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Trump Says White House Aides Should Not Testify to Congress

Apr 24, 2019

President Trump called Tuesday on all current and former White House aides to avoid testifying to congressional panels, suggesting he’ll invoke executive privilege to block a subpoena ordering former White House counsel Donald McGahn to testify to Congress. Speaking with The Washington Post, Trump said complying with congressional requests was unnecessary after the White House cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. This comes as Democratic lawmakers are scheduling a vote on charges of contempt of Congress against White House personnel security director Carl Kline, who has refused to testify to the House Oversight Committee.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Ignores Congressional Deadline on Trump’s Tax Records

Apr 24, 2019

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to meet a congressionally mandated deadline Tuesday to turn over President Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee. It’s the second time Mnuchin has refused a congressional order to turn over Trump’s tax records. In a statement, Mnuchin said he’d provide a final answer on whether he would comply by May 6. Democrats say they need to know whether Trump’s myriad business interests—both at home and overseas—are affecting his decisions as president. House leaders are employing a portion of the tax code that grants tax-writing congressional committees the power to request tax information on any filer. The provision was created after the Teapot Dome bribery scandal of Warren G. Harding’s administration in the 1920s.

U.S. Uses Veto Threat to Gut U.N. Resolution on Sexual Violence

Apr 24, 2019

The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution Tuesday aimed at ending rape as a weapon of war, after the U.S. used a veto threat to strip the measure of any mention of sexual and reproductive health. The Trump administration’s successful move to water down the measure over its opposition to abortion was blasted by France’s U.N. ambassador, who said, “It is intolerable and incomprehensible that the Security Council is incapable of acknowledging that women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict, and who obviously didn’t choose to become pregnant, should have the right to terminate their pregnancy.” The resolution was championed by Nobel Peace laureate Nadia Murad, a Yazidi Kurdish human rights activist from Iraq. She was kidnapped by the self-proclaimed Islamic State and repeatedly raped as she was held as a sex slave for almost three months.

Nadia Murad: “We come here today and ask that those perpetrators of genocide be brought to justice. They used Yazidi women as a weapon of war, hence they need to be tried before a special court so that they would be tried for the crimes they committed. Bringing elements of ISIL to justice in the framework of an international tribunal, that tries them for crimes of genocide and sexual violence against women, would send messages to others and prevent such crimes in the future.”

Death Toll from Sri Lanka Easter Bombings Climbs to 359

Apr 24, 2019

In Sri Lanka, the death toll from Sunday’s bomb attacks targeting hotels and churches has climbed to 359, as authorities said they defused another bomb in downtown Colombo and arrested more suspects. Sri Lankan officials apologized Monday for failing to respond to multiple tip-offs ahead of Sunday’s eight attacks. A confidential memo circulated among Sri Lankan security agencies gave the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the suspects. It’s not clear why authorities failed to act on the warnings. One surveillance video showed a suspect wearing a backpack casually strolling toward St. Sebastian Church north of Colombo minutes before a bomb ripped through a crowd of Easter Sunday worshipers, killing more than a hundred of them. On Tuesday, the self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombings. The group circulated a video purporting to show eight members of a Sri Lankan cell pledging allegiance to the group.

Saudi Arabia Carries Out Mass Execution of Prisoners, Including Public Crucifixion

Apr 24, 2019

Human rights groups are condemning Saudi Arabia’s mass execution of 37 prisoners accused of terrorism and espionage. Amnesty International says 11 of the men put to death were convicted of spying for Iran after what it called a “grossly unfair trial.” Amnesty says least 14 others were convicted for participating in anti-government protests between 2011 and 2012. Amnesty says the 14 men were tortured in order to have “confessions” extracted from them. One prisoner’s body and severed head were put on display in a public crucifixion. In response, Maya Foa, director of the British legal charity Reprieve, said, “That the Saudi regime believes it has impunity to carry out such patently illegal executions, without notice, should shock its international partners into action.”

Hasan Minhaj Confronts Jared Kushner over His Support of Saudi Crown Prince

Apr 24, 2019

In New York City, senior White House adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner on Tuesday told a Time magazine forum he does not dispute the CIA’s conclusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But Kushner said it was more important to focus on American foreign policy interests. At a gala dinner later in the day honoring Time’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people, comedian Hasan Minhaj called for the release of Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul, who’s been tortured since her arrest for opposing the kingdom’s male “guardianship” system and a former ban on women drivers. Minhaj also called out Jared Kushner directly over his close relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Hasan Minhaj: “I know there’s a lot of very powerful people here, and it would be crazy if—I don’t know—if there was just like a—I don’t know—like if there like a high-ranking official in the White House that could WhatsApp MBS and say, 'Hey, maybe you could help that person get out of prison, because they don't deserve it.’ But that would be crazy. That would be—I mean, that person would have to be in the room. But it’s just a good comedy premise.”

Jared Kushner was seated in the room as Hasan Minhaj made those remarks.

Kim Jong-un Arrives in Russia for First Meeting with Vladimir Putin

Apr 24, 2019

In Russia, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has arrived by train in the eastern port city of Vladivostok ahead of his first-ever meeting with President Vladimir Putin. Kim is expected to reach out to Putin for economic assistance, as the U.S. shows no sign of easing up on sanctions left in place after President Trump walked away from a U.S.-North Korea summit on denuclearization in Hanoi in February.

Malawi Begins First-Ever Malaria Vaccination Campaign

Apr 24, 2019

In Malawi, public health officials are rolling out the first-ever vaccine for malaria in a historic pilot program that could save tens of thousands of lives each year. The vaccine was launched for children in Africa, where a child dies of malaria every two minutes. It took more than 30 years to develop the vaccine, which reduced the number of malaria cases by 40% in clinical trials.

NYT Report: Navy SEALs Were Ordered to Remain Silent on War Crimes

Apr 24, 2019

The New York Times is reporting that Navy SEALs who witnessed their platoon chief commit war crimes in Iraq were encouraged not to speak out, and told they could lose their jobs for reporting him at a private meeting with a superior officer last year. According to a confidential Navy criminal investigation obtained by the Times, the commandos said they saw Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher stab and kill an unarmed teenage captive, shoot to death a young girl and old man, and fire indiscriminately into crowds of civilians. But when the men on Gallagher’s team called a private meeting with their troop commander and demanded an investigation, they were told to stay quiet on the matter, and no action was taken. The group of seven SEALs eventually were able to force an investigation, and Chief Edward Gallagher was arrested in September on more than a dozen charges, including premeditated murder and attempted murder. If convicted, he could face life in prison. His trial begins May 28.

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Drug Company Executives Criminally Charged with Trafficking Opioids

Apr 24, 2019

In New York City, federal prosecutors announced criminal charges Tuesday against top executives of Rochester Drug Co-operative, a major producer of opioids, charging them with a conspiracy to profit by illegally distributing controlled substances. This is Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Geoffrey Berman: “RDC’s former CEO, Laurence Doud, is in custody and will be presented to a judge in the Southern District of New York this afternoon. Doud is charged with conspiring to distribute oxycodone and fentanyl and with conspiring to defraud the DEA. Doud led RDC during the entire period of the charged conspiracy and, as alleged, personally directed and profited from much of its criminal activity.”

The company’s chief compliance officer also faces criminal charges. Both executives face possible life in prison.

SCOTUS Hears Case on Trump Admin’s Plan to Add Citizenship Question to Census

Apr 24, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case challenging the Trump administration’s plans to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Voting rights activists fear the question would deter immigrants from participating in the census, leading to a vast undercount in states with large immigrant communities. This could impact everything from the redrawing of congressional maps to the allocation of federal funding. We’ll have more on the fight over the 2020 census after headlines.

Watchdog Launches Ethics Probe into Top Interior Department Officials

Apr 24, 2019

The Interior Department’s watchdog has launched a major ethics investigation into six top officials, including former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the agency’s current head, David Bernhardt. The probe by Interior’s inspector general follows an ethics complaint filed in February alleging the officials routinely disregarded rules requiring they recuse themselves from official meetings with former employers or lobbying clients. Secretary Bernhardt is a former oil lobbyist who’s been accused of making at least 15 policy decisions that directly benefited former clients since he joined the agency in 2017. His predecessor, Ryan Zinke, resigned in December as he faced at least 17 federal investigations into his suspected ethics violations and corruption, including a criminal probe into whether he lied to Interior Department investigators.

Thousands of Boy Scout Leaders Accused of Sexual Abuse

Apr 24, 2019

In a growing scandal engulfing the Boy Scouts of America, it has been revealed that nearly 8,000 troop leaders have been accused of sexual abuse over the span of 72 years. These findings were announced Tuesday in Manhattan by Jeff Anderson, a lawyer representing sexual abuse victims. According to records known as the “perversion files,” Boy Scout volunteer leaders abused more than 12,000 victims between 1944 and 2016. Anderson named 130 scout leaders in New York state who had been accused of sexual abuse at Tuesday’s news conference, noting that state law had recently changed to extend the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse.

Florida Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Black Teen Brutalized by Cops

Apr 24, 2019

In Florida, prosecutors have dropped charges against an African-American teenager whose brutal arrest by Broward sheriff’s deputies went viral last week after it was captured on a cellphone video. The footage shows a white officer, Deputy Christopher Krickovich, pepper-spraying 15-year-old high school student DeLucca Rolle, before slamming his head into the pavement and repeatedly punching him in the head. Krickovich and another officer have been suspended pending an investigation; a lawyer for Rolle’s family is calling for Krickovich to be criminally charged with assault and battery.

Bodycam Video Shows Connecticut Police Firing on Car with Unarmed Passengers

Apr 24, 2019

In New Haven, Connecticut, newly released police bodycam video shows the moment that a pair of police officers opened fire 16 times on a car. The fusillade shattered the car’s windows and left 22-year-old Stephanie Washington hospitalized for days. The car’s driver, 21-year-old Paul Witherspoon, escaped without injury. Both passengers were unarmed. The April 16 shooting spawned a series of protests, with community groups demanding Yale and Hamden police officials fire the officers, release all video of the shooting and conduct a transparent criminal investigation. The officers have yet to be charged with any crime.

Disney Heiress Calls on Her Family’s Company to Fight Inequality

Apr 24, 2019

Walt Disney Company heiress Abigail Disney is speaking out against wage inequality, calling Disney CEO Bob Iger’s salary “insane.” In an op-ed for The Washington Post published Tuesday titled “It’s time to call out Disney—and anyone else rich off their workers’ backs,” Abigail Disney wrote, “Iger took home more than $65 million in 2018. That’s 1,424 times the median pay of a Disney worker. … At the pay levels we are talking about, an executive giving up half his bonus has zero effect on his quality of life. For the people at the bottom, it could mean a ticket out of poverty or debt. It could offer access to decent health care or an education for a child.”

Floods and Mudslides Kill At Least 33 in South Africa

Apr 24, 2019

In South Africa, at least 33 people are dead in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal after floods and mudslides crushed homes around the city of Durban. Some parts of South Africa have received over nine inches of rain since Monday—more than three times the average monthly total for all of April.

Melting Arctic Permafrost Set to Cost the World $70 Trillion

Apr 24, 2019

In climate news, an alarming new report published in the journal Nature Communications finds that without immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, melting Arctic permafrost could add as much as $70 trillion to the overall economic impact of climate change. Meanwhile, a draft United Nations report obtained by Agence France-Presse Tuesday reveals up to 1 million species are at imminent risk of extinction due to human behavior. The report, which is set to be released on May 6, warns the accelerating loss of clean air, drinkable water and biodiversity poses a threat no less severe than climate change.

16-Year-Old Climate Activist Greta Thunberg Meets U.K. Lawmakers

Apr 24, 2019

And in Britain, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg called out U.K. lawmakers Tuesday for failing to act in time to avert catastrophic climate change. Thunberg was speaking to a group of MPs from Britain’s House of Commons; Prime Minister Theresa May was invited but declined to attend.

Greta Thunberg: “Now we probably don’t even have a future anymore, because that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. And it was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit and that you only live once.”

Greta Thunberg’s appearance at the House of Commons came as climate activists with Extinction Rebellion continued a nonviolent civil disobedience campaign. This is Zuhura Plummer, a climate activist who locked herself to a truck at London’s Marble Arch landmark, with one hand bound inside a tube labeled “Greta.”

Zuhura Plummer: “Our tube is called Greta. And this is the very truck that she spoke from yesterday. And I’m doing this because I believe I have literally no other choice. I have worked on climate change for 15 years, and it felt urgent 15 years ago, my first job. And I will sit here until I am arrested, because I don’t think we have any other way of making our point. And I see myself in the long line of amazing, amazing people who have gone before us, from the suffragettes to Gandhi to the civil rights movement, and many, many, many other people around the world who are putting their bodies and their minds and their hearts on the line.”

London police have arrested over 1,000 people since Extinction Rebellion protests broke out in mid-April.

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