Stacey Abrams launches multi-million dollar voter protection initiative in 20 states

Political News Stacey Abrams launches multi-million dollar voter protection initiative in 20 states

3dfoto/iStock(WASHINGTON) — After spending the beginning of 2019 mulling a presidential run and ruling out a run for Senate, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams announced a new multi-million dollar initiative on Tuesday that’s aimed at beefing up voter protection operations in 20 battleground states throughout the 2020 election cycle.

“There are only two things stopping us in 2020, making sure people have a reason to vote and that they have the right to vote. I’ve decided to leave it to a whole bunch of other folks to make sure they have a reason to vote,” Abrams said in Las Vegas during a speech at the 32nd General Convention for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. “But I’m here today to announce ‘Fair Fight 2020’ to make sure everyone has the right to vote in the United States of America. That is what we’re going to do.”

This new initiative, “Fair Fight 2020,” gets its name from the election reform and voting rights organization she founded after losing Georgia’s gubernatorial race in 2018. Abrams would’ve made history as the first black female governor in the U.S., but she lost her race against Republican Brian Kemp by just under 1.5 percentage points. While she acknowledged Kemp would be “certified as the victor,” she refused to concede to him, accusing the former secretary of state throughout the campaign of engaging in voter suppression as he held his position overseeing elections while he ran for the state’s top executive job.

“We’re going to have a fair fight in 2020 because my mission is to make sure that no one has to go through in 2020 what we went through in 2018 because despite how hard they work, I am still here, and we are going to work to make sure every voice is heard,” Abrams said in her speech.

With this new program, Abrams, who formerly served as minority leader in the Georgia legislature, will continue her efforts to promote election fairness. Now, she’s joining forces with state Democratic parties to advance voter protection infrastructure before a nominee is decided, and will also work with the state parties and other allies to either directly fund or raise money for these operations, a spokesperson for “Fair Fight” told ABC News.

“Fair Fight staff will provide ongoing support to these operations. Each state’s voter protection teams will start early (and) spend the next year ensuring that all eligible Americans can register, vote, and have their votes counted,” the spokesperson said.

Abrams said she’s going to use her “energies” and her “very, very loud voice” to “make sure that Donald Trump and the Senate take a hike and we put people in place who know what we need to have in the United States in America for progress to be possible,” and “ensure that every ballot gets counted.”

“I’m here to ask you to stand with me,” she told the union crowd. “Stand with me as we create a new future together, as we put the power of democracy back in to the hands of our people because we will have a fair fight in 2020 and then we’re on, on and on!”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Aug 2019

The story behind ‘The New Colossus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty and how it became a symbol of immigration

Political News The story behind 'The New Colossus' poem on the Statue of Liberty and how it became a symbol of immigration

Manakin/iStock(NEW YORK) — “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

These iconic words from “The New Colossus” — the 1883 poem written by American Emma Lazarus are etched in bronze and mounted on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal — and have again been catapulted into a heated political debate on immigration.

The Trump administration announced a “public charge” rule on Monday that could drastically limit legal immigration by denying green cards for those who qualify for food stamps, Medicaid, housing vouchers and various forms of public assistance.

Some reporters invoked “The New Colossus” when asking acting Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services office Ken Cuccinelli about the new rule.

In defending the policy on Tuesday, Cuccinelli suggested to NPR that those lines should be rewritten to say “give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

According to Alan Kraut, a professor of history at American University, language restricting immigration for those likely to become a public charge appeared in U.S. legislation as early as 1891, and throughout its history, the United States has courted immigrants but simultaneously “repelled them and was very not welcoming to [them] when they arrived.”

Since then, the Statue of Liberty has evoked passionate feelings as a symbol of freedom and immigration — and America’s push and pull with it.

Early symbolism

The Statue of Liberty was the idea of Edouard Laboulaye, a French abolitionist and jurist, who wanted to gift the United States something to symbolize freedom after the Civil War to also serve as a reminder of France and America’s friendship, according to the National Parks Service.

“When Edouard Laboulaye, the French abolitionist, came up with the idea of the Statue as a gift from the French people to Americans, his intent was to celebrate the end of slavery in the United States,” Maria Cristina Garcia, a professor of American studies and history at Cornell University, told ABC News via email. “One early draft of the statue had Lady Liberty holding broken shackles in her hand. The shackles are now located at her feet, and are barely visible unless you are very high up (by helicopter, for example), which is one reason why Americans have forgotten this history.”

The statue was designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who, according to Kraut, was inspired by ancient symbols, including Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty.

“Initially, immigration was not one of the things that inspired the Statue of Liberty for Laboulaye or Bartholdi but there was a transformation and Lazarus’s poem is part of that transformation,” Kraut, who chairs the History Advisory Committee of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island, said in a phone call with ABC.

Emma Lazarus and The New Colossus

Lazarus was a young poet and social activist living in New York City of Portuguese Sephardic Jewish descent who could trace her roots back to the first Jews who came to North America, according to the National Park Service.

Three years before the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in Bedloe’s Island in the New York harbor, Lazarus was asked to write a poem as part of an arts festival to help raise money for the statue’s pedestal.

The poem’s title, “The New Colossus,” was inspired by “The Colossus of Rhodes” — the ancient statue of the Greek sun-god Helios on the island of Rhodes.

At the time, Lazarus was involved in charitable work for refugees and was active in aiding Russian Jews who were trying to escape to the United States. According to Kraut, “immigration and freedom of the oppressed was very much on her mind when writing this poem.”

Lazarus died of illness in 1887 — one year after the Statue of Liberty was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in October 1886.

It was not until 1903 — nearly 20 years after Lazarus’s death — that the bronze plaque bearing the iconic sonnet would be added to the statue’s pedestal, after her friend Georgina Schuyler found a book in 1901 containing “The New Colossus” and launched an effort to commemorate Lazarus’ work.

“The poem, like the shackles, is not immediately visible,” Garcia, who is also a member of the History Advisory Committee of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island, said. “The fact that we are conscious of these powerful and deeply moving words today is because of the generations of artists, editorialists, and politicians, who have continually reminded us of their power.”

Lady Liberty and the New York Harbor

The location of the Statue of Liberty in the New York harbor — a major receiving port for immigrants in the 19th century — was a defining factor in the statue’s symbolic “transformation,” Kraut said.

During the 1880s through the early 1920s, there was “a peak period of immigration to the United States,” according to Kraut, where 23 and half million immigrants seeking religious and political liberty and economic opportunity traveled to the United States.

“By the end of the 19th century there is an immigration flow that is very heavily southern and eastern European, and they are coming in great numbers, and they’re, of course, passing the Statue of Liberty,” Kraut said.

Bledsoe’s Island was renamed Liberty Island in 1956.

According to Garcia, it is the stories of these immigrants who were greeted by the majestic Lady Liberty as they sailed past Ellis Island that defined the statue as a symbol of immigration.

“Popular culture also played a role in reinforcing this association,” Garcia said. “Think of all the Hollywood movies that show the Statue as a backdrop for an immigrant character’s arrival, from Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Immigrant,’ [1917], to Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather, Part II,’ [1974].”

And according to Kraut, discrimination against immigrants has been a “pervading” part of American history. In fact, a year before “The New Colossus” was written, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Garcia echoed this notion, adding that in the early 20th century, anti-immigration advocates were motivated by a “fear” of southern and eastern Europeans who were arriving in large numbers and were considered “culturally inferior and unassimilable.”

“Today, restrictionists like Trump want to bar entry to immigrants who are coming largely from Asia, the Americas, and Africa, and that view is also motivated, in part, by fear,” Garcia wrote. “But in every generation, we also see people who advocate and fight for continued immigration — business leaders, human rights activists, faith communities — because they feel that immigration is good for the nation. Which perspective ultimately defines this generation is anyone’s guess.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Aug 2019

After odd hearing, trial date moved for alleged Mar-a-Lago trespasser Yujing Zhang

Political News After odd hearing, trial date moved for alleged Mar-a-Lago trespasser Yujing Zhang

~User136e187a_881/iStock(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) — The trial for Chinese national and alleged Mar-a-Lago trespasser Yujing Zhang has been delayed until early next month, following a bizarre pretrial hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Tuesday afternoon.

During the hearing Zhang, who had previously dismissed her public defenders, at times appeared to not hear the judge, refused to answer some questions verbally, claimed she was feeling “sick” and “dizzy,” and generally didn’t cooperate with the proceedings.

“I’m not available today,” she said.

U.S. Judge Roy Altman of Florida’s Southern District accused Zhang of “playing games” with the court.

Earlier Tuesday prosecutors filed documents related to the case, such as jury instructions and witness and evidence lists, but Zhang has not done so. When asked about her lack of filing by the judge, Zhang appeared not to know what the judge was talking about.

During the hearing, the government said they would waive a jury trial and allow the judge to rule directly on the case, and Zhang was asked if she wanted a jury to decide her case or for the judge to rule.

“Maybe I don’t need that many people to make that decision,” she said.

“I’m not in my right mind,” she added, in an apparent reference to her feeling ill.

Zhang, who previously told the court she worked as a consultant in China, is accused of trespassing onto the grounds of Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s Florida country club, in late March after she was mistakenly allowed in by Mar-a-Lago staff. In addition to the purported trespassing, prosecutors allege she lied to Secret Service officers as she was let through checkpoints. She was only discovered when a receptionist realized her name was not on the access list for the club.

When Zhang was detained, investigators said they found several electronic devices on her and in her room at a local hotel, purportedly including a device to detect hidden cameras. Early on, prosecutors suggested Zhang was being investigated for potential links to espionage, but no further charges have been brought. Before they were dismissed, public defenders for Zhang argued the whole thing was a misunderstanding and said she had not made “direct misrepresentations” to federal agents as alleged.

Zhang pleaded not guilty in April, but was ordered held in detention in Florida ahead of her trial.

In Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Altman told Zhang she has until Aug. 20 to decide if she wants a jury trial and then has until Aug. 30 to file whatever pretrial documents she wants to file or object to anything in the government documents. Her trial date was reset to Sept. 3.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Aug 2019

‘Black-ish’ creator Kenya Barris and wife divorce after 20 years

Entertainment News  'Black-ish' creator Kenya Barris and wife divorce after 20 years


ABC/Bob D’Amico(LOS ANGELES) — Kenya Barris, who drew on his real-life relationship to create the ABC hit series black-ish, has filed for divorce from his wife, Dr. Rania “Rainbow” Barris, after 20 years of marriage.

Rania previously filed for divorce in 2014, but decided to withdraw her request the following year, after the couple reconciled. This time around, Barris filed the divorce papers on August 9th, the day of his 45th birthday.

As previously noted, black-ish, which stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross as married couple Dre and Rainbow, is loosely based on Barris’ own upbringing and his marriage.

Barris also co-created the black-ish spinoff grown-ish, as well as the upcoming prequel spinoff mixed-ish, which will follow the Rainbow Johnson character as a child.

Barris and Rania, an anesthesiologist, tied the knot in 1999 and have six kids together.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Aug 2019

26 shot in 32 seconds: New details, videos released in Dayton mass shooting

U.S. NEWS 26 shot in 32 seconds: New details, videos released in Dayton mass shooting

Evgen_Prozhyrko/iStock(DAYTON, Ohio) — New surveillance videos of the suspected gunman’s movements ahead of the Dayton, Ohio, mass shooting were released by authorities on Tuesday.

Police on Tuesday also updated the victim total, correcting the number of those shot and injured to 17, revealing that 26 people were shot in the roughly 30-second attack. Nine were killed in the massacre.

The shooting unfolded in a popular part of town that had a number of bars and restaurants. The gunfire started on Aug. 4 at 1:05 a.m. and lasted about 32 seconds, authorities said, until the suspect, 24-year-old Connor Betts, was killed by an officer in front of the Ned Peppers bar.

It is not clear at this time if Betts’s sister, who was shot and killed, and Betts’s companion, who was injured, were intentional victims, Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said Tuesday.

No one besides Betts has been found to be involved in the shooting, authorities said.

Betts, who was familiar with the popular downtown Dayton area, went with his sister and companion to Blind Bobs that night, authorities said. He then headed to Ned Peppers at 12:13 a.m. and left that bar at 12:42 a.m., authorities said.

Betts “then goes back to the parking lot where the vehicle is at and spends the next eight minutes gathering content out of the trunk,” authorities said at a news conference.

Newly released video shows Betts leaving his car with a change of clothes and a heavy bag on his back.

At 1:04 a.m., Betts emerged behind an alley and “that’s when the shooting begins,” authorities said.

The new video also shows officers running towards the gunfire.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Aug 2019

Riot police storm Hong Kong airport as protesters force second day of cancellations

WORLD NEWS Riot police storm Hong Kong airport as protesters force second day of cancellations

winhorse/iStock(HONG KONG) — Riot police stormed the Hong Kong International Airport on Tuesday as a protest by thousands of anti-government demonstrators forced flights to be canceled for the second straight day.

Travelers at one of the world’s busiest airports were advised that check-in had been suspended and hundreds flights were cancelled, and that they should leave the terminals as quickly as possible and contact airlines for more information.

The clashes appeared to represent an escalation after 10 weeks of largely peaceful protests in semi-autonomous Hong Kong. A Chinese official said protesters “have begun to show signs of terrorism,” and China appeared to be weighing a crackdown on the democratic movement.

Chinese paramilitary police were seen in video released by the state holding exercises in Shenzhen, China, which sits across the border from Hong Kong. Images circulated online showing a convoy of armored personnel carriers from the People’s Armed Police traveling to the site.

U.S. President Donald Trump meanwhile took to Twitter to say that U.S. intelligence “has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!”

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump told reporters he hoped the situation in Hong Kong “works out for everybody, including China, by the way,” and that “nobody gets killed.”

The U.S. State Department has urged “all sides to exercise restraint,” according to a spokesperson, but it has vocalized more support for the protesters than Trump, saying the U.S. is “staunch in our support for freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Hong Kong.”

The spokesperson also urged China “to adhere to its commitments… to allow Hong Kong to exercise a high degree of autonomy” and noted “concerns about the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

Tensions come as the United States and China have been locked in a year-long trade war and both sides have accused the other of engaging in unfair practices and dragging their heels to reach a deal.

Senior U.S. officials like Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been sharply critical of China, especially its increasingly strong hand around the world and human rights record at home, and last month Pompeo called China’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority the “stain of the century.”

On Tuesday, Pompeo met in New York with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi, the director of the Central Foreign Affairs Committee. The two men “had an extended exchange of views on U.S.-China relations,” according to State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus. The State Department would not say how long the meeting had been planned in advance and whether they discussed Hong Kong.

The protests in semi-autonomous Hong Kong began in June, when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to march against the government’s proposal to change an extradition law that would allow individuals to be sent to mainland China for trial. The proposal prompted fears that China would use it to round up political dissidents.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, suspended consideration of the bill indefinitely but stopped short of completely withdrawing it from the legislative agenda.

Tuesday marked the fifth consecutive day that the black-clad demonstrators have occupied the airport.

Protesters held an orderly sit-in at one of the terminals and clashed with police in chaotic scenes elsewhere at the airport.

At one point, a group swarmed around and detained one man, believed to be an undercover police officer, and some protesters attacked him while others tried to shield him. Medics eventually arrived and cared for him before he was carried out of the airport. Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of China’s state-owned nationalist newspaper Global Times, later said the man was one of his reporters and had been sent to the hospital.

Sean Lavin, an American who is in Hong Kong on vacation, said that he and his travel companions are slated to fly out of the airport on Wednesday, but the protests have left that in question.

“I’m supposed to leave tomorrow late afternoon so I’ve been monitoring the airport [to] see if we can,” Lavin told ABC News Live by phone. “Right now we don’t know if we can leave so we’re watching very closely.”

Lavin said his group arrived in Hong Kong from Phuket, Thailand, several days ago, and that they were surprised to find throngs of protesters after making their way through customs.

“It was something I’ve never experienced before,” he said, adding that the protesters were “very polite” and helped his group find their way out of the airport.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Aug 2019

Five things you should know about Trump’s latest legal immigration crackdown

Political News Five things you should know about Trump’s latest legal immigration crackdown

LindaJohnsonbaugh/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration’s latest change to federal immigration policy is expected to stop more immigrants from legally settling in the U.S. The new protocol formally rolls out Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know about it.

The new rule penalizes anyone who qualifies for assistance, even if they don’t use it.

Immigration authorities will assess whether an immigrant might qualify for public assistance programs in the future. The administration has expanded the definition of those public benefit programs to include Medicaid and food stamps.

Officials with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services evaluate applicants based on a “totality of circumstances,” weighing factors like age, health and employment history.

Certain public benefits are exempt from the review process. If an applicant has needed emergency medical assistance, disaster relief or was enrolled in a discounted school lunch program, it will not count against them.

Who does the rule apply to?

USCIS says the rule won’t apply to people who currently hold a green card or who are looking to renew their green cards. The rule also carves out exemptions for pregnant women, children, refugees, asylum seekers and certain members of the military.

Otherwise, the rule applies to people looking to come into the U.S. legally, as well as people who have already entered the country legally but are applying to become permanent residents.

The government says that on average about 544,000 people seek green cards each year, and of that amount, about 382,000 are probably going to have to fill out a new special form, called a “declaration of self-sufficiency.”

People who are in the country legally will be impacted too.

The announced change rattled immigrant communities and could impact U.S. citizen children if parents decide not to use public services out of fear their green card application will be denied.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego found immigrants are less likely to seek out necessary medical care after being told about the public charge rule.

 With the addition of food stamps as a disqualifying factor on applications, advocates worry about disadvantaged immigrants not having access to basic food.

While people in the country illegally cannot enroll in government programs like food stamps, many families with U.S. citizen children could qualify.

The data on how many people opted not to access benefits because of fear of their immigration status is limited. But a nonpartisan policy group Children’s HealthWatch found last fall that SNAP enrollment was already down 10% among immigrant families last year.

Experts say the change complicates and strains an already overburdened immigration process.

Green card applicants will be faced with new paperwork and additional legal hurdles to prove they won’t need U.S. public services. USCIS officials reviewing applications will also require additional training to calculate those positive and negative traits.

“It’s going to really slow things down,” said Jeffrey Gorsky, a senior immigration attorney at Berry Appleman & Leiden and former chief legal adviser for visas at the U.S. State Department.

Referencing the Trump administration’s attempt to institute a similar policy through the state department, Gorsky said the latest move is another attempt to block immigrants without closing the border.

“They’ve slowed things down and I think that’s been deliberate,” he said.

The Trump administration will face legal challenges — again.

Officials in California are expected to sue the administration over the rule shift, saying it wrongfully disqualifies immigrants who meet the legal requirements for citizenship.

“This vile rule is the Trump Administration’s latest attack on families and lower income communities of color,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “We will not stand idly by while this Administration targets programs that children and families across our state rely upon.”

Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation to block funding to the Department of Homeland Security over the new rule.

Multiple advocacy groups have also promised to take the administration to court, citing both the impact on immigrant communities and what they call a rushed process for implementing the regulation.

“This policy denies a permanent, secure future in this country to anyone who isn’t white and wealthy,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

Much of the administration’s immigration agenda has ended up in court. For example, lawsuits have stalled progress on Trump’s border wall and created hurdles for the new policy to make asylum seekers wait in Mexico.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Aug 2019

FDA warns consumers against drinking Mineral Miracle Solution, says it’s ‘the same as bleach’

bankrx/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The federal government is urging the public not to drink a solution that has been touted as a treatment for numerous conditions, including autism and cancer, but which it says is akin to drinking bleach.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday warned consumers again — as it has been since 2010 — of the “serious and potentially life-threatening side effects” of drinking Miracle Mineral Solution products after “a recent rise in reported health issues.”

The products have been promoted on social media as a remedy for treating autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and flu, among other conditions, according to a press release from the FDA.

However, the Miracle Mineral Solution and similar products are not FDA-approved. Ingesting the products “is the same as drinking bleach,” the agency said.

Miracle Mineral Solution products are described online as a liquid that is 28% sodium chlorite in distilled water which should be mixed with a citric acid, such as lemon or lime juice, before drinking, the FDA said.

In many cases, according to the FDA, the sodium chlorite is sold with a citric acid “activator.”

Yet what many consumers may not be aware of is that when the acid is added, the mixture becomes chlorine dioxide — a powerful bleaching agent, the agency said.

The FDA has received multiple reports of people experiencing severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure, and acute liver failure after drinking the product, according to the press release.

The FDA also noted that it is not aware of any scientific evidence that supports the claimed health benefits of the solution.

The specific products listed in the FDA’s warning were Miracle or Master Mineral Solution, Miracle Mineral Supplement, MMS, Chlorine Dioxide (CD) Protocol, Water Purification Solution (WPS) and other similar products.

“Our top priority is to protect the public from products that place their health at risk, and we will send a strong and clear message that these products have the potential to cause serious harm,” FDA Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless said in a statement.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Russia says radiation spiked 4-16 times above background levels after suspected missile explosion

WORLD NEWS Russia says radiation spiked 4-16 times above background levels after suspected missile explosion

Cunaplus_M.Faba/iStock(MOSCOW) — The radiation spike that followed the apparent explosion of a nuclear-powered missile engine in Russia — an event that left seven dead and has been cloaked in secrecy — was higher than previously indicated by the country’s officials, Russian government weather agency on Tuesday said

The news comes amid conflicting reports that authorities were preparing to evacuate a village close to the Arctic test site where the blast occurred and other details surrounding the event.

Roshydromet, a state weather monitoring body, said its sensors in a city near the Nenoksa Missile Test Site in northern Russia had picked up a spike in background radiation levels 4-16 times above the norm immediately after the blast last Friday. The spike lasted about an hour and half, before levels returned to normal, the agency said.

The levels were still relatively low, but above what Russian authorities on Sunday said, when they noted the spike was 2 times above the norm.

The International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday issued a statement saying Russia had informed it the radiation levels around the site were equivalent to natural radiation.

The data on the radiation came five days after the explosion that killed five nuclear engineers and two defense personnel and that U.S. officials and outside experts have said they believe “likely” involved a nuclear-powered cruise missile. The weapon, able to evade radar, was touted by president Vladimir Putin as the centerpiece of Russia’s new nuclear arsenal.

The delay in releasing the information reflects the highly secretive response from Russian authorities, who first appeared to conceal that the blast involved radiation and then only slowly released details about it — for some, conjuring up echoes of the Soviet response to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986.

In the first days after the suspected explosion, Russia’s defense ministry initially made no mention the engine had contained nuclear materials and then denied there had been a spike in radiation. Local city officials on the Friday released a statement saying the spike had been 2 times above the norm, but later deleted it from the internet.

State television also initially largely ignored the accident, barely mentioning it in news broadcasts for the first two days. Russia’s Federal Nuclear Center, which carried out the test, only on Sunday first acknowledged that the test had involved “radioactive materials.” The test had involved an attempt to use a small-scale radioisotope power source inside a liquid propellant engine, Russia’s atomic agency Rosatom said in a statement.

The Kremlin on Tuesday for the first time commented on the explosion, which U.S. officials and outside experts believe most likely happened during testing on the nuclear-powered cruise missile that president Vladimir Putin has touted as a crown-jewel of a next generation arsenal for Russia.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on Wednesday told reporters that “all relevant agencies were working to ensure the safety of Russian citizens,” saying he had nothing more to add on the explosion.

A U.S. official on Monday told ABC News that they thought it was “likely” the explosion had been caused during a test on the missile, named the SSX-C-9 Skyfall by NATO and as the 9M370 Burevestnik by Russia.

The official said the U.S. had detected increased radiation levels close to the rocket.

According to Greenpeace, whose own testing shortly after the blast showed levels 20 times above the norm, the radiation spike indicated there had been a release.

Rashed Alimov, director of GreenPeace Russia’s energy department, told ABC News that because authorities were providing so little information it was impossible to say how much a risk explosion posed.

The elevated levels “were simply an indicator that there was a release,” he said. He said Russian authorities ought to provide clear information to people and warned that it was possible the rocket engine contained types of radioactive material that could pose a health risk if ingested.

In a sign of the uncertainty surrounding the blast, there were conflicting reports in state media as authorities apparently first requested and then cancelled a temporary evacuation of the village of Nenoksa, close to the test site. Ksenia Yudina. The head of the Nenoksa village council’s press service told the state news agency RIA Novosti residents had been asked to prepare to leave on Wednesday morning while the military carried out an operation there.

But Arkhangelsk’s regional governor, Igor Orlov, hours later rejected that as “nonsense” saying no evacuations were taking place. Yudina then told Interfax that the request to leave had now been cancelled.

“There’s a lot of contradictory information,” said Alimov. “So it’s clear that people are having to operate in the conditions of a lack of information.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 13 Aug 2019

Federal workers sue for the right to criticize political candidates

Political News Federal workers sue for the right to criticize political candidates

Pattanaphong Khuankaew/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The largest union of federal workers on Tuesday announced it’s suing the U.S. government in a bid to get it to drop its rules restricting workers from criticizing President Donald Trump or other political candidates.

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents some 700,000 federal workers, said it was concerned that the latest guidance restricted free speech and could be weaponized by politically motivated managers, including those seeking to punish people who express support for the president.

Last fall, the federal government’s top legal counsel, the Office of Special Counsel, or OSC — which is not related to former special counsel Robert Mueller — warned federal workers not to call for a politician’s impeachment or to lobby openly for any particular candidate.

AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said, “OSC’s vague, overbroad guidance creates an opening for managers and political appointees to go after career civil servants for politically-motivated reasons.”

Trump’s supporters have alleged that the president’s agenda is being undermined by federal workers who are part of a “Deep State.” Trump has tweeted about such a conspiracy, specifically alleging that the FBI could be part of a conspiracy working against him.

Several senior White House and administration officials have received warnings from the OSC of violations, including White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr. The Hatch Act is a decades-old law aimed at preventing federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities. It does not apply to the president or vice president.

In a November memo to the nation’s estimated two million workers, OSC said overt politicking at the office and online — including the hashtag #Resist — violates existing laws intended to keep the day-to-day operations of the government apolitical.

The OSC memo said context matters, however.

For example, criticizing a White House policy while chatting with coworkers might be acceptable, OSC said. But doing it in the context of the 2020 election? That could pose problems, according to the memo.

“There are no ‘magic words’ of express advocacy necessary in order for statements to be considered political activity under the Hatch Act,” according to the memo. “Therefore, when a federal employee is prohibited by the Hatch Act from engaging in political activity — e.g., when on duty, in the federal workplace, or invoking official authority — the employee must be careful to avoid making statements directed toward the success or failure of, among others, a candidate for partisan political office.”

An OSC spokesman declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

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Posted On 13 Aug 2019