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Trump fumes over impeachment probe with public hearings days away
11 November 2019, 8:25 PM

President Donald Trump seethed on Monday as Democrats in the US House of Representatives prepared to enter a crucial new phase – the first public hearings – in their impeachment inquiry centered on his request that Ukraine investigate political rival Joe Biden.

On Wednesday and Friday, US diplomats William Taylor, George Kent and Marie Yovanovitch are due to detail in public their concerns, previously expressed in testimony behind closed doors, that Trump and his administration sought to tie $391 million in security aid to Ukraine to an investigation of the former US vice president and his son Hunter Biden.

The public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee will be carried by major broadcast and cable television networks and is expected to be viewed by millions of people, as Democrats seek to make the case for Trump’s potential removal from office.

The panel’s Democratic chairman, Representative Adam Schiff, has been a target of the Republican president’s attacks since the impeachment probe was launched in September after a whistleblower within the U.S. intelligence community brought a complaint against Trump over his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Democrats, who control the House, have argued that Trump abused his power in pressing a vulnerable U.S. ally to carry out investigations that would benefit Trump politically. Biden is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face the Republican president in the 2020 election. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company called Burisma.

Trump has denied there was a quid pro quo – or exchanging a favor for a favor – in his dealings with Ukraine, defended his call with Zelenskiy as “perfect” and branded the probe a politically motivated “hoax.” Trump wrote on Twitter on Monday that the inquiry should be ended and the unnamed whistleblower, the whistleblower’s lawyer and “Corrupt politician” Schiff should be investigated for fraud.

Democrats, who control the House, consider the open hearings to be crucial to building public support for a vote on articles of impeachment – formal charges – against Trump. If that occurs, the 100-seat Republican-controlled Senate would hold a trial on the charges. Republicans have so far shown little support for removing Trump from office, which would require two-thirds of senators present to vote to convict him.

No U.S. president ever has been removed from office through the impeachment process. It has been two decades since Americans last witnessed impeachment proceedings against a president. Republicans, who then controlled the House, brought impeachment charges against Democratic President Bill Clinton in a scandal involving his sexual relationship with a White House intern. The Senate voted to keep Clinton in office.


The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday will first hear from Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. Taylor told lawmakers in closed-door testimony he was unhappy that the administration had held up the congressionally approved aid to help combat Russia-backed separatists in the eastern part of Ukraine.

Taylor said he also became uncomfortable with what he described as an “irregular channel” of people involved in Ukraine policy, including Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.

Kent, a senior State Department official who oversees Ukraine policy, will appear at Wednesday’s hearing as well. Kent was also concerned about Giuliani’s role in conducting shadow diplomacy – and has testified that he was cut out of the decision-making loop on Ukraine matters.

On Friday, the committee will hear from Yovanovitch, who Trump removed as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in May. She has testified that she was ousted after Giuliani and his allies mounted a campaign against her with what she called “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.” Giuliani had been actively trying to get Ukraine to carry out investigations of the Bidens.


“I hope everyone who testifies will go do so truthfully, accurately. When they do … I think America will come to see what took place here,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told WCSC-TV, a CBS News affiliate in South Carolina, on Monday.

“I was part of America’s Ukraine policy. We were very clear. We wanted to make sure that the corruption that has been existing in Ukraine for an awfully long time was reduced,” Pompeo said.

Some Republicans have argued that Trump was motivated by a push to root out corruption in Ukraine, rather than a desire to pressure a foreign government to smear one of his domestic political rivals.

Democrats are likely to call further witnesses after this week.

House Republicans have released their list of witnesses they would like brought before the committee, including Hunter Biden and the whistleblower. Schiff is unlikely to summon either to testify, and even some Republicans have opposed the push from Trump and some of his supporters that the whistleblower be identified.

Trump and Giuliani have made accusations – without providing evidence – that Joe Biden sought the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor to block a corruption probe of Burisma. The Bidens have denied wrongdoing.

Republicans on the Intelligence Committee will be permitted to question the witnesses this week and defend the president. The president’s lawyers will not be allowed to do so – something Trump has complained about bitterly.

A still image from a social media video shows a police officer aiming his gun at a protester in Sai Wan Ho, Hong Kong.
Police officer shoots protester as Hong Kong violence flares
11 November 2019, 9:43 AM

Hong Kong police opened fire and wounded at least one protester on Monday, witnesses and media reports said, a fresh escalation of violence as anti-government demonstrations enter their sixth month.

Police fired live rounds at protesters on the eastern side of Hong Kong island, Cable TV and other Hong Kong media reported. Cable TV said one protester was wounded when police opened fire.

Video footage showed a protester lying in a pool of blood with his eyes wide open. Police also pepper-sprayed and subdued a woman nearby as plastic crates were thrown at officers, the video shared on social media showed.

The Hospital Authority told Reuters a 21-year-old man suspected to have been wounded during the incident in Sai Wan Ho was admitted to hospital on Monday and was undergoing an operation.

Cable TV reported the unidentified protester was in a critical condition.

Police said in a statement radical protesters had set up barricades at multiple locations across the city and warned the demonstrators to “stop their illegal acts immediately”.

They did not comment immediately on the apparent shooting.

Police first began using live rounds as warning shots in August and have shot an 18-year-old protester and a 14-year-old, both of whom survived.

Anson Yip, a 36-year-old Sai Wan Ho resident, said protesters were throwing rubbish to create a road block when police, possibly from the traffic department, ran to the scene.

“They didn’t fight and the police ran and directly shot. There was three sounds, like ‘pam, pam, pam’,” Yip said.

“They (the protesters) are against the government, that’s why the police just shot them,” he said.

A Reuters witness said police later fired tear gas in the same area where the protester was shot. After police forensic teams left the scene, protesters and local residents formed a barricade of polystyrene boxes around the bloodstain next to a pedestrian crossing.

A 24-year-old man, one of several office workers gathered at the scene after the shooting, said: “When I arrived the road was blocked and people were yelling at the police, calling them murderers.” The man gave only his surname of Wing.


Protests have occurred at times daily, sometimes with little or no notice, disrupting business and piling pressure on the city’s beleaguered government.

Protesters are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the former British colony’s freedoms, guaranteed by the “one country, two systems” formula put in place when the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.

The latest violence comes after a student died in the hospital last week following a fall as protesters were being dispersed by police.

Violence flared at several university campuses throughout the morning as news spread of the shooting, with witnesses reporting tense standoffs between students, protesters and police. Police fired teargas and rubber bullets, witnesses said, while protesters hurled homemade petrol bombs at police at one location.

“I am worried about my safety but I will still come out,” said Anson, a 20-year-old student at Hong Kong Polytechnic University who only gave his first name. “I am willing to sacrifice my life for Hong Kong.”

Services on some train and subway lines were disrupted early on Monday, with traffic snarled and riot police deployed near stations and shopping malls.

The Labour Department urged all employers on Monday to be understanding and flexible regarding work arrangements.

Hong Kong’s stock market HSI fell 1.6% in early trade, outpacing losses of 0.7% in other parts of the region.

Activists blocked roads and trashed shopping malls across Hong Kong’s New Territories and Kowloon peninsula on Sunday during a 24th straight weekend of anti-government unrest.

Students hold images of Chow Tsz-Lok, 22, a university student who fell during protests at the weekend and died early on Friday morning, during a ceremony to pay tribute to him at the Hong Kong University.
Death of student during HK protests likely to trigger further unrest
8 November 2019, 10:48 AM

A student at a Hong Kong university who fell during protests at the weekend died on Friday, the first student death in months of anti-government demonstrations in the Chinese-ruled city that is likely to be a trigger for fresh unrest.

Chow Tsz-lok, 22, an undergraduate student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, died of injuries sustained early on Monday. The circumstances of how he was injured were unclear but authorities said he was believed to have fallen from the third to the second floor in a parking lot when police dispersed crowds in a district east of the Kowloon peninsula.

Chow’s death is expected to spark fresh protests and fuel anger and resentment against the police, who are already under pressure amid accusations of excessive force as the city grapples with its worst political crisis in decades.

Demonstrators had thronged the hospital this week to pray for Chow, leaving flowers and hundreds of get-well messages on walls and notice boards inside the building. Students also staged rallies at universities across the former British colony.

“Wake up soon. Remember we need to meet under the LegCo,” said one message, referring to the territory’s Legislative Council, one of the targets of the protest rallies. “There are still lots of things for you to experience in your life.”

Another read: “Please add oil and stay well,” a slogan meaning “keep your strength up” that has become a rallying cry of the protest movement.

Students and young people have been at the forefront of the hundreds of thousands who have taken to the streets since June to press for greater democracy, among other demands, and rally against perceived Chinese meddling in the Asian financial hub.

The protests, ignited by a now-scrapped extradition bill for people to be sent to mainland China for trial, have evolved into wider calls for democracy, posing one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took charge in 2012.

Protesters have thrown petrol bombs and vandalized banks, stores and metro stations, while police have fired rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon and, in some cases, live ammunition in scenes of chaos.

In June, Marco Leung, 35, fell to his death from construction scaffolding after unfurling banners against the extradition bill. Several young people who have taken their own lives in recent months have been linked to the protests.


Chow, an active netball and basketball player according to his university peers, had been studying a two-year undergraduate degree in computer science.

Chow’s death came on graduation day for many students at his university, located in the city’s Clear Water Bay district.

Hundreds of students, some in their black graduation gowns and many wearing now banned face masks, held a silent gathering in the main piazza of the campus after receiving their degrees. Some were in tears.

They later moved to a stage where the graduation ceremonies had been held. Chanting “Stand with Hong Kong” and “Five demands and not one less,” they spraypainted Chow’s name and pinned photos and signs of him on nearby walls.

“I can’t put a smile on my face thinking about what has happened,” said Chen, a female graduate in biochemistry, who was wearing a formal gown and holding bouquets of flowers.

A memorial at the carpark where Chow fell and a vigil on campus are planned by students for Friday night.

Hong Kong’s government said in a statement that it expressed “great sorrow and regret” and that the crime unit was conducting a “comprehensive investigation” into Chow’s death.


At a separate event, around 1,000 people rallied in the city’s main financial district to protest against alleged police brutality and actions. Many held white flowers in memory of Chow.

“I am very sad over Chow’s death. If we don’t come out now, more people might need to sacrifice (themselves) in the future,” said Peggy, an 18-year-old university student at the University of Hong Kong.

High school pupils are also planning a rally in the eastern district of Kwun Tong, they said in advertisements prior to Chow’s death.

Protests scheduled over the weekend include ‘Shopping Sunday’ centered on prominent shopping malls, some of which have previously descended into chaos as riot police stormed areas crowded with families and children.

Last weekend, anti-government protesters crowded a shopping mall in running clashes with police that saw a man slash people with a knife and bite off part of the ear of a local politician.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula, allowing it colonial freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary and the right to protest.

China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.

Women stand outside Bogodogo hospital where officials met with family members of victims of an ambush on workers near a Canadian-owned mine, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
At least 37 killed in ambush near Canadian-run mine in Burkina Faso
8 November 2019, 7:43 AM

Dozens of people were feared still missing on Thursday after an ambush on workers near a Canadian-owned mine in Burkina Faso killed at least 37, the worst such attack for years in a country plagued by jihadist violence.

Quebec-based gold miner Semafo said five of its buses with a military escort came under fire on the road leading to its Boungou mine in the eastern region of Est, about 40 kilometres from Boungou, on Wednesday.

The assailants’ identity was unclear, but Burkina Faso is struggling to combat surging Islamist violence in remote eastern and northern scrubland areas of the West African state.

“Once more our people are in mourning because of terrorist groups that are multiplying, murderous actions against our civilians and our defence and security forces,” President Roch Marc Kabore said in a televised address.

Semafo said the Boungou mine site remained secured, although it has suspended operations following the attack.

It was unclear exactly how many people were in the convoy, what their nationalities were or how many were missing. But two security sources said dozens may still be unaccounted for.

One miner was shot in the leg but survived because the bodies of other victims fell on top of him, shielding him from the hail of bullets, his brother Benjamin Compaore said.

“There were more and more shots and then because the others were on top and he was underneath, God protected him,” he said, speaking outside the Ouagadougou hospital where the wounded were being treated and distraught family members gathered.

Some questioned why the authorities had not yet provided a full casualty list.

Theodore Silga said his younger brother Gilbert, 26, had been on one of the ambushed buses. “The people working with my brother said they have not heard from him.”

Semafo has said that under new safety guidelines, Burkinabe employees travel to and from the mine with a military escort by road while international staff are flown by helicopter.

Two separate sources, who have worked at the mine, said the convoy left weekly carrying about 250 staff, usually in five buses of 50-60 people each.

The company tightened security last year following attacks that killed three workers and five security officials.

Canada’s foreign ministry said there were no reports so far of any of its nationals being victims of the attack, the worst in Burkina Faso since groups with links to Islamic State and al-Qaeda began targeting it in January 2016. Then, al-Qaeda militants killed 32 people in a raid on a popular cafe and hotel in Ouagadougou.

A man poses with a magnifier in front of a Facebook logo on display in this illustration taken in Sarajevo.
International committee calls for pause on false political ads online
8 November 2019, 6:51 AM

An international “grand committee” of lawmakers called on Thursday for a pause on online micro-targeted political ads with false or misleading information until the area is regulated.

The committee, formed to investigate disinformation, gathered in Dublin to hear evidence from Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google and other experts about online harms, hate speech and electoral interference. The meeting was attended by lawmakers from Australia, Finland, Estonia, Georgia, Singapore, the UK and United States.

The committee’s inaugural session in London last November featured an empty chair for Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg after he declined to be questioned.

Facebook has been under scrutiny in recent weeks over its decision to not fact-check ads run by politicians, which intensified when rival Twitter announced last month that it would ban all political ads.

Zuckerberg has defended this policy, saying that the company does not want to stifle political speech.

Politicians can micro-target groups of voters on social media based on user data such as location, age and interests, a practice critics fear could intensify the effects of false or misleading information on certain groups and suppress voter turnout.

At a conference in Lisbon on Thursday, Europe’s antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said, “If it’s only in your feed, between you and Facebook, and their micro-targeting of who you are, that’s not democracy anymore.”

Facebook said on Thursday a doctored video shared by Britain’s governing Conservatives would not have broken its rules on political advertising if it had run as a paid-for ad.

“Ads from political parties and political candidates are not subject to our fact-checking rules,” Rebecca Stimson, Facebook’s head of UK Public Policy, told reporters on a call to explain the company’s policies ahead of Britain’s December 12 election.

“What that has meant is what the Conservative party put in that advert has been the subject of ferocious public debate and discussion, precisely because people could see that it was there,” Stimson said.

Facebook partners with global third-party fact-checking organisations to curb misinformation on the site.

Ahead of an election that could shape the fate of Brexit, some politicians have expressed concerns that misleading information could spread swiftly across social media.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party chairperson was forced to defend the distribution of a doctored video clip of a rival Labour Party politician on Wednesday, overshadowing the launch of the party’s election campaign.

Johnson’s Conservatives posted the heavily edited video clip of Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer on Facebook and Twitter, editing out a key response in an interview to give the impression that the party had no answer for Brexit.

The video was shared as a normal post on the Conservatives’ Facebook page, but has not been used as a paid-for ad on the platform, according to a search of Facebook’s Ad Library, a database launched to increase political ad transparency.



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