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Westlake Legal Group > News Corporation (Page 86)

U.S. Takes Custody of British ISIS Detainees Who Abused Hostages

Westlake Legal Group 09dc-beatles-facebookJumbo U.S. Takes Custody of British ISIS Detainees Who Abused Hostages United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Torture Terrorism Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Kotey, Alexanda Kidnapping and Hostages Justice Department Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Iraq Foley, James (1973-2014) Emwazi, Mohammed Elsheikh, El Shafee Defense and Military Forces

The American military has taken custody of two British detainees notorious for their roles in an Islamic State cell that tortured and killed Western hostages, removing them from a wartime prison in northern Syria run by a Kurdish-led militia, according to United States officials.

The abrupt move came as the Turkish military moved into northern Syria after getting a green light from President Trump. Turkey is targeting the American-backed Kurds — known as the Syrian Democratic Forces — who were the primary allies of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. The Turkish invasion called into question the militia’s ability to continue securely holding some 11,000 captured ISIS fighters.

The two British men, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, were part of a four-member British cell that the Islamic State put in charge of Western hostages, who nicknamed them the “Beatles” because of their accents. Among their victims was James Foley, the American journalist who was beheaded in August 2014 for an ISIS propaganda video.

Another member of the cell, Mohammed Emwazi, or “Jihadi John,” is believed to have killed Mr. Foley. Mr. Emwazi was later killed in a drone strike.

The Justice Department has intended to eventually bring Mr. Elsheikh and Mr. Kotey to the United States for trial in Virginia, but a court fight in Britain has delayed that transfer. The lawsuit is over whether the British government may share evidence with the United States without an assurance that American prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.

The American military was taking the men to Iraq, where the United States has a base where it has held Islamic State detainees with American citizenship before transferring them to domestic soil — or, in one case, releasing a detainee in Bahrain.

It is not clear how long the two British men will stay at that base. The Justice Department has been reluctant to take custody of them and enter them into the criminal justice system — where, among other things, they will have a right to a speedy trial — until it secures the evidence still in British hands that can help support their eventual prosecution.

The British government has shared witness statements about the two men with the Justice Department, but testimony from British government officials would also probably be necessary at any trial. Mr. Elsheikh’s mother has filed a lawsuit seeking to block such cooperation because the United States government has not promised it will not seek to execute her son. Britain has abolished the death penalty.

Because of their role in abusing Americans, the two British men were at the top of a list of ISIS detainees of concern for the American government, officials said. But that list has more than five dozen names on it, including a dozen or so other Islamic State prisoners in Kurdish hands who are considered particularly dangerous.

It remains unclear whether the Trump administration will seek to take any additional detainees from the Syrian Democratic Forces as the situation in northern Syria continues to rapidly deteriorate after Mr. Trump’s decision to clear the way for Turkey to launch its operation into northern Syria.

The move is bringing to an abrupt crisis a long-simmering problem: About 50 countries have citizens in the Kurds’ prisons for ISIS fighters — and in the displaced persons camps where tens of thousands of ISIS women and children are held — and have been reluctant to repatriate them, instead leaving them in the Kurds’ hands indefinitely.

The male fighters the Kurds are holding include about 9,000 local Syrians and Iraqis, as well as 2,000 foreign fighters — including scores from Western Europe. Many European law enforcement officials fear that if they repatriate their extremist citizens, they would be unable to convict them or keep them locked up for a long time.

After Britain declined to bring Mr. Elsheikh and Mr. Kotey home for prosecution, instead stripping them of their citizenship, the United States government weighed various options for handling them itself before deciding to prosecute them in civilian court once it obtained all of the evidence it needed.

The Trump administration also weighed sending the two British men to the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for a period of indefinite wartime detention without trial. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who is a close ally of Mr. Trump’s but has criticized his Syria policy, has advocated that step.

But the military opposes getting more deeply involved in long-term detention operations, and there are steep legal obstacles to bringing the men to Cuba.

Among those challenges, transfer restrictions Congress imposed to block President Barack Obama from carrying out his plan to close the Guantánamo prison would make it illegal to transfer the men, once at the base, to domestic American soil for an eventual trial before a civilian court, and the military commissions system at Guantánamo is widely seen as too dysfunctional.

It is also not clear whether legal authority exists to hold Islamic State members — as opposed to members of Al Qaeda — in indefinite wartime detention. Once in Guantánamo, the two men would have the right to file habeas corpus lawsuits challenging the legality of their detention, raising the prospect of a ruling that the larger war effort against ISIS has been illegal.

The Washington Post earlier reported on the transfer of the detainees’ custody.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

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Bernie Sanders says he misspoke when he said campaign would slow its pace

Westlake Legal Group d62ee7ac-AP19216020679996 Bernie Sanders says he misspoke when he said campaign would slow its pace Vandana Rambaran fox-news/us fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/politics fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox news fnc/politics fnc article 1d8b3783-3eed-5a2a-beb2-35cb911e0590

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., backpedaled Wednesday on statements he made a day earlier about the pace of his presidential bid following his heart attack last week, telling NBC News that he was ready to “get back into the groove of a very rigorous campaign.”

In Sanders’ first sit-down interview since he had two stents inserted into his chest to clear a blocked artery, Sanders said he’s feeling “a hell of a lot better than I did a week ago.”

“I have no pain, I’m out walking now, getting back to work, feel good,” he told NBC’s Harry Smith in a clip from the interview, which is scheduled to air Wednesday night.

BERNIE SANDERS SAYS HE WAS ‘MORE FATIGUED’ IN MONTHS LEADING UP TO HEART ATTACK BUT IGNORED SYMPTOMS

Sanders was at a campaign rally in Nevada last Tuesday when he began complaining of chest pains.

“Somebody said, do you want to do selfies and I said, ‘My God, do I not want to do selfies. Let me get the hell out of here,'” he recalled. The discomfort prompted Sanders to visit an urgent care facility.

“They did a few tests and the doctor there said, she said, ‘You’re having a heart event,’ and it just struck me. I could not believe it,” Sanders said.

After Sanders was released from a Nevada hospital on Friday, the campaign disclosed that the 78-year-old had suffered a heart attack. However, Sanders pushed back on claims that his campaign tried to hide or conceal his health ailments from voters.

“No I don’t accept that,” Sanders said. “That’s nonsense and I think that sometimes, you know, I don’t know what people think campaigns are. We’re dealing with all kinds of doctors and we wanted to have a sense of what the hell was going on really. So the first thing that we’re trying to do is understand what’s going on and not run to The New York Times and not have to report every 15 minutes. This is not a baseball game. So I think we acted absolutely appropriately.”

“No apologies,” he added.

Sanders told reporters Tuesday outside his home in Burlington, Vt., that he “certainly intends to be actively campaigning” but will “change the nature” and frequency of rallies and events to “make sure I have the strength to do what I have to do.”

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“We were doing, you know, in some cases five or six meetings a day, three or four rallies and town meetings and meeting with groups of people,” Sanders said about his campaign prior to his heart attack. “I don’t think I’m going to do that.”

Sanders said he “misspoke” when he suggested he would slow his pace on the campaign trail, but his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, said Wednesday that her husband has postponed all campaign events until next Tuesday when he will head to Ohio for the fourth Democratic debate.

Westlake Legal Group Bernie-Sanders-health Bernie Sanders says he misspoke when he said campaign would slow its pace Vandana Rambaran fox-news/us fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/politics fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox news fnc/politics fnc article 1d8b3783-3eed-5a2a-beb2-35cb911e0590   Westlake Legal Group Bernie-Sanders-health Bernie Sanders says he misspoke when he said campaign would slow its pace Vandana Rambaran fox-news/us fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/politics fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox news fnc/politics fnc article 1d8b3783-3eed-5a2a-beb2-35cb911e0590

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Mindy Kaling accuses TV Academy of sexism, and it responds

Westlake Legal Group 640_mindy_kaling_487999332 Mindy Kaling accuses TV Academy of sexism, and it responds Nate Day fox-news/entertainment/tv fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fox-news/entertainment fox news fnc/entertainment fnc article 1cdebb02-9bee-59d6-88e3-80f813328461

Actress and writer Mindy Kaling is speaking out about alleged sexism by the Television Academy.

In an interview with Elle, Kaling, 40, recalled her time working on NBC’s hit sitcom “The Office.” During its run, she executive produced, wrote and played a supporting role.

“They made me, not any of the other producers, fill out a whole form and write an essay about all my contributions as a writer and a producer,” she said. “I had to get letters from all the other male, white producers saying that I had contributed when my actual record stood for itself.”

REESE WITHERSPOON AND KRISTEN BELL, SUSAN SARANDON AT ODDS OVER ELLEN DEGENERES’ PLEA FOR CIVILITY

Kaling went on to be nominated for six Emmys, five for producing and one for writing. The show itself won five Emmy Awards and scored 38 other nominations.

The Television Academy responded with a statement to Variety saying: “No one person was singled out. … Every performer/producer and writer/producer was asked to justify their producer credits. We no longer require this justification from performer/producers and writer/producers, but we do continue to vet consulting producer credits with the [Producers Guild of America] to ensure those credited are actually functioning in the role as a producer.”

FORMER ‘TODAY’ CO-HOST ANN CURRY BELIEVES LAUER RAPE ACCUSER: IT ‘BREAKS MY HEART’

Kaling, firing back via Twitter, insisting that she was, in fact, singled out due to her race, gender and status as a junior member of the team.

Three more tweets from Kaling followed, explaining that she never spoke up because she enjoyed her time working on “The Office” and didn’t want to upset the Academy.

Kaling concluded her comments by saying “not mentioning it seemed like glossing over my story.”

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Kaling most recently wrote and produced a television adaptation of “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” as well as the film “Late Night,” for which her screenplay is garnering Oscar buzz.

A rep for the TV Academy did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Westlake Legal Group 640_mindy_kaling_487999332 Mindy Kaling accuses TV Academy of sexism, and it responds Nate Day fox-news/entertainment/tv fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fox-news/entertainment fox news fnc/entertainment fnc article 1cdebb02-9bee-59d6-88e3-80f813328461   Westlake Legal Group 640_mindy_kaling_487999332 Mindy Kaling accuses TV Academy of sexism, and it responds Nate Day fox-news/entertainment/tv fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fox-news/entertainment fox news fnc/entertainment fnc article 1cdebb02-9bee-59d6-88e3-80f813328461

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2,200 Viewed Germany Attack Before Twitch Removed Post

Westlake Legal Group merlin_162441444_fe0e1132-bf7e-4416-a536-bbac7c3b33d7-facebookJumbo 2,200 Viewed Germany Attack Before Twitch Removed Post Video Recordings, Downloads and Streaming Twitch Interactive Inc mass shootings Amazon.com Inc

Twitch, the Amazon-owned live-streaming platform known for its video game content, is developing another, darker reputation as a place to find footage of mass shootings.

On Wednesday, a heavily armed man with a head-mounted camera live-streamed his shooting rampage in Halle, Germany, on Twitch for more than 35 minutes. Two people were killed and two others injured in the attack, which took place outside a synagogue and in a kebab shop.

Twitch said on Twitter that only five people had watched the live stream of the shooting. But 2,200 people viewed a recording of the attack, which stayed up for 30 minutes before it was flagged and removed.

More people watch live streams on Twitch than on any other digital platform, including YouTube and Facebook, according to a report from StreamElements. But the platform has struggled to police content as it is posted.

Last year, a Twitch live stream from a gaming tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., captured part of a shooting in which three people, including the gunman, died. In June, Twitch sued users who had posted footage of an attack in March involving mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

On Wednesday, the company said in a statement that it was “shocked and saddened” by the shooting in Germany.

“Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct, and any act of violence is taken extremely seriously,” Brielle Villablanca, a spokeswoman for Twitch, said in the statement. “We worked with urgency to remove this content and will permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act.”

But footage and clips of the attack began to proliferate quickly on other platforms, including Twitter and the video publishing site Streamable. Versions of the video reached more than 15,000 accounts on the messaging platform Telegram within half an hour, according to an analysis by Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University in North Carolina.

Ms. Squire, who studies online extremism, said she monitored dozens of “very severely racist, violent channels” that promote white supremacy. On several channels, users debated whether the gunman should be made into a saint, according to screenshots she shared.

“Telegram exists as a forwarding network — that’s the main way the information flows,” she said. “It’s a very efficient mechanism for them.”

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, a nonprofit organization formed in 2017 by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube, said in a statement that it was “actively removing perpetrator-created content related to the attack” in an attempt “to prevent its viral spread across our services.” Amazon is also a member of the forum.

The footage that appeared on Twitch was posted from an account created two months ago.

The assailant identified himself in accented English as “Anon” before denying the Holocaust, complaining about feminism and immigration and saying that “the root of all these problems is the Jew.”

He then drove to a synagogue on Halle’s Humboldt Street, an arsenal of weapons visible in his car. He struggled to enter the synagogue. After a woman spoke to him as she passed in the street, he shot her in the back, and then shot her several more times after she collapsed.

Unable to enter the synagogue even after shooting at the door, he drove to a kebab shop. He fired at two men cowering behind a beverage machine and then went outside, where he fired at several pedestrians. Later, he re-entered the shop and shot the body of one victim several times.

Twitch has doubled the number of moderators it employs this year, though it would not specify how many.

The company has been trying to broaden its appeal beyond video games, courting advertisers and soliciting content from artists, musicians, chefs and others.

Emmett Shear, the chief executive of Twitch, said at the company’s Twitchcon event in San Diego last month that safety was “a big concern,” acknowledging that users had been disappointed in the platform’s moderation practices after encountering “a lot of issues.”

“We haven’t always been consistent in our enforcement,” he said. “You have to remember we have to do this 24/7, in many different languages, in many different countries and time zones.”

He said improving Twitch’s moderation process, clarifying its community guidelines and providing more transparency would be “a perpetual investment for us.”

“It’s one of the biggest challenges facing every social media service on the internet, and particularly facing Twitch,” he said.

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‘A victim of their own failure’: Why PG&E’s massive power shutdown in California was inevitable

CLOSEWestlake Legal Group icon_close 'A victim of their own failure': Why PG&E's massive power shutdown in California was inevitable

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is shutting off power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses amid dry conditions in an effort to prevent fires. Wochit, Wochit

SAN FRANCISCO — In cutting power to more than 2 million California residents Wednesday, Pacific Gas and Electric once again earned the wrath of citizens and politicians alike.

But, others note, the public utility was damned if it did, and damned if it didn’t go with the extreme measure, enacted in an effort to avoid once again sparking wildfires as fierce winds kicked up around the state.

PG&E was forced to declare bankruptcy earlier this year after being held liable for tens of billions in damages resulting from many of the two dozen deadly wildfires that flared in 2017 due to downed power lines.

“I would say this outage is justified, but it’s coarse,” says Scott Lewis Stephens, professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley.

“The impact of this is so huge that it will probably encourage more discussions about what we’ll do in these cases down the road,” he says. “In the future, it needs to be more refined.”

PG&E’s approach certainly was more sledgehammer than scalpel, affecting more than 30 counties across the state, where it provides power to some 16 million of California’s 40 million residents.

California power outage Q&A: What you need to know

What’s more, the utility warned that it could take days to restore power because all power lines would need to be inspected for possible wind-related damage before electricity could once again flow.

In fact, some 25,000 miles of PG&E lines are involved in this week’s preventive outage, says company spokesman Jeff Smith.

“Our aim is to restore power 48 hours after the weather has passed, but customers should prepare for an extended day outage, especially when you have so many shutoffs going on,” he says. “With over 30 counties, that’s a lot of wire we need to inspect.”

Smith says that due to the changing climate and the state’s recent wildfire history, such public safety power shutoffs, newly instituted this year, “are necessary to keep customers safe.”

California’s rising fire danger

The utility’s outage track record is wanting. Data published by the California Public Utilities Commission this month shows across all three utilities it regulates in California, there have been 4,082,970 customer hours of pre-emptive outages since the end of 2017.

Of those, PG&E accounted for just over half the total outage hours, although San Diego Gas & Electric customers were most likely to experience an outage, racking up 2 million hours of outages in the same time period across their relatively small, 4,100- square-mile territory.

Fire increasingly is a part of the California energy puzzle. Fire itself, of course, is not an unnatural part of the landscapes here, it’s part of what created them in the first place and will continue to occur.

However as the climate warms, areas that were already hot and subject to drought will only face more fire danger, says Brian Harvey, a professor of environmental and forest sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“Long-term, it’s something we’ve got to grapple with,” he says. “How do we best design our infrastructure to be able to live in these fire prone environments?”

‘We are not a third world country’

That question proved too lofty for many state politicians, who were quick to rail against PG&E’s blanket disruption that canceled classes, closed stores and put hospital patients and the infirm at risk.

Typical of the firestorm of criticism was State Sen. Scott Wiener’s comment that “this is a completely unacceptable state of affairs,” and State Sen. Jerry Hill telling the local ABC affiliate that “we are not a third world country.”

Many believe PG&E should be working toward creating a network that is much more robust when it comes to dealing with the elements.

Moving ahead with a sudden shutdown of power for millions “is like saying ‘I don’t have good brakes so I’m not driving the kids to school anymore,’” says Michael Aguirre, former city attorney for San Diego who has filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the implementation of the wildfire bill Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law this past July that would leave ratepayers in the position of having to pay for future utility liabilities.

“Their system should be able to handle 50 mph winds,” Aguirre says. “Because PG&E has not maintained their system in accordance with the requirements, they may not start fires, but are inflicting other damages and losses on customers.”

The impact of tree trimming

Mark Tomey, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, a non-profit group that advocates for PG&E customers, echoed that sentiment, placing the blame square at the utility’s feet.

“PG&E is in a tough position, but it’s a position of their own making,” says Tomey. “The company knows what has to be done for a long-term solution, like tree trimming, insulating wires so they don’t spark, inspecting transmission towers, but they’re behind. So now they’re disconnecting millions of people because they can’t depend on their safety measures due to past negligence.”

PG&E has only finished about a third of the tree trimming work it had planned to tackle this year, due partly to a personnel shortage, according to a filing the company submitted to U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who is overseeing PG&E’s probation related to a 2010 gas explosion in San Bruno that killed 10 people.

“This is a problem that has been years in the making,” says Tomey. “They’re a victim of their own failure.”

Picking up the pace of their tree-trimming operation may not provide much comfort, especially for those Californians living in particularly rural areas such as Paradise, which was completely wiped out by a firestorm.

Sierra Club California director Kathryn Phillips is concerned about relying on tree trimming to help mitigate against future fire-related disasters. She says that such trimming tends to open up “long, narrow clear cuts that will be filled in with fire-prone grasses and shrubs, so this may not be the right thing to do from a safety perspective.”

In fact, PG&E is ignoring a vast array of alternative solutions to its powerline woes, says Edward Goldberg, CEO of Perimeter Solutions, the company that developed, manufactures, and supplies the branded long term fire retardant known as Phos-Chek, the red slurry dropped from air tankers during fire disasters.

“We have been working with PG&E for years, until recently our cooperation with them was limited to spraying our product directly onto their power poles to prevent loss of infrastructure during a fire disaster,” Goldberg says. “We have been trying to work with PG&E on what we see as an obvious solution to treat areas around electrical infrastructure in lieu of power shutoffs.”

The ‘new normal’ for PG&E?

Fire science professor Stephens says that PG&E can work to shift from the relative blunt tool of massive power disruptions to more targeted outages, given some time and funds. Specifically, he cites the ability of San Diego’s power company to surgically target particularly risk-prone ridges with outages that don’t affect the entire city.

By contrast, he says he’s waiting for PG&E to shut down power any moment to Berkeley, “which will safeguard our hills, but also take down the entire university.”

Financial fallout: PG&E files for bankruptcy amid California wildfire lawsuits, citing billions in claims

For Max Fuentes, a former utility lineman turned industry consultant out of Sacramento, PG&E still has many questions to answer when it comes to how it will deal with weather-related worries in the future.

“The minute you decide to shut all these lines down, do they have staged crews ready to start putting up new equipment to mitigate problems in the future, or it just, ‘Let’s wait it out’?” says Fuentes. “Is PG&E they treating this situation like an emergency or is it the new normal. We all need to know what their plan is.”

Follow USA TODAY Network reporters on Twitter, @marcodellacava @eweise @gabbypaluch

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‘Black US voters’ main target of Russia’s 2016 disinformation campaign, Senate report concludes

The Russian social media campaign against the United States targeted no single group more than African-Americans, a new federal report has concluded.

The report from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into the 2016 election comes as social media companies attempt to prevent further disinformation and disruption of  American democracy.

Moscow’s efforts — led by the Internet Research Agency (IRA) — were sophisticated and multifaceted, targeting the black community and sowing division across a range of platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Google-owned YouTube and Instagram. The shadowy effort aimed to support the Trump campaign, denigrate opponent Hillary Clinton, suppress the vote and attack various public figures.

According to the report, more than 66 percent of Facebook advertisements posted by the IRA contained a term related to race.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-c072dbe10d794e19a51befc526be9a2f 'Black US voters' main target of Russia's 2016 disinformation campaign, Senate report concludes fox-news/tech/topics/big-tech-backlash fox-news/tech/companies/twitter fox-news/tech/companies/instagram fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/facebook fox news fnc/tech fnc Christopher Carbone article 537420a1-4a30-5eec-8c5f-598c7a05872f

Russia’s campaign during the 2016 election was far-reaching, according to a new report.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Posts with titles like “Our Votes Don’t Matter,” “Don’t Vote for Hillary Clinton” and “A Vote for Jill Stein is Not a Wasted Vote” were specifically aimed at black voters, the report says.

Oxford’s Computational Research Project, which is cited in the Senate report, captured a number of images of posts from that time.

Some of the posts deliberately did not contain certain racial slurs, to avoid being flagged by content moderators, while others mimicked existing social justice movements in America in order to sow division among different ethnic and racial groups.

Facebook claims to have doubled the number of people working on safety and security, and met with federal officials recently on election security matters.

“We have stepped up our efforts to build strong defenses on multiple fronts. … We have also invested in technology and people to block and remove fake accounts; find and remove coordinated manipulation campaigns; and bring unprecedented transparency to political advertising.” Facebook said in a statement to BBC News.

Westlake Legal Group facebook-logo-getty-images 'Black US voters' main target of Russia's 2016 disinformation campaign, Senate report concludes fox-news/tech/topics/big-tech-backlash fox-news/tech/companies/twitter fox-news/tech/companies/instagram fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/facebook fox news fnc/tech fnc Christopher Carbone article 537420a1-4a30-5eec-8c5f-598c7a05872f   Westlake Legal Group facebook-logo-getty-images 'Black US voters' main target of Russia's 2016 disinformation campaign, Senate report concludes fox-news/tech/topics/big-tech-backlash fox-news/tech/companies/twitter fox-news/tech/companies/instagram fox-news/tech/companies/google fox-news/tech/companies/facebook fox news fnc/tech fnc Christopher Carbone article 537420a1-4a30-5eec-8c5f-598c7a05872f

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PG&E Bankruptcy Judge Gives Outside Group’s Plan a Chance

Pacific Gas & Electric, California’s largest utility, suffered a setback in bankruptcy court on Wednesday that could alter the course of a corporate restructuring that promises to have far-reaching consequences for millions of customers.

Dennis Montali, a federal bankruptcy judge, ruled that PG&E no longer had the sole right to shape the terms of its reorganization, opening a path in court for backers of a rival proposal. The competing plan was devised by a group of PG&E creditors that includes prominent hedge funds, and it is supported by individuals with claims against PG&E for wildfire damages.

The company sought bankruptcy protection in January, saying it faced an estimated $30 billion or more in liabilities related to wildfires that caused widespread property damage and killed dozens of people.

The judge’s ruling, after a contentious court hearing on Monday, came as hundreds of thousands of PG&E customers were without electricity. The company shut off power on Wednesday in wide areas of its territory, including much of the Bay Area, to reduce fire hazards posed by gusty winds after months of dry weather.

Losing the exclusive right to put forward restructuring terms is a huge blow to PG&E’s management and its largest shareholders, which also include hedge funds. The ruling, issued after regular market hours, sent the company’s stock down nearly 30 percent in extended trading.

The creditors’ plan, drawn up by a group of PG&E bondholders that include Elliott Management, an activist hedge fund, would leave the current shareholders with a tiny stake in PG&E once it emerges from bankruptcy.

Westlake Legal Group merlin_128591912_d9019b08-645c-4598-bfff-fac05b99b9a4-articleLarge PG&E Bankruptcy Judge Gives Outside Group’s Plan a Chance Wildfires Suits and Litigation (Civil) Pacific Gas and Electric Co Electric Light and Power Credit and Debt California Bankruptcies

California Wildfires: How PG&E Ignored Risks in Favor of Profits

Pacific Gas & Electric, California’s largest utility, has been responsible for wildfires in recent years that destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres. Several proved fatal.

In making his decision, Judge Montali seemed to be encouraging an accord between the parties. “A dual-track plan course going forward may facilitate negotiations for a global resolution and narrow the issues which are in legitimate dispute,” he wrote.

Sympathy for the wildfire victims also seemed to play a role in the decision. The judge wrote that “the parties most deserving of consideration” had spoken through the group representing the wildfire claimants.

Frank Pitre, a lawyer for wildfire victims, said, “We are extremely pleased that the court has opened the process to promote competition over the best plan for this company to emerge from bankruptcy, showing due concern for ensuring fair compensation to fire victims.”

PG&E opposes the bondholders’ plan because, in its view, it allows them to acquire a large stake in the company on the cheap. “We are disappointed that the bankruptcy court has opened the door to consideration of a plan designed to unjustly enrich Elliott and the other ad hoc bondholders and seize control of PG&E at a substantial discount,” James Noonan, a PG&E spokesman, said in an emailed statement. He added that PG&E was working toward a “fair resolution of all remaining individual wildfire claims.”

PG&E’s plan would pay $8.4 billion to wildfire victims, while the bondholders are offering up to $14.5 billion.

The bankruptcy battle has repercussions in PG&E’s service area, which encompasses most of Northern and Central California. The state’s goal is for the company to emerge with the financial wherewithal to undertake measures intended to head off wildfires caused by PG&E’s power lines.

In addition, under a law enacted this year, the bankruptcy must be completed by June for the company to tap a new state fund being set up to help pay for the catastrophic costs of future wildfires.

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PG&E Bankruptcy Judge Gives Outside Group’s Plan a Chance

Pacific Gas & Electric, California’s largest utility, suffered a setback in bankruptcy court on Wednesday that could alter the course of a corporate restructuring that promises to have far-reaching consequences for millions of customers.

Dennis Montali, a federal bankruptcy judge, ruled that PG&E no longer had the sole right to shape the terms of its reorganization, opening a path in court for backers of a rival proposal. The competing plan was devised by a group of PG&E creditors that includes prominent hedge funds, and it is supported by individuals with claims against PG&E for wildfire damages.

The company sought bankruptcy protection in January, saying it faced an estimated $30 billion or more in liabilities related to wildfires that caused widespread property damage and killed dozens of people.

The judge’s ruling, after a contentious court hearing on Monday, came as hundreds of thousands of PG&E customers were without electricity. The company shut off power on Wednesday in wide areas of its territory, including much of the Bay Area, to reduce fire hazards posed by gusty winds after months of dry weather.

Losing the exclusive right to put forward restructuring terms is a huge blow to PG&E’s management and its largest shareholders, which also include hedge funds. The ruling, issued after regular market hours, sent the company’s stock down nearly 30 percent in extended trading.

The creditors’ plan, drawn up by a group of PG&E bondholders that include Elliott Management, an activist hedge fund, would leave the current shareholders with a tiny stake in PG&E once it emerges from bankruptcy.

Westlake Legal Group merlin_128591912_d9019b08-645c-4598-bfff-fac05b99b9a4-articleLarge PG&E Bankruptcy Judge Gives Outside Group’s Plan a Chance Wildfires Suits and Litigation (Civil) Pacific Gas and Electric Co Electric Light and Power Credit and Debt California Bankruptcies

California Wildfires: How PG&E Ignored Risks in Favor of Profits

Pacific Gas & Electric, California’s largest utility, has been responsible for wildfires in recent years that destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres. Several proved fatal.

In making his decision, Judge Montali seemed to be encouraging an accord between the parties. “A dual-track plan course going forward may facilitate negotiations for a global resolution and narrow the issues which are in legitimate dispute,” he wrote.

Sympathy for the wildfire victims also seemed to play a role in the decision. The judge wrote that “the parties most deserving of consideration” had spoken through the group representing the wildfire claimants.

Frank Pitre, a lawyer for wildfire victims, said, “We are extremely pleased that the court has opened the process to promote competition over the best plan for this company to emerge from bankruptcy, showing due concern for ensuring fair compensation to fire victims.”

PG&E opposes the bondholders’ plan because, in its view, it allows them to acquire a large stake in the company on the cheap. “We are disappointed that the bankruptcy court has opened the door to consideration of a plan designed to unjustly enrich Elliott and the other ad hoc bondholders and seize control of PG&E at a substantial discount,” James Noonan, a PG&E spokesman, said in an emailed statement. He added that PG&E was working toward a “fair resolution of all remaining individual wildfire claims.”

PG&E’s plan would pay $8.4 billion to wildfire victims, while the bondholders are offering up to $14.5 billion.

The bankruptcy battle has repercussions in PG&E’s service area, which encompasses most of Northern and Central California. The state’s goal is for the company to emerge with the financial wherewithal to undertake measures intended to head off wildfires caused by PG&E’s power lines.

In addition, under a law enacted this year, the bankruptcy must be completed by June for the company to tap a new state fund being set up to help pay for the catastrophic costs of future wildfires.

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Lawmakers: NBA Should Have ‘Courage’ To Stand Up To China

Westlake Legal Group 5d9e649320000069054ff206 Lawmakers: NBA Should Have ‘Courage’ To Stand Up To China

A bipartisan group of lawmakers said Wednesday they were deeply concerned that the NBA had kowtowed to China after the organization apologized for an executive’s comments supporting protestors in Hong Kong.

“It is outrageous that the NBA has caved to Chinese government demands for contrition,” the group, which included Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), wrote in a letter addressed to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “NBA players have a rich history of speaking out on sensitive topics of social justice and human rights inside the United States, and the NBA takes pride in defending their right to do so.”

“Yet while it is easy to defend freedom of speech when it costs you nothing, equivocating when profits are at stake is a betrayal of fundamental American values.”

The letter was also signed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

The lawmakers’ statement comes less than a week after the Houston Rockets’ general manager, Daryl Morey, posted a tweet in support of the democracy protests in Hong Kong, reading: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” The short-lived note prompted widespread anger in mainland China, where Communist Party leaders have ignited nationalist sentiment to encourage opposition to demonstrations related to Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Morey quickly deleted the message and issued an apology, but within days China’s state broadcaster said it would stop showing Rockets games in the country and sponsors began suspending their contracts with the NBA. The team has been wildly popular in China, in large part because it drafted Yao Ming in 2002. The Washington Post noted that the NBA has since become the country’s most popular sports league.

The NBA, which makes hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue in China, scrambled to contain the fallout. In a statement, the league said it recognized “that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.”

A separate message in Chinese went further, saying the NBA was “extremely disappointed” in Morey’s “inappropriate remarks.”

The response prompted its own backlash in the U.S., and lawmakers quickly lambasted the NBA for failing to defend free speech. Many called out Silver, the league’s commissioner, for trying to have it both ways while attempting to batten down the organization’s business interests.

The lawmakers on Wednesday urged the NBA to take action to defend the rights of its players and staff, including steps to support their ability to express their opinions “no matter the economic consequences.” They also urged Silver to call China’s bluff and refuse to air NBA activities in the country until government-owned broadcasters end their own boycott.

“Your statements come at a time when we would hope to see Americans standing up and speaking out in defense of the rights of the people of Hong Kong,” the lawmakers wrote. “You have more power to take a stand than most of the Chinese government’s targets and should have the courage and integrity to use it.”

Read the full letter below:

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As White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone Builds Case for Defiance on Impeachment

WASHINGTON — As a lawyer in private practice, Pat A. Cipollone, now President Trump’s White House counsel, told colleagues that there were two approaches to legal fights.

One, he said, was like the Department of State, when the two sides would try to work out a deal to avoid painful and expensive litigation. The other, when the first failed, was the Department of War.

As of this week, Mr. Cipollone has put himself squarely in the war camp when it comes to Mr. Trump’s defense against the House impeachment inquiry. After earlier advocating that the president adopt a policy of transparency by releasing the document at the heart of the impeachment debate — the reconstructed transcript of Mr. Trump’s call with his Ukrainian counterpart — Mr. Cipollone has shifted course and is now leading a no-cooperation strategy that holds substantial political risks but also seems to suit his combative client in the Oval Office.

It is a role that has pushed Mr. Cipollone, 53, to the center of a battle that could determine the course of Mr. Trump’s presidency and potentially lead to a constitutional battle with far-reaching ramifications. In building an argument that Mr. Trump has no obligation to respond to demands for information from Congress, Mr. Cipollone, in a letter sent Tuesday to House Democratic leaders, laid out an extraordinarily broad view of executive authority that, if maintained, seems likely to be viewed skeptically by the courts.

“Pat’s taking a leading role in this proceeding because of the institutional interests that are at stake,” said Jay Sekulow, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer. “He’s the right man for the task. He has the right temperament and disposition.”

Rudolph W. Giuliani, another of Mr. Trump’s lawyers and a key player in the Ukraine affair, heaped praise on Mr. Cipollone. “From a lawyer’s point of view, the letter is close to brilliant,” he said.

But to critics of Mr. Trump, Mr. Cipollone is seeking to twist the law and stonewall an entirely legitimate inquiry from a coequal branch of government and undercut the ability of Congress to pursue its constitutionally mandated remedy of impeachment.

“I cannot fathom how any self-respecting member of the bar could affix his name to this letter,” George Conway, a constitutional lawyer and the husband of Kellyanne Conway, a top aide to Mr. Trump, said on Twitter. “It’s pure hackery, and it disgraces the profession.”

Mr. Cipollone’s defiant posture toward Congress, Democrats said, was more about political positioning than a serious effort to articulate a legal and constitutional defense for Mr. Trump.

“They’re taking a position that seems to me to be quite frivolous: that Congress doesn’t have any power to investigate most of what they’re investigating,” said Neil Eggleston, who was the White House counsel in the Clinton and Obama administrations. “It’s sort of a last refuge.”

A well-known figure in Washington’s community of Catholic conservatives and anti-abortion activists, Mr. Cipollone came to the White House late last year after earlier having helped prepare Mr. Trump for the presidential debates in 2016 and advised his legal team during the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the campaign.

But Mr. Cipollone generally keeps such a low public profile that even those who have known him for years differ on how to pronounce his last name (it is sip-uh-LOAN-ee). He drives a pickup truck and a Honda Pilot, into which he loaded a beloved desk chair for the move to the White House after his appointment last December.

He has contributed substantially to Catholic charities and causes, but his political work has been largely behind the scenes, including his former law firm’s defense of former Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin in a campaign finance case.

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Read the White House Letter in Response to the Impeachment Inquiry

In a letter to House Democratic leaders, the White House counsel called the House’s impeachment inquiry illegitimate.

The son of an Italian-born factory worker and homemaker, Mr. Cipollone spent much of his childhood in the Bronx. After his father was transferred to Kentucky, Mr. Cipollone attended Covington Catholic High School before returning to New York to attend Fordham University.

A debate champion and intramural athlete, he worked days in Fordham’s computer center and summers in construction, factory and clerical jobs. He was the class of 1988’s valedictorian, graduating first in a class of 650 with a degree in economics and political philosophy. Already interested in constitutional law, he wrote a senior thesis on “Substantive Due Process and the 14th Amendment.”

Mr. Cipollone won a full academic scholarship to attend the University of Chicago Law School. There, he sank deep conservative roots, helping lead a student chapter of the Federalist Society.

Mr. Cipollone served a clerkship with Judge Danny Julian Boggs, a Reagan appointee, on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

As part of the interview process, Mr. Cipollone took the judge’s famously difficult “general knowledge” quiz, which he used to gauge knowledge beyond the law. In Mr. Cipollone’s year, potential clerks had to answer 64 questions, including, “What was the Trail of Tears?” “What did the battles of Actius, Lepanto and Salamis have in common?” and “When and what was the Edict of Nantes?” (Judge Boggs said he had looked back in his files and could not find Mr. Cipollone’s score.)

Judge Boggs recently had lunch with Mr. Cipollone in the White House mess. “I complimented him on not seeing his name in the paper,” the judge said, “which means he’s doing a good job.”

Mr. Cipollone went from Judge Boggs’s chambers in Louisville to Washington, and a speechwriting job with William P. Barr, who was attorney general in the George Bush administration and was named attorney general by Mr. Trump a few months after Mr. Cipollone arrived at the White House.

A fellow clerk, Jennifer Hall, recalled sitting in Judge Boggs’s bookshelf-lined chambers between Mr. Cipollone and another clerk, Stephen Vaughn, now a trade lawyer in Washington. “They would yell at each other over me,” she recalled, “listening to Rush Limbaugh.”

Mr. Cipollone and his wife, Rebecca Cipollone, have 10 children. The youngest is a 10-year-old son and the oldest a 26-year-old daughter, who works at Fox News for Laura Ingraham, the conservative commentator, who was introduced to Catholicism by Mr. Cipollone.

Mr. Cipollone is a founder of the National Prayer Breakfast, participates in the anti-abortion March for Life, and events that draw Washington’s Catholic elite, like the Red Mass, celebrated each year at St. Matthew’s Cathedral on the Sunday before the Supreme Court session begins. (Mr. Cipollone was absent when the event was held this past weekend.)

After his stint with Mr. Barr, Mr. Cipollone joined the law firm Kirkland & Ellis in Washington. In the mid-1990s, he moved his family to Connecticut and took a job as general counsel for a Kirkland & Ellis client, the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization and multibillion dollar insurance company. He later rejoined the firm, then left for a partnership at Stein, Mitchell, Cipollone, Beato & Missner, where he worked on Mr. Walker’s case, among others.

Melanie Sloan, a law school classmate who works with the liberal watchdog organization American Oversight, said she called Mr. Cipollone for help in a complicated legal matter after classmates recommended him. “He was kind and happy to help me,” she said. “I don’t feel like too many people in Washington would take a call from somebody they haven’t been in touch with 20 years and be right there to help. And I never got a bill.”

Mr. Cipollone earned nearly $7 million at Stein Mitchell in 2017 and 2018, according to his White House financial disclosure report.

“With every client, with everybody he sat in front of, he used the term ‘off ramps,’” says Jonathan Missner, a partner of Mr. Cipollone’s at the firm. “That’s Pat. He looks for off ramps, and he’s good at it.”

It is also true, he said, that Mr. Cipollone “can be a pit bull — and that’s the Department of War.”

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