By Robert A. Vella
This busy news day includes new impeachment evidence showing that Trump’s “personal lawyer” Rudy Giuliani discussed putting former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch under unofficial surveillance, Iran’s anger at the European Union over the shooting down of a Ukrainian commercial airliner and the disintegration of the 2015 nuclear non-proliferation agreement, Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian power grab in Russia, China’s human rights violations, and much more news including the U.S. Navy’s refusal to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request concerning its stunning UFO encounter in 2004 on the grounds that it would compromise national security.
An associate of Rudy Giuliani appeared to discuss with another man the surveillance of US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch before she was ousted from her post last year, according to a tranche of documents made public Tuesday as part of the House impeachment inquiry.
The documents introduced a colorful new participant — Connecticut congressional candidate Robert F. Hyde — in the push by Giuliani and his allies to remove Yovanovitch, an effort that is at the center of impeachment proceedings in Washington and federal investigations in New York.
In a series of text messages with Giuliani associate Lev Parnas in March 2019, Hyde, an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump who has donated thousands of dollars to Republican politics and the Trump campaign, discussed Yovanovitch’s whereabouts in Ukraine.
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Under growing pressure at home and abroad, Iranian leaders attempted on Wednesday to calm domestic anger over the downing of a passenger jet last week, while lashing out at European nations that have formally accused Iran of breaking the 2015 agreement to curb its nuclear program.
In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani criticized — and appeared to threaten — Britain, France and Germany for officially accusing Iran on Tuesday of reneging on its commitments under the nuclear deal, a step that further isolates Iran internationally and that could lead to renewed United Nations sanctions.
Putin’s power grab
MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin engineered a surprise shakeup of Russia’s leadership Wednesday, proposing changes to the constitution that could keep him in power well past the end of his term in 2024.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned his post after Putin announced the proposed constitutional amendments. Putin kept his longtime ally in the Kremlin’s leadership structure, appointing him to the newly created post of deputy head of the presidential Security Council.
The shakeup sent shock waves through Russia’s political elites who were left pondering what Putin’s intentions were and speculating about future Cabinet appointments.
Alexei Navalny, the most prominent Russian opposition leader, tweeted that Putin’s speech clearly signaled his desire to continue calling the shots even after his term ends.
“The only goal of Putin and his regime is to stay in charge for life, having the entire country as his personal asset and seizing its riches for himself and his friends,” Navalny said.
The Chinese government increasingly poses a “global threat to human rights,” according to NGO Human Rights Watch.
In its annual report reviewing human rights standards in nearly 100 countries, the NGO warned that the Chinese government is carrying out an intensive attack on the global system for enforcing human rights.
The report’s release comes after HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said he was denied entry to Hong Kong — with no reason given by immigration authorities. Roth had planned to launch the report in the city, which has been rocked by anti-government protests for over seven months.
In 2017, Dow Chemical scored a long-sought-after victory: After a push from the U.S. government, China approved the import of the company’s genetically modified herbicide-resistant corn seeds.
A grateful Dow lobbyist emailed a senior Agriculture Department official whose support had been critical: “Thank you for your efforts in support of U.S. agriculture.”
That official, Rebeckah Adcock, was no stranger to Dow. Before joining the Trump administration, Adcock was the chief lobbyist for the herbicide industry’s trade group, of which Dow was a prominent member.
State and local officials cannot block refugee admissions in their jurisdictions, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, finding the Trump administration’s new refugee policy is likely “unlawful” and “does not appear to serve the overall public interest.”
U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte of Maryland temporarily halted President Trump’s executive order requiring governors and local officials nationwide to agree in writing to welcome refugees.
“Giving states and local governments the power to consent to the resettlement of refugees — which is to say veto power to determine whether refugees will be received in their midst — flies in the face of clear Congressional intent,” Messitte wrote in a 31-page decision.
In response to a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, a spokesperson from the Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) confirmed that the agency possesses several top-secret documents and at least one classified video pertaining to the 2004 UFO encounter, Vice reported.
According to the ONI spokesperson, these documents were either labeled “SECRET” or “TOP SECRET” by the agencies that provided them, and that sharing the information with the public “would cause exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States.”
These top-secret files included several “briefing slides” about the incident, provided to the ONI by an unnamed agency. (Because ONI officials did not classify the slides personally, they are unable to declassify them, the spokesperson added).
WASHINGTON (AP) — The decade that just ended was by far the hottest ever measured on Earth, capped off by the second-warmest year on record, two U.S. agencies reported Wednesday. And scientists said they see no end to the way man-made climate change keeps shattering records.
“This is real. This is happening,” Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said at the close of a decade plagued by raging wildfires, melting ice and extreme weather that researchers have repeatedly tied to human activity.
The 2010s averaged 58.4 degrees Fahrenheit (14.7 degrees Celsius) worldwide, or 1.4 degrees (0.8 C) higher than the 20th century average and more than one-third of a degree (one-fifth of a degree C) warmer than the previous decade, which had been the hottest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.