Paul Manafort, onetime campaign chairman to President Donald Trump, sentenced to nearly 4 years in prison

Political News Paul Manafort, onetime campaign chairman to President Donald Trump, sentenced to nearly 4 years in prison

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Paul Manafort to nearly four years in federal prison for crimes related to tax and bank fraud in the first of two sentencing hearings for the onetime Trump campaign chairman, a term substantially less than prosecutors sought.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis’ decision came more than a year after special counsel Robert Mueller secured an 18-count indictment against Paul Manafort on charges related to tax and bank fraud.

A Virginia-based jury found Manafort, 69, guilty on eight of those counts after a lengthy trial in August 2018, setting the stage for the hefty upcoming prison term.

In a flurry of court documents filed over the past month, special counsel prosecutors and Manafort’s defense team sparred over what penalty would be appropriate for his crimes.

The special counsel’s office advocated for a lengthy prison term in line with the findings of an independent pre-sentencing report, which calculated that Manafort’s crimes called for a prison sentence of up to 25 years. In response, defense counsel for Manafort sought a term “substantially below” sentencing guidelines, citing their client’s age and health.

Judge Ellis said Thursday he found those sentencing guidelines “excessive” and “quite high.”

Arriving at court this afternoon, a wheelchair-bound Manafort donned a green jumpsuit with a cane in hand. He managed to stand up under his own weight when Judge Ellis entered the courtroom.

Nearly three hours into his sentencing hearing, Paul Manafort made a direct pitch to Judge Ellis to show “compassion” in his sentence and sought to describe the burden his actions have taken on his family.

“My life – personally and professionally – is in shambles…The last two years have been most difficult my family has experienced,” he said. “This is an ordeal I am responsible for…I ask for your compassion.”

Despite Ellis’ decision, Manafort’s legal travails are far from over. He faces another sentencing next week in Washington. He pleaded guilty to those additional federal charges brought by the special counsel’s office in September 2018.

Manafort, a longtime lobbyist and Republican political operative, led President Donald Trump’s campaign for five months, from May to August 2016.

Now that he has been sentenced to prison, Manafort’s former boss could be his saving grace. In November, Trump told the New York Post that though a pardon for Manafort had never been discussed, he “wouldn’t take it off the table.”

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Posted On 07 Mar 2019

‘Captain Marvel’ star Brie Larson wanted to be Princess Leia growing up

Entertainment News  'Captain Marvel' star Brie Larson wanted to be Princess Leia growing up


Marvel Studios(LOS ANGELES) — Brie Larson stars as Captain Marvel in the first standalone Marvel film featuring a female superhero. But like a lot of little girls of a certain age, when she was growing up, there was another iconic female heroine she wanted to be.

“I wanted to be Princess Leia,” Larson, 29, told ABC’s Good Morning America. “[When] I was probably 8 years old, I bought a shirt that was for, like, maybe my size now, because I was going to play her at some point. I kept it in my closet. I’m sure my mom has it in the garage somewhere.”

Princess Leia was, of course, played by the late Carrie Fisher — just one of the female acting role models Larson said she admired in her journey to becoming an actress.

In Captain Marvel, the Oscar-winner stars alongside one of her other acting icons, Annette Bening.

“We have really long scenes together in this movie, so you get to play scene partners with somebody who is just incredible,” Larson said of Bening.

Larson transformed herself physically to play a superhero in Captain Marvel, and she described the workouts she did — many of which she shared on Instagram — as “really hard,” but also mentally transforming.

“It changes everything. It changes your mind. It changes the way you carry yourself, but it’s such a sacrifice,” Larson said, while admitting she “cried a lot in the gym.”

“It’s such a full-time commitment but I loved it. I really loved it,” she said.

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel, which also stars Samuel L. Jackson and Jude Law, opens tomorrow, which, not coincidentally, is International Women’s Day.

Marvel Studios is owned by Disney, the parent company of ABC News.

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Posted On 07 Mar 2019

How Mueller’s team fears Russia could learn US secrets in court case

Political News How Mueller's team fears Russia could learn US secrets in court case

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team argued Thursday that if it’s forced to hand over millions of “sensitive” documents to Russian individuals as part of court proceedings, Russia could mine the material for operational secrets and use them against the U.S.

Prosecutor Jonathan Kravis made the argument at a pre-trial hearing for a case against a Russian firm accused of funding a St. Petersburg troll farm that allegedly conducted a widespread propaganda and disinformation campaign ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Kravis said that while most of the 3.2 million “sensitive” documents that have been collected in discovery for the case were relatively innocuous on their own, a shrewd reading of the whole lot could reveal important U.S. investigative secrets.

It might be possible, for instance, to determine from the information the government has what information the government does not have — the “gaps in the coverage.” One could also potentially use the information available to “recreate the steps of the investigation,” Kravis said.

“That information, used by a foreign adversary, could be used to avoid detection in the future,” he told the court.

The argument is the closest the government has come yet to articulating a concern that legal and national security experts shared with ABC News back in October. They said then that Russia might be using the U.S. court system to gather intelligence on Mueller’s investigation or other U.S. secrets through the discovery process.

Prosecutors say the Russian firm, Concord Management and Consulting, is controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Previous court filings from the Mueller team indicate they’re concerned that sensitive information provided to any officers of Concord, including Prigozhin, for its defense could take a detour to Moscow.

Concord is the only one of three Russian businesses and 13 individuals, including Prigozhin, charged by the special counsel in the troll factory case to answer the accusations in court. The firm has pleaded not guilty to a fraud-related charge and has mounted a spirited pre-trial defense through the American law firm Reed Smith.

All of the Russian individuals charged in the case are believed to be in Russia, beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement, but U.S. law allows a corporate entity to defend itself without any individual officers ever being in court.

Early in the case U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich placed tight restrictions on discovery in the case, including provisions that the sensitive material had be housed at Reed Smith offices in the U.S. and could not be shared with individuals in Russia. A so-called “firewall counsel” was appointed to help determine what information could be shared with whom.

But for months Mueller’s team and the defense have tussled in various motions over the question of sharing information.

Concord’s lead attorney, Eric Dubelier, has vehemently argued that it would be virtually impossible to mount an effective defense without being able to show — or even discuss — the millions of documents of potential evidence with any actual officers of Concord in Russia. He said the government’s labeling of the millions of documents as “sensitive” was overly broad.

Dubelier said Thursday that if the government didn’t think that many of the 3.2 million “sensitive” documents were actually that sensitive on their own, they should go back and reclassify them.

He also said idea that Concord officers would come to the U.S. to view the documents, which is allowed by the judge’s restrictions, was a “non-starter.” Prigozhin, for example, presumably would be arrested the moment he set foot in the U.S. since he’s a co-defendant in the case.

Dubelier indicated that he has made a sealed filing suggesting a secure way to share information with individuals in Russia — a matter that the Friedrich said the court would discuss in a closed session that immediately followed the public hearing on Thursday.

Kravis said the government was willing to work with the defense to identify documents or groups of documents they’d be willing to share, and to redact some information more closely related to the investigative process – like search warrant information or metadata on some documents.

Whatever the outcome of the closed hearing, it appeared that after months of wrangling the two sides still had a long way to go to finding an agreement on the discovery question. No trial date has been set.

U.S. intelligence officials have warned that online influence campaigns emanating from Russia have continued long after the 2016 election and are expected to continue into the race for 2020.

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Posted On 07 Mar 2019

Jaina Lee Ortiz says she’s “really proud” to play a female firefighter on ‘Station 19’

Entertainment News  Jaina Lee Ortiz says she's "really proud" to play a female firefighter on 'Station 19'


ABC/Ed Herrera(NEW YORK) — Station 19 is turning up the heat when it returns for its midseason premiere tonight on ABC.

The firefighter drama, a Grey’s Anatomy spinoff, picks up right where we left off, revealing the fates of Andy Herrera, Captain Sullivan and their patient after their medic vehicle went over a cliff in a windstorm.

Andy, played by Jaina Lee Ortiz, is left to take charge of the situation – and if we’ve learned anything from a Shonda Rhimes show, it’s that the women are capably in charge.

“Being part of Shondaland and having that female support from everyone, from women behind the camera, women in front of the camera, it’s been a very refreshing atmosphere to be,” Ortiz tells ABC Radio.

“It only makes you want to support and show that love and encouragement and support that much more.”

She says she’s had women both young and old tell her the show has inspired them to become firefighters. Ortiz herself can’t help but be inspired by her own character.

“I hope that I can be more like Andy, pretty much,” she says. “I admire her strength and her determination and her hunger for success…I am really proud to play someone like her.”

Station 19 airs tonight at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Posted On 07 Mar 2019

Top US general warns of ‘calculated’ ISIS retreat from Syria amid ongoing battle for remaining territory

WORLD NEWS Top US general warns of 'calculated' ISIS retreat from Syria amid ongoing battle for remaining territory

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The commander of U.S. troops in the Middle East warned against the “calculated” retreat of ISIS fighters from the last territory held by the group in eastern Syria.

Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, told Congress on Thursday that the exodus of thousands of ISIS fighters and their families is not a surrender, but a decision to retreat to camps and remote areas in the region until they can reconstitute as a violent extremist organization once again.

“While ISIS has been battered by the Syrian Democratic Forces and coalition forces, we should be clear in our understanding that what we are seeing now is not the surrender of ISIS as an organization but a calculated decision to preserve the safety of their families and preservation of their capabilities by taking their chances in camps for internally displaced persons, and going to ground in remote areas and waiting for the right time for a resurgence,” Votel told the House Armed Services Committee.

ISIS now holds “less than a single square mile” of territory in the city of Baghouz out of “an area of 34,000 square miles which they once controlled,” Votel said.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the U.S.-led coalition, resumed the offensive on Baghouz last Friday after they had paused for more than a week to allow an estimated 10,000 civilians and ISIS families to leave the town. A victory by the SDF could be declared as early as next week.

Video taken on Thursday showed hundreds of ISIS fighters voluntarily handing themselves over to the SDF. Votel called the men and women leaving the last ISIS pocket “unrepentant, unbroken and radicalized.”

The SDF holds over 1,000 ISIS foreign fighters, along with thousands from Iraq and Syria. The U.S. is pushing for them to be returned to their home countries, but that effort has, so far, been met with mixed success.

“The broader international community will need to determine how we deal with the thousands of fighters and family members now being held and safeguarded by the Syrian Democratic Forces,” Votel said. “In my view, this is a serious generational problem that if not handled properly will sow the seeds of future violent extremism.”

Administration officials have said options for foreign fighters who cannot be repatriated include the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In the meantime, the U.S. will proceed with the planned withdrawal of about 2,000 troops from Syria, first ordered by President Donald Trump in December. That decision was met with surprise and outrage by U.S. partner forces and members of Congress who expressed concerns about what a U.S. withdrawal would mean for the long term security and stability of the region.

Since then, the White House has revised a complete withdrawal and will now leave a residual force of hundreds of U.S. troops in two areas of Syria which Votel said will allow the military “to continue our mission and safeguard our interests.”

Last month, the general revealed he was not consulted by Trump before the president announced the Syria withdrawal.

On Thursday, Votel conceded that Russia viewed the U.S. decision to withdraw “positively” because it “solidified” their role in the Middle East and “gave them the opportunity to fill the void.”

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Posted On 07 Mar 2019

Not so far, far away: Disney announces opening dates for ‘Star Wars’: Galaxy’s Edge attractions

Entertainment News  Not so far, far away: Disney announces opening dates for 'Star Wars': Galaxy's Edge attractions


Disney Parks(NEW YORK) — Disney has announced the opening dates for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the new theme park attractions at both Anaheim, California’s Disneyland and Orlando, Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort.

The goal of the immersive, 14-acre destinations are to make visitors feel as if they’re walking the streets of the fictional trading outpost planet of Batuu, alongside all the droids and aliens you’d expect in a Star Wars film.

Fans in California will get the first chance to visit that galaxy far, far away: The attraction opens in Disneyland on May 31.

In Florida, Galaxy’s Edge will be located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park. It’s part of the Orlando-based Walt Disney World Resort — which also includes Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom — opens August 29.

The attraction at both parks will feature rides, restaurants, and other immersive attractions from George Lucas’ iconic franchise.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

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Posted On 07 Mar 2019

House to vote on resolution ‘opposing hate’ as Democrats try to end infighting over Omar comments

Political News House to vote on resolution 'opposing hate' as Democrats try to end infighting over Omar comments

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — House Democratic leaders hoped to end the first major internal fight of their new majority by going ahead with a vote Thursday on a resolution “opposing hate,” with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying they needed to “remove all doubt” after comments made by freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Party leaders have struggled this week to negotiate a compromise over how to handle a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, initially crafted with the intent to soothe members offended by Omar, who faced a new wave of criticism for ostensibly perpetuating stereotypes against Jews.

A new 7-page text of the resolution was finalized early Thursday afternoon, ahead of an imminent floor debate just hours away, expanding its language beyond anti-Semitism to add condemnation of anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry against minorities as hateful expressions of intolerance contrary to values and aspirations of the United States.

The measure, which does not name Omar, also adds language to acknowledge “the harm suffered by Muslims and others from the harassment, discrimination, and violence that result from anti-Muslim bigotry,” and condemning the death threats received by Jewish and Muslim Members of Congress, “including in recent weeks.”

In a “Dear Colleague” letter, Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Cedric Richmond, D-La., explained that the resolution condemns anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry “as forms of racism and prejudice antithetical to the values and aspirations of the American people.”

“We hope that you will join us in strongly supporting this Resolution and speaking publicly on behalf of the values it asserts,” the duo wrote.

At a news conference at the Capitol Thursday morning, Pelosi somewhat excused Omar’s recent rhetoric, explaining that the 37-year-old freshman Democrat may not have appreciated “the full weight of how it was heard by other people.”
“I don’t believe it was intended in an anti-Semitic way,” Pelosi, D-Calif., stressed. “But the fact is, if that’s how it was interpreted, we have to remove all doubt as we have done over and over again.”

Pelosi said Democrats would craft a resolution to bring to the floor “that will again speak out against anti-Semitism, anti-Islamophobia, anti-white supremacy and all the forms that it takes – that our country has no place for this.”

Pelosi explained that “it was important” to her to speak to Omar, who was traveling on a congressional delegation to Ethiopia and Eritrea, before deciding how to proceed as a caucus.

“I thought the resolution should enlarge the issue to anti-Semitism, anti-islamophobia, etcetera – anti-white supremacist – and that it should not mention her name,” Pelosi said. “And that’s what we’re working on — something that is one resolution addressing these forms of hatred, not mentioning her name. Because it’s not about her. It’s about these forms of hatred.”

Nevertheless, Pelosi said Omar “may need to explain” the intent behind her remarks.

“It’s up to her to explain but I don’t think she understood the full weight of the words,” Pelosi emphasized. “I feel confident that her words were not based on any anti-Semitic attitude but that she didn’t have a full appreciation of how they landed on other people, where these words have a history and cultural impact that may have been unknown to her.”

Omar, from Minnesota, made history as one of the two first Muslim women elected to Congress, refused to answer a series of open-ended questions on the controversy when ABC News caught up with her inside the Capitol on Wednesday morning.

In a week in which House Democrats are celebrating their new power by voting on sweeping anti-corruption legislation, the controversy created a distraction that tested the patience of leadership — and even spilled into the early field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

A senior Democratic leadership aide said that Majority Whip James Clyburn implored the caucus to vote Thursday in order to “inoculate” Democrats from a procedural vote on H.R. 1, where Republicans could have forced a vote on their own version of a resolution, which specifically called out Omar while condemning anti-Semitism.

A second Democratic aide agreed the call to vote Thursday was made “to get people back to focusing on HR 1,” but added that some senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus “were a little taken aback by the timing since rank and file haven’t actually seen the resolution yet.”

Pelosi denied the assertion that Republicans forced Democrats into scheduling a vote, insisting “this has nothing to do with it.”

Although Democratic leaders had circulated vanilla text earlier this week to their members recapping the history of anti-Semitism and concluding that Congress rejects it — and even though the draft resolution did not directly name Omar — in a political environment deeply mired by political incorrectness, some Democrats felt it was inappropriate to single out Omar even indirectly, fighting to amend the text to add language that rejects Islamophobia and racism as well.

With a vote now anticipated on a broadened resolution condemning the full spectrum of hate, the caucus appears ready to move past the unsavory debacle.

A vote initially had been anticipated on a four-page resolution narrowly rejecting anti-Semitism as early as Wednesday but was delayed after House Democratic leaders reopened the text of the resolution on Tuesday evening to appease members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus who threatened to derail the vote.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 07 Mar 2019

Low-carb diets like keto linked to potential heart risk in new study: What you should know

ThitareeSarmkasat/iStock(NEW YORK) —  The ketogenic, or keto, diet is one of the trendiest diets right now, but a new study is raising red flags about a potential heart risk tied to low-carbohydrate diets like keto.

The study, which will be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting, found that people on low-carb diets were 18 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disorder, than people on a moderate-carb diet.

Atrial fibrillation, known as AFib, is the most common heart arrhythmia, with as many as six million people suffering from it in the U.S. alone, according to the CDC.

In a person with AFib, the normal beating in the upper chambers of the heart is irregular, according to the CDC. The resulting irregular blood flow may cause a blood clot or a stroke.

The newly-released study tracked nearly 14,000 people for more than two decades. Participants filled out a food questionnaire about what they ate and researchers followed them to track how many developed AFib.

Participants who identified as eating low-carb in the study consumed less than 44 percent of their daily calorie intake from carbohydrates.

The study’s researchers were quick to point out that the study shows an association between low-carb diets and AFib, but it does not prove cause and effect.

What is the keto diet?

Low carb diets like the keto diet call for eating foods high in fat and low in carbohydrates.

Keto dieters, for example, drastically cut carbohydrates to about 10 percent of their daily diet, which in some cases can be just 20 grams of carbohydrates per day.

While the keto diet was the most searched diet of 2018 on Google, it tied for last in 2018 on the Best Diet Overall list, which is released annually by U.S. News and World Report.

“One of our experts said, ‘Any diet that recommends snacking on bacon can’t be taken seriously as a health-promoting way to eat,'” Angela Haupt, assistant managing editor of health at U.S. News and World Report, told ABC News last year. “One of the concerns with keto is how high in saturated fat it is.”

Other critics of the keto diet argue that it is nearly impossible to follow for a long period of time and that it could lead to muscle loss or deprive the brain of its preferred fuel source: carbs.

Some also argue that the majority of the research on it has not yet looked at the long-term effects it has on non-epileptic people over the course of 15 to 20 years.

How could low-carb diets and AFib be linked?

The study’s lead author, Dr. Xiaodong Zhuang, a cardiologist in Guangzhou, China, pointed to three potential reasons low-carb diets might be associated with AFib in a news release distributed by the American College of Cardiology.

First, people on a low-carb diet may be eating fewer inflammation-fighting foods like fruits, vegetables and grains, and inflammation has been linked with AFib.

Second, having more protein and fat replacing carbs in a diet may lead to oxidative stress, which has been associated with AFib.

Third, the effects of the diet could be related to an “increased risk of other forms of cardiovascular disease.”

Proponents of the keto diet say it is the best way to lose weight without feeling hungry and that it increases energy levels. Each person should consult with their doctor to see if the benefits of a low-carb diet outweigh any potential risks.

If a low-carb diet like keto is effective in helping you lose weight — if that is your specific goal — then it may be worth continuing to follow, according to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent.

“If low-carb is effective in losing weight and therefore reducing risk of coronary heart disease, that might be worth it if you have to trade a little for the risk of AFib,” she said Thursday on Good Morning America.

Watch the video below for more information on the keto diet from Dr. Ashton.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Two American Mormons arrested in Russia, face deportation

WORLD NEWS Two American Mormons arrested in Russia, face deportation

jeffhochstrasser/iStock(MOSCOW) — Two American Mormons arrested in southern Russia have been found guilty of visa violations and now face deportation, according to the lawyer for the men.

The two U.S. citizens, David Gaaga and Cole Brodowski were detained since last Friday while inside a Mormon church in Novorossiysk, a city on Russia’s Black Sea coast.

Police accused the two Mormons of violating the terms of their visas by teaching English to other members of the congregation, their Russian lawyer, Sergey Glinznutsa told ABC News by telephone. A district court in Novorossiysk on Wednesday convicted the two men of violating immigration rules and ordered their deportation.

Both men deny they were teaching English at the church, their lawyer said.

“They were just talking” and correcting people’s pronunciation, Gliznuta said.

Russia’s foreign ministry on Thursday said two other U.S. citizens arrested at the same time as Brodowski and Gaaga had already been deported by court order. A church official, however, said the unnamed Americans were not Mormons.

It was not clear why the two other Americans were detained and deported. A representative for the Russian branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), Yuri Kozhokin, told the news agency, Interfax, that the two had nothing to do with the church and had been in Novorossiysk for a “commercial organization.”

A court in Novorossiysk on Thursday rejected appeals by Brodowski and Gaaga, Gliznutsa said. It is unclear now how long the two might remain in the temporary migrant detention center.

A prisoner rights monitor, Anzaur Akhidzhak, who chairs the Regional Public Monitoring Commission, told the state’s news agency, TASS, on Thursday that the “process is not fast.” He said his commission would inspect the conditions at the detention center in the town of Gulkevichi.

There are more than 22,700 Mormons in Russia, according to the LDS news site. American members of the church frequently travel overseas for missionary work. Male followers spend two years dedicated to the religious work, going on what is referred to as a “mission” during which they seek to recruit local people to their faith. Male followers’ “missions” usually last two years and as part of it they are expected to seek out possible converts on the street or through home visits.

That practice though has run into difficulty in Russia recently. A package of laws passed by Russia’s parliament in July 2016 banned proselytising outside of places of worship, forcing the Mormons to curtail their traditional public efforts to recruit people to their faith.

The laws, which were billed as anti-terror measure, intended to prevent “extremism,” have been used to target “foreign” minority religious groups that have longed been viewed with suspicion by Russian state authorities.

In 2017, Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned outright as an “extremist” group, placing the organization in the same category as the Islamic State terror group. Since then Russian authorities have opened dozens of criminal cases against Jehovah’s Witnesses and in February a court jailed a Danish member, Dennis Christensen, to six years on “extremism” charges, in a case that was condemned by human rights groups.

Last month, a group of seven Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Siberian city, Surgut, accused police of torturing them in detention, beating them and shocking them with stun guns. The World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses told ABC News there are currently 148 criminal investigations open against members in Russia, with 25 in pretrial detention and 27 under house arrest.

“The Jehovah’s Witnesses are simply peacefully exercising their right to freedom of religion,” Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch in June denounced the crackdown directed against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The Jehovah’s Witness faith is not an extremist organization, and authorities should stop this religious persecution of its worshipers now.”

Observers have linked the extremism laws and harsh treatment of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to a broader clampdown on Russian civil society. Russian authorities have treated foreign organizations with greater suspicion since the crisis in relations with the West that followed the revolution in Ukraine and Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014.

The Mormons have not faced comparable trouble. The church in 2016 pledged to obey the new law and redesignated its missionaries “as volunteers” and ordered them to adhere to the law’s restriction that proselytising take place only in places of worship.

Shortly after the law’s passage six Mormon volunteers were briefly detained in the city of Samara also on visa-related charges and then deported. Russia’s Supreme Court in 2017 ruled the deportation had violated two of the men’s rights.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 07 Mar 2019

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief grilled by Democrats

Political News Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief grilled by Democrats

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — The director of the national federal consumer watchdog faced a grilling by House Democrats Thursday who say that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has failed to perform its function under leadership appointed by the Trump administration.

Kathy Kraninger, who took the helm of the CFPB in December, faced criticism from the House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters for steps that Waters said she her predecessor, Mick Mulvaney, took to defang the bureau.

“I’m committed to reversing the damage that Mulvaney caused,” Waters said. “And ensuring that the consumer bureau can continue its important work.”

But Republicans on the committee applauded the steps Kraninger has taken in her new role. Ranking member Patrick McHenry said Kraninger’s leadership has eased concerns Republicans held about the previous overreach of the bureau since its inception.

“Our concerns were driven by the fear that Congress was creating one of the most powerful and unaccountable bureaucracies ever. Unfortunately, we were right,” McHenry said. Though under Kraninger, McHenry said, “It is a new day at the CFPB.”

Since Waters took control of the House Financial Services Committee at the start of the year, she’s outlined consumer issues as a significant priority for the committee. A key focus for Waters is undoing many of the regulatory measures taken at the CFPB by its former acting director, Mick Mulvaney.

Kraninger pushed back during the hearing on questions about whether her decisions were impacted by Mulvaney or President Trump.

“The decisions that I take at the bureau are my decisions,” Kraninger said. She said she has not spoken to Trump since she began leading the agency and has only seen Mulvaney socially.

Mulvaney declined a request from the committee for testimony at Kraninger’s hearing Thursday, according to Waters.

“This committee still has serious questions for him, so I’m expecting our new director to answer for him,” Waters said of Kraninger.

Mulvaney was replaced by Kraninger as acting director for the CFPB in December, a role he held concurrently with his former position leading the Office of Management and Budget. He now serves as President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff.

While at the agencies helm, Mulvaney, an outspoken critic of the CFPB dismissed an advisory board, dropped several significant enforcement actions against payday lenders, and at one point asked for a zero dollar appropriation to fund the agency.

The CFPB was created after the 2008 financial crisis as a way of regulating banks and other financial institutions.

During a press conference Wednesday to reintroduce consumer watchdog legislation, Waters said she had so far only had an “informal meet and greet” with Kraninger and intended to use Thursday’s hearing to determine whether or not Kraninger was “on the road to repairing” the watchdog bureau.

Kraninger’s appearance before the committee was is her first since taking the reigns of the agency. Her appointment in December marked the end of a controversy over bureau leadership and brought with it fierce criticism from Democrats and consumer watchdog groups.

During her relatively short tenure, Kraninger has brought five enforcement actions.

She has also announced the bureau’s plans to reconsider a rule that would’ve prevented payday lenders from issuing loans to borrowers who could not demonstrate an ability to repay, a move met with criticism by groups who allege that Kraninger is continuing Mulvaney’s deregulatory policy.

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Posted On 07 Mar 2019