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Press Uncovers “Secret” Venezuelan Refugees Arriving in Hungary

Several independent sources confirmed that Hungary accepted approximately 300 refugees from Venezuela after the country’s descent into political and economic turmoil, Index.hu wrote on Thursday.

Government officials insist that the program is not secret.

According to the article, Venezuelan refugees receive a free plane ticket to Budapest, free accommodation for a year, integration program with a free Hungarian and English language course, and settlement paper that allows them to legally work a few weeks after their arrival.

“The state only examines if the refugees have any Hungarian ancestors. All the refugees we’ve met seemed Hungarian only virtually: one of their grandparents were Hungarian, and not even their parents spoke the language anymore. A huge majority of them learned their first Hungarian words after they arrived in Hungary, and they had their first contact with the local culture here as well. The first and last names of the Venezuelan refugees we spoke to were not Hungarian,” the article adds.

Gerald Celente of Trends Research Journal breaks down what Americans can expect from the collapsing nation.

Index points out that “the weirdest thing” about the program is the “utmost secrecy” which surrounds it. “The Venezuelans we spoke to told us that the program organizers asked them to not speak about the circumstances of their arrival to anyone,” the article claims.

The issue came up at the weekly press conference of Gergely Gulyas, the minister heading the prime minister’s office. The people in question were Hungarians living in Venezuela “and Hungarians in Hungary aren’t considered migrants,” Gulyas stressed. He said the government had said back in April of last year that Hungarian families would be arriving from Venezuela.

(Photo by European People’s Party, Flickr)

There are a significant number of Hungarians living in Venezuela, Gulyas said, adding that the government plans to bring around 30 more Hungarian families from the South American country to Hungary.

“We object to the liberal press calling Venezuela Hungarians migrants. They’re not migrants,” Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen told MTI. “All Hungarians, wherever they may be in the world, can count on the motherland,” he said.

Meanwhile, the leftist-liberal opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) has called on ruling Fidesz to register as an organization that supports migration which would oblige the party to pay a special 25 percent tax. Citing news portal Index’s report on the government’s admission of Venezuelan Hungarians, DK managing director Csaba Molnar accused the government of taking in refugees in secret after having “waged a hate campaign” against them for years.

Molnar said DK’s problem was not with the government’s decision to admit refugees, but that “it has been campaigning for the opposite for a long time”. By taking in the refugees from Venezuela, the government has admitted that its anti-refugee campaign “is just about fueling fear”, Molnar insisted. The cabinet, which is rhetorically against migration, “has become one of the most prominent supporters of migration,” he said.

Paul Joseph Watson breaks down the story surrounding a woman who left the United Kingdom to marry a member of ISIS and join their Islamic caliphate revolution.

Source: InfoWars

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Cash-hoarding Japanese firms please investors as share buybacks hit record

A man walks past in front of a stock quotation board showing the price of the SoftBank Corp. and Nikkei share average outside a brokerage in Tokyo
A man walks past in front of a stock quotation board showing the price of the SoftBank Corp. and Nikkei share average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

February 18, 2019

By Ayai Tomisawa and Alun John

TOKYO/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Japanese share buybacks have hit a record this fiscal year and are set to maintain the booming growth as cash-rich companies bow to pressure from investors and the government to boost returns and improve governance.

In recent weeks, SoftBank Group Corp, Sony, Itochu Corp and other companies have announced plans to buy back shares worth more than 1.3 trillion yen, bringing the total value of buybacks flagged since April 1 to over 6.5 trillion yen ($58.92 billion).

That is already the most for any fiscal year since 2003 when the current buyback rules were introduced, according to financial data service firm I-N Information Systems.

(GRAPHIC: Japan Buyback – https://tmsnrt.rs/2E9ABPV)

Investors have long criticized Japanese companies for hoarding cash rather than investing it or returning it to shareholders, pushing down their returns on equity (ROE), a measure of the amount of profit a company generates from the money invested in it.

Buying back shares reduces a company’s equity base, boosting its ROE.

“This past month has seen a lot of very positive shareholder-friendly activity from a wide array of Japanese companies,” said Seth Fischer, founder and chief investment officer of Oasis Management, citing actions by SoftBank, Sony, Haseko, Tokyo Tatemono and Toppan Printing.

“To attract foreign investors, companies should continue this path of increasing shareholder returns, while continuing to improve their corporate governance.”

Activist investor Oasis, among others, has been vocal in urging Japanese companies to boost returns. In December, Oasis failed to block the sale of Alpine Electronics to its larger affiliate Alps Electric, but Alps did announce a 45 billion yen buyback in January, the third largest buyback that month.

Japan Inc is under pressure to appease foreign investors after they sold 13 trillion yen of Japanese stocks in 2018, more than four times the net sales in 2015 and 2016, and a sharp reversal of the net 1.9 trillion yen bought in 2017.

“Recently, the global economy is weak and the Japanese market has fallen as foreign fast money has been selling aggressively,” said Archibald Ciganer, co-head of Japanese equity at money manager T.Rowe Price.

“But those Japanese companies that have good governance are taking advantage of cheaper stock prices and putting a floor under their stock price through buybacks.”

Share buybacks have had political pushback elsewhere. In the United States, Senator Marco Rubio last week announced plans to tax buybacks in an effort to encourage companies to reinvest spare cash instead of returning it to shareholders.

In Japan, though, policy makers have been urging companies to pay more attention to the wishes of investors, most notably through the country’s corporate governance and stakeholders codes. Guidelines released last year urged firms to focus on their financial management policies, including the amount of cash they had on hand.

According to Ministry of Finance data, Japanese companies had internal reserves worth a record 446.5 trillion yen at the end of their latest fiscal year.

Japanese companies’ ROEs are expected to fall below 10 percent this fiscal year for their first decline in three years, according to Nomura Securities.

“Many Japanese companies simply have too much cash on their balance sheets weighing down their ROEs. Better capital structure management is definitely needed,” said Kin Chan, chief investment officer of Argyle Street Management.

(GRAPHIC: Foreign investors outflow – https://tmsnrt.rs/2BMtYl1)

A revision to Japan’s corporate governance code last year, designed to push companies to sell stakes in other companies, is also driving buybacks.

“Dissolving cross shareholdings, and increasing dividends and buybacks are two ways to make Japanese companies more attractive to foreign investors,” said Patrick Moonen, principal multi asset strategist at Netherlands-based NN Investment Partners.

Further buybacks are expected. Analysts at Goldman Sachs predict that buybacks will reach 7.8 trillion yen for the 12 months to the end of March 2020.

Currently, 56 percent of Japanese non-financial companies in the benchmark Topix index sit on net cash – meaning they have funds left over even if they paid all debts tomorrow. That compares with less than 20 percent in the United States or Europe, according to figures from brokerage CLSA.

“I tell investors that the presents are still under the Christmas tree,” said Nicholas Smith, CLSA’s Japan strategist.

(Reporting by Ayai Tomisawa in Tokyo and Alun John in Hong Kong; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Source: OANN

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Juan Williams on DNC criticism of Fox News: 'Nobody tells me what to say here'

More Fox News reporters and commentators are speaking out against the Democratic National Committee’s decision last week to bar the network from hosting its presidential primary debates.

Fox News political analyst Juan Williams on Sunday criticized the DNC’s snub of the network -- which came in a statement citing critical reporting from The New Yorker -- and balked at the claims that the network’s reporters and personalities have to toe the line of the Trump administration.

“I’m a Democrat and I’ve worked at Fox for 23 years,” Williams said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” “Nobody tells me what to say here.”

He added: “I think it’s very important that Democrats penetrate the bubble, if you will, on the right and speak truth as well as it can be spoken.”


While Williams admitted that the DNC doesn’t like “strident pro-Trump voices in the primetime hour” – in reference to personalities like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson – he pointed out that the channel’s debates would be moderated by the network's news anchors and journalists such as Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.

For his part, Wallace – who has co-moderated debates on Fox News – blamed the DNC’s choice on what he called “Fox derangement syndrome.”

"You know how we talk about 'Trump derangement syndrome,' or [a similar obsession with former President] Obama? I think that, in the left wing of the Democratic Party, there is 'Fox derangement syndrome,'” Wallace said on Fox News Radio.

Wallace added: “And even though they know that Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier and I would give a fair debate, the idea of anything with Fox News presents the Democratic debate and they were just looking for an excuse and the New Yorker article gave it to them.”


Wallace’s performance as moderator of a debate between candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election season earned widespread praise from new agencies as varied as CNN and Politico to Poynter and Fortune, with the last of these saying he “orchestrated the year’s most balanced debate.”

DNC Chairman Tom Perez has said it's important for Democrats to expand the electorate and reach all voters, and that was why he had considered Fox News. The Democrats have announced 12 debates for later this year; NBC News and CNN are set to broadcast the first two.

Fox News said it hoped the DNC would reconsider its decision to host a debate that would be moderated by Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.


"They're the best debate team in the business and they offer candidates an important opportunity to make their case to the largest TV news audience in America, which includes many persuadable voters," said Bill Sammon, senior vice president and managing editor of Fox News' Washington bureau.

Baier, of "Special Report," tweeted that the decision was "really a shame."

Fox News’ Brian Flood and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

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Accused Spy For Iran Allegedly Radicalized During Stint At US University That Took $100M From Muslim Nations

Luke Rosiak | Investigative Reporter

  • Texas-born Monica Witt is charged with defecting to Iran and working as a spy.
  • Witt earned a master’s degree in Middle East studies from George Washington University, which has taken $100 million from Muslim-majority nations.
  • The U.S. government has also funded Middle East centers within U.S. universities, but the centers sometimes employ academics who espouse anti-American sentiment. 

A former U.S. Air Force intelligence specialist accused of espionage for Iran, Monica Witt, was allegedly radicalized in part during a stint at a Washington university that has taken $100 million from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries.

Certain American universities have received funding from the U.S. government with a partial goal of training students to be diplomats and intelligence specialists for the U.S., while simultaneously accepting financial donations from Middle East countries. In some cases, the programs have been staffed by academics who are critical of U.S. policy and who publicly espouse fringe positions.

Witt was charged Feb. 13 by the Department of Justice with sharing government secrets with Iranian officials. She was allegedly helping create a cyber-hacking operation on fellow former agents. She is at large and believed to be in Iran.

Witt’s radicalization “was rooted in Ms. Witt’s military service and … accelerated while she was in graduate school” at George Washington University, where she earned a master’s degree in its Middle East Studies program, The New York Times reported.

A classmate of Witt’s, Cory Ellis, told the Times that “everyone just kind of sat and watched” as Witt expressed strong feelings against American foreign policy in class.

The Times described GWU’s program as an “academic proving ground for aspiring diplomats and researchers near the State Department’s headquarters.”

Muslim-majority nations — plus a handful of private groups associated with them — have given $100 million to George Washington University in the form of gifts and contracts since 2011, according to Department of Education disclosures.  That includes $80 million from Saudi Arabia, $14 million from Kuwait, $4.5 million from the United Arab Emirates, and $730,000 from Turkey. Most of those countries gave as recently as June 2018.

The Middle East centers of Washington-area universities provide a direct line to shaping U.S. policy. In 2011, for example, GWU’s now-director of the Middle East studies program Nathan Brown testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: “We have no policy toward the [Muslim] Brotherhood. And let me stake out what might seem to be an odd position here: I do not think we need a policy.”

“Is the movement harboring a desire to pursue its agenda through forceful, even violent means? The answer to this question is clear: no,” he said, highlighting a comparison between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Boy Scouts.

Spokesmen for GWU have repeatedly ignored questions from The Daily Caller News Foundation about the foreign funding. (RELATED: Elite Universities Hide Info On Funding From Ultraconservative Nation of Qatar)

Even as GWU receives financing from Middle East interests, the Department of Education has used taxpayer money to amplify its ability to shape the way Americans think about the region. For 2019-2021, it received a quarter million dollars for “Foreign Language and Area Studies” of the Middle East from a U.S. taxpayer-funded program known as Title VI.

Title VI grantees often have a trickle-down influence that shapes how not only college students, but young schoolchildren understand the Middle East. The Education Department says that “In addition to supporting foreign language and area studies instruction and research, Title VI” recipients will “conduct outreach and develop programs that expand global opportunities for K-16 educators.”

TheDCNF found that nearly all the schools empowered to shape understanding of the Middle East in this way received funding from foreign nations from that region.

University US Taxpayer Mideast Studies Funding Funding from Muslim Nations
Georgetown University $484,558 $377,864,840
George Washington University $258,000 $100,854,398
New York University $537,500 $81,140,930
University of California, Berkeley $597,500 $18,569,018
University of Michigan $581,000 $15,837,433
Columbia University $589,300 $15,536,790
University of California, Los Angeles $586,500 $12,485,991
University of Washington – Seattle $539,000 $10,729,004
University of Chicago $611,000 $5,718,930
Indiana University $594,000 $3,041,719
Yale University $220,000 $1,966,776
UNC – Chapel Hill $235,000 $251,998
University of Texas – Austin $573,500
University of Arizona $547,000
University of Pennsylvania $499,059

Sources: Department of Education Title VI grants 2019-2021, Department of Education foreign gifts and contracts data 2011-June 2018. 

This situation “has opened up a back-door route to Saudi influence over America’s K-12 curriculum,” a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Stanley Kurtz, wrote in the National Review in 2007. “Believe it or not, the Saudis have figured out how to make an end-run around America’s K-12 curriculum safeguards, thereby gaining control over much of what children in the United States learn about the Middle East.”

The Muslim nations awarded $603 million to the 12 universities from 2011 to 2016 — 80 times more than the allocated Title VI funding, TheDCNF found. (RELATED: Saudi Arabia Funds Politically Influential University That Promotes Pro-Muslim Agenda)

Only one Title VI recipient — Georgetown University — received more in funds from Muslim nations than George Washington University. Jonathan AC Brown, who serves as director of the Saudi-funded Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown, has defended slavery because the prophet Muhammad had slaves, and his father-in-law was convicted of providing material support to terrorists.

On his Twitter feed, Brown has espoused radical political positions and has said Muslims who alert the FBI about other Muslims should be ostracized.

Georgetown professor Jonathan AC Brown / Twitter

Georgetown professor Jonathan AC Brown / Twitter

Luke Rosiak is a Daily Caller News Foundation investigative reporter and the author of the new book Obstruction of Justice: How the Deep State Risked National Security to Protect the DemocratsFollow Luke on Twitter. Send tips to luke@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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

Source: The Daily Caller

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Tennessee woman stabs customer in McDonald's drive-thru line, police say

A Tennessee woman wasn't apparently lovin’ it while waiting in a McDonald’s drive-thru line.

Asalene Branch, 29, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault after she allegedly attacked another woman in the drive-thru line at a McDonald’s in Memphis on Monday, FOX13 reported.

Branch and the woman were waiting when they got into a physical altercation over their place in line, police said.


Branch then allegedly took out a knife and stabbed the other woman in the head.

The woman suffered non-critical injuries.


Branch was arrested after police traced her vehicle information. She’s expected to appear in court later Tuesday.

Source: Fox News National

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YouTube Blocks Advertising Promoting Anti-Vax Content

YouTube is blocking channels that promote anti-vaccination content from running ads, asserting they violate policy prohibiting advertisements with videos containing “dangerous and harmful” content.

BuzzFeed News first reported the move, noting a number of ads for companies selling health-related items slipped through YouTube's system and were allowed to play during videos on channels that promote anti-vax agendas.

One of the videos allowed to show ads was "Mom Researches Vaccines, Discovers Vaccination Horrors and Goes Vaccine Free," Buzzfeed reported. 

“We have strict policies that govern what videos we allow ads to appear on, and videos that promote anti-vaccination content have been and remain a violation of our longstanding harmful or dangerous advertising policy,” the video-sharing site said in a statement to USA Today.

“We enforce these policies vigorously, and if we find a video that violates them we immediately take action and remove ads.”

Some parents opt not to vaccinate because of the discredited belief that vaccines are linked to autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there’s no such link and that there are no ingredients in vaccines that could cause autism.

According to USA Today, Facebook is also considering making anti-vaccination content less visible on its platform, quoting a statement from the social media platform that it’s working with experts“"on additional changes that we'll be announcing soon.”

Source: NewsMax America

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WaPo Runs Glowing Profile Of Media Matters Researcher Who Dug Up Tucker Tapes

Amber Athey | White House Correspondent

The Washington Post ran an adulatory profile Thursday of the Media Matters researcher who dug up old shock jock radio tapes of Fox News host Tucker Carlson and minimized the left-wing organization’s influence on the media landscape.

Carlson, co-founder of The Daily Caller, argued on his Fox News show that he is a victim of “the great American outrage machine,” referring to the organized left-wing boycotts of his advertisers and the calls for him to be fired. WaPo, however, claimed Carlson believes he is the victim of the young woman who found the tapes and sought to compare Carlson’s relative influence to her.

“In reality, credit for the tapes’ publication is due to Peltz: a 20-something in her first adult job who lives in the basement of a D.C. house she rents with five other people, a few cats and a dog named Noodles,” WaPo’s Eli Rosenberg writes.

“I’m not like some high-power-wielding globalist,” Peltz told WaPo. “I’m this kid who’s been on the Internet my whole life and knows how to get around it.”

WaPo also responds to Carlson’s point that Media Matters is partially funded by left-wing billionaire George Soros, arguing that the organization has not been funded by Soros in “many years.” Soros last donated to Media Matters in 2014. Yet Carlson’s radio interviews, which took place between 2006 and 2011, are described by WaPo as his “recent past.”

In addition, WaPo takes issue with Carlson’s attacks on the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), suggesting that the SPLC must be credible because it is “used widely by media organizations.” The SPLC, however, regularly identifies mainstream conservative persons and groups as bigots. In June 2018, SPLC paid out millions to a group because it falsely labeled the group founders as “anti-Muslim extremists.” (RELATED: Southern Poverty Law Center Pays Out Millions To Group It Falsely Labeled Bigoted)

WaPo completely glosses over The Daily Caller News Foundation’s publication of old blog posts from Media Matters President Angelo Carusone on Wednesday that contain offensive terms like “trannies,” “Japs,” and “Jewry.” Rosenberg allows Carusone to wave away the allegations of hypocrisy over his targeting of Carlson and accepts wholesale Carusone’s claim that his old posts were “intended as satire.”

WaPo writes that Carusone’s posts were a “parody” of right-wingers, but as the DCNF’s Peter Hasson explains in a Thursday article, Carusone’s explanation doesn’t match the larger tone of his blog, which frequently contained attacks on Republicans and promotions of left-wing political positions.

Follow Amber on Twitter

Source: The Daily Caller

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People visit a memorial site for victims of Friday's shooting, in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch
People visit a memorial site for victims of Friday’s shooting, in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

March 18, 2019

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – After days of intense grieving for New Zealand’s worst-ever mass shooting, attention began to turn to how the country’s gun laws need to change and what warning signs might have been missed ahead of a gunman’s attack on two mosques that killed 50 people.

Bodies of the victims of Friday’s attacks in Christchurch were being washed and prepared for burial in a Muslim ritual process, with teams of volunteers flown in from overseas to assist with the heavy workload.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her Cabinet had made in-principle decisions on changes to gun laws which she would announce next Monday, saying now was the time to act on tightening access to firearms.

Simon Bridges, leader of the opposition National Party, said he wanted to get details of the changes to see if there could be bipartisan support in Parliament. The National Party draws support from rural areas, where gun ownership is higher than in urban areas.

“We know that change is required. I’m willing to look at anything that is going to enhance our safety – that’s our position,” Bridges told TVNZ.

In addition to the 50 killed, dozens were wounded at the two mosques in the South Island city during Friday prayers.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island, was charged with murder on Saturday. Tarrant was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5, where police said he was likely to face more charges.

Andrew Little, the minister who oversees New Zealand’s intelligence agencies, said monitoring of online activity had been stepped up in the wake of the Christchurch attacks.

“There are people who have been online making statements who have been interviewed by the police; that will continue. There is a level of intervention, there is a heightened level of monitoring,” Little said on TVNZ on Monday night.

Ardern said there would be an inquiry into what government agencies “knew, or could or should have known” about the alleged gunman and whether the attack could be prevented.

“We have to know whether there have been failings, whether there have been gaps,” Little said on TVNZ. “We have to leave no stone unturned to not only deal with the perpetrator and ensure the criminal justice system gets to deal with him, but to understand how this could have happened in this country.”

More than 250 New Zealand police staff are working on the inquiry in the attacks, with staff from the U.S. FBI and Australia’s Federal Police working with local investigators.

In the wake of the deadly attack, other incidents were drawing scrutiny. A gun club in the northern town of Kaitaia burned down early on Tuesday morning, and police were treating the blaze as suspicious. A bomb hoax that closed Dunedin Airport on Sunday night and caused some flights to be diverted was under investigation, police said.

A black laptop bag was thought to have been bought onto the airfield by someone climbing over fences around the Dunedin airport. Police found a note written by the person who left the “hoax device,” which was dealt with by defense force experts.

“The insensitive nature of this act in light of recent events cannot be overstated,” police said in a statement.

(Writing by John Mair; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

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FILE PHOTO: The ESPN logo is seen on an electronic display in Times Square in New York City
FILE PHOTO: The ESPN logo is seen on an electronic display in Times Square in New York City, U.S., August 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar

March 18, 2019

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The streaming digital sports service ESPN+ will become the exclusive distributor of pay-per-view events for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the United States, the companies announced on Monday.

The events will begin on April 13, almost exactly a year since parent company Walt Disney Co launched ESPN+ to retain viewers as traditional cable audiences started migrating to online services such as Netflix Inc.

ESPN+ lured 568,000 new subscribers when UFC debuted in January after the Las Vegas-based mixed martial arts promoter, a unit of Endeavor, LLC, moved fights there from Fox Sports.

By the time Disney held its quarterly earnings call with investors in February, it said ESPN+ had signed up 2 million paying subscribers. It is the model for Disney+, a streaming service for family-friendly Disney content that is supposed to launch later this year.

The UFC deal takes the traditional pay-per-view (PPV) model to a new level, giving ESPN+ subscribers exclusive access to the “biggest and most important fights,” said Russell Wolff, ESPN+ executive vice president.

He would not say how many paying subscribers ESPN+ currently has.

The deal will also give the UFC something it has never had before: data about its PPV audience, including information about who is buying event access and viewers’ propensity to purchase goods, said UFC Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein.

Fans will be able to access UFC content in one place, rather than having to jump to different platforms as they did in the past. The agreement does not impact UFC’s commercial sales to the thousands of U.S. bars and restaurants that air its fights, Epstein said.

Monday’s UFC deal is an expansion of its previous ESPN+ agreement, which covered media rights to UFC Fight Night and now runs through 2025 along with the PPV deal.

The expanded agreement covers 12 live PPV events per year that will be streamed in high definition in English and Spanish.

PPV UFC fights will cost $59.99 per event for current ESPN+ subscribers, slightly less than the $64.99 fans usually paid in the past. New subscribers will pay $79.99 for their first PPV event and get one-year of ESPN+ access.

(This story corrects name of UFC parent company to Endeavor, LLC in third paragraph)

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Carlos Alfredo Vecchio leave the White House after their meeting in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (right) and Carlos Alfredo Vecchio, charge d’affaires appointed by Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido leave the White House after their meeting in Washington, U.S., January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Gershon Peaks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Representatives of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido have taken control of three of the country’s diplomatic properties in the United States, Guaido’s U.S. envoy said on Monday, as the opposition presses its bid to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

The envoy, Carlos Vecchio, said the opposition had gained control of two buildings belonging to Venezuela’s defense ministry in Washington and one consular building in New York. He added that the group expected to take control of Venezuela’s embassy in Washington “in the days to come.”

Guaido, president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency in January, arguing that Maduro’s May 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has been recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader by most Western countries, including the United States.

“We are taking these steps in order to preserve the assets of the Venezuelans here in this country,” Vecchio said from one of the buildings, the office of Venezuela’s military attache to Washington, after removing a portrait of Maduro from the wall and replacing it with one of Guaido.

U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters the United States was “pleased to support these requests.”

In a statement, Venezuela’s foreign ministry called on U.S. authorities to “take the necessary measures to immediately reverse this forcible occupation” of its diplomatic offices. It said the transfer of possession violated international law on the protection of diplomatic properties.

Maduro, who has branded Guaido a U.S. puppet seeking to oust him in a coup, broke off relations with Washington after it recognized Guaido, calling diplomatic and consular staff back to Caracas.

Of 55 staff members, 12 decided to remain in the United States and support Guaido, Vecchio said on Monday. He added that his staff would work out of the attache building, which is in the upscale Kalorama neighborhood and has an assessed value of $2.2 million, according to Washington property records.

Vecchio spoke alongside Colonel Jose Luis Silva, Venezuela’s military attache to Washington who recognized Guaido on Jan. 27. Few other high-ranking members of the military have heeded Guaido’s call to break with Maduro, who retains the support of the armed forces and control of state functions.

On Monday, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters an army general had defected and fled to Colombia. Vecchio said he was confident that Venezuela, which is undergoing an economic and humanitarian crisis, was in “an irreversible process of change” but that “it won’t come easily.”

The United States withdrew all its remaining diplomatic personnel in Venezuela last week.

(Reporting by Gershon Peaks in Washington; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Tom Brown and Peter Cooney)

Source: OANN

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FILE PHOTO: A Venezuelan flag hangs from a building near the national election board as acting President Maduro registered as a candidate for president in the April 14 election in Caracas
FILE PHOTO: A Venezuelan flag hangs from a building in Caracas March 11, 2013. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As the United States makes its biggest diplomatic push in Latin America in years to try to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the U.S. military is zeroing in on a byproduct of the crisis: a strengthening of Colombian rebels on both sides of Venezuela’s border.

U.S. Admiral Craig Faller, the head of the U.S. military’s Southern Command that oversees U.S. forces in Latin America, told Reuters the United States had sharpened its focus on the rebels and increased its sharing of intelligence with Colombian officials. 

U.S. officials see a growing threat from both Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) and factions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that refuse to adhere to a 2016 peace agreement to end five decades of civil war.

The United States believes the rebels are taking advantage of Venezuela’s crisis to expand their reach in that country and the scope of long-standing illegal activities, including drug trafficking.

“Our principal role working with our Colombian partners is to assist in intelligence sharing. What we know, we share,” Faller said. Asked whether the intelligence sharing on the rebels had ramped up as Venezuela’s crisis deepened, Faller responded: “Absolutely.”

The risks from the insurgents on both sides of the Colombia-Venezuela border add another layer of complexity to the crisis in Venezuela, where U.S. President Donald Trump says all options are on the table to remove Maduro from office.

U.S. officials have uniformly emphasized diplomatic and economic tools to accelerate Maduro’s departure, like sanctions, but Faller acknowledged the U.S. military stood ready to provide options if needed.

At the same time, he noted that no U.S. allies in the region were seeking a military solution to the crisis in Venezuela.

“My job is to be ready, be on the balls of my feet, at all times. But we’ve been talking to our partners and no one, no one, thinks that a military option is a good idea,” Faller said.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido says the May 2018 vote in which Maduro won a second term was a sham and he invoked a constitutional provision on Jan. 23 to assume the interim presidency. Most Western nations including the United States have backed Guaido as head of state.

Maduro, a socialist who has denounced Guaido as a U.S. puppet seeking to foment a coup, retains the support of the armed forces and control of state functions.

Jeremy McDermott, a Colombia-based expert on the insurgencies and co-founder of the Insight Crime think tank, said he believed the Colombian insurgents were operating in Venezuela with at least the blessing of Maduro.

The rebels’ aim is to exploit Venezuela’s lawlessness for safe haven and for economic gain, he said. But he noted there could be an added benefit for Maduro.

“If the Americans invade, or if Colombia promotes a military intervention, then they (Maduro’s supporters) would be able to call upon an insurgent force with more than 50 years of combat experience,” McDermott said.

Asked whether the United States had any evidence of communications between Maduro and the guerrilla groups, Faller said: “I’d rather not discuss the details of the exact connections but we’re watching it very closely.”

Venezuela’s Information Ministry and ELN contacts did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Colombia’s ambassador to Washington, former Vice President Francisco Santos, said ELN and FARC factions had long been present in Venezuela but had grown stronger and more integrated into the country as a result of Venezuela’s crisis.

“They have become the paramilitary groups of the Maduro administration,” Santos told Reuters.


A Cuba-inspired Marxist insurgency formed in 1964, the ELN claimed responsibility for a January car bomb attack against a police academy in Bogota that killed 22 cadets. It was an escalation by insurgents who have kidnapped Colombian security forces, attacked police stations and bombed oil pipelines.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say the ELN is increasingly using Venezuelan territory to carry out narco-trafficking and illegal mining of minerals like gold and coltan.

The Venezuelan security forces were believed to be getting kickbacks from the guerrillas, they said.

One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. collection of intelligence on the guerrilla groups had increased in recent weeks, including looking at the militants’ activities on the Venezuelan side of the border with Colombia.

Several U.S. officials said they believed senior leaders of both the ELN and the so-called FARC dissidents who do not adhere to the peace agreement were now located inside of Venezuela.

“Their leadership is there,” a second U.S. official said, who also declined to be named, without providing evidence.

An International Crisis Group report cited estimates that the ELN had been active in a minimum of 13 of Venezuela’s 24 states, “absorbing new recruits and shifting from a guerrilla force that embraced armed resistance against Colombia’s ruling elites to one with many core operations in Venezuela.”

Opposition lawmakers in Venezuela also regularly denounce growing ELN activities in Venezuela, but Reuters has been unable to independently verify the extent of its presence or its operations.

Faller declined to discuss any specifics about the collection of U.S. intelligence or identify which insurgent leaders were in Venezuela.

But he acknowledged the trend and added that the flow of illegal narcotics “from Colombia into Venezuela, and then from Venezuela out in the region, has risen as the misery of the Venezuelan people has risen.”

“It’s essentially a lawless region now inside Venezuela along the border and the FARC dissidents and the ELN have taken advantage of that,” Faller said, adding: “They operate with impunity inside Venezuela.”

Santos said the big concern for Colombia was that the strengthening rebel forces would upend efforts to crack down on narcotics trafficking.

“That’s a big worry because in this situation of chaos, obviously they are going to grow. They are growing,” he said.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas and Helen Murphy in Bogota; Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney)

Source: OANN

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Beto O’Rourke made headlines after it was announced the former congressman raised over $6 million dollars in 24 hours to begin his presidential campaign — but his growing number of hand gestures also caught the attention of “The Five” on Monday.

“Jesse, you know what, I think he’s stealing your ‘I am Watters, this is my world thing,’” Greg Gutfeld told his co-host Jesse Watters. “He’s doing it in every scene.”

Gutfeld earlier looked like a malfunctioning robot as he mocked O’Rourke’s criticism of the U.S.’s capitalist economy.


“As a guy who likes hand gestures I have to marvel at some of these,” Watters told Gutfeld before displaying a few of the hand gestures O’Rouke has used.

President Trump weighed in Friday at the White House suggesting that O’Rourke’s hand movements looked “crazy.”

“I think he’s got a lot of hand movement. I’ve never seen so much hand movement.  I said, ‘Is he crazy or is that just the way he acts?’” Trump told reporters. "I’ve actually never seen anything quite like it. Study it ― I’m sure you’ll agree.”

Tabloid TV show “Inside Edition” even asked if O’Rourke’s hand gestures could cost him the presidency.

Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke at the Central Park Coffee Company, in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, last Friday. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke at the Central Park Coffee Company, in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, last Friday. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)


While some commentators such as Gutfeld said the former congressman’s hand gestures were “absurd,” co-host Juan Williams pointed out that what’s not absurd was the amount of money O’Rourke had raised and how much Democrats took a shine to him.

“People say, ‘we don’t know him, we don’t know his positions.’ Guess what, people like this guy,” Williams said. “He has real energy and you’re seeing some of the Obama people flock to his campaign.”

Source: Fox News Politics

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