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Trump claims, without evidence, that Mexico will pay for border wall via trade deal

Posted on: December 13th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

AlexLMX/iStock(WASHINGTON) — After threatening to shut down the government if Congress does not allot $5 billion for a wall across the southern border, President Trump now says Mexico will be paying for the wall using money the U.S. would “save” from the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement.

The president tweeted, “I often stated, “One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall.” This has never changed. Our new deal with Mexico (and Canada), the USMCA, is so much better than the old, very costly & anti-USA NAFTA deal, that just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!”

“Who’s going to pay for the wall?” Trump often asked supporters as a rallying cry on the campaign trail. “Mexico!” Supporters would say in response.

But Mexican leaders have been adamant Mexico would not foot the bill, and discussion of the border wall, and how it gets paid for, has not been a part of their trade negotiations.

ABC News asked the White House for an explanation of the president’s tweet but did not receive a response.

According to the White House on Thursday, Trump and the President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, often called AMLO, spoke on the phone Wednesday about illegal immigration and economic development. But neither the White House nor the Mexicans mentioned any discussion of the border wall in readouts of the call.

The United States, Mexico, and Canada came to an agreement on the USMCA which is essentially a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Congress still needs to approve the trade deal, which has provisions including requirements that 75 percent of auto content be made in North America and 40-45 percent of auto workers earn at least $16 per hour. It is unclear what funds, if any, would be available to pay for the wall.

Earlier this week, the president met with House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to discuss government funding and the president’s request for a significant increase in border security funding. In the heated Oval Office meeting, the president brought up his idea of using USMCA funds from Mexico to pay for the wall, according to the Washington Post. Pelosi reportedly balked at the idea.

It’s not the first time the president has tied trade to border wall funding. This past year during NAFTA renegotiations, the president said that “Mexico will pay — in some form — Mexico will pay for the wall.”

At the USMCA signing two weeks ago in Buenos Aires, ABC News asked U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer directly whether anything in the deal could be construed as Mexico paying for the wall. He would only say he doesn’t know about walls and would not say whether discussion of wall payment was even raised in the negotiations.

Michael Matera, an economist and diplomatic analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says nothing in the USMCA (which is largely a continuation of NAFTA) indicates Mexico is picking up the $25 billion price tag for U.S. taxpayers — directly or indirectly.

On the Senate floor on Thursday, Schumer pushed back on the notion Mexico could be held responsible for funding border security.

“Just this morning, the president tweeted that Mexico will pay for the wall through savings from the new NAFTA. Well, Mr. President, if you say Mexico is going to pay for the wall through NAFTA, which it certainly won’t, then I guess we don’t have to,” Schumer said.

“If the president really believed what he tweeted this morning, that his new NAFTA would pay for the wall, he wouldn’t be threatening to shut down the government unless American taxpayers can fund his wall.”

“You can’t have it both ways,” Schumer concluded. “The president’s position on the wall is totally contradictory, ill-informed, and frankly irresponsible.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump claims, without evidence, that Mexico will pay for border wall via trade deal

Posted on: December 13th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

AlexLMX/iStock(WASHINGTON) — After threatening to shut down the government if Congress does not allot $5 billion for a wall across the southern border, President Trump now says Mexico will be paying for the wall using money the U.S. would “save” from the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement.

The president tweeted, “I often stated, “One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall.” This has never changed. Our new deal with Mexico (and Canada), the USMCA, is so much better than the old, very costly & anti-USA NAFTA deal, that just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!”

“Who’s going to pay for the wall?” Trump often asked supporters as a rallying cry on the campaign trail. “Mexico!” Supporters would say in response.

But Mexican leaders have been adamant Mexico would not foot the bill, and discussion of the border wall, and how it gets paid for, has not been a part of their trade negotiations.

ABC News asked the White House for an explanation of the president’s tweet but did not receive a response.

According to the White House on Thursday, Trump and the President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, often called AMLO, spoke on the phone Wednesday about illegal immigration and economic development. But neither the White House nor the Mexicans mentioned any discussion of the border wall in readouts of the call.

The United States, Mexico, and Canada came to an agreement on the USMCA which is essentially a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Congress still needs to approve the trade deal, which has provisions including requirements that 75 percent of auto content be made in North America and 40-45 percent of auto workers earn at least $16 per hour. It is unclear what funds, if any, would be available to pay for the wall.

Earlier this week, the president met with House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to discuss government funding and the president’s request for a significant increase in border security funding. In the heated Oval Office meeting, the president brought up his idea of using USMCA funds from Mexico to pay for the wall, according to the Washington Post. Pelosi reportedly balked at the idea.

It’s not the first time the president has tied trade to border wall funding. This past year during NAFTA renegotiations, the president said that “Mexico will pay — in some form — Mexico will pay for the wall.”

At the USMCA signing two weeks ago in Buenos Aires, ABC News asked U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer directly whether anything in the deal could be construed as Mexico paying for the wall. He would only say he doesn’t know about walls and would not say whether discussion of wall payment was even raised in the negotiations.

Michael Matera, an economist and diplomatic analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says nothing in the USMCA (which is largely a continuation of NAFTA) indicates Mexico is picking up the $25 billion price tag for U.S. taxpayers — directly or indirectly.

On the Senate floor on Thursday, Schumer pushed back on the notion Mexico could be held responsible for funding border security.

“Just this morning, the president tweeted that Mexico will pay for the wall through savings from the new NAFTA. Well, Mr. President, if you say Mexico is going to pay for the wall through NAFTA, which it certainly won’t, then I guess we don’t have to,” Schumer said.

“If the president really believed what he tweeted this morning, that his new NAFTA would pay for the wall, he wouldn’t be threatening to shut down the government unless American taxpayers can fund his wall.”

“You can’t have it both ways,” Schumer concluded. “The president’s position on the wall is totally contradictory, ill-informed, and frankly irresponsible.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Theresa May continues Brexit talks in Brussels after surviving bid to topple her

Posted on: December 13th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images(BRUSSELS) — Theresa May, Britain’s embattled prime minister, is pressing on with fraught Brexit negotiations after surviving an attempt to oust her from power Wednesday night.

May is currently in Brussels for an EU summit, an engagement it was unclear whether she would keep Wednesday as news emerged that she was facing a vote of no confidence by her own party. But May survived the vote, despite a third of her party voting against her.

She called Wednesday “a difficult day” in her opening statement in Brussels.

“I’m grateful for the significant support I had from colleagues. But I have also heard loud and clear the concerns of those who didn’t feel able to support me,” May said.

Leaders of all 27 EU states are in attendance, and May will have an opportunity to raise issues with the Brexit deal and appeal for help. The EU member states will then debate on what compromises the bloc is or is not willing to make for the British — but only after May leaves the room.

While May has faced threats to her leadership with several cabinet ministers’ resignations since the summer, the most serious challenge came as she published her agreement with the EU on the terms of the U.K.’s withdrawal.

After it became clear that other members of Parliament wouldn’t vote for her agreement, she postponed a critical vote on Tuesday, to the fury not just of opposition parties but her own colleagues.

The move was prompted dozens of members of Parliament to write letters stating they had no confidence in the prime minister, and Wednesday morning, May announced she was facing a vote on her leadership.

Under Conservative party rules, the leadership is put to a vote if 15 percent of members of Parliament write letters to the 1922 Committee chairman, a group of MPs that handle the leadership process.

Last night, the Conservative party declared that she had survived by 200 votes to 117. Under party rules, there cannot be another contest for a whole year.

The episode has further weakened May. But crucially, in a desperate bid to survive the vote, she made an 11th-hour appeal to her colleagues to support her, vowing she would not lead the Conservatives in the next general election. May said she will resign as party leader and prime minister before the country next goes to the polls in 2022.

While May’s position as party leader — and prime minister, as long as there is no snap election — is safe for another year, her struggle is far from over.

Earlier this week, she raced across Europe to try and persuade EU leaders to give further concessions on the Brexit deal in the hopes she could get it passed by the British parliament.

On Tuesday, she traveled to the Hague, Berlin and Brussels. She met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to raise issues on key sticking points in the Brexit deal that British politicians are refusing to accept.

The response from EU leaders was unequivocal: there was no room for negotiation.

However, some leaders have indicated there may be room for “clarification” on the interpretation of some terms, and it is this nuance that May is hoping will help to make the deal more palatable to the British.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Theresa May continues Brexit talks in Brussels after surviving bid to topple her

Posted on: December 13th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images(BRUSSELS) — Theresa May, Britain’s embattled prime minister, is pressing on with fraught Brexit negotiations after surviving an attempt to oust her from power Wednesday night.

May is currently in Brussels for an EU summit, an engagement it was unclear whether she would keep Wednesday as news emerged that she was facing a vote of no confidence by her own party. But May survived the vote, despite a third of her party voting against her.

She called Wednesday “a difficult day” in her opening statement in Brussels.

“I’m grateful for the significant support I had from colleagues. But I have also heard loud and clear the concerns of those who didn’t feel able to support me,” May said.

Leaders of all 27 EU states are in attendance, and May will have an opportunity to raise issues with the Brexit deal and appeal for help. The EU member states will then debate on what compromises the bloc is or is not willing to make for the British — but only after May leaves the room.

While May has faced threats to her leadership with several cabinet ministers’ resignations since the summer, the most serious challenge came as she published her agreement with the EU on the terms of the U.K.’s withdrawal.

After it became clear that other members of Parliament wouldn’t vote for her agreement, she postponed a critical vote on Tuesday, to the fury not just of opposition parties but her own colleagues.

The move was prompted dozens of members of Parliament to write letters stating they had no confidence in the prime minister, and Wednesday morning, May announced she was facing a vote on her leadership.

Under Conservative party rules, the leadership is put to a vote if 15 percent of members of Parliament write letters to the 1922 Committee chairman, a group of MPs that handle the leadership process.

Last night, the Conservative party declared that she had survived by 200 votes to 117. Under party rules, there cannot be another contest for a whole year.

The episode has further weakened May. But crucially, in a desperate bid to survive the vote, she made an 11th-hour appeal to her colleagues to support her, vowing she would not lead the Conservatives in the next general election. May said she will resign as party leader and prime minister before the country next goes to the polls in 2022.

While May’s position as party leader — and prime minister, as long as there is no snap election — is safe for another year, her struggle is far from over.

Earlier this week, she raced across Europe to try and persuade EU leaders to give further concessions on the Brexit deal in the hopes she could get it passed by the British parliament.

On Tuesday, she traveled to the Hague, Berlin and Brussels. She met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to raise issues on key sticking points in the Brexit deal that British politicians are refusing to accept.

The response from EU leaders was unequivocal: there was no room for negotiation.

However, some leaders have indicated there may be room for “clarification” on the interpretation of some terms, and it is this nuance that May is hoping will help to make the deal more palatable to the British.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Maria Butina, accused Russian agent, pleads guilty in federal court

Posted on: December 13th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Alexandria Sheriff’s Office via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian gun rights activist, has signed onto a plea agreement with the U.S. government, officially pivoting away from her months-long campaign to prove her innocence after standing accused of developing a covert influence operation in the United States.

As part of her plea deal, the details of which ABC News reported earlier this week, Butina agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and cooperate with federal, state and local authorities in any ongoing investigations.

As Butina prepared to change her plea before a federal judge in Washington, D.C., Thursday morning, the judge confronted directly questions raised about the stark conditions of her confinement—which this week has brought a rebuke from the Russian government. Butina’s lawyer had complained she was held alone in her cell for long stretches and had little personal our sensory contact.

The judge asked Butina and her attorney if conditions had impaired her psychologically to the point she had agreed to plead guilty.

“Is your mind clear?” the judge asked.

“Absolutely clear,” Butina replied in a firm voice.

Driscoll told the court that while he remains concerned about the overuse of solitary confinement, he did not consider that a factor in her change of plea.

“As of today, I believe she is doing well mentally,” Driscoll said.

ABC News reported earlier this week that, as part of her deal, Butina admitted that she and an unnamed “U.S. Person 1,” which sources have identified as longtime Republican operative Paul Erickson, with whom she had a multiyear romantic relationship, “agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official (“Russian Official”) and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General.”

Based on the description, the “Russian Official” appears to be Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under his Torshin direction, the agreement said, she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.”

Ahead of Thursday’s hearing, a spokeswoman with the Russian Foreign Ministry told reporters in Moscow again called for Butina’s “soonest release from custody” and said the Russian government “will support any decision she might take aimed at her liberation.”

“Once again, we demand that Washington observe her lawful rights and ensure her soonest release from custody,” the spokeswoman said, adding that whatever decision Butina makes with her lawyers, “she would take them in order to be freed, considering that she is a political prisoner.”

Butina was arrested in Washington, D.C., in July on charges of conspiracy and failure to register as a foreign agent. Her indictment attracted headlines at the time for salacious claims made by the government that she used sex as part of an alleged effort to infiltrate powerful conservative groups and build relationships with prominent Americans, drawing comparisons to the recent Hollywood film, Red Sparrow, which focused on the seductive aspects of spycraft.

But the government was later forced to back away from some of those allegations, conceding that they were based on a misreading of a series of text messages. Prosecutors wrote that “the government’s understanding of this particular text conversation was mistaken,” according to court filings.

Butina has been held in jail since her arrest and indictment, with a federal judge claiming in September that she “cannot imagine a scenario where it is not possible” that Butina would flee the country if allowed out on bail.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Two investigations underway into controversial London police ramming tactic

Posted on: December 13th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Metropolitan Police(LONDON) — A controversial tactic in which police in London use specially-trained drivers to ram criminals on scooters has triggered two separate investigations after the criminals had suffered “serious” injuries.

The Metropolitan Police released footage last month of the policy, known as “contact tactics,” in action. The aggressive tactic is used in the hope that “potential offenders will think twice about their actions,” the department said in a statement.

Police are legally obligated to make a referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) if an individual is “seriously injured” during a police operation. This automatically triggers an independent investigation. The findings of an IOPC investigation are then sent to the police force — which is then required to act on the recommendations.

The first investigation was launched after a “contact tactic” incident in November 2017 left the driver of a scooter with a head injury and a broken foot. Then, in March, another scooter operator involved in an incident ended up with a broken leg. Both injuries were deemed significant enough to be “serious,” an IOPC spokesperson told ABC News.

The IOPC said the officer involved in the November incident breached professional standards. The investigation could now result in criminal charges against the officer.

“Ultimately no police tactic can ever be used with impunity in a country where we police by consent – be that tactical contact, the use of firearms or the use of restraint,” an IOPC spokesperson told ABC News.

“It is always a matter of whether it’s reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances. Independent scrutiny is a vital part of public confidence in the way policing is done.”

The duel investigations are likely to bolster the argument of those opposed to the controversial policy.

Diane Abbott, a Member of Parliament and critic of the policy, tweeted in November that “contact tactics” were “potentially very dangerous” and “police are not above the law.”

Police, however, say that such tactics are necessary and play a part in reducing crimes committed on motorbikes.

“We are pleased to see a reduction in moped-related offenses and we will continue to work tirelessly across London to maintain this downward trend,” a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told ABC News.

“Tactical contact has long been available to officers, however it is now being used more frequently in the Met’s fight against power two-wheeled crime. The proportionate use of force is essential in circumstances where officers have to protect the public and often themselves.”

“All policing actions and tactics that result in either a serious injury or death to the rider, pillion passenger or a member of the public, will fall under the Police Reform Act and be subject to an open transparent investigation.”

A pillion passenger is a term mostly used in the United Kingdom to describe a second passenger on a motorbike.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Report: For third straight year, Turkey jailed more journalists than any other country

Posted on: December 13th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

bedo/iStock(NEW YORK) — Even as Turkish leaders call for an international inquiry into Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khassogi’s murder, the Committee to Project Journalists found the Turkish government to be the world’s biggest jailer of journalists for the third consecutive year, according to a newly released report.

According to the global press freedom watchdog’s Annual Prison Census, 251 journalists are currently in jails around the world as of Dec. 1 for charges related to their work — 68 in Turkey, 47 in China and 25 in Egypt, collectively responsible for more than half of the journalists behind bars.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been one of the harshest critics of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his alleged role in Khassogi’s killing, but following a failed coup against his government in 2016, experts said, Erdogan has engaged in a country-wide crackdown on criticism.

“Turkey has really cracked down on the independent press by equating journalism with terrorism,” Courtney Radsch, advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told ABC News. “And we see this as part of a pattern that’s been in place for many years.”

Criticism of Saudi Arabia’s record on press freedom is often warranted. Khashoggi’s murder, which provoked outrage around the world and even spurred Time magazine to name him and other persecuted journalists the magazine’s “Person of the Year,” comes amid a spike in the country’s own repression of journalists.

Whereas CPJ found at least seven journalists in jail in December 2017, that number has risen to 16 just a year later, including four female journalists who covered women’s rights in the country.

And with President Donald Trump’s popularization of the pejorative term “fake news” to describe and denounce critical coverage of his administration, the CPJ recorded a significant uptick in the number of journalists facing “false news” charges around the world since his election.

In 2016, only nine journalists around the world were held for that charge. After Trump’s election, that number rose to 21 in 2017. And it rose again to 28 in 2018.

“We see countries are using the same terminology and pointing to the United States and pointing to Trump’s labeling of journalists as fake news,” Radsch said. “It basically serves to inoculate those in power [because] it creates distrust.”

Steven Cook, senior fellow for the Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC News that leaders in countries without enshrined press freedom protections take their cues from the United States.

“We used to think that when journalists were under attack, at least you would have the largest pulpit of them all, the U.S. president. But it’s the opposite,” Cook said. “The press has been labeled the enemy of the people and that’s been heard around the world by people who think likewise.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Report: For third straight year, Turkey jailed more journalists than any other country

Posted on: December 13th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

bedo/iStock(NEW YORK) — Even as Turkish leaders call for an international inquiry into Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khassogi’s murder, the Committee to Project Journalists found the Turkish government to be the world’s biggest jailer of journalists for the third consecutive year, according to a newly released report.

According to the global press freedom watchdog’s Annual Prison Census, 251 journalists are currently in jails around the world as of Dec. 1 for charges related to their work — 68 in Turkey, 47 in China and 25 in Egypt, collectively responsible for more than half of the journalists behind bars.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been one of the harshest critics of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his alleged role in Khassogi’s killing, but following a failed coup against his government in 2016, experts said, Erdogan has engaged in a country-wide crackdown on criticism.

“Turkey has really cracked down on the independent press by equating journalism with terrorism,” Courtney Radsch, advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told ABC News. “And we see this as part of a pattern that’s been in place for many years.”

Criticism of Saudi Arabia’s record on press freedom is often warranted. Khashoggi’s murder, which provoked outrage around the world and even spurred Time magazine to name him and other persecuted journalists the magazine’s “Person of the Year,” comes amid a spike in the country’s own repression of journalists.

Whereas CPJ found at least seven journalists in jail in December 2017, that number has risen to 16 just a year later, including four female journalists who covered women’s rights in the country.

And with President Donald Trump’s popularization of the pejorative term “fake news” to describe and denounce critical coverage of his administration, the CPJ recorded a significant uptick in the number of journalists facing “false news” charges around the world since his election.

In 2016, only nine journalists around the world were held for that charge. After Trump’s election, that number rose to 21 in 2017. And it rose again to 28 in 2018.

“We see countries are using the same terminology and pointing to the United States and pointing to Trump’s labeling of journalists as fake news,” Radsch said. “It basically serves to inoculate those in power [because] it creates distrust.”

Steven Cook, senior fellow for the Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC News that leaders in countries without enshrined press freedom protections take their cues from the United States.

“We used to think that when journalists were under attack, at least you would have the largest pulpit of them all, the U.S. president. But it’s the opposite,” Cook said. “The press has been labeled the enemy of the people and that’s been heard around the world by people who think likewise.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

China confirms two missing Canadians have been detained

Posted on: December 13th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

allanswart/iStock(HONG KONG) — The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed Thursday that a second Canadian citizen has been detained in China in addition to the former Canadian diplomat who was reported missing earlier this week.

Both men are being detained by China’s Ministry for State Security for allegedly “endangering national security.”

At a press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang revealed that entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were both taken into custody separately on Monday. Kovrig is being held in Beijing and Spavor is being held in the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong, across the river from North Korea.

The sudden detention of the two Canadian citizens comes in the wake of the high profile arrest of Chinese tech-giant Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada at the behest of the United States, which wants her extradited for alleged bank fraud and violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Beijing had earlier vowed “grave consequences” for Canada if the Huawei executive was not released. Meng has since been released on bail, but is required to remain in Vancouver, living in her family’s six-bedroom mansion while awaiting an extradition hearing in February.

Spavor, who runs a nongovernmental organization (NGO) called Paektu Cultural Exchange, out of Dandong, is a longtime prominent consultant on North Korea, facilitating business and sports delegations in the reclusive state. He is among just a handful of foreigners who have met with Kim Jong Un inside the country.

Spavor famously organized many of former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s trips into North Korea, including one when Rodman claimed he went jet-skiing with the North Korean leader in 2013. Spavor acted as Rodman’s translator on those trips.

Lu said earlier in the week that former diplomat Kovrig’s current employer, The International Crisis Group, was not officially registered in China, making any of their work illegal in the country, violating a new foreign NGO law China put in place just over a year ago.

The law stipulates that in addition to registering with the government, the NGO “must not endanger China’s national unity, security, or ethnic unity.”

According to the Ministry of Public Security, which maintains a list of registered NGOs in China, Spavor’s organization was not included.

Lu said on Thursday that Canada has been informed of the detentions, but would not say if the men have access to lawyers.

When asked if the detentions were in any way related to Meng’s arrest in Canada, Lu would only say it was all being handled according to Chinese law.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

China confirms two missing Canadians have been detained

Posted on: December 13th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

allanswart/iStock(HONG KONG) — The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed Thursday that a second Canadian citizen has been detained in China in addition to the former Canadian diplomat who was reported missing earlier this week.

Both men are being detained by China’s Ministry for State Security for allegedly “endangering national security.”

At a press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang revealed that entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were both taken into custody separately on Monday. Kovrig is being held in Beijing and Spavor is being held in the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong, across the river from North Korea.

The sudden detention of the two Canadian citizens comes in the wake of the high profile arrest of Chinese tech-giant Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada at the behest of the United States, which wants her extradited for alleged bank fraud and violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Beijing had earlier vowed “grave consequences” for Canada if the Huawei executive was not released. Meng has since been released on bail, but is required to remain in Vancouver, living in her family’s six-bedroom mansion while awaiting an extradition hearing in February.

Spavor, who runs a nongovernmental organization (NGO) called Paektu Cultural Exchange, out of Dandong, is a longtime prominent consultant on North Korea, facilitating business and sports delegations in the reclusive state. He is among just a handful of foreigners who have met with Kim Jong Un inside the country.

Spavor famously organized many of former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s trips into North Korea, including one when Rodman claimed he went jet-skiing with the North Korean leader in 2013. Spavor acted as Rodman’s translator on those trips.

Lu said earlier in the week that former diplomat Kovrig’s current employer, The International Crisis Group, was not officially registered in China, making any of their work illegal in the country, violating a new foreign NGO law China put in place just over a year ago.

The law stipulates that in addition to registering with the government, the NGO “must not endanger China’s national unity, security, or ethnic unity.”

According to the Ministry of Public Security, which maintains a list of registered NGOs in China, Spavor’s organization was not included.

Lu said on Thursday that Canada has been informed of the detentions, but would not say if the men have access to lawyers.

When asked if the detentions were in any way related to Meng’s arrest in Canada, Lu would only say it was all being handled according to Chinese law.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Missing Canadians being held by China amid spat over tech exec’s arrest

Posted on: December 13th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The two Canadians, who run NGOs, are being held in China.

Missing Canadians being held by China amid spat over tech exec’s arrest

Posted on: December 13th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The two Canadians, who run NGOs, are being held in China.

Theresa May survives crucial no-confidence vote amid Brexit uncertainty

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The prime minister said she will fight on.

Theresa May survives crucial no-confidence vote amid Brexit uncertainty

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The prime minister said she will fight on.

Miss Universe announces all its judges this year will be women

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Coral222/iStock(NEW YORK) — The Miss Universe Organization announced Wednesday that for the first time in its history, it’s upcoming competition will have an all-women panel of judges to determine the winner of the iconic pageant.

The women on the panel will comprise of entrepreneurs, business leaders and industry experts, according to a statement from the organization, which added that some of them will also be former Miss Universe titleholders.

“This new format will allow our selection committee to really get to know each of the contestants in the coming days,” Paula M. Shugart, president of The Miss Universe Organization, said in a statement. “Each committee member is an inspiring woman who reflects our commitment to improving opportunities for our titleholders personally and professionally year-round, and are role models to these young women who are our leaders of tomorrow.”

Some of the women on this year’s panel include U.N. Goodwill Ambassador and Miss Universe 1988 Bui Simon, fashion designer Monique Lhuillier, Moroccan-American entrepreneur Iman Oubou and CEO of Platinum Skies Aviation Richelle Singson-Michael.

While there will be many changes to this year’s pageant, one thing that won’t change is Steve Harvey, who will return to host this year. Model and body-positive activist Ashley Graham will also be back this year as a host from backstage, to give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the competition.

The groundbreaking change to this year’s Miss Universe competition comes amidst a post-#MeToo shakeup in other pageants as well.

Earlier this year, the separate Miss America pageant announced that it was scrapping it’s iconic swimsuit competition, and would no longer judge contestants based on physical appearance.

This year’s competition will air on Fox on Dec. 16 from Bangkok, Thailand.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Miss Universe announces all its judges this year will be women

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Coral222/iStock(NEW YORK) — The Miss Universe Organization announced Wednesday that for the first time in its history, it’s upcoming competition will have an all-women panel of judges to determine the winner of the iconic pageant.

The women on the panel will comprise of entrepreneurs, business leaders and industry experts, according to a statement from the organization, which added that some of them will also be former Miss Universe titleholders.

“This new format will allow our selection committee to really get to know each of the contestants in the coming days,” Paula M. Shugart, president of The Miss Universe Organization, said in a statement. “Each committee member is an inspiring woman who reflects our commitment to improving opportunities for our titleholders personally and professionally year-round, and are role models to these young women who are our leaders of tomorrow.”

Some of the women on this year’s panel include U.N. Goodwill Ambassador and Miss Universe 1988 Bui Simon, fashion designer Monique Lhuillier, Moroccan-American entrepreneur Iman Oubou and CEO of Platinum Skies Aviation Richelle Singson-Michael.

While there will be many changes to this year’s pageant, one thing that won’t change is Steve Harvey, who will return to host this year. Model and body-positive activist Ashley Graham will also be back this year as a host from backstage, to give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the competition.

The groundbreaking change to this year’s Miss Universe competition comes amidst a post-#MeToo shakeup in other pageants as well.

Earlier this year, the separate Miss America pageant announced that it was scrapping it’s iconic swimsuit competition, and would no longer judge contestants based on physical appearance.

This year’s competition will air on Fox on Dec. 16 from Bangkok, Thailand.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

France: Suspected gunman named, had long police record

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

3 people were killed and several wounded when a gunman opened fire on a market.

Theresa May survives crucial no-confidence vote amid Brexit uncertainty

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Leon Neal/Getty Images(LONDON) — U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May survived a crucial no-confidence vote this evening, avoiding the prospect of a bitter leadership contest within her own party.

Early forecasts expected her to survive the motion comfortably, and in the end, her fellow conservative members of Parliament voted in favor of her leadership by a margin of 200-117, with a majority of 83.

May only needed a simple majority, or 159 MPs, to avoid the leadership election. Under Conservative Party rules, she now is immune from another formal leadership challenge for a year.

Events moved at a rapid pace in Westminster on Wednesday, as May was forced to cancel both a trip to Dublin where she was due to discuss the Irish backstop and her own cabinet meeting in order to canvas support from her MPs.

May was able to rally her colleagues and will now stay on as prime minister ahead of a crucial period in British politics.

May staunchly defended her leadership outside 10 Downing Street just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, warning that a leadership contest would damage the country amid tense Brexit negotiations.

“A change of leadership … will put our country’s future at risk and create uncertainty when we can least afford it,” she said. “A new leader wouldn’t be in place by the 21st January legal deadline, so a leadership election risks handing control of the Brexit negotiations to opposition MPs in parliament … and a leadership election would not change the fundamentals of the negotiation or the parliamentary arithmetic.”

Since the resignation of former Brexit Secretary David Davis this summer, May has come under increasing attack from cabinet colleagues, several of whom resigned in protest over her handling of negotiations with Europe to leave the EU. A growing number of influential Conservative Party members want to sever ties with the EU without remaining in several key EU arrangements.

The Conservatives’ mechanism for initiating leadership elections is triggered if 15 percent of MPs write a letter to a group called the 1922 Committee indicating they have no confidence in the leader.

The chair of that committee issued a statement Wednesday morning saying that he had received 48 letters, enough to initiate the process and that a vote would be held between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., with the results announced at 9 p.m. May addressed the party before the vote took place.

May traveled to three European countries Tuesday for crash talks with leaders, having pulled out of a crucial parliamentary vote the night before.

May announced on Monday that it had become clear her deal covering how the U.K. will leave the EU would not be passed in Parliament, so she returned to Europe to seek further concessions, which many European leaders have warned is not possible.

MPs from all sides of the House of Commons expressed outrage and frustration over May’s decision to call off the vote.

May became prime minister in 2016 after former Prime Minister David Cameron resigned after the EU referendum. A leadership election was sparked, but it never went to a vote after the rival candidate pulled out, leaving May as the only choice.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Theresa May survives crucial no-confidence vote amid Brexit uncertainty

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Leon Neal/Getty Images(LONDON) — U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May survived a crucial no-confidence vote this evening, avoiding the prospect of a bitter leadership contest within her own party.

Early forecasts expected her to survive the motion comfortably, and in the end, her fellow conservative members of Parliament voted in favor of her leadership by a margin of 200-117, with a majority of 83.

May only needed a simple majority, or 159 MPs, to avoid the leadership election. Under Conservative Party rules, she now is immune from another formal leadership challenge for a year.

Events moved at a rapid pace in Westminster on Wednesday, as May was forced to cancel both a trip to Dublin where she was due to discuss the Irish backstop and her own cabinet meeting in order to canvas support from her MPs.

May was able to rally her colleagues and will now stay on as prime minister ahead of a crucial period in British politics.

May staunchly defended her leadership outside 10 Downing Street just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, warning that a leadership contest would damage the country amid tense Brexit negotiations.

“A change of leadership … will put our country’s future at risk and create uncertainty when we can least afford it,” she said. “A new leader wouldn’t be in place by the 21st January legal deadline, so a leadership election risks handing control of the Brexit negotiations to opposition MPs in parliament … and a leadership election would not change the fundamentals of the negotiation or the parliamentary arithmetic.”

Since the resignation of former Brexit Secretary David Davis this summer, May has come under increasing attack from cabinet colleagues, several of whom resigned in protest over her handling of negotiations with Europe to leave the EU. A growing number of influential Conservative Party members want to sever ties with the EU without remaining in several key EU arrangements.

The Conservatives’ mechanism for initiating leadership elections is triggered if 15 percent of MPs write a letter to a group called the 1922 Committee indicating they have no confidence in the leader.

The chair of that committee issued a statement Wednesday morning saying that he had received 48 letters, enough to initiate the process and that a vote would be held between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., with the results announced at 9 p.m. May addressed the party before the vote took place.

May traveled to three European countries Tuesday for crash talks with leaders, having pulled out of a crucial parliamentary vote the night before.

May announced on Monday that it had become clear her deal covering how the U.K. will leave the EU would not be passed in Parliament, so she returned to Europe to seek further concessions, which many European leaders have warned is not possible.

MPs from all sides of the House of Commons expressed outrage and frustration over May’s decision to call off the vote.

May became prime minister in 2016 after former Prime Minister David Cameron resigned after the EU referendum. A leadership election was sparked, but it never went to a vote after the rival candidate pulled out, leaving May as the only choice.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Mysterious ailment that affected Americans in Cuba linked to inner-ear damage: Study

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

U.S. diplomatic personnel residing in Cuba’s capital who felt ill after hearing loud, high-pitched sounds or feeling pressure sensations suffered damage to the inner ear.

Russian nuclear-capable bombers fly over Caribbean Sea

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The Russian military says two of its nuclear-capable strategic bombers were flown over the Caribbean Sea during a 10-hour training mission

‘Amazed’ at lack of concern over ‘grave’ threats from China: FBI official

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ilkaydede/iStock(WASHINGTON) — In the past six months alone, U.S. news outlets and other publications have unleashed several hundred articles spotlighting the robust cyber-espionage threat the U.S. says is emanating from China. Congress has also held open hearings on the matter, and Trump administration officials have traveled the country to publicly warn Americans of the growing danger.

But the message has yet to be sufficiently received, the FBI’s top counterintelligence official told senators on Wednesday, during another congressional hearing on the issue.

FBI Assistant Director Bill Priestap said he is still “amazed at the lack of understanding of the gravity” of the threat among some of those being targeted the most by China.

“I believe this is the most severe counterintelligence threat facing our nation today,” Priestap said during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. “What hangs in the balance is not just the future of the U.S., but the future of the world.”

The committee’s chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said public focus on “all things Russia” for the past two years has “distracted attention from arguably a greater, more existential threat: China’s efforts to overtake the United States as the world’s preeminent superpower in all phases of society.”

Priestap and two other senior U.S. officials painted a dire picture of China’s aim to overcome U.S. innovations through both legal and illegal means – leveraging everything from corporate takeovers, to cyber-espionage, to “leaning on” Chinese nationals in U.S. tech firms and at educational institutions.

Priestap noted that he “recently” visited three states to meet with business leaders there about the cyberthreat facing their companies.

“On the one hand, I was amazed at some of those business leaders’ understanding of the way the threat is working today. On the other hand, with different business leaders, I was amazed at the lack of understanding of the gravity, capabilities [and] methodologies of China,” he said.

Testifying beside Priestap, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Assistant Attorney General John Demers, pointed to four ongoing court cases against Chinese nationals allegedly involved in plots to steal trade or military secrets from the United States.

Meanwhile, underscoring his own concerns, Priestap cited surveys showing that – when people around the world are asked to name the nation states presenting the biggest national security risks to the home countries – China is always “toward the bottom.” And he said, “There’s still work to be done by the U.S. government in messaging to the American people the gravity of the threat we’re facing.”

“Again, there are pockets of great understanding of the threat we’re facing, and effective responses,” he added. “But in my opinion, we’ve got to knit that together better. … We need more people in government, more people in business, more people in academia pulling in the same direction to combat this threat effectively.”

The key, he said, is “raising awareness of the threat,” including ensuring that business and academic institutions know how they’re being targeted, and informing the public about security risks to their data and efforts by foreign governments to influence Americans online.

Wednesday’s hearing came a day after a U.S. official told ABC News that the Justice Department is preparing additional indictments against Chinese cyber-spies, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Past ABC News reports have detailed purported Chinese thefts of technology related to everything from advanced fighter aircraft to corn seeds.

China has repeatedly dismissed allegations of espionage and unfair economic practices.

“The Chinese government will neither encourage companies to carry out cyber theft for commercial secrets, nor take part in such activities,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in July. “It is hoped that relevant parties can uphold the spirit of mutual respect and mutual trust, and have more dialogue and cooperation in the field of cybersecurity in a constructive manner.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Pompeo casts doubt on Saudi prince’s role in Khashoggi murder as CIA Director briefs House, Senate prepares to vote

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

LEAH MILLIS/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again cast doubt on the reported CIA assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, saying the U.S. was still “developing” a “set of facts” and media reports about the assessment were “inaccurate.”

His defense of Saudi Arabia, which ranged from the Saudis “have already paid the price” for the killing to Iran is the real problem in the region. But there is now growing anger in Congress over the kingdom’s actions and that Trump defense — which some lawmakers are even calling a cover-up.

The fervor in Congress has helped fuel support for legislation to withdraw U.S. military assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. But while the Senate will begin debate on that bill Wednesday, Republican leadership in the House moved to block it through a procedural motion after it quashed a similar vote in early November.

CIA director Gina Haspel briefed leadership in the House of Representatives on the agency’s assessment Wednesday, which senators briefed by Haspel said points to the crown prince’s direct involvement, including exchanging messages with the team as the plot unfolded.

But Pompeo said the media’s reporting on the assessment “has been inaccurate,” while declining to say what was false.

“They’re still working on this,” he added of the CIA. “The direct evidence isn’t yet available. It may show up tomorrow, it may have shown up overnight, but I haven’t seen it.”

Pompeo was grilled by the anchors of “Fox and Friends,” the network’s morning news program that is watched closely by President Donald Trump. When pressed by one anchor on whether he believed the crown prince’s denials, Pompeo did not respond, saying instead, “The kingdom of Saudi Arabia decides who runs the country.”

Emerging from the CIA briefing, House members were reticent to talk about the agency’s assessment, but said there would be hearings next year to reassess the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.

“I think that all leaders of countries are responsible for things that happen under them,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, who will become chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee when Democrats take control of the chamber next year. “We’ve still got to get to the bottom of it … It’s not looking too good right now, but we’ll see.”

Any action in the House will have to wait until next year after Republican leadership inserted a resolution into the must-pass farm bill to block a vote on a war powers resolution that would pull U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

“Just when you thought Congress couldn’t get any swampier, we continue to exceed even the lowest expectations,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky, who was trying to win GOP support for the legislation.

“The only reason the leadership is doing this is because they know there are dozens of Republicans who will stand with Democrats to stop the killing in Yemen,” said Massie’s partner Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, who introduced the legislation.

While efforts in the House were stymied again, the Senate will begin debate on its own resolution two weeks after the chamber voted to advance it, in a slap to the faces of Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis, hours after the two men lobbied all senators to not support it in a closed door briefing.

After that disastrous briefing, Republicans and Democrats aimed to send a message to the Saudis and the White House by voting on the war powers resolution, which, despite opposition from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is now expected to pass, according to Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Without accompanying legislation from the House, it will not go to the president’s desk this year. But Corker told ABC News the Senate may still also vote on a joint congressional resolution that includes a strong condemnation of the crown prince, reading, “The Senate believed the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Either way, the actions are all together a sharp rebuke of Trump and his handling of the Khashoggi affair.

But Pompeo pushed back Wednesday, defending the administration’s response by pointing to the sanctions and visa bans imposed on the team that carried out the attack. Saudi Arabia has said that the team conducted a rogue operation, headed by the deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Asiri, who has since been fired.

The Trump administration has never challenged their narrative, with Pompeo saying Wednesday, “The Saudis have already paid the price. The folks who actually committed the murder, we’ve held accountable. We will continue to do that.”

Two top advisers to the crown prince were fired for their roles, and all of the team members on the ground in Istanbul, Turkey, have been arrested in Saudi Arabia, with the Saudi public prosecutor seeking the death penalty for five of them. That undermines the effect of any U.S. sanctions or visa bans, according to critics.

Pompeo also downplayed the incident and said the threat from Iran is the real challenge: “No one underestimates how horrible this murder was, but remember, Iran is running rampant throughout the Middle East. The death of any one individual is awful. The death of hundreds of thousands of people in Europe or the Middle East or the United States matters an awful lot, and President Trump is committed to protecting America.”

Throughout the interview, the top U.S. diplomat did not condemn or use any tough language concerning Saudi Arabia.

That stood in contrast to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who will leave her post at the end of the year.

The administration must have a “serious, hard talk with the Saudis to let them know we won’t condone this, we won’t give you a pass, and don’t do it again,” Haley told NBC News in an interview that aired Wednesday.

“When these things happen, we have to step back and never back away from our principles,” Haley added.

But she also praised the Saudis as “our partner in defeating and dealing with Iran” and called that help “hugely important.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Alone at UN, Pompeo blasts Iran nuclear deal, but searches for common ground on missile threat

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

mizoula/iStock(NEW YORK) — The U.S. was alone at the United Nations Security Council in blasting the Iran nuclear deal Wednesday, as the U.N., European Union, and several European allies praised the agreement for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and expressed disappointment in the U.S. decision to withdraw, one month after all of its sanctions snapped back into place on Iran.

Speaking before the Security Council, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the U.N. to reimpose a ban on Iran on all ballistic missile activity, saying afterwards, “Now it’s time for the Security Council to get serious about this real risk from proliferation from the Iranian regime.”

“We clearly see that the JCPOA didn’t succeed in stopping this malign activity,” he added, using an acronym for the deal’s formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

But while almost all 15 other members expressed concern with Iran’s ballistic missiles, they mostly voiced continued support for the deal and criticized the U.S. “challenges” to it.

“The JCPOA faces considerable challenges following the withdrawal by the United States and the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran. The E.U. and all 28 member states deeply regretted these U.S. decisions,” said Serge Christiane, a senior diplomat with the E.U. delegation at the U.N. who went on to “express sincere thanks” to Iran “for their unwavering commitment to the nuclear deal.”

Pompeo dismissed the differences as confined to the nuclear deal and said the U.S. could still act with allies and partners to deal with the threat of Iran’s ballistic missiles, even while they remain in the deal.

But that difference could also set up an economic showdown between the U.S. and its allies, with a new European mechanism to allow transactions to skirt U.S. sanctions coming online soon. Pompeo wouldn’t preview any U.S. action against what’s called the “special purpose vehicle,” but said, “To the extent that there are violations of our sanctions, we intend to enforce them with great rigor against any party who is a participant in those violations.”

The meeting was the first open session after Iran test-fired a ballistic missile on December 1. But it was convened after the U.N. Secretary-General issued his regular update on the deal’s implementation, which found Iran continues to abide by the agreement in the face now of “considerable challenges” from U.S. withdrawal and its sanctions.

The report, the sixth by the Secretary-General, also praised Europe for “their initiatives to protect the freedom of their economic operators to pursue legitimate business with the Islamic Republic of Iran, in full accordance with resolution” that oversees the Iran deal.

Despite the united front by other countries and institutions, Pompeo said the justification for withdrawing from the deal was “self-evident,” including that “Iran’s missile testing and missile proliferation is growing.”

The U.N. had banned Iran from having nuclear-capable missiles from 2010 to 2015, but as part of the nuclear deal, it softened its Security Council resolution to “call upon” Iran not to undertake that kind of activity, instead of completely outlawing it. Pompeo said it was time to restore that as part of the U.N. members’ “responsibility to work for the peace and security of their own people and a stable international order.”

“Iran has exploited the goodwill of nations and defied multiple Security Council resolutions in its quest for a robust ballistic missile force. The United States will never stand for this,” he told the body, blasting the JCPOA for having “shielded” Iran “from accountability to the risks it presents to the world” and provided it “more money to achieve” its “destructive, revolutionary goals.”

Among other things, he said those funds have allowed Iran to develop “largest ballistic missile force in the Middle East,” with more than 10 ballistic missile system in its inventory or in development.

Several European allies echoed those concerns, including Germany, the United Kingdom, and France — all three of which Pompeo thanked in his remarks. The European Union’s current, outgoing, and incoming Security Council members also gave a statement before the session began, saying, “We call on Iran to refrain from such activities, which deepen mistrust and increase regional tensions and are in non-conformity with” the U.N. Security Council resolution.

But they each criticized the U.S. for “throwing out the baby with the bath,” as Germany’s ambassador to the U.N. said, by withdrawing from the nuclear deal because of concerns over ballistic missiles.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Manhunt continues for shooter in suspected terror attack in France

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

A shooting in a Christmas market in France left two dead and 14 injured. French police continue to search for the shooter in the suspected terror attack.

Manhunt continues for shooter in suspected terror attack in France

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

A shooting in a Christmas market in France left two dead and 14 injured. French police continue to search for the shooter in the suspected terror attack.

DOJ ‘not a tool of trade’ in Chinese exec dispute, official vows, after Trump suggests he might intervene

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

YinYang/iStock(WASHINGTON) — As critics blast President Donald Trump for suggesting he might “intervene” in the Justice Department’s pending prosecution of a prominent Chinese executive so his administration can resolve a growing trade dispute with China, the Justice Department’s top national security official on Wednesday insisted his prosecutors will not be influenced by what the White House does.

“We are not a tool of trade when we bring the cases,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers told a Senate panel.

“What we do at the Justice Department is law enforcement. We don’t do trade,” he added.

Demers was responding to a question from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who said Trump’s suggestion that he “would intervene in [a] criminal prosecution for political purposes” was “extremely, extremely disturbing.”

During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Blumenthal asked Demers and two other senior U.S. intelligence officials whether they believe “that kind of statement sends a dangerous message to our law enforcement community.”

After noting that the Justice Department is “not a tool of trade,” Demers said, “We follow the facts, and we vindicate violations of U.S. law. … And I think it’s very important for other countries to understand that.”

Sitting beside Demers, the FBI’s top counterintelligence official, Assistant Director Bill Priestap, said he agreed with Demers, adding, “From the FBI’s end, we’re going to continue to do our job.”

Blumenthal then offered one last shot at Trump, saying law enforcement may be “a tool” of “political or diplomatic ends … in other countries, but not in this one.”

Wednesday’s hearing and Meng’s arrest came as Trump and his administration have been trying to hammer out a deal with China that would alleviate growing tensions over trade and possible tariffs. Those tensions have already rattled U.S. markets, contributing to a substantial drop in the stock markets last week.

Earlier this month, after receiving information from the U.S. government, Meng was arrested while traveling through Canada, where court documents say she and others “repeatedly lied” to international banks about Huawei’s ties to businesses in Iran.

In particular, Huawei used a Hong Kong-based company, Skycom, as a front for Huawei’s “operating” in Iran despite U.S. sanctions, and Meng falsely claimed to “numerous multinational financial institutions” that Skycom was not connected to Huawei so that those institutions would carry out hundreds of millions of dollars in otherwise prohibited transactions, according to court documents released in Canada.

Huawei has become the world’s biggest supplier of network equipment for phone and internet services. And, in the United States alone, one major bank ended up improperly approving $100 million in transactions based on the lies of Meng and others, the court documents allege.

After news of Meng’s arrest became public last week, the official Xinhua News Agency said a top Chinese diplomat “lodged solemn representations and strong protests” with Canadian and U.S. authorities over the matter, demanding the United States drop the “extremely egregious” charges against Meng.

In Vancouver on Tuesday, a court released Meng on bail, with a $10 million bond. She is required to stay in Vancouver and is due in court in February.

During Wednesday’s Senate hearing, meanwhile, Demers said extradition efforts by the U.S. government are “ongoing,” and, “If she is extradited, our criminal case will continue.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

UK PM Theresa May faces vote of no confidence over Brexit

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The prime minister said she will fight on.

UK PM Theresa May faces vote of no confidence over Brexit

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The prime minister said she will fight on.

Strasbourg suspect: From young criminal to fugitive attacker

Posted on: December 12th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Authorities in Germany and France have identified the alleged extremist on the run after a deadly shooting at France’s most famous Christmas market as a multiple repeat offender