Ex-White House Adviser to Urge Lawmakers to Reject False Urkaine Narrative

 A former White House official on Thursday will call on some lawmakers investigating impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump not to perpetuate the “alternative narrative” that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, according to her prepared remarks.

“I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests,” Fiona
Hill, the former senior director for European and Russian Affairs on Trump’s National Security Council, wrote ahead of her public appearance.
 

 


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Son of Egypt’s Former President Mubarak Says Mother Ill

One of the sons of Egypt’s former autocratic President Hosni Mubarak says his 78-year-old mother and former first lady is in hospital.

Alaa Mubarak tweeted late Wednesday that Suzanne Mubarak was in intensive care but didn’t elaborate on her illness. He sought to reassure his followers and tweeted: “Things will be fine, God willing!”

During Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-long rule, his wife had enjoyed significant political power and championed several projects, including efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation.

The 91-year-old Mubarak was ousted in the 2011 uprising that swept Egypt as part of the Arab Spring movements across the region. He was sentenced to life imprisonment but later retried and subsequently acquitted and released in 2017.

Mubarak’s two sons, Alaa and Gamal, were both convicted and served terms for corruption.

 


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Korean Startups Expand to Vietnam, a Kindred Spirit

South Korean startups are banking on their country’s similarities with Vietnam — a shared popular obsession with education, similar rituals, a history of a divisive civil war, and a current focus on manufacturing and integration with international trade — to give them an advantage in expanding their business there as Vietnam looks to follow in South Korea’s steps to become one of the next Asian tigers.

South Korea is already a big investor in the Southeast Asian nation, however now it is startups in areas like cosmetics and hotel smartphone apps that are joining in on the investment.

“I think Vietnam startup [investment] is really going up now,” Jisoo Kang, chief executive officer of Fluto, a South Korean startup that conducts user testing on digital products, said.

The skyline is seen in Seoul, South Korea, where startups believe their common culture with Vietnamese will help them expand to the Southeast Asian nation.
While South Korean behemoths have conquered international television and automobile markets, the next phase of growth is in developing nations such as Vietnam.

Next conquest

While South Korean behemoths have conquered international television and automobile markets, the next phase of growth is in developing nations such as Vietnam. Its gross domestic product growth rate is 7% annually, compared with South Korea’s growth rate of 2%.

However, the path taken by Korean behemoths could also help startups. A Korean logistics startup called 2Luck said it would look for opportunities to cooperate with companies already in Vietnam’s industrial sector.

“There are many Korean manufacturers here,” Kim Seungyong, chief executive officer of 2Luck, said.

His company aims to increase logistics efficiency by, for example, connecting truck drivers who have delivered cargo with clients for their return trips.

Other startups are looking at commonalities between Vietnam and South Korea; Vietnamese give high ratings for everything from Korean pop music to Korean drama shows, and intermarriage between the two nationalities is common.

Approach to education

One commonality is education. Just as Korean students obsess over tests and spend hours outside of school preparing for them, so too do their Vietnamese counterparts, and Vietnam has the high international test scores to show for it. The KEII Platform, an education company, calls itself South Korea’s first “edtech,” or education technology, business, and its services include teaching math to students via video and having students record themselves doing math on a smartphone app.

“We want to be the No. 1 education platform in Vietnam,” Peter Lee, chief executive officer of the KEII Platform, said in October.

However they have a lot of competition — they are not the first startup to seek opportunity in the market for education services. Vietnamese companies such as Topica, Elsa, and Yola are in the market here already.


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In Iraq Protests, at Least 2 Killed and 38 Wounded

Two people were killed and 38 wounded early Thursday when Iraqi security forces fired tear gas canisters at protesters near two key bridges in Baghdad, security and medical sources said.

The cause of death in both cases was tear gas canisters aimed directly at the head, the sources said.

One protester was killed near Sinak bridge and the other near the adjacent Ahrar bridge, police said.

Hospital sources said some of the wounded protesters had injuries from live ammunition and others were wounded by rubber bullets and tears gas canisters.

More than 300 people have been killed since the start of mass unrest in Baghdad and southern Iraq in early October, the largest demonstrations since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The protests are an eruption of public anger against a ruling elite seen as enriching itself off the state and serving foreign powers, especially Iran, as many Iraqis languish in poverty without jobs, health care or education.

The unrest has shattered the relative calm that followed the defeat of Islamic State in 2017.


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Australian Bank Accused of Millions of Money Laundering, Terrorism Financing Breaches

Australia’s second-biggest bank, Westpac, has been accused of 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing laws.

Westpac is likely to be hit with huge fines. The Australian banking giant is facing legal action from regulators who claim it flouted anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing laws.

Investigators allege that Westpac allowed institutions from countries including Iraq, Lebanon, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo access into Australia’s financial sector without proper checks.

This, according to the watchdog, potentially allowed criminals and terrorists to transfer money into or out of Australia.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Center, or AUSTRAC, the country’s financial crime agency, has also alleged that Westpac failed to properly monitor thousands of transactions that could be linked to child exploitation in the Philippines. It also claimed the bank ignored warnings and for years enabled suspicious payments from convicted child sex offenders.

“Westpac failed to carry out appropriate customer due diligence on high-high-rise transactions to the Philippines and Southeast Asia concerning known financial indicators relating to potential child exploitation risks,” said Nicole Rose, AUSTRAC’s chief executive.

The U.S.-born boss of Westpac said the bank “should have done better” and promised to fix the problems.

FILE PHOTO: Australia's Westpac Banking Corp's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Brian Hartzer speaks during a media conference in…
FILE – Australia’s Westpac Banking Corp.’s Chief Executive Officer Brian Hartzer speaks during a media conference in Sydney, Nov. 6, 2017.

Brian Hartzer says he was “disgusted” by the revelations but rejects the claim the bank has not treated the breaches seriously.

“We have absolutely not been indifferent on this topic,” he said. “So I just want to be really, really clear that as far as I am concerned at a senior executive level, for the board, for me personally, in no way have we been indifferent on this.”

In theory, Westpac could face multimillion dollar fines for each of the breaches, which could add up to a staggering penalty of $328 trillion U.S. Analysts, though, expect a “meaningful, painful but not catastrophic civil penalty” to be handed down by Australia’s Federal Court.

Last year, the Commonwealth Bank agreed to pay the biggest fine in Australian corporate history of $476 million U.S. for breaches of anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing laws that resulted in vast amounts of cash going to drug traffickers.

Earlier this year, a public inquiry exposed widespread wrongdoing in Australia’s finance industry.


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Attorney: Navy Retaliating Against SEAL Helped by Trump

A Navy SEAL whose rank was restored by President Donald Trump after being convicted of posing with a dead body was summoned to appear Wednesday before Navy leaders, and his attorney said they are trying to remove him from the elite force in retaliation for Trump’s actions.

Attorney Timothy Parlatore said the Navy is holding a review board proceeding to remove Special Warfare Operations Chief Edward Gallagher’s Trident pin, which designates him as a SEAL.

Navy officials declined to comment.

Parlatore filed an inspector general’s complaint Tuesday accusing Naval Special Warfare commander, Rear Adm. Collin Green, of insubordination for defying Trump. Parlatore said Green made his intentions clear at a staff meeting Monday.

FILE – Tim Parlatore, attorney for U.S. Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, arrives for trial at Naval Base San Diego, in San Diego, California, July 2, 2019.

“What I’m hearing is that the rear admiral said very disparaging comments about the president and stated his disagreement with the president’s actions and said therefore I want to move forward in removing his Trident,” Parlatore said.

Naval Special Warfare spokeswoman, Capt. Tamara Lawrence, said in a statement that Green “remains focused on delivering a capable, ready, and lethal maritime special operations force in support of national security objectives, which includes assessing the suitability of any member of his force via administrative processes.”

Trump on Friday ordered a promotion for Gallagher, the Navy SEAL convicted of posing with a dead Islamic State captive in Iraq in 2017. Gallagher was in line for a promotion before he was prosecuted, but he lost that and was reduced in rank after the conviction.

Last month Adm. Mike Gilday, the U.S. chief of naval operations, denied a request for clemency for Gallagher and upheld a military jury’s sentence that reduced his rank by one step.

Parlatore said then that ruling would cost Gallagher up to $200,000 in retirement funds because of his loss of rank from a chief petty officer to a 1st class petty officer.

Gallagher was accused of killing the wounded Islamic State captive in his care in Iraq in 2017 and shooting at civilians, but ultimately was acquitted of those charges.

Grisham said the reinstatement of the promotion was “justified,” given Gallagher’s service. He is a two-time recipient of the Bronze Star.
 


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Fox TV Hosts Bash Impeachment Hearings Their Network Spends Hours Showing

The reviews are biting: “mind-numbingly dull,” “a huge dud” and “a frickin’ joke.”

Yet they’re coming from an unusual place — Fox News Channel personalities talking about the programming that their network has spent hours televising over the past week.

Fox’s wall-to-wall coverage of the House’s impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump is bumping up against its opinion hosts’ attempt to minimize the proceedings.

In at least one case, viewers were asked to turn it off.

“My advice?” Greg Gutfeld, a host on Fox’s “The Five,” said. “Skip it and show up next November and give these clowns a hearing they’ll never forget.”

Like competitors CNN and MSNBC, Fox has covered all of the testimony, even as Tuesday’s session stretched past 11 hours and broadcast networks cut away. That set up an extraordinary game of chicken between Fox’s Tucker Carlson and Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat chairing the House investigations committee.

Fox recorded its top ratings of 2019 last week with the opening of the hearings, the Nielsen company said.

“If you’re like most Americans, you didn’t watch today’s impeachment charade,” Fox’s Sean Hannity said a half hour after Tuesday’s hearing concluded. “Here’s the big takeaway: another huge dud. Americans are tuning out in a big way.”

An hour later, Laura Ingraham said that “Tylenol PM has nothing on Schiff.” She said the “impeachment farce” was mind-numbingly dull.

Similarly, “Fox & Friends” co-host Steve Doocy said Americans were ignoring the hearings.

“The American public, they want us to watch it all,” said Doocy’s morning show colleague, Ainsley Earhardt. “They want us to give them the summary and tell them what happened. It’s hard to follow all of these players and all of these individuals.”

Fox notes that its news operation, not the opinion hosts, has been covering the hearings. News anchor Chris Wallace, for example, has specifically contradicted the contention that people don’t care by pointing to ratings and saying Tuesday, “a lot of people are engaged and are watching this.”

Gutfeld has been a particularly harsh critic of the hearings, saying last week that Fox may be required to air the proceedings, but viewers aren’t required to watch.

“The media is shoving this down your throat, with blanket, abysmal coverage, and then they scold you for not genuflecting before their altar of solemn news,” he said last week. “This is historical, they tell you. No, it is hysterical.”

His colleague on “The Five,” Jesse Watters, said he tuned in to CBS for the hearing Tuesday afternoon and saw that the network had “dumped out” on coverage and was airing a daytime drama. “What’s the difference between this and a soap opera?” he said.

CBS cut out of networkwide coverage for part of Tuesday afternoon’s session, the first broadcast network to do so, saying it was giving local affiliates the option to air it and streaming it online. Later as the hearing stretched into the evening, CBS, ABC and NBC all left the hearing to air typical programming.

Each broadcast network, along with the cable news outlets, returned to live hearing coverage Wednesday with Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony.

Tuesday’s hearing stretched into prime time, ending with a lengthy summation by Schiff that became an argument for impeachment itself and a refutation of various talking points expressed by Trump’s supporters. It was the first, and likely only, time that Schiff would have the chance to deliver unedited remarks to the roughly 3 million people who routinely watch Fox’s nightly opinion lineup.

As he talked, a chyron printed on Fox’s screen pleaded with viewers to stick around: “Tucker Carlson is Next,” the message read. “Impeachment Hearings Wrapping up Now.”

After adjournment, Carlson’s traditional hour-long show had been cut in half.

“We are out of time, sadly,” Carlson said at the end. “Stolen by Adam Schiff.”
 


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Survey: About 1 in 4 Europeans Hold Anti-Semitic Beliefs

A new survey shows about one in four Europeans holding anti-Semitic beliefs, with such attitudes on the rise in eastern countries and mostly steady in the west.

The poll of 14 European countries released Thursday by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League found anti-Semitic attitudes most prevalent in Poland, Ukraine and Hungary, with more than 40% of the respondents in each country expressing such views.

The governments of all three countries have been criticized by Jewish groups recently, though all deny being anti-Semitic.

In western Europe, the study found anti-Semitic views were either stable or down, with decreases in Britain, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Austria. Denmark and Belgium saw minor increases, while France was unchanged and Sweden had the lowest rate, at 4%.

Italy and Austria both posted significant decreases.
 


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Germany Offers Expert Group in Bid to End NATO Rift

Germany sought Wednesday to ease French worries about NATO by offering to set up a group of experts to examine the alliance’s security challenges after President Emmanuel Macron lamented the “brain death” of the military organization.

Macron’s public criticism of NATO — notably, a perceived lack of U.S. leadership, concerns about an unpredictable Turkey since it invaded northern Syria without warning its allies, and the need for Europe to take on more security responsibilities — has shaken the alliance.

At a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Germany’s Heiko Maas said that the 29-nation trans-Atlantic alliance is “Europe’s life insurance and we want it to remain so.” He said the aim should be to prevent “break-away tendencies” within NATO.

To ensure that doesn’t happen, Maas told reporters, the “political arm” of NATO must be strengthened.

“We should get advice from experts, from people who understand these issues,” he said.

Maas declined to elaborate or comment on who might be part of this expert commission, saying he was more interested in how Germany’s partners react to the proposal. France’s response to the offer should indicate whether NATO’s internal differences can quickly be papered over.

Macron’s choice of words was rejected as “drastic” by German Chancellor Angela Merkel the day after they were published in The Economist magazine. Senior U.S. and European officials have since piled on, leaving France feeling isolated for speaking out.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg heads to Paris next week for talks with Macron, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 28. On the eve of the Brussels meeting, Stoltenberg said the best way to resolve differences “is to sit down and to discuss them and to fully understand the messages and the motivations.”

Asked Wednesday why Macron’s stance has angered allies or might hurt NATO, Stoltenberg said, without mentioning France, that “there is no way to deny that there are disagreements on issues like trade, like climate change, the Iran nuclear deal and also simply on how to deal with the situation in northeast Syria.”

But he added: “We have to overcome these disagreements, because it is so essential both for Europe and the United States that we stand united.”

The rift bodes ill for a Dec. 3-4 summit of NATO leaders in London, where U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to once again demand that the Europeans and Canada step up defense spending. That meeting comes amid impeachment hearings in the U.S., and in the heat of a British election campaign.


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Escaping Impeachment Hearings, Trump to Showcase Apple Plant in Texas

President Donald Trump is getting out of Washington during the House impeachment probe. He’s headed to Texas to tour an Austin plant that produces Apple’s Mac Pro computer.

It’s Trump’s second visit to Texas in recent weeks as he highlights job growth in a state crucial for Republicans in 2020, both in terms of money and votes.

Trump’s visit follows Apple’s announcement in September that it would continue manufacturing the Mac Pro in Austin. The move came once the Trump administration agreed to waive tariffs on certain computer parts made in China.

Apple CEO Tim Cook pitched Trump on the problem that higher tariffs posed for Apple. Trump has said, “it’s tough for Apple to pay tariffs if they’re competing with a very good company that’s not.”
 


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