'Dump Trump': Tens of thousands join global march

'Dump Trump': Tens of thousands join global march
Demonstrators arrive on the National Mall in Washington, DC, for the 'Women's March on Washington' on January 21, 2017 (AFP Photo/Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)

March for Science protesters hit the streets worldwide

March for Science protesters hit the streets worldwide
Thousands of people in Australia and New Zealand on Saturday kicked off the March for Science, the first of more than 500 marches around the globe in support of scienceThousands of people in Australia and New Zealand on Saturday kicked off the March for Science, the first of more than 500 marches around the globe in support of science

Bernie Sanders and the Movement Where the People Found Their Voice

"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)

Hong Kong's grandpa protesters speak softly but carry a stick

Hong Kong's grandpa protesters speak softly but carry a stick
'Grandpa Wong' is a regular sight at Hong Kong's street battles (AFP Photo/VIVEK PRAKASH)
A student holds a sign reading "Don't shoot, listen!!!" during a protest
on June 17, 2013 in Brasilia (AFP, Evaristo)

FIFA scandal engulfs Blatter and Platini

FIFA scandal engulfs Blatter and Platini
FIFA President Sepp Blatter (L) shakes hands with UEFA president Michel Platini after being re-elected following a vote in Zurich on May 29, 2015 (AFP Photo/Michael Buholzer)
"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Wall Street's 'Fearless Girl' statue to stay until 2018

Wall Street's 'Fearless Girl' statue to stay until 2018
The " Fearless Girl " statue on Wall Street is seen by many as a defiant symbol of women's rights under the new administration of President Donald Trump (AFP Photo/ TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

“… The Fall of Many - Seen It Yet?

You are going to see more and more personal secrets being revealed about persons in high places of popularity or government. It will seem like an epidemic of non-integrity! But what is happening is exactly what we have been teaching. The new energy has light that will expose the darkness of things that are not commensurate with integrity. They have always been there, and they were kept from being seen by many who keep secrets in the dark. Seen the change yet?

In order to get to a more stable future, you will have to go through gyrations of dark and light. What this means is that the dark is going to be revealed and push back at you. It will eventually lose. We told you this. That's what you're here for is to help those around you who don't see an escape from the past. They didn't get their nuclear war, but everything else is going into the dumper anyway. … “

Search This Blog

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Barclays to pay $2 bn fine for crisis-era fraud: US authorities

Yahoo – AFP, March 29, 2018

US authorities say Barclays "intentionally misrepresented" key facts about
securities sold to investors from 2005 to 2007, and the bank has agreed to pay a
large fine to resolve the fraud case (AFP Photo/Tolga AKMEN)

Washington (AFP) - British banking giant Barclays has agreed to pay a $2 billion fine to resolve a fraud case involving mortgage derivatives sold in the run-up to the 2008 global financial crisis, the US Justice Department said Thursday.

Authorities said the loans underlying the investment vehicles "were significantly less creditworthy than Barclays represented," and the company "intentionally misrepresented" key facts about the mortgages involved.

Federal prosecutors also reached settlements with two former Barclays executives over their roles in the sale and trading of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), a type of investment derivative that bundled home loans into securities sold to investors.

Paul Menefee of Austin, Texas, the former head banker for subprime RMBS securitizations at Barclays, and John Carroll of Port Washington, New York, former head trader for subprime loan acquisitions, will pay a combined total of $2 million.

The settlement made Barclays the latest major bank to be sanctioned for crisis-era fraud nearly a decade after the collapse of major New York financial institutions dealing in mortgage-backed derivatives sparked a global recession.

Last week, Swiss bank UBS agreed to pay $230 million to New York state, also settling charges the bank had misrepresented the value of mortgages underlying securities sold before the crisis.

After a three-year investigation, federal prosecutors accused Barclays of a fraudulent scheme involving 36 deals in RMBS initially valued at $31 billion.

Barclays misled investors about the assets' quality, causing billions of dollars in losses, the Justice Department said in a statement.

The bank lied about the creditworthiness of borrowers whose loans underpinned the securities and who then defaulted at "exceptionally high rates," the statement said.

In exchange for paying the fine, the Justice Department will withdraw a civil complaint filed against the Barclays in December 2016.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Axe looms for Lehmann and Smith as CA hold crisis talks

AFP, William West, 27 March 2018

Facing the axe: Australia coach Darren Lehmann (left) and Steve Smith

The axe was hanging over the head of Australian coach Darren Lehmann and skipper Steve Smith Tuesday with cricket chiefs holding crisis talks in South Africa to deal with an escalating cheating scandal.

Cricket Australia (CA) boss James Sutherland, under mounting pressure to come down hard on what Australian media has dubbed a "rotten" team culture, was due in Johannesburg Tuesday where he will meet up with the body's head of integrity, Iain Roy.

They are expected to update a shocked Australian public on Wednesday morning, with reports saying they could throw the book at Smith and his vice-captain David Warner by banning both for 12 months and sending them home in disgrace.

Smith has already been suspended for one Test and docked his entire match fee by the International Cricket Council for his role in a plot that saw teammate Cameron Bancroft tamper with the ball during the third Test against South Africa on Saturday.

It means he will miss the fourth and final Test in Johannesburg starting Friday.

Lehmann silence

Lehmann has remained silent since the furore, but Britain's Daily Telegraph said he had decided to quit, effective immediately, meaning he too will play no part in the Test.

Lehmann took over the coaching reins in 2013 when predecessor Mickey Arthur was sacked, with Justin Langer considered a frontrunner as his replacement although Ricky Ponting will also be in the mix.

"We are aiming to be in a position to fully update the Australian public on the investigation and outcomes on Wednesday morning," Sutherland said in an email to cricket fans.

"We understand the strong interest everyone has in this situation and we are following due process to properly address all of the relevant issues involved."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reiterated Tuesday that it had been "a shocking affront to Australia" and Cricket Australia must act "decisively and emphatically".

Former Australian coach John Buchanan, who led the team from 1999 to 2007, said Smith must resign as captain and urged cricket chiefs to be fully transparent in their investigation.

"It is a very difficult time for members of Australian cricket; however, I believe there is a golden opportunity to reset the dial around player and staff behaviours, actions and decision-making," he told reporters.

National outcry

There has been a national outcry over Smith's admission that the leadership group within the team decided to cheat.

That group of senior players usually includes fast bowlers Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, but they are reportedly furious at being embroiled in the saga and may contact the Australian Cricketers Association to enlist union support to clear their names.

The ramifications of the scandal have been far reaching with the Marylebone Cricket Club, the guardian of the laws of the game, calling for a "major shift in attitude" to preserve the game for future generations.

"The behaviour of some of the players in the current South Africa/Australia series, and other incidents in recent times in the game we all cherish, has fallen well below the standard required to inspire future generations of cricket-loving families," the MCC said.

While Smith was removed from the Australian captaincy for the remainder of the third Test, former South African captain Graeme Smith hit out at the ICC's handling of the scandal.

Ashes accusation

"I think the ICC missed an opportunity to really handle this properly and lead our game," he told South Africa's Independent Media.

"They haven't done that. You have had two players, who have admitted guilt for cheating. I think that's huge."

Bancroft used a strip of yellow sticky tape he'd covered with dirt granules to illegally scratch the rough side of the ball, thereby facilitating more swing for bowlers.

He was filmed not only rubbing the ball with the dirtied tape but concealing the evidence down the front of his trousers. The ICC fined him 75 percent of his match fee and slapped him with three demerit paints, but he escaped a suspension.

Smith insisted it was the first time his team had cheated in this manner, but former England captain Michael Vaughan claimed he is "pretty sure" Australia were ball-tampering during their 4-0 victory in the Ashes, which finished earlier this year.

"I look at the amount of tape some of the fielders have worn, particularly during the Ashes series at mid-on and mid-off. You don't have to name names, they know who they are," he told BBC Sport.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Remington bankruptcy shows depth of US gun slump

Yahoo – AFP, John BIERS, March 26, 2018

Gun reform advocates line Pennsylvania Avenue while attending the March for
Our Lives rally March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo/WIN MCNAMEE)

New York (AFP) - The US gunmaker Remington filed for bankruptcy protection on Sunday, a day after marchers swarmed US cities nationwide to call for greater regulation of firearms.

But the hard times now facing gun companies began in November 2016.

That was when Donald Trump's surprise election victory in the US led to a sudden drop in US firearms demand, which had been robust until then as gun owners stockpiled in anticipation of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

With Trump an avowed gun rights supporter with boasts of warm ties to the National Rifle Association, in office, gun enthusiasts slowed purchases, causing a glut. Massive discounting and deep layoffs at firearms companies soon followed.

Gunmakers now face intensifying public scrutiny following the February 14 Florida school shooting that left 17 dead, sparking Saturday's "March for our Lives."

Retailers such as Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart have moved to to distance themselves from the extreme end of the political spectrum on gun rights -- with aversion spreading to the financial sector as well.

But the immediate problem facing Remington and other firearms companies is the expectation for "new, lower levels of consumer firearm demand," American Outdoor Brands chief executive James Debney said earlier this month.

He said "flattish" firearms sales could persist for another 12-18 months.

Headquartered in North Carolina, Remington dates to 1816, making it one of the nation's oldest gunmakers.

Besides guns, it makes bullets and barrel equipment, employing 2,700 people at seven facilities in the US and exporting to 52 countries, chief financial officer Stephen Jackson said in a filing in US Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

Remington experienced a "significant decline in sales" over the last year when demand "ultimately did not materialize" after the company boosted output in 2016, Jackson said.

Operating profits in 2017 dwindled to just $33.6 million, less than one third the level just two years earlier, Jackson said.

Some financers say no

On February 12, two days before the Parkland shooting, Remington signaled plans to file for bankruptcy protection, saying it reached a preliminary agreement with its creditors to allow the company to operate while it reorganizes.

Protestors chant during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in 
Chicago, Illinois (AFP Photo/JIM YOUNG)

Remington however encountered difficulty with efforts to expand its pool of financers for the period after the bankruptcy filing, according to Ari Lefkovits, managing partner of Lazard Freres, which was hired by Remington.

"Lazard approached over 30 potential funding sources to provide such financing," Lefkovitz said. "The vast majority of lenders contacted, however, indicated that they were reluctant to provide financing to firearms manufacturers."

Remington instead turned to its existing lenders, including JPMorgan Chase and Franklin Advisers, Lefkovits said. Several others with long relationships with Remington, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, are also providing financing during the propcess.

The reorganization, considered a "prepackaged" bankruptcy because the major parties have already reached agreement, would eliminate $775 million in debt and shift to creditors control of new equity.

Besides the financial incentive to stay in the transaction, banks involved in the bankruptcy might face legal liabilities if they walked away now.

Bank of America and JPMorgan declined to comment. Wells Fargo did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The bankruptcy comes amid intensifying pressure on major companies to take a stand on guns.

Last week, Citigroup became the first major US bank to unveil significant new policies on guns, announcing it would require retail clients to bar sales to those under 21 or to people who have not passed a background check.

Citigroup said it would also start "due diligence" among its gun manufacturing clients to understand their operations and whether they are in line with "common sense" gun policy.

Asset manager BlackRock, the largest shareholder in several leading gun stocks, has also signaled plans to intensify scrutiny.

It said in a March 2 notice that it was taking steps to reach out to clients who do not want to hold gun stocks and stepping up engagement with firearms executives on their products.

Heineken pledges to act on new claims of sexual abuse in Africa

DutchNews, March 26, 2018

Brewing giant Heineken has pledged to do more to protect its sales agents in Africa after NRC published allegations of widespread sexual abuse in 10 countries where it operates. 

Around 2,000 women work for the Amsterdam-based multinational firm as ‘promotional girls’ on the continent as part of a global sales force numbering 15,000 women, according to internal research carried out in 2007. 

Their work involves going round bars, cafes and restaurants with promotional crates to persuade owners to stock Heineken brands. NRC said many of the recruiters were sexually assaulted or propositioned by cafe staff in the course of their work. In some cases prostitutes combined beer promotion with their regular work to win new clients for both themselves and the brewery. 

One Nigerian-based promoter, named as Sylvia by the newspaper, said the sales teams were warned not to make a fuss about unwanted sexual advances. ‘They warned us that we would come across men with bad intentions. You have to tolerate it because you want to make more sales and strengthen the brand.’ 

Her colleague, named as Peace, said she encountered unwanted sexual attention on a nightly basis. ‘It’s a public place so it doesn’t get as far as rape. That only happens if the girls go with the clients, but that’s their choice. Our employer says: if you can’t stand being touched, go and find another job.’ 


Heineken said it was difficult to monitor the work because most of it was outsourced, but pledged to step up its efforts to cut out abuse of its agents. ‘The practices described are totally at odds with what we stand for as a company and we condemn these abuses in the strongest terms,’ the company said in a statement.

‘This subject deserves more attention in Africa than it has received in recent years from us and other interested parties. Together with our local workers’ councils, promotional agencies and other relevant parties we will take further steps to tackle these abuses and prevent them happening in future.’ 

Sylvia and Peace were not directly employed by Nigerian Breweries, Heineken’s subsidiary in Lagos, but via an agency that was hired through another subcontractor, making the chain of command unclear. On average they were paid the equivalent of €7 for a night’s work. 

They estimated that around half their colleagues earned extra money through sexual services. ‘Those girls couldn’t live on their wages and were desperate. Sex earned more,’ said Peace.

‘High risk’ 

Emeka Dumbili, of the Alcohol and Drugs Research Institute in Benin City, told NRC Heineken was still recruiting young women in Nigerian provincial cities in order to use their bodies to sell the company’s products. ‘It’s a marketing strategy to sell beer: it reinforces drinking beer as a masculine, heterosexual activity.’ 

Heineken carried out an internal study in 2007 which led to 70 markets being labelled ‘high risk’ for women working to sell their brands, but the findings prompted too few active measures, former personnel staff member Katinka van Cranenburgh told NRC. 

She said: ‘A few improvements were probably made in some countries, but head office has taken a hands-off approach and isn’t on top of the situation. I noticed that the guidelines are no longer online with other company policies, as if it’s no longer an issue.’ 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

US rally organizers vow no letup in gun control campaign

Yahoo – AFP, Ian Timberlake, March 25, 2018

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez (C) gathers
with other students on stage during the March for Our Lives rally (AFP Photo/
Nicholas Kamm)

Washington (AFP) - Student organizers of gun control rallies that drew hundreds of thousands to US streets vowed Sunday there will be no letup in their campaign for reform.

The nationwide protests on Saturday were by far the largest in nearly two decades, part of a reignited gun control debate sparked by last month's killings at a Florida high school.

"This is not the end. This is just the beginning," Emma Gonzalez, a leader of the movement, said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Gonzalez, 17, is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, north of Miami, which was traumatized into action last month after 14 students and three staff were killed by a former student armed with a military-style rifle.

She captivated Saturday's rally in Washington, the nation's largest, with a tearful eulogy for her dead schoolmates.

"Get out there and vote," she pleaded, following a lengthy silence to symbolize the timespan of the shooting spree.

In a country with more than 30,000 gun-related deaths a year, Gonzalez is among those calling for legislative action.

"We're going to be revving up for the elections" this November, when Congressional seats will be at stake, Gonzalez said on CBS.

"Over the summer we're going to try to go around to colleges and... reach out to the kids locally around the country."

Cameron Kasky, a fellow student from Stoneman Douglas, said the rallies -- including the Washington protest that filled streets around the US Capitol building -- prompted many voter registrations and discussions.

"So the fact that this movement has so many people realizing that it's important to get out to the polls is what I think is one of the best things that we've accomplished," Kasky said on "Fox News Sunday."

Crowds pack the streets to take part in the March For Our Lives rally against 
gun violence in Washington (AFP Photo/Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)

The students said that Washington has done little, despite some initial signs that President Donald Trump would take greater action after the Parkland shooting.

Trump's administration is increasing aid to states that want to arm school staff, endorsed minor legislation to improve background checks by gun dealers, and announced a commission on school safety, among other measures.

"I was not impressed, at all," Kasky said, noting that churches, nightclubs and theaters as well as schools have all been targeted by gunmen.

He and other students want assault weapons and high-capacity magazines banned, and the age limit raised to 21 for gun purchases.

"What causes all these shootings? What's the one thing to tie everything together? There's no specific mental health problem that makes all these shootings happen, it's the weapon," Kasky said.

Students aren't going away

"And the fact that they aren't taking any action toward it is proof that we need to keep on going."

He and Delaney Tarr, another Stoneman Douglas student, suggested Trump had backed away from firmer action after he met with the powerful National Rifle Association lobby group.

Mercedes Schlapp, a senior White House advisor, told Fox News that Trump "has taken immediate action" to address gun safety.

Students hold portraits of victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School 
shooting in Parkland, Florida, during a protest for tighter gun laws in Los Angeles, 
California (AFP Photo/Mark Ralston)

"We want to make sure that the good people are the ones who are able to carry the firearms," Schlapp said.

"We want to keep the firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals," she said. "That's what we are focused on."

In an editorial, The Washington Post said the measures taken by Trump and Congress so far are welcome, but just "baby steps."

The newspaper said the students have made clear "they aren't going away" in their push for action.

Ohio's moderate Republican Governor John Kasich, a possible 2020 presidential contender, agreed that his party could face an electoral backlash if Congress does not act on gun control.

"I really do believe that," he told CNN, adding that the students' momentum must continue.

"If they don't keep it up, those that want no change will just sit on their hands."

The students got some implicit support on Sunday from Pope Francis, who did not specifically mention the gun protests but urged youth not to be silenced.

"Dear young people, you have it in you to shout," the pontiff told the traditional Palm Sunday mass in Vatican City.

Related Articles:

Saturday, March 24, 2018

'Never Again': student-led US gun protests draw huge crowds

Yahoo – AFP, Chris Lefkow and Sebastien Blanc, March 24, 2018

People arrive for the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in
Washington, DC (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

Washington (AFP) - Demanding action on gun control from lawmakers, more than one million Americans turned out for emotional nationwide protests on Saturday fueled by teenagers at a Florida high school where 17 people were shot dead last month.

"Politicians, either represent the people or get out," Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, told the crowd at a huge rally in Washington.

"Stand for us or beware -- the voters are coming," said Kasky, one of the leaders of a dynamic and passionate student movement which has emerged following the February 14 shooting at his school.

Large crowds also turned out for demonstrations in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Seattle and other cities -- more than 800 in all according to the organizers of the "March For Our Lives."

Mayor Bill de Blasio said 175,000 people took part at the New York rally, tweeting: "These students WILL change America".

But the largest protest was in Washington, where organizers told NBC News the crowd was estimated at more than 800,000 people, the largest gun control rally in the United States since the Million Mom March in 2000.

Protestors on Pennsylvania Avenue during the "March For Our Lives" rally
for gun control in Washington (AFP Photo/Alex Edelman)

The main stage for the event in Washington was set up near the US Capitol and lawmakers were the target audience as speakers delivered blistering warnings that the time has come for stricter gun laws.

"The people demand a law banning the sale of assault weapons," Kasky said. "The people demand we prohibit the sale of high-capacity magazines. The people demand universal background checks."

"We are going to take this to every election, to every state, and every city," said another Stoneman Douglas student leader, David Hogg.

March organizers included a link for people to register to vote on their MarchForOurLives.com website as they seek to transform their nascent movement into a potent political force.

Republicans, NRA criticized

Signs carried by protestors lambasted lawmakers who oppose tougher laws and the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful US gun lobby.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students at the "March for Our Lives"
rally for gun control in Washington (AFP Photo/MANDEL NGAN)

"These kids are right," said Jeff Turchin, a 68-year-old retired garment manufacturer who came to Washington from New York to attend the rally.

"They're basically saying the NRA is paying off these Republicans," Turchin said of the party of President Donald Trump, which controls the Senate and House of Representatives.

The Washington rally kicked off with Andra Day singing "Rise Up" and also featured a performances by Jennifer Hudson, whose mother, brother and seven-year-old nephew were shot dead in 2008.

Holding a poster reading "Never Again," the slogan for the march, Miley Cyrus performed the song "The Climb."

But the most riveting appearances were by the Stoneman Douglas students.

Emma Gonzalez, 17, took the stage wearing a green military-style jacket and ripped jeans and delivered a eulogy for the 14 students and three adults slain by 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz.

Protesters display posters at the "March For Our Lives" gun control rally 
in Washington (AFP Photo/Eva HAMBACH)

Tears rolling down her face, she then stood in silence at the podium for a full four and half minutes as the crowd fidgeted and some cried out "We're with you Emma."

"Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds," Gonzalez finally said -- the exact amount of time Cruz spent spraying bullets inside her school before fleeing.

"Fight for your lives before it's someone else's job," Gonzalez said. "Get out there and vote."

Yolanda Renee King, the nine-year-old granddaughter of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. brought many to tears with a surprise appearance.

"My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," she told a rapt crowd.

"I have a dream that enough is enough," she said, referencing her grandfather's famous 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech on ending racism.

"And that this should be a gun-free world -- period.".

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez on stage
 at the "March For Our Lives" rally for gun control in Washington (AFP Photo/
Nicholas Kamm)

Another speaker led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" to Nicholas Dworet, who was shot dead at Stoneman Douglas.

Dworet, a senior who had been planning to go to the University of Indianapolis in the fall, would have turned 18 on Saturday.

'Protect Kids, Not Guns'

In New York, former Beatle Paul McCartney showed up at a march and spoke of the December 1980 murder of his bandmate John Lennon.

"Every week you hear about a new shooting and nothing is done about it," McCartney told AFP. "But I think maybe after this something will be done about it."

Thousands gathered in Parkland to pay tribute to those slain in the city on Valentine's Day.

"I March Because I Was Almost Silenced," read a sign carried by Samantha Mayor, 17, who was shot in the knee and wears a heavy brace.

Samantha's mother, Ellyn, held a sign reading "I'm Marching So No Other Parent Has to Hear 'Mom, I've Been Shot.'"

Martin Luther King Jr's granddaughter Yolanda Renee King addresses the crowd
at the "March For Our Lives" rally in Washington (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

Trump was in Florida as marchers gathered in Washington but the White House issued a statement.

"We applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today," it said. "Keeping our children safe is a top priority of the President's."

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Russian media boycott parliament over sex scandal

Yahoo – AFP, Anna SMOLCHENKO, March 22, 2018

Influential Russian media groups said they would no longer send journalists to
cover the lower house of parliament, the State Duma (AFP Photo/Vasily MAXIMOV)

Moscow (AFP) - Top Russian media outlets launched a rare boycott of parliament on Thursday after it dismissed claims from several journalists that a senior lawmaker had sexually harassed them.

Influential media including popular radio station Echo of Moscow, RBC media group and Dozhd (Rain) independent television said they would no longer send journalists to cover the lower house of parliament, the State Duma.

Top opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta joined the boycott, saying it was pulling its parliamentary reporter.

The joint action comes after several reporters for Western and Russian independent media accused Leonid Slutsky, head of the State Duma's foreign affairs committee, of making lewd sexual comments and groping.

But on Wednesday, the parliamentary ethics commission said it had found no violations in the behaviour of the 50-year-old lawmaker from the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party.

The commission questioned the motives of BBC Russian Service journalist Farida Rustamova, deputy editor at the US-based RTVi Yekaterina Kotrikadze and Dozhd producer Darya Zhuk, saying their claims had appeared in the run-up to last Sunday's presidential election.

The journalists broke their silence on a subject that is still largely taboo in Russia as the "#MeToo" movement swept across the globe.

The boycott is a rare campaign of solidarity in a country where all major television channels are state-controlled.

'Slutsky must quit'

"Echo of Moscow now considers the State Duma an unsafe workplace for journalists of both sexes," chief editor Alexei Venediktov wrote.

The Vedomosti business daily said it would boycott Slutsky and the ethics commission's members.

Journalists have the constitutional right to safety and dignity, it wrote.

A woman holds a placard reading "Hands off female journalists" outside Russia's 
parliament building (AFP Photo/Vasily MAXIMOV)

"The State Duma should adopt all measures including legislative ones so that such things do not happen within its wall or outside them."

Popular independent online news site Meduza urged readers to share on social media a picture of the lawmaker with the words, "I believe that Slutsky must quit the State Duma".

The Russian Special Forces newspaper joined the campaign, with editor Alexei Filatov shaming lawmakers.

Some media groups such as Kommersant business daily did not pull their parliamentary correspondents but said they would no longer be asking Slutsky for comments.

Kremlin-friendly online news portal Lenta said it would ignore Slutsky's existence and delete all its articles about him except those covering the sexual harassment claims.

'Enemy media'

According to an audio recording of the closed-door ethics committee hearing that was leaked to the press, a lawmaker with the ruling United Russia party, Shamsail Saraliyev, called the women "enemy media".

"All the journalists who raised this subject today are journalists of Western media, I call them enemy media," he was quoted as saying.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment saying, "This is not an issue for the presidential administration."

Rustamova, one of the two female journalists who gave testimony, told AFP she was grateful for the "solidarity and support" of colleagues.

'Return to the norm'

Opposition activists supported the boycott.

"This is a return to the norm which we are so lacking," former lawmaker and opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov wrote on Facebook, lamenting that national TV channels and Russian news agencies "were keeping silent".

"This is a very important (I'd even say dramatic) story concerning Slutsky," top opposition leader Alexei Navalny wrote on Twitter.

Slutsky was largely supported by his colleagues, including Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who accused the journalists of "receiving orders from the West".

In 2014, Zhirinovsky, who often makes highly offensive and misogynist statements, told his bodyguard to "rape in a rough manner" a pregnant reporter in comments broadcast on national television.

In Russia's macho culture, harassment claims are rare.

There is no law defining sexual harassment and even rape cases often do not make it to trial, while the punishmnent for domestic violence has recently been reduced.

Putin, who prides himself on his alpha-male image, was quoted by Kommersant in 2006 as praising the sexual stamina of then Israeli president Moshe Katsav after he was accused of multiple rapes.

"What a powerful guy he turned out to be! Raped 10 women! We all envy him!" Putin said.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

French ex-president Sarkozy held in Libya financing probe

Yahoo – AFP, Mehdi CHERIFIA and Adam PLOWRIGHT, March 20, 2018

Prosecutors are probing claims that Moamer Khadafi financed the presidential
election campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy, pictured here, right, with the late Libya
leader in July 2007 (AFP Photo/Patrick KOVARIK)

Paris (AFP) - French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy was detained for questioning on Tuesday over allegations the late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi financed his 2007 election campaign, including with suitcases stuffed with cash, a source close to the inquiry told AFP.

Sarkozy, 63, was taken into police custody early Tuesday morning and was being questioned by officers specialising in corruption, money laundering and tax evasion at their office in the western Parisian suburb of Nanterre.

AFP's source said that Brice Hortefeux, a close ally who served as a senior minister during Sarkozy's presidency, was also questioned Tuesday as part of the inquiry.

The case is France's most explosive political financing scandal and one of several legal probes that have dogged the rightwing politician since he left office after one term in 2012.

Since 2013, investigating magistrates have been probing media reports, as well as statements by Kadhafi's son Seif al-Islam, that claimed funds were provided for Sarkozy's run at the presidency.

"Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign," Seif told the Euronews network in 2011 as NATO-backed forces were driving his father out of power.

Sarkozy has dismissed the allegations as the rantings of vindictive Libyan regime members who were furious over France's military intervention in Libya that helped end Kadhafi's 41-year rule and led to his death.

He has also sued Mediapart, which has led media coverage of the Libyan allegations since 2012 when it published a document allegedly signed by Libya's intelligence chief showing that Kadhafi had agreed to fund Sarkozy to the tune of 50 million euros ($62 million).

Hortefeux, seen here on the left, was also questioned by police, as well 
as Sarkozy, pictured right (AFP Photo/Eric Feferberg)

The case drew heightened scrutiny in November 2016 when a Franco-Lebanese businessman admitted delivering three cash-stuffed suitcases from the Libyan leader in 2006 and 2007 as contributions towards Sarkozy's first presidential run.

In an interview, again with Mediapart, Ziad Takieddine claimed he dropped 1.5 to 2 million euros in 200-euro and 500-euro notes each time and was given the money by Kadhafi's military intelligence chief Abdallah Senussi.

When asked about the allegations during a televised debate in 2016, Sarkozy called the question "disgraceful" and said the businessman was a "liar".

The legal investigation is looking into these allegations, as well as a 500,000-euro foreign cash transfer to Sarkozy ally Claude Gueant, and the sale of a luxury villa in 2009 in the south of France to a Libyan investment fund for an allegedly inflated price.

Ties to Libya

Sarkozy, who takes a hard line on Islam and French identity, was nicknamed the "bling-bling" president during his time in office for his flashy displays of wealth.

He failed with a bid to run again for president in November 2016 and has stepped back from frontline politics since then, though he remains a powerful figure behind the scenes at the rightwing Republicans party.

Takieddine admitted delivering three cash-stuffed suitcases from the Libyan
leader in 2006 and 2007 as contributions towards Sarkozy's first presidential

The Republicans party offered its "full and complete support to former president Nicolas Sarkozy" in a statement, adding: "We wish to remind everyone about the principle of the presumption of innocence that is valid for everyone."

Seven months after his 2007 presidential victory, Sarkozy invited Kadhafi to Paris and clinched major arms and nuclear energy sales to the oil-rich north African country, which has since descended into civil war.

The Libyan autocrat was allowed to pitch his Bedouin-style tent on a lawn in central Paris and attended a dinner at the presidential palace, which was boycotted by several of Sarkozy's ministers.

Tuesday's detention was not the first for Sarkozy: he became the first French president to enter police custody in July 2014 over a separate inquiry into claims that he tried to interfere in one of the several investigations targeting him.

The summons on Tuesday came after another former associate, Swiss businessman Alexandre Djouhri, was arrested in London in January.

Other cases

Investigating magistrates have recommended Sarkozy face trial on separate charges of illegal campaign financing over his failed 2012 re-election bid.

The prosecution claims Sarkozy spent nearly double the legal limit of 22.5 million euros ($24 million) on his lavish campaign, using false billing from a public relations firm called Bygmalion.

He faces up to a year in prison if convicted, but he is appealing the decision to send him to trial, claiming he knew nothing about the fraudulent practices that Bygmalion executives have admitted to.

Only one French president -- Jacques Chirac -- has been tried in France's Fifth Republic, which was founded in 1958. He was given a two-year suspended jail term in 2011 over a fake jobs scandal.