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Pastor: I hope Supreme Court agrees LGBTQ people should be free from job discrimination

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 15:11

When we talk about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, there should be no ambiguity in what the word "all" means.

Rudy Giuliani brags about his law school grades as he promises to sue Adam Schiff

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 15:01

Rudy Giuliani is an expert at the Constitution, thank you very much.The former New York City mayor turned personal lawyer to President Trump has been on an absolute media blitz in his attempt to defend Trump and himself in the impeachment inquiry -- not that it's gone too well. So he changed the subject during a series of weekend calls with Yahoo News, attempting to turn the blame on House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and bringing up his own studies in constitutional law to back it up.Giuliani said over the weekend that he's working with outside lawyers to bring a lawsuit against Schiff, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and other Democrats backing Trump's impeachment. Schiff's investigation of Trump is intended to "deprive him of civil rights," and the intelligence is trying to "inhibit me in my ability to defend" Trump, Giuliani claimed to Yahoo News. Tlaib, meanwhile, is apparently engaging in witness intimidation because she appeared to agree that White House officials who don't respond to subpoenas should be hunted down, Giuliani continued. So he, along with an unnamed yet "very established law firm," are intending to sue both of those congressmembers.Critics have already suggested there are some constitutional flaws to Giuliani's plan, but Giuliani brushed one off as "nitwit" and claimed "I got the highest grade in constitutional law." Of course, news of a second whistleblower with firsthand knowledge of Trump's Ukraine dealings didn't help Guiliani's case, nor did the fact that Giuliani graduated law school more than 50 years ago.

As PG&E Is Remade, Will Wildfire Victims Be Left Behind?

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 14:53

SAN FRANCISCO -- After a succession of devastating wildfires in the last four years, tens of thousands of Californians -- many with broken spirits, many homeless -- may now lose out on compensation from the company that was to blame.A deadline for victims to file claims is less than three weeks away. About 30,000 have done so with the help of lawyers, along with 1,500 acting on their own. But the deadline could pass without claims from as many as 70,000 others eligible for compensation.They include Steve Kane, who fears he would take away money from those needing it more, and Kelly Boyer, who says he can't prove the value of all his losses when the town of Paradise was destroyed last year.The filing deadline, part of the bankruptcy case of Pacific Gas & Electric, California's biggest utility, is the victims' chance to piece together at least parts of their shattered lives. The stakes are high: If people like Kane and Boyer do not file claims, investors in the utility -- whose equipment has been blamed for several major fires -- will retain that much more. PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection in January as it amassed billions of dollars in potential liability for years of wildfires. It has set a target of $8.4 billion for payouts to wildfire victims, while pledging that all court-approved claims from victims will be honored."PG&E remains focused on doing right by the customers and communities we serve," Andrew Castagnola, a PG&E spokesman, said in a statement. The utility says it has mailed 6.2 million claim forms to possible victims of about two dozen fires, calling attention to the process through websites, email, social media, and radio and television ads.But some lawyers for wildfire victims say the utility's bankruptcy proceeding has been used to prevent as many people as possible from filing a claim."They wanted to use the bankruptcy rules to their benefit to limit their liability to victims," said Mike Danko, a lawyer in the Bay Area who represents about 4,000 victims from fires in 2015, 2017 and 2018. He said the Oct. 21 deadline for claims was unduly rigid and was meant by PG&E "to end up with a smaller number."Many wildfire victims are still displaced, sometimes living in tent cities or on the streets, often confused about the convoluted claims process and traumatized by their losses. Their failure to come forward could benefit PG&E and its investors."There are probably thousands, if not tens of thousands, that have had some impact from these Northern California fires that are not going to seek anything from PG&E," said Cecily Dumas, a lawyer for the Official Committee of Tort Claimants, a group appointed by the court to represent all wildfire victims in the bankruptcy."If people choose not to file claims in the PG&E bankruptcy case," she added, "at least they know they can."Weighing a 'Moral Dilemma'Eleven months after a 100-year-old utility tower is suspected of sparking California's most devastating wildfire, known as the Camp Fire, Kane barely recognizes his quiet corner of Paradise in the Sierra Nevada foothills north of Sacramento.The beauty of the roomy lots and old-growth pine trees that lured the retired contractor and his wife from the high desert outside Los Angeles have been replaced by trailers, scorched basketball hoops and the skeleton of a former hospital.After a long week in limbo last November with other evacuated members of their family, the couple learned that a guesthouse, a workshop and nine other structures on the property had burned -- and that insurance covered less than half the approximately $250,000 in damage. But the main house survived, and after a brief attempt at selling the property, Kane, 61, threw himself into scrubbing away ash, installing a water purification system and salvaging the property.He did not, however, file a claim against PG&E for the roughly $150,000 in uninsured losses."Every time I've got to deal with it, it just brings me back to what I don't really want to think about anyway, you know?" Kane said. "When I'm working on my house, I'm not thinking about those problems."Before he was asked whether he planned to file a claim, Kane said he was unaware he could do so without a lawyer. He said he was unsure whether he had received forms from PG&E to file a claim by mail.But even if he had a claim form to file, Kane fears that it would take away from those who suffered more profound losses, like neighbors who lost relatives, pets, homes or businesses."That is where I wrestle with the moral dilemma," said Kane, who is housing some of those whose properties burned. "It's like if I join the club and then seek recovery, they're going to get less, when they need more than I need."Such views trouble lawyers arguing for victims' interests, who have argued in court and in legal filings that victims often believe there is a lack of money to pay them because of PG&E's bankruptcy. They also say many do not understand that they can collect compensation from PG&E even if insurance companies have covered some losses, and that the payments would not force them to rebuild where they formerly lived if they had moved away or wanted to start over.In addition, one of the lawyers said, it is a common misconception that people who do not have proof cannot file a claim. Just having to flee the fire enables a claim, the lawyer said."The legacy of this bankruptcy should not be that tens of thousands of underinformed, displaced and traumatized fire victims have their substantial claims precluded," Steven Skikos, one of the court-appointed lawyers representing victims' interests, said by email. "Thousands of fire victims have lost everything and now, without their knowledge or informed consent, are about to lose their opportunity to recover anything."From interviews with wildfire victims, confusion about what is available to them appears widespread.Helen Sedwick and her husband lost their home in Santa Rosa, near the state's wine country, in a 2017 fire. PG&E was not found responsible for the fire, but the court has allowed victims to pursue a lawsuit against the utility for damage based on evidence that suggests that the power company was at fault.Sedwick, a lawyer, said she was filing a claim and urging other victims to do so. But she said many did not understand the process or were simply too traumatized to focus on it."Losing your home is profoundly disorienting," Sedwick said. "A lot of people are not filing because they are intimidated by the process. They think that because PG&E filed bankruptcy, they're broke."'I Don't Really Have Any Proof'Boyer, 49, a former construction worker whose rented trailer in Paradise was destroyed in the Camp Fire, spent the first week afterward in a tent city outside the Walmart in Chico, a nearby town. For the next 10 months, he shuffled among an organic farm, a refugee camp at the county fairgrounds and encampments along rural highways.Life outside finally took its toll. Boyer had settled into a campsite near Butte Creek, serene but a steep 15-mile hike to and from the convenience store where he stocked up on 100 pounds of food twice a month. A cut on his toe became badly infected, and Boyer was admitted to a hospital for an amputation in August. After a few days, wary of losing his few remaining belongings, he left."The nurses down there are probably cussing me out, because when I left it was still an open wound," Boyer said. "I told them: 'I've got to go. I've got to get up there and check my camp. If I'm not careful, everything I own is going to be gone again.'"After the medical scare, with his foot still in thick bandages, Boyer sought help from an old friend and a few Facebook groups for fire survivors. He soon had a 1980s-vintage recreational vehicle and a three-month offer to stay on a parcel where the owners are finishing building plans. He considers himself lucky to have shelter and hopes to take advantage of aid programs to channel his love of guitar into sound-engineering classes at Butte College.Boyer said he did not have a lawyer and had not filed a claim against PG&E for his belongings or expensive musical equipment lost in the fire."See, I don't really have any proof of anything I had there," he said. "I'm wondering if it's worth the effort."A Looming DeadlineAny doubts, anxieties or crossed signals that limit the number of claims could benefit PG&E and its investors.Before the 2017 wildfires, PG&E stock was trading above $70 a share, a five-year high. But with the bankruptcy and investigators' determination that the utility was responsible for the Camp Fire and several others, the stock price is barely above $10.PG&E has proposed terms in the bankruptcy that would put its overall payments for wildfire-related losses at $20.4 billion. In addition to earmarking $8.4 billion for victims, it has committed $11 billion to insurers and $1 billion to public agencies, subject to court approval.It is pushing to complete the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process by June 30 so it can qualify for a newly created state program that will provide utilities with a backstop against liability in future fires.Ahead of the Oct. 21 cutoff for claims, a series of critical hearings is scheduled, starting Monday. Frank Pitre, a lawyer who represents wildfire victims, has signaled a possible move to push the deadline farther out."We may be coming before you and asking for an extension of time for the claims process," Pitre told the court last month. "I'm very concerned that we are not getting in the requisite claims that should come in based on what we believed, in good faith, are the number of people who have been impacted."He said the total number, including those who had already filed claims, could be 75,000 to 100,000."PG&E's game is to cut the time period for victims' compensation way down," Pitre said in an interview. "That works to the advantage of PG&E and their shareholders. They want to game the system."Asked to address the assertion, Castagnola, the company spokesman, said, "PG&E believes the Chapter 11 process will support the orderly, fair and expeditious resolution of claims, including wildfire claims."Victims like Sedwick said that with the trauma of dealing with their losses, filing a claim was not on a lot of victims' minds. Many assumed the 13-page claim package that PG&E sent was junk mail and threw it away, she said. Others, like Kane, aren't sure they ever got it.Kane is unsure whether he will stay in Paradise in the long term. He worries that it will remain a "trailer city," and that businesses won't return. He empathizes with those who lost everything, he said, but he hopes that the town will move forward with stricter rules for rebuilding, and he is wary of high costs for insurance, taxes and utilities."Life is messy," he said, "and it's not necessarily fair."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

Taliban commanders released as hopes rise for resumption of US peace negotiations

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 14:34

Hopes are rising for the resumption of the abandoned Taliban and US peace talks after eleven senior Taliban members were freed from prison in an exchange with three kidnapped Indian engineers. Among those freed are two former provincial governors of the Taliban and Abdul Rashid Baluch, a notorious regional leader sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for trafficking opium. The men were being held near Bagram air base outside Kabul.  It is believed American authorities must have given permission for the swap as Baluch was previously on their ‘Specially Designated Global Terrorist’ list. Last month, Donald Trump cancelled over a year’s worth of on-going peace negotiations with the Taliban after the group claimed a Kabul bomb attack that killed 11 people, including an American soldier. However, relations appear to be thawing again after Zalmay Khalilzad, the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation at the State Department, met senior Taliban leaders on Friday for clandestine talks in Islamabad. It is unclear whether the exchange of the Taliban leaders was discussed during the meeting. While the Afghan authorities do intermittently release prisoners early as gestures of goodwill it is rare to see such high-profile members of the Taliban freed. Abdul Rashid Baluch was a regional official for the group in the southwestern province of Nimroz when he was apprehended while personally escorting an almost one-tonne consignment of opium in 2014. Baluch’s arrest was trumpeted by the U.S-Afghan authorities as proof of Taliban involvement in the international drug trade. Officials said Sheikh Abdur Rahim and Mawlawi Abdur Rashid – provincial governors in the Taliban administration when it was defeated by U.S-led forces in 2001 – were also released. The three Indians set free were working as engineers in the northern Afghan province of Baghlan when they were kidnapped in May 2018, along with four other colleagues. One man was released in March but the whereabouts of the three remaining Indians is unknown.

UPDATE 1-Russian defence minister holds talks by phone with U.S. counterpart -RIA

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 14:32

MOSCOW/WASHINGTON, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu held talks by phone with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the RIA news agency reported on Monday, citing the Russian ministry. The Russian ministry did not disclose details of the talks, Interfax, another news agency, said. In Washington, the Pentagon confirmed Esper and his Russian counterpart had spoken but declined to provide any details on what was discussed.

Extinction Rebellion protesters pour fake blood over New York's capitalist bull

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 14:26

Demonstrators were arrested in a wave of US protests that are part of a global week of action by the UK-based groupExtinction Rebellion climate crisis activists protest at New York City’s famous Charging Bull statue. Photograph: Mike Segar/ReutersMore than 20 people were arrested by police in New York City’s financial district after Extinction Rebellion climate protesters poured fake blood over the famous Charging Bull statue, a symbol of American capitalist might.The protesters launched a wave of disruptive protests in the city on Monday. A smaller number of arrests were made at a “die in” outside New York’s stock exchange, with protesters subsequently blocking a nearby road to traffic.Protests are also taking place in other US cities, including Washington DC and Chicago, as part of a global week of action by the UK-founded activist group, which is seeking to make its first major mark in America.Climate crisis activists demonstrate in New York City where Extinction Rebellion organizers expect several thousand to congregate this week. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/ReutersExtinction Rebellion organizers expect several thousand people will congregate in New York’s Washington Square Park for a week of protests and speeches that are expected to involve actions that will prompt further arrests.“There will be broad disruption of business as usual,” said a New York-based Extinction Rebellion spokesman. “Frankly we don’t have time to wait for an opportune moment. Climate breakdown is under way and we can’t afford to wait.”Extinction Rebellion has a philosophy of nonviolent direct action aimed at pushing governments to confront the climate crisis. A key demand is that planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions are reduced to net zero within six years.A climate crisis activist covered in fake blood is arrested in New York City during the Extinction Rebellion demonstration. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP via Getty ImagesThe activist network has gained a high profile in the UK, following successful attempts to shut down parts of central London. Activists are hoping for a similar impact in the US, despite concerns over a more aggressive style of policing and an unsympathetic federal government, led by Donald Trump, that actively promotes fossil fuels and is regularly derisive of climate science.“We need to account for the damage caused by fossil fuels because we have the chance of losing it all,” said Jim Navarre, a protestor from New York’s Long Island who help up a sign reading “You can’t comb over climate change” with a picture of Trump’s hair atop the globe.Climate crisis activists gather in Battery Park during Extinction Rebellion demonstrations in New York. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP via Getty ImagesYana Landowne, also from New York, said she was inspired to join the protests by British friends. “I see this as a movement I need to get behind, I realized I had to bring my whole being to this movement,” she said.The stock exchange protest featured a mock funeral with people strewn on the ground, covered in blood. Tombstones mentioning hurricanes and fires made worse by the climate crisis were held aloft, along with a coffin with the words “Our future” written on the side. A New Orleans-style funereal band played for the several hundred protestors.“It’s a powerful message,” Landowne said. “But more than death I fear living amongst the terror of people killing each other for water and food.”

Trump reportedly told GOP allies that he's worried an impeachment will ruin his résumé

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 14:00

President Trump reportedly told his close allies and confidants that he's worried about how an impeachment will look on his résumé.

The True Cost of the Attack on Saudi Arabia's Oil Supply

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 13:39

Saudi Arabia has been the kingpin of American strategy toward Iran. Any loosening of Washington’s ties with Riyadh is bound to redound to Tehran’s benefit.

Johnson urges US to give up diplomat's wife over fatal crash

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 13:38

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the United States on Monday to reconsider granting immunity to a diplomat's wife suspected of killing a teenager in a British road crash. Johnson said he was prepared to intervene with President Donald Trump to secure the woman's return to Britain to face investigation over the death of 19-year-old Harry Dunn. "I do not think that it can be right to use the process of diplomatic immunity for this type of purpose," the prime minister told reporters on a visit to a hospital.

Portals to history and conflict: the gates of Jerusalem's Old City

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 13:36

Jews, Muslims and Christians pass daily through the gates of Jerusalem's Old City, on their way to and from prayers or simply to go about their everyday business in one of the most politically sensitive spots on earth. There are eight gates - seven are open and one is sealed - along the Old City walls that were built in the 16th century by Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

North Korea warns against Security Council meeting on missile tests

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 13:11

North Korea warned Monday it would not "sit idle" if any attempt is made at the UN Security Council to raise the subject of its "self-defensive measures," an apparent reference to its recent missile tests. Three European countries -- Britain, France and Germany -- called for a closed door Security Council meeting Tuesday to discuss North Korea's test last week of a sea-launched missile, saying it was a "serious violation" of UN resolutions. The warning came two days after North Korea broke off nuclear talks with the United States in Sweden.

Tourists to be welcomed back to Indian Kashmir: governor

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 13:05

Tourists warned by India to leave Kashmir just days before stripping the restive valley of its autonomy will be welcomed back later this week, the region's governor said Monday. Authorities in early August called for holiday-makers to leave "immediately" over "terror threats" to a major Hindu pilgrimage, sending thousands scrambling for places on planes and buses. New Delhi also imposed a clampdown on movement and cut off all communications including the internet and phone lines just before the controversial autonomy decision to quell unrest.

Lindsey Graham Blasts Trump’s ‘Irresponsible’ Syria Decision: ‘Unnerving to Its Core’

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 11:58

REUTERSOne of President Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters in the Senate raged against the president’s Sunday night announcement that America will bow out of Syria while Turkey attacks allied Kurds in the region, calling the decision on Monday “shortsighted and irresponsible.”Appearing on Trump-boosting morning show Fox & Friends, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was asked whether he supported the president’s move, prompting the hawkish Republican lawmaker to exclaim, “Absolutely not.”“If I didn’t see Donald Trump’s name on the tweet, I thought it would be [former President] Obama’s rationale for getting out of Iraq.” he said. “This is gonna lead to ISIS’s reemergence!”Graham went on to say this was a “big win for ISIS,” claiming that the Kurds in the area will align with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad because they’d have no choice due to the United States abandoning them. “So this is a big win for Iran and Assad,” he added.(During another Fox & Friends segment, co-host Brian Kilmeade criticized the president as well, calling the president’s decision “disastrous” and that it would leave the Kurds to fend for themselves.)The South Carolina senator then stated that the “Kurds stepped up when nobody else would to fight ISIS,” noting that if we abandon the Kurds at this point, nobody will want to help America in the future in fighting radical Islam. Graham also pushed back on Trump’s claim that ISIS has been eradicated.“The biggest lie being told by the administration [is] that ISIS is defeated,” he declared. “This impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos. Iran is licking their chops. And if I’m an ISIS fighter, I’ve got a second lease on life. So to those who think ISIS has been defeated, you will soon see.”“I hope I’m making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is, in my view,” Graham concluded.The GOP lawmaker continued to blast the president’s move on Twitter following his Fox & Friends appearance, saying he doesn’t “believe it is a good idea to outsource the fight against ISIS to Russia, Iran and Turkey.”“I feel very bad for the Americans and allies who have sacrificed to destroy the ISIS Caliphate because this decision virtually reassures the reemergence of ISIS. So sad. So dangerous,” he wrote in another tweet. “President Trump may be tired of fighting radical Islam. They are NOT tired of fighting us.”Furthermore, piggybacking off his assertion on Fox & Friends that he would do everything he can to sanction Turkey if they invade Syria, Graham announced that he would “introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the U.S. in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.”Graham wasn’t alone among Trump’s allies and loyalists to call out the president over his decision to stand aside as Turkey attacks one of America’s most reliable allies in the region. For example, Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said we “must always have the backs of our allies” and leaving the Kurds to “die is a big mistake.” And Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), weeks after competing with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for Trump’s affections, called it a “catastrophic mistake” to pull out of Syria, adding that terrorists “thousands of miles away can and will use their safe-havens to launch attacks against America.”Facing overwhelming criticism from within his own party on the Turkey-Syria decision, Trump tweeted late Monday morning that if Turkey does anything that “I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!).”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

U.S. Supreme Court rejects Domino's bid to avoid disabilities suit

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 11:36

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a bid by Domino's Pizza Inc to avoid a lawsuit by a blind man who accused the company of violating a law barring discrimination against people with disabilities after he was unable to place an order online. The justices, on the first day of their new nine-month term, declined to hear Michigan-based company's appeal of a lower court ruling allowing the lawsuit by Guillermo Robles invoking the Americans With Disabilities Act to move forward. Robles said in his 2016 lawsuit that the Domino's website and mobile app were not fully accessible for him in violation of the 1990 law that bans discrimination based on disability.

Nevada fighting to keep 'zombie deer' from entering state

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 11:22

Zombie deer may sound like something in a bad B-movie, but wildlife regulators say they're real and officials are working to keep them out of Nevada. The term relates to animals that have contracted chronic wasting disease, a highly contagious and terminal disorder that causes symptoms such as lack of fear of humans, lethargy and emaciation, The Las Vegas Sun reported. Officials are testing dead animals and monitoring migratory elk and deer at the state line with Utah for signs of the sickness, Peregrine Wolff, a Nevada Department of Wildlife veterinarian, said.

We Now Have a Good Idea When Martian Oceans Started Dying

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 11:03

Curiosity discovered salty deposits that point to a time when the atmosphere was in decline—and it was taking the seas along with it.

Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio weren't convinced by reports of a pullback in Syria. The reports are based off a White House statement.

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 10:58

An official White House statement apparently isn't enough proof for some people in this day and age.Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are clearly not thrilled with the White House's decision to pull troops from northern Syria and subsequently allow Turkey to launch an invasion in the region. The move potentially gives Ankara an opening to battle with Kurdish-led forces there, who were long the U.S.'s strongest ally in the battle against the Islamic State. Rubio called the announcement a "grave mistake" and Graham said it was a "disaster in the making."Except both senators were still speaking in hypotheticals when criticizing the decision Monday morning. They both wanted to know if reporting on the situation is accurate, with Graham adding that he was going to talk to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, before officially pushing back against the White House. That generally seems fair, but in this instance the reports on the decision came directly from a White House press release, so it's tough to figure out how the reporting might have missed the mark. Graham, for his part, did continue to criticize the move as the morning went on. > I guess it's politically safer for Republican senators to question the accuracy of media reports than to criticize the presidential statements they're based on.> > -- Chris Megerian (@ChrisMegerian) October 7, 2019

U.S. Supreme Court opens new term, with an ill Justice Thomas absent

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 10:42

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday debated the insanity defense in criminal prosecutions and delivered a potential setback to gun control advocates as it opened its new term on Monday with a flurry of activity on a day when its longest-serving justice, Clarence Thomas, was absent due to illness. The conservative-majority court returned after a three-month break to launch its new nine-month term with arguments in a trio of cases. The court hears the term's first major case on Tuesday on whether a landmark federal anti-discrimination law that bars sex discrimination in the workplace protects gay and transgender employees.

Everything we know about Hunter Biden's business connections in China

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 10:16

President Donald Trump has made multiple allegations about the global business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden's son.

Trump Allies Tried to Install Friendly Management at Ukrainian Gas Company: Report

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 09:28

A group of businessmen and top Republican donors touted connections to President Trump while trying to recruit management at Ukraine's state gas company in order to advance their own financial interests, according to a report from the Associated Press.Over the past year, real-estate entrepreneurs Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and oil magnate Harry Sargeant III, all of whom have donated large sums to Republican PACs and campaigns, have worked to recruit Andrew Favorov, a senior executive at Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz, for a plan wherein the company would begin importing American natural gas in order to reduce the country's dependence on Russia.The report highlights the Ukrainian business interests of Trump-administration allies at the same time as Trump and his private legal counsel Rudy Giuliani seek to draw attention to Hunter Biden's business activity in Ukraine while his father was serving as vice president. Hunter sat on the board of a Ukrainian natural-gas company from 2014 to 2019 while his father was overseeing U.S. policy toward Ukraine for the Obama administration.Sargeant told Favorov that he regularly met with Trump and that the president backed the gas sale plan, according to sources interviewed by the Associated Press. Parnas also told Favorov that Trump would remove then–ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and replace her with someone more favorable to their business interests.The plan hit a setback with the surprise election in May 2019 of Volodymyr Zelensky as Ukraine's president.However, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry then reportedly stepped in to advance a plan to replace the entire management board of Naftogaz. One of Perry's top picks for the board was a Texas businessman Michael Bleyzer, who in the past had donated to Perry's 2010 reelection campaign for governor of Texas. No illegal transaction was known to have taken place throughout this time.U.S. Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes commented that Perry "did not . . . advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company." She added that such an allegation "is fiction being pushed by those who are disingenuously seeking to advance a nefarious narrative that does not exist.”Update 2:40 p.m.: Christopher Kise, an attorney for Harry Sargeant III, had put out the following statement: "In March 2019, while attending the CERAWeek 2019 conference in Houston, Texas, one of the largest energy industry trade events in the world, Mr. Sargeant was asked to attend an informal dinner with Andrew Favorov, Igor Fruman, and Lev Parnas, and to offer his views on the global oil and gas industry. Mr. Sargeant never discussed any role or participation in any Ukraine venture, nor any specifics regarding the potential business ventures of the other dinner participants."Kise further wrote, "Attending a single, informal dinner in Houston does not place Mr. Sargeant at the center of any Naftogaz or Ukrainian business plan."