Categories
Africa World

A Kenyan Painter Casts a Critical Eye on China’s Role in Africa


NAIROBI, Kenya — In the painting, one of 100 on the same theme, China’s president, Xi Jinping, appears as he has in all the previous ones: a larger-than-life figure who commands attention because of the goodies he has brought with him.

Decked in a flowing white garment, Mr. Xi is surrounded by a crowd of black men — some with bald heads, others with unkempt beards — all reaching out for the dollars leaking out of a briefcase.

The work of a Kenyan artist and painter, Michael Soi, the collection “China Loves Africa” questions the guiding principles of Beijing’s engagement in Africa, scrutinizes the role of leaders on both sides in shaping the relationship and examines the consequences for ordinary citizens. The bright acrylic paintings on canvas have proven popular and polarizing and have offered a creative and complex approach to China-Africa relations.

But on Jan. 2, after six years and 100 pieces, Mr. Soi said he was finished with the series, having drawn enough attention to the issue.

“I am ready to explore something else,” he said in an interview one recent morning at his studio at The GoDown Arts Center west of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Mr. Soi, 48, has always insisted that his work should be viewed as social commentary, rather than an effort to influence policymaking.

Mr. Soi said he drew inspiration for the pieces from reading books, watching local and international TV programs and speaking with engineers who worked with the Chinese in Kenya.

“My work usually revolves around what Kenyans do or experience but don’t want to discuss,” Mr. Soi said. “I don’t seek change in my work. I document.”

China is Africa’s largest trade partner and is the biggest player in the continent’s infrastructure boom, funding and building highways, railroads, ports and presidential palaces.

But as African governments have sought closer ties with Beijing, many like Mr. Soi have inveighed against the partnership, saying it was “one-sided” and amounted to a new form of colonialism.

Western leaders, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week, have warned against growing Chinese investments in the continent, saying they weighed nations under unsustainable debt burdens.

China’s presence in Africa has also brought forth claims of graft, bribery and environmental destruction, along with accusations of racism and discrimination against African citizens. Many have also questioned the commercial viability of the big China-funded projects, particularly multibillion-dollar railways in Kenya and Ethiopia.

In the face of all this, Beijing has insisted its relationship with African countries is based on political equality and “win-win” economic cooperation, along with mutual assistance in security and solidarity in international affairs.

In his work, Mr. Soi has questioned those premises, depicting China as the latest in a long line of outside powers intent on plundering Africa’s natural resources. One painting shows Africa as a woman being courted by China while Western countries, all male figures, watch glumly. Another shows African leaders, all asleep, while the Chinese take over the chairmanship of the African Union by 2030.

“No one is philanthropic for no apparent reason. All this generosity is suspect,” Mr. Soi said. “The bad leadership that exists in Africa is something they knew they could come and capitalize on.”

He added: “But let’s not forget, African leaders invited China. These corrupt politicians who are interested in massive acquisitions are the ones who brought them here.”

Mr. Soi, was born in Nairobi in 1972 to a prominent Kenyan artist, Ancent Soi, and a schoolteacher mother. While he has never married, he has an 11-year-old daughter.

After completing his studies in art and art history at the Creative Arts Center in Nairobi, he began his art career in 1995 as a sculptor, and has always used his artwork to poke fun at the establishment. His pieces, bright and spare, humorous and biting, provide a visual diary of the social, economic, and political realities facing millions of Kenyans, including pervasive corruption among the elite in Kenya as well as prostitution and the denial that surrounds it.

In his artwork, Mr. Soi regularly uses references to materials and objects that are uniquely Kenyan, like Tusker beer bottles ore matatu minibuses.

“When I make art out of these day-to-day issues, I am not passing judgment at all,” he said. “I am only making a visual diary so that current viewers can see what’s happening and young Kenyans in the future will see how others lived in the past and what are the issues that impacted them.”

Barely a year after the “China Loves Africa” project started, Mr. Soi and other Kenyan artists were incensed when the majority of the artists selected to represent Kenya at the 2015 Venice Biennale were Chinese who had never been to Kenya or did not reference it in their art. Kenya’s first pavilion at the Biennale, in 2013, was also overwhelmingly Chinese.

In response, Mr. Soi produced “Shame in Venice,” a collection that highlighted the corruption and mismanagement he considers to be inherent in the relationship between Kenya and China.

“The Chinese came here as gods,” Mr. Soi said. “They think they can have everything they want, and in many cases they can. But it’s important for them to know that you cannot come and disrespect people in their own countries.”

As African art thrives globally, many artists are increasingly using their work to document and question China’s deepening reach in the continent. Among them are the Tanzanian cartoonist Godfrey Mwampembwa, popularly known as Gado, and the satirical Ghanaian artist Bright Tetteh Ackwerh. Novelists, photographers and digital artists, from Zimbabwe to Cameroon, have also come up with various expressive ways of examining China’s expansive long march across Africa.

And Chinese officials are noticing.

In 2014, Mr. Soi said that four Chinese officials came to his studio and started lecturing him about how “ungrateful” he was for “all that China is doing for Kenya.” Mr. Soi, who has visited Hong Kong but not mainland China, said the group handled the paintings lying around the studio roughly and marred some of the artwork that was on display.

“To me, that was a sign that the Chinese are watching,” Mr. Soi said. “I have been told numerous times that there are people in the government and in the embassy here in Nairobi who don’t like my work.”

Mr. Soi has also been criticized for depicting women in demeaning ways. His “China Loves Africa” collection often shows women as prizes that are up for grabs by one imperial power or another. In one painting, a woman, representing Africa, is on a bed being fondled by China.

“The biggest critics of my work are women,” Mr. Soi acknowledged, adding that many people say he’s “obsessed” with the naked female body. But Mr. Soi argues that “patriarchy is alive and well” in Kenya and other African countries, and that “I am following the men to tell the story of what kind of society we are.”

Mr. Soi said that as the father of a young girl, he considered it important to stare at these hard and unsettling truths in order to start a true conversation about China’s role in Africa. Asked if China’s investments were mostly good or bad, Mr. Soi said, “We can’t blacklist everything they have done. When you throw in the corruption and mismanagement, that’s where the problem begins.”

Mr. Soi has said he has sold 99 of the 100 “China Loves Africa” pieces, for an average of $3,000 each, and that the works are spread all over the world. He hopes the pieces will keep the conversation around China-Africa relations alive long into the future.

“My daughter will be paying for the debts we are incurring from China now,” he said. “The presence and impact of China will be here with us for a long time.”



Source link

Categories
Americas World

Celebrated Abroad, Juan Guaidó Faces Critical Test in Venezuela


BOGOTÁ, Colombia — When the leader of Venezuela’s opposition landed in Caracas this week following a world tour meant to drum up support for regime change, his country’s authoritarian ruler handed him neither an arrest, which would have galvanized supporters, nor the chance for a hero’s welcome at the airport.

Instead, President Nicolás Maduro appeared to greet his rival, Juan Guaidó, with the same policy of slow strangulation that has drained the opposition of much of its momentum over the past year, cracking down on his movement enough to wear down its members, but without going so far as to spur the world to action.

Moments before Mr. Guaidó arrived, Mr. Maduro’s supporters attacked journalists who were there to cover his arrival, punching them and dragging at least one woman by the hair. Once Mr. Guaidó landed, government backers chased him out of the airport, cutting off any plans he had to make a speech, and then attacked his car with traffic cones and at least one metal pole.

And as Mr. Guaidó slipped through, authorities arrested his uncle, accusing him, without presenting evidence, of bringing explosives into the country.

Hours later, Mr. Guaidó stood with a few hundred supporters in a plaza in an opposition stronghold in eastern Caracas and declared victory.

“I defied the dictatorship and I entered the country,” he said. “Venezuela is going to be democratic and free.”

Mr. Guaidó also said he would be announcing the creation of a “Venezuela Fund,” a multilateral program meant to help the country recover from its long and devastating economic crisis.

[Update: The U.S. has imposed sanctions on the Russian oil company supporting Venezuela’s leader.]

But he offered no other plan to remove Mr. Maduro. That, along with his chaotic arrival and the growing frustration among his base caused by the glacial pace of change, spoke eloquently about the challenges Mr. Guaidó is facing at home.

On Tuesday, as Mr. Guaidó arrived in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, Mr. Maduro’s most powerful ally, Diosdado Cabello, mocked the size of the crowd that had come to receive him at the airport and belittled his movement.

Mr. Guaidó issued a direct challenge to Mr. Maduro a year ago, when he pointed to irregularities in Mr. Maduro’s re-election and claimed to be the country’s interim president, earning the support of millions of Venezuelans and dozens of foreign governments, including the United States.

Since then, despite the United State’s use of crippling sanctions to hurt the country’s economy and try to force the ouster of Mr. Maduro, Mr. Guaidó has not managed to seize power and call new presidential elections — his stated goals.

On Jan. 19, he left the country to shore up greater support abroad, defying a travel ban imposed by Mr. Maduro’s government. On his trip, he made headlines when he sat down with President Trump and was given a prominent place at the state of the union address. There, Mr. Trump championed the opposition leader’s efforts.

Mr. Guaidó also met with Angela Merkel of Germany and Emmanuel Macron of France, and was welcomed by thousands of Venezuelans and Venezuelan-Americans in Florida.

Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, signaled that substantive action could be on the way, including sanctions on Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft.

Oil buoys the Venezuela economy, and Rosneft has been the country’s main shipper of crude.

Internationally, Mr. Guaidó looked strong.

But at home, nothing had changed, and Mr. Maduro remained firmly in control of the country, playing what appears to be a long game of attrition.

Mr. Guaidó is also barreling toward a crisis point that poses a critical threat to the opposition, and to his claim to being the country’s interim president.

The National Assembly, the legislature, is the last major political body in the country that the opposition claims to control. But 2020 is an election year for the assembly, and Mr. Maduro’s opponents are divided over whether to participate.

If the opposition does take part, they risk legitimizing a potentially rigged election. If they don’t, they risk handing control to Mr. Maduro.

Mr. Guaidó, so far, has not declared a position.

Phil Gunson, a Caracas-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, said no matter what the opposition decides, Mr. Maduro is likely to take over the assembly this year.

But if Mr. Guaidó does not make a decision — and soon — he risks irrelevancy.

“There can be no more beating around the bush,” Mr. Gunson said. “He has to be a leader.”



Source link

Categories
Americas World

Celebrated Abroad, Juan Guaidó Faces Critical Test in Venezuela


BOGOTÁ, Colombia — When the leader of Venezuela’s opposition landed in Caracas this week following a world tour meant to drum up support for regime change, his country’s authoritarian ruler handed him neither an arrest, which would have galvanized supporters, nor the chance for a hero’s welcome at the airport.

Instead, President Nicolás Maduro appeared to greet his rival, Juan Guaidó, with the same policy of slow strangulation that has drained the opposition of much of its momentum over the past year, cracking down on his movement enough to wear down its members, but without going so far as to spur the world to action.

Moments before Mr. Guaidó arrived, Mr. Maduro’s supporters attacked journalists who were there to cover his arrival, punching them and dragging at least one woman by the hair. Once Mr. Guaidó landed, government backers chased him out of the airport, cutting off any plans he had to make a speech, and then attacked his car with traffic cones and at least one metal pole.

And as Mr. Guaidó slipped through, authorities arrested his uncle, accusing him, without presenting evidence, of bringing explosives into the country.

Hours later, Mr. Guaidó stood with a few hundred supporters in a plaza in an opposition stronghold in eastern Caracas and declared victory.

“I defied the dictatorship and I entered the country,” he said. “Venezuela is going to be democratic and free.”

Mr. Guaidó also said he would be announcing the creation of a “Venezuela Fund,” a multilateral program meant to help the country recover from its long and devastating economic crisis.

But he offered no other plan to remove Mr. Maduro. That, along with his chaotic arrival and the growing frustration among his base caused by the glacial pace of change, spoke eloquently about the challenges Mr. Guaidó is facing at home.

On Tuesday, as Mr. Guaidó arrived in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, Mr. Maduro’s most powerful ally, Diosdado Cabello, mocked the size of the crowd that had come to receive him at the airport and belittled his movement.

Mr. Guaidó issued a direct challenge to Mr. Maduro a year ago, when he pointed to irregularities in Mr. Maduro’s re-election and claimed to be the country’s interim president, earning the support of millions of Venezuelans and dozens of foreign governments, including the United States.

Since then, despite the United State’s use of crippling sanctions to hurt the country’s economy and try to force the ouster of Mr. Maduro, Mr. Guaidó has not managed to seize power and call new presidential elections — his stated goals.

On Jan. 19, he left the country to shore up greater support abroad, defying a travel ban imposed by Mr. Maduro’s government. On his trip, he made headlines when he sat down with President Trump and was given a prominent place at the state of the union address. There, Mr. Trump championed the opposition leader’s efforts.

Mr. Guaidó also met with Angela Merkel of Germany and Emmanuel Macron of France, and was welcomed by thousands of Venezuelans and Venezuelan-Americans in Florida.

Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, signaled that substantive action could be on the way, including sanctions on Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft.

Oil buoys the Venezuela economy, and Rosneft has been the country’s main shipper of crude.

Internationally, Mr. Guaidó looked strong.

But at home, nothing had changed, and Mr. Maduro remained firmly in control of the country, playing what appears to be a long game of attrition.

Mr. Guaidó is also barreling toward a crisis point that poses a critical threat to the opposition, and to his claim to being the country’s interim president.

The National Assembly, the legislature, is the last major political body in the country that the opposition claims to control. But 2020 is an election year for the assembly, and Mr. Maduro’s opponents are divided over whether to participate.

If the opposition does take part, they risk legitimizing a potentially rigged election. If they don’t, they risk handing control to Mr. Maduro.

Mr. Guaidó, so far, has not declared a position.

Phil Gunson, a Caracas-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, said no matter what the opposition decides, Mr. Maduro is likely to take over the assembly this year.

But if Mr. Guaidó does not make a decision — and soon — he risks irrelevancy.

“There can be no more beating around the bush,” Mr. Gunson said. “He has to be a leader.”



Source link

Categories
Asia Pacific World

Jump in Coronavirus Cases on Ship Poses a Critical Test for Japan


Japan already had several confirmed coronavirus cases when a giant cruise ship arrived at the port of Yokohama last week.

Now, with the disclosure that 61 people from that ship have tested positive for the virus, Japan is scrambling to prevent a larger outbreak even as it prepares to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors for the Summer Olympics starting in Tokyo in July.

The Japanese government on Monday quarantined the ship, the Diamond Princess, with more than 3,700 crew and passengers aboard, after learning that a man who had disembarked in Hong Kong on Jan. 25 had tested positive for the virus.

In the days since, it has become a fixture in Yokohama’s harbor, making a slow circuit toward shore for supplies and then back out to sea for quarantine.

Japanese health workers screened 273 people from the ship who showed symptoms or who had come into contact with the infected man. The health ministry said on Friday that the 61 people infected with coronavirus had been taken to hospitals across several prefectures.

The remaining passengers and crew members have not yet been tested and will remain quarantined for 12 more days. Some passengers shared concern about the virus’s spread and about the days ahead stuck in their cabins.

Masako Ishida, 61, said Friday that all passengers had been given a thermometer and instructed to report any reading over 37.5 degrees Celsius (99.5 Fahrenheit).

“We were screened on the first day by quarantine officers, but there hasn’t been anything ever since,” she said. “We’re told to report immediately when we feel we have a fever.”

Ms. Ishida, who is traveling with her husband and mother, said she was trying to remain calm. But she was also looking forward to leaving her cabin.

“Nobody gets out of their room unless they’re in a selected group who get to go out to the deck to breathe fresh air at designated times,” she said, “So I’m hoping that the infection will stop.”

Gay Courter, 75, an American, praised the crew but said she was “worried and upset” by the number of coronavirus cases onboard the ship.

“I would be happy if they come around and do tests,” she said, referring to the quarantine officers. “They only took our temperature once three days ago, and asked us to fill out a form. They did not swab anybody except for people who had temperatures.”

She also noted the potential consequences of a wider outbreak in Japan. “If people on the ship start dying, nobody’s going to come to the Olympics,” she said.

The high rate of coronavirus cases among those tested was a point of concern for some infectious disease specialists.

  • Updated Feb. 5, 2020

    • Where has the virus spread?
      You can track its movement with this map.
    • How is the United States being affected?
      There have been at least a dozen cases. American citizens and permanent residents who fly to the United States from China are now subject to a two-week quarantine.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      Several countries, including the United States, have discouraged travel to China, and several airlines have canceled flights. Many travelers have been left in limbo while looking to change or cancel bookings.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands is the most important thing you can do.

“That’s a lot of positive cases,” said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, who is co-director of the University of Washington MetaCenter for Pandemic Preparedness and Global Health Security.

Dr. Rabinowitz said that given the relatively low rate of testing among all passengers, it was possible that cases had been missed. “I would think that this would be a very serious situation for the public health department to be evaluating and doing all they can to try to limit the spread,” he said.

Other public health specialists said it was difficult to draw too many conclusions yet from what appears to be a high rate of infection on the ship.

“The high ratio might suggest they were very good at first assuming who was most exposed,” said Karen Eggleston, director of the Asia health policy program at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. “On the other hand, if there were others that were equally exposed that were not tested, that would mean it was very troubling.”

The Japanese health minister, Katsunobu Kato, said officials were consulting with experts about whether to screen additional passengers. The focus would be on the elderly, those with underlying diseases and those who had come into close contact with the 61 infected passengers.

Cruise ships regularly make the news as places where infections spread rapidly.

They bring together thousands of people, concentrating them in small spaces where they share meals, swimming pools and common areas, providing a perfect environment for the spread of infections, said Dr. John Lynch, an infectious disease specialist at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

“It’s like when college students come back to dorm rooms, where we’ve seen the spread of measles and mumps,” he said.

Though viral respiratory illnesses are primarily spread through droplets when people cough or sneeze in close contact with one another, touching contaminated surfaces and then touching one’s eyes, mouth or nose can also spread viruses, Dr. Lynch said.

The Japanese government has asked another cruise ship, the Westerdam, not to make a scheduled stop in Okinawa. When the Diamond Princess stopped in Naha, Okinawa, last Saturday, about 2,600 passengers left the ship for a few hours and traveled by buses and taxis. Health officials are trying to trace their routes.

Japan has also recorded 25 cases of coronavirus infections among citizens who had returned from Wuhan on charter planes over the past 10 days or who had come into contact with tourists from Wuhan. A charter flight that returned to Tokyo on Friday had 198 passengers aboard, including non-Japanese spouses and family members.

Four of those passengers were taken to hospitals after landing in “poor physical condition.” The others are undergoing health checks at the Center Hospital of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine.

Experts said Japan’s health care system should be equipped to handle the number of cases in the country right now.

About 60 facilities across Japan have test kits for the coronavirus, and the hospitals that have accepted patients have specialized isolation units and staff members trained to handle infectious diseases.

So far, among people who have returned from Wuhan, the government is asking those who do not show symptoms or test positive for the coronavirus to isolate themselves voluntarily for 14 days after returning to Japan.

But at least two people who returned on the first charter flight declined to take a test.

Determining whether to mandate quarantines or simply request voluntary isolation can be a difficult decision for officials.

“Someone is going to have to weigh both the public health consequences of requiring hundreds of people to be in quarantine and the political consequences,” said Timothy Brewer, professor at the schools of medicine and public health at University of California Los Angeles. “Most people who end up in quarantine probably have not been exposed and do not have the disease — so you’re restricting the civil liberties of a lot of people.”

For now, experts said there was no need to close schools, cancel all concerts and sports events, or order workers to stay home. But such measures should be part of an evolving decision, said Dr. Eggleston, of the health policy program at Stanford.

“It’s the responsibility of individuals to consider not only their own well-being but those of others around them,” she added. “Share information, report symptoms, submit to testing and quarantine — and empathize and support those who are doing so on behalf of the community.”

Hisako Ueno, Isabella Kwai and Roni Rabin contributed reporting.



Source link

Categories
Music

Rapper Lil Reese ‘in critical condition’ after being shot in the neck



Rapper Lil Reese has been admitted to hospital after being shot in the neck, US media reports.

According to ABC 7 Chicagothe alleged shooting took place in the afternoon on 11 November in Country Club Hills, a suburb south of Chicago. 

Hospital officials identified the victim as Reese, whose real name is Tavares Taylor, and said he is in “critical condition”. 

Country Club Hills police said Reese suffered a gunshot wound to the neck. Witnesses told officials that a man transported him to South Suburban Hospital, where he was then transferred to Christ Medical Center. 

The motive behind the shooting is currently unclear. No arrests have been reported, and a police investigation is ongoing. 

Along with his solo career, Reese is known for appearing in fellow rapper Chief Keef’s track “Traffic”, which has more than a million views on YouTube. 



Source link

Categories
Television

His Dark Materials writer Philip Pullman defends unpopular Golden Compass film: ‘I don’t want to be too critical’


His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman has defended the 2007 film adaptation of his novel The Golden Compass. 

The film, which starred Nicole Kidman as Mrs Coulter and Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra, scored an unfavourable 42% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. 

A new BBC adaptation of the fantasy series written by Jack Thorne, however, has been very well received by critics and the public.

Pullman took to Twitter on Sunday morning (10 November) to speak out in defence of the film, praising its cast.

“Delighted as I am with the TV adaptation of HDM,” he wrote, “I don’t want to be too critical of The GC movie. A magnificent cast, among whom Dakota Blue Richards shone like the polar star, did the best that could be done with the time they had, which simply wasn’t enough.” 

The mediocre box-office gross of The Golden Compass wiped out plans for two sequels, and the film was criticised for not being provocative enough in demonstrating Pullman’s anti-religious themes. 

Thorne’s new series is led by Ruth Wilson and Dafne Keen, and was awarded five stars by The Independent’s critic. 

His Dark Materials continues on Sunday nights on BBC1 at 8pm.

 



Source link

Categories
Politics

Moving Closer to Trump, Impeachment Inquiry Faces Critical Test


WASHINGTON — House impeachment investigators are speeding toward new White House barriers meant to block crucial testimony and evidence from the people who are closest to President Trump — obstacles that could soon test the limits of Democrats’ fact finding a month into their inquiry.

What has been a rapidly moving investigation securing damning testimony from witnesses who have defied White House orders may soon become a more arduous effort. Investigators are now trying to secure cooperation from higher-ranking advisers who can offer more direct accounts of Mr. Trump’s actions but are also more easily shielded from Congress.

Democrats are likely to face the first such roadblock on Monday, when one of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers is expected to defy a subpoena as he awaits a federal court to determine whether he can speak with impeachment investigators. But others could soon follow, legal experts and lawmakers say, forcing Democratic leaders toward a consequential choice: Try to force cooperation through the courts or move on to begin making an argument for impeachment in public.

At stake is not just how quickly the investigation concludes, but how much evidence ultimately undergirds the case against Mr. Trump.

Many Democrats involved in the inquiry already believe they have collected enough to impeach him for abusing his power by enlisting a foreign government to smear his political rivals. But to persuade the public — and the necessary number of Republican senators — that the president should be convicted and removed from office, they may need additional proof tying him directly to certain elements of the alleged wrongdoing. They could potentially unearth stronger evidence by turning to the courts, but that could also stall the case for months and risk losing public support, much as some Democrats believe happened in the Russia inquiry.

“As in many investigations, you get to a point where you have to decide how much is enough and whether the incremental value of the additional juice is worth the squeeze,” said Ross H. Garber, a lawyer who is one of the nation’s leading experts on impeachment. “If anything, they may be surprised by how much cooperation they have gotten from witnesses already, notwithstanding the position of the executive branch.”

For now, Democrats have not yet exhausted testimony from officials who appear willing to cooperate and have at least peripheral knowledge of the case. At least two more White House officials are scheduled to testify this week, and are expected to confirm key events. Other officials from the State and Defense Departments involved in Ukraine policy are set to appear, as well.

Democrats believe a reconstructed transcript released by the White House of a July phone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine also significantly bolsters their case. In the call, Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and unproven theories about Democratic collusion with Ukraine during the 2016 election.

“We have a tremendous table of evidence before us that fills in all of the principal, material questions that were raised by the whistle-blower,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, referring to an anonymous C.I.A. whistle-blower whose complaint about Mr. Trump’s actions toward Ukraine helped prompt the impeachment inquiry.

But the story lawmakers have uncovered so far has also pointed further into Mr. Trump’s inner circle, offering tantalizing leads that Democrats have signaled they intend to at least try to run down.

They have indicated that they want to talk to John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, who is said to have been deeply alarmed by what he saw transpiring with Ukraine. They may also seek testimony from Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff who helped carry out Mr. Trump’s order to freeze the aid; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who was deeply involved in implementing the president’s agenda. And then there is Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s private lawyer, who appears to have orchestrated the campaign to secure the investigations.

The president has greater powers to shield from Congress his conversations with close aides, as well as greater pull on the loyalties of potential witnesses, who have already begun to indicate they cannot simply defy White House orders like others who have already testified.

One of the first signs Democrats would now face a more difficult trek emerged late on Friday when the president’s former deputy national security adviser, Charles M. Kupperman, took the unusual move of filing the lawsuit, asking a federal judge to rule on whether he should be forced to testify about his conversations with Mr. Trump. Democrats had subpoenaed Mr. Kupperman to appear on Monday but Mr. Trump ordered him not to by invoking a rarely used and untested theory that top presidential aides are absolutely immune from testimony.

Mr. Kupperman worked directly with Mr. Trump on Ukraine policy and served as his acting national security adviser in September, when Mr. Trump decided to release $391 million in aid for Ukraine that he had temporarily frozen. Some impeachment witnesses have said the president had been using the aid as leverage to force the Ukranians to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals.

The suit could have ramifications that go far beyond Mr. Kupperman. The lawyer who filed the suit, Charles Cooper, also represents Mr. Bolton, and Mr. Cooper will almost certainly handle requests for Mr. Bolton’s testimony the same way.

Mr. Trump’s advisers are bullish that claims of absolute immunity and executive privilege can help gum up Democrats’ progress and may force them to leave certain potential witnesses and documentary evidence uncollected in the interest of time.

Indeed, the suit and the potential that the White House could invoke immunity over other top aides raises profound and largely unanswered legal questions about the extent of the president’s ability to shield private communications from Congress, especially in the face of an impeachment inquiry. Even on an expedited schedule, the disputes could take months to sort out and end up before the Supreme Court.

The challenge does not have a neat historical parallel. Unlike in the impeachment proceedings against Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton, the House is not building its case on a federal law enforcement investigation, which obviated the need for the kind of primary fact finding underway right now.

Though they have not entirely ruled out using the courts to knock down claims of immunity they view as spurious, Democrats led by Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, have hinted for weeks now that they do not intend to wait around for decisions. They still, however, want to force each witness to decide how to respond, testing for additional cracks in the president’s stonewall.

On Saturday, Mr. Schiff and two others leading the inquiry wrote to Mr. Kupperman’s lawyer that if Mr. Kupperman fails to show up on Monday as scheduled, he will expose the president to further charges of obstructing Congress — possibly an impeachable offense — and run the risk of being held in contempt of Congress.

The House, they wrote, may well assume “that your client’s testimony would have corroborated other evidence gathered by the committees showing that the president abused the power of his office by attempting to press another nation to assist his own personal political interests, and not the national interest.”

Several current and former diplomats have backed up that account in private testimony in recent days. The most startling came last week from William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, who told investigators that Mr. Trump sought to condition the entire United States relationship with Ukraine, including the aid package and a coveted White House meeting for Mr. Zelensky, on a promise that the country would publicly investigate his rivals.

Mr. Taylor said that when he objected to what he saw as the manipulation of the aid, Mr. Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon D. Sondland, told him there was no quid pro quo but went on to describe just that.

The testimony privately shook the confidence of many Republican lawmakers, and Democrats claimed it was a smoking gun. But allies of the president quickly pointed to what could be a central topic of debate if the Democrats proceed to impeach: Mr. Taylor’s account was not based on firsthand encounters with the president.

“How would you really know,” asked Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, noting that Mr. Taylor’s information appeared to be second- and thirdhand.

Mr. Sondland, a Trump supporter testified a week before, is the closest anyone directly interacting with Mr. Trump has come to implicating him. He told investigators that Mr. Trump had handed over Ukraine policy to Mr. Giuliani to his alarm. On Saturday, Mr. Sondland’s lawyer acknowledged that his client had also testified that he believed Mr. Trump had withheld a White House meeting from the Ukrainians as part of a quid pro quo to secure the politically beneficial investigations, a development first reported by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.



Source link

Categories
Sport

Patrick Day latest: Boxer in ‘extremely critical condition’ after knockout loss in Chicago



Boxer Patrick Day is in an “extremely critical condition” after suffering a knockout loss to Charles Conwell in Chicago.

The 27-year-old American was stopped in the 10th round of his fight on the Oleksandr Usyk vs Chazz Witherspoon undercard, leaving him with “a traumatic brain injury”.

Promoter Lou DiBella praised the super welterweight, who was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.


“Pat makes any room he is in a better place,” said promoter Lou DiBella.

“I’ve never met anyone who’s met Patrick and not liked him. Never heard him utter a mean word. Never seen him greet someone without a big smile. Life doesn’t seem fair sometimes.

“Please keep Pat in your prayers, thoughts and hearts.”

While fellow promoter Eddie Hearn, who promoted the show, released a statement urging fans to keep Day in their thoughts.

The Matchroom boss wrote: “Our thoughts and deepest prayers are with Patrick Day and his family right now. We have been in constant communication with his promoter

Day is stretchered from the ring (Getty)

“Lou DiBella who will provide further information at the appropriate time. Please keep Pat in your thoughts.”

While Conwell tweeted his support to his opponent, writing: “My thoughts and deepest prayers are with Patrick Day and his family right now. His family will provide further information at the appropriate time. Please keep Pat in your prayers.”



Source link

Categories
Sport

Errol Spence news: World champion boxer in critical condition after horror car crash



World champion boxer Errol Spence Jr is in critical condition after being pulled from his Ferrari after a high-speed car crash. 

The welterweight king is said to have not worn a seatbelt but emerged from his vehicle despite it being “flipped multiple times” in the Dallas area.

Dallas Police Department confirmed the accident occurred at around 3am on Wednesday, with the IBF and WBC title-holder not said to be in a life-threatening condition but still in intensive care.


The 29-year-old, who has two daughters, was the only occupant in the car and was seen out at a bar in Dallas in the early hours on his Instagram story.

A police statement read: “At 2:53am a Ferrari travelling at a high rate of speed northbound in the 500 S. Riverfront Blvd.

“The Ferrari veered left over the center median onto the southbound lanes and flipped multiple times ejecting the driver who was not wearing a seatbelt.

“The driver was taken to an area hospital where he is expected to live, but remains in ICU.

Errol Spence Jr’s car after the crash (CBS 11 News)

“The driver, a black male 29 years old, was the only occupant in the vehicle. The cause of the accident is undetermined at this time.”

Spence recently unified world titles at 147 pounds, emerging victorious against Shawn Porter, who shared a prayer for his rival.

Porter wrote: “My dad always tells me “this boxing thing is a part of your life but it’s not going to last forever. U still have a lot of life to live after that.” With that, I’m praying for Errol Spence Jr and his family because he has a lot of life to live and I pray he recovers quickly and fully.”

Errol Spence Jr celebrates after victory over Shawn Porter (Getty)

The American’s victory kept alive hopes of a super fight with fellow world champion Terence Crawford, who also sent a message to his fellow welterweight.

“Praying for you champ Errol Spence Jr,” Crawford wrote. “Get well we fighters I know you will.”

Crawford’s promoter Bob Arum suggested after Spence’s victory that the fight would take place in 2020.

Errol Spence Jr triumphed over Shawn Porter last month (AP)

“I hope we will see Crawford and Spence,” Arum said. “Last summer we met with Al Haymon to talk about the Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder rematch, and brought up Crawford and Spence.

“Al indicated to me that we would do it in 2020. I think that’s a great fight, and a fight that everybody wants to see.”



Source link

Categories
Culture

South Park writers issue mock apology to China after being censored over critical episode



The creators of South Park have issued a mock apology to China after the comedy TV show was repeatedly censored in the country. 

The move comes after an episode titled “Band in China”, which took aim at what the show portrayed as a habit of US culture to accommodate Chinese censorship laws and includes the lines: “it’s not worth living in a world where China controls my country’s art.”

The episode also shows character Randy Marsh attempting to expand his marijuana business, only to be arrested, sent to prison and subjected to forced labour and re-education. 


He sees a guard shoot a prisoner in the head before he is sent to an overcrowded cell, where he encounters Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. 

In 2018, pictures of Winne the Pooh were blocked in China after people began to compare him to the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. 

“Some people say Pooh looks like the Chinese president, so we’re illegal in China now,” Piglet explains. 

“What kind of madhouse is this?” asks Randy. 

Since the episode aired in the US, searches for South Park on the Chinese website Weibo shows “no relevant results have been found”. The show has also been removed from various Chinese video websites including Youku, Bililbili and IQiyi.  

In their “apology” for the episode, South Park‘s creators put a statement that was posted to Twitter with the headline: “Official apology to China from Trey Parker and Matt Stone,” and read: “Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts.”

The NBA reference follows US basketball coach Daryl Morey backtracking after tweeting support for the protesters in Hong Kong.

Morey’s tweet led to his team, the Houston Rockets, having their games pulled from Chinese TV, as well as Chinese sponsors withdrawing support.

The NBA said Morey’s comments were “regrettable”, while Rockets player James Harden said: “We apologise. We love China.”

The South Park statement continued: “We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn’t look like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10! Long live the Great Communist Party of China! May this autumn’s sorghum harvest be bountiful! We good now China?”



Source link