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Study: Half Europe’s unauthorized migrants in Germany, UK

November 12, 2019 - 4:50am

At least 3.9 million unauthorized migrants — and possibly as many as 4.8 million — lived in Europe in 2017 with half of them in Germany and the United Kingdom, according to a study published Wednesday. The Pew Research Center said the number grew from 2014, when about 3-3.7 million resided in Europe, and peaked in 2015-16 during the refugee crisis when some 1.3 million people arrived, mostly from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, the European Union and Turkey signed a deal designed to keep millions of migrants in Turkey from coming to Europe, and many asylum seekers, especially Syrians, received asylum or residency rights in Germany and other European countries.

USS Utah: The Forgotten (Drone) Battleship Sunk at Pearl Harbor

November 12, 2019 - 4:47am

Back in July, the United States almost went to war over the downing of a drone along the Iranian border. This is not, strangely enough, the first time that an attack against the United States began with violence against a drone.

Ten Reasons Why Impeachment Is Illegitimate

November 12, 2019 - 4:30am

“coup has started. First of many steps. rebellion. impeachment will follow ultimately. lawyers …”“coup has started. As one falls, two more will take their place. rebellion impeachment”2017 Tweets from Mark Zaid, current attorney for the “whistleblower”There are at least ten reasons why the Democratic impeachment “inquiry” is a euphemism for an ongoing coup attempt.1) Impeachment 24/7. The impeachment “inquiry,” supposedly prompted by the president’s Ukrainian call, is simply the most recent in a long series of “coups” that sought to overturn the 2016 election and thus preclude a 2020 reelection bid. The pattern gives away the game.Usually the serial futile attempts to abort the Trump presidency — with the exception of the Mueller Dream-Team debacle — were each characterized by about a month of media-driven hysteria. We remember the voting machines fraud hoax, the initial 2017 impeachment effort, the attempt to warp the Electoral College voting, the Logan Act, the Emoluments Clause, the 25th Amendment, the McCabe-Rosenstein faux coup, and various Michael Avenatti–Stormy Daniels–Michael Cohen psychodramas.Ukraine then is not unique, but simply another mini-coup attempt that follows the last failed coup and will presage another coup to take its place when it too fails to remove Trump.All of these efforts reflect a desperate effort both to reverse the 2016 election and to preclude a 2020 reelection effort, and, barring that, to drive down the Trump polls to the point of making him delegitimized. A week after Trump was elected, the Wall Street Journal reported that intelligence agencies were withholding information from their president. “Anonymous,” in a September 5, 2018, New York Times op-ed, bragged of an ongoing “resistance” of high-ranking government officials seeking to stonewall Trump. As soon as Trump was inaugurated, Washington lawyer and former Obama official Rosa Brooks was publicly raising the possibility of a military coup to remove him. Retired admiral William McRaven recently called for Trump to be gone — “the sooner, the better.”Mark Zaid, the lawyer for the whistleblower, in his arrogance, long ago at least told the truth when he chose the words “coup” and “rebellion” to characterize left-wing efforts to remove Trump. He admitted that the coups would fail (given their lack of legality), but that they would still be followed by successive efforts. In a sane world, with this “bombshell” disclosure, the entire whistleblower caper would now simply vanish.2) Whistleblowers Who Are Not Whistleblowers. The “whistleblower” who prompted this most recent iteration of attempted Trump removal is no whistleblower by any common definition of the noun (i.e., “an individual who, without authorization, reveals private or classified information about an organization usually related to wrongdoing or misconduct. Whistleblowers generally state that such actions are motivated by a commitment to the public interest.” -- Encyclopaedia Britannica). He has no incriminating documents, no information at all. He does not even have firsthand evidence of wrongdoing, much less proof of suspect conduct within intelligence agencies that alone would prompt a legitimate appeal to the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.Instead, the whistleblower relied on secondhand water-cooler gossip about an illegally leaked presidential call. Even his mangled version of the call did not match that of official transcribers. He was not disinterested but had a long history of partisanship in general, and concerning Ukraine in particular. He was a protégé of many of Trump’s most adamant opponents, including Susan Rice, John Brennan, and Joe Biden. He did not follow protocol by going first to the inspector general but instead caucused with the staff of Adam Schiff’s impeachment inquiry. Neither the whistleblower nor his doppelganger Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, who both professed strong pro-Ukrainian sympathies during their past tenures associated with the Obama administration, were bothered by the activities of the Bidens or by the Obama decision to stop arms deliveries to Ukraine. Their outrage, in other words, was not about Ukraine but over Trump.It is highly unlikely that there are any plans to call the whistleblower or recall Vindman in person before any committee, because their usefulness as instigators of “impeachment” has already passed, and they are now both rank liabilities. Their inconsistencies and past partisan affiliations only offer vulnerabilities.3) First-term impeachment. The Clinton and Nixon inquiries were directed at second-term presidencies in which there were no more electoral remedies for alleged wrongdoing. In contrast, Trump is up for election in less than a year. Impeachment then seems a partisan exercise in either circumventing a referendum election or in damaging a president seeking reelection.4) No Special Counsel Finding. In the past, special counsels have found felonious presidential behavior, such as cited in Leon Jaworski’s and Ken Starr’s investigations.In contrast, special counsel Robert Mueller spent 22 months and $35 million, and yet his largely partisan law and investigative team found no collusion and no actionable presidential obstruction of that non-crime. We are not just proceeding with impeachment without a special counsel’s finding of wrongdoing, but after a special counsel’s finding of no actionable wrongdoing.5) No Bipartisanship. There was broad bipartisan support for the Nixon impeachment inquiry and even some for the Clinton impeachment. There is none at all for the Schiff impeachment effort, given its overtly partisan nature.6) Impeachment without High Crimes or Misdemeanors. There is no proof of any actual Trump crime.No longer is Nancy Pelosi describing the whistleblower as central to the impeachment inquiry. Asking a corrupt foreign head of state to look into past corruption is pro forma. That Joe Biden is now a candidate for president and Trump’s potential rival does not ensure him exemption from his possible wrongdoing in the past as vice president when his son used the Biden name for lucrative advantage in leveraging Ukrainian money for assumed preferential Obama-administration treatment.In other words, it is certainly not a crime for a president to adopt his own foreign policy to fit particular countries nor to request of a foreign government seeking U.S. aid, with a long history of corruption, to ensure that it has not in the past colluded with prior U.S. officials in suspicious activity. A president can appoint or fire any ambassador he chooses, all the more so when one has a known record of partisanship. It is not a crime to disagree with House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff that White House officials must testify when he so summons them.The irony is that while the House politicizes impeachment, the IG of the Justice Department, Michael Horowitz, and lifelong civil servant and federal attorney John Durham are likely to show concrete evidence that the now-exempt Obama administration used the powers of the FBI, CIA, and DOJ, unethically if not illegally, to attempt to destroy the candidacy, transition, and presidency of Donald Trump — still the current object of yet another political coup.7) Thought Crimes? Even if there were ever a quid, there is no quo: Unlike the case of the Obama administration, the Trump administration did supply arms to Ukraine, and the Ukrainians apparently did not reinvestigate the Bidens. As a matter of general policy, Trump has been far harder on Russia and far more concretely supportive of Ukraine than was the Obama administration. That stubborn fact is ipso facto evidence that if there was any quid pro quo, it was more likely a matter of Biden rather than Trump pressuring the Ukrainians, given the actual quite different results: Again, the Trump administration armed the Ukrainians; Obama and his administration did not. Thought crimes are still not impeachable offenses.8) Different Standards of Justice. There is now no standard of equality under the law. Instead, we are entering the jurisprudence of junta politics. If an alleged quid pro quo is an impeachable offense, should Vice President Joe Biden have been impeached or indicted for clearly leveraging the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor for dubious reasons by threats of withholding U.S. aid?Should Barack Obama have been investigated for getting caught on a hot mic offering to be flexible after his reelection on missile defense if Vladimir Putin would give him some space? In fact, Russia did not embarrass Obama during the subsequent 2012 successful Obama reelection effort, and Obama did shelve joint Eastern European missile-defense plans.So there is no consistency in presidential audits. Would the Obama administration have welcomed or even tolerated congressional requests to turn over all its emails, private phone conversations, and memos concerning covert meetings of U.S. and Iranian officials that surrounded the nocturnal transfer of $400 million in cash for the release of American hostages — with much of such money ending up in the hands of Hezbollah terrorists? Would the Obama administration have complied with requests for texts and transcripts surrounding its decisions to halt Eastern European missile defense?9) The Schiff Factor. Representative Adam Schiff is now de facto chief impeachment prosecutor. He has repeatedly lied about the certainty of impending Mueller indictments or bombshells. He flat-out lied that he and his staff had no prior contact with the whistleblower. He made up a version of the Trump call that did not represent the actual transcript, and when called out, he begged off by claiming he was offering a “parody.” He has an unsavory reputation as a chronic selective leaker of classified information in the House Intelligence Committee. For weeks he has not allowed Republican members of his House Intelligence Committee to have the same freedom to call and cross-examine witnesses as was extended to the then-minority Democrats during the committee’s 2016–07 investigation of FISA, unmasking, and surveillance abuses.Tradition and protocol argue that the proper place for impeachment inquiries and investigations is the House Judiciary Committee. Schiff successfully hijacked that committee’s historic role for two reasons: 1) His reputation as a brawling hyperpartisan meant that he would turn the investigation into a proverbial witch hunt and wet the lunatic beak of the progressive base; and 2) he has the ability so far as intelligence chair selectively to block rapid dissemination of transcripts of cross-examinations of witnesses and to use secrecy to massage the conduct of the committee and to selectively release information to the media.10) Precedent. The indiscriminate efforts to remove Trump over the past three years, when coupled with the latest impeachment gambit, have now set a precedent in which the out party can use impeachment as a tool to embarrass, threaten, leverage, or seek to remove a sitting president for political purposes to reverse an election.At best, we have turned a uniquely constitutional republic into a European parliamentary system in which heads of states can be removed from power without national elections. At worst, we are now a rank banana republic in which coups are an accepted model of political opposition.The next Democratic president should be prepared, in his first term, for the real chance of facing the same, and apparently now institutionalized, tactics used against Trump.We are witnessing constitutional government dissipating before our very eyes.

Democrats need to stop being such babies about Barack Obama

November 12, 2019 - 3:50am

Pete Buttigieg got in hot water with many loyal Democrats on Sunday when the Los Angeles Times reported that he cited the "failures of the Obama era" as part of why Trump's election happened. This inspired furious outrage from liberal partisans and party apparatchiks -- only soothed (and tweets deleted) when the reporter said he had misquoted Buttigieg, who was then quick to lavish praise on the ex-president.But as it turns out, Buttigieg previously said almost the exact same thing in a recent interview with Showtime's The Circus. "I don't think there's going back to Obama... the American political world we've been in from the day I was born, has been blown up," he explained, "[thanks to] its own failures which culminated in Trump. Look, if the old way worked, something like Trump would never have been possible."So this recent flap sure looks like another flip-flop from Payola Pete, mayor of Indiana's fourth largest city. But at least in his beta release form, I have to admit that Buttigieg was completely correct. Democrats really need to get over this worshipful reverence of Barack Obama.For one thing, it is simply beyond question that the Obama years were a political disaster. From having commanding majorities in both the House and the Senate, Democrats lost first the former, then the latter, and finally the presidency, as the candidate running as Obama's successor bobbled perhaps the easiest lay-up election in American history. Meanwhile, the party all but collapsed in many states, as devastating national defeats translated into the loss of over 1,000 state legislative seats.As I have written before, the primary reason for the Obama-era Democrats' initial crushing loss in 2010, which locked in Republican gains for a decade at least through their ensuing control of the state gerrymandering process, was policy error -- undershooting the size of the economic stimulus in response to the Great Recession on the one hand, and secretly using homeowner assistance money to bail out the banks on the other. The former was not entirely Obama's fault, as he had to get congressional approval for the stimulus, but the latter was entirely under his control. Millions were left out of work, and about 10 million people losing their homes wreaked further economic devastation. As any historian could tell you, being in power during a huge economic disaster is the surest possible way to get blown out of the water in the next election.If you take Obama out of the equation, what Buttigieg was saying before it looks like folks might stop sending those fat campaign checks is all but conventional wisdom even among liberals. Obama himself reportedly has grave doubts about what Trump means for his legacy. Clearly if the party could lose to the most unpopular major party nominee in the history of polling, whatever was happening before 2016 was not exactly working out.And from the other side of the fence, Obama has shown no inclination to fulfill the sort of leadership role loyal Democrats clearly crave. Despite the shattering national crisis that Trump presents, he has not gone on to a different office -- unlike, say, John Quincy Adams, who returned to the House after his presidency and fought slavery literally until his dying breath. Obama is not out there mobilizing day and night against Trump's migrant concentration camps, or his Muslim ban, or his blatant abuses of power.Only occasionally will Obama pop up to endorse candidates, often centrist or center-right white men like Emmanuel Macron or Justin Trudeau. He largely avoided campaigning in 2018 until the last few weeks before the election. He's mainly keeping to himself, hanging out with rich tycoons and celebrities, and making eye-popping sums giving paid speeches before big corporations and banks.He appears in public only occasionally -- and when he does, he has a tendency to indulge in get-off-my-lawn youth scolding that, as Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote back in 2013, was offensive and out of date when he did it as president. "This idea of purity and you're never compromised and you're always politically 'woke' and all that stuff," he said at a recent Obama Foundation summit. "You should get over that quickly. The world is messy, there are ambiguities." Just like the time when "we tortured some folks," but it was still important to "look forward as opposed to backwards" instead of enforcing the law, I suppose.Jokes aside, this almost beggars belief. President Trump is flagrantly stealing money from the American state, attempting to get foreign countries to gin up political persecutions of Obama's own vice president, and Obama is out here raising worries about exaggerated nonsense from America's most dimwitted and gullible columnists, and earning praise from loathsome trolls:> Good for Obama. (Not sarcastic!)> > -- Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) October 30, 2019Now, let me be clear: All this is, of course, Obama's complete right as a private citizen. It is, at least for the moment, still a free country. But Democrats should not follow the advice of the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, who argues that "it is unheard of for a party following a two-term president not to run on his achievements," in part because "Republicans did that with former president Ronald Reagan for 30 years." She would know, from her previous incarnation as a prolific and absolutely shameless propagandist for Mitt Romney. But the grim fate of the GOP is precisely the problem.We see today what you get when a party loses the ability to think critically about its history, and treats its leaders as infallible saints no matter what they do: Donald Trump.Want more essential commentary and analysis like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for The Week's "Today's best articles" newsletter here.More stories from The coming death of just about every rock legend The president has already confessed to his crimes Why are 2020 Democrats so weird?

With Rising Violence, China Pushes Hong Kong Toward Civil War

November 12, 2019 - 3:21am

A traffic police officer in Hong Kong shot an unarmed 21-year-old pro-democracy protester at point-blank range on Monday. on Monday. Hours later, a man was set on fire after defending Beijing in an argument. Both individuals were listed in critical condition.Over the weekend, wide-scale disturbances scarred the territory, a semi-autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. There is essentially a rebellion in Hong Kong. Riot police in green uniforms are doing battle with youthful demonstrators dressed in black. How Hong Kong Protesters Show Which Businesses Are Friend or FoeProtests began in April after Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s top official, proposed legislation authorizing the extradition of fugitives to various jurisdictions, including Mainland China. Starting June 9, when an estimated one million Hong Kongers marched in the streets, demonstrations have been almost continuous. Lam has since permanently withdrawn the extradition bill from consideration, but the protests have not abated. Especially this week. Hong Kong braced for a weekend of disturbances after Chow Tsz-lok, a 22-year-old student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, died on Friday after falling from a car park the preceding Sunday while running away from police tear gas. Many have accused the police of delaying medical assistance to the mortally injured Chow.Chow has been called “the first fatality linked to police action during a protest,” but many believe the police have killed others. Demonstrators believe three of their number were beaten to death on August 31 in the Prince Edward Mass Transit Railway station in Mong Kok. Since then, the above-ground entrance to the station has become a shrine, protestors have repeatedly rallied in front of the adjacent Mong Kok police station, and youth have continually trashed MTR trains and stations because they believe management of the rail system has withheld surveillance-camera footage.Even a single death creates a cycle of revenge and retaliation that is almost impossible to control. Chow’s passing sparked a weekend of rage.Moreover, Chief Executive Lam added to the tensions. In her most recent press conference, held Monday after the shooting and burning incidents, she called protesters the “enemy of the people.” Her provocative Cultural Revolution-speak comment came on the heels of her November 4 meeting with Chinese ruler Xi Jinping. China is apparently controlling events, and either out of obliviousness or maliciousness it is making the situation worse. Beijing has been doing that by forcing Lam to take a hard line. Apart from the withdrawal of the extradition bill—doomed because the normally pro-Beijing business community came out against it early on—she has been intransigent. That intransigence was evident from her Monday remarks. She said she would not yield to violence, but she had previously left Hong Kong people no choice. She had, with her stubbornness, earlier foreclosed the possibility of peaceful change.Hong Kong people may not be able to change her mind, but she cannot change theirs either. The army in black—as well as many other people in the territory—have continued to protest.Analysts say Beijing will eventually lose patience and use force. “This kind of extreme, violent, and destructive activity would not be tolerated or accepted in any country or society in the world nowadays,” said Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng as he met with Lam early this month in Beijing.Han’s words were taken as a threat to formally deploy units of the People’s Liberation Army or the People’s Armed Police to the streets of Hong Kong to “crush” the protests and reestablish order. Beijing could move in troops, but the move is unlikely to work. Hong Kong, after all, is ideal territory for defenders, like guerilla fighters supported by an overwhelming portion of the public. Every apartment building there is a fort where hostiles can rain down explosives or petrol bombs on Chinese troops and then disappear into their homes or back alleys. Xi Jinping surely does not want his first war to take tens of thousands of soldiers, last years if not decades, and end in a loss for China.In the meantime, there is credible evidence suggesting Mainland Chinese personnel—troops or police—are now operating on Hong Kong streets in police uniforms. This sly tactic is not working, however. Why not? The Hong Kong police department, once considered the most professional force of its kind in Asia, has lost discipline, something evident from the shooting of the protester Monday and countless other incidents. The breakdown in discipline roughly coincides with early evidence that Chinese forces were mixed in with the Hong Kong police, and the resulting rough tactics have resulted in a loss of support of ordinary residents tired of being tear gassed, clubbed, and manhandled. All this raises the question whether Beijing has given the green light to police officers to act as brutally as they want. Yet whether China did so or not, harsh action by the police is sustaining support for the protesters. Demonstrators this past weekend were chanting “Revenge.” Hong Kong is now at war with itself. There is no end in sight to the fighting.LeBron James Bends the Knee to China, Fails His First Big Test as the NBA’s ConscienceRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

For Bill Taylor, first impeachment witness, 'everything's easy after Vietnam'

November 12, 2019 - 3:00am

Most Americans came to know Taylor on Oct. 3, when Democrats released text messages that showed him calling it “crazy to withhold security assistance [to Ukraine] for help with a political campaign.”

Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers skewer Bloomberg's illusion that Democrats want another billionaire candidate

November 12, 2019 - 1:56am

"Right now, the Democratic Party has an option for everyone," Trevor Noah said on Monday's Daily Show. "There's moderates, there's progressives, there's X-Men, and there's even a guy who's worth $1.6 billion. But what if $1.6 billion just isn't rich enough for some voters? Well then, those people might be in luck." That's because billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg "is on the verge of jumping into the Democratic primary, because he doesn't think any of the current candidates can beat Trump," he said. "And you have to admit, that's such a billionaire thing to do.""Bloomberg may be making a fashionably late entrance into the presidential race, and his fellow Democrats aren't exactly giving him a warm welcome," Noah said, with a special laugh for Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) reaction. So why is Bloomberg running? Reportedly, "Jeff Bezos told Bloomberg to run," he said. "You know you're rich when the Amazon guy orders something from you! That's money.""Wow, he just ordered up a presidential candidate -- what level of Amazon Prime is that?" Seth Meyers echoed at Late Night. "Bloomberg's interest in running and Bezos' prodding come after weeks of billionaires freakouts over the possibility that someone who's critical of big banks and Wall Street like [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren or Bernie could get the Democratic nomination. In fact, last week even Bill Gates expressed concern about how much he personally would have to pay in taxes and joked that he might not have that much left over." Warren trolled Bloomberg and Gates with their own internet calculators for billionaires."In reality, the vast majority of Democratic primary voters say in polls that they're actually satisfied with the choices they already have," Meyers said. "People aren't just mad at billionaires out of jealousy or because candidates demonize them. There are real-world examples that are informing people's doubts that the wealthy can solve everything," or anything. Watch below. More stories from The coming death of just about every rock legend The president has already confessed to his crimes Why are 2020 Democrats so weird?

Impeachment hearings are Democrats' last, best chance to show how Trump endangers America

November 12, 2019 - 1:15am

Closed impeachment testimony has revealed one nightmare after another. Now the witnesses are going public. Will America (and Republicans) take note?

Taiwan seeks return of 'criminal income' from frigate scandal

November 11, 2019 - 11:59pm

Taiwan is seeking the return of hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten funds linked to a controversial deal to buy French frigates over two decades ago, prosecutors said Tuesday. Taiwanese arms dealer Andrew Wang was indicted for corruption in 2006 for reaping hundreds of millions of dollars from the deal, and his family were also found guilty as his accomplices. Wang and his family were put on Taiwan's most wanted list after they fled the island shortly before the scandal broke in 1993.

Jordan foils plot against U.S., Israeli diplomats and American soldiers: newspaper

November 11, 2019 - 11:52pm

Jordanian intelligence recently foiled a plot by two suspected militants to mount terror attacks against U.S. and Israeli diplomats alongside U.S. troops deployed at a military base in the south of the country, state-owned al-Rai newspaper reported on Tuesday. Militants from Islamic State and other radical jihadist groups have long targeted the U.S.-allied kingdom and dozens of militants are currently serving lengthy prison terms. King Abdullah, a Middle East ally of Western powers against Islamist militancy, has been among the most vocal leaders in the region in warning of threats posed by radical groups.

Chinese land deal in Solomon's Guadalcanal disrupts access to WWII site

November 11, 2019 - 11:49pm

Tour operators and the Japanese ambassador to the Solomons say it appears to be a case of a lack of understanding of the significance of the Alligator Creek site by the new owner. The issue has stirred up debate in the Solomons concerning its new relationship with China, which was formalized in September following the Pacific island nation's decision to sever its diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of Beijing.

Do-it-yourself temple waits to move into Indian holy site

November 11, 2019 - 10:43pm

Huge slabs of pink Rajasthan stone, carved pillars and bricks from across India are already waiting to form a Hindu temple to be built on the site of a demolished mosque at the centre of decades of deadly turbulence. Enough stone to build a small mountain was waiting at a complex in the holy city of Ayodhya years before the country's Supreme Court ruled on Saturday that the site should be handed over to Hindus to build a new temple. A mosque stood on the site for almost five centuries until it was demolished by Hindu zealots in 1992, sparking riots across the country in which 2,000 people, mainly Muslims, died.

Trump impeachment: Security establishment said US military aid to Ukraine was vital, testifies top defence official

November 11, 2019 - 8:21pm

America’s security establishment believed US military aid to Ukraine was vital and should not be jeopardised, a senior defence official told impeachment investigators probing Donald Trump.Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defence, told members of Congress that her department was “concerned” with delaying aid to Ukraine.

Substitute teacher fired after student beating goes viral

November 11, 2019 - 8:12pm

A substitute teacher has been fired and charged with aggravated assault following the beating of a 15-year-old female high school student in an incident captured on video. Tiffani Shadell Lankford is free on $10,000 bond after her arrest Friday afternoon. Video of last week's incident in a foreign-language class at Lehman High School in Kyle, Texas, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Austin went viral.

Most priests accused of sexually abusing children were never sent to prison. Here's why

November 11, 2019 - 7:53pm

Why aren't more credibly accused Catholic priests in prison? Blame it on laws that don't allow enough time for abuse survivors to come forward

South Korea President’s Biggest Headache Is Prosecutor He Picked

November 11, 2019 - 7:00pm

(Bloomberg) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in -- swept into office on a vow to clean up government after his predecessor was ousted for graft -- wanted a prosecutor who wouldn’t hesitate to go after the most powerful.Problem is, Moon may have gotten what he wished for in Yoon Seok-youl.Almost immediately after being appointed as the nation’s chief prosecutor in July, Yoon launched a series of probes that have rocked Moon’s two-year-old administration. The scandal has forced one justice minister to resign and helped push Moon’s approval rating to a record low -- just as he girds for an April parliamentary election that will shape the second half of his term.The investigations are only the latest in string of high-profile cases brought by Yoon, 58, over the years, including probes of two former presidents, a chief justice and the heads of Samsung Electronics Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. After then-President Park Geun-hye demoted Yoon, he joined the special prosecutor’s team whose findings laid the groundwork for her impeachment and removal.“I’m not loyal to anyone,” he famously told lawmakers when asked about one such probe in 2013.Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Yoon’s latest case involves a man whom Moon once predicted would make a “fantastic duo” with the chief prosecutor: Former Justice Minster Cho Kuk. Last month, Cho was forced to resign after just five weeks on the job amid investigations into whether members of his family inflated college admission applications and improperly benefited from investments in a private equity fund.While Cho has denied wrongdoing and hasn’t been accused of any crimes, his wife and nephew have been indicted on various charges while his brother has been detained for questioning. Any expansion of Yoon’s probe to implicate him personally would pose problems for Moon, who decided to force through Cho’s appointment even after the investigations began. “I don’t know what allegations I’ll be charged with but it seems like the indictment against me has already been planned,” Cho wrote on his Facebook page late Monday.“Moon’s presidency was empowered by high public expectations for clean government,” said Park Sung-min, head of MIN Consulting, a political consulting firm in Seoul. If Cho “faces additional allegations related to his duty as part of the prosecutor’s probe into his family, Moon and the ruling party will receive a megablow,” he said.The investigations add a new worry for Moon on top of a slowing economy and a North Korean regime that has mocked his efforts to play a mediating role in nuclear talks with the U.S. The opposition Liberty Korea Party has drawn almost even with the ruling Democratic Party in some polls, raising the prospect that it could gain control of the National Assembly in April and stymie Moon’s agenda.Moon’s office declined to comment Monday, referring to remarks he made in Yoon’s presence Friday praising the prosecutor’s progress toward “political neutrality.” Moon said it was important to establish a fair anti-corruption system that could endure after “Yoon leaves office and regardless of who replaces him.”When announcing Yoon’s appointment, Moon praised him as “a man of integrity who’s not swayed by pressure from power.” Still, the Yonhap News Agency quoted a Moon administration official in September as saying that the investigation was on a scale that would only be necessary for “probing a conspiracy of a rebellion or completely mopping up the mafia.”The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office declined a request for comment. When asked about the investigation during a parliamentary hearing last month, Yoon vowed to follow the facts: “We prosecutors are not swayed by circumstances. We process the case only in accordance with principles and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”Yoon’s reputation for challenging authority goes back at least to his time in law school when he was forced to flee Seoul after participating in a mock trial in which he sought the death penalty against former coup-leader-turned-president Chun Doo-hwan. Back then, Yoon was known for belting out “Ave Maria” and “American Pie” in karaoke sessions, according to a person who has known him for more than 40 years.Yoon became a prosecutor at the relatively late age of 33 after failing the now-defunct annual bar exam eight times. His age and penchant for making bold speeches against powerful elites earned him the nickname “Big Brother” among his fellow prosecutors.In 2006, Yoon displayed characteristic bravado in seeking the arrest of Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Mong-koo -- one of the country’s most powerful corporate titans, who was later convicted and pardoned. Yoon is someone who wouldn’t let a friend get away with wrongdoing, according to the person who has known him for more than 40 years.The investigations into Cho’s family have dealt a blow to Moon’s plans to overhaul a prosecutorial system that long been seen in South Korea as a tool for the country’s political elite to suppress dissent. While Moon had hoped Yoon would help push through legislation to weaken his own office, the chief prosecutor has publicly disagreed with a key part of the plan: delegating more investigative decisions to the police.Shortly after Yoon took office, the welcome note on the Supreme Prosecutors’ website was revised to include a pledge to “always serve the public by sternly holding those who wield power accountable for their abuses and violence.”In remarks that take on new significance in light of Yoon’s subsequent investigations, Moon urged the incoming chief prosecutor in July not to shy away from inquiries involving his own administration.“I want you to be really strict, even should there be influence-peddling and corruption within my office, government or the ruling party,” he told Yoon. “Thankfully, unlike the past, there hasn’t been a big, contemptible corruption case within my office, government or the ruling party yet.”(Adds comment from Cho in seventh paragraph.)\--With assistance from Jihye Lee.To contact the reporter on this story: Kanga Kong in Seoul at kkong50@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Pae at;Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Widow sues boat owner in fire off California that killed 34

November 11, 2019 - 5:41pm

The widow of a passenger who died in a fiery dive boat disaster that killed 34 people in the waters off California sued the vessel's owners Monday. Christine Dignam, whose husband, Justin Dignam, died when the Conception caught fire Sept. 2 off the Santa Barbara coast, claimed that the boat was unsafe. The vessel didn't have adequate smoke detectors or firefighting equipment, it lacked enough emergency exits, and a required night watch was not on duty when the flames broke out in the middle of the night, according to the wrongful-death lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles.

Is It a Crime to Encourage Illegal Immigration? The Supreme Court Will Decide

November 11, 2019 - 3:53pm

WASHINGTON -- A 1986 federal law makes it a crime to "encourage" immigrants without authorization to come to or stay in the United States."The statute potentially criminalizes the simple words -- spoken to a son, a wife, a parent, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, a student, a client -- 'I encourage you to stay here,'" Judge A. Wallace Tashima wrote last year for a unanimous panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco, in striking down the law.The law applies to a grandmother urging a grandchild to overstay a visa or a lawyer advising a client to stay in the country while fighting deportation, Tashima wrote. It may cover public officials helping immigrants in sanctuary cities and perhaps even speeches at immigration rallies, he wrote.Last month, the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the law can be squared with the First Amendment. The case, United States v. Sineneng-Smith, No. 19-67, is one of several significant immigration matters on the court's docket. On Tuesday, the court will hear arguments on whether the Trump administration can rescind protections for so-called Dreamers. Later in the term, it will consider whether immigrants can go to court to challenge orders calling for their expedited removal.The First Amendment case concerns Evelyn Sineneng-Smith, who ran an immigration consulting firm in San Jose, California. Her clients, mostly from the Philippines, worked without authorization in the home health care industry. Sineneng-Smith offered to help them get green cards under a Labor Department certification program that she said would give them permanent resident status and allow them to work legally.But the program had expired. Sineneng-Smith nonetheless charged her clients $6,800 to file applications she knew to be futile. She was convicted of mail fraud, a conviction that the 9th Circuit affirmed and that Sineneng-Smith is not challenging in the Supreme Court. The question for the justices is whether her separate conviction under the 1986 law for encouraging her clients to stay in the United States was proper.In the 9th Circuit, Sineneng-Smith argued that she had a First Amendment right to file the applications, which was not a particularly strong argument. "Speech integral to criminal conduct," the Supreme Court has said, is not protected by the First Amendment.When the case reached the 9th Circuit, it did something unusual. It asked for briefing on a different First Amendment question. The court wanted to know whether the law was overbroad, chilling the free speech of people other than Sineneng-Smith.After getting additional briefs and hearing another round of arguments, the appeals court ruled that the law was unconstitutional.In urging the Supreme Court to hear its appeal, the Trump administration said the 9th Circuit had gone too far. The Supreme Court has said that striking down laws because they are too broad is "strong medicine" to be used only when the laws are unconstitutional in a substantial number of real-world settings rather than in "fanciful hypotheticals."In his 9th Circuit opinion, Tashima said that his examples of possible prosecutions "are not some parade of fanciful horribles.""Instead," he wrote, "they represent real and constitutionally protected conversations and advice that happen daily."Whatever the literal language of the 1986 law, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco wrote for the government in its petition seeking review, criminal laws are "ordinarily understood not to prohibit abstract advocacy of illegality.""Just as a teenager does not aid, abet or solicit marijuana possession merely by saying to a friend, 'I encourage you to try smoking pot,'" Francisco wrote, a grandmother does not violate the 1986 law "merely by saying to her grandson whose visa has expired, 'I encourage you to stay.'"Francisco asked the justices to decide only whether speech made for financial gain could be made criminal. The 1986 law does discuss financial gain, but in a separate provision allowing longer sentences when money is involved.Prosecutions under the law tend to be limited to cases concerning classically criminal conduct by unsympathetic defendants. But not always. In 2012, for instance, a Massachusetts woman, Lorraine Henderson, was convicted of hiring an immigrant in the country illegally to clean her home and offering general and not always reliable advice about immigration law.In that case, Judge Douglas P. Woodlock, of the U.S. District Court in Boston, wrote that the "plain and unadorned language" of the law "can be read to cast a wide net over those who interact with illegal aliens by offering employment."Woodlock did not consider First Amendment issues in his decision, but he granted Henderson's motion for a new trial based on his misgivings about the sweep of the law. Prosecutors dropped the case.In Sineneng-Smith's case, the government argued that it did not pursue prosecutions based on ordinary interactions with immigrants in the country illegally.That was small comfort, Tashima wrote. "Just because the government has not (yet) sought many prosecutions based on speech," he wrote, "it does not follow that the government cannot or will not use an overbroad law to obtain such convictions."In the Supreme Court, Sineneng-Smith's lawyers said they should be allowed to challenge the law in order to protect the constitutional rights of other people."The very reason that overbroad laws are subject to facial attack," they wrote, "is to remedy the chilling effect resulting from keeping such laws on the books."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company