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As Russia Probe Began, Trump Called on Spy Chiefs for Help

Two months before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed in the spring of 2017, President Donald Trump picked up the phone and called the head of the largest U.S. intelligence agency. Trump told Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, that news stories alleging that Trump's 2016 White House campaign had ties to Russia were false and the president asked whether Rogers could do anything to counter them.

Rogers and his deputy Richard Ledgett, who was present for the call, were taken aback.

Afterward, Ledgett wrote a memo about the conversation and Trump's request. He and Rogers signed it and stashed it in a safe. Ledgett said it was the "most unusual thing he had experienced in 40 years of government service."

Trump's outreach to Rogers, who retired last year, and other top intelligence officials stands in sharp contrast to his public, combative stance toward his intelligence agencies. At the time of the call, Trump was just some 60 days into his presidency, but he already had managed to alienate large parts of the intelligence apparatus with comments denigrating the profession.

Since then, Trump only has dug in. He said at a news conference in Helsinki after his 2017 summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin that he gave weight to Putin's denial that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, despite the firm conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that it had. "I don't see any reason why it would be" Russia, Trump said. And earlier this year, Trump called national security assessments "naive," tweeting "perhaps intelligence should go back to school."

Yet in moments of concern as Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election got underway, Trump turned to his spy chiefs for help.

The phone call to Rogers on March 26, 2017, came only weeks after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had angered Trump by stepping aside from the investigation. James Comey, the FBI director who would be fired that May, had just told Congress that the FBI was not only investigating Russian meddling in the election, but also possible links or coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

The call to Rogers and others like it were uncovered by Mueller as he investigated possible obstruction. In his 448-page report released Thursday, Mueller concluded that while Trump attempted to seize control of the Russia investigation and bring it to a halt, the president was ultimately thwarted by those around him.

The special counsel said the evidence did not establish that Trump asked or directed intelligence officials to "stop or interfere with the FBI's Russia investigation." The requests to those officials, Mueller said, "were not interpreted by the officials who received them as directives to improperly interfere with the investigation."

During the call to Rogers, the president "expressed frustration with the Russia investigation, saying that it made relations with the Russians difficult," according to the report.

Trump said news stories linking him with Russia were not true and he asked Rogers "if he could do anything to refute the stories." Even though Rogers signed the memo about the conversation and put it in a safe, he told investigators he did not think Trump was giving him an order.

Trump made a number of similar requests of other top intelligence officials.

On March 22, 2017, Trump asked then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats to stay behind after a meeting at the White House to ask if the men could "say publicly that no link existed between him and Russia," the report said.

In two other instances, the president began meetings to discuss sensitive intelligence matters by stating he hoped a media statement could be issued saying there was no collusion with Russia.

After Trump repeatedly brought up the Russia investigation with his national intelligence director, "Coats said he finally told the President that Coats's job was to provide intelligence and not get involved in investigations," the report said.

Pompeo recalled that Trump regularly urged officials to get the word out that he had not done anything wrong related to Russia. But Pompeo, now secretary of state, said he had no recollection of being asked to stay behind after the March 22 meeting, according to the report.

Coats told Mueller's investigators that Trump never asked him to speak with Comey about the FBI investigation. But other employees within Coats' office had different recollections of how Coats described the meeting immediately after it occurred.

According to the report, senior staffer Michael Dempsey "said that Coats described the president's comments as falling 'somewhere between musing about hating the investigation' and wanting Coats to 'do something to stop it.' Dempsey said Coats made it clear that he would not get involved with an ongoing FBI investigation."

Source: NewsMax Politics

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Queen celebrates 93rd birthday at Easter service

Britain's Queen Elizabeth arrives at the Easter Mattins Service at St. George's Chapel in Windsor
Britain's Queen Elizabeth arrives at the Easter Mattins Service at St. George's Chapel in Windsor, Britain April 21, 2019. Ian Vogler/Pool via REUTERS

April 21, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, the world’s oldest and longest reigning living monarch, celebrated her 93rd birthday on Sunday by attending the traditional Easter service at Windsor Castle.

Elizabeth was accompanied by members of her family, including grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry, and William’s wife Catherine, at the Easter Mattins service in St George’s Chapel.

Prince Harry’s wife Meghan Markle, who is due to give birth to the couple’s first child imminently, did not attend.

The couple, who were married at the chapel in May 2018, posted a birthday greeting to Elizabeth on their official Instagram account.

“Happy Birthday Your Majesty, Ma’am, Granny. Wishing you the most wonderful day! Harry & Meghan,” they wrote.

Elizabeth was born on April 21, 1926, in Bruton Street, central London and became queen in 1952 at the age of 25, meaning she has now reigned for more than 67 years.

She has an official birthday in June which is publicly marked with a large parade of soldiers through central London, known as Trooping the Colour.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Mark Potter)

Source: OANN

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Easter marred by Sri Lanka bombs, pope says in condemning blasts

Pope Francis leads the Easter Mass at St. Peter's Square
Pope Francis is seen after reading his "Urbi et Orbi" ("To the City and the World") message from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

April 21, 2019

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis, in his Easter Sunday address, condemned as “such cruel violence” the bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 100 people and were timed to coincide with the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar.

Francis, speaking to a crowd of about 70,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, also urged politicians to shun a new arms race that was budding and to welcome refugees fleeing hunger and human rights violations.

The blasts in Sri Lanka, which hospital and police officials said killed at least 138 people and wounded more than 400 people, followed a lull in major attacks since the end of the civil war 10 years ago.

“I learned with sadness and pain of the news of the grave attacks, that precisely today, Easter, brought mourning and pain to churches and other places where people were gathered in Sri Lanka,” Francis said in his traditional Easter Sunday “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message.

“I wish to express my affectionate closeness to the Christian community, hit while it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence,” the pope, who visited Sri Lanka in 2015, said.

Speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, he appealed for peace in conflict areas.

“Before the many sufferings of our time, may the Lord of life not find us cold and indifferent,” he said, speaking in Italian after celebrating a Mass in the square.

“May he make us builders of bridges, not walls. May the One who gives us his peace end the roar of arms, both in areas of conflict and in our cities, and inspire the leaders of nations to work for an end to the arms race and the troubling spread of weaponry, especially in the economically more advanced countries,” he said.

Francis has made defense of migrants a key feature of his pontificate and has clashed over the immigration with politicians such as U.S. President Donald Trump and Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini who leads the anti-immigrant League party and has closed Italy’s ports to rescue ships operated by charities.

Easter commemorates the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead.

“May the Risen Christ, who flung open the doors of the tomb, open our hearts to the needs of the disadvantaged, the vulnerable, the poor, the unemployed, the marginalized, and all those who knock at our door in search of bread, refuge, and the recognition of their dignity,” Francis said.

He called for a solution to the conflict in Syria that responds to “people’s legitimate hopes for freedom, peace and justice” and favors the return of refugees.

Francis urged dialogue in order to end fighting in Libya, appealing to both sides to “choose dialogue over force and to avoid reopening wounds left by a decade of conflicts and political instability”.

He called for politicians in Venezuela “to end social injustices, abuses and acts of violence, and take the concrete

steps needed to heal divisions and offer the population the help they need”.

Francis encouraged the fragile peace process in mostly Christian South Sudan, whose leaders attended an unprecedented spiritual retreat earlier this month at the Vatican where he begged them to avoid returning to a civil war.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Susan Fenton)

Source: OANN

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Financial market ‘pause party’ makes Fed rate cut less likely

Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

April 21, 2019

By Howard Schneider and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Risk-taking has been the rage since the Federal Reserve quit hiking interest rates at the end of last year. U.S. stocks are back near record highs and investors are stockpiling the lowest-grade corporate bonds with only a smidgen of extra compensation for the added risk.

That rebounding mood on Wall Street may be welcomed by a president that has been demanding the Fed cut rates after markets fell sharply last year, and complaining that even pausing at the current level is the wrong call.

But if anything the ‘pause party’ on Wall Street makes it even less likely that the U.S. central bank will cut rates. Recent positive news on retail sales and exports, which have eased concerns of a sharply slowing economy, makes the case for a rate cut even weaker.

Investors at least have gotten the message, and shifted from projecting a rate cut later this year to now putting the odds at only 50-50 that the Fed will move lower by early 2020.

Wall Street celebrates the Fed’s ‘pause: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/11/9740/9650/Pasted%20Image.jpg

The state of financial markets, say some analysts, is evidence the Fed’s rate increases last year were on point, allowing the economy to continue growing while keeping risks in check. A rate cut at this stage would only be courting problems.

“The argument for why they should keep the possibility of a rate hike on the table is because of financial stability,” Citi chief economist Catherine Mann said in remarks on Wednesday to a conference on financial stability at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.

After a decade of near zero interest rates, “moving toward a constellation of asset prices that embodies risks is critical for getting us to a more stable financial market,” she said, noting that both equity prices and low-grade bond yields show a market that remains too sanguine.

In their critiques of the Fed, U.S. President Donald Trump, White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow, and possible Fed nominee Stephen Moore have argued that lower rates would allow faster growth and be in line with Trump’s economic plans. They contend that, with the risk of inflation low, the central bank does not need to maintain ‘insurance’ against it by keeping rates where they are.

     Overlooked in that analysis are the financial stability concerns steadily integrated into Fed policymaking since the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis. Mann spoke at a conference named in honor of economist Hyman Minsky, who explored how financial excess can build during good times, and unwind in catastrophic fashion. The downturn a decade ago showed just how deeply that dynamic can scar the real economy.

     Financial stability isn’t a formal mandate for the Fed, which under congressional legislation is supposed to maintain the twin goals of maximum employment and stable prices. But since the crisis the central bank has concluded that keeping financial markets on an even keel is a necessary condition for achieving the other two aims.

    That doesn’t mean an end of volatility or a guarantee of profits, but rather that risks are properly priced and that the use of leverage – investments made with borrowed money – is kept within safe limits.

Keeping an eye on stock valuations: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/11/9738/9648/Pasted%20Image.jpg

     That’s a key reason why even policymakers focused on maintaining high levels of employment, like Boston Fed president Eric Rosengren, at times have taken on a hawkish tone in favor of rate increases. The worse outcome for workers, Rosengren and others have said, would be to let markets inflate too much, and crash again, even if that means risking a bit higher unemployment in the interim. 

Markets are currently “a little rich,” Rosengren said in recent remarks at Davidson College in North Carolina.

Though not enough to warrant a rate increase, he said, it does argue against a rate reduction. Overall, Fed officials including Chairman Jerome Powell say they feel financial risks are within a manageable range, something policymakers feel has been helped along by the rate increases to date.

The state of financial markets is “something that the Fed has to wrestle with,” Rosengren said. “It’s appropriate for interest rates to be paused right now.”

Corporate bond valuations look frothy: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/11/9739/9649/Pasted%20Image.jpg

(Reporting by Howard Schneider and Trevor Hunnicut; Editing by Dan Burns and Andrea Ricci)

Source: OANN

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UK financial services? It’s a family affair: report

FILE PHOTO: The financial district can be seen as a person runs in the sunshine on London's south bank
FILE PHOTO: The financial district seen from London's south bank, Britain February 23, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

April 21, 2019

By Simon Jessop

LONDON (Reuters) – Nearly half of all people working in Britain’s financial services industry have followed their parents into the sector, more than three times the national average, research from consultants KPMG showed.

The finding comes as policymakers and investors push the industry to improve diversity in senior management and make firms more inclusive in an effort to improve corporate governance as well as shareholder returns.

The research revealed that forty-one percent of financial services staff had parents in the same sector against a national average of 12 percent. In insurance, the figure was even higher, at 54 percent.

“The fact that people in financial services are more than three times more likely than the national average to have followed in their parent’s career footsteps is staggering,” said Tim Howarth, head of financial services consulting at KPMG.

KPMG spoke to more than 1,500 people for the survey, a third of whom worked in the banking, insurance or asset management industry, while the rest were employed in a range of other sectors across the country.

The lack of diversity in the industry was a “huge challenge”, said John Mann, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour party who sits on the government committee responsible for overseeing the finance industry.

“Its biggest problem, by far, has been its cultural problem,” he told Reuters. “That’s what’s led to the collapse of a number of financial institutions. The cultural problems are reinforced by not bringing in a wider array of people.”

The finance industry is one of Britain’s biggest tax payers and has some of the country’s highest-paid jobs. Of those working in the sector, 87 percent said they liked their job, the report found, pipping the 82 percent satisfaction rate seen outside the industry.

Yet 65 percent of all the people surveyed by KPMG said they would not consider a role in financial services. Of these, 41 percent said it was because the industry “sounds boring”, while 16 percent cited a lack of contacts in the sector.

“There’s clearly a gap between what the public think, and the realities of working in financial services … that has to be addressed if we are to attract the diverse mix of skills and experiences needed to navigate the changes going on in financial services and society,” Howarth said.

The biggest driver for more than a third of the 500 financial services workers surveyed was the higher pay on offer.

Just 16 percent of the 1,000 non-financial services sector workers put money as their main motivation.

“We are always told that Millennials and Generation Z are more interested in their social impact than their finances, and so our sector has to get more imaginative in the way it attracts and retains staff,” KPMG Head of Financial Services Jon Holt said.

(Additional reporting by Iain Withers. Editing by Jane Merriman)

Source: OANN

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Barty guides Australia into Fed Cup final

FILE PHOTO - Tennis: Miami Open
FILE PHOTO - Mar 30, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Ashleigh Barty of Australia returns a shot back to Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic (not pictured) during the woman's finals at the Miami Open at Miami Open Tennis Complex. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

April 21, 2019

SYDNEY (Reuters) – World number nine Ashleigh Barty continued her recent strong run of form and guided Australia to their first Fed Cup final since 1993 with a 3-2 victory over Belarus in Brisbane on Sunday.

Barty, who won both her singles matches in the semi-final tie, and veteran Samantha Stosur beat Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 3-6 6-2 in the deciding doubles to set up a final against either France or Romania in November.

Australia, who have not won the title since 1974, will host the final against the winner of the second semi-final, which was locked at 1-1 in Rouen.

“It’s super exciting to be in a Fed Cup final,” Stosur said. “We all work so hard all year and we’re such a tight team. We’re going to be giving it our best shot here in November.”

Barty had earlier given Australia a 2-1 lead after a superb mixture of tactics, scrambling defense and a powerful service game to beat Sabalenka 6-2 6-2.

It was her second singles win of the tie after she beat Azarenka on Saturday and her success came on the back of winning her first WTA Premier level tournament in Miami last month.

Azarenka was originally not listed to play the doubles but after she dismantled Stosur 6-1 6-1 in 59 minutes to send the tie to the decider, she quickly had her racquets restrung and joined the 20-year-old in the doubles.

SINGLES EVEN

The tie had been locked at 1-1 after the opening day’s singles before Barty produced a high level of intensity to beat Sabalenka in Sunday’s first match.

Despite the lop-sided scoreline, Barty was made to work hard by her fellow top-10 player Sabalenka, who lost control of the match in the fifth game of the first set when she served four double faults.

Barty, who was forced to produce big serves to neutralize breakpoint opportunities in both the second and fourth games of the second set, broke Sabalenka and ended the Belarusian’s resistance when she served her eighth double fault.

Azarenka sent the tie into the decider when she produced some of the high quality tennis that had propelled her to two Australian Open titles.

The 29-year-old is making her way back up the rankings after she had a child and then faced a custody battle that restricted her travel.

Even during the rallies the 35-year-old Stosur controlled, Azarenka chased the ball down and forced her opponent to keep making shots that resulted in the Australian making 35 errors.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

Source: OANN

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Factbox: After Indonesia election, new crop of leaders in focus for 2024 vote

FILE PHOTO: A man holds a Koran as Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan stands during a swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta
FILE PHOTO: A man holds a Koran as Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan stands during a swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta/File Photo

April 21, 2019

By Tabita Diela and Yerica Lai

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Even with Indonesia’s current presidential election result still to be officially confirmed, attention is turning to the next race for the top job in 2024 with some rising political stars and well-connected figures in the frame.

Sample vote counts by private pollsters from last week’s poll show that incumbent President Joko Widodo is headed for a second and final term in office though the results are being disputed by his challenger, ex-general Prabowo Subianto.

There are, however, a string of new leaders waiting in the wings for their chance including some who, like Widodo, cut their teeth running cities or provinces across the archipelago, and also the offspring of ex-leaders being groomed to take over.

Still, a candidate needs at least 20 percent of seats in parliament or 25 percent of the popular vote to stand, meaning it is conceivable for this year’s challenger Subianto, who is chairman of the Gerindra party, to run for a third attempt.

“We have a lot of potential leaders… The threshold should be lowered to give these people an open opportunity,” said Arya Fernandes, a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Here are some of the possible contenders for the 2024 vote.

Anies Baswedan, 49, is the governor of Jakarta. The former education minister, with backing from opposition parties and some hardline Islamist groups, defeated the popular ethnic-Chinese, Christian governor of the capital in a vote marred by religious tensions. Still, the Fulbright Scholar who comes from a family of moderate Muslim scholars is seen as appealing to younger voters and representing a more modern face of Islam.

Sandiaga Uno, 49, was elected vice governor of Jakarta in 2017, but stood down to be the vice presidential running mate for Prabowo. His private equity fortune made to a large degree with investments in Indonesia’s coal industry helped fund Prabowo and his campaign. Though a relative newcomer to politics, the campaign has allowed him to raise his profile across Indonesia and he proved a hit with millennial and female voters.

Ridwan Kamil, 47, is governor of Indonesia’s most populous province West Java and an ally of Widodo. A trained architect, he was previously mayor of Bandung where he is credited with rebranding the city to encourage creativity and use of technology. He has successfully used social media to connect with voters and has more than 10 million followers on Instagram.

Puan Maharani, 45, is a minister for human development and cultural affairs. She has political pedigree as the daughter of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri and granddaughter of Indonesia’s charismatic first leader, Sukarno. Her mother chairs the biggest party in parliament, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which is in the ruling coalition.

Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, 40, is the eldest son of former president and Democratic Party chairman Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The Harvard-educated politician followed his father by having a military career and despite his inexperience ran in the Jakarta governor race in 2017 where he lost in the first round. The Democratic Party has also not fared so well this year.

Other names being circulated by pollsters or the media include regional leaders such as Ganjar Pranowo, 50, the governor of Central Java, Tri Rismaharini, 57, mayor of Surabaya, and East Java governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, 53.

In eastern Indonesia, Nurdin Abdullah, 56, the South Sulawesi governor, is also seen as a contender.

Deputy parliament speaker and vice chairman of the Gerindra party Fadli Zon, 47, is also seen as a possible candidate as a Prabowo loyalist.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, 52, the ex-governor of Jakarta, still has many supporters if he did try to get back into politics even with a blasphemy conviction for insulting the Koran.

Billionaire businessman Erick Thohir, 48, who orchestrated last year’s Asian Games and Widodo’s 2019 presidential campaign, has also been mentioned though he has denied interest in a political career and up to now lacks governance experience.

(Reporting by Tabita Diela and Yerica Lai; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

Source: OANN

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Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno explains in a tweeted video why his country revoked WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's asylum
Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno explains in a tweeted video why his country revoked WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s asylum, in Quito, Ecuador April 11, 2019 in this still image taken from video. @lenin/via REUTERS

April 12, 2019

By Alexandra Valencia and Mark Hosenball

QUITO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ecuador’s decision to abruptly end Julian Assange’s seven-year asylum in its London embassy on Thursday followed a long deterioration in relations, driven in part by suspicions he was secretly fuelling corruption allegations against President Lenin Moreno.

British police on Thursday arrested the WikiLeaks founder, who sought asylum in the Andean nation’s diplomatic mission during the government of former Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa – who saw Assange as a hero for leaking secret U.S. documents.

By contrast, Moreno took a dim view of Assange when he took office in 2017, ordering the Australian hacker to cut back his online political commentary, stop riding his skateboard in the halls of the embassy and clean up after his pet cat.

Moreno’s government accused WikiLeaks of being behind an anonymous website that said Moreno’s brother had created offshore companies that his family used to fund a luxurious lifestyle in Europe while Moreno was a delegate to a U.N. agency.

Moreno denies wrongdoing.

The leaked materials, dubbed the “INA Papers,” contained private photographs of Moreno and his family. After the release of the materials, Moreno said that Assange had no right to “hack private accounts and phones,” without directly accusing him.

WikiLeaks tweeted about the reports but, in messages and statements to Reuters, strongly denied that Assange was responsible for the leaks or had anything to do with their initial publication.

EMBASSY BEHAVIOR

Ecuadorean government figures on Thursday publicly described what they called Assange’s unacceptable and ungrateful behavior in the embassy. The government said it had spent $6.2 million on his upkeep and security between 2012 and 2018.

Foreign Minister Jose Valencia said Assange had been using a mobile phone that was not registered with the embassy and had warned the ambassador in January that he had installed panic buttons that he would activate if he considered his life at risk.

“It’s strange that Mr. Assange has insisted on being the victim,” Valencia told Ecuador’s National Assembly.

The interior minister, Maria Paula Romo, told reporters on Thursday that Assange had been “allowed to do things like put feces on the walls of the embassy and other behaviors of that nature.”

Valencia told the congress that embassy cleaning staff described “improper hygienic conduct” throughout Assange’s stay, adding that a lawyer representing Assange had attributed the issue to “stomach problems.”

Lawyers for Assange did not respond to requests for comment. Vaughan Smith, a friend and founder of London’s press Frontline Club who visited Assange late last week, told Reuters he believed the feces allegation was false.

“Julian has been under stress but seemed in a balanced frame of mind every time I have seen him. It doesn’t seem in character,” Smith said.

STAFFING CHANGE

Friends of Assange who visited him inside the embassy over the last several months say that since Moreno became president, almost the entire embassy staff was replaced.

The foreign ministry named a new ambassador after Moreno took office and fired one official, Fidel Narvaez, seen as close to Assange.

While embassy staffers were friendly to Assange during Correa’s presidency, Moreno’s new diplomats were polite to visitors but hostile to Assange, his friends said.

In early February, according to Ecuadorean government memos released by Assange’s supporters, Ecuador complained to Assange that he had deliberately pointed a studio lamp at a security camera the embassy had installed in a room where Assange was receiving visitors.

Later that month, the ambassador sent Assange a memo complaining that he had “shown once again an unacceptable behavior” by playing a radio loudly while meeting visitors. “This action disturbed the work being carried out by the embassy,” the ambassador said.

Assange had taken refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault investigation that was later dropped.

U.S. officials announced after his arrest on Thursday that he had been charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, paving the way for his extradition.

Correa, in an interview with Reuters in Brussels, said Moreno had given Assange “to his executioners.”

Asked whether he had worked with Wikileaks to leak the INA documents, he did not directly respond. He said the documents showed the “rottenness” within Moreno’s family.

“I apologize on behalf of the Ecuadorean people. A government like that – such a treacherous, treacherous president – does not represent us,” Correa said.

Valencia declined to comment on criticisms of Moreno.

Correa is embroiled in a legal battle with prosecutors pursuing a case involving the kidnapping in 2012 of an opposition lawmaker. An court in Ecuador last year ordered him to be imprisoned pending a trial and issued an international arrest warrant. Correa denies the charge.

(Reporting by Alexandria Valencia in Quito and Mark Hosenball in Washington, Additional reporting by Bart Biesemans in Brussels and Carlos Vargas and Helen Murphy in Bogota; Writing by Angus Berwick and Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Rosalba O’Brien)

Source: OANN

Middle-aged Americans are hitting the sauce too hard and too often, a new poll shows.

It found 33% of adults aged 35-44 who have at least one drink in a typical week agreed with one or more statements that would prompt an addiction specialist to consider treatment, according to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).

Of adults from this age group, 9% said they continue to drink even though it has already harmed their career, education, and/or relationships, the online survey of nearly 2,000 people found.

Binge-drinking – four or more drinks in a two-hour period for women and five or more for men – is typical behavior for 7% of adults aged 35-44 and 10% of adults aged 45-54, according to the poll.

“We tend to believe a person is managing alcohol well if they’re not an alcoholic,” said Dr. Malissa Barbosa, an addiction medicine specialist in Orlando, Fla.

“But what many fail to recognize is the gradual impact the chemical has on the body, as well as the associated disease states,” Barbosa said in an AOA news release.

Alcohol harms vital organs, increases the risk of several cancers, and has been linked with mental health problems, memory, and thinking declines, and neurological conditions such as nerve pain and movement disorders, according to the association.

“Our culture celebrates excess,” Barbosa said. “It’s convinced many adults that alcohol is a necessary part of their lifestyle, and that several drinks a night is normal behavior.

“We worry about kids on campus who put themselves in danger, but it’s become pervasive among adults, too. It’s time for serious conversations about the impact of excessive drinking on all demographics in our society,” Barbosa said.

Nine in 10 U.S. adults who drink too much alcohol are not alcoholics or alcohol-dependent, according to a federal government study. Nearly 1 in 3 adults is an excessive drinker, and most of these drinkers binge-drink, usually on multiple occasions.

Source: NewsMax America

FILE PHOTO: Frans Timmermans, the newly elected Party of European Socialists President, speaks during the Party of European Socialists annual meeting in Lisbon
FILE PHOTO: Frans Timmermans, the newly elected Party of European Socialists President, speaks during the Party of European Socialists annual meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, December 8, 2018. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/File Photo

April 17, 2019

By Peter Maushagen

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) – Britain should use the next few months to “cool down and rethink” its decision to leave the European Union, the socialist candidate to head the next European Commission, Frans Timmermans, said on Wednesday.

Last week EU leaders gave Britain an extension of its departure date until Oct. 31, with the possibility of leaving sooner if parliament ratifies a divorce deal Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated with the EU. Lawmakers have already rejected the deal three times.

“I absolutely hope that the UK might stay in the EU,” Timmermans, now the Commission’s first vice president, said in a television debate with his main rival, Manfred Weber of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP).

“I hope this period of extension will be used for Britain to calm down and rethink things a bit, perhaps for politicians to be more responsible with the promises they make, and then look at the issue again later this year,” the Dutchman said.

“Who knows what might change in the meantime?” he said.

Timmermans was expressing a sentiment shared by some in the EU, notably the chairman of EU leaders, Donald Tusk, that Britain could still change its mind and stay in the EU.

LABOUR TO TIMMERMANS’ RESCUE?

Polls show that enough Britons may have had a change of heart about Brexit since the 2016 referendum, in which they voted to leave the bloc by 52 to 48 percent. But May and her government remain strongly opposed to holding another vote.

Timmermans hopes to replace the EPP’s Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission, the most powerful of EU institutions. He is running on a ticket from the EU’s second biggest political family, the socialists.

Britain is likely to still be a member of the EU at the time of the European Parliament elections on May 23-26, which means it would take part in the vote. Britain’s opposition Labour Party, which backs a second referendum, could help Timmermans’ socialists win more seats in the 751-seat European assembly.

Weber does not stand to benefit in the same way from British participation in the EU elections because no UK parties belong to the EPP, currently the largest grouping in the parliament.

“I have a problem that they (Britain) are now participating in the EU elections, are deciding about the future of our union,” Weber said during the TV debate with Timmermans.

“That is not easy to understand. I respect the outcome, and if they are part of the EU, they have the right to vote – don’t get me wrong,” he added.

The EU political family with most seats in the European Parliament expects its candidate for Commission president to land the job, although the decision formally lies with EU leaders.

Latest polls – which assume UK participation in the elections – show the EPP winning 178 seats and the socialists getting 144 seats.

(Reporting By Peter Maushagen, Writing by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Source: OANN

A voter casts her vote at Mantsala town hall during the Finnish parliamentary elections, in Mantsala
A voter casts her vote at Mantsala town hall during the Finnish parliamentary elections, in Mantsala, Finland April 14, 2019. Lehtikuva/Emmi Korhonen via REUTERS

April 14, 2019

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finland’s leftist Social Democrats won first place in advance voting ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary election, with 18.9 percent of the votes, after 35.5 percent of ballots had been counted, justice ministry data showed.

The centre-right National Coalition of outgoing Finance Minister Petteri Orpo came in second, with 17.2 percent of the advance ballots. The Centre Party of outgoing Prime Minister Juha Sipila scored third, with 15.4 percent.

The nationalist True Finns party came in fourth, with 15.1 percent of the vote.

About 36 percent of voting-age Finns cast their votes in a seven-day advance voting period that ended on Tuesday. The results from these votes are often skewed due to differences in voter behavior in different regions.

(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak)

Source: OANN

Aguila Saleh, Libya's parliament president, speaks during the first session at parliament headquarters in Benghazi
Aguila Saleh, Libya’s parliament president, speaks during the first session at parliament headquarters in Benghazi, Libya April 13, 2019. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

April 13, 2019

By Ayman al-Warfalli and Ahmed Elumami

BENGHAZI, Libya/TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Eastern Libyan forces will pursue their advance on the capital Tripoli, the head of the eastern parliament in the divided country said on Saturday, despite international calls for a halt in an offensive that risks causing many civilian casualties.

His comments came an eastern air strike hit the yard of a school on the southern outskirts of Tripoli, where eastern forces have been confronted by forces allied to Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj’s internationally recognized government.

In a possible new front, the eastern Libya National Army (LNA) was readying a unit to move to the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf oil ports, Libya’s biggest, on the eastern coast, anticipating an attack from an armed group allied to Serraj, eastern military officials said.

“The force will strengthen the protection of the ports,” one official said, asking not to be named.

Last week the European Union had called on the LNA to stop its attacks, having agreed on a statement after France and Italy sparred over how to handle the conflict.

But the eastern parliament head said they would press an offensive launched a week ago under military commander Khalifa Haftar, the latest outbreak of a cycle of conflict since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.

“We need to get rid of militias and terrorist groups,” Aguila Saleh, head of the House of Representatives allied to Haftar, said using a reference eastern officials often make to describe forces allied to the Tripoli government, which relies on support from several armed groups.

“We assure the residents of Tripoli that the campaign to liberate Tripoli will be limited and not violate any freedoms but restore security and fight terrorism,” Saleh told lawmakers in a session in the main eastern city of Benghazi.

Forces loyal to al-Serraj’s government have so far kept the eastern offensive at bay. Fierce fighting has broken out around a disused former airport about 11 km (7 miles) from the center.

An eastern military source said a warplane belonging to the LNA had struck a military camp in an eastern Tripoli suburb.

In a separate strike the yard of a primary school was hit, a Reuters reporter at the scene said. A LNA official said the plane had targeted a camp of Serraj’s forces.

Saleh also said the United Nations mission to Libya and Serraj’s government had been controlled by armed groups and had failed to expel them from the capital, and promised Libya would hold long-delayed elections after the Tripoli operation ends.

Haftar’s offensive had surprised the United Nations, which had been planning to hold a national conference on April 14 to prepare Libya for elections.

The latest battle had by Friday killed 75 people, mainly fighters but including 17 civilians, and wounded another 323, according to U.N. tallies. Some 13,625 people have been forced out of their homes.

As well as the humanitarian cost, the conflict threatens to disrupt oil supplies, boost migration to Europe, scupper a U.N. peace plan, and allow Islamist militants to exploit the chaos.

Haftar, 75, a former general in Gaddafi’s army who later joined the revolt against him, moved his troops out of their eastern stronghold to take the oil-rich desert south earlier this year, before sweeping up to Tripoli at the start of April.

(Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by David Holmes)

Source: OANN



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