capital

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla logo is seen in Los Angeles
FILE PHOTO: A Tesla logo is seen in Los Angeles, California U.S. January 12, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

April 19, 2019

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc said on Friday that four members of its eleven-member board would be leaving over the next two years, as the electric car company looks to streamline its board.

Brad Buss, Antonio Gracias, Stephen Jurvetson, and Linda Johnson Rice will not be standing for re-election in the upcoming annual meetings of stockholders in 2019 and 2020, the company said https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1318605/000156459019012123/tsla-8k_20190418.htm in a regulatory filing.

The company said its directors reviewed the composition of the board “focusing on a phased streamlining of the size of the Board to allow it to operate more nimbly and efficiently.”

Tesla said the decision did not result from any disagreement between the company and the directors.

Of the four members who would exit the board, Buss and Gracias were part of Tesla’s disclosure controls committee, overseeing the implementation of the terms of the consent agreement between Tesla and the SEC.

Buss was also the chief financial officer of solar panel installer SolarCity for two years before retiring in 2016. Tesla bought SolarCity that year.

Gracias has been an independent director at Tesla since 2010. Last May, proxy adviser ISS recommended that investors vote against his election to the board and called him a non-independent director.

Jurvetson, the co-founder of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, is said to be on a leave of absence from Tesla’s board since allegations of sexual harassment against him arose. Jurvetson has denied the allegations against him. (https://reut.rs/2mn57in)

The proposed changes in the board come a couple of weeks after Elon Musk’s position as the chief executive officer of Tesla was secured after a federal judge urged the billionaire to settle contempt allegations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over his use of Twitter.

Musk was sued by the SEC last year for tweeting that he had “funding secured” to take the company private. He settled the lawsuit, agreeing to step down as chairman and have the company’s lawyers pre-approve written communications with material information about the company.

But he was again accused of violating that settlement by sending a tweet about Tesla’s production that had not been vetted by the company’s attorneys.

On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Musk and the SEC would get another week to settle a dispute over Musk’s use of Twitter.

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; editing by Diane Craft)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Trump's Middle East envoy, arrives to visit Kibbutz Nahal Oz, just outside the Gaza Strip
FILE PHOTO: Jason Greenblatt (C), U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, arrives to visit Kibbutz Nahal Oz, just outside the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

April 19, 2019

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan will not involve giving land from Egypt’s Sinai peninsula to the Palestinians, an American envoy said on Friday.

Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East envoy, apparently sought to deny reports on social media that the long-awaited plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would involve extending Gaza into the northern Sinai along Egypt’s Mediterranean coast.

“Hearing reports our plan includes the concept that we will give a portion of Sinai (which is Egypt’s) to Gaza. False!”, Greenblatt, one of the architects of the proposal, tweeted on Friday.

The American plan is expected to be unveiled once Israel’s newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forms a government coalition and after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in June.

Trump’s senior advisor Jared Kushner said on Wednesday the plan would require compromise by all parties, a source familiar with his remarks said.

It is unclear whether the plan will propose outright the creation of a Palestinian state, the Palestinians’ core demand.

The Palestinians have long sought to set up a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The last round of U.S.-broke‮‮re‬‬d peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014.

(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: So after two years, here we are. It’s hard to believe any of it actually happened. Two years of unremitting, never-diminishing hysteria about Russia. A continuous wave of panic and superstition over unseen Slavic interference, all stoked by the very people we’re told are the most rational in our society. For two years, our capital city became a kind of massive CNN panel — a living monument to ignorance and dishonesty, where the loudest and dumbest invariably got the most attention. We just lived through two full years of that: screaming, threatening, surveillance, character assassination, loyalty tests, wild allegations of treason and spying and betrayal. Innocent people found themselves afraid to go to dinner, hesitant to send text messages or talk on the phone. For two years we lived in an all-pervasive cult of personality. Our leaders worshipped a 74-year-old federal prosecutor who never spoke in public. He alone was good, they told us. Only they could interpret his will. It was all thoroughly bizarre. Demented really, though nobody said so at the time. They were too afraid. It seems like a dream now. Which of course it was. None of it was real. Nobody colluded with Vladimir Putin. Nobody changed vote totals. Or met secretly in Prague. Or had a pee tape. There never was a Russia conspiracy. Hillary Clinton wasn’t robbed by Julian Assange, or anyone else. She lost the election because she was an entitled boor who didn’t run on anything. In the end, that’s what Robert Mueller proved.

The news anchors couldn’t handle that conclusion. It was too far from what they’d promised their audiences for so long. They were too invested in the lies. When the report arrived in congress this morning, they found themselves reduced to huffing and sputtering. They couldn’t admit what was in it. Well, they told us, Robert Mueller “didn’t exonerate President Trump.” That may be true, but only theologically. Mueller doesn’t have the power to absolve sin. Only God can do that. But in every other sense, Mueller’s report was exculpatory. If dozens of federal prosecutors spent two years trying to charge you with a crime, and then decided they couldn’t, it would mean there wasn’t any real evidence you did it. That’s what happened here. You may not like Donald Trump, but that’s what we learned from the Mueller Report. You’d have to be a mindless partisan to deny it. A lot of news anchors turn out to be mindless partisans. When the facts contravene the interests of their party, they deny the facts, and then attack anyone who persists in stating the obvious. Suddenly the very same people who lied to you for two years about Russia are demanding that, under no circumstances, are you allowed to believe anything that Attorney General Bill Barr might say. Sure, Barr looks like a conventional Republican, being a Jeb Bush donor and everything. Yes, he would appear to be a close personal friend of Robert Mueller’s. But it’s all a ruse. Barr is in fact a Putin stooge like all the rest:

JEFFREY TOOBIN: If you just look at his behavior, it is not that of a geriatric, it is that of a partisan

CHRIS MATTHEWS: This looks like an inside job.

MSNBC guest Elie Mystal: We should not take anything that Barr says tomorrow as anything other than performative.

CHRIS CUOMO: Is Barr the President’s new fixer? The answer to that seems to be yes.

NICOLLE WALLACE: He becomes to first cabinet secretary to plunge into the deep end of Trump’s conspiracy pool.

It’s an inside job. That’s the reigning assumption. Somehow Bill Barr is preventing Robert Mueller from concluding that Donald Trump colluding with Vladimir Putin. How is Barr doing that? It’s not clear, but they’re no less certain that he is. Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times announced that Barr’s press conference this morning marked America’s transformation into a, quote, “authoritarian junta.” Her colleague, Maggie Haberman, suggested Trump might be a Nazi, because the White House played a song from The Sound of Music — which by the way, is an anti-Nazi musical. But still Germanic-sounding, and therefore suspicious. These are hysterical children. They shouldn’t be in journalism. But they are. They run journalism. They have no plans on giving up their power.

The Mueller Report may be the single most humiliating thing that’s ever happened to the White House press corps in the history of this country. How did reporters in Washington respond? They celebrated themselves. Over on CNN, former Obama official Jim Sciutto bragged that Mueller had quote “debunked” all of Trump’s unfair attacks on the media. At the Washington Post, Philip Bump was telling us that quote, “the vast amount of reporting” on Russia was accurate.

Even they don’t really believe this. They know they lied. Buzzfeed claimed its reporters has personally seen evidence that Michael Cohen had been instructed but Donald Trump to perjure himself. The editor of Buzzfeed defended that story extensively, including on this show. Now we know it was a lie. That and so much more. So what happens now? What do we do with John Brennan and Jim Clapper? They used to run powerful intelligence agencies. For the past two years, they’ve gotten rich from talking about Russia on television. The only problem is, they were lying:

O’DONNELL: What makes you believe that he has more indictments?

BRENNAN: Because he hasn’t addressed the issues related to criminal conspiracy as well as individuals —

O’DONNELL: A criminal conspiracy involving the Russians?

BRENNAN: Yes yeah.

CLAPPER: Is there influence whether witting on unwitting by the Russians over President Trump. And in the intervening year and a half or so, you know, his behavior hasn’t done much at least in my mind to allay that concern.

So do Clapper and Brendan get to keep their cable TV contracts? Probably. In decadent societies, the guilty aren’t punished. Only the unpopular are. Over on the other channels, they’re talking about Trump tonight, not themselves. The line they’re quoting most is from today’s report. It’s Trump’s response when he first learned there was going to be a special counsel investigation. “Oh my God,” he said. “This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m effed.”

As it turns out, Trump was wrong on the specifics. He never got indicted. Mueller didn’t drive him from office. But, as usual, Trump’s instincts were clearer. In fact, dead on: In the ways that matter most, the Russia hoax did sabotage his presidency. Mueller’s investigation ended critical momentum from the 2016 election almost immediately. Lawmakers, including a shamefully large number of Republicans, were much happier to talk about Russia than about changing the status quo in Washington, which is what Trump ran on. So they talked about Russia. The result: an election that should have realigned the country, had almost no effect. Two years later, virtually nothing has changed. Millions are still flood over our border from the third world, encouraged by an army of non-profits that instruct them to subvert our laws. The opioid epidemic rages on, as horrible as ever. Suicides are up. Troops are still bogged down in Afghanistan and Syria. Goldman Sachs still controls our economy. Tech companies are still spying on you and crushing your freedom of speech. You can still have your life ruined for supporting the wrong candidate, or believing there are two genders. Most ominous of all, Americans are still dying younger and having fewer children. None of this was resolved. It was never even talked about. The Russia investigation didn’t destroy Trump. But it did a lot to destroy America.

A longtime conservative operative is calling on the Trump administration to reform the country’s visa laws after he was falsely accused of a crime he said an illegal alien charged likely in order to score a visa.

A woman in late 2016 claimed Codias Brown harassed and exposed himself to her over a two-week period and said he was seeking her out in public places, according to an arrest affidavit. The accuser, Rosa Patino-Herrera, claimed she encountered Brown — someone she didn’t know personally — around eight different times and believed he was seeking her out around the city of Austin, where he also lived.

The forensic data proved to be a game-changer. Disclosure of Brown’s phone location data showed he was nowhere near any of the locations Patino-Herrera claimed the events took place, according to court documents reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. The charges were ultimately dismissed — but not until April 2018.

During the court proceedings, Patino-Herrera admitted she was an illegal immigrant. Work from a private investigator also discovered she was actively seeking a U-visa. Brown’s legal team believes she accused him in order to obtain a U-visa.

Brown, now completely exonerated of the charges, is using his experience to push for reform. The Republican organizer is calling on President Donald Trump and lawmakers in Congress to block the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act until it’s changed to mandate a criminal conviction before the issuance of a U-visa. Such an amendment, he argues, would incorporate constitutional due process rights not currently embedded in the U-visa application process.

“I hope to work with the Trump administration and lawmakers to reform the laws and policies that made this ordeal possible,” Brown told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Established in 2000, the U-visa program was intended to incentivize immigrants into helping law enforcement catch and prosecute criminals. Foreign nationals who are victims of a crime can apply for a U-visa, allowing them to remain in the country and assist police.

Interest in the U-visa program has exploded in popularity. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received 10,937 petitions for U-visa status in the 2009 fiscal year. By the 2016 fiscal year, however, the number of petitions ballooned to 60,710, according to information compiled by Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR).

Immigration experts said the U-visa program is inadvertently designed to attract fraud, and actually does little to help law enforcement.

“The program’s vague standards and lucrative perks, make it a prime target for abuse by well-meaning, but misguided law enforcement agencies — particularly those in so-called ‘sanctuary jurisdictions,’” said Matthew Tragesser, communication specialist for FAIR. “Though the program may offer some help to some aliens who have been exploited by criminals, there is little data suggesting that the program significantly improves the prosecution of crime in immigrant communities, or that it has had a measurable impact on human trafficking.”

Jessica Vaughan, a director with the Center for Immigration Studies, told TheDCNF the U-visa program has become a means for foreign nationals to “launder their status,” with many law enforcement agencies signing off on their applications without any due diligence.

“In the blink of an eye, an illegal alien — aided by social justice warriors parading as cops, prosecutors, and judges — nearly destroyed everything I worked for,” Brown told TheDCNF, describing the day he was arrested.

As Brown and his wife were walking from their Austin, Texas, home to a local grocery store Dec. 9, 2016, he said he was suddenly flanked by a police task force, arrested and sent to jail — where he remained for four days until he was able to be released on $75,000 bond. Even after he was let go from detention, Brown, who said he had no prior criminal history, said he was forced to wear an ankle monitor for several months.

The allegations came with serious consequences. If Brown were convicted, he faced the possibility of up to 10 years in prison. Furthermore, Patino-Herrera was granted a protective order against Brown.

However, Brown was unequivocal in his defense: Not only did he claim he never stalked Patino-Herrera, he said he had never met the woman in his life.

“Brown should never have been arrested because there was no evidence to corroborate these baseless accusations, the accuser made numerous inconsistent and illogical statements throughout the proceedings, and forensic data ultimately proved Brown was not even in the vicinity of the alleged incidents,” said Benjamin Lange, Brown’s attorney.

Numerous inconsistencies emerged as Brown fought for his innocence, according to his legal team. Patino-Herrera, for example, testified she had several conversations with Brown that lasted up to five minutes in length. However, her English was so limited she required an interpreter during court proceedings. Brown, on the other hand, does not speak Spanish.

That the case lingered for so long has been a point of contention for Brown’s legal team.

“The fact that these allegations made it past the investigative stage, let alone through a Texas grand jury is a travesty. What is particularly concerning is that, even after the forensic evidence proved Brown was not in the vicinity of the alleged incidents, the lead prosecutor in this case, Beverly Mathews, continued the prosecution for nearly a year,” Lange said.

TheDCNF reached out to Beverly Mathews, the assistant district attorney of Travis County, multiple times for comment on this story. However, a spokeswoman for her office eventually said Mathews declined to respond. The office of Detective Scott Donovan, who arrested Brown, did not respond to multiple requests for comment either.

Brown’s legal team raised other red flags while the case lingered on.

A private investigator discovered the social security number apparently being used by Patino-Herrera was issued several years before her listed birthday in court documents, a strong indication she was illegally using someone else’s. Questions over her legal status were confirmed when she voluntarily admitted during a civil protective order hearing she was an undocumented alien.

Another detail emerged that drew the attention of Brown’s team: Patino-Herrera admitted to a private investigator that she was actively seeking a U-visa. Brown’s team believed the issue to be relevant.

“Travis County law enforcement has been actively promoting U visa benefits to illegal aliens for years,” Lange said about the connection. “Shortly after Brown’s local counsel began inquiring into whether the accuser had applied for a U-visa, prosecutors dismissed the case. Later, the accuser admitted to a private investigator that she had been pursuing a U-visa.”

Notably, prosecutors dismissed the charge against him shortly after they asked the court if his accuser had filed for a U-visa. It was months after the dismissal when the investigator prompted Patino-Herrera to admit she was actively seeking a U-visa. Days later, Travis County prosecutors recommended an immediate expunction for Brown.

TheDCNF was not able to reach Patino-Herrera for comment on this article.

Whether she accused Brown in order to obtain a U-visa is unknown, but Brown said the connection is hard to ignore. If true, Brown would not be first person to have fallen victim from U-visa fraud. Other reports have detailed the stories of people facing spurious accusations from foreign nationals applying for the same visas.

U-visa abuse has also been promulgated by police officers themselves. Four law enforcement officers in March, for example, were charged with involvement in fraudulent U nonimmigrant visas. An indictment in that case alleges the officers took bribes in return for creating fraudulent incident reports.

Brown is no stranger to politics. For nearly 10 years, he managed Republican campaigns, working to put conservatives in elected office. Brown’s career as a political operative reached a milestone when, after being tapped by Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential team, he led the former senator’s ground game in the Iowa caucuses and delivered an upset victory.

Brown gained notoriety more recently for his work in the tech world. The Texas Republican in September 2016 launched the eponymous online platform known as “Codias.” A social network geared solely for conservatives, Codias allows like-minded citizens, candidates and organizations to communicate and organize with each other without fear of censorship.

The emotional toll of the ordeal still runs deep for Brown and his family. Personally, he was forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars defending himself in court. Professionally, he said he was unable to raise capital or market his startup company, Codias, for a long time, dealing a devastating blow to his work.

However, the Republican operative said his faith and his loving family kept him going.

“I could not have endured this without a gracious God, a strong and loyal wife, and a faithful circle of family and friends. This experience has only served to strengthen my faith and family as we prepare for more profound battles that lie ahead,” he said.

“We’ve only just begun to fight.”


Alex Jones talks over the phone with callers and gauges their reactions to AG Barr discussing the redacted first part of Mueller’s report.

Source: InfoWars

FILE PHOTO: Khalifa Haftar, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, arrives to attend an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris
FILE PHOTO: Khalifa Haftar, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, arrives to attend an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

April 19, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) – The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump spoke by phone on Monday to Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar and discussed “ongoing counterterrorism efforts and the need to achieve peace and stability in Libya.”

The statement said Trump “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.”

On Thursday, mortar bombs crashed down on a suburb of Tripoli, almost hitting a clinic, after two weeks of an offensive by Haftar’s eastern troops on the Libyan capital, which is held by an internationally recognized government.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by David Gregorio)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Thousands of protesters wave Sudanese flags, hold banners and chant slogans during a demonstration in front of the Defence Ministry in Khartoum
FILE PHOTO: Thousands of protesters wave Sudanese flags, hold banners and chant slogans during a demonstration in front of the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan, April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

April 19, 2019

By Michael Georgy and Khalid Abdelaziz

Khartoum (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters demanding an end to military rule flocked to the sit-in outside Sudan’s Defence Ministry on Friday, in the biggest turnout in the center of the capital since last week when former President Omar al-Bashir was ousted and a military council took over.

Protesters waved the Sudanese flag and chanted “freedom, peace and justice”. Children sitting on a bridge nearby banged with stones on the metal pillars to the rhythm of the chants.

The military council has said it is ready to meet some of the protesters’ demands, including fighting corruption, but has indicated that it would not hand over power to protest leaders.

“If we don’t stay it will be as if we hadn’t done anything, we will stay until we oust the military council,” said 26-year-old protester Rania Ahmed.

Not far from the bridge, 10 effigies dressed in security forces uniform and helmets were hanging from a metal pillar, symbolizing protesters’ animosity toward the security forces.

“I look at this everyday and it brings me great happiness,” said Mostafa Abuel Qassem, a 29-year-old photographer.

“This is the pride of the revolution,” he added.

The Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), leading the revolt, has called for sweeping change to end a violent crackdown on dissent, purge corruption and cronyism and ease an economic crisis that worsened during Bashir’s last years in power.

Protesters formed checkpoints at the entrances of the sit-in, wearing yellow vests and body-searching people coming in for weapons to make sure the protest remains peaceful.

Hundreds performed Friday prayers in the sit-in, while hundreds more marched to the area after the praying in mosques nearby.

The sit-in that began on April 6 outside the Defence Ministry was the culmination of 16 weeks of protests triggered by the economic crisis, leading to Bashir being ousted and arrested after three decades in power.

The military council has said a transitional period of up to two years will be followed by elections and that it is ready to work with anti-Bashir activists and opposition groups to form an interim civilian government.

Sudanese have been struggling with sharp price rises and shortages of cash and basic products. Many analysts blame the country’s economic troubles on mismanagement, corruption and the impact of U.S. sanctions, as well as loss of oil revenue when South Sudan seceded in 2011.

(Writing by Amina Ismail; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

Filipino devotees are nailed on wooden crosses during a crucifixion re-enactment on Good Friday, in San Fernando City
Filipino devotees are nailed on wooden crosses during a crucifixion re-enactment on Good Friday, in San Fernando City, Pampanga province, Philippines, April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

April 19, 2019

By Ronn Bautista

CUTUD, Philippines (Reuters) – Hundreds of tourists watched in shock as actors dressed as Roman soldiers hammered four-inch nails through the hands and feet of a Filipino into a wooden cross for the 33rd time in a Good Friday re-enactment of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.

The gory display of devotion, which the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines looks down upon, draws tourists to the province of Pampanga, north of the capital, year after year as barefoot penitents also whip themselves as a form of penance.

“I thought they wouldn’t be nailed but they were really nailed, and it was for me a great event to see it live,” said German tourist Johann Tenken.

Devotees, including 58-year old Ruben Enaje who has performed the act 33 times, believe their penance will wash away their sins, cure illness and lead to blessings.

Enaje was among the four people who were nailed to crosses in the village, including a woman taking part for the 17th time.

The crucifixions were the most extreme display of faith this mainly Catholic country, where millions were praying and fasting ahead of the Easter weekend.

Five other Filipinos were nailed to crosses in two other villages in Pampanga.

“At the end of the day, you have to respect the people doing this because that’s devotion,” said Filipino tourist Bianca Yao.

Christians believe Jesus died on the cross to pay for the sins of humanity and rose from the dead two days later.

(Writing by Karen Lema; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: OANN

Flowers are seen at the site of a bus accident in Canico
Flowers are seen at the site of a bus accident in Canico, in the Portuguese Island of Madeira, April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

April 19, 2019

By Miguel Pereira and Rafael Marchante

CANICO, Portugal (Reuters) – Doctors from Germany are working with a Portuguese medical team to evaluate when the German tourists who survived a fatal bus crash on the island of Madeira can be transferred home, the hospital said on Friday.

The bus – carrying 55 tourists and a tour guide – veered off a steep road in the coastal town of Canico on Wednesday, and came to a halt next to a house, killing 29 Germans and injuring 27, including the Portuguese driver and tour guide.

Portugal’s public prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the accident.

Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, landed in Madeira on Thursday evening with a team of doctors, psychologists and consular officials to meet those affected.

“We are working flat out to bring people who are injured and capable of being transported, to identify those who have died and to inform their families,” Maas said.

Maas laid a wreath a wreath at the site of the crash and held a minute of silence alongside his Portuguese counterpart.

After visiting the injured at a hospital in Funchal, Madeira’s capital city, Maas said an airplane would be made available to take the injured back to Germany.

A hospital spokesman told reporters on Friday they were working with medical staff from Germany to determine when the patients would be well enough to be flown home.

The spokesman said 16 of the 27 injured remained in hospital and 11 people had already been discharged.

Two of the injured were Portuguese and the rest were German, a hospital spokesman added.

Bus owner Sociedade de Automoveis da Madeir said it was cooperating with the authorities investigating the crash.

“It is our will and deep commitment to determine all the facts, causes and responsibilities of the accident,” Portugal’s Lusa news agency quoted its statement as saying.

(Reporting and writing by Catarina Demony in Lisbon; Additional reporting by Thomas Escritt and Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

An Egyptian man walks in front of a school used as a polling station covered from outside by Egyptian flags, during the preparations for the upcoming referendum on constitutional amendments in Cairo
An Egyptian man walks in front of a school used as a polling station covered from outside by Egyptian flags, during the preparations for the upcoming referendum on constitutional amendments in Cairo, Egypt April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

April 19, 2019

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt holds a three-day referendum from Saturday on constitutional amendments that could allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stay in office until 2030.

Parliament this week overwhelmingly approved the proposals, which would also bolster the role of the military and expand the president’s power over judicial appointments.

Supporters argue that Sisi has stabilized Egypt and needs more time to complete crucial economic reforms. Critics say they fear that the changes will further limit the space for dissent after a wide-ranging security crackdown.

WHAT ARE THE KEY CHANGES?

An amendment to Article 140 of the constitution extends the presidential term to six years from four. An outright bar on any president serving more than two terms will change to a bar on serving more than two consecutive terms.

An additional clause extends Sisi’s current term to six years from four currently since his election victory in 2018, and allows him to run for a third term in 2024.

The amendments provide for the creation of a second parliamentary chamber known as the Council of Senators. It would have 180 members, two-thirds elected by the public and the rest appointed by the president.

Article 200 of the constitution on the role of the military is expanded, giving the military a duty to protect “the constitution and democracy and the fundamental make-up of the country and its civil nature, the gains of the people and the rights and freedoms of individuals”.

The amendments also create the post of vice president, allowing the president to appoint one or more deputies. They task the president with choosing head judges and the public prosecutor from a pool of senior candidates pre-selected by the judiciary.

They further create a quota setting women’s representation in parliament at a minimum of 25 percent.

WHO IS BEHIND THE AMENDMENTS?

The amendments were initiated by the pro-government parliamentary bloc known as Support Egypt, and according to the parliament’s legislative committee report, 155 members submitted the initial proposal.

On Tuesday, 531 out of 596 members of Egypt’s overwhelmingly pro-Sisi parliament voted in favor of the changes.

Parliament speaker Ali Abdelaal has said that the amendments were a parliamentary initiative and that Sisi may not even choose to run again.

“This suggestion came from the representatives of the people in gratitude for the historic role played by the president,” the legislative committee report said.

Proponents of the changes have argued that Sisi, a former army chief, came to power with a huge mandate after mass protests in 2013 against Islamist President Mohamed Mursi’s one year in office. With macro economic indicators improving, they say Sisi deserves more time to build on reforms.

The legislative committee report said religious, academic, political and civil society representatives expressed strong overall support for the changes during a consultation period ahead of the parliament’s final vote.

WHAT DO OPPONENTS SAY?

The legislative committee acknowledged some opposition to the amendments from members of the judiciary and two non-governmental organizations.

Just 22 members of parliament voted against the amendments.

They and other opposition figures say a central promise of the 2011 uprising that toppled then-President Hosni Mubarak is at risk: the principle of the peaceful transfer of power.

They say the amendments were driven by Sisi and his close entourage, and by the powerful security and intelligence agencies.

They also fear the changes thrust the armed forces into political life by formally assigning them a role in protecting democracy.

“If you want your children and grandchildren to live in a modern democratic country with peaceful transition of power, I do not think this is the amendment we would want,” one of the opposition MPs, Haitham el-Hariri, told parliament this week.

While Abdelaal said a wide range of views were given a hearing during the consultation period, opposition figures and activists say genuine debate on the amendments was impossible due to a far-reaching crackdown on political dissent.

Egyptian officials deny silencing dissent and say that Egyptians from all walks of life were given a chance to debate the amendments, adding that all views were factored into the final proposals.

Abdelaal also denied that the amendments prescribe a new role for the military. He told parliament that the armed forces are the backbone of the country and Egypt is “neither a military or a religious state,” state-run Al Ahram newspaper said.

“This is part of (Sisi’s) consolidation of power,” said Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent U.S.-based think-tank. “From an institutional perspective, Egypt’s counter-revolution is largely complete.”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Egyptians abroad start voting on Friday, while the vote inside Egypt begins on Saturday, meaning Egyptians have less than four days to read and discuss the changes following their approval by parliament.

Election commissioner Lasheen Ibrahim, who announced the dates of the referendum on Wednesday, did not say when the votes will be counted or the results announced.

More than a week before parliament’s final vote, posters and banners sprung up across the capital Cairo urging people to “do the right thing” and participate, some calling directly for a “yes” vote.

(Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

Environmental activists block the entrance of the French bank Societe Generale headquarters during a
Environmental activists block the entrance of the French bank Societe Generale headquarters during a “civil disobedience action” to urge world leaders to act against climate change, in La Defense near Paris, France, April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

April 19, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – Climate activists blocked hundreds of employees from entering the headquarters of French bank Societe Generale, state-run utility EDF and oil giant Total on Friday, environmental group Greenpeace said.

Greenpeace said it was protesting against the companies links to the oil and gas industry, which the group says is a driving force in global warming.

They plastered giant posters of President Emmanuel Macron carrying the slogan “Macron, President of Polluters” and a banner reading “Scene of Climate Crime” on the glass facade of Societe Generale, Reuters TV images showed.

Police pepper-sprayed one group blocking the bank’s main entrance in a sit-down protest.

Some protesters taped themselves together while others cuffed themselves with plastic ties to metal poles to make it harder for police to dislodge them.

Employees in business suits milled around outside their offices. “I just want to get inside and on with my work,” one frustrated bank employee said.

A Societe Generale spokesman declined to comment. An EDF spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

The protest came as Total chief executive Patrick Pouyanne, chief executive of Angola’s state oil company Sonangol, and the chairman of the Libya National Oil Corporation were due to attend an annual oil summit in Paris.

Greenpeace and action group Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth) have previously criticized Societe Generale for their financial role in oil and gas projects, in particular the Rio Grande LNG gas project in the United States.

Friday’s protest echoed a series by the Extinction Rebellion group of climate-change campaigners in London this week that have caused transport snarl-ups in the British capital.

Teenage protesters staged an emotional protest, weeping and singing, at political inaction on climate change near London’s Heathrow Airport on Friday.

(Reporting by Antony Paone and Inti Landauro; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN


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