrival of former President George H.W. Bush's casket at the Capitol Rotunda on December 3, 2018 (Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)

Justice Clarence Thomas, at center, awaits the arrival of former President George H.W. Bush’s casket at the Capitol Rotunda on December 3, 2018 (Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)

Others are more harsh in their appraisal of Thomas’s silence. Writing in the Florida Law Review in 2009, David Karp argued Thomas’s approach to oral argument is ultimately self-defeating. (RELATED: Clarence Thomas Clerks Dominate Trump’s Judicial Appointments)

Perhaps more than any other justice in modern history, Thomas is intensely interested in course correction. He does not believe the Court ought to abide by cases which offend his vision of the Constitution, and he regularly invites litigants to bring challenges to foundational decisions he believes are wrong. In February alone he released opinions criticizing and New York Times v. Sullivan (a landmark freedom of the press case), Gideon v. Wainwright (establishing a right to counsel for indigent defendants) and Roe v. Wade.

Thomas is a prolific opinion writer who has pressed his judicial philosophy over dozens of lone dissents and concurring opinions. Karp says Thomas could better advance his own views and enrich the Court’s internal debate by contributing to oral arguments.

“Through his silence, Justice Thomas not only evades the deliberative process, but he also diminishes his own influence,” Karp wrote. “Justice Thomas’s silence allows advocates to ignore him and his views.”

“Because of his willingness to rethink the constitutional order, Justice Thomas would force the Court to reconsider basic premises,” Karp added.

Karp believes the role of oral argument in the deliberative process makes Thomas’s silence especially strange. The justice told Newsweek in 2007 that his views on a given case are well-developed by oral argument. Before arguments he reads legal briefs from both sides, additional filings from interested parties, the decisions below, the record of facts, and discusses his thoughts with his law clerks. As such, in Thomas’s view, the argument is not especially important to the disposition of a case.

But Karp is skeptical of that perspective, arguing that it is unbelievable that even the most gifted jurist could approach the complex work of the Supreme Court without questions.

“It seems unbelievable that Justice Thomas genuinely has no questions to ask about any of the nation’s most difficult cases,” Karp wrote. “Even the most learned judge with well-developed outlooks on the law should have questions.”

The Supreme Court will hear cases through Wednesday touching partisan gerrymandering and the power of federal agencies.

Sarah George and Paul Ingrassia contributed research. 

Follow Kevin on Twitter

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

“The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” — Letter to Congress from Attorney General William Barr

Now that the findings of the Department of Justice have exonerated the president, will Democrats follow their own advice, admit there was no collusion or obstruction and Move On?

The liberal activist organization of that name was founded a generation ago when Congress investigated and tried to impeach President Clinton. Congress didn’t take the advice of legal experts and constitutional scholars then, and unfortunately it looks like Democrats intend to repeat the mistake.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) says regardless of the report’s findings, he will pursue investigations even “broader” than what the special counsel has done with 2,800 subpoenas, 500 witnesses, some 500 search warrants and more than $25 million over the last two years.

Democrats and the media should be trying to heal the nation not divide us. Instead, Democrats intend to spend the next two years subpoenaing and dragging every member of Trump’s administration, his family and business associates to testify before their committees.

Nadler says he’s doing it to protect “the rule of law.”

But will House Democrats really respect the institutions and traditions of American jurisprudence? If the past is prelude, the answer to that questions is, sadly, no.

Democrats did away with the presumption of innocence for Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Kavanaugh, with his family and the American people paying the price Now, Democrats are now ready to abandon other bedrock principles of American justice.

One of the most basic principles is equality before the law!

The Constitution prohibits double jeopardy. It’s a matter of basic fairness — no one should be victimized by vindictive prosecutors armed with the power of government and $25 million in financial backing of the U.S. Treasury.

Congressional Democrats’ endless investigations, leaks and political machinations violate the spirit of that constitutional prohibition. Americans understand that, no matter what the spin or who stands accused. The constitution guarantees fair and equal justice for every American regardless of who they are!

Democrats want to convict President Trump in the court of public opinion to set the stage for impeaching him. That’s what Rep. Nadler told George Stephanopoulos: “Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen.” Fortunately Mueller’s exoneration of President Trump will make that extremely difficult to do, despite media persecution and false news stories,

The Democrats are ready to violate another norm of legal precedent by asking Attorney General Barr and the DOJ to release every scrap of paper the special counsel gathered.

Prosecutors normally don’t release confidential material gathered during an investigation out of respect for the privacy of individuals not charged with a crime.

”The normal procedure is that unless there’s a damn good reason, you don’t release grand jury material,” Nadler said a generation ago when he opposed releasing the evidence behind the Ken Starr report.

Nadler and fellow Democrats accused the Judiciary Committee of seeking the background material to build a public case for impeaching President Clinton.

“They don’t think there is enough of a vote for impeachment yet out in the public,” Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), the second ranking Democrat on the committee, said. “So what you have a very one-sided, partisan effort to release material, before the president gets a chance to review it or respond to it, that makes the president look bad.”

Nadler took a page from that playbook and now demands the raw material Mueller obtained to build his own case for impeaching President Trump. Furthermore, he says the White House “should not get an advance look at the report” or the evidence.

That’s quite an about face from the Jerry Nadler of 1998 who fought for Clinton to have time to look at the Starr report. “The president is asking for two days. The Republicans say no,” he said bitterly.

The DOJ does not release such information to protect the innocent. Furthermore, the Trump administration has a legal right to review the report, prepare a response, rebuke any false accusations and information covered by executive privilege. 

As for an impartial hearing, President Trump can expect no better from House Democrats than Senate Democrats gave Judge Kavanaugh.

Chairman Nadler already convicted the president of obstruction of justice before seeing the attorney general’s letter and the Mueller report.

House Democrats don’t care that the special counsel found the president did not collude with the Russians or obstruct justice. They will continue their investigations, attempts to smear the president. Like Javert obsessed with Jean Valjean, Democrats can’t help themselves.

All Americans, Democrats, Republicans and independents alike, should be celebrating the fact investigators found no evidence of collusion. However, Democrats won’t take the finding of no collusion or obstruction for an answer.

That tells you they were never pursuing the truth, just a political vendetta and a different outcome for the 2016 election. Their obsession with President Trump will only further divide the nation, not help unite us.

Rep. Nadler says he wants to protect the rule of law and “the institutions we depend on for our democratic form of government.”

But Democrats are weakening those institutions by engaging in relentless political warfare. Voters elected Congress to address the very real challenges our country faces — an opioid epidemic, China’s economic aggression, the crisis on our southern border, the difficulty of raising a family, to name, just a few.

Our system is founded on belief in equal justice under the law. All will be held accountable.

We hope the politicians, intelligence officials, journalists and media executives who fed Americans unfounded speculation, conspiracy theories for the last two years that have done incalculable damage to our country and its institutions will be held accountable.

Preserve the principles of justice on which our incredible country was founded.

Kimberly Guilfoyle (@KimGuilfoyle) is vice chairwoman of America First Policies, a nonprofit organization supporting key policy initiatives that will work for all citizens in our country and put America first.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

Source: The Daily Caller

The text of Attorney General William Barr's letter to congressional lawmakers outlining the principal conclusions reached by the special counsel in the Russia probe (with footnotes below):

March 24, 2019

Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Ranking Member Collins:

As a supplement to the notification provided on Friday, March 22, 2019, I am writing today to advise you of the principal conclusions reached by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III and to inform you about the status of my initial review of the report he has prepared.

THE SPECIAL COUNSEL'S REPORT

On Friday, the Special Counsel submitted to me a "confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions" he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. 600.8(c). This report is entitled "Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election." Although my review is ongoing, I believe that it is in the public interest to describe the report and to summarize the principal conclusions reached by the Special Counsel and the results of his investigation.

The report explains that the Special Counsel and his staff thoroughly investigated allegations that members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, and others associated with it, conspired with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or sought to obstruct the related federal investigations. In the report, the Special Counsel noted that, in completing his investigation, he employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.

The Special Counsel obtained a number of indictments and convictions of individuals and entities in connection with his investigation, all of which have been publicly disclosed. During the course of his investigation, the Special Counsel also referred several matters to other offices for further action. The report does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public. Below, I summarize the principal conclusions set out in the Special Counsel's report.

Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. The Special Counsel's report is divided into two parts. The first describes the results of the Special Counsel's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The report outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts. The report further explains that a primary consideration for the Special Counsel's investigation was whether any Americans – including individuals associated with the Trump campaign – joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election, which would be a federal crime. The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: "(T)he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities." (1)

The Special Counsel's investigation determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. The first involved attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election. As noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with the IRA in its efforts, although the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian nationals and entities in connection with these activities.

The second element involved the Russian government's efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.

Obstruction of Justice. The report's second part addresses a number of actions by the President – most of which have been the subject of public reporting – that the Special Counsel investigated as potentially raising obstruction-of-justice concerns. After making a "thorough factual investigation" into these matters, the Special Counsel considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards governing prosecution and declination decisions but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment. The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as "difficult issues" of law and fact concerning whether the President's actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

The Special Counsel's decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime. Over the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel's office engaged in discussions with certain Department officials regarding many of the legal and factual matters at issue in the Special Counsel's obstruction investigation. After reviewing the Special Counsel's final report on these issues; consulting with Department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel's investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president. (2)

In making this determination, we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that "the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference," and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President's intent with respect to obstruction. Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding. In cataloguing the President's actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department's principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of- justice offense.

STATUS OF THE DEPARTMENT'S REVIEW

The relevant regulations contemplate that the Special Counsel's report will be a "confidential report" to the Attorney General. See Office of Special Counsel, 64 Fed. Reg. 37,038,37,040-41 (July 9,1999). As I have previously stated, however, I am mindful of the public interest in this matter. For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel's report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.

Based on my discussions with the Special Counsel and my initial review, it is apparent that the report contains material that is or could be subject to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), which imposes restrictions on the use and disclosure of information relating to "matter(s) occurring before (a) grand jury." Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(2)(B). Rule 6(e) generally limits disclosure of certain grand jury information in a criminal investigation and prosecution. Id. Disclosure of 6(e) material beyond the strict limits set forth in the rule is a crime in certain circumstances. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. 401(3). This restriction protects the integrity of grand jury proceedings and ensures that the unique and invaluable investigative powers of a grand jury are used strictly for their intended criminal justice function.

Given these restrictions, the schedule for processing the report depends in part on how quickly the Department can identify the 6(e) material that by law cannot be made public. I have requested the assistance of the Special Counsel in identifying all 6(e) information contained in the report as quickly as possible. Separately, I also must identify any information that could impact other ongoing matters, including those that the Special Counsel has referred to other offices. As soon as that process is complete, I will be in a position to move forward expeditiously in determining what can be released in light of applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.

***

As I observed in my initial notification, the Special Counsel regulations provide that "the Attorney General may determine that public release of' notifications to your respective Committees "would be in the public interest." 28 C.F.R. 600.9(c). I have so determined, and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you.

Sincerely,

William P. Barr

Attorney General

(1) In assessing potential conspiracy charges, the Special Counsel also considered whether members of the Trump campaign "coordinated" with Russian election interference activities. The Special Counsel defined "coordination" as an "agreement_tacit or express_between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference."

(2) See A Sitting President's Amenability to Indictment and Criminal Prosecution, 24 Op. O.L.C. 222 (2000).

Source: NewsMax

The text of Attorney General William Barr's letter to congressional lawmakers outlining the principal conclusions reached by the special counsel in the Russia probe (with footnotes below):

March 24, 2019

Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Ranking Member Collins:

As a supplement to the notification provided on Friday, March 22, 2019, I am writing today to advise you of the principal conclusions reached by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III and to inform you about the status of my initial review of the report he has prepared.

THE SPECIAL COUNSEL'S REPORT

On Friday, the Special Counsel submitted to me a "confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions" he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. 600.8(c). This report is entitled "Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election." Although my review is ongoing, I believe that it is in the public interest to describe the report and to summarize the principal conclusions reached by the Special Counsel and the results of his investigation.

The report explains that the Special Counsel and his staff thoroughly investigated allegations that members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, and others associated with it, conspired with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or sought to obstruct the related federal investigations. In the report, the Special Counsel noted that, in completing his investigation, he employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.

The Special Counsel obtained a number of indictments and convictions of individuals and entities in connection with his investigation, all of which have been publicly disclosed. During the course of his investigation, the Special Counsel also referred several matters to other offices for further action. The report does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public. Below, I summarize the principal conclusions set out in the Special Counsel's report.

Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. The Special Counsel's report is divided into two parts. The first describes the results of the Special Counsel's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The report outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts. The report further explains that a primary consideration for the Special Counsel's investigation was whether any Americans – including individuals associated with the Trump campaign – joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election, which would be a federal crime. The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: "(T)he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities." (1)

The Special Counsel's investigation determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. The first involved attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election. As noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with the IRA in its efforts, although the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian nationals and entities in connection with these activities.

The second element involved the Russian government's efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.

Obstruction of Justice. The report's second part addresses a number of actions by the President – most of which have been the subject of public reporting – that the Special Counsel investigated as potentially raising obstruction-of-justice concerns. After making a "thorough factual investigation" into these matters, the Special Counsel considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards governing prosecution and declination decisions but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment. The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as "difficult issues" of law and fact concerning whether the President's actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

The Special Counsel's decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime. Over the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel's office engaged in discussions with certain Department officials regarding many of the legal and factual matters at issue in the Special Counsel's obstruction investigation. After reviewing the Special Counsel's final report on these issues; consulting with Department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel's investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president. (2)

In making this determination, we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that "the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference," and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President's intent with respect to obstruction. Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding. In cataloguing the President's actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department's principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of- justice offense.

STATUS OF THE DEPARTMENT'S REVIEW

The relevant regulations contemplate that the Special Counsel's report will be a "confidential report" to the Attorney General. See Office of Special Counsel, 64 Fed. Reg. 37,038,37,040-41 (July 9,1999). As I have previously stated, however, I am mindful of the public interest in this matter. For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel's report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.

Based on my discussions with the Special Counsel and my initial review, it is apparent that the report contains material that is or could be subject to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), which imposes restrictions on the use and disclosure of information relating to "matter(s) occurring before (a) grand jury." Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(2)(B). Rule 6(e) generally limits disclosure of certain grand jury information in a criminal investigation and prosecution. Id. Disclosure of 6(e) material beyond the strict limits set forth in the rule is a crime in certain circumstances. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. 401(3). This restriction protects the integrity of grand jury proceedings and ensures that the unique and invaluable investigative powers of a grand jury are used strictly for their intended criminal justice function.

Given these restrictions, the schedule for processing the report depends in part on how quickly the Department can identify the 6(e) material that by law cannot be made public. I have requested the assistance of the Special Counsel in identifying all 6(e) information contained in the report as quickly as possible. Separately, I also must identify any information that could impact other ongoing matters, including those that the Special Counsel has referred to other offices. As soon as that process is complete, I will be in a position to move forward expeditiously in determining what can be released in light of applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.

***

As I observed in my initial notification, the Special Counsel regulations provide that "the Attorney General may determine that public release of' notifications to your respective Committees "would be in the public interest." 28 C.F.R. 600.9(c). I have so determined, and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you.

Sincerely,

William P. Barr

Attorney General

(1) In assessing potential conspiracy charges, the Special Counsel also considered whether members of the Trump campaign "coordinated" with Russian election interference activities. The Special Counsel defined "coordination" as an "agreement_tacit or express_between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference."

(2) See A Sitting President's Amenability to Indictment and Criminal Prosecution, 24 Op. O.L.C. 222 (2000).

Source: NewsMax

Bob Barr | Former Congressman (R-GA)

The college-admissions scandal announced this involved public and private colleges and universities from coast to coast. It netted the perpetrators tens of millions of dollars, and ensnared media darlings along with working-class individuals. While it may be the largest such scandal in the history of modern higher education, it is not the first and likely won’t be the last.

At the outset, it is important that this “vast college prep conspiracy” be considered and treated solely and precisely for what it is — a criminal enterprise fueled by greed. Grift on a massive scale.

Already, however, some on the Left are shifting the focus from the crass criminality of the scandal’s many participants, to a broader political attack on “privilege” in America. Others, on the conservative side are blaming affirmative action as the predicate for what the federal indictment properly characterized as a “racketeering enterprise.”

While the cheating scandal very well may exhibit elements of “class privilege” and affirmative-action abuse, obscuring the scheme by viewing it through the lens of contemporary public policy debates diminishes its importance and increases the likelihood it will be repeated.

Ten years ago, the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) system was shaken by a massive cheating scandal; orchestrated not by students trying to improve their grades, but by teachers and administrators fearful that lower student scores on standardized tests mandated by the federal “No Child Left Behind Act,” would slow the spigot of federal tax dollars on which the schools had become dependent.

When news of the APS scandal broke, many educators and public officials in Atlanta and across Georgia sought to have it addressed administratively; as a policy failure rather than a criminal enterprise. The pressure to thus downplay the scandal was pronounced. Fortunately, the venue in which the cases unfolded over the following five years remained exactly where it should have been — in criminal court.

Atlanta’s public schools still have not recovered fully from that sordid scandal, but the example set by aggressive prosecution of the teachers and administrators involved — a process free of partisan politics or racial division — remains a gold star in a state not often cited for upholding high ethical standards.

We all should hope that a decade from now, the 2019 college preparatory cheating scandal will be similarly remembered and cited as an example of how greed rising to the level of systemic criminality must be addressed by prosecution rather than policy debate. This is a task far more difficult than it should be, considering that in today’s hyper-partisan climate virtually every matter of constitutional or legal significance is distilled down to an excuse to challenge someone’s racial, gender, political or class worldview.

A review of the indictment unsealed just days ago — charging more than four dozen individuals with fraud, money laundering and racketeering in a scheme to afford children with parents of means an unfair advantage to gain admittance to top-tier universities — makes clear why the criminal process must remain front and center.

The scheme charted in the federal indictment was extensive in every important respect: taking place over several years and with tentacles reaching from university athletic and admission officials, to individuals employed by organizations supposed to fairly administer college entrance exams and even to include high school teachers; all were part of the grift. Virtually no aspect of the college-entrance process was unsullied by the racketeering scheme, including tax laws and various other federal laws designed to ensure fair competition in college admission processes.

The scheme was so brazen and sophisticated that — as detailed in the indictment — the managers of the conspiracy maintained their own “waiting lists,” so that if a child whose parents already had paid bribes (sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars) to secure their admittance to a chosen university ultimately decided not to go to that school, the ringleaders simply gave that “slot” to the child of another crooked parent.

Thankfully, our federal criminal justice system remains largely insulated from the childish vagaries that have infected the parameters of public policy debate in modern America. While it would boost ratings if the scandal were presented as a “reality” show rather than a federal criminal proceeding, allowing it to be trivialized in such way would do great and lasting harm to our nation’s system of higher education.

Bob Barr (@BobBarr) represented Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He currently serves as president and CEO of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

Source: The Daily Caller

NCAA Basketball: California at Stanford
Mar 7, 2019; Stanford, CA, USA; California Golden Bears head coach Wyking Jones reacts after the call during the second half against the Stanford Cardinal at Maples Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

March 24, 2019

California fired basketball coach Wyking Jones on Sunday after two seasons and a 16-47 record.

“This was a difficult decision to make and comes after a deliberate and holistic review of our men’s basketball program,” Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton said in a prepared statement. “As always, we were guided by the best interests of our student-athletes, as well as the values and objectives of Cal Athletics and our University. As we quickly turn toward our search for a new head coach for our men’s basketball program, I am certain that we will attract a strong, talented and highly qualified pool of candidates. I am confident that we will find someone who will help lead us on a path to being exceptional.”

Already, speculation has focused on some high-profile candidates, including Cal alum Jason Kidd, Nevada coach Eric Musselman and Russell Turner, whose UC Irvine team beat Kansas State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, according to John Canzano of The Oregonian.

Cal finished the season 8-23 overall and 3-15 in the Pac-12. In Jones’ first season (2017-18), the Golden Bears were 8-24 overall and 2-16 in the conference.

Cal hired Jones, who had been an assistant coach for two seasons, in March 2017 to replace Cuonzo Martin, who won 62 games in three seasons before leaving the Golden Bears for Missouri.

If Kidd is indeed on the Bears’ radar, there could be some competition for his services. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Sunday that Kidd will be “among the serious candidates” if Luke Walton is dismissed with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kidd, a San Francisco native, played two seasons at Cal (1992-94) and was a consensus first-time All-American in his second season. He went on to play 19 years for four teams in the NBA, being selected to 10 All-Star teams. He was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.

Now 46, Kidd has coached in the NBA with the Brooklyn Nets (2013-14) and Milwaukee Bucks (2014-18) and has a 183-190 career record.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

A megawealthy German family with stakes in recognizable businesses like Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Panera Bread announced they will donate roughly $11 million to charity in reaction to new knowledge about how their family business profited off of the Nazi regime during World War II.

German newspaper Bild reported Sunday that the family’s ancestors Albert Reimann Sr. and Albert Reimann Jr. took advantage of forced laborers under Nazi control. Family spokesman Peter Harf confirmed Sunday that the Reimanns had recently received information that confirmed Bild’s report, which detailed the family’s business operations during World War II, reported Sky News.

The family has not decided what organization will benefit from the donation and will release the report, which they first commissioned in 2014, when it is ready, Harf said according to The Associated Press. Harf is also a managing partner of the Reimann’s JAB Holding Company. (RELATED: Democratic Senate Candidate Mark Kelly Returns $55,000 Check For Speaking In United Arab Emirates)

“We were all ashamed and turned as white as the wall,” Harf said of the family’s reaction to the revelations. “There is nothing to gloss over. These crimes are disgusting.”

Peter Harf, chairman of the board of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer, attends a shareholders' meeting in Brussels April 26, 2011. REUTERS/Thierry Roge

Peter Harf, chairman of the board of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, attends a shareholders’ meeting in Brussels April 26, 2011. REUTERS/Thierry Roge

Reimann Sr. and Reimann Jr. died in 1954 and 1984, respectively, and the family believed they knew the extent of the company’s connection to the Nazis through a 1978 report, according to the AP. But the University of Munich historian they hired found that their predecessors used French prisoners of war and Russian civilians as forced labor. Forced laborers made up about 30 percent of its industrial chemical company’s workforce in 1943.

Before the Nazis took control of Germany, the Reimanns donated to The Schutzstaffel, also known as SS, a paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler.

The family now has controlling stakes in Pret a Manger, Keurig Green Mountain, Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Caribou Coffee Co., according to the AP.

Many organizations have gone back and investigated their connections to the Nazi regime in World War II’s aftermath. A yearlong internal review by the AP itself released in May 2017 concluded a photograph exchange agreement the news organization made with Nazi Germany did not aid the regime.

Follow Evie on Twitter @eviefordham.

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

Executive privilege cannot be used to hide wrongdoing and any attempt by the White House and President Donald Trump to block parts of special counsel Robert Mueller's report from Congress or the public would not be "right" nor "successful," according to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.

"The president must personally assert executive privilege, and I do not believe it exists here at all because, as we learned from the [former President Richard] Nixon tapes case, executive privilege cannot be used to hide wrongdoing," Nadler told NBC's "Meet the Press."

". . . The president may try to assert it, may try to hide things behind it, but I don't think that's right or [would] be successful."

Rep. Nadler referred to the unanimous 1974 Supreme Court ruling on the Nixon tapes that rejected executive privilege overriding the judicial process.

President Trump has reportedly weighed using executive privilege to review classified material not related to any indictment legal proceeding, merely the public release of potentially politicized material that is not used in review criminality.

"Congress must get all the information and the evidence that the Department of Justice may have in order to exercise our function of being able to hold the president accountable," Nadler told host Chuck Todd. "If we don't do that, if we can't do that the president is effectively above the law."

Source: NewsMax

FILE PHOTO: An American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight approaches for landing at Reagan National Airport in Washington
FILE PHOTO: An American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight from Los Angeles approaches for landing at Reagan National Airport shortly after an announcement was made by the FAA that the planes were being grounded by the United States in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

March 24, 2019

(Reuters) – American Airlines said Sunday it will extend flight cancellation through April 24 because of the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX after two fatal crashes since October and cut some additional flights.

American, the largest U.S. carrier, said it is cancelling about 90 flights a day. American is the second-largest U.S. operator of the MAX in the United States with 24 jets, behind Southwest Airlines with 34.

American said earlier this month it was flying about 85 flights a day out of its 6,700 daily departures on 737 MAX planes when the grounded was announced.

The airline said it was making the announcement “to provide more certainty to our customers and team members and better protect our customers on other flights to their final destination.”

Boeing Co is expected as early as Monday to formally disclose a planned upgrade to its anti-stall system to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that has been in the works since October’s Lion Air crash but still needs approval from U.S. regulators.

The FAA has said it plans to mandate the upgrade by April, but it is still not clear if the upgrade will address any issues after the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash.

American, Southwest and United Airlines were all meeting with Boeing this weekend to review the software upgrade, Reuters reported Saturday.

The FAA said earlier the “design changes” would result in flight control system enhancements that will provide “reduced reliance on procedures associated with required pilot memory items.”

Reuters reported Thursday the upgrade will include a previously optional warning light. Many airlines, including American, already had the optional light.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Candle flames burn during a commemoration ceremony for the victims at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town Bishoftu
FILE PHOTO: Candle flames burn during a commemoration ceremony for the victims at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town Bishoftu, near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 14, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo

March 24, 2019

By Jason Neely

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – The chief executive of Ethiopian Airlines has rejected media reports that optional equipment for Boeing 737 MAX planes was critical for safety aboard a flight that crashed this month.

The crash of flight 302 and a similar one involving Indonesia’s Lion Air in October, both flying the new 737 MAX 8, have cost 346 lives and sparked the biggest crisis in decades for Boeing.

Grieving families, nervous travelers and airlines around the world are looking for answers while Boeing prepares updates aimed at getting the 737 MAX, with sales worth $500 billion at stake, back in the air.

In a sign of the impact on Boeing’s business, Indonesia’s Garuda is pushing to dump a $6 billion order for the grounded planes.

Teams from the three U.S. airlines that own 737 MAX jets were also heading to Boeing’s factory in Renton, Washington over the weekend to review a software upgrade.

One focus for investigators is software Boeing installed on the MAX series designed to push a plane’s nose down if it senses too sharp an ascent and an indicator that shows that angle of flight.

OPTIONAL ITEMS

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said it was important not to confuse safety-critical equipment with optional items.

“A Toyota is imported with all the necessary equipment to drive, like the engine and the wheels, but with air conditioning and the radio optional,” Tewolde said.

“When Boeing supplies aircraft there are items which are mandatory for safety and then there are optional items,” he added, noting the angle of attack indicator was optional.

Some media reports have questioned whether having this installed may have helped the cockpit crew regain control of flight 302, which crashed near Addis Ababa on March 10 killing all 157 aboard.

Tewolde rejected this, adding: “The angle of attack indicator was on the optional list along with the inflight entertainment system.”

He echoed the words of Norwegian Air which said it had not selected the cockpit light warning of discrepancies between angle of attack sensors for its fleet of 18 MAX 8 aircraft.

“We have chosen not to fit this particular optional extra …it is not a safety critical feature nor is it a requirement by any aviation authority,” Norwegian told Reuters.

Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s biggest airline with a modern fleet of Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier aircraft and a flying history that dates back to the 1940s.

They have been flying Boeing planes since 1962 and have four MAX 8 jets, with another 25 worth some $3 billion on order.

GARUDA

Garuda has written to Boeing asking to cancel its order for 49 737 MAX 8 planes, CFO Fuad Rizal said on Friday. CEO Ari Askhara told Reuters customers had lost trust in the plane.

The airline might switch to other Boeing models, Rizal told Reuters, adding it was in negotiations with Boeing while a move to Airbus planes was not under consideration. Garuda rival Lion Air is weighing what to do with an even bigger order following its crash, which killed all 189 passengers and crew aboard.

It has 190 Boeing jets worth $22 billion at list prices waiting to be delivered.

Boeing has said it is been working closely with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on a software upgrade and training set to be deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks.

The FAA which certifies planes expects to approve these design changes no later than April, it has said.

American Airlines pilots this weekend were preparing to test the planned software upgrade, saying they want their own safety guarantees on the fix.

Southwest and United Airlines said they would also review documentation and training associated with Boeing’s updates.

(Reporting by Jason Neely; additional reporting by Jamie Freed in Singapore, Cindy Silviana and Bernadette Christina Munthe in Jakarta, David Shepardson in Washington and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; editing by Keith Weir)

Source: OANN

MLS: Colorado Rapids at FC Dallas
Mar 23, 2019; Frisco, TX, USA; Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard (1) makes a save with FC Dallas midfielder Ryan Hollingshead (12) challenging during the second half at Toyota Park. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

March 24, 2019

Ryan Hollingshead scored the tiebreaking goal off a rebound in the 82nd minute, and FC Dallas held on to beat the visiting Colorado Rapids 2-1 on Saturday at Frisco, Texas.

What began with a pass into the box from 17-year-old Thomas Roberts ended when Hollingshead drove home a rebound of a Tim Howard save. The late goal improved FC Dallas to 2-1-1 on the young season.

It also came after Colorado (0-2-2) equalized in the 69th minute. Off a set piece, the Rapids’ Kei Kamara put a header off the crossbar. A sliding Tommy Smith got the rebound off his leg, and just over the goal line and into the body of Dallas keeper Jesse Gonzalez.

However, the initial call on the pitch was no goal, but after video review, the Rapids were awarded the goal. It looked like they would earn at least a point on the day, until Dallas responded.

Both sides were minus key players due to internationals duties. Colorado was without key forward Diego Rubio, while FC Dallas did not have starting midfielders Carlos Gruezo and Bryan Acosta. That forced Dallas to start five home-grown players.

Gonzalez, though, surprisingly featured in between responsibilities with the U.S. men’s national squad.

However, youth did not seem to hinder Dallas, which came out of the gate firing. The hosts had the first quality chance of the game when Dominique Badji hit the right post off a set-piece in the third minute. Two minutes later, Paxton Pomykal had his 6-yard attempt blocked.

It would be Michael Barrios, though, who broke through for his second goal of the season in the 35th minute for Dallas. After some nifty passing across the box, Barrios cross-footed a ground strike to the near post and past a diving Howard for the 1-0 lead.

Dallas held a 6-4 advantage in shots on target.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A wing of the Boeing 737 MAX is pictured during a media tour of the Boeing 737 MAX at the Boeing plant in Renton, Washington
FILE PHOTO: A wing of the Boeing 737 MAX is pictured during a media tour of the Boeing 737 MAX at the Boeing plant in Renton, Washington December 7, 2015. REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight/File Photo

March 23, 2019

By Tracy Rucinski

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Teams from the three U.S. airlines that own 737 MAX jets were heading to Boeing Co’s factory in Renton, Washington, to review a software upgrade on Saturday, even as Southwest Airlines Co began parking its 34 MAXs near the California desert.

The factory visits indicate Boeing may be nearing completion of a planned software patch for its newest 737 following a fatal Lion Air crash in Indonesia last October, but the timing for a resumption of passenger flights on the jets remains uncertain.

Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration, which must approve the software fix and new training, are under U.S. and global scrutiny since the MAX suffered a second deadly crash involving Ethiopian Airlines in Addis Ababa on March 10, which led to a worldwide grounding of the fleet.

The Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents American Airlines pilots, said it has been in talks with Boeing, the FAA and airlines to get the airplanes flying again as soon as possible, albeit with an acceptable level of safety.

“Right now we’re in wait and see mode to see what Boeing comes up with,” Captain Jason Goldberg, a spokesman for APA, said on Saturday. “We’re hopeful, but at the same time the process can’t be rushed.”

APA is among a delegation of airline safety experts and pilots set to test Boeing’s software upgrade, meant to change how much authority is given to a new anti-stall system developed for the 737 MAX, in Renton.

The system, known as the Maneuver Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, is suspected of playing a role in both disasters, which together killed 346 people.

Both crashes are still under investigation.

Southwest, the largest operator of the MAX in the world, and United Airlines said they would also review documentation and training associated with Boeing’s updates on Saturday. United has 14 MAXs while American has 24.

Meanwhile, Southwest said it was starting to move on Saturday its entire MAX fleet to a facility in Victorville, California, at the southwestern edge of the Mojave Desert, while the global grounding remains in effect.

“The planes being in one place will be more efficient for performing the repetitive maintenance necessary for stationary aircraft, as well as any future software enhancements that need to take place,” spokeswoman Brandy King said.

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Tom Brown)

Source: OANN

China Development Forum in Beijing
People attend the China Development Forum in Beijing, China, March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

March 23, 2019

(Reuters) – China will reduce the time needed for patent review by at least 15 percent in 2019, the Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.

The review time for trademarks will also be reduced to within 5 months, Xinhua reported without giving further details on the trademark or patent review timeframes. It was citing remarks made by the deputy head of National Intellectual Property Administration, Gan Shaoning, at the 20th China Development Forum.

The administration will further strengthen protection of intellectual property by optimizing the mechanisms governing intellectual property, raising the costs for IP infringements, and treating all market entities as equals in terms of IP protection, Xinhua reported citing Gan.

(Reporting by Philip George in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The Citigroup Inc logo is seen at the SIBOS banking and financial conference in Toronto
FILE PHOTO: The Citigroup Inc (Citi) logo is seen at the SIBOS banking and financial conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada October 19, 2017. Picture taken October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

March 23, 2019

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Citigroup Inc has fired eight bankers and suspended three others from its equities trading desk in Hong Kong after an internal probe revealed misconduct in their dealings with clients, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The action was taken after a review raised concerns related to the accuracy of disclosure to clients by the involved sales traders on some transactions where Citi was acting in a principal capacity, one of the people said.

Principal trade refers to a brokerage acting as the counterparty to settle deals with clients, instead of just broking a securities transaction between different parties.

“A review of Hong Kong-based cash equities execution identified personal conduct that did not meet our standards and we have taken appropriate action,” the U.S. bank said in a statement to Reuters on Saturday.

“Instances where the capacity in which Citi was acting was not accurately represented were detected in relation to facilitation trading,” it said.

The names of the traders against whom actions were taken were not immediately known.

Citi said it was fully compliant with relevant local regulations, and “enhanced regional procedures and controls for facilitation trading” had been introduced to ensure complete transparency.

The bank, which has a large presence in markets, corporate and investment banking businesses in Asia, said its clients had been notified about the development and a team was in place to ensure minimal disruption at the start of trading on Monday.

Bloomberg first reported the development on Friday.

Global banks have been beefing up compliance procedures in Hong Kong, as the securities regulator in the Asian financial hub has stepped up its crackdown against failures to comply with guidelines for equities trading and underwriting functions.

Last week, the regulator banned UBS from leading IPOs in the city for a year, while fining it and rivals, including Morgan Stanley, a combined $100 million for due diligence failures on a series of stock listings.

(Reporting by Anshuman Daga and Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Tom Hogue)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Special Counsel Mueller departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Special Counsel Robert Mueller (R) departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

March 23, 2019

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. law enforcement official could release as early as Saturday the main findings in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s confidential report on his 22-month-long inquiry into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election and any potential wrongdoing by President Donald Trump.

Attorney General William Barr, who received the report from the former FBI director on Friday, told U.S. lawmakers he may be able to inform them of Mueller’s “principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.” Under Justice Department regulations, Barr is empowered to decide how much to disclose publicly.

The big question is whether the report contains allegations of wrongdoing by Trump or exonerates him. Mueller investigated whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow to try to influence the election and whether the Republican president later unlawfully tried to obstruct his investigation.

Mueller did not recommend any further indictments, a senior Justice Department official said, signaling there might be no more criminal charges against Trump associates arising from the investigation. Throughout his investigation, Mueller brought charges against 34 people and three companies, with prison sentences for some of Trump’s key former aides.

Lawmakers in both parties urged a quick release of the report, and Democrats in particular demanded that nothing be held back, saying they would issue subpoenas if necessary. Barr, who took office in February, was appointed by Trump after the president fired his predecessor Jeff Sessions in November.

“I remain committed to as much transparency as possible, and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review,” Barr told lawmakers in a letter.

By handing over the long-awaited report to Barr, Mueller marked the end of his work, with his spokesman saying the 74-year-old special counsel would conclude his service in the coming days.

Trump has denied collusion and obstruction. Russia has denied election interference. Trump has sought to discredit the investigation, calling it a “witch hunt” and accusing Mueller of conflicts of interest. But he said on Wednesday he does not mind if the public is allowed to see the report.

Key Trump aides, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, national security adviser Michael Flynn and personal lawyer Michael Cohen, have already either been convicted or pleaded guilty to charges brought by Mueller.

None of those charges, however, directly related to the question of collusion between the campaign and Moscow. The Justice Department has a policy that sitting presidents cannot face criminal charges.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer – the two top Democrats in Congress – said it was “imperative” the full report be made public, that Barr not give Trump and his team a “sneak preview” of the findings and that the White House not be allowed to interfere in decisions about what parts are made public.

They said the investigation focused on questions that “go to the integrity of our democracy itself: whether foreign powers corruptly interfered in our elections, and whether unlawful means were used to hinder that investigation.”

The White House has not received or been briefed on the report, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, adding that “we look forward to the process taking its course.”

‘OPENNESS AND TRANSPARENCY’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in Congress, said, “The attorney general has said he intends to provide as much information as possible. As I have said previously, I sincerely hope he will do so as soon as he can, and with as much openness and transparency as possible.”

Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican and a strong ally of the president, expressed confidence the report would not find collusion with Russia.

“The reports that there will be no new indictments confirm what we’ve known all along: there was never any collusion with Russia. The only collusion was between Democrats and many in the media who peddled this lie because they continue to refuse to accept the results of the 2016 election,” Scalise said.

Even if the Mueller report exonerates Trump, that may not spell the end to his legal troubles. Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance violations in a case overseen by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who said in court filings that Cohen carried out the crimes at the direction of Trump.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan is also looking at the spending of Trump’s inaugural committee and business practices at the Trump Organization, the family’s company.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow meddled in the election with a campaign of email hacking and online propaganda aimed at sowing discord in the United States, hurting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and helping Trump.

A small number of House Democrats have pushed for Congress to impeach Trump and remove him from office but the party’s leadership including Pelosi has urged caution. No president has every been removed from office via impeachment.

Several House committees in the meantime are conducting aggressive investigations of Trump and people around him.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Eric Beech, Makini Brice, Karen Freifeld, Susan Cornwell and Steve Holland in Washington, Nathan Layne in New York and Roberta Rampton in Florida; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft at Midway International Airport in Chicago
FILE PHOTO: Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft sit next to the maintenance area after landing at Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Kraczynski/File Photo

March 23, 2019

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Southwest Airlines Co is sending experts from its technical pilot and training teams to review documentation and training associated with Boeing Co’s updated speed trim system on its 737 MAX aircraft, a spokeswoman told Reuters on Friday.

Southwest, the largest operator of 737 MAX in the world, is also preparing to park its 34 MAX jets at a facility in Victorville, California, while a global grounding remains in place following two fatal crashes of the new Boeing jets in five months.

The crashes involving an Indonesian Lion Air plane on Oct. 29 and an Ethiopian Airlines plane on March 10 killed 346 people.

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski)

Source: OANN

Leaders on Capitol Hill responded Friday to special counsel Robert Mueller’s delivery of his report related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to Attorney General Bill Barr.

Barr sent a letter to Capitol Hill committee chairmen in both chambers, informing them that the report was submitted to the Justice Department. (RELATED: Breaking: Mueller Submits Report To Justice Department)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement he welcomed that the announcement from the special counsel has finally completed his investigation into Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections.”

He continued, “Many Republicans have long believed that Russia poses a significant threat to American interests. I hope the special counsel’s report will help inform and improve our efforts to protect our democracy.”

McConnell said Barr will now need time to review the report, adding, “The attorney general has said he intends to provide as much information as possible. As I have said previously, I sincerely hope he will do so as soon as he can, and with as much openness and transparency as possible.”

Little is known about the contents of the report that was two years in the making and led to the indictment or guilty plea of six Trump associates. However, not one indictment was related to conspiracy or collusion with Russians.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L), U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (2nd R), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (R) and other congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

A senior Justice Department official told Fox News that the special counsel has not recommended any further indictments.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for the complete public release of the report in a joint statement:

Now that special counsel Mueller has submitted his report to the Attorney General, it is imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation and findings to Congress.

Attorney General Barr must not give President Trump, his lawyers or his staff any ‘sneak preview’ of Special Counsel Mueller’s findings or evidence, and the White House must not be allowed to interfere in decisions about what parts of those findings or evidence are made public.

The Special Counsel’s investigation focused on questions that go to the integrity of our democracy itself: whether foreign powers corruptly interfered in our elections, and whether unlawful means were used to hinder that investigation. The American people have a right to the truth. The watchword is transparency.

Although the Mueller investigation has ended, Democrats have vowed to continue their own investigations of Trump from the Judiciary Committee and Oversight Committee in the lower chamber. Additionally, Democrats are counting on investigations of the president and his allies from the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York.

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Kerry Picket is a host on SiriusXM Patriot 125

Source: The Daily Caller

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed relief that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has ended, asking for "openness and transparency" moving forward as Department of Justice officials prepare to make the report's findings public.

"I welcome the announcement that the special counsel has finally completed his investigation into Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections," said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. "Many Republicans have long believed that Russia poses a significant threat to American interests. I hope the special counsel's report will help inform and improve our efforts to protect our democracy.

"The attorney general has said he intends to provide as much information as possible. As I have said previously, I sincerely hope he will do so as soon as he can, and with as much openness and transparency as possible."

Attorney General William Barr received Mueller's report on Friday, and he wrote to Congressional leaders that he might be able to brief them on the findings as soon as this weekend.

It's still unclear when the report's conclusions will be made public.

"I am grateful we have an experienced and capable attorney general in place to review the special counsel's report," McConnell said. "Attorney General Barr now needs the time to do that."

Source: NewsMax

A headline in Reason Magazine said it all: “Have Gun, Can’t Travel.”

That’s the plight of New York City “premises licensees” under one of the most bizarre and oppressive gun control laws in the nation.

Now the U.S. Supreme Court has that law in its sights.

In January, the high court agreed to review a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upholding the regulation against a challenge under the Second Amendment and other constitutional provisions. The case is New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York.

Should the court resolve the case on Second Amendment grounds, it will be the first time since McDonald v. City of Chicago in 2010 that the Supreme Court applied that provision to a gun control law.

Even many gun control advocates probably don’t expect New York City’s regulation to fare any better before the high court than the handguns bans from Washington, D.C. and Chicago did in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Like those laws, the handgun travel ban is an outlier.

Most of the suspense and speculation instead revolve around whether the court will resolve the case narrowly or establish more generally applicable principles that could broadly be applied to other gun control laws.

But the story of New York City’s defiance of the Second Amendment and the Supreme Court’s renewed interest in reviewing overreaching gun control demonstrate how the steadfast activism of the NRA and our five million members continues to play a vital role in securing our nation’s constitutional legacy.

New York City’s handgun laws are a case study of the strange and often contradictory thinking of the nation’s most fervent gun control advocates.

The system is designed to make obtaining the license necessary to acquire and own handguns as difficult and expensive as possible for the ordinary applicant.

It dates back to the enactment of New York’s Sullivan Act in 1911 when its proponents – including the New York Times – openly promoted it as a way to keep firearms out of the hands of Italian immigrants.

Commenting on what was supposedly the first conviction under the law – of Italian immigrant Marino Rossi, who claimed to be an honest working man carrying a revolver for self-defense – the Times wrote on Sept. 29, 1911:

Judge FOSTER did well in sentencing to one year in Sing Sing MARINO ROSSI, who carried a revolver because, as he said, it was the custom of himself and his hot-headed countrymen to have weapons concealed upon their persons. The Judge’s warning to the Italian community was timely and exemplary.

Consistent with this discriminatory outlook, the law allows licensing officials a wide degree of discretion in determining who possesses the requisite “good moral character” and, in some cases, “proper cause” for a license.

It also provides for different types of licenses, including “premises licenses,” which allow the holder to “have and possess [a handgun] in his dwelling” and “carry licenses,” which bestow some latitude to possess or carry the handgun beyond one’s own residence.

New York City supposedly provides for both types of licenses.

But in reality, the only applicants who can get a New York City carry license are the rich and famous or the especially well-connected. The licensing system has repeatedly spawned corruption scandals and prosecutions over the years.

The best an ordinary New York City resident can realistically hope for is a premises license, yet even that requires a substantial investment of time, money, and self-disclosure.

As of January, the mandatory application fee for a three-year premises license was $340, not counting a separate $88.25 fingerprinting fee.

Applicants must register online with the city and complete a lengthy application form, which includes the uploading of numerous documents. Besides providing information about prior arrests, convictions, summonses, and orders of protection, applicants must disclose employment and residential timelines and any history of “mental/physical conditions and any medications taken in connection therewith.”

Paper applications have been prohibited since January 1, 2018. Low income residents who lack ready access to computer equipment, including digital scanners and high-speed Internet access, are out of luck.

After the online application is completed, the New York Police Department (NYPD) License Division will schedule a date for the applicant to appear in person during business hours to pay the required fees, get fingerprinted, and provide hard copies of the same documents that were already submitted digitally.

Once the application is reviewed by the Licensing Division, the applicant may be required to appear on subsequent occasions to submit additional documentation.

In any case, when the application itself is considered complete, all applicants must appear for an in-person interview with a licensing official.

Applicants can expect a decision from the Licensing Division, according to its website, “[w]ithin approximately six months of receipt of your handgun application, and all required documents/forms.”

Unfortunately, none of these requirements is specifically at issue in the case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Even more unfortunately, most of them have been upheld by lower state and federal courts in New York. They do, however, form the backdrop for the Supreme Court’s deliberations.

For now, the issue before the Supreme Court is the circumstances in which premises licensees can travel with their own firearms.

New York City currently allows them to do so only for specified purposes and only to one of seven approved shooting ranges in the city, which in some cases require advanced written permission from the NYPD. In all cases, the firearms must be unloaded and in a locked container, with any ammunition stored separately.

The plaintiffs in the case, however, wish to travel with their lawfully licensed handguns to ranges outside the city for use in training or competition. One plaintiff wants to be able to take his lawfully licensed handgun back and forth between his New York City residence and his second home in upstate New York.

These are all prohibited by New York City’s rules.

It takes an especially zealous gun control advocate to even think up such ludicrous regulations, much less to argue them all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Indeed, it appears that New York City’s transport ban may be the first and only one of its kind in U.S. history. That does not bode well for the city’s position that it is nevertheless a commonsense measured aimed at promoting public safety.

Even taking the city’s arguments at face value, it appears the real reason for the law is simply to exercise a maniacal level of scrutiny and control over Gotham’s lawful handgun owners.

In its brief urging the Supreme Court not to hear the case, the city noted that it used to have a “target license” that allowed for holders to transport their locked, unloaded guns to NYPD-approved ranges outside New York City. What it discovered, however, was that it was difficult as a practical matter to determine whether licensees who ventured outside the city with their own handguns were actually doing so for NYPD-approved reasons.

Notably, the city did not go so far as to claim there were any violent crimes or other harmful behavior committed by traveling target licensees. City officials instead apparently expect the court to believe that any movement of a licensed handgun that has not been specifically preapproved and documented by the NYPD is inherently dangerous, even if done for innocent reasons.

Thus, premises licensees can only practice at or compete at NYPD-approved shooting ranges within the city itself (and at big city prices). These facilities, in turn, “are required to maintain a roster listing the names and addresses of all persons who have used the range and the date and hour that they used it and to make those records available for inspection by NYPD during their hours of operation.” This underscores that owning a gun in New York City is a bureaucratically administered privilege, not a fundamental right.

For nearly 10 years, lower courts have upheld almost every sort of gun control law imaginable, while the Supreme Court has not taken up another Second Amendment case.

Thanks to the work of NRA members like you, President Donald Trump has appointed two justices to the high court who take the Constitution’s original meaning seriously.

Time will tell, but that will hopefully mean the Supreme Court is finally poised to accord our right to keep and bear arms the respect it deserves.

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Source: The Daily Caller

Saagar Enjeti | White House Correspondent

The White House will defer the review of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to Attorney General Bill Barr, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a Friday afternoon statement.

“The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr, and we look forward to the process taking its course. The White House has not received or been briefed on the Special Counsel’s report,” Sanders said minutes after Barr revealed that he had received the report. (RELATED: The Mueller Investigation Is Over) 

FBI Director Robert Mueller speaks during a news conference at the FBI headquarters June 25, 2008 in Washington, DC. The news conference was to mark the 5th anniversary of Innocence Lost initiative. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

FBI Director Robert Mueller speaks during a news conference at the FBI headquarters June 25, 2008 in Washington, DC. The news conference was to mark the 5th anniversary of Innocence Lost initiative. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Mueller delivered his final report to Barr after 675 extraordinary days of appointment, during which he sought to review any potential contact between Russia and the Trump 2016 campaign. The investigation became a sprawling review and led to the indictment of many of those in Trump’s orbit. It dominated headlines in the first two years of Trump’s presidency and became a major foil for the president who decried it as a “WITCH HUNT” throughout the process.

William Barr, nominee to be US Attorney General, testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 15, 2019. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

William Barr, nominee to be US Attorney General, testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 15, 2019. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Mueller’s appointment came in May 2017 after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed him. Rosenstein appointed Mueller after a period of turmoil during which Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, prompting questions of whether he did so to curtail the Russia investigation.

Barr will now review Mueller’s report and told lawmakers Friday afternoon that he hopes to share the top findings of the report with them as soon as this weekend. Barr’s letter noted that at no point did the Department of Justice curtail any of Mueller’s activities.

Source: The Daily Caller

EU centre-right lead candidate Weber poses during an interview with Reuters in Brussels
Manfred Weber, the centre-right European People’s Party’s lead candidate in the European Parliament elections, poses during an interview with Reuters in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

March 22, 2019

By Alastair Macdonald

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Germans must be ready to spend to bolster economies elsewhere in Europe, the German lead candidate for the EU center-right said on Friday as campaigning gets underway for European Parliament elections in May.

Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party in the EU legislature and bidding to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as EU chief executive, told Reuters his compatriots had to understand that rising anti-EU nationalism in struggling economies like Italy should be countered by greater European investment to stimulate growth.

Under him, he said, the European Commission would expand the investment programs launched under Juncker, a fellow conservative, maintaining tight controls on euro zone public spending but promoting expenditure on infrastructure and new technologies to compete in the globalized world economy.

Insisting he should not be seen as the candidate of the bloc’s powerhouse Germany, Weber said: “I am a European candidate so that’s why we have a European program in mind. That’s why I go to Germany and tell people, don’t be surprised that we have so much populism in Italy and the Germans don’t care about youth unemployment in Italy.

“We have to understand that Europe can only have a good future if they care about the concerns of others.

“It’s only a solidarity based Europe that will work and that’s my message, all over Europe.”

Germany, running a budget surplus, has faced criticism from France, Italy and other governments struggling to free up funds for investment, but Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, with which Weber is aligned, has insisted that states must guard against wasteful expenditure and promote efficiencies.

Weber said there was funding available outside the public sector that should be encouraged: “We have a lot of money in Europe, there’s a lot of private money in Europe and we must … bring this money really alive,” he said.

The center-right would also distinguish itself from other pro-EU parties to its left by promoting free trade pacts and deepening Europe’s internal open market. It would promote better living standards in poorer EU states to curb the drive for migration of labor across the bloc, he said.

Chinese investment was welcome, he added, but there must be tougher screening to avoid the Chinese state exploiting Europe’s openness to acquire research secrets and undermine EU businesses.

DEMOCRACY DRIVE

Among challenges the next Commission will face will be from governments in the ex-Communist east, such as in Hungary and Poland, which criticize Brussels and are accused of undermining democracy by curbing media and judicial freedoms.

Weber this week helped steer the EPP to suspending its Hungarian member, Fidesz, the ruling party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Expulsion was still an option, he said, but for now Fidesz would be kept under review by an EPP monitor.

That, Weber said, was a model he could adopt if he succeeds Juncker. He would push for a mechanism to allow for annual reviews of governments’ support for the rule of law according to three criteria – fighting corruption, judicial independence and media freedom.

A Weber Commission would entrust senior independent jurists to review countries and, if need be, take them to the European Court of Justice under the EU’s infringement process. He would also seek to levy financial sanctions on states abusing rights.

Opinion polls ahead of the May 23-26 elections show the EPP would remain the biggest party in the European Parliament, giving Weber a solid chance of becoming Commission president, though he may face resistance from governments who do not want to be bound to choose from among party leaders.

Commission presidents have traditionally been former prime ministers or senior ministers but Weber said nominating a figure from parliament would bolster Europe’s democratic credentials at a time when the Union was under attack by populists.

“I want to live in a democratic Europe,” he said. “I don’t want to have a bureaucratic Europe.” He described the Council of national leaders as lacking transparency.

“I want to have a parliamentary democracy.”

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Source: OANN

EU centre-right lead candidate Weber poses during an interview with Reuters in Brussels
Manfred Weber, the centre-right European People’s Party’s lead candidate in the European Parliament elections, poses during an interview with Reuters in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

March 22, 2019

By Alastair Macdonald

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Germans must be ready to spend to bolster economies elsewhere in Europe, the German lead candidate for the EU center-right said on Friday as campaigning gets underway for European Parliament elections in May.

Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party in the EU legislature and bidding to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as EU chief executive, told Reuters his compatriots had to understand that rising anti-EU nationalism in struggling economies like Italy should be countered by greater European investment to stimulate growth.

Under him, he said, the European Commission would expand the investment programs launched under Juncker, a fellow conservative, maintaining tight controls on euro zone public spending but promoting expenditure on infrastructure and new technologies to compete in the globalized world economy.

Insisting he should not be seen as the candidate of the bloc’s powerhouse Germany, Weber said: “I am a European candidate so that’s why we have a European program in mind. That’s why I go to Germany and tell people, don’t be surprised that we have so much populism in Italy and the Germans don’t care about youth unemployment in Italy.

“We have to understand that Europe can only have a good future if they care about the concerns of others.

“It’s only a solidarity based Europe that will work and that’s my message, all over Europe.”

Germany, running a budget surplus, has faced criticism from France, Italy and other governments struggling to free up funds for investment, but Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, with which Weber is aligned, has insisted that states must guard against wasteful expenditure and promote efficiencies.

Weber said there was funding available outside the public sector that should be encouraged: “We have a lot of money in Europe, there’s a lot of private money in Europe and we must … bring this money really alive,” he said.

The center-right would also distinguish itself from other pro-EU parties to its left by promoting free trade pacts and deepening Europe’s internal open market. It would promote better living standards in poorer EU states to curb the drive for migration of labor across the bloc, he said.

Chinese investment was welcome, he added, but there must be tougher screening to avoid the Chinese state exploiting Europe’s openness to acquire research secrets and undermine EU businesses.

DEMOCRACY DRIVE

Among challenges the next Commission will face will be from governments in the ex-Communist east, such as in Hungary and Poland, which criticize Brussels and are accused of undermining democracy by curbing media and judicial freedoms.

Weber this week helped steer the EPP to suspending its Hungarian member, Fidesz, the ruling party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Expulsion was still an option, he said, but for now Fidesz would be kept under review by an EPP monitor.

That, Weber said, was a model he could adopt if he succeeds Juncker. He would push for a mechanism to allow for annual reviews of governments’ support for the rule of law according to three criteria – fighting corruption, judicial independence and media freedom.

A Weber Commission would entrust senior independent jurists to review countries and, if need be, take them to the European Court of Justice under the EU’s infringement process. He would also seek to levy financial sanctions on states abusing rights.

Opinion polls ahead of the May 23-26 elections show the EPP would remain the biggest party in the European Parliament, giving Weber a solid chance of becoming Commission president, though he may face resistance from governments who do not want to be bound to choose from among party leaders.

Commission presidents have traditionally been former prime ministers or senior ministers but Weber said nominating a figure from parliament would bolster Europe’s democratic credentials at a time when the Union was under attack by populists.

“I want to live in a democratic Europe,” he said. “I don’t want to have a bureaucratic Europe.” He described the Council of national leaders as lacking transparency.

“I want to have a parliamentary democracy.”

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Source: OANN

David Hookstead | Reporter

I watched the latest episode of “SEAL Team,” and it didn’t disappoint.

WARNING: THERE ARE GOING TO BE SOME SPOILERS BELOW. DO NOT KEEP READING IF YOU AREN’T CAUGHT UP.

The CBS hit show has been off the air for two months. It felt like an eternity without “SEAL Team” on TV. Luckily, “What Appears To Be” was a solid episode to kick off the backend of the second season.

Was it the most exciting episode? No. Was it packed full of action? No, but it was still solid. Jason, Clay, Sonny and the rest of Bravo Team deploys over to Africa to smoke some warlords, but things take a very unexpected twist when it appears a terrorist leader believed to be dead is actually alive. (RELATED: ‘SEAL Team’ Star Max Thieriot Discusses Season 2, Teases Some ‘Great Action’ In Coming Episodes)

Naturally, this requires a quick pivot and puts the U.S. leadership on a collision course with a Congolese general hellbent on hitting a building full of women in children with an airstrike, even if the target might not be there. (RELATED: ‘SEAL Team‘ Is Excellent In New Episode ‘Things Not Seen’)

Once again, the show focuses on moral issues, and Bravo Team is split on whether or not the airstrike should proceed. I won’t ruin what happens, but it doesn’t disappoint. It forces the audience to ponder what we would do in the same shoes.

It wasn’t the flashiest of episodes, but it was a nice start to the new content. I look forward to seeing what we get down the stretch.

It’s going to be a hell of a fun ride!

Follow David Hookstead on Twitter

Source: The Daily Caller

On the Friday edition of the Daily Daily Caller Podcast, we take a look at President Donald Trump’s executive order about free speech on college campuses, but that was not the most important part of what he did Thursday.

Democrats cave to their radical anti-Semitic wing yet again, and a large percentage of Americans have no idea what the First Amendment is. Plus, in our video interview, we talk with Tim Carney from the American Enterprise Institute on his new book, “Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse.” The audio of the interview is included in the audio version of the whole show, too.

Trump signed an executive order Thursday requiring colleges and universities to protect the First Amendment rights of students and invited speakers if those institutions want to continue to receive federal research grant money. Tens of billions of dollars are at stake, but that’s not the most important aspect of the president’s order.

He’s also requiring the publication of data on the average income of different majors from colleges so students thinking about majoring in various, less-employable fields of study can see exactly what they’re getting into. This could also undercut much of the Democrats’ push for “free college.”

If students know what they’re getting themselves into and willingly take out massive loans for degrees with low-wage jobs awaiting them — if they can find jobs at all — there’s no justification for student loan forgiveness, let alone cost-free tuition.

Democrats have caved, yet again, to their extreme wing of anti-Semitic “progressives.” Every Democrat running for president has announced they will not attend the AIPAC Conference in Washington, D.C., next week.

MoveOn, the left-wing activist group, called on all candidates to boycott the annual meeting of the Jewish group and everyone stepped up to heed the call. Things have changed significantly since the party balked at condemning the anti-Semitism of Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar just a few weeks ago.

A new survey showed a sadly small percentage of Americans have any idea what the First Amendment is. An even larger percentage have no idea what the Bill of Rights is. It’s a damning testament to the state of public education and why Democrats still win election.

Then we talk to Tim Carney about the role big government played in destroying communities across the country, even in times to economic boom. The answers in his new book will surprise you.

Please help spread the word about The Daily Daily Caller Podcast. Please take a minute to rate and review on iTunes, share on social media and be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode:

The Daily Daily Caller Podcast is a daily look and mocking of the news from a conservative perspective. Hosted by Derek Hunter, it is available in audio form Monday-Thursday and will have a video option on Fridays.

Derek Hunter is a columnist and contributing editor for The Daily Caller and author of “Outrage, INC: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood” from HarperCollins, available nowPick Up a copy, or several copies, here. Send compliments and complaints to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @derekahunter.

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: The Alcatel Lucent logo is seen in Calais
FILE PHOTO: The Alcatel Lucent logo is seen in Calais, France, September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

March 22, 2019

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finnish network equipment maker Nokia said on Friday it was looking into transactions at its former French rival Alcatel-Lucent which it acquired in 2016, after reporting possible compliance issues at the unit to U.S. authorities.

“To ensure complete compliance we are now scrutinizing certain transactions in the former Alcatel-Lucent business and although this investigation is in a relatively early stage, out of an abundance of caution and in the spirit of transparency, Nokia has contacted the relevant regulatory authorities regarding this review,” Nokia said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

Shares were down 7.8 percent by 1115 GMT, on track for worst day since October 2017 and bottom of the pan European stoxx 600 index.

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen, editing by Louise Heavens)

Source: OANN

Illustration photo of Australian dollars
Australian dollars are seen in an illustration photo February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

March 22, 2019

By Swati Pandey and Paulina Duran

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A fall in funding costs for Australia’s biggest banks is raising the prospect that they could hand on the savings to consumers in the form of lower lending rates, which would in turn reduce pressure on the central bank to ease policy.

The benchmark short-term bank-bill swap rate (BBSW), the main measure of banks’ funding costs, has fallen close to 40 basis points from a 2018 high of 2.2 percent. Almost three-quarters of that fall has come in the past six weeks or so, offering the banks a bigger lending margin.

Lower lending rates from Commonwealth Bank of Australia, ANZ Banking Group, Westpac Banking Corp and National Australia Bank would help them regain some public goodwill after high-profile hearings into the financial sector smeared their reputations.

“I suspect politically they would pass it all on,” CLSA banking analyst Brian Johnson said. Nearly two thirds of Australian banks’ funding is linked to the BBSW.

Analysts said that while it is too early to bet on lower lending rates, the slide in the BBSW has at least raised the question.

CBA and ANZ declined to comment on future rate moves. Westpac did not return requests seeking comment, while a spokeswoman for NAB said “we continually review our products and prices.”

A fall in consumer lending rates would be timely for the A$1.9 trillion ($1.4 trillion) economy, which slowed sharply in the second half of 2018.

The banks have raised their mortgage rates during the past eight months and they tightened lending standards, weighing on the once-booming property market and small businesses.

So if they now offer some payback by cutting rates, it would be welcomed by the central bank, which has kept its policy rate at a record low of 1.5 percent since August 2016 awaiting a pick up in economic activity. Financial markets have been pricing in an easing in policy later this year.

“There is a strong bias for BBSW to drop in April,” said Prashant Newnaha, senior rates strategist at Singapore-based TD Securities.

Newnaha expects A$65 billion of cash to be injected into the financial system from bond maturities, buybacks and corporate dividends over March and April. That is 50 percent higher than last year.

(For a graphic on ‘3-month money market rate well below policy cash rate’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2HzFLHG)

SURPRISE MOVE

The fall in BBSW to 1.8 percent compares with a variable lending rate for an owner-occupier loan on average of just under 4 percent and boosts bank profit margins for now.

Analysts estimate that a move of about 25 basis points in BBSW translates into a change in profit margins of about 4 basis points, on average, for the major banks.

But banks are in no rush to cut lending rates just yet.

Their net interest margins narrowed about 3-4 basis points to 1.9 percent to 2.2 percent in the six-months ended December, contributing to a slowdown in bank earnings growth.

And while the spread between the three-month BBSW and cash-rate is the smallest in a year – indicating an easing in funding conditions – it is nowhere close to the averages of the two years through 2017, noted Westpac rates strategist Damien McColough.

“The move in recent weeks had surprised markets,” he said.

“I think now most people are sitting back and watching it, saying this is interesting. I don’t think there are big bets of speculative positions on it going in either way right now.”

(Reporting by Swati Pandey and Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Neil Fullick)

Source: OANN

An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX airplanes parked on the tarmac at the Boeing Factory in Renton
An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX airplanes parked on the tarmac at the Boeing Factory in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

March 22, 2019

By Cindy Silviana and Tracy Rucinski

JAKARTA/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Boeing Co will mandate on MAX jets a previously optional cockpit warning light, which might have warned of problems that possibly played a role in the recent crashes of Ethiopian and Indonesian planes, two officials briefed on the matter said.

The safety feature is expected to be offered as part of a software update to the MAX fleet that was grounded in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, said the officials who asked not to be identified.

The crash set off one of the widest inquiries in aviation history and cast a shadow over the Boeing MAX model intended to be a standard for decades.

Boeing did not immediately comment on the plan to make the safety feature standard, but separately said it was moving quickly to make software changes and expects the upgrade to be approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the coming weeks.

But Indonesia’s national carrier Garuda said on Friday that customers had lost trust in the planes and it has sent a letter to Boeing asking to cancel an order for 49 MAX 8s – the first airline to publicly confirm plans to cancel an order for the troubled aircraft.

The current order was valued at $6 billion at list prices and Garuda, which currently has one MAX in its fleet, said it could switch to other Boeing models.

While a direct link between the crashes has not been proven, initial investigations show similarities and attention has focused on an automated flight-control system, MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), that came into service two years ago with the MAX.

The software is designed to prevent a loss of lift that can cause an aerodynamic stall, sending the plane downwards in an uncontrolled way. In the Lion Air crash, it may have been erroneously activated by a faulty sensor, investigators believe.

Chicago-based Boeing will also retrofit older planes with the cockpit warning light, the officials told Reuters. The world’s largest plane maker previously offered the alert, but it was not required by aviation regulators.

Boeing has said it plans to make software changes to the aircraft, but it is unclear how long it will take Boeing to refit existing MAX planes with new software or hardware.

Experts said it could take weeks or months to be done, and for regulators to review and approve the changes. Regulators in Europe and Canada have said they will conduct their own reviews of any new systems.

The FAA has said installation of the new software and related training was a priority.

SOFTWARE FIX

Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s vice president of commercial marketing, said the software changes include changes in the control laws of the airplane, an update of the displays, the flight manual, as well as the training.

Boeing has tested the improvements in a simulator and in the air, he said on Thursday. He defended Boeing’s design and production processes, adding that it was too early to speculate on what the investigations will show.

The company has said there was a documented procedure to handle the automated system at the heart of the problem.

The pilots’ union of Southwest Airlines, the largest operator of the MAX, said it is working with the company, Boeing, other pilot unions and the FAA to test and validate the new software.

“We still would like to have more detail on the development, control parameters and testing done on the algorithm that will trigger an MCAS event,” the union said in a statement.

The American Airlines’ pilots union told Reuters it expects to test the software fix on simulators this weekend in Renton, Washington, where Boeing builds the MAX and has two simulators.

MAX simulator training is currently not required, partly because not many simulators exist.

Southwest and American expect to receive MAX simulators later this year.

Ethiopian Airlines said on Thursday the simulators are not designed to replicate the MCAS problems. The airline is among the few that do have a simulator but the captain of the doomed flight had no chance to practise on it before the crash, a pilot colleague said.

MOUNTING PRESSURE

The two crashes killed almost 350 people.

Since the Ethiopian crash, Boeing shares have fallen 12 percent and $28 billion has been wiped off its market value.

Pressure has mounted on the company from U.S. legislators, who are also expected to question the FAA. The company also faces a criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

Several lawsuits already filed on behalf of victims of the Lion Air crash referring to the Ethiopian accident. Boeing declined to comment on the lawsuits.

Consumer advocate and former U.S. presidential candidate Ralph Nader lost a grand-niece in the Ethiopian crash and urged whistleblowers to help challenge the aviation industry and get to the bottom of what happened.

“They lulled us into complacency,” he said in an interview in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal.

(For a graphic on ‘Boeing 737 MAX deliveries in question’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hv2btC)

(For a graphic on ‘Grounded 737 MAX fleet’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2O6jQbI)

(For a graphic on ‘Ethiopian Airlines crash and black boxes’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2ChBW5M)

(Additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Jamie Freed in Singapore, Bernadette Christina Munthe in Jakarta, Maggie Fick and Jason Neely in Addis Ababa, Tim Hepher in Paris, and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh, Georgina Prodhan and Ben Klayman)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A screen displays the trading information for chemical producer DowDuPont Inc. on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: A screen displays the trading information for chemical producer DowDuPont Inc. on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

March 22, 2019

By Lewis Krauskopf

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Shake-ups come infrequently for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, but some degree of change may be in the works for the stock index as two of its 30 constituents prepare to transform from large conglomerates into smaller companies.

The latest occasion to re-examine the Dow stems from chemical company DowDuPont Inc, which is breaking up into three publicly listed stocks. The first step, the separation of the company’s Dow materials science division, is due to take effect on April 1.

Another index component, industrial conglomerate United Technologies Corp, is also in the process of separating into three companies, possibly in about a year.

While many professional investors prefer other stock gauges to the Dow, membership in the blue-chip index – often thought of as Main Street’s market barometer – still carries allure because of its relatively few constituents. Funds with billions of dollars under management are also linked to the index, so constituent changes affect flows into and out of stocks.

While pieces of the original components could stay in the Dow, those corporate actions could spur the overseers of the index to add fresh blood, some market watchers say.

“All of the options are certainty on the table,” said Todd Rosenbluth, head of ETF and mutual fund research at CFRA. “This could be a catalyst for a new addition to the broader index.”

S&P Dow Jones Indices, which publishes the Dow index, will make an announcement before April 1, according to spokesman Ray McConville.

Any time there is a corporate action in an index, McConville said, “S&P DJI will review the index and make any necessary changes and issue a public announcement before the transaction takes place.”

Known for its inclusion of large U.S. companies as well as its relatively few members compared to other barometers, the Dow has changed components roughly every two years over the past 20 years. The most recent such move came last June, when longtime member General Electric Co was replaced by Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.

Prior to that, DowDupont took over for DuPont in September 2017, after the latter company merged with Dow Chemical, and Apple replaced AT&T in March 2015.

The index is a measure of 30 companies designed to provide suitable sector representation, except for transportation and utilities stocks, which are covered by other Dow Jones indexes, according to published methodology for the index.

The overall level of the Dow does not change when its components do, because the divisor used to calculate the index is adjusted.

Stock selection is “not governed by” quantitative rules, according to the published methodology, which also says “a stock typically is added only if the company has an excellent reputation, demonstrates sustained growth and is of interest to a large number of investors.”

The subjectivity of the criteria regularly prompts speculation about which companies may qualify.

Some companies that seem like obvious candidates at first blush may have strikes against them. For example, two of the largest U.S. companies – Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc, the parent of Google – have share prices that are both well over $1,000 each.

That’s a problem because such high prices would warp the Dow, whose constituents carry more weight the higher their share price. At about $375 a share, Boeing Co is the highest priced stock in the Dow by more than $100.

Many indexes, such as the S&P 500, are weighted by companies’ market capitalization, rather than by their share price.

One remaining piece of DowDuPont – the only materials sector stock in the Dow – could stay in the Dow Jones index.

“If you take DowDuPont off, then there is nothing really with that materials” exposure, said James Ragan, director of wealth management research at D.A. Davidson in Seattle. “I am not sure this is an opportunity to make a big change here.”

The DowDuPont breakup will leave Dow, specialty products company DuPont and Corteva, which focuses on agriculture.

Dow and DuPont would be the biggest of the three, with market values estimated at about $50 billion and $60 billion, respectively, according to Nomura Instinet analyst Aleksey Yefremov. “If they want to have a materials company they have to pick one of these two, just because they are so broad,” Yefremov said.

United Tech is separating into an aerospace supplier, an elevator manufacturer, and a provider of building products including air-conditioning systems.

Aerospace is by far the biggest division of the three by sales, but with one aerospace stock already in the Dow – planemaker Boeing – that new company may be redundant.

In many investors’ eyes, the Dow pales in importance as a market barometer to the S&P 500, with its 500 constituents weighted by market value. Just over $23 billion is invested in mutual and exchange-traded funds tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average compared to nearly $4.3 trillion tied to the S&P 500, according to Lipper research.

But the more than 120-year-old index remains a popular market gauge.

“The Dow’s price-weighted construct and the fact that it’s only 30 names makes it reasonably distinct from measures that folks will more likely look at to be representing the market as a whole,” said Simeon Hyman, global investment strategist at ProShares, which has five ETFs with $1.5 billion linked to the Dow.

But, adds Hyman: “The fact that it’s distinct means that some folks will find utility in it.”

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Alden Bentley and Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - A woman is reflected in a window behind Chinese and Hong Kong flags after celebrations commemorating the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to Chinese sovereignty from British rule, in Hong Kong
FILE PHOTO – A woman is reflected in a window behind Chinese and Hong Kong flags after celebrations commemorating the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to Chinese sovereignty from British rule, in Hong Kong, China July 2, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone SiuTyrone Siu

March 22, 2019

By James Pomfret and Anne Marie Roantree

HONG KONG (Reuters) – The United States warned in a report on Friday that increased meddling from China in Hong Kong had adversely impacted the city, straining international business confidence in the Asian financial hub.

The U.S. State Department report cited incidents such as the expulsion of Financial Times editor Victor Mallet, the banning of a pro-independence political party, the jailing of young democracy activists and barring people from local elections.

The city is now also seeking to amend laws to allow individuals to be extradited to mainland China, despite grave human rights concerns toward Beijing.

“The tempo of mainland central government intervention in Hong Kong affairs – and actions by the Hong Kong government consistent with mainland direction – increased, accelerating negative trends seen in previous periods,” the U.S. State Department said in its 2019 report on the Hong Kong Policy Act.

“Growing political restrictions in Hong Kong may be straining the confidence of the international business community.”

The 1992 U.S.-Hong Kong policy act allows Washington to engage with Hong Kong as a non-sovereign entity distinct from China on matters of trade and economics.

The areas of special treatment for Hong Kong are fairly broad and now include visas, law enforcement including extraditions, and investment.

“Policies and practices of the mainland central government adversely impacted Hong Kong in multiple areas, and mainland pressure resulted in new constraints on Hong Kong’s political space,” the report said.

“In some particularly concerning instances, Hong Kong authorities took actions aligned with mainland priorities at the expense of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The continuation of the U.S. Congress enacted policy is predicated upon China and Hong Kong maintaining a so-called “one country, two systems” arrangement.

This mode of governance, that came into effect after Hong Kong reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997, grants the city a high degree of autonomy, the rule of law and freedoms not allowed under the Communist China controlled mainland.

Some critics, including pro-independence activist Andy Chan, have called on the U.S. to review the viability of this act in future, given China’s tightening grip on the city’s freedoms.

Hong Kong, which has long acted as a leading re-export and entrepot hub for U.S.-China trade, has largely escaped the brunt of current U.S.-China trade tensions, given its special status as a separate customs entity.

Should the policy act be reviewed, however, the economic impact could be much larger, say observers.

In 2018, the United States’ largest worldwide bilateral trade-in-goods surplus was with Hong Kong, at $25.9 billion, the report noted.

The U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong Kurt Tong in February expressed concerns about Hong Kong’s autonomy, noting erosions to the “one-country, two systems” formula

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Michael Perry)

Source: OANN

  • Robert Mueller is widely believed to be close to turning over a report of his Russia investigation to the Justice Department.
  • The report will be the culmination of perhaps the most closely watched investigation in U.S. history.
  • Will the report be made public? When will it drop? Here is a primer on what happens next.

With the Mueller report expected to drop any day, here is a guide to what the special counsel investigated and how this heavily anticipated document will be released.

Spoiler alert: A lot of questions about the report’s release and its contents have no clear answer. That’s largely a function of the lack of leaks from the special counsel’s office and the stoic approach Mueller has taken during the 22-month investigation.

When will the report be finished?

All signs point to Mueller nearing the very end of the investigation.

Several top prosecutors working on the investigation are leaving the special counsel’s office, including Andrew Weissmann and Zainab Ahmad. Weissmann was the lead prosecutor on Mueller’s case against Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was sentenced to prison on charges related to his work for the Ukrainian government.

Reporters have also seen Mueller team members removing boxes of files from their offices in Washington, D.C.

The grand jury Mueller used in the investigation has also reportedly not heard from witnesses since Jan. 24, the same day Trump confidant Roger Stone was indicted.

What happens when Mueller finishes the report?

Once Mueller finalizes his report, he is expected to notify Attorney General William Barr. What happens then is up in the air.

Barr could announce that he has received the report, or he could provide portions of it directly to leaders on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

William Barr testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to be attorney general of the United States on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Congressional sources familiar with those committees’ business say they are as in the dark as anyone else about how the process will unfold. Barr could announce he has the Mueller document before or after he informs Congress. He could avoid a public announcement and inform Congress that Mueller concluded the investigation.

What will be in the report?

As with most questions about Mueller’s findings, it is unclear what he will actually say in the document provided to Barr.

Barr testified at his confirmation hearing that under the current statute governing special counsels, Mueller will be required to provide a summary of his findings to the Justice Department along with a rationale for any decisions to decline specific prosecutions.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the investigation since its inception May 17, 2017, recently laid out what information Barr is legally required to share with Congress.

“If the special counsel proposes to take an action and is overruled by the attorney general … we’re required to report that to the Congress,” he said at an event Feb. 25.

The report might also be hindered by legal restrictions against indicting sitting presidents. But Mueller could, if he sees fit, suggest areas where Trump could face impeachment proceedings.

What will the public see? 

That also remains unclear.

Barr could release as much of the report as he wants, but he is first expected to write a summary of Mueller’s findings.

Whatever documents are eventually made public are likely to contain redactions for classified information. It is also unlikely that the report will contain any information gleaned from grand jury testimony.

Legal observers cautioned the public against expecting Mueller to lay out all of the details of his investigation. But they also said it is unlikely Mueller and Barr can completely avoid explaining whether or not Trump colluded with Russia or obstructed justice.

Congressional Democrats vowed to subpoena the report if Barr withholds it. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff also pledged to subpoena Mueller if details of the report are withheld from Congress.

What will Trump do?

The answer to that question likely hinges on what the report says.

Trump has given mixed signals about how he will handle Mueller’s findings. He said Wednesday that the public should see the document, but he added that he would like to review it beforehand.

“Let it come out. Let people see it,” he said, before adding that the final decision is up to Barr.

The Republican has long decried the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt.”

What has Mueller investigated?

Mueller was appointed special counsel May 17, 2017, eight days after President Donald Trump fired James Comey as FBI director. A former FBI director himself, Mueller inherited “Crossfire Hurricane,” the FBI’s code name for the counterintelligence investigation into Trump campaign associates’ possible ties to Russia.

FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok opened Crossfire Hurricane on July 31, 2016. The probe targeted Trump aides George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Manafort and Michael Flynn.

After Comey’s firing, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe expanded the probe to include Trump himself. McCabe ordered an investigation into whether Trump himself was a Russian agent as well as whether he obstructed justice by firing Comey.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony to sign an executive order on veterans suicide prevention in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony to sign an executive order on veterans suicide prevention in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Mueller’s investigation has expanded in numerous directions since its beginning.

He indicted or secured guilty pleas from 34 individuals, including six Trump associates. But so far, none of the indictments have involved coordination between Trump associates and Russians.

Mueller indicted 25 Russian operatives accused of hacking Democrats’ emails or planting disinformation on social media networks.

Four Trump associates — George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates and Michael Cohen — pleaded guilty in the special counsel’s investigation.

Stone, a longtime Trump confidant, was indicted Jan. 24 on seven counts related to the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe. Mueller’s team alleges Stone lied about his communications with associates and Trump campaign officials regarding WikiLeaks. (RELATED: Trump Confidant Roger Stone Indicted In Mueller Probe)

Manafort was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison on a variety of charges related to his consulting work in Ukraine.

Mueller also secured guilty pleas from Alex van der Zwaan and Richard Pinedo, both of whom appear to have no direct links to Trump. Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort business partner suspected of having links to Russian intelligence, was also indicted on witness tampering charges.

Has Mueller found any evidence of collusion?

Most of what Mueller has found in his investigation remains secret, but some clues have come out through the numerous indictments and guilty pleas secured during the probe.

And so far, none of those cases revealed evidence that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with Russians to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

The source of the collusion conspiracy theory — the Steele dossier — has come under intense scrutiny since it was published in January 2017.

The dossier, which was funded by the Clinton campaign and Russian government, accused Page, Cohen and Manafort of conspiring with Kremlin officials to influence the election. The dossier also alleged that the Russian government was blackmailing Trump with video of him with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013.

Circumstantial evidence has cut against the Steele dossier. Page has appeared before Mueller’s grand jury, but has not been charged with any crimes. Prosecutors have never accused Manafort of conspiring with Russia, even though he has already been sentenced in two cases brought by Mueller’s team.

Cohen, who is a cooperating witness for Mueller, undercut the dossier’s most specific allegation about collusion during congressional testimony in February.

The former Trump fixer testified under oath Feb. 27 that he has never visited Prague. The dossier claims Cohen visited there in August 2016 to meet with Kremlin officials to discuss paying off Russian hackers.

Are more indictments on the way?

This is another question that remains to be seen. Trump critics have held out hope that Mueller will issue a barrage of indictments against Trump family members like Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner just as he submits his report to the Justice Department.

Mueller has investigated a variety of areas that have so far not resulted in indictments. Mueller’s prosecutors also offered a plea deal to Jerome Corsi, a conspiracy theorist who was in close contact with Stone during the 2016 campaign. Corsi has said Mueller believes he might have had contact during the campaign with WikiLeaks, the group that published emails stolen from Democrats.

Mueller’s grand jury heard testimony from Corsi’s stepson on the same day the indictment against Stone was handed down.

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

Palestinian demonstrators protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian demonstrators protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

March 21, 2019

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel said on Thursday a U.N. report critical of its use of lethal force during Palestinian protests on the Gaza border was biased and should have included a demand that the enclave’s dominant Hamas group take action to stop anti-Israeli violence.

A U.N. Commission of Inquiry on the demonstrations, which began nearly a year ago, said this week that Israel should investigate the shootings of more than 6,000 people, far beyond the criminal inquiries it has announced into 11 killings.

Issuing an official response to the commission’s report, Israel said it had “serious concerns about the factual and legal analysis conducted by the commission, its methodologies and the clear evidence of political bias against Israel”.

Gaza health authorities say some 200 people have been killed and thousands injured by Israeli fire since Palestinians launched the protests. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper along the frontier.

Protesters have been demanding the lifting of an Israeli blockade of the territory and a right to return to land from which their ancestors fled or were expelled. Israel has said it has no choice but to use deadly force to defend the frontier.

Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, the inquiry commission’s chairman, Santiago Canton, called on Israel, which boycotted the day-long debate, to review immediately its military’s rules of engagement.

Israel’s response, published on its Foreign Ministry’s website, said the commission’s “bias is most evident in (its) absolute failure … to make recommendations concerning Hamas”.

The militant group, Israel said, sends women, children and others to sabotage the Israeli security fence along the frontier and to act as shields for armed attacks. Balloons and kites have been flown across the border into Israel to start fires.

“If the commission seriously wished to provide an objective report that would contribute towards human rights and the safety of individuals, (it) would have seen fit to demand Hamas take action in the context of these events,” Israel said.

Asked about the Israeli allegations, Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official in Gaza, said “most of those killed were hit hundreds of meters from the fence – evidence that Israeli soldiers had deliberately targeted them”.

A summary accompanying the 252-page report said protest organizers “encouraged or defended demonstrators’ indiscriminate use of incendiary kites and balloons”, and Gaza’s de facto authorities did not stop such acts.

The Human Rights Council, a 47-member forum, is due to vote on Friday on four resolutions related to the occupied Palestinian territories.

European states are divided on the resolutions, including a text related to the Gaza inquiry, with some expected to vote against and others abstaining, diplomats said.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, quit the Geneva forum last year over what it says is bias against Israel.

Gaza is home to 2 million Palestinians, mainly stateless descendants of people who fled or were driven from Israel on its founding in 1948. Israel captured Gaza in a 1967 war but pulled out troops and settlements in 2005. Hamas took control in 2007.

Since then, Israel has fought three wars against the Islamist group and, along with Egypt, imposed a blockade of the territory that the World Bank says has collapsed its economy.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva)

Source: OANN

Palestinian demonstrators protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian demonstrators protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

March 21, 2019

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel said on Thursday a U.N. report critical of its use of lethal force during Palestinian protests on the Gaza border was biased and should have included a demand that the enclave’s dominant Hamas group take action to stop anti-Israeli violence.

A U.N. Commission of Inquiry on the demonstrations, which began nearly a year ago, said this week that Israel should investigate the shootings of more than 6,000 people, far beyond the criminal inquiries it has announced into 11 killings.

Issuing an official response to the commission’s report, Israel said it had “serious concerns about the factual and legal analysis conducted by the commission, its methodologies and the clear evidence of political bias against Israel”.

Gaza health authorities say some 200 people have been killed and thousands injured by Israeli fire since Palestinians launched the protests. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper along the frontier.

Protesters have been demanding the lifting of an Israeli blockade of the territory and a right to return to land from which their ancestors fled or were expelled. Israel has said it has no choice but to use deadly force to defend the frontier.

Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, the inquiry commission’s chairman, Santiago Canton, called on Israel, which boycotted the day-long debate, to review immediately its military’s rules of engagement.

Israel’s response, published on its Foreign Ministry’s website, said the commission’s “bias is most evident in (its) absolute failure … to make recommendations concerning Hamas”.

The militant group, Israel said, sends women, children and others to sabotage the Israeli security fence along the frontier and to act as shields for armed attacks. Balloons and kites have been flown across the border into Israel to start fires.

“If the commission seriously wished to provide an objective report that would contribute towards human rights and the safety of individuals, (it) would have seen fit to demand Hamas take action in the context of these events,” Israel said.

Asked about the Israeli allegations, Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official in Gaza, said “most of those killed were hit hundreds of meters from the fence – evidence that Israeli soldiers had deliberately targeted them”.

A summary accompanying the 252-page report said protest organizers “encouraged or defended demonstrators’ indiscriminate use of incendiary kites and balloons”, and Gaza’s de facto authorities did not stop such acts.

The Human Rights Council, a 47-member forum, is due to vote on Friday on four resolutions related to the occupied Palestinian territories.

European states are divided on the resolutions, including a text related to the Gaza inquiry, with some expected to vote against and others abstaining, diplomats said.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, quit the Geneva forum last year over what it says is bias against Israel.

Gaza is home to 2 million Palestinians, mainly stateless descendants of people who fled or were driven from Israel on its founding in 1948. Israel captured Gaza in a 1967 war but pulled out troops and settlements in 2005. Hamas took control in 2007.

Since then, Israel has fought three wars against the Islamist group and, along with Egypt, imposed a blockade of the territory that the World Bank says has collapsed its economy.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva)

Source: OANN

Derek Hunter | Contributor

On the show today, there are two main points: When you attack a dead guy, no matter how true your attacks may be, it drowns out whatever message you’re hoping to get across; and progressives will never miss an opportunity to chip away at the rights of individuals, even if it means standing on a pile of bodies to do it.

Listen to the show:

President Donald Trump had some great economic news to talk about in Ohio yesterday, but a five-minute tangent of criticizing the late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain was all anyone was talking about when his speech was done. The best thing the President has going for his reelection is just how crazy Democrats have become, but the worst thing he has going for him is his ability to stop all over his own message.

It’s one thing to counter-punch, which the president usually does and does well. It’s another to punch down. Yesterday, Trump not only punched down; he punched the ground — a grave. No matter how valid the criticisms were, they come across as unseemly when the target is dead. We make the case (and expect to catch outrage over it – let the hate email flow).

New Zealand is moving to ban every type of gun the Mosque terrorist attack shooter used and any accessory they could think of. Liberals in the United States immediately cheered the move and called for similar action here. The problem for them is, in New Zealand, owning a gun is a privilege. In the United States, it is a right. It’s why Democrats are talking about packing the Supreme Court; they want to control any institution they can use to impose their will on the American people.

A woman in the U.K. is under investigation for a possible hate crime because she used the “wrong pronoun” to describe a trans person on Twitter. Meanwhile, a program to educate kids on LGBT issues is being halted in Birmingham because the Muslim community complained about it. It’s the insanity of intersectionality come to life.

Finally, New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused Fox News hosts of calling her “Cortez” because they’re racists and she’s Hispanic. The only problem is, as usual, it was a complete lie. She won’t apologize because, well, no one will hold her accountable.

Political correctness is fascism, and fascism is on the march.

Please help spread the word about The Daily Daily Caller Podcast. Please take a minute to rate and review on iTunes, share on social media and be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode:

The Daily Daily Caller Podcast is a daily look and mocking of the news from a conservative perspective. Hosted by Derek Hunter, it is available in audio form Monday-Thursday and will have a video option on Fridays.

Derek Hunter is a columnist and contributing editor for The Daily Caller and author of “Outrage, INC: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood” from HarperCollins, available nowPick Up a copy, or several copies, here. Send compliments and complaints to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @derekahunter.

Source: The Daily Caller

Derek Hunter | Contributor

On the show today, there are two main points: When you attack a dead guy, no matter how true your attacks may be, it drowns out whatever message you’re hoping to get across; and progressives will never miss an opportunity to chip away at the rights of individuals, even if it means standing on a pile of bodies to do it.

Listen to the show:

President Donald Trump had some great economic news to talk about in Ohio yesterday, but a five-minute tangent of criticizing the late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain was all anyone was talking about when his speech was done. The best thing the President has going for his reelection is just how crazy Democrats have become, but the worst thing he has going for him is his ability to stop all over his own message.

It’s one thing to counter-punch, which the president usually does and does well. It’s another to punch down. Yesterday, Trump not only punched down; he punched the ground — a grave. No matter how valid the criticisms were, they come across as unseemly when the target is dead. We make the case (and expect to catch outrage over it – let the hate email flow).

New Zealand is moving to ban every type of gun the Mosque terrorist attack shooter used and any accessory they could think of. Liberals in the United States immediately cheered the move and called for similar action here. The problem for them is, in New Zealand, owning a gun is a privilege. In the United States, it is a right. It’s why Democrats are talking about packing the Supreme Court; they want to control any institution they can use to impose their will on the American people.

A woman in the U.K. is under investigation for a possible hate crime because she used the “wrong pronoun” to describe a trans person on Twitter. Meanwhile, a program to educate kids on LGBT issues is being halted in Birmingham because the Muslim community complained about it. It’s the insanity of intersectionality come to life.

Finally, New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused Fox News hosts of calling her “Cortez” because they’re racists and she’s Hispanic. The only problem is, as usual, it was a complete lie. She won’t apologize because, well, no one will hold her accountable.

Political correctness is fascism, and fascism is on the march.

Please help spread the word about The Daily Daily Caller Podcast. Please take a minute to rate and review on iTunes, share on social media and be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode:

The Daily Daily Caller Podcast is a daily look and mocking of the news from a conservative perspective. Hosted by Derek Hunter, it is available in audio form Monday-Thursday and will have a video option on Fridays.

Derek Hunter is a columnist and contributing editor for The Daily Caller and author of “Outrage, INC: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood” from HarperCollins, available nowPick Up a copy, or several copies, here. Send compliments and complaints to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @derekahunter.

Source: The Daily Caller

People shopping on Oxford Street in central London
People shopping on Oxford Street in central London, Britain, December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

March 21, 2019

LONDON, (Reuters) – British retail sales unexpectedly kept up a robust pace of expansion last month, after unusually warm weather boosted sales, reinforcing the sector’s role as a bright spot for the economy ahead of Brexit.

Annual retail sales growth slowed only a fraction to 4.0 percent in February after sales volumes grew at their fastest in more than two years in January, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a slowdown in sales growth to 3.3 percent.

Consumer spending has been a source of strength for the British economy at a time when businesses say that Brexit uncertainty is forcing them to postpone investment and a slower global economy is hurting export demand.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Theresa May asked for a three-month delay to Brexit on Wednesday to buy time to get her twice-rejected departure deal though parliament, but the request faced immediate resistance from the European Commission.

Sales volumes in February alone rose by 0.4 percent versus a poll forecast of a decline, after jumping by 0.9 percent in January, while annual sales growth for the three months to February was its strongest in over two years at 3.7 percent.

Falling inflation, a steady rise in wages and the lowest unemployment since 1975 have all boosted household incomes over the past year, though after inflation wages are still below their peak before the financial crisis.

Last year overall British economic growth slowed to its weakest since 2012 and the Bank of England – which is predicted to keep rates on hold later on Thursday – forecasts the weakest growth for a decade this year.

The ONS said that unusually warm weather in February had boosted spending at garden centres and on sporting equipment, sales fell at supermarkets and in clothing stores due to an end of January’s seasonal promotions.

Earlier on Thursday, major British clothing chain Next reported a small fall in annual profit on Thursday, hurt by lower store sales, and forecast another decline for 2019-2020.

Figures from the British Retail Consortium at the start of the month had suggested that annual sales growth at bigger high-street stores slowed in February, with the trade association blaming Brexit.

Separate figures from the ONS on Thursday showed the government broadly on track to meet updated borrowing goals for the 2018/19 financial year, as the strong labor market boosted income tax revenue.

Public borrowing for February, the eleventh month of the tax year, fell to 0.2 billion pounds from 1.2 billion pounds a year earlier, below economists’ average forecast of 0.6 billion pounds in a Reuters poll.

With just one month remaining of the current financial year, government borrowing totals 23.1 billion pounds, down 44 percent from the same point in the 2017/18 tax year, though these figures are likely to be revised further.

Last week Britain’s official budget forecasters cut their 2018/19 borrowing forecast to 22.8 billion pounds or 1.1 percent of GDP from 25.5 billion pounds.

Finance minister Philip Hammond said at the time that if Brexit went smoothly there would be more money for public services in a major multi-year spending review due late this year.

(Reporting by David Milliken and Andy Bruce)

Source: OANN

Logos of Tencent are displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong, China
Logos of Tencent are displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong, China March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

March 21, 2019

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Tencent Holdings said on Thursday net profit for the quarter ended December fell a sharper-than-expected 32 percent, the most on record for a quarter, as a regulatory review weighed on its gaming business.

Net profit at Asia’s second-most valuable listed company for the September-December quarter was 14.2 billion yuan ($2.12 billion), against the 18.3 billion yuan average estimate of 16 analysts, according to Refinitiv data.

Revenue in the quarter rose 28 percent to 84.9 billion yuan, slightly ahead of an average estimate of 83 billion yuan from 19 analysts. Tencent attributed that in part to strong growth in sponsorship advertising revenue.

Tencent declared a final dividend of HK$1.00 per share versus HK$0.88 in 2017.

(Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Source: OANN

The German share price index DAX graph at the stock exchange in Frankfurt
The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

March 21, 2019

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Stock exchanges in Europe are not harming markets or gouging customers with the fees they charge for data, an industry-commissioned report said on Thursday.

The report from consultants Oxera for the Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE) wants to counter accusations from investment funds that “monopoly” bourses were continually hiking fees for market data to lift profits.

Investment firms have called on the EU’s markets watchdog ESMA to review market data fees charged by exchanges, saying they keep on rising despite falling costs of computing and data storage.

Oxera’s report concludes that “economic analysis suggest that the current charging structures for market data are unlikely to have detrimental effects on market outcomes for investors.”

FESE said that while fees have been “challenged by some”, the report showed that aggregate market data revenues have risen by only 1 percent a year, from 230 million euros ($261.2 million) in 2012 to 245 million euros in 2018.

“Costs have remained stable over the last five years,” said Rainer Riess, FESE director general.

Policymakers should be very mindful that any changes do not harm how prices of shares are formed, Riess added.

TRANSATLANTIC

Investment funds face scrutiny over their own fees charged customers and want to cut costs.

They have to buy data to help show regulators that they are obtaining the best share prices on behalf of investors in a region where many platforms trade the same stocks.

The Alternative Investment Management Association, Managed Funds Association, Britain’s Investment Association and two German funds bodies BVI and BAI, asked ESMA in December to enforce an EU securities law that requires market data to be sold on a “reasonable commercial basis”.

The bloc’s competition officials are also facing pressure to intervene.

In the United States the Securities and Exchange Commission repealed two data price changes last May for public feeds for Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange listed securities for the first time after complaints from asset managers.

The battle across the Atlantic has led to market participants like Fidelity Investments and hedge fund Citadel to back a new, low cost Members Exchange bourse to compete with NYSE.

FESE said the real issue was not prices but the “often very low quality” of data from off-exchange or “dark” trading platforms.

There has been talk for many years of a “consolidated tape” or a single pipe for gathering share prices from different platforms, like in the United States.

FESE said data intermediaries or vendors were already offering a de facto tape for prices on the bulk of so-called “lit” exchanges, where prices and trades are instantly visible.

(Reporting by Huw Jones, Editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

A screen displays a chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average during trading on the floor of the NYSE in New York
A screen displays a chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average during trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 21, 2019

By Lawrence Delevingne

NEW YORK (Reuters) – On the morning of July 11, Paul Pittman was on a corn farm in Western Illinois, unaware his company had taken a devastating hit.

Just before the stock market opened, an anonymous short seller named “Rota Fortunae” posted on Twitter and financial website Seeking Alpha that Pittman’s small real estate investment trust, Farmland Partners Inc, had engaged in dubious transactions and risked “insolvency.”

The posting pushed shares down enough to make thousands of previously-purchased stock options profitable, according to a later expert analysis, in turn causing more selling by those on the other side of the trade who committed to buy shares at a higher set price. The accelerating losses were probably compounded by high-frequency trading algorithms activated by price swings and negative keywords, according to that analysis.

Pittman’s stomach churned when he checked his smartphone around noon: Shares were off almost 40 percent. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HyuFCE)

“The game was rigged,” Pittman, 56, told Reuters.

What followed exemplified a new, ugly phase in a war between companies and activist short sellers, with businesses fighting back against social-media fueled attacks and investors accusing executives of trying to muzzle critics.

Farmland sued Rota Fortunae – Latin for “wheel of fortune” – and other unnamed individuals alleging a “malicious scheme” to profit from the spread of false information and well-timed stock options. The short seller, a Texas-based individual whose identity has been kept secret, sent a statement to Reuters via an attorney that the litigation aimed to “intimidate and choke critical opinion” and that the idea of crashing the stock through “sophisticated trading” was “utter hogwash.” It is all under the watch of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has been briefed on the matter.

The stand-off reflects a broader debate over how to balance the desire to keep public companies accountable with concerns over market manipulation.

Short selling, said to be as old as stock markets, used to be a low-profile affair where bearish investors relied on the media, analysts or regulators to take the lead in exposing over-valued companies. New tools such as Twitter and Seeking Alpha changed that, creating a small but prominent group of brash public activists.

Successful campaigns that exposed corporate fraud or dubious practices, including Carson Block’s Sino-Forest Corp takedown and Andrew Left’s shorting of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc, underscored short sellers’ role as market watchdogs. Such victories, coupled with elevated stock valuations, helped spur record numbers of short campaigns, according to industry tracker Activist Insight.

Activist Insight data show such campaigns can have a noticeable impact on stock prices. A 2017 working paper by researchers Yu Ting Forester Wong and Wuyang Zhao also showed they weigh on target companies’ investments, dividends and access to financing.

Block, Left and other prominent short sellers interviewed by Reuters say they do thorough research and help keep companies honest.

Yet targeted businesses say many short campaigns waged this decade amount to “short and distort” schemes. They accuse some activists of spreading false or misleading information to drive a stock down and then quickly cash out, a mirror image of “pump and dump,” where unscrupulous investors promote speculative stocks before selling out at the top.

Cases against short sellers are rare, though, given free speech protections and companies hesitant to put themselves under the microscope of regulators, lawyers say.

SHORT IDEAS AND OPTIONS

Recent research provides fresh fodder for the debate. Columbia Law School securities expert Joshua Mitts said in a working paper that he had looked at 1,720 pseudonymous short idea posts on Seeking Alpha between 2010 and 2017 and found that 86 percent were preceded by “extraordinary” options trading.

Mitts told Reuters his review of the posts found that, like with Farmland, many short sellers appeared to use fast-expiring put-options bought before the release of a report to spur more selling by underwriters.

“Shorts have to rely on good research, not trading tricks, to punish a stock,” said Mitts, whose work has led to paid consulting for Farmland and other companies.

He has also found other unusual trading patterns, including dozens of cases of “spoofing” and “layering,” illegal trading strategies of placing and canceling orders to create a false impression of demand or supply. Mitts said, however, that high-frequency traders were probably responsible, not activists.

Prominent activists deny engaging in practices described by Mitts and say they rarely use options. Instead, they would typically borrow stocks and immediately sell them in anticipation of a price drop, so they can buy them back for less and pocket the difference.

“I’m sure there are a few anonymous guys out there doing tricky stuff, but it’s not a systemic problem,” Left said.

One smaller short seller said he used put options in conjunction with Seeking Alpha posts to make larger bets given limited capital, but emphasized making unfounded claims could backfire.

“With options you can get totally destroyed,” said the investor, who requested anonymity. “A bad thesis can be debunked almost instantly.”

Activist Insight, which has analyzed hundreds of campaigns, found many cases where target share prices went up, not down.

So far Mitts is virtually alone in analyzing trading activity around short campaigns, but his findings have already drawn the attention of a top U.S. regulator.

SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson told Reuters the research was “important” and challenged his agency to “identify folks who are dancing a very fine line between trading and market manipulation.”

The question, Jackson said, was whether the regulator would go after short sellers who engage in fraud as forcefully as it investigates companies for bad behavior.

“I hope the answer to that question will be yes.”

A hint came last September, when the SEC brought a rare “short and distort” case against hedge fund manager Gregory Lemelson for making false claims about Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc, an allegation which Lemelson has denied.

Jackson said, however, laws on anonymity and free speech could limit any steps that went beyond straightforward cases involving false information.

On March 12, for example, a New York state judge dismissed a lawsuit against short sellers by Indian media company Eros International PLC, noting their opinions on Seeking Alpha and elsewhere were substantiated and therefore protected.

Still, companies are increasingly retaliating with lawsuits, hiring private investigators and using other aggressive tactics, according to some activists. Block, for example, said he has faced “constant” legal threats, at least one undercover operative, and a failed $50 million investigation to discredit his research.

“More than ever, bad companies are trying to shoot the messenger through any means available,” Block said.

FARM WAR

In the days after Rota’s post, Farmland issued a public rebuttal and Pittman, a former farmer and financial executive, said the company had to go on an “‘I am not a crook’ tour” in meetings and calls with investors and business partners.

Most were sympathetic, Pittman said, including farmers who had traded land for stock, but Farmland lost a potential partnership and had to cut staff from 17 to 13.

George Moriarty, executive editor of Seeking Alpha, said that courts have respected the site’s status as a neutral platform and that its staff vetted all posts. In this case, Rota made “limited factual corrections” after Seeking Alpha contacted him about Farmland’s rebuttal.

Still, shares have never quite recovered, and Rota told Reuters that Farmland has yet to substantively address his concerns.

Stock analysts said Rota’s language was dramatic relative to the underlying issues and instead focused on broader business challenges and the potential costs of fighting back. Farmland recently reported about $1.6 million in extra expenses over 2018, before insurance, citing Rota’s campaign. That included defending against a related shareholder class-action and legal costs from its suit against the short seller.

Mitts has submitted his opinion on put options in the case, a pattern he said he discovered independently during his academic research.

The short seller behind the Rota moniker told Reuters he planned to challenge Mitts’ assertions and would continue his defense of first amendment rights. Farmland’s lawyers said Rota’s free speech argument was undercut by his acknowledgement of payments received for research on Farmland.

Whatever happens in court, the SEC is watching. Rota submitted his Farmland analysis to the agency’s whistleblower hotline, while Farmland later briefed SEC staff on its side.

The SEC declined to comment, but on Jan. 29 it denied Farmland’s request for records on Rota and options trading because, according to a letter revealed in a court filing, related information was in an “investigative file” from an “on-going law enforcement proceeding.”

(Reporting by Lawrence Delevingne. Editing by Neal Templin and Tomasz Janowski.)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - Office workers are seen in the London Place business district near Tower Bridge in central London
FILE PHOTO – Office workers are seen in the London Place business district near Tower Bridge in central London February 9, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 21, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – British private-sector employers expect to give staff a basic annual pay rise of 2.5 percent this year, the same as in 2018, though some will delay awards until after government Brexit plans are clearer, an industry survey showed on Thursday.

British wage growth rose to its highest in a decade at the end of last year at 3.5 percent, and the Bank of England sees only a slight slowdown in 2019 as employers struggle to find staff in the face of the lowest unemployment in decades.

XpertHR, a company that collates data on pay settlements at large employers, said firms it surveyed expected on average to award pay rises of 2.5 percent this year.

Before 2018, 2 percent was the standard pay rise offered.

Britain’s official measure of average weekly earnings growth usually exceed typical pay settlements as it also includes pay rises workers get through job moves and promotions.

“Based on the pay activities of employers so far this year and the increases planned, 2.5 percent looks set to be the benchmark pay award across the economy for 2019,” XpertHR pay and benefits editor Sheila Attwood said.

The BoE cites a tight labor market and weak productivity growth as the main reasons why it will need to raise interest rates over the medium term, though for now Brexit is keeping its rate rise plans on hold.

XpertHR said firms were offering higher pay in order to match their competitors and to tackle recruitment and retention issues, while higher mandatory employer pension contributions and Brexit uncertainty were factors weighing on pay.

“Some (staff) will have to wait until beyond their normal review date as a number of employers are delaying a decision until the impact of Brexit on their business can be fully assessed,” the report said.

Prime Minister Theresa May asked the European Union on Wednesday to allow Britain to delay Brexit until June 30 and EU leaders are expected to discuss the matter at a summit on Thursday. The decision must be taken unanimously by all remaining 27 EU members.

(Reporting by David Milliken, editing by Andy Bruce)

Source: OANN

A boy walks past a sign with voting instructions on his way to school in Honiara
A boy walks past a sign with voting instructions on his way to school in Honiara, Solomon Islands, March 11, 2019. Picture taken March 11, 2019. ISHMAEL AITOREA/Handout via REUTERS

March 20, 2019

By Charlotte Greenfield and Tom Westbrook

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) – As politicians hit the hustings across the Solomon Islands two weeks out from a general election in the South Pacific archipelago, the loyalty of one of Taiwan’s few remaining allies is in the balance.

Some Solomons’ candidates are promising to review lucrative, but loosening, ties with Taipei that if broken, could trigger a reshaping of diplomatic relations in a region home to a third of Taiwan’s shrinking list of allies.

Although Pacific island states offer little economically to either China and Taiwan, their support is valued in global forums such as the United Nations and as China seeks to isolate Taiwan. China see the democratically ruled island as a renegade province with no right to state-to-state ties.

In the Solomons, where two-thirds of exports go to China, many politicians are questioning whether diplomatic ties with Taiwan are still in their best interests.

“Sooner or later, when we see our country hasn’t been able to grow out of this relationship, we are at liberty to review our relations and to explore other avenues,” said former Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, who is contesting the election.

Lilo’s views, echoed in the rival ruling Democratic Alliance Party policy manifesto, and by other candidates, have caught Taipei’s attention.

Taiwan this month sent its deputy foreign minister to the tropical capital of Honiara shore up the alliance.

President Tsai Ing-wen is also touring the South Pacific this week, visiting other allies Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands to “deepen ties and friendly relations”.

Already five countries have switched recognition to China since Tsai took office in 2016, leaving just 17 mostly small, undeveloped countries that formally recognize Taiwan.

Four of the six Pacific island nations aligned with Taiwan have elections this year, putting its Pacific stronghold under increasing pressure.

The elections also come at a time when traditional regional powers from the West and Japan have been boosting their presence in the Pacific due to unease at China’s growing influence there.

Last week, the new U.S. ambassador to Australia said China was using “pay-day loan diplomacy” to exert influence in the Pacific.

“The West is watching the outcome of the election in the Solomon Islands very closely. There is no doubt that there are some Solomon Islands lawmakers who would like to align with China,” said a senior U.S. diplomatic source.

“There is a legitimate worry that it will have a domino effect.”

FLASHPOINT OR CASHPOINT?

Acknowledging that China takes the position that there is “one China” and Taiwan is part of it is the “common consensus of international society”, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

“The Chinese government, under the one China policy and the principles of peaceful coexistence, develops friendly cooperation with countries across the world,” he said, without elaborating.

Shifting allegiances are nothing new in the South Pacific.

Vanuatu flirted with recognizing Taiwan in 2004 but ultimately stuck with Beijing, while Kiribati and Nauru have each switched sides in the past.

The Solomons have recognized Taiwan since 1983.

The chain of islands stretching across some 600,000 sq km (232,000 sq miles) of ocean is a strategic gateway to the South Pacific and was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in World War II.

It is the largest of Taiwan-aligned Pacific countries, with access to the airfields and deepwater ports the conflict left behind.

The Solomons’ situation is further complicated by an unpredictable coalition building process after the vote, expected to last weeks before a government is formed.

FUNDING CRITICISMS

Taiwan is fighting to retain its ties.

“I think China is trying everything they can do to replace us in our diplomatic allies,” Taiwan’s deputy chief of mission to the Solomons, Oliver Liao, told Reuters in a phone interview.

He said Taipei was cautiously optimistic of retaining Honiara’s friendship because it has a long history of rural-development donations.

“Many friends here continue to share with us how much they appreciate Taiwan’s support and how they appreciate the flexibility this budgetary support allows – politicians and also the citizens.”

Its strategy, though, has come under fire.

Taiwan’s support of around $9 million a year is paid directly into a government account which lawmakers tap for projects in their far-flung provinces, with little oversight.

“In the rural areas there is no tangible development,” said Andrew Fanasia, politics reporter at the Solomon Star newspaper.

“Mostly these people blame their leaders and this fund.”

Anti-graft agency Transparency Solomon Islands says “vote buying” with cash linked to development funds is by far the most common complaint it fields, according to data it collected in 2017 and 2018.

Lawmakers say there are successes, and the government’s rural development website lists health and sanitation projects, community buildings, and text-message testimonies from citizens about improvements to their lives.

But even Taiwan’s Liao – and former prime minister Lilo – say economic progress has not been fast enough.

And in the capital, patience with the incumbents charged with disbursing Taiwan’s largesse is in short supply.

“Most students would really like to see a change in the leadership and style,” said law student Ishmael Aitorea, 25, on the phone from the student association office of the University of the South Pacific in Honiara.

“The perception is that if the old parliament members go back, nothing will change.”

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in WELLINGTON, Tom Westbrook and Colin Packham in SYDNEY, Yimou Lee in TAIPEI and Philip Wen in BEIJING; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Source: OANN

A boy walks past a sign with voting instructions on his way to school in Honiara
A boy walks past a sign with voting instructions on his way to school in Honiara, Solomon Islands, March 11, 2019. Picture taken March 11, 2019. ISHMAEL AITOREA/Handout via REUTERS

March 20, 2019

By Charlotte Greenfield and Tom Westbrook

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) – As politicians hit the hustings across the Solomon Islands two weeks out from a general election in the South Pacific archipelago, the loyalty of one of Taiwan’s few remaining allies is in the balance.

Some Solomons’ candidates are promising to review lucrative, but loosening, ties with Taipei that if broken, could trigger a reshaping of diplomatic relations in a region home to a third of Taiwan’s shrinking list of allies.

Although Pacific island states offer little economically to either China and Taiwan, their support is valued in global forums such as the United Nations and as China seeks to isolate Taiwan. China see the democratically ruled island as a renegade province with no right to state-to-state ties.

In the Solomons, where two-thirds of exports go to China, many politicians are questioning whether diplomatic ties with Taiwan are still in their best interests.

“Sooner or later, when we see our country hasn’t been able to grow out of this relationship, we are at liberty to review our relations and to explore other avenues,” said former Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, who is contesting the election.

Lilo’s views, echoed in the rival ruling Democratic Alliance Party policy manifesto, and by other candidates, have caught Taipei’s attention.

Taiwan this month sent its deputy foreign minister to the tropical capital of Honiara shore up the alliance.

President Tsai Ing-wen is also touring the South Pacific this week, visiting other allies Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands to “deepen ties and friendly relations”.

Already five countries have switched recognition to China since Tsai took office in 2016, leaving just 17 mostly small, undeveloped countries that formally recognize Taiwan.

Four of the six Pacific island nations aligned with Taiwan have elections this year, putting its Pacific stronghold under increasing pressure.

The elections also come at a time when traditional regional powers from the West and Japan have been boosting their presence in the Pacific due to unease at China’s growing influence there.

Last week, the new U.S. ambassador to Australia said China was using “pay-day loan diplomacy” to exert influence in the Pacific.

“The West is watching the outcome of the election in the Solomon Islands very closely. There is no doubt that there are some Solomon Islands lawmakers who would like to align with China,” said a senior U.S. diplomatic source.

“There is a legitimate worry that it will have a domino effect.”

FLASHPOINT OR CASHPOINT?

Acknowledging that China takes the position that there is “one China” and Taiwan is part of it is the “common consensus of international society”, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

“The Chinese government, under the one China policy and the principles of peaceful coexistence, develops friendly cooperation with countries across the world,” he said, without elaborating.

Shifting allegiances are nothing new in the South Pacific.

Vanuatu flirted with recognizing Taiwan in 2004 but ultimately stuck with Beijing, while Kiribati and Nauru have each switched sides in the past.

The Solomons have recognized Taiwan since 1983.

The chain of islands stretching across some 600,000 sq km (232,000 sq miles) of ocean is a strategic gateway to the South Pacific and was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in World War II.

It is the largest of Taiwan-aligned Pacific countries, with access to the airfields and deepwater ports the conflict left behind.

The Solomons’ situation is further complicated by an unpredictable coalition building process after the vote, expected to last weeks before a government is formed.

FUNDING CRITICISMS

Taiwan is fighting to retain its ties.

“I think China is trying everything they can do to replace us in our diplomatic allies,” Taiwan’s deputy chief of mission to the Solomons, Oliver Liao, told Reuters in a phone interview.

He said Taipei was cautiously optimistic of retaining Honiara’s friendship because it has a long history of rural-development donations.

“Many friends here continue to share with us how much they appreciate Taiwan’s support and how they appreciate the flexibility this budgetary support allows – politicians and also the citizens.”

Its strategy, though, has come under fire.

Taiwan’s support of around $9 million a year is paid directly into a government account which lawmakers tap for projects in their far-flung provinces, with little oversight.

“In the rural areas there is no tangible development,” said Andrew Fanasia, politics reporter at the Solomon Star newspaper.

“Mostly these people blame their leaders and this fund.”

Anti-graft agency Transparency Solomon Islands says “vote buying” with cash linked to development funds is by far the most common complaint it fields, according to data it collected in 2017 and 2018.

Lawmakers say there are successes, and the government’s rural development website lists health and sanitation projects, community buildings, and text-message testimonies from citizens about improvements to their lives.

But even Taiwan’s Liao – and former prime minister Lilo – say economic progress has not been fast enough.

And in the capital, patience with the incumbents charged with disbursing Taiwan’s largesse is in short supply.

“Most students would really like to see a change in the leadership and style,” said law student Ishmael Aitorea, 25, on the phone from the student association office of the University of the South Pacific in Honiara.

“The perception is that if the old parliament members go back, nothing will change.”

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in WELLINGTON, Tom Westbrook and Colin Packham in SYDNEY, Yimou Lee in TAIPEI and Philip Wen in BEIJING; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Source: OANN


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