Trump Announces Departure Of Energy Secretary Rick Perry

 

Donald Trump said Thursday that Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who has been caught up in the impeachment probe engulfing the US president, was standing down, marking the latest departure of a senior administration figure.

“Rick has done a fantastic job at Energy but it was time — three years is a long time,” Trump said, speaking in Texas. “We already have his replacement.”

The announcement came a day after the publication of an interview in which Perry said that — on Trump’s orders — he had communicated with the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani over alleged corruption in Ukraine.

READ ALSO: Trump Inaugurates New Louis Vuitton Production Site

Trump is threatened with impeachment for pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate his Democratic rivals ahead of the 2020 US elections.

House Democrats conducting the impeachment inquiry issued a subpoena to Perry last week, asking him to turn over documents related to his dealings with Ukraine by October 18.

Perry drove forward Trump’s “energy dominance” policy, which included boosting sales of US fossil fuels to Ukraine and other countries, and he oversaw a sharp rise in production of fossil fuels.

Trump said Perry had told him of his plans to resign months ago, and that he would leave office at the end of the year.

The New York Times reported that Trump had previously considered Perry for other senior positions, including chief of staff, due to his avoidance of personal scandals that had hit many of his colleagues.

Perry, who was nominated for the role in December 2016, was one of the longest-serving cabinet members in an administration marked by high turnover.

In a Republican presidential debate in 2001, he infamously forgot the name of the department he later came to head.

He declared he would to eliminate three government agencies, but could think of only two.

Democrat Cummings, At Center Of Trump Inquiry, Dies At 68

 

 

Senior Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, who was at the center of the Trump impeachment inquiry, died early Thursday at the age of 68, US media reported.

The veteran Baltimore representative passed away at Johns Hopkins Hospital “due to complications concerning longstanding health challenges,” reports said, quoting a statement from his office.

As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings was at the center of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and had clashed with him.

In July, the president described Baltimore as a “rat and rodent infested mess” unfit for humans and blamed it on Cummings, an African-American Democrat who has represented much of the majority-black city in Congress since 1996.

Cummings did not directly respond to Trump, but said government officials must stop making “hateful, incendiary comments” that only divide the nation and distract from its real problems.

“Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior,” Cummings said in an August speech at the National Press Club.

“It only creates more division among us and severely limits our ability to work together for the common good.”

“As a country we finally must say that enough is enough, that we are done with the hateful rhetoric, that we are done with the mass shootings, that we are done with the white supremacists who are terrorizing our country and fighting against everything our country stands for and everything our phenomenal military has fought for,” he added.

The Baltimore Sun said Cummings was “known for his devotion to Baltimore and civil rights, and for blunt and passionate speechmaking.”

It said he had particularly resented Trump’s tweet that four Congresswomen of color should “go back” to their countries.

Cummings had also clashed with the president over the detention of immigrants.

He was born in 1951, one of seven children to a couple who were sharecroppers.

Britain And EU Strike Brexit Deal Ahead Of Summit

An official hangs a Union Jack next to an European Union flag at EU Headquarters in Brussels on October 17, 2019, ahead of a European Union Summit on Brexit. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

Britain and the European Union reached a last-ditch Brexit deal on Thursday, just hours before an EU summit that is expected to give it a seal of approval.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson will still have to take the accord to a sceptical British parliament for its backing on Saturday, and it is far from certain that it will pass.

Johnson, who has pledged to take Britain out of the EU with or without an agreement, tweeted: “We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control — now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday.”

EU officials are pleased they avoided an immediate crisis at the European Council summit, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recommended that the other 27 EU leaders endorse the deal.

READ ALSO: N. Ireland’s DUP Says Opposition To Brexit Deal Remains

“Where there is a will, there is a deal — we have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions,” Juncker tweeted.

The draft agreement was forged just weeks before Britain was due to leave the bloc on October 31, ending more than four decades of close economic and political ties with its nearest neighbours.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said: “We have managed to find solutions that fully respect the integrity of the single market.

“We created a new and legally operative solution to avoid a hard border, and protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland,” he said.

“It is a solution that works for the EU, for the UK and for people and businesses in Northern Ireland.”

One immediate hurdle is opposition from Johnson’s allies in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which pre-emptively rejected the compromise.

The agreement would see the British-ruled province remain under EU customs and Value Added Tax (VAT) rules, and the loyalist DUP announced that it can not support it.

It is not clear how many of Johnson’s Conservative MPs will back the deal, and if the British opposition could vote it down or attempt to force a nationwide referendum to approve or reject it.

Before setting off for Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted approvingly that London had been ready to negotiate and put “concrete proposals on the table”.

Economic disruption

Under the measures to replace the so-called “Irish backstop” in the previous failed agreement, the plan would see Northern Ireland remain British legal territory but trade under EU regulations.

This is intended to prevent the return of a hard border with EU-member Ireland. But, because it would involve some customs and tax checks with the rest of the UK, it raised the hackles of the DUP.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier was to give a news conference to outline more details of the deal.

But one EU source told AFP the agreement “is politically fragile in London” because of Johnson’s reliance on votes from the DUP and Conservative eurosceptics.

The leaders also hope the summit will rise above the Brexit mire and focus on the EU budget debate, bids by North Macedonia and Albania to start talks to join the bloc, and the crisis in relations with Turkey.

The Brexit issue is first on the agenda, with the EU’s 27 other leaders to hear Johnson speak then retire to mull their response. But the issue could be delayed to Friday if the deal text needs more work.

N. Ireland’s DUP Says Opposition To Brexit Deal Remains

In this collage, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster (R) and deputy Nigel Dodds leave from 10 Downing Street in central London on September 10, 2019, while Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) leaves from the rear of 10 Downing Street in central London on October 16, 2019.

 

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party is holding out in opposition to the Brexit deal struck Thursday between London and Brussels — a stance which has the potential to sink the agreement.

The DUP, which supports Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, holds major sway in whether a divorce agreement can get through parliament.

In the desperate scramble for votes, DUP backing would have smoothed the path for hardline Conservatives to get behind Thursday’s Brexit package.

Northern Ireland has proved the sticking point in the Brexit negotiations, so satisfying the DUP, the province’s biggest party, has proved a key test on the road to an acceptable deal.

The DUP is a hardline group whose tough negotiating tactics were forged in the sectarian conflict over British rule in Northern Ireland that left thousands dead over three decades.

The party is known for its fiery rhetoric and steely determination in holding out, rather than its willingness to compromise.

“No” has been its classic watchword.

Hours before London and Brussels announced they had found an agreement, the DUP said it could not support what was on the table — notably on customs and consent issues, as well as sales tax arrangements.

The party said it wants a deal that “protects the economic and constitutional integrity” of the United Kingdom.

Following the news from Brussels, a DUP source told AFP that the earlier statement “remains our position”.

Clout

The hard-bargaining party has only 10 MPs in the 650-seat British parliament in London.

However, those votes could prove vital to the prime minister if he is to get any deal through the lower House of Commons.

The DUP propped up the Conservative government after the 2017 general election, giving it a slim majority in the lower house.

The alliance agreement with the government came at a price of £1 billion ($1.3 billion, 1.15 billion euros) in extra funding for Northern Ireland.

Since Johnson expelled rebel Conservatives in early September, the government is now well short of a majority — even with DUP votes.

Fundamentalists

Deeply socially and economically conservative, the DUP is firmly rooted in Northern Ireland’s Protestant, pro-British community.

It has softened its fiery anti-Catholicism since it was founded by the Protestant evangelical minister Ian Paisley in 1971.

The party has been led for nearly four years by Arlene Foster, 49, who survived a school bus bombing as a teenager.

The no-nonsense figure was Northern Ireland’s first minister throughout 2016 before the province’s power-sharing institutions collapsed in early 2017 over a lack of trust.

The DUP campaigned for Brexit but the four other major parties in Northern Ireland were all against it.

The DUP is the only Northern Irish party in the British parliament. Members of the Irish republican party Sinn Fein do not take their seven seats and there is one independent unionist.

On the lowest UK regional turnout of 63 percent in the 2016 EU membership referendum, 56 percent in Northern Ireland backed the UK staying in the European Union.

EU, UK Reach Brexit Deal

 

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said Thursday that Brussels had come to an agreement with Britain on a Brexit withdrawal agreement to be presented to EU leaders.

“Where there is a will, there is a deal — we have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions,” Juncker tweeted.

“I recommend that EUCO endorses this deal,” he said, referring to the European Council of the leaders of member states that was to meet later Thursday.

READ ALSO: US House Condemns Troops Withdrawal From Syria

Affirming Junker’s statement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also on Thursday announced what he said was a “great new deal” for Britain to leave the European Union, as leaders gathered in Brussels for talks.

“We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control,” he wrote on Twitter, calling on lawmakers in London to approve the agreement at a rare sitting of parliament on Saturday.

30 People Arrested During Catalan Protests

People wave Spanish flags and a giant banner reading “Today as yesterday, Catalans and Spaniards” during a demonstration for the unity of Spain marking the Spanish National Day in Barcelona on October 12, 2019. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Police in Spain said Wednesday they arrested 30 people overnight across Catalonia for their roles in clashes with police during protests over the jailing of nine separatist leader over a failed 2017 independence bid.

Pro-independence groups staged sit-ins outside Spanish government offices in a number of Catalan cities late Tuesday, with around 40,000 people taking part in Barcelona and 9,000 in the separatist stronghold of Girona, according to municipal and regional police.

The protests ended in clashes with police in many cities.

In Barcelona, police charged hundreds of masked demonstrators who threw projectiles at officers and set garbage containers and cardboard boxes on fire.

Catalonia’s regional police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, said 14 people were arrested in the port of Tarragona, six in Barcelona and ten others in other Catalan cities for disobeying authority and causing a disturbance.

Monday’s ruling unleashed a wave of protests, with Catalan separatists enraged by the Supreme Court’s decision to hand heavy prison sentences of between nine and 13 years to leaders convicted of sedition over the 2017 separatist push.

That culminated in a banned independence referendum and short-lived declaration of independence in October of the same year.

Suspected IS Radical Stabs Indonesian Security Minister

 

A suspected IS radical stabbed Indonesia’s chief security minister Wiranto as he was stepping out of a vehicle Thursday, leaving two deep wounds in his stomach and injuring three others in the attack, officials said.

Television images showed security officers wrestling a man and a woman to the ground outside a university in Pandeglang on Java island after the attack on the 72-year-old, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

“Someone approached and attacked him,” National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo, adding that the couple had been arrested.

Berkah Hospital spokesman Firmansyah said the former military general suffered “two deep wounds” in his stomach and may need surgery, but was conscious and in stable condition.

READ ALSO: How The World Is Reacting To Turkey’s Assault In Syria

Wiranto was later rushed by helicopter to the capital Jakarta.

The other three victims — a local police chief and two aides — had non-life threatening injuries, the hospital said.

The suspects were identified as 31-year-old Syahril Alamsyah and Fitri Andriana, 21. Police said Alamsyah had been “exposed to ISIL radicalism”, without elaborating.

It was not immediately clear if either were members of one of the dozens of radical groups that have pledged loyalty to the Islamic State group in Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim majority nation.

The attack comes just over a week before President Joko Widodo kicks off a second term after his April re-election.

In May, police said Wiranto and three other top officials were targeted in a failed assassination plot linked to deadly riots in Jakarta after Widodo’s victory.

A group of six people — arrested before they could carry out the killings — planned to murder the officials and an election pollster in a bid to plunge the country into chaos, police said at the time.

Wiranto, the former chief of the armed forces and a failed presidential candidate, is a major figure in Indonesian politics.

He has long been accused of human-rights violations and for crimes against humanity linked to violence following East Timor’s 1999 independence referendum.

Cameroon’s Main Opposition Leader Kamto Regains Freedom

Cameroonian opposition leader Maurice Kamto (L) waves to supporters as he is driven away on October 5, 2019, in Yaounde, the day of his release from prison. STRINGER / AFP

 

Cameroon’s main opposition leader Maurice Kamto walked free from jail Saturday after a military court ordered his release at the behest of veteran President Paul Biya.

The surprise conciliatory gesture comes as the president is facing a number of domestic crises and international criticism over political freedoms.

“We are here today thanks to your constant support,” Kamto, who had spent nine months behind bars, told hundreds of supporters who gathered to greet him.

“I saw you even when you couldn’t see me.”

He announced a “new chapter in our struggle”, adding that “if some people think that our liberation means the end of our struggle they have understood nothing”.

The struggle would be “peaceful”, he said before being driven away surrounded by a dozen-strong escort of klaxon-blaring vehicles.

Kamto, 65, was arrested in late January after months of peaceful opposition protests over the results of the October 2018 election.

He went on trial with dozens of others in a military court in September on charges of insurrection, hostility to the motherland and rebellion — crimes which could be given the death penalty, though this is no longer carried out in Cameroon.

‘Welcome step’

Biya, 86, has ruled Cameroon with an iron fist for nearly 37 years.

On Friday he announced he had ordered prosecutions to be dropped against “some” opposition leaders, including a number from the main Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) which Kamto leads.

Kamto is greeted and acclaimed by hundreds of supporters in Yaounde after his release. STRINGER/AFP

 

More than 100 people in detention are also now set for release “if they have not been detained for anything else”, the military court said.

They include Biya’s former economic advisor Christian Penda Ekoka, lawyer Michele Ndoki and rapper Valsero, well known for songs critical of the ruling establishment.

Amnesty International called Biya’s decision “a welcome step towards ending the long repression of dissenting voices in Cameroon”.

But the organisation also called on authorities to “go further by releasing all other individuals arbitrarily detained for having exercised their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”.

As the opposition leader arrived at his home in a residential neighbourhood of Yaounde following his release, he was met by dozens of cheering, dancing young people.

“Maurice Kamto, save us,” the crowd chanted.

Most of those gathered were under 30 and — like around 75 percent of the population — would not have known another leader than Biya.

“We are tired of this system that has been in place for 37 years,” said one protester, Abraham. “We want alternance in power. We want a new momentum for our country.”

‘Crises and conflicts’

Biya’s shock announcement Friday came on the closing day of crunch talks aimed at easing a bloody crisis in Cameroon’s anglophone regions, which were shunned by the main separatist leaders.

The talks also ended with a proposal to give more autonomy to the English-speaking regions, where a two-year armed campaign for independence has been met with a brutal crackdown and cost nearly 3,000 lives, according to the International Crisis Group.

In addition, Biya had Thursday announced the shelving of an investigation and the release of 333 people detained during the crisis.

The two areas in western Cameroon — the Northwest Region and Southwest Region — are home to most of the country’s anglophones, who account for about a fifth of a population that is overwhelmingly French-speaking.

A presidential statement Saturday said that “the head of state reaffirms his determination to pursue relentlessly his efforts seeking ways and means to resolve peaceably the crises and conflicts confronting our country”.

The apparent seachange in Biya’s approach comes after months of intransigence and follows international pressure.

Washington indicated in March that Yaounde would do well to free Kamto — a sentiment repeated since by the European Union and also France.

“The president is well aware that Cameroon is at a crossroads as it is dealing with important crises,” Richard Makon, an expert on Cameroon politics, told AFP.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement on Saturday that he “encourages the Cameroonian authorities to continue to adopt further confidence-building and reconciliation measures”.

Five Key Points Of UK’s New Brexit Proposals

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has written to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker outlining proposals that could lead to a revised divorce deal between London and Brussels.

Here are five key points in Johnson’s plan, which revolves around arrangements on the border between Northern Ireland — part of the United Kingdom — and EU member the Republic of Ireland.

– Removing the backstop –
The existing divorce deal between Britain and the EU has been rejected three times by British MPs. The only split scenario supported by a majority involved removing the backstop fallback provisions concerning the Irish border.

The backstop would ensure the Irish border stays open by keeping the whole UK temporarily aligned to EU customs rules.

Johnson’s letter said the backstop was intended as bridge to a future partnership in which Britain remained closely integrated with EU customs arrangements and laws, but as that is not where his government wants to go, the backstop is a “bridge to nowhere”.

NI to keep EU goods regulations

The plan provides for the creation of an “all-island regulatory zone” on the island of Ireland covering all goods including agrifood. This means Northern Ireland sticking with EU goods regulations to ensure they are the same on both sides of the border.

The move would eliminate “all regulatory checks to trade in goods” across the border.

To support the province through the transition, London would launch a “new deal” for Northern Ireland, with commitments to help boost economic growth, competitiveness, and infrastructure projects.

NI consent

The plan would mean Northern Ireland having significant sectors of its economy governed by laws which it has no say in making.

The plan proposes that the Northern Ireland Assembly and its executive — the province’s devolved regional government — should have the chance to endorse the arrangements before they enter force.

They would do so during the transition period and for every four years afterwards, otherwise the arrangement lapses.

The arrangements therefore could not be maintained indefinitely if they were not wanted — a key problem British MPs had with the backstop.

The assembly collapsed in January 2017 due to a breakdown in trust between the main parties representing the British and Irish communities.

– NI fully in UK customs territory –
The letter says it is “fundamental” that the UK leaves the EU customs union “whole and entire” at the end of the transition period.

It said Britain had to have control of its trade policy in future.

Electronic customs

Both sides should commit never to conduct checks at the border. The UK says it will never impose a hard border on its only land frontier.

All customs processes needed to ensure compliance with the EU and UK customs regimes should take place “on a decentralised basis”, with paperwork conducted electronically as goods move between the UK and Ireland.

It said a very small number of physical checks would need to be conducted at traders’ premises and other points on the supply chain.

Trump Accuses Democrats Of Wasting Time With Impeachment ‘Bullshit’

 

President Donald Trump accused the Democratic Party on Wednesday of wasting time on the impeachment probe sparked by the Ukraine scandal engulfing the White House, dismissing the inquiry as “bullshit.”

“The Do-Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016, 223-306.

“Get a better candidate this time, you’ll need it!”

Trump repeatedly misstates the Electoral College vote in his 2016 presidential race against Democrat Hillary Clinton. The official count was 304 to 227.

Mugabe To Be Buried Saturday At Rural Home, Says Family

The casket containing the body of Zimbabwe’s late former president, Robert Mugabe is hoisted by soldiers in ceremonial uniform after it arrived on September 12, 2019 at the historic Rufaro stadium in the capital, Harare.

 

 

Zimbabwe’s ex-president Robert Mugabe will be buried Saturday afternoon, his nephew said Friday, after the remains were moved from his Harare house to his rural village ahead of the event.

The country’s founding leader died in a Singapore hospital earlier this month, aged 95, almost two years after a military coup ended his nearly four-decade rule.

After weeks of wrangling between government and his family over the final resting place, the Mugabes have opted to entomb him at his birth place and rural home, about 90 kilometres (55 miles) west of the capital.

“As per our Zimbabwean tradition, the elderly are always buried in the afternoon, so it will be after 2pm (1200GMT),” Leo Mugabe told AFP.

The body was moved by road on Thursday evening with a police and military vehicle escort, according to a video clip shared on Twitter.

It was the second time it made its way back to Kutama village in Zvimba district where Mugabe was born 95 years ago.

When the body was first taken home last week for the public to pay their last respects, it was airlifted by a military helicopter.

“The body arrived (at the village) around 1900 hours, yesterday,” nephew and family spokesman Leo Mugabe told AFP on Friday.

Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told the state-owned The Herald daily on Thursday that “the body of the late Mugabe left Harare for Zvimba, awaiting burial set for Saturday”.

Mausoleum snub

The decision to bury Mugabe in the village has been seen as an apparent snub of the government offer to bury him at a specially-built mausoleum at a national heroes shrine in Harare where dozens of other prominent independence war veterans are interred.

The family had previously agreed to have his body entombed at the shrine where preparations for the special mausoleum were already in progress.

Minister Ziyambi said the family had earlier consented that they were “happy with burial at Heroes Acre”, but suddenly on Thursday “they indicated that they want to go to Zvimba and (the) government agreed”.

The family gave no reason for the change of plans.

The former guerilla leader, who came to power at the end of white minority rule in 1980 and ruled Zimbabwe uninterrupted for 37 years and seven months, died of prostate cancer, according to his successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

He was toppled on November 2017 in a military-backed coup, ending an increasingly iron-fisted rule marked by political oppression and economic ruin.

Mugabe’s health deteriorated rapidly after the ousting and he made regular medical trips to Singapore, where he died on September 6.

Trump Denounces ‘Partisan’ Whistleblower As Scandal Swirls

 

 

Donald Trump angrily denied wrongdoing Friday in a phone call with a mystery foreign leader that prompted an intelligence whistleblower to sound the alarm, as reports say the complaint centers on a conversation with Ukraine’s leader.

The allegations have triggered a showdown between Congress, whose Democratic leaders are demanding to see the contents of the complaint, and the Trump administration which has barred lawmakers from reviewing it.

According to a report by The Washington Post, which cited two unnamed former US officials, the complaint stemmed from Trump’s communications with Ukraine, and a “promise” allegedly made by the president.

“It’s a partisan whistleblower,” Trump fumed to reporters, while acknowledging in the same breath that he does not know the identity of the person who filed the complaint.

READ ALSO: Trump Announces New US Sanctions On Iran Central Bank

Trump spent much of Friday morning addressing the growing firestorm and denying wrongdoing, earlier tweeting that he had a “pitch perfect” conversation, without detailing whom he had spoken to or what was said.

“I can say it was a totally appropriate conversation,” Trump said.

The allegations could refer to a call known to have been made in July between Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former professional comedian who was elected in May.

Pressure on Ukraine?

Trump’s Democratic opponents have already been probing that call as part of an investigation into allegations that Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani tried to pressure the new Ukrainian administration.

Trump allegedly sought to encourage the Ukrainians to pursue corruption charges against the son of his main Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden.

Amid the swirling allegations, Giuliani gave conflicting answers late Thursday about whether the administration had urged Ukraine to investigate Biden, at one point telling CNN “of course I did.”

Moments earlier he denied that he asked Ukraine about Biden.

But when asked whether Trump spoke with Ukraine’s president about Biden, Giuliani said “I don’t know if he did, and I wouldn’t care if he did.”

Trump, Giuliani added, “had every right to say to the Ukrainian president: ‘We have two outstanding allegations of massive corruption and you should investigate.'”

Adding yet another layer to the controversy, congressional policymakers were reported to be concerned that the Trump administration had been holding back military aid to Ukraine at the time. The aid was finally released last week.

Biden is leading the crowded field of Democrats seeking the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, and most head-to-head polls show the former vice president leading against Trump.