FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban leaves the stage after delivering his annual state of the nation speech in Budapest, Hungary, February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
March 19, 2019
By Thomas Escritt and Marton Dunai
BRUSSELS/BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will attend a meeting of conservative officials from across Europe that may decide whether his party will stay in the main EU center-right political group where he has been accused of authoritarianism.
Wednesday’s meeting of delegates from the European People’s Party could be the denouement of a years-long dispute between the populist, anti-immigration Orban and more mainstream, pro-EU parties in the EPP that accuse him of flouting the rule of law.
Thirteen member parties called for a vote on the Fidesz party’s continuing membership after it distributed posters depicting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, an EPP member, as a puppet manipulated by billionaire George Soros into backing uncontrolled immigration into Hungary.
The stakes are high for both sides. Losing Fidesz’s legislators – currently there are 12 – could cost the center-right group its position as largest party in the European Parliament after May’s elections. Worse, other parties might follow.
But for Orban, being in a group containing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and venerable government parties from the Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavia gives him access to the continent’s power brokers and confers a mainstream respectability that other populists lack.
The CDU has gone to great lengths to preserve relations with Fidesz, even as rights groups accused him of stoking ethnic hatred with anti-migration campaigns, and interfering with judicial independence.
But the posters, and Orban’s campaign against the private Central European University in Budapest that Soros founded, could have pushed things too far.
There are signs that the calculus is shifting for Orban as well: Hungary’s pro-government press have called for Fidesz to quit the EPP rather than endure “humiliating” negotiations.
“All the signals that are coming from Budapest suggest they are targeting a break,” said Andreas Nick, the CDU’s point-man on relations with Hungary in Germany’s parliament. “It looks as if they are really begging to be kicked out.”
Nick has described a meeting with a Fidesz official who asked him whether he “also got money from George Soros” after he had had expressed support the Central European University . “I showed him the door,” he said.
Orban has talked of shifting the EPP to the right. If that fails, he has suggested Fidesz could form an alliance with Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS).
It is also possible that the 260 delegates could hedge their decision, for example by suspending, but not expelling, Fidesz.
The challenge is most serious for Manfred Weber, a German ally of Merkel’s who is the conservative bloc’s lead candidate in the European Parliament elections and a possible successor to Juncker as European Commission chief – an ambition that could depend on whether he can keep Fidesz on side.
But unsuccessful attempts at mediation could undermine his authority and are a gift to other parties that accuse the EPP of being soft on what they call fundamental European values such as democracy and the rule of law.
“Viktor Orban has undermined freedom of the press in Hungary, forced a university to close and harassed NGOs,” said Ska Keller, the Greens leader in the European Parliament.
“Manfred Weber cannot be trusted as a candidate for the EU’s top job if he continues to defend Orban.”
(Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
Doug Schoen, pollster and Democratic strategist, blasted President Donald Trump's approach to foreign policy and said it projects an image of the U.S. abdicating its role as "democracy's standard-bearer."
Schoen made his comments in a column posted by Fox News website Tuesday.
Schoen referred to former Vice President Dick Cheney recently pressing Vice President Mike Pence about Trump's foreign policy during a closed-door event.
"Despite often opposing Vice President Cheney, I largely agree with him that the Trump administration's foreign policy lacks direction and discipline," he said.
"I remain concerned that President Trump's nationalistic, isolationist 'America First' approach to foreign policy projects an image of the United States as abdicating our role on the world stage as democracy's standard-bearer."
Schoen claimed many of the "more reasoned voices" on Trump's national security team have left, notably former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
"While I may not have wholeheartedly agreed with Secretary Mattis on everything, we share an understanding of the role that the United States should play on the world stage: the role of a global leader who champions democracy and stands up for our allies," he said.
And Schoen said Trump's lack of foreign policy direction has been particularly troubling.
"For America to truly succeed, we must renew our commitment to global leadership in a way that is informed by an idealistic, moral, yet also practical outlook toward the international community," he said.
Source: NewsMax Politics
Jockeys, most of whom are children, compete on their mounts during the 18th International Camel Racing festival at the Sarabium desert in Ismailia, Egypt, March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
March 19, 2019
By Amr Dalsh
ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) – Remote-controlled robot jockeys lined up at a major camel racing festival in northeastern Egypt, as owners came under pressure from campaigns to stop using child riders.
Organizers fielded around 20 robots – child-sized devices with a whipping arm that can be triggered at a distance – alongside dozens of real children as part of a trial run.
“God willing, in a year, there will be no human jockeys, except for some adults for the sake of tradition,” said Eid Hamdan Hassan, head of the Egyptian Camel Federation, which organized the festival in the Sarabium desert of Ismailia.
Several Gulf countries have banned child jockeys from the traditional Bedouin sport after rights groups said the youngsters were often injured and some had been abducted or sold by their families.
Owners at last week’s Egyptian event said the bans had prevented them from fielding teams in Gulf festivals – and they hoped the move to robots would help them get in.
Esam el-Din Atiyah, president of the African Camel Racing Federation, which includes Egypt, acknowledged that child riders were sometimes injured. “Human rights organizations have said that this is child exploitation,” he said.
He personally wanted Egypt to move to robot-only events, but the transition was costly and would take time, he added.
Young jockeys at the event – local children mostly aged 6-13 – defended the tradition and their participation.
Sayed Mohamed, 11, said children were better than robots at steering.
“The camel might lean sideways. We (the children) are better at riding leaning camels so that we can straighten its route.
“The robot works well with camels that don’t tend to lean.”
Around 150 camels competed in eight categories over distances from five to 15 km, cheered on by more than 1,000 spectators.
Local tribes prepare their best camels with a special diet of beans, barley, date paste and milk.
Victory raises a camel’s value. “When a camel wins, you sell it for a good price – from 150,000 to 200,000 Egyptian pounds($8,700-$11,600),” said camel owner Mohamed Mostafa. “The camel that doesn’t win is sold for only 10,000.”
(Additional reporting by Lena Masri; writing by Aidan Lewis and Lena Masri; editing by Andrew Heavens)
Oyub Titiev, the head of human rights group Memorial in Chechnya, attends his verdict hearing at a court in the town of Shali, in Chechnya, Russia, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Said Tsarnayev
March 19, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt condemned the sentence handed out to a prominent human rights activist by a court in Chechnya, calling it “an awful example of Russia suppressing vital work of human rights defenders”.
Oyub Titiev, who runs the office of the Memorial Human Rights Center in the southern Russian region, was sentenced to four years in a penal settlement on Monday after he was found guilty of possessing illegal drugs. His supporters say he was framed, with the drugs planted in his car.
Hunt wrote on Twitter on Tuesday: “Fabricated charges & absurd sentence imposed on Oyub Titiev are intended to silence his work in holding Russian govt to account for human rights abuses in Chechnya – they must #FreeTitiev.”
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)
FILE PHOTO: U.S. and European Union flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
March 19, 2019
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said on Tuesday that Washington’s “selfish” approach to trade was not sustainable, but it was too early to say that EU-U.S. trade talks were doomed to fail.
The Trump administration has imposed stiff tariffs on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum and set off a trade war with China in a bid to redress what it sees as unfavorable terms that contribute to a U.S. trade deficit of over half a trillion dollars a year.
The Commission, which negotiates trade agreements on behalf of the 28-nation European Union, has been in talks with U.S. authorities since last July, seeking to clinch a deal on industrial goods trade.
EU governments are now discussing the details of a negotiating mandate for the Commission, while Washington has until mid-May to decide whether to make good on President Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on imports of European cars.
“It is too early to say that our trade discussions are doomed to fail,” Katainen told a regular news briefing.
“There are discussions going on on several levels and … we can end up having some sort of an agreement with the U.S. on trade, but let’s not go deeper than this,” he said, adding that the scope of negotiations had to be clear and that a deal would require a lot of good will and political capital on both sides.
Asked about a reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Katainen said it was problematic and that attempts to get it done were like pushing a rope.
“Japan, China and the EU are willing to reform the WTO, the U.S. has not been that interested, but they are willing to cooperate,” he said.
“Even though the U.S. authorities may think that selfishness is better than cooperation, it is not a sustainable way of thinking. We need better, rules-based trade in the future where the international community sets the rules,” he said.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress last week that the WTO was using an “out of date” playbook despite dramatic changes including the rise of China and the evolution of the internet.
He said Washington was nonetheless working “diligently” to negotiate new WTO rules to address these problems.
(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
Honduran migrant Ariel, 19, who is waiting for his court hearing for asylum seekers returned to Mexico to wait out their legal proceedings under a new policy change by the U.S. government, is pictured after an interview with Reuters in Tijuana, Mexico March 18, 2019. Picture taken March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
March 19, 2019
By Lizbeth Diaz and Mica Rosenberg
TIJUANA/NEW YORK (Reuters) – A group of asylum seekers sent back to Mexico was set to cross the border on Tuesday for their first hearings in U.S. immigration court in an early test of a controversial new policy from the Trump administration.
The U.S. program, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), turns people seeking protection in the United States around to wait out their U.S. court proceedings in Mexican border towns. Some 240 people – including families – have been returned since late January, according to U.S. officials.
Court officials in San Diego referred questions about the number of hearings being held on Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which did not respond to a request for comment. But attorneys representing a handful of clients were preparing to appear in court.
Migrants like 19-year-old Ariel, who said he left Honduras because of gang death threats against himself and his family, were preparing to line up at the San Ysidro port of entry first thing Tuesday morning.
Ariel, who asked to use only his middle name because of fears of reprisals in his home country, was among the first group of asylum-seeking migrants sent back to Mexico on Jan. 30 and given a notice to appear in U.S. court in San Diego.
“God willing everything will move ahead and I will be able to prove that if I am sent back to Honduras, I’ll be killed,” Ariel said.
While awaiting his U.S. hearing, Ariel said he was unable to get a legal work permit in Mexico but found a job as a restaurant busboy in Tijuana, which does not pay him enough to move out of a shelter.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other advocacy groups are suing in federal court to halt the MPP program, which is part of a series of measures the administration of President Donald Trump has taken to try to curb the flow of mostly Central American migrants trying to enter the United States.
The Trump administration says most asylum claims, especially for Central Americans, are ultimately rejected, but because of crushing immigration court backlogs people are often released pending resolution of their cases and live in the United States for years. The government has said the new program is aimed at ending “the exploitation of our generous immigration laws.”
Critics of the program say it violates U.S. law and international norms since migrants are sent back to often dangerous towns in Mexico in precarious living situations where it is difficult to get notice about changes to U.S. court dates and to find legal help.
Immigration advocates are closely watching how the proceedings will be carried out this week, especially after scheduling glitches created confusion around three hearings last week, according to a report in the San Diego Union Tribune.
The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which runs U.S. immigration courts under the Department of Justice, said only that it uses its regular court scheduling system for the MPP hearings and did not respond to a question about the reported scheduling problems.
Gregory Chen, director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said there are real concerns about the difficulties of carrying out this major shift in U.S. immigration policy.
“The government did not have its shoes tied when they introduced this program,” he said.
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Tijuana and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Editing by Bill Trott)
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., is urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Facebook for violating antitrust laws.
Cicilline’s comments came in a column posted by The New York Times on Tuesday.
“A year ago, the world learned that Facebook allowed a political consulting company called Cambridge Analytica to exploit the personal information of up to 87 million users, to obtain data that would help the company’s clients “fight a culture war” in America,” he said.
“Since then, a torrent of reports has revealed that the Cambridge Analytica scandal was part of a much broader pattern of misconduct by Facebook.”
And, he claimed Facebook also has “engaged in campaigns to obstruct congressional oversight to smear and discredit critics.”
Cicilline noted that after each incident becomes public, Facebook alternates between “denial, hollow promises and apology campaigns.”
But he maintained nothing seems to change.
“That’s why, as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, I am calling for an investigation into whether Facebook’s conduct has violated antitrust laws” he said.
Cicilline maintained reports also indicate a “disturbing pattern of anticompetitive conduct” on the part of Facebook.
And he said how the FTC responds to “repeated abuses” by Facebook will determine whether it is willing to protect consumers.
“It’s clear that serious enforcement is long overdue,” he said.
Source: NewsMax Politics