Day: April 5, 2019

Ex-spy Valerie Plame eyes run for Congress

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former CIA operative, author and activist Valerie Plame said Friday she is considering a 2020 run for an open U.S. congressional seat in New Mexico.

Plame told The Associated Press she is spending time with residents and will make a decision soon. The seat is currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Rey Lujan, who is stepping down to run for U.S. Senate.

“Right now, I am going around and meeting with people,” said Plame, a Democrat. “I have a lot to learn and I would like another opportunity to serve my country.”

Plame became a national figure after her identity as a CIA operative was leaked by an official in President George W. Bush’s administration in 2003 in an effort to discredit her then-husband Joe Wilson.

Wilson is a former diplomat who criticized Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. Plame left the agency in 2005.

Plame says she’d be honoured to represent the sprawling district, which covers all of northern New Mexico, parts of the Navajo Nation and a large portion of state’s east side.

She would face several Democratic contenders if she decides to run. State Rep. Joseph Sanchez and businessman Mark McDonald have already announced they are candidates and Santa Fe District Attorney Marco Serna is considering a bid.

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former top aide to Vice-President Dick Cheney, however, was convicted of lying to investigators and obstruction of justice following the 2003 leak. President Donald Trump issued a full pardon to Libby last year.

In 2017, the Wilsons launched an unsuccessful crowdfunding effort to buy Twitter so Trump couldn’t use it. At the time, Plame said if she didn’t get enough to purchase a majority of shares, she would explore options to buy “a significant stake” and champion the proposal at Twitter’s annual shareholder meeting. Plame and Wilson divorced later that year.

Plame is the author of the memoir “Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House.”

The book was made into a 2010 movie starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts.

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Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras

Russell Contreras, The Associated Press

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source https://toronto.citynews.ca/2019/04/05/ex-spy-valerie-plame-eyes-run-for-congress/

By The Wall of Law April 5, 2019 Off

040519-Britain_Brexit

040519-Britain_Brexit

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday sought to delay Brexit until June 30 to avoid a chaotic withdrawal from the European Union in one week, but a key leader of the bloc suggested an even longer pause in the difficult divorce proceedings.

The question over timing is vital because Britain is set to leave the EU without a withdrawal deal in place on April 12 unless an agreement is reached at a Brussels summit set to take place two days earlier.

In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, May asked for an extension until June 30 and agreed to make contingency plans to take part in European Parliament elections on May 23-26 if necessary.

Tusk proposed a longer time frame. He urged the 27 remaining EU nations to offer the U.K. a flexible extension of up to a year to make sure the nation doesn’t leave the bloc in a chaotic way that could undermine commerce.

Two EU officials said Tusk wants a one-year period, which has been dubbed a “flextension,” and hopes to get it approved at the EU summit on April 10. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose information before it was made public.

Such a move would mean that the U.K. would need to take part in the elections to the European Parliament, something the U.K. prime minister has long argued would not be in either side’s interest.

The elections pose a substantial stumbling block because Britain would be expected to take part, if it is still an EU member, so its people have representation in the European Parliament. Officials worry that the legitimacy of European institutions could be jeopardized if the population of a member state is not involved in the process.

Any extension to the deadline will need unanimous approval from the rest of the EU. French President Emmanuel Macron has thus far seemed cautious about giving Britain more time, saying the bloc cannot be held hostage by Britain’s political deadlock over Brexit.

There are also concerns in Europe that some British politicians who want to provoke a “no-deal” Brexit might try to make trouble from inside the bloc, a course that outspoken Brexit advocate Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested Friday.

He tweeted that “if a long extension leaves us stuck in the EU, we should be as difficult as possible.”

The Conservative Party lawmaker suggested using Britain’s positon to veto any EU budget increases, block the establishment of an EU army, and make it impossible for Macron to push further EU integration.

Brexit backer Nigel Farage, who has long ridiculed Europe’s institutions, also said he would campaign in European Parliament elections.

If any EU nation refuses to back an extension, Britain will be expected to leave as scheduled on April 12.

There are concerns that such an abrupt exit without a deal could lead to economic slowdown and a breakdown in food and medical supplies as border checks and tariffs are added overnight. Massive traffic jams could also be expected on highways leading to major ferry ports.

An earlier British request for a delay until June 30 was rejected, and officials are disappointed May has again sought an extension until that date, said Larissa Brunner, an analyst with European Policy Center.

“The EU has already said ‘no’ once, so I think Theresa May knows that EU is probably not going to grant her that extension,” she said.

She said May could be able to blame the EU for rejecting an extension if Britain leaves the bloc next week without an agreement.

The complex manoeuvring comes as Britain’s Parliament considers legislation designed to prevent such a “no-deal” departure.

Britain’s upper House of Lords is set to resume debate on the measure Monday. It was endorsed earlier by the lower House of Commons by just one vote.

Despite the apparent support in Parliament for a new law to prevent a no-deal exit, the decision is in the hands of the EU, not Britain. It is the first country to try to leave the bloc, and the formal “Article 50” exit procedure has never been tested before.

The Europeans would prefer that Britain not take part in the European Parliament elections if it is going to leave. April 12 is the last day for Britain to signal whether it will field candidates.

May said in her letter that Britain is reluctantly ready to begin preparations for the European elections if no Brexit deal is reached in the interim. She said she is making the preparations even though she believes it is not in the interest of either Britain or the EU for her country to participate because it is leaving the bloc.

May said she “accepts” the EU position that if Britain has not left by May 23, it will have a legal obligation to take part in the voting.

She said she hopes to reach a compromise agreement that could take Britain out of the EU before that.

May’s withdrawal plan, reached with the EU over more than two years of negotiations, has been rejected by the U.K. Parliament three times.

She is now seeking a compromise in a series of talks with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and his deputies, with hopes of winning opposition support for a new divorce deal.

If that doesn’t work, May plans a series of votes in Parliament to see if a majority-backed plan can emerge.

Ideas being discussed include keeping Britain in a customs union with the EU after it leaves the bloc, as well as the possibility of a second referendum. There is fierce opposition from Brexit backers in the Conservative Party to these options.

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source https://canoe.com/news/world/theresa-may-asks-eu-to-delay-brexit-eu-urges-flextension

By The Wall of Law April 5, 2019 Off

040319-SUV_Off_Cliff

040319-SUV_Off_Cliff

SAN FRANCISCO — A special coroner’s jury in California ruled the deaths of two women and their six adopted children was a murder-suicide after hearing testimony that one of the women had searched death by drowning online and the other deliberately stepped on the gas, sending their SUV plunging off a cliff.

Jurors deliberated for about an hour Thursday before returning the unanimous verdicts that Jennifer and Sarah Hart killed themselves on March 26, 2018, in Mendocino County. The jury decided the six children, 12 to 19, died at the hands of another and not by accident.

In this March 27, 2018, file photo provided by the California Highway Patrol a helicopter hovers over steep coastal cliffs near Mendocino, Calif., where a vehicle, visible at lower right, plunged about 100 feet off a cliff along Highway 1, killing all passengers. (California Highway Patrol via AP, File)

Authorities had indicated they believed the crash was deliberate but wanted a jury to make official findings.

A coroner’s inquest is generally used in cases involving in-custody deaths or officer-involved shootings where public interest is high and the need for transparency critical, said Mendocino County sheriff’s Capt. Gregory L. Van Patten.

The deaths drew national attention, partly because the women were alleged to have abused their children. The body of Devonte Hart, 15, who was black and had gained attention when he was photographed in tears while hugging a white police officer during a 2014 protest in Portland, Oregon, has not been recovered.

Jurors were instructed to choose from four manners of death for each of the eight people: natural causes, suicide, accident or an intentional act by another. They sat through nearly two full days of testimony.

“It is my belief that both Jennifer and Sarah succumbed to a lot of pressure,” sheriff’s Lt. Shannon Barney said Thursday. “Just a lot of stuff going on in their lives, to the point where they made this conscious decision to end their lives this way and take their children’s lives.”

The crash happened days after authorities in Washington state opened an investigation into allegations of neglect. The bodies of both women were found in the vehicle, which landed below a cliff located more than 160 miles (250 kilometres) north of San Francisco.

This March 29, 2018, file photo shows ruts cut into the clifftop where the SUV of Jennifer and Sarah Hart that went off the cliff was hauled up and over by a tow truck off the Pacific Coast Highway near Westport, Calif. (AP)

The Hart family had fled their Woodland, Washington, home March 23 after a visit from social workers that day.

Sarah Hart searched suicide, drowning, Benadryl dosages and overdose methods on the internet throughout the drive to California, California Highway Patrol investigator Jake Slates said. She also queried whether death by drowning would be painful. Authorities recovered the deleted searches from her phone.

“They both decided that this was going to be the end,” Slates said. “That if they can’t have their kids that nobody was going to have those kids.”

The bodies of siblings Markis, Jeremiah and Abigail were found the same day near the car. Weeks later, the body of Ciera Hart was pulled from the Pacific Ocean. Hannah Hart was eventually identified through a DNA match.

Slates said that Jennifer Hart, who rarely drank, had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit and may have been “drinking to build up her courage.” Sarah Hart had 42 doses of generic Benadryl in her system and the children also had high amounts of the sleep-inducing drug in their bodies, he said.

A neighbour of the Harts had filed a complaint with the state, saying the children were apparently being deprived of food as punishment. No one answered when social workers went to the family’s home.

A witness who was camping by their vehicle says he heard their car rev up and peal out around 3 a.m. March 26.

Sarah Hart pleaded guilty in 2011 to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota over what she said was a spanking given to one of her children. Oregon child welfare officials also investigated the couple in 2013, but closed the case without taking any action.

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source https://canoe.com/news/crime/family-in-car-that-fell-off-cliff-died-by-murder-suicide-jury

By The Wall of Law April 5, 2019 Off

Montenegrin president to EU: don’t hand us over to Russia

PODGORICA, Montenegro — The pro-Western president of Montenegro, who has defied Russia to steer his small country into NATO, has warned that the integration of the Western Balkans into the European Union is crucial for the bloc to protect itself from growing Russian and Chinese political and economic influence in the region.

Milo Djukanovic told The Associated Press in an interview that Britain’s chaotic divorce from the EU and other crises in the bloc have apparently diminished the union’s enthusiasm to accept new members, but that Europe must not hand over the strategic region to other global players.

Djukanovic says: “The question is not whether Russia, China or a third country have their interests in the Balkans. The question is why Europe is handing over that region to anyone else.”

The Associated Press

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source https://toronto.citynews.ca/2019/04/05/montenegrin-president-to-eu-dont-hand-us-over-to-russia/

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The Latest: Brexit: UK makes plans for European elections

LONDON — The Latest on Brexit (all times local):

9:25 a.m.

Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain will make contingency plans to take part in European Parliament elections in May if no Brexit deal is reached in the interim.

She said in her letter Friday to the EU that she is making these preparations even though she believes it’s not in Britain’s interest or the European Union’s interest for Britain to take part in the elections because it is a departing member state.

May says she “accepts” the EU position that if Britain hasn’t left the 28-nation bloc by May 23, it will have a legal obligation to take part in the elections.

The prime minister says she is still hopeful of reaching a compromise agreement that could take Britain out of the EU before that time.

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9:20 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is requesting that the deadline for her country to leave the European Union be extended until June 30.

In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk Friday, May said that “the United Kingdom proposes that this period should end on 30 June, 2019.”

EU leaders agreed late last month to prolong the Brexit date from March 29 until April 12, unless May could push their mutually agreed divorce deal through Parliament.

The Europeans would prefer that Britain don’t take part in the May 23-26 EU elections if it is going to leave. April 12 is the last day for Britain to signal whether it will field candidates.

The Associated Press

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source https://toronto.citynews.ca/2019/04/05/the-latest-brexit-uk-makes-plans-for-european-elections/

By The Wall of Law April 5, 2019 Off