By Robert A. Vella
Today, we’ll look at five entities on the hot seat of public scrutiny. A new U.N. report has discovered additional details about the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and is recommending a thorough investigation of Saudi Arabian officials including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman whom President Trump is so fond of. Four at-large individuals, including three Russian military officials and a pro-Russia Ukrainian soldier, have been charged with murder in the deadly 2014 crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by a joint investigation conducted by five nations. Trump’s former White House aide Hope Hicks defiantly refused to answer questions in private testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Conspiracist and right-wing propagandist Alex Jones has been sanctioned by the judge in a civil case against him made by the families of the Sandy Hook school mass shooting in 2012. California utility PG&E, which has filed for bankruptcy, has agreed to pay $1 billion to local governments of the communities devastated by last year’s Camp Fire including the town of Paradise which was virtually wiped-out.
A United Nations expert assigned to investigate the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi government agents has recommended probing the possible role of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a conclusion that could complicate the kingdom’s efforts to smooth over ties with Western allies.
Agnes Callamard, an expert on extrajudicial executions at the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she found no “smoking gun” and that “no conclusion is made as to guilt.” But in a report running about 100 pages, she revealed disturbing new details from audio recordings of the murder and maintained there was “credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the crown prince’s.”
Citing the recordings, Callamard found that Saudi forensic expert Salah Tubaigy — part of the 15-member team sent to Turkey for the operation — discussed a plan for dissecting a body before Khashoggi entered the building.
At one point, when Khashoggi resisted orders from the agents, someone warned, “If you don’t help us you know what will happen at the end,” according to the report.
Four people will be charged with murder and causing the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, five years after the plane was shot down in eastern Ukraine killing 298 people, international investigators said Wednesday.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said it would issue national and international arrest warrants Wednesday for the four suspects. Three Russians, Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov, were named, along with Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko.
According to investigators, Girkin is a former colonel of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Dubinskiy was employed by Russia’s military intelligence agency GRU and Pulatov was a former soldier of the Russian special forces, Spetsnaz-GRU.
A defiant aide
WASHINGTON — Former top White House adviser Hope Hicks is refusing to answer questions related to her time in the White House in an interview with the House Judiciary Committee, according to several frustrated Democrats who have been in the meeting.
Less than an hour into the interview, part of the panel’s investigation into obstruction of justice and special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Democrats said she was following White House orders to stay quiet about her time as an aide to President Donald Trump.
“She’s objecting to stuff that’s already in the public record,” said California Rep. Karen Bass. “It’s pretty ridiculous.”
A vile propagandist
A Connecticut judge on Tuesday sanctioned right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for suggesting that a lawyer for the Sandy Hook families, who are suing the InfoWars founder for his past claims that the 2012 shooting was staged, tried to frame him with child pornography.
The ruling, handed down from Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, came after attorneys representing several Sandy Hook families in their lawsuit against Jones filed a motion on Monday asking the judge to review footage of Jones lambasting one of the attorneys in a Friday segment.
Bellis called Jones’ behavior on the broadcast “indefensible,” “unconscionable,” and “possibly criminal behavior.”
A negligent utility
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California utility agreed Tuesday to pay $1 billion to 14 local governments to cover damages from a series of deadly wildfires caused by its downed power lines.
The settlement is a sliver of the more than $30 billion in potential damages Pacific Gas & Electric is facing in lawsuits filed by local governments, insurance companies and private property owners.
More than half of the $1 billion in the agreement would go to four governments impacted by a 2018 fire that killed 85 people and destroyed nearly 14,000 homes in Northern California.