Day: February 21, 2020

A ‘final attempt’ to save Confederation

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When Andrew Scheer urged Justin Trudeau this week to “direct the RCMP” to end blockades strangling the nation’s railways, Trudeau and his public safety minister, Bill Blair, said they would not interfere in police operations. Indeed, the Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that police independence “underpins the rule of law.”

Yesterday, the RCMP—without being ordered—offered to pull up its stakes from Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia. Trudeau, calling the blockades “unacceptable,” also met with his cabinet on the way forward. His two Indigenous affairs ministers, Marc Miller and Carolyn Bennett, have pledged to meet Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs “at a moment’s notice.” Trudeau also briefed the premiers over the phone, as they’d requested a day earlier.

Still, the crucial Tyenindaga blockade remains in place. MPs debated a Conservative motion that condemned “radical activists” who are “holding the Canadian economy hostage”—and called on the House to stand in solidarity with elected band councils along the Coastal GasLink route that support the pipeline. A vote on the motion was deferred until Monday. Will the blockades have come down by then?

Will Justin Trudeau sleep while Canada’s beds are burning? As rail disruptions have dragged on, Andrew MacDougall writes in Maclean’s, it’s become clearer that Trudeau’s desire to cheer on reconciliation, economic prosperity and rule of law is increasingly untenable. He has to make tough choices, but not impossible ones:

You want an off ramp? Start by separating the issues out instead of lumping them together. Draw clear lines. Enforce the law while setting up whatever safe space you need to have the dialogue most Canadians thought was already hard-wired into the law. Most importantly, explain to the protesters that civil disobedience has historically resulted in consequences. Indeed, that’s the bloody point of civil disobedience: get locked up to demonstrate the horribleness of the system. Divorced of consequence civil disobedience is anarchy, tarted-up.

So, what’s on the PM’s agenda today? Last night, word came that Trudeau would convene his Incident Response Group. On the agenda: “the current blockades, support for families of victims of the Ukraine International Airlines tragedy in Iran and the coronavirus situation.” In other words, every crisis that has seized the government’s agenda so far in 2020.

The Buffalo Declaration: Four Conservative MPs have drawn a line in the sand on Alberta’s place in Canada. Michelle Rempel Garner, Blake Richards, Glen Motz and Arnold Viersen co-signed a declaration that calls on the federal government to fundamentally alter the western province’s power in Ottawa. They say eastern elites have treated Alberta as a “colony.” On Twitter, Rempel Garner positioned the bold plan as a “final attempt to make us an equal partner in Confederation.” The alternative, made explicit in the declaration, is that “a referendum on Alberta’s independence is an inevitability.”

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan is in St. John’s today, where he’ll announce funding from the Ocean Supercluster at Memorial University. Recall the billion-dollar “innovation superclusters” initiative that Liberals launched with much fanfare and high hopes in 2017, intending to create 50,000 jobs over 10 years—but, according to internal documents first obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter, didn’t create a single job in 2018.

Foreign ministers from the anti-Maduro Lima Group emerged from a meeting in Gatineau, Que., with a message to the world: “Join us in supporting a democratic future for Venezuela,” reads a statement. “The world needs to come together to stop the human tragedy in Venezuela.” The ministers said they’re now launching an “intensive period of outreach” to like-minded nations.

“I want to give a shout-out to the NDP”: That’s a direct quote yesterday from Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who praised the New Democrats for agreeing to fast-track the new-NAFTA bill in exchange for increased transparency during future trade negotiations. Freeland said the NDP showed “political maturity” and “understand the value” of economic certainty. Someone tell the John Turner and Ed Broadbent of yore that their two parties would lay down their swords on free trade.

Half-mast versus half-staff? Our friends at the Senate have come to the rescue. They’ve settled Canada’s most pedantic grammatical debate, period, full stop. Every so often, “half-staff” sneaks into common usage to describe a flag only halfway up the pole. But as the upper chamber reminds us, only “half-mast” is officially a thing in Canada. Half-staff is more of a Yankee tradition. And now you know.

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By The Wall of Law February 21, 2020 Off

Award-winning Ont. track coach fired for ‘reckless’ social media comments

Steve Boyd compared University of Guelph track and field athletes to the experience faced by prisoners of war who conspire with their captors in social-media posts earlier this month.

He also suggested in an interview Thursday that two-time Olympic marathoner Reid Coolsaet and others might have turned a blind eye to alleged abuse they could have witnessed at Guelph.

Boyd, the reigning national university women’s cross-country coach of the year, was fired by Queen’s University on Wednesday after engaging in a lengthy Facebook thread about the Dave Scott-Thomas coaching scandal that has rocked Canada’s track and field community.

“Mr. Boyd’s comments follow a pattern of objectionable social media commentary spanning several years, about which he had previously been formally cautioned,” Prof. Tom Harris, Queen’s interim provost, said in a statement Thursday. “Mr. Boyd failed to heed repeated warnings from the administration to stop his reckless social media activities.”

“Queen’s University fully supports Canada’s Safe Sport actions to prevent abuse, harassment and bullying. The university had no choice but to take assertive action in this instance to make it clear that Mr. Boyd’s berating and victim-blaming comments do not reflect the values of the university and we certainly do not condone them.”

Former middle-distance runner Megan Brown came forward in an explosive Globe and Mail story earlier this month alleging that Scott-Thomas groomed her for a sexual relationship when she was 17. Scott-Thomas, who earned U Sports coach of the year 35 times in cross-country and track and field, was fired in December for a recent complaint of unprofessional conduct. The university said in January that new information revealed that he should have been fired in 2006 after a complaint received from a family member of a student athlete (Brown).

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

“In spite of the difficulties you and others claimed he created, and that you had to endure, many of you enjoyed the personal benefits of winning, and actively sought to enlist others to come and help you continue to win, all the while potentially exposing unwitting athletes to the abuse some of you were suffering,” Boyd said, in reply to a Facebook post by former Guelph runner Robyn Mildren a couple of days after the Globe and Mail’s story. “Recruiting is, after all, a team undertaking, and recruiting is crucial to winning. What, if any, responsibility do Guelph athletes have where that is concerned?”

In two more of his 27 comments on the Facebook thread, Boyd said, “Like the abused spouse who hides her partner’s abuse against the kids, the behaviour of Guelph athletes who either said nothing or who actively recruited high schoolers with the knowledge that they too might end up being abused is understandable in many ways, it still does play a role in continuing the abusive situation. To the extent that they too received a good (winning) they are also culpable … Another dramatic way of looking at it is: Everyone in a prison camp is a victim, but they are also collaborators.”

In a telephone interview, Boyd also suggested Guelph vacate its U Sports titles won under Scott-Thomas.

“It would be symbolic,” he told The Canadian Press on Thursday. “It would be giving back the thing of value that Guelph protected Dave in order to have. So I just thought there’s something eloquent about that because it’s Guelph on the title, and if they covered up for this guy, which they clearly did, they did it because they wanted that thing of value.

“So I thought it would be profoundly symbolic for them have to return that basically, and for all of time have those titles empty.”

Boyd, who had coached at the university in Kingston, Ont., since 2010, said before posting his thoughts on Facebook, he’d received a warning from the school’s athletic director Leslie Dal Cin about speaking publicly on Scott-Thomas.

“My AD, I don’t mind saying this, has a reputation of being a bully, and really just making decisions based on someone defying her,” Boyd said. “She said, ‘Don’t talk to the media, don’t post on Trackie (a message board).’ So I didn’t do that. But then I did get an invitation basically on Facebook to reply to a post. I did that and she said, ‘Well, you should have known that counts too.’

“And then I have an email in which she says, ‘You can’t say anything to anyone in any form, whatsoever about this story.’ And forever. And I said, ‘Well, this is going to be going on for years and it’s the biggest story in our sport and I’m a senior person in the sport . . . I was told I would never ever be able to speak on this issue on pain of firing.”

Queen’s officials didn’t reply to requests for comment on Thursday.

Prior to the Facebook thread, Boyd had been outspoken about Guelph’s handling of the Scott-Thomas case on Trackie.ca, a Canadian track and field website with a message board. As of Thursday, Boyd had posted 2,641 times about various topics since joining the forum in 2013.

Boyd, a former national team athlete and founder of the Physi-Kult running group, said Mildren’s Facebook post made him think that former Guelph athletes were “ready to have a discussion” around Scott-Thomas.

“But what happened was that Reid being the alphadog basically accused me of self-interest and that basically signalled for the rest of the pack to attack,” Boyd said.

Coolsaet — who avoids the Trackie.ca messageboard, calling it a “vile place” — said Boyd’s Facebook comments made to Guelph athletes were insensitive and had poor timing. He called Boyd an “online bully.”

The 40-year-old Coolsaet, a two-time Olympian in the marathon, was stung by suggestions he knew of any alleged abuse by Scott-Thomas, his former longtime coach. He said he reached out to Brown when he heard about the allegations in December.

“If I read that (Globe and Mail) story from an outsider’s perspective, like, how did I not see something?” Coolsaet said. “But I think it was just so hidden. Dave’s wife didn’t know.

“Some people say, ‘Oh, it was different time.’ But no, that relationship in the early 2000s, everyone would have known if that was happening, that it was wrong. And that you’re gonna get fired, for sure.”

Boyd, who coached Coolsaet’s wife Marie Soehl at Queen’s, said Thursday he was “not sure” whether Coolsaet witnessed any alleged abuse.

“But he has no credibility on it because he worked so closely with Dave. He would have spent more time with Dave at that time and after than anybody else, so he would have seen how much time for instance Dave was spending with Megan. So I don’t know . . . but what I would say is he has no credibility to talk about this or about being shocked, or any of that, because he also would have seen the 13 years of abuse,” Boyd said in reference to a toxic environment, as reported by The Globe, particularly experienced by female athletes.

“He was there every day, training around the team. So I don’t know what he knew or didn’t know. But what I what I am prepared to defend is that he has no credibility to talk about this. He said nothing.”

Both Coolsaet and Boyd had heard rumours around Megan Brown before the former high school phenom went public, stories of a “crazy girl” who’d made up a story about a sexual relationship with Scott-Thomas.

“The narrative that Dave told us back in the day was basically like, ‘Here’s a girl who needs attention from her father. So she said this story, her mother passed away her father found a new girlfriend. ‘And she said this story to her father.’ But it’s not true. If it was true, she would have told the university,”‘ Coolsaet said. “And at the time we were like ‘Yeah, it makes sense.’ And it seemed so far-fetched and so out of Dave’s character.”

Boyd said he heard the rumours from Guelph assistant coach Chris Moulton over beers, but didn’t believe it until speaking to another female athlete a year later.

The argument between Coolsaet and Boyd spilled into their direct messages after the marathoner tried to call the coach. Boyd didn’t answer.

“I just basically said (via DM), ‘Take some (expletive) responsibility for yourself. . . I think he just has a guilty conscience,” Boyd said.

Athletics Canada’s commissioners office is conducting its own investigation on Scott-Thomas, who coached 16 national teams.

Attempts to reach Scott-Thomas have been unsuccessful.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2020.

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By The Wall of Law February 21, 2020 Off

Mexico scientist accused as Russian spy due for bail hearing

MIAMI — A bail hearing is set Friday for a Mexican scientist accused of spying for Russia in Miami.

An FBI affidavit said a Russian government official tasked Hector Cabrera Fuentes, 35, with tracking down a vehicle owned by a U.S. government informant.

The FBI says Cabrera and his Mexican wife did this on Valentine’s Day in an event captured by surveillance video at a Miami-area condominium complex. They attracted the notice of security by driving directly behind another car through a gate.

It’s not clear exactly why the Russians wanted this done, but the affidavit says the informant had previously provided information about Russian intelligence operations and implications for U.S. national security.

Cabrera was detained Sunday while attempting to leave the U.S. at Miami International Airport and subsequently gave a statement to the FBI. Cabrera is listed as an associate professor at the medical school jointly run by Duke University and the National University of Singapore, and was working in Singapore.

According to Cabrera’s statement, he has two wives — the Mexican one and a Russian one. The Russian woman and her two daughters were living in Germany but returned to Moscow last spring to attend to some administrative matters. Then, the Russian government wouldn’t let them leave, the affidavit said.

That prompted Cabrera to visit Moscow and his family in May 2019, where he was approached by a Russian official who he had met previously at professional events and exchanges. Cabrera told the FBI he believed the official was an intelligence officer.

It’s common for intelligence agents to insulate themselves by recruiting other people to carry out various tasks. Rarely does the recruit have full knowledge of the entire mission.

The Russian official, according to the affidavit, brought up Cabrera’s family situation in Russia and said, “We can help each other.”

Before Cabrera’s Miami mission to photograph the informant’s license plate, the FBI says the Russian official asked him to rent an apartment in the same complex as the informant but not in his real name. Cabrera paid an associate $20,000 to do so in late 2019, the FBI said.

It’s not clear from the affidavit if anything was done with the apartment.

Cabrera, a microbiologist who has held several prestigious posts, is originally from El Espinal, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

He is charged with acting in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. attorney general and conspiracy to do so. He will at least temporarily be represented by a public defender, but that lawyer hasn’t been named yet.

Curt Anderson, The Associated Press

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source https://toronto.citynews.ca/2020/02/21/mexico-scientist-accused-as-russian-spy-due-for-bail-hearing/

By The Wall of Law February 21, 2020 Off

AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

Intel officials say Russia boosting Trump candidacy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Intelligence officials have warned lawmakers that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election campaign to help President Donald Trump get reelected,three officialsfamiliar with the closed-door briefing said Thursday.

The warning raises questions about the integrity of the presidential campaign and whether Trump’s administration is taking the proper steps to combat the kind of interference that the U.S. saw in 2016.

The officials asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. They said the briefing last week focused on Russia’s efforts to influence the 2020 election and sow discord in the American electorate.

The warning was first reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post. The Times said the news infuriated Trump, who complained that Democrats would use the information against him. Over the course of his presidency, Trump has dismissed the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s 2016 election interference as a conspiracy to undermine his victory.

One day after the Feb. 13 briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Trump berated the then-director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and he announced this week that Maguire would be replaced by Richard Grenell, a Trump loyalist.

___

Trump ally Roger Stone sentenced to over 3 years in prison

WASHINGTON (AP) — Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, was sentenced to more than three years in prison Thursday for obstructing a congressional investigation in a case that has sparked fears about presidential interference in the justice system.

Soon after Judge Amy Berman Jackson pronounced sentence, Trump publicly decried Stone’s conviction as unfair and prominent Republican legislators were giving tacit support for a pardon. But Trump said he wasn’t ready to act just yet.

“I want the process to play out. I think that’s the best thing to do because I would love to see Roger exonerated,” he said. “I’m going to watch the process. I’m going to watch very closely. … At some point I’ll make a determination.”

The case was marked by the Justice Department’s extraordinary about-face on a sentencing recommendation and a very public dispute between Trump and Attorney General William Barr, who said the president was undermining the department’s historical independence and making “it impossible for me to do my job.”

The president responded by asserting that he was the “chief law enforcement officer of the federal government.”

___

Infighting and online hoaxes mar Democrats’ campaign

RINDGE, N.H. (AP) — A group of Los Angeles artists were awaiting the results of the Democratic Party’s Iowa caucuses, hoping Bernie Sanders would win, when they fired off a hashtag on Twitter poking fun at Pete Buttigieg.

By the next morning, the hashtag — #MayorCheat — was trending worldwide.

“That’s so funny that we’re the first people to make this joke,” said Nick Thorburn, a 38-year-old musician.

Not everyone was laughing.

Some on social media capitalized on the trending hashtag to spread misinformation or conspiracy theories about Buttigieg, including claims that he had colluded with the Democratic Party to rig the caucuses. Other accounts accused Russian trolls of promoting the hashtag to divide Democrats.

___

Bloomberg struggles to respond to politics of #MeToo era

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mike Bloomberg’s name last appeared on a ballot a decade before #MeToo transformed cultural mores surrounding sexual harassment and the treatment of women. As he campaigns for the presidency, the 78-year-old billionaire is struggling to adjust.

The former New York City mayor was caught flat-footed during much of Wednesday night’s debate when rival Elizabeth Warren blasted his company’s use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment. She sought to portray such agreements as endemic of a broader culture of sexism at the company, Bloomberg LP, when he was CEO.

Bloomberg’s response was dismissive. He said those who alleged misconduct “didn’t like a joke I told” and argued that non-disclosure agreements were “consensual” deals supported by the women involved.

The response struck some women as out of touch with how the #MeToo movement has reshaped the conversation around sexual harassment in the workplace — and the use of non-disclosure agreements in particular. Employment lawyer Debra Katz, who represented accuser Christine Blasey Ford in her Senate testimony against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, said Bloomberg’s comments “really missed the mark.”

“I think Bloomberg’s comments were tone-deaf,” she said. “In this moment, when we now understand that many NDAs were entered into in coercive manners, it’s incumbent upon companies and especially those (led by people) like Bloomberg, who are public figures, to agree to revisit these issues.”

___

South Korea ups emergency response as viral cases surge

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea reported more virus cases Friday and declared a “special management zone” around a southeastern city where the surging outbreak, largely linked to a church in Daegu, threatens to overwhelm the region’s health system.

In the capital, Seoul, officials banned major downtown rallies and shut down a big park to avoid mass public gatherings where the virus could spread. Workers in protective gear also sprayed disinfectant in the city’s subway.

Health authorities reported 52 new cases of the illness, raising South Korea’s total to 156, most of them since Wednesday. The spike, especially in and around Daegu city, has raised fears the outbreak is getting out of control in the country.

And the first two cases were confirmed in South Korea’s 600,000-member military, a navy sailor and an army officer who had both reportedly visited Daegu recently.

Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun said in a televised statement the central government will concentrate its support to the southeastern region to ease a shortage in sickbeds, medical personnel and equipment.

___

Stress, rumours, even violence: Virus fear goes viral

TOKYO (AP) — You might have heard that the fear of a new virus from China is spreading faster than the actual virus.

From earnest officials trying to calm a building panic. From your spouse. From the know-it-all who rattles off the many much more likely ways you’re going to die: smoking, car accidents, the flu.

None of it seems to matter.

As the number of cases rise — more than 76,000 and counting — fear is advancing like a tsunami. And not just in the areas surrounding the Chinese city of Wuhan, the site of the vast majority of coronavirus infections.

Subway cars in Tokyo and Seoul look more like hospital wards, with armies of masked commuters shooting dirty looks at the slightest cough or sneeze. A restaurant owner in a South Korean Chinatown says visitors have dropped by 90%.

___

German gunman calling for genocide kills 9 people

HANAU, Germany (AP) — A German who shot and killed nine people of foreign background in a rampage that began at a hookah bar frequented by immigrants had posted an online rant calling for the “complete extermination” of many “races or cultures in our midst,” authorities said Thursday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the attack exposed the “poison” of racism in the country.

The gunman, Tobias Rathjen, 43, was found dead at his home along with his mother, and authorities said they were treating the rampage as an act of domestic terrorism.

Turks, ethnic Kurds and people with backgrounds from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Romania were among those killed, according to news reports. Turkey’s ambassador said five of the dead were Turkish citizens. People of Turkish background make up Germany’s single largest minority.

Rathjen opened fire at the hookah bar and a neighbouring cafe in the Frankfurt suburb of Hanau around 10 p.m. Wednesday, killing several people, then travelled about 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) and fired on a car and a sports bar, claiming more victims. In addition to the dead, six people were injured, one seriously, authorities said.

___

Wrestler adds to abuse allegations against university doctor

ANN Arbour, Michigan (AP) — An Olympic wrestler on Thursday accused a University of Michigan doctor of touching him inappropriately during medical exams at the school and said the physician’s reputation for such conduct was well known among his teammates.

Andy Hrovat, who competed for the U.S. in the 2008 Summer Olympics, told The Associated Press that the encounters with the late Dr. Robert E. Anderson happened during his freshman year in 1998.

“I would like to let people know that it’s OK to come out,” Hrovat said in an interview from his attorney’s office in Denver. “It’s OK to let your voice be heard.”

He is the first athlete to make public accusations against Anderson following complaints this week from other former students that the doctor sexually abused them decades ago.

“I was warned about him from teammates, saying, ‘If anything happens and you go see the doctor, he’s going to inappropriately touch you, that’s just what Dr. A does,’” Hrovat recalled.

___

TV analyst? Spokesman? Freed ex-governor goes job hunting

CHICAGO (AP) — Job wanted: Ex-governor and ex-con with strong speaking skills and good hair seeking employment.

Fresh out of prison thanks to a commutation this week from President Donald Trump, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in the hunt for a post-prison career.

“I need to start working and providing for my family,” the 63-year-old told Fox News this week. He didn’t elaborate on the kind of job he is seeking.

Job hunts have gotten Blagojevich in trouble before.

His expletive-laden talk captured on FBI wiretaps about landing a job or campaign cash for naming someone to Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat is part of what led to his multiple corruption convictions.

___

Trump apparently not a fan of ‘Parasite’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is apparently not a fan of “Parasite,” his biggest complaint being that the movie was made in South Korea.

Trump started talking about the Academy Awards during a campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Thursday. Parasite was named best picture, becoming the first non-English-language film to get the top honour.

“What the hell was that all about?” Trump said. “We’ve got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of that, they give them best movie of the year. Was it good? I don’t know.”

Neon, the U.S. distributor for the subtitled film, shot back on Twitter: “Understandable. He can’t read.”

The audience booed when Trump mentioned the Academy Awards and then cheered when he said: “Can we get like ‘’Gone with the Wind’ back please? ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ so many great movies.”

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law February 21, 2020 Off

AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

Intel officials say Russia boosting Trump candidacy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Intelligence officials have warned lawmakers that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election campaign to help President Donald Trump get reelected,three officialsfamiliar with the closed-door briefing said Thursday.

The warning raises questions about the integrity of the presidential campaign and whether Trump’s administration is taking the proper steps to combat the kind of interference that the U.S. saw in 2016.

The officials asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. They said the briefing last week focused on Russia’s efforts to influence the 2020 election and sow discord in the American electorate.

The warning was first reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post. The Times said the news infuriated Trump, who complained that Democrats would use the information against him. Over the course of his presidency, Trump has dismissed the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s 2016 election interference as a conspiracy to undermine his victory.

One day after the Feb. 13 briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Trump berated the then-director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and he announced this week that Maguire would be replaced by Richard Grenell, a Trump loyalist.

___

Trump ally Roger Stone sentenced to over 3 years in prison

WASHINGTON (AP) — Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, was sentenced to more than three years in prison Thursday for obstructing a congressional investigation in a case that has sparked fears about presidential interference in the justice system.

Soon after Judge Amy Berman Jackson pronounced sentence, Trump publicly decried Stone’s conviction as unfair and prominent Republican legislators were giving tacit support for a pardon. But Trump said he wasn’t ready to act just yet.

“I want the process to play out. I think that’s the best thing to do because I would love to see Roger exonerated,” he said. “I’m going to watch the process. I’m going to watch very closely. … At some point I’ll make a determination.”

The case was marked by the Justice Department’s extraordinary about-face on a sentencing recommendation and a very public dispute between Trump and Attorney General William Barr, who said the president was undermining the department’s historical independence and making “it impossible for me to do my job.”

The president responded by asserting that he was the “chief law enforcement officer of the federal government.”

___

Infighting and online hoaxes mar Democrats’ campaign

RINDGE, N.H. (AP) — A group of Los Angeles artists were awaiting the results of the Democratic Party’s Iowa caucuses, hoping Bernie Sanders would win, when they fired off a hashtag on Twitter poking fun at Pete Buttigieg.

By the next morning, the hashtag — #MayorCheat — was trending worldwide.

“That’s so funny that we’re the first people to make this joke,” said Nick Thorburn, a 38-year-old musician.

Not everyone was laughing.

Some on social media capitalized on the trending hashtag to spread misinformation or conspiracy theories about Buttigieg, including claims that he had colluded with the Democratic Party to rig the caucuses. Other accounts accused Russian trolls of promoting the hashtag to divide Democrats.

___

Bloomberg struggles to respond to politics of #MeToo era

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mike Bloomberg’s name last appeared on a ballot a decade before #MeToo transformed cultural mores surrounding sexual harassment and the treatment of women. As he campaigns for the presidency, the 78-year-old billionaire is struggling to adjust.

The former New York City mayor was caught flat-footed during much of Wednesday night’s debate when rival Elizabeth Warren blasted his company’s use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment. She sought to portray such agreements as endemic of a broader culture of sexism at the company, Bloomberg LP, when he was CEO.

Bloomberg’s response was dismissive. He said those who alleged misconduct “didn’t like a joke I told” and argued that non-disclosure agreements were “consensual” deals supported by the women involved.

The response struck some women as out of touch with how the #MeToo movement has reshaped the conversation around sexual harassment in the workplace — and the use of non-disclosure agreements in particular. Employment lawyer Debra Katz, who represented accuser Christine Blasey Ford in her Senate testimony against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, said Bloomberg’s comments “really missed the mark.”

“I think Bloomberg’s comments were tone-deaf,” she said. “In this moment, when we now understand that many NDAs were entered into in coercive manners, it’s incumbent upon companies and especially those (led by people) like Bloomberg, who are public figures, to agree to revisit these issues.”

___

South Korea ups emergency response as viral cases surge

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea reported more virus cases Friday and declared a “special management zone” around a southeastern city where the surging outbreak, largely linked to a church in Daegu, threatens to overwhelm the region’s health system.

In the capital, Seoul, officials banned major downtown rallies and shut down a big park to avoid mass public gatherings where the virus could spread. Workers in protective gear also sprayed disinfectant in the city’s subway.

Health authorities reported 52 new cases of the illness, raising South Korea’s total to 156, most of them since Wednesday. The spike, especially in and around Daegu city, has raised fears the outbreak is getting out of control in the country.

And the first two cases were confirmed in South Korea’s 600,000-member military, a navy sailor and an army officer who had both reportedly visited Daegu recently.

Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun said in a televised statement the central government will concentrate its support to the southeastern region to ease a shortage in sickbeds, medical personnel and equipment.

___

Stress, rumours, even violence: Virus fear goes viral

TOKYO (AP) — You might have heard that the fear of a new virus from China is spreading faster than the actual virus.

From earnest officials trying to calm a building panic. From your spouse. From the know-it-all who rattles off the many much more likely ways you’re going to die: smoking, car accidents, the flu.

None of it seems to matter.

As the number of cases rise — more than 76,000 and counting — fear is advancing like a tsunami. And not just in the areas surrounding the Chinese city of Wuhan, the site of the vast majority of coronavirus infections.

Subway cars in Tokyo and Seoul look more like hospital wards, with armies of masked commuters shooting dirty looks at the slightest cough or sneeze. A restaurant owner in a South Korean Chinatown says visitors have dropped by 90%.

___

German gunman calling for genocide kills 9 people

HANAU, Germany (AP) — A German who shot and killed nine people of foreign background in a rampage that began at a hookah bar frequented by immigrants had posted an online rant calling for the “complete extermination” of many “races or cultures in our midst,” authorities said Thursday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the attack exposed the “poison” of racism in the country.

The gunman, Tobias Rathjen, 43, was found dead at his home along with his mother, and authorities said they were treating the rampage as an act of domestic terrorism.

Turks, ethnic Kurds and people with backgrounds from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Romania were among those killed, according to news reports. Turkey’s ambassador said five of the dead were Turkish citizens. People of Turkish background make up Germany’s single largest minority.

Rathjen opened fire at the hookah bar and a neighbouring cafe in the Frankfurt suburb of Hanau around 10 p.m. Wednesday, killing several people, then travelled about 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) and fired on a car and a sports bar, claiming more victims. In addition to the dead, six people were injured, one seriously, authorities said.

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Wrestler adds to abuse allegations against university doctor

ANN Arbour, Michigan (AP) — An Olympic wrestler on Thursday accused a University of Michigan doctor of touching him inappropriately during medical exams at the school and said the physician’s reputation for such conduct was well known among his teammates.

Andy Hrovat, who competed for the U.S. in the 2008 Summer Olympics, told The Associated Press that the encounters with the late Dr. Robert E. Anderson happened during his freshman year in 1998.

“I would like to let people know that it’s OK to come out,” Hrovat said in an interview from his attorney’s office in Denver. “It’s OK to let your voice be heard.”

He is the first athlete to make public accusations against Anderson following complaints this week from other former students that the doctor sexually abused them decades ago.

“I was warned about him from teammates, saying, ‘If anything happens and you go see the doctor, he’s going to inappropriately touch you, that’s just what Dr. A does,’” Hrovat recalled.

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TV analyst? Spokesman? Freed ex-governor goes job hunting

CHICAGO (AP) — Job wanted: Ex-governor and ex-con with strong speaking skills and good hair seeking employment.

Fresh out of prison thanks to a commutation this week from President Donald Trump, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in the hunt for a post-prison career.

“I need to start working and providing for my family,” the 63-year-old told Fox News this week. He didn’t elaborate on the kind of job he is seeking.

Job hunts have gotten Blagojevich in trouble before.

His expletive-laden talk captured on FBI wiretaps about landing a job or campaign cash for naming someone to Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat is part of what led to his multiple corruption convictions.

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Trump apparently not a fan of ‘Parasite’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is apparently not a fan of “Parasite,” his biggest complaint being that the movie was made in South Korea.

Trump started talking about the Academy Awards during a campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Thursday. Parasite was named best picture, becoming the first non-English-language film to get the top honour.

“What the hell was that all about?” Trump said. “We’ve got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of that, they give them best movie of the year. Was it good? I don’t know.”

Neon, the U.S. distributor for the subtitled film, shot back on Twitter: “Understandable. He can’t read.”

The audience booed when Trump mentioned the Academy Awards and then cheered when he said: “Can we get like ‘’Gone with the Wind’ back please? ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ so many great movies.”

The Associated Press

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source https://toronto.citynews.ca/2020/02/21/ap-news-in-brief-at-1204-a-m-est-184/

By The Wall of Law February 21, 2020 Off