International: Cambridge Analytica Suspends Alexander Nix following Election Staging Brags

Data mining company Cambridge Analytica has suspended its chief executive Alexander Nix after he was caught bragging about manipulating elections in a tape.

In a hidden camera footage set by UK’s Channel 4 News, the firm’s executives were seen pitching tactics to entrap political opponents and boasting about running election campaigns across the world, including in Kenya in 2013 and 2017.

To a reporter who posed as a fixer for candidates in Sri Lanka, the executives talked about the way the company operated, including offering bribes, spreading false information about the opponents, and sending “some girls around to the candidate’s house”.

Mark Turnbull, managing director of Cambridge Analytica’s political division, also spoke about the firm’s role in Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaign in the last two of Kenya’s elections, including providing research, rebranding the party and writing manifesto and speeches.

“We’d stage the whole thing,” Turnbull said in the video.

Cambridge Analytica continues to receive heavy scrutiny, following the revelation by whistleblower Chris Wylie this week that the firm tapped personal information from more than 50 million Facebook accounts without permission for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The firm, which is partly owned by conservative hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, said Channel 4’s report “edited and scripted to grossly misrepresent the nature of those conversations and how the company conducts its business.”

However, the company’s board said Nix will still be suspended effective immediately pending a full independent investigation.

“In the view of the board, Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation,” the statement read.

“We have asked Julian Malins QC to lead this investigation, the findings of which the Board will share publicly in due course.”

Nix’s suspension came as a British parliamentary summoned Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to testify about how the social media giant allowed the company to access user data. More US politicians also call for Zuckerberg to testify before the congress.

International: Trump’s Pick for CIA Chief Takes Heat for Alleged Links to Torture

President Donald Trump’s pick for CIA chief, Gina Haspel, reportedly oversaw a secret prison in Thailand where terrorist suspects were tortured by waterboarding.

If approved by the US Senate, Haspel will become the first woman to lead the intelligence agency, replacing Mike Pompeo, who is reassigned as the secretary of state.

Haspel has spent more than 30 years working for CIA with extensive overseas experience, and is widely respected across the intelligence circles. However, she started receiving heavy scrutiny on her links to the secret prison after her appointment as Pompeo’s deputy in February 2017.

Associated Press reported that according to anonymous officials, Haspel briefly ran the black site prison in 2002, where two terrorism suspects, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri allegedly underwent waterboarding and slamming. Three years later, Haspel ordered the destruction of the 92 videos of the interrogation.

Haspel’s nomination has been widely criticised by politicians from both parties. Republican Senator John McCain, who was tortured in the Vietnam war, said, “Ms Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process.”

Fellow Republican Susan Collins, who is a part of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she is undecided on whether to support the nomination. “[Haspel] certainly has the expertise and experience as a 30-year employee of the agency,” said Collins. “But I’m sure there are going to be some questions raised.”

Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, who served in the Iraq War, said Haspel’s nomination was “even worse” than that of Pompeo’s. “Not only did she directly supervise the torture of detainees, but she also participated in covering it up by helping to destroy the video evidence,” Duckworth said in a statement. “Her reprehensible actions should disqualify her from having the privilege of serving the American people in government ever again, but apparently this president believes they merit a promotion. I could not disagree more.”

Haspel has not addressed these concerns. “I am grateful to President Trump for the opportunity, and humbled by his confidence in me, to be nominated to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” Haspel said in a statement. “If confirmed, I look forward to providing President Trump the outstanding intelligence support he has grown to expect during his first year in office.”

International: US Would No Longer Tolerate North Korea’s Nuclear and Missile Tests, Pence Says

US Vice President Mike Pence said “the era of strategic patience is over” with North Korea, following the failed missile test in the North.

Speaking in Seoul on Sunday alongside South Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn, Pence said the missile launch on Saturday was “a provocation” to US and its allies.

Pence warned the North to mind President Donald Trump’s foreign military policy, as has been in shown in other countries recently. “Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan,” said Pence.

“North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region… We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable.”

On the same day, Trump also said on Twitter that China is “working with us on the North Korean problem”. US security adviser HR McMaster also indicated that the President would be “comfortable making tough decisions” in order to ensure the nuclear-free status of Korean Peninsula.

International: Donald Trump Signs a Revised Travel Ban Order

US President Donald Trump has signed a newly revised travel ban order, exempting Iraqi nationals and US permanent residents from the prohibition to enter the country.

The new order, which takes effect starting March 16, will apply a 90-day visa halt on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries: Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. It also explicitly exempts US permanent residents and valid visa holders.

The new order comes after the controversies surrounding the original order, which was issued on January 27 and blocked by federal courts following protests and .

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the order was required to provide “a needed pause” for US to review its relationship with travellers from “countries of concern”.

“We cannot compromise our nation’s security by allowing visitors entry when their own governments are unable or unwilling to provide the information we need to vet them responsibly, or when those governments actively support terrorism,” said Sessions.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it would try to block the new order in court, saying the latest revision still amounts to religious discrimination.

“President Trump has recommitted himself to religious discrimination, and he can expect continued disapproval from both the courts and the people,” said Omar Jadwat, ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project director.

Democrats senator Bernie Sanders said the ban would instead jeopardise the safety of American citizens.

“This ban is a racist and anti-Islamic attempt to divide us up,” Sanders wrote in a statement. “This isn’t about keeping America safe. A president responsible for keeping our citizens safe would not hand over ideological ammunition to terrorists seeking new recruits to kill Americans.”

“A watered-down ban is still a ban,” said senator Chuck Schumer in a statement. “Despite the administration’s changes, this dangerous executive order makes us less safe, not more, it is mean-spirited, and un-American. It must be repealed.”

International: Trump’s Son-in-Law Named as White House Advisor

President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner has been appointed as senior White House advisor to work on trade deals and foreign policy.

Kushner, husband to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, accepted the position after receiving legal advice that he would not be violating the 1967 anti-nepotism law. Kushner’s lawyer, Jamie Gorelick argues on Monday that the law does not apply to the White House.

“Even without that law, two DC Circuit decisions strongly suggest that the White House Office is not an ‘agency’ under the anti-nepotism statute, a position supported by the views of the Justice Department under presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush,” said Gorelick.

In a statement, Trump said Kushner would be “an invaluable member of my team as I set and execute an ambitious agenda, putting the American people first.” The statement also said that Kushner would waive his salary while employed in the administration.

“It is an honour to serve our country,” said Kushner in the same statement. “I am energised by the shared passion of the President-elect and the American people and I am humbled by the opportunity to join this very talented team.”

Kushner was one of Trump’s campaign advisors during the elections, working in the campaign’s digital aspects. Kushner has also been assisting Trump during the transition period, coordinating communication between the president-elect’s team and foreign leaders and officials.

Kushner will be stepping down from his position as CEO of real estate company Kushner Companies in an effort to diminish conflict-of-interest concerns. In a statement, Gorelick said Kushner “is committed to complying with federal ethics laws.”

National: Trump’s Presidency Might Disrupt Australia-US Refugee Resettlement Deal

The election of Donald Trump into US presidency could overturn the Australia-US refugee resettlement deal, experts say.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that refugees on Nauru and Manus Island would be relocated to the US through a one-off deal.

Under the deal, refugees who do not accept resettlement to the US would be sent to Nauru and provided a 20-year visa to stay or return to their origin country.

However, concerns arise that Trump might not keep the agreement when he takes office in January.

“In all likelihood, the only way it’s going to happen is if the refugees are transferred to the US before inauguration day [January 20],” Niels Frenzen, immigration clinic director at the University of Southern California school of law told Radio National.

“If the US has not already begun its own vetting or so-called background checks until now, if you look at the time the US has taken to vet Syrian refugees … it’s unlikely that that could be accomplished in a few months.”

Mark Krikorian, the executive director at the Centre for Immigration Studies said Trump, whose policies contradicts the agreement, might not keep the deal.

“We [America] have a good relationship with Australia — one of our closest allies in the world,” Krikorian said.

“If this were a unique situation that there was no way for Australia to deal with, I could see extending them a helping hand, but this is just a matter of shipping these illegal immigrants to the United States.”

Both Krikorian and Frenzen suggest that the resettlement could be finished before January 20 under several conditions.

Frenzen said refugees could be settled before Trump’s inauguration if vetting had been “ongoing” and the US had been negotiating with Australia since January.

Krikorian also suggested that President Barack Obama might accelerate the processing period, as he had previously sped up the assessment of Syrian refugees from 18-24 months to only three months.

“It’s entirely possible the administration will rush the admission of the illegal immigrants you all have offshore in order to get them in under the wire before January 20 when Trump becomes president,” said Krikorian.

International: Trump’s Appointment of Stephen Bannon Stirs Controversy

US President-elect Donald Trump has stirred controversy over his appointment of Stephen Bannon as the White House chief strategist.

Bannon was Trump’s campaign leader and the chief executive of conservative website Breitbart News, which he declared in July as “the platform for the alt-right”. The website has accused President Barack Obama of importing “more hating Muslims”, relating influx of refugees to disease spread, and telling female victims of cyberbullying to “just log off” and stop “screwing up the internet for men”.

Bannon has been accused of changing the Breitbart site to attract far-right, extremist followers, with anti-“globalist” views. Southern Poverty Law Centre tweeted, “Stephen Bannon was the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white, ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations also criticised the website for publishing “misogynistic and racist stories targeting women, people of colour and immigrants.”

“[Bannon] is a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies,” Ben Shapiro, former Breitbart editor said earlier this year.

In 1996, Bannon’s ex-wife, Mary Louise Piccard accused him of domestic violence. In 2007, Bannon allegedly objected sending his daughters to a California school because he “didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews”.

Bannon also said that women leaders in the US “wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the 7 Sisters schools”, but they would instead be “pro-family” and “have husbands”.

Bannon has expressed dislike of cultural and political elites. In 2010, Bannon told Political Vindication Radio, “What we need to do is bitch-slap the Republican Party.” Last year, he accused House speaker Paul Ryan of being “a total and complete sellout of the American people.”

“What drives Steve is the way the political establishment is holding back American politics,” said Joel Pollak, editor at large at Breitbart.

“It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed antisemites and racists – is slated to be a senior staff member in the people’s house,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive at the Anti-Defamation League.

 

International: Hillary Clinton Returns To White House Race

US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has returned to campaigning after three-day rest at home from pneumonia.

“Sitting at home was pretty much the last place I wanted to be,” Clinton spoke to crowd in North Carolina on her campaign trail. Clinton’s speech focused mostly on her vision for American families and children rather than her rival, Republican candidate Donald Trump.

“I’m going to close my campaign the way I began my career,” Clinton said, “focused on opportunities for kids and fairness for families… I want to give Americans something to vote for, not just against.”

Concerns arose after Clinton was reportedly taken ill and stumbling to get into her vehicle at the 9/11 memorial event.

Three days after the event, Clinton’s personal physician Lisa Bardack, MD confirmed that Clinton’s condition has improved.

“She is recovering well with antibiotics and rest,” Bardack’s statement reads. “She continues to remain healthy and fit to serve as President of the United States.”

In response to this incident, Trump has released his medical report on The Dr Oz Show following a recent examination by his personal doctor, Dr Harold Bornstein. The report states that Trump is in “excellent physical health”.

“When you’re running for president of the United States, or maybe any other country, I think you have an obligation to be healthy,” Trump told the show’s host, Mehmet Oz.

“I just don’t think you can do the work if you’re not healthy; I don’t think you can represent the country properly if you’re not a healthy person.”

Bornstein claimed in December that Trump would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency”.

International: Hillary Clinton Returns To White House Race

US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has returned to campaigning after three-day rest at home from pneumonia.

“Sitting at home was pretty much the last place I wanted to be,” Clinton spoke to the crowd in North Carolina yesterday as a part of her campaign trail. Clinton’s speech focused mostly on her vision for American families and children rather than her rival, Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Concerns arose after Clinton was reportedly taken ill and stumbling to get into her vehicle at the 9/11 memorial event.

Three days after the event, Clinton’s personal physician Lisa Bardack, MD confirmed that Clinton’s condition has improved.

“She is recovering well with antibiotics and rest,” Bardack’s statement reads. “She continues to remain healthy and fit to serve as President of the United States.”

In response to this incident, Trump has released his medical report on The Dr Oz Show following a recent examination by his personal doctor, Dr Harold Bornstein. The report states that Trump is in “excellent physical health”.

“When you’re running for president of the United States, or maybe any other country, I think you have an obligation to be healthy,” Trump told the show’s host, Mehmet Oz.

“I just don’t think you can do the work if you’re not healthy; I don’t think you can represent the country properly if you’re not a healthy person.”

Bornstein claimed in December that Trump would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency”.

International: John Oliver Tells Donald Trump To Drop Out

Notorious for his hilarious political commentary, John Oliver delivers a sincere “fuck off” message to Donald Trump on his show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

The video shows John Oliver dissecting the Republican candidate, highlighting the funny and incredibly disturbing parts of Donald Trump. Oliver begins by addressing and disproving the false claims arguing that Trump is a ‘strong’ and ‘economical’ potential leader.

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Oliver also mentions the numerous controversial cases where Donald Trump has been involved in such as his usual tirade of racial slurs, and even the time when Donald Trump wished everyone a “Happy 9/11”.

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Reiterating the serious level of success following Trump’s campaign’s, Oliver continues to stress how terribly unprofessional and unqualified he is as the next president of the United States.