2020-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2020-01-18 15:09:06 UTC
2020-01-19 13:41:22 UTC
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Common Dreams reports
Election reform advocates on [April 18] praised a decision by Maine's Supreme Court, upholding the use of ranked-choice voting for the state's upcoming primary elections, saying the ruling demonstrated that the court heeded the demands of Maine voters.
[...]Unlike in traditional voting, in which the candidate with the largest share of votes wins--even if he or she is far from capturing a majority of the support--in ranked choice voting, voters rank each candidate in order of preference. If no candidate has a majority after the first count, the least-popular contender is eliminated, voters' ballots are added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots are recounted. The eliminations and recounts continue until one candidate has a majority.
Supporters of the system say it increases voter turnout and proportional representation.
Maine's June 12 multi-party primary elections, in which voters will choose candidates for governor and congressional districts, will now make history as the first state election to use ranked-choice voting.
Fifty-two percent of Maine voters supported the system in a November 2016 ballot initiative, but lawmakers passed a bill last year delaying its implementation until December 2021 and argued that the state could not use a new voting system without direction from the legislature. The state Senate also threatened to repeal ranked-choice voting altogether if it could not pass a constitutional amendment by then.
More than 77,000 Maine residents signed a petition saying any repeal of the system by the legislature should be voided.
"The Maine legislature has changed or repealed all four of the initiatives passed by Maine voters in 2016", said Kyle Bailey of the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting in a statement on Tuesday. "Today's decision by the Maine Supreme Court confirms that the Maine people are sovereign and have the final say."
The Portland Press Herald, Maine's largest circulation daily newspaper, has extensive background details in their April 17th story: Ranked-choice voting will be used for June primaries, Maine supreme court rules.
Emmanuel Macron has outlined his vision for the future of the European Union in Strasbourg. The 40-year-old, who secured the French Presidency in May on a pro-EU platform amid a populist surge in the bloc, delivered his highly anticipated speech to over 700 MEPs in the European Parliament on Tuesday.
Macron challenged "inward-looking nationalist selfishness" amid populist sentiment in the bloc and pushed for a more united and reinvigorated Europe. "Nationalism will lead Europe into the abyss. We see authoritarianism rising all around us," he said. "The response should not be authoritarian democracy but the authority of democracy."
Macron also sought to tackle the "poisoned debate" on migration, proposing the creation of a European programme that could subsidise local authorities which host and integrate refugees.
In a speech which touched on a range of issues, Macron recommended that copyright law be tightened to protect artists' "genius" and reiterated his support for tougher environmental legislation.
Meanwhile, Macron wants to "reform" Islam:
Speaking alongside the flag-draped coffin of a police officer killed in a terrorist attack in southern France, President Emmanuel Macron last month lay blame on "underground Islamism" and those who "indoctrinate on our soil and corrupt daily." The attack added further urgency to a project already in the works: Macron has embarked on a controversial quest to change Islam in France — with the goal of integration but also preventing radicalization.
He has said that in the coming months he will announce "a blueprint for the whole organization" of Islam. And those trying to anticipate what that will look like are turning their attention to Hakim El Karoui, a leading voice on how Islamic traditions fit within French culture.
It's hard to miss that the man who appears to have Macron's ear on this most sensitive of subjects cuts a similar figure. Like the president, El Karoui is an ex-Rothschild investment banker with an elite social pedigree who favors well-tailored suits, crisp white shirts and the lofty province of big ideas. The latest of those ideas is this: that the best way to integrate Islam within French society is to promote a version of the religion "practiced in peace by believers who will not have the need to loudly proclaim their faith."
Also at BBC.
On the Daily Dot:
The Facebook pages of Richard Spencer, the alt-right leader who was famously punched in the face last year, have been suspended.
The pages for the National Policy Institute, a lobbying group of sorts for white nationalists, and Spencer's online magazine "altright.com," vanished on Friday after Vice sent the social network an inquiry about hate groups. They had a combined following of almost 15,000 followers.
The action was taken just days after Mark Zuckerberg emphasized during his testimony before Congress that Facebook does not allow hate speech. But it wasn't until Vice flagged the accounts that Facebook suspended them. The social network said in a statement that it identifies violating pages using human monitors, algorithms, and partnerships with organizations.
A California technology billionaire said on Thursday that his longtime and perhaps quixotic effort to partition the Golden State into multiple new states could soon be put before voters.
Venture capitalist Tim Draper said he had gathered about 600,000 signatures on a petition to put his proposal to divide California on the November ballot, more than the 366,000 needed to qualify. It is his third attempt to get voters to weigh in on his call to break up the most populous U.S. state.
Draper, who in 2014 and 2016 failed in his efforts to win approval for a ballot initiative to divide the state into six parts, said in a news release Thursday that he planned to file the signatures with election officials next week.
[...] To go into effect, California would first have to certify the signatures that Draper has gathered, and then voters in November would need to pass the measure. After that, the U.S. Congress would have to approve it.
"I don't know Mr. Libby," Trump said in a statement, "but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly. Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life."
President Trump plans to pardon I. Lewis Libby Jr., who as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney was convicted of perjury in connection with the leak of a C.I.A. officer's identity, a person familiar with the decision said on Thursday.
Mr. Libby's case has long been a cause for conservatives who maintained that he was a victim of a special prosecutor run amok, an argument that may have resonated with the president. Mr. Trump has repeatedly complained that the special counsel investigation into possible cooperation between his campaign and Russia in 2016 has gone too far and amounts to an unfair "witch hunt."
Mr. Libby, who goes by Scooter, was convicted of four felonies in 2007 for perjury before a grand jury, lying to F.B.I. investigators and obstruction of justice during an investigation into the disclosure of the work of Valerie Plame Wilson, a C.I.A. officer. President George W. Bush commuted Mr. Libby's 30-month prison sentence but refused to grant him a full pardon despite the strenuous requests of Mr. Cheney, a decision that soured the relationship between the two men.
A pardon of Mr. Libby would paradoxically put Mr. Trump in the position of absolving one of the chief architects of the Iraq war, which Mr. Trump has denounced as a catastrophic miscalculation. It would also mean he was forgiving a former official who was convicted in a case involving leaks despite Mr. Trump's repeated inveighing against those who disclose information to reporters.
Critics of Mr. Trump quickly interpreted the prospective pardon as a signal by the president that he would protect those who refuse to turn on their bosses, as Mr. Libby was presumed not to have betrayed Mr. Cheney. Mr. Trump has not ruled out pardons in the Russia investigation.
Is this President Trump's "Chelsea Manning moment"?
Many media outlets are saying "Paul Ryan Retires" (For example, Vox's original headline.) This doesn't mean he won't still be there until the new Congress is seated in January 2019.
More and more Republicans are looking at how the 2018 elections are shaping up and deciding they want no part of them--with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) just the latest to announce they won't run for reelection this year.
This makes 25 House Republicans and three GOP senators who are calling it quits, not counting several more who are stepping down to run for another political office (or who have already resigned). That's the highest such number for just one party in decades.
Revealingly, only nine House Democrats and zero Democratic senators have so far made the same choice. (Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota resigned due to scandal, but his seat has already been filled by Tina Smith, who will run this fall.) That's a dramatic discrepancy.
Though the explanations offered for these decisions differ, and though many of these GOP-held seats are in no real danger of flipping to Democrats, these retirements are revealing how members of Congress currently view the national political environment. That is: they think there's a real possibility of a Democratic wave.
But the trend is more meaningful even than that. These very retirements could help make such a wave even bigger, because it's generally easier for the opposition party to flip open seats than it is to knock off incumbents.
[...] According to FiveThirtyEight's numbers, the only time in the past 40 years there's been a bigger partisan discrepancy in [the who's not running for reelection stats] was 2008, which turned out to be a Democratic wave year.
The United States and North Korea have been holding secret, direct talks to prepare for a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, a sign that planning for the highly anticipated meeting is progressing, several administration officials familiar with the discussions tell CNN.
Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo and a team at the CIA have been working through intelligence back-channels to make preparations for the summit, the officials said. American and North Korean intelligence officials have spoken several times and have even met in a third country, with a focus on nailing down a location for the talks.
Although the North Korean regime has not publicly declared its invitation by Kim Jong Un to meet with Trump, which was conveyed last month by a South Korean envoy, several officials say North Korea has since acknowledged Trump's acceptance, and Pyongyang has reaffirmed Kim is willing to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Also at The Hill.
Park became South Korea's first democratically elected leader to be forced from office last year when the Constitutional Court ordered her out over a scandal that landed the heads of two conglomerates in jail. The court also fined Park, the daughter of a former military dictator, 18 billion won ($16.9 million) after finding her guilty of charges including bribery, abuse of power and coercion.
"The defendant abused her presidential power entrusted by the people, and as a result, brought massive chaos to the order of state affairs and led to the impeachment of the president, which was unprecedented," judge Kim Se-yoon said as he handed down the sentence.
Up to 1,000 Park supporters gathered outside the court, holding national flags and signs calling for an end to "political revenge" against her.
The court found Park guilty of colluding with her old friend, Choi Soon-sil, to receive about 7 billion won ($6.56 million) each from Lotte Group, a retail giant, and Samsung, the world's biggest maker of smartphones and semiconductors, while demanding 8.9 billion won from SK, an energy conglomerate. Most of the money was intended to bankroll non-profit foundations run by Choi's family and confidants, and to fund the education of Choi's horse-riding daughter, the court said.
Previously: South Korean President Park Geun-hye Impeached
President Park Geun-hye's Impeachment Upheld as South Korea's "Trial of the Century" Begins
Ousted South Korean Leader Behind Bars After Arrest on Bribery Charges
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Sentenced to Five Years in Corruption Scandal Ruling
The sanctions are part of a crackdown on smuggling of North Korean commodities in violation of UN sanctions resolutions.
The UN Security Council has blacklisted 27 ships, 21 companies and a businessman for helping North Korea breach sanctions, as the United States keeps up pressure on Pyongyang despite its recent overtures towards talks.
The sanctions were passed on a request from the US and they are part of a global crackdown on the smuggling of North Korean commodities in violation of UN sanctions resolutions, which were adopted in response to Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
Despite the diplomatic opening, the US has made clear they will keep the pressure on Pyongyang to shift course by pressing on with sanctions.
"We want to thank the members of the Security Council, as well as Japan and South Korea, for working with us to keep up the pressure and for their commitment to implementing UN Security Council resolutions and holding violators accountable," Haley added on Friday.
Twenty-one shipping and trading firms were hit by an assets freeze. Three of them are based in Hong Kong including Huaxin Shipping, which delivered shipments of North Korean coal to Vietnam in October.
Twelve North Korean firms were blacklisted for running ships involved in illegal transfers of oil and fuel, according to the document.
Two other companies, Shanghai Dongfeng Shipping and Weihai World Shipping Freight, also based in China, were blacklisted for carrying North Korean coal on their vessels.
The government of Ecuador has confirmed that it has cut off internet access in its embassy in London to Julian Assange, the founder of the whistleblowing site WikiLeaks, saying that he was putting the country's international relations at risk.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Ecuador said that the step had been taken because Assange had failed to abide by an agreement not to interfere in the South American country's relations with other states.
"The government of Ecuador warns that Assange's behaviour, through his messages on social networks, put at risk the country's good relations with the United Kingdom, the other states of the European Union, and other nations," the statement said.
[...] Ecuador temporarily cut Assange's internet connection in 2016, over fears that he was using it to interfere in the US presidential election, but it was later restored.