US Sanctions Russian Oil Trading Firm for Role in Venezuela

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration announced sanctions on Feb. 18 on a Russian state-controlled brokerage that has helped the Venezuelan government skirt an American oil embargo and enabled President Nicolas Maduro keep his grip on power in the South American country.

Administration officials said Rosneft Trading S.A. and its president, Didier Casimiro, would be added to a financial blacklist in a move that is expected to largely freeze him and the company out of the global financial system.

The action is an unusually strong move against a company linked to the Russian state and amounts to a substantial escalation of a U.S.-led campaign that has failed to oust Maduro from power.

Venezuelan regime leader Nicolas Maduro gives a press conference at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, on Feb. 14, 2020. (Ariana Cubillos/AP Photo)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Rosneft Trading is the primary broker for the sale and transportation of Venezuelan crude oil.

“Rosneft Trading has propped up the dictatorial Maduro, enabling his repression of the Venezuelan people,” he said in announcing the sanctions.

Rosneft Trading, based in Switzerland, was created in 2011 to facilitate trades on behalf of the parent company, which has been under U.S. sanctions since 2014, said Elliott Abrams, the special U.S. envoy for Venezuela.

The brokerage has helped arrange sales of Venezuelan crude by deceiving customers, mostly in Asia, about the source of the oil with such tactics as changing the name of the tanker, Abrams said.

Rosneft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But Russian lawmaker Pavel Zavalny said the country would continue to cooperate with Venezuela in the energy sector despite the U.S. sanctions. “One doesn’t abandon friends in need,” Zavalny said.

The United States and about 60 other countries say Maduro’s reelection in 2018 was not legitimate and have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president.

The United States is considering additional economic sanctions “in the coming weeks and months” aimed at further tightening economic pressure on the Maduro government, the special U.S. envoy for Venezuela, Abrams told reporters at the State Department.

Maduro has held on to power despite runaway hyperinflation, a massive exodus and shortages of food and medicine and the international pressure that has left his socialist administration isolated.

Venezuela managed to ship hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil last year with the help of Rosneft Trading despite sanctions on its petroleum sector imposed by the Trump administration last year.

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognized as the country’s rightful interim ruler, speaks at a gathering in Caracas, Venezuela on Feb. 11, 2020. (Manaure Quintero/Reuters)

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó called the latest sanctions a “new victory!”

“Whoever supports the dictator, from whatever part of the world, will bear the consequences,” Guaidó tweeted. “Those who collaborate with democracy will be welcomed.”

Guaidó launched a campaign to oust Maduro a year ago but so far has failed to make it a reality. He has been unable to flip the military’s loyalty away from Maduro.

In recent months the Venezuelans who had fervently supported Guaidó early on had stopped filling the streets for demonstrations, and Maduro has grown emboldened.

The action against Rosneft Trading and Casamiro means that any assets they have in the United States or in the control of U.S. financial institutions will be frozen. In addition, anyone doing business with them could face American sanctions.

Abrams said that would largely freeze the company and its president out of the global financial system because people will be reluctant to take the risk after a 90-day period to wind down any relationship.

Officials also said that President Donald Trump approved the move. They said he has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past about U.S. objections to his country’s support for Maduro.

Pompeo also discussed it with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a recent meeting.

By Ben Fox

Associated Press writers Daria Litvinova in Moscow and Scott Smith in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.

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Author: The Associated Press


Homeland Security to Change International Student Visa Rule to Reduce Overstay

A new visa rule from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expected to be published this February would make it more difficult for international students to stay in the country after finishing their degree.

The DHS currently practices a rule known as “duration of status,” which means that international students can stay in the United States indefinitely as long as they maintain their status as students and do not violate the terms of their visa. This rule makes it possible for students to transfer to another school to work towards a higher degree or take an extra year to pursue a double major. Effectively, the length of their stay in the country is determined by how long they needed to finish their academic programs, rather than their visa expiration date.

In a proposed new guideline, however, the DHS says it is going to establish a fixed “maximum period of authorized stay” for student visa holders and requires them to apply for new permission every time there is a change in their academic plans, such as a transition from an undergraduate to a graduate-level program. Consent will also be needed if students need a longer time than expected to finish their degree.

The new rule to replace existing “duration of status” does not say how long exactly the maximum period of stay for student visa holders would be. It does mention, however, that there would be “options for extensions” for each relevant visa category.

“The failure to provide certain categories of nonimmigrants with specific dates for their authorized periods of stay can cause confusion over how long they may lawfully remain in the United States and has complicated the efforts to reduce overstay rates for nonimmigrant students,” a DHS statement justifying the new rule reads. “The clarity created by date-certain admissions will help reduce the overstay rate.”

According to a 2018 DHS report (pdf), around 68,000, or 3.7 percent of all 1, 840,000 student or exchange visitor visa holders failed to leave the United States at the end of their programs.

It is not the first time the Trump administration has tried to tackle visa overstays by tightening rules. In 2018,  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy memo (pdf), changing the way immigration agents calculate when a international student is considered “unlawfully present” in the country. Unlawful presence used to start from the time USCIS or an immigration judge declared it to that individual. Such requirement is removed under the new rule, which states that unlawful presence will begin accruing the day after a student stops pursuing a course of study or otherwise violates the terms of his or her visa.

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Author: GQ Pan

74-Year-Old Man Dead After Train Collides With Car at Montreal Railway Crossing

MONTREAL—A 74−year−old man taking a driving test in Montreal was killed on Feb. 18 when a commuter train struck the car he was driving.

The examiner, an employee of Quebec’s motor vehicle insurance agency, who was seated next to the driver, suffered critical injuries and was taken to hospital.

Police say the collision occurred in the city’s north end at a level railway crossing on Gouin Boulevard, near the river that separates Montreal from its northern suburb.

Mario Vaillancourt, spokesman for the Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec, said the 74-year-old was being re-evaluated for a driver’s license.

Vaillancourt said the type of exam the man was taking “is often tied to someone’s health condition,” though he declined to discuss the specifics of the collision.

“We ask that they take a road test” to evaluate whether the person can still drive safely, Vaillancourt said.

The SAAQ released a statement Tuesday afternoon offering condolences to the 74−year−old’s family. “A team has been deployed … to meet with staff members to provide them with the necessary psychological support,” the agency said.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said it has dispatched an investigator to the railway crossing to gather information about the collision, which occurred around 9:30 a.m.

Montreal police said the driver was transported to hospital in critical condition and died there shortly after, while his 33-year-old passenger was in hospital in critical condition.

No one was injured aboard the train, which is operated by the regional transit agency Exo.

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Author: The Canadian Press

Coronavirus Live Updates: First Patient Had No Link to Wuhan Seafood Market, Report Says

Countries around the world are taking measures to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, as the death toll continues to rise.

Refresh for Feb. 19 updates.

Exclusive: Chinese Regime Deploys 1,600 Internet Trolls

The propaganda department in virus-stricken Hubei Province has engaged over 1,600 censors to scrub the internet of “sensitive” information relating to the coronavirus outbreak, according to an internal document obtained by The Epoch Times.

The internal report, dated Feb. 15, detailed the agency’s efforts to ramp up censorship measures. It was drafted after a speech given by Chinese leader Xi Jinping via video link on Feb. 10 to “frontline responders” of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, where the virus first broke out.

The revelations come as the Chinese regime tightens information controls over the worsening outbreak, as netizens have increasingly turned to the internet to vent their frustrations about the authorities’ response, or document what is happening on the ground.

Read more here.

First COVID-19 Patient Had No Link to Wuhan Seafood Market: Report

The first coronavirus patient in China did not have contact with a wild animal and seafood market in Wuhan City where the outbreak began, the BBC reported on Feb. 18.

The unidentified man, known as “patient zero,” was a pensioner in his 70s who was bedridden from a stroke and suffered from dementia. He fell ill on Dec. 1, 2019—one week earlier than what was reported by Wuhan health authorities, who said the first patient appeared on Dec. 8.

The revelation is consistent with a Jan. 24 study published in The Lancet analyzing the first 41 cases of coronavirus patients who fell ill between Dec. 1, 2019 and Jan. 2, 2020.

Read more here.

For updates from Feb. 18, click here.

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Author: Epoch Times Staff

Former US Naval Officer Enjoys Shen Yun’s Spiritual Side

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—A classical Chinese dance performance that is being hailed as a phenomenon continued to reach across cultures and bring people together on Feb. 18, 2020 in Florida as part of its global tour. New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts aims to revive traditional Chinese culture for worldwide audiences and retired US Naval officer Tim Tully, who attended the performance at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg that day, felt he was treated to something he hadn’t seen before.

“The show was beautiful and inspiring and the costumes were amazing,” Tully began. “The athleticism and the performances of the dancers were amazing. … I enjoyed the backdrops and the costumes and the dances and the performances. It’s amazing to be able to have this show in my area so close to my home and enjoy this.”

Tim Tully, who served for 32 years in the US Navy before retiring, called Shen Yun’s blend of storytelling dances, costumes, male and female dancers, and live orchestral music beautiful.

“It was wonderful. I love the aesthetics and the beauty of the women dancers and the men dancers, the athleticism and the costumes, and their expressions of the different histories and dances related to the Chinese culture,” he said.

Shen Yun is applauded by the world’s most seasoned theatergoers for reviving traditional Chinese culture through performing arts such as the technically-challenging and highly-expressive form known as classical Chinese dance, bel canto vocal performances, and a live orchestra that deftly blends Eastern and Western instruments. China’s authentic culture is, at its essence, deeply spiritual. That’s why a Shen Yun performance depicts ancient legends about divine beings and spiritual practices such as Buddhism, Taoism, and Falun Dafa.

Tully appreciated every aspect of the performance, from the sights and sounds to the cultural themes and stories.

“I had no knowledge of the stories previous to attending the show but it was wonderful to learn and understand the history and the expressions of the Chinese culture and experiences and the performances of the dancers and the singers and the musicians.”

Two pieces in Shen Yun’s roughly 20 short vignettes portray an ancient Chinese legend about the Creator one day returning to earth for all mankind. Tully commented on the final piece, titled “Renewal of Heaven and Earth,” which depicts a scene set in modern times in China where those who choose good over evil are protected and rewarded by the Almighty.

Tully didn’t know that stories like these are part of authentic Chinese culture and wasn’t anticipating it, “but irregardless, it was beautiful and wonderful and I enjoyed it and loved the show,” he said.

The retired officer described his response to the heavenly beings, higher ideals, and spiritual believers that are peppered throughout Shen Yun’s performance.

“I like the spiritual part,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of religious knowledge of the Chinese culture  … But it was a wonderful, beautiful expression artistically not only in athleticism, in behavior and dancing and music, in the aspiration of trying to express, I’m going to guess, the Chinese belief in what they’d like to express to the rest of Western civilizations so to speak.”

Some say Shen Yun’s mission to revive China’s traditional culture is ambitious, considering that it spans 5,000 years. Tully, however, gave the group a lofty “all systems go.”

“I don’t see any reason why there would not be a successful endeavor in progressing the Chinese belief and culture and aesthetic belief system in artistic endeavors coupled with the religious and character values of the Chinese culture in this vehicle to try to help Chinese citizens advance, the culture advance, of this belief system.”

Then Tully drew a connection from Shen Yun to his own culture before wishing Chinese people well, now and into the future.

As reviving traditional values goes, “I’m going to relate to it as an American with my character and value and belief system,” Tully said. “I would hope that the ability for this vessel, this vehicle, the dance and singing and music, which is a universal language to relate to all peoples would be something that would help to advance the belief and value system of the Chinese people and performers for the future and enhancement of the endeavors of all Chinese people.”

“For all the artists, not only the artistic director,” Tully wanted them to know he applauds them.

“The performers are attractive, athletic, extremely experienced and trained, and obviously enjoyable to watch and I understand there’s a degree of sacrifice between what they have to go through and maybe some negative feedback from some persons in China … And I applaud not only [Shen Yun artists’] ability to perform but to enhance everyone’s experience, to sacrifice their time and energy and their abilities as performers to enhance the goal of Shen Yun.”

With reporting by NTD Television and Brett Featherstone.

The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time and has covered audience reactions since the company’s inception in 2006.

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Author: Epoch Newsroom

EXCLUSIVE: Chinese Regime Deploys 1,600 Internet Trolls to Suppress Information on Coronavirus

The propaganda department in virus-stricken Hubei Province has engaged over 1,600 censors to scrub the internet of “sensitive” information relating to the coronavirus outbreak, according to an internal document obtained by The Epoch Times.

The internal report, dated Feb. 15, detailed the agency’s efforts to ramp up censorship measures. It was drafted after a speech given by Chinese leader Xi Jinping via video link on Feb. 10 to “frontline responders” of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, where the virus first broke out.

The revelations come as the Chinese regime tightens information controls over the worsening outbreak, as netizens have increasingly turned to the internet to vent their frustrations about the authorities’ response, or document what is happening on the ground.

The illness has seen a steadily growing official list of infections and deaths on a daily basis. Experts and commentators, however, believe the actual number of infections to be far greater, due to underreporting and shortages in testing kits and hospital beds—meaning many people are left undiagnosed.

Students studying car mechanics sit an exam in a computer room at a technical school in Jinan, in China’s eastern Shandong province on Jan. 29, 2018. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

1,600 Trolls Deployed

According to the document, the department has hired more than 1,600 trolls, known as the 50-cent army in China, to regulate internet speech continuously, 24/7.

The trolls, through technological and manual screening, had identified as many as 606,800 posts online with “sensitive or harmful information,” it said.

Their approach, it said, was to “timely dispel the online rumors” and “strike powerful blows offline.”

As of Feb. 14, the online censors had deleted as many as 54,000 such “rumors,” and had social media influencers write nearly 400 commentary articles to shape the narrative.

The regime’s propaganda efforts, the report said, should be directed toward promoting the effects of officials’ outbreak control measures and the “moving deeds” of volunteers, community workers, and the police.

Some professional “internet commentators” had also made 400,000 comments to “counter the negative public opinions,” according to the document.

Posts mourning whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang, who died of the virus he was warning about in December, quickly disappeared from the internet in the hours after the news of his passing was first announced. “I want free speech,” a phrase that became trending on Chinese social media following his death, was also swiftly erased.

People attend a vigil to mourn for doctor Li Wenliang in Hong Kong, China, on Feb. 7, 2020. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

Wuhan citizen journalists Fang Bin and Chen Qiushi also recently disappeared after posting regular videos online highlighting the severity of the outbreak.

As of Feb. 11, over 2,500 people had signed a joint online petition expressing anger over Li’s death and criticizing the government for suppressing free speech during the outbreak. Several co-signees were subsequently summoned by local police. At least one was detained.

The department has also set up 11 work groups for the purpose of “wartime propaganda” work. The groups were communicating daily with propaganda officials from the central government to “coordinate public opinion” in real time on issues “online and offline,” “inside the country and overseas,” it stated.

Ousting Local Reporters

According to the leaked report, at least 60 reporters from 33 overseas news agencies came to Wuhan after the coronavirus outbreak began earlier this year. However, at least 47 of them agreed to leave, through the department’s “communication and persuasion.”

As of the evening of Feb. 14, only five non-mainland outlets had reporters in Hubei.

To “lead overseas media to objectively report on the outbreak information,” the department has set up an international language section and have published 200 pieces on the outbreak from official channels in seven languages, the document said.

On Jan. 14, a group of reporters from at least four Hong Kong media were taken to a police station located within a hospital in Wuhan after trying to interview patients, according to local media.

The police searched their belongings and asked them to delete the videos taken around the hospital. They were only released after 1 1/2 hours of interrogation.

Censorship Overdrive

The Chinese regime has made the suppression of information about the virus a priority.

At a Feb. 3 meeting, the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the top decision-making body, called for authorities to “strengthen internet and media control.”

This has filtered down to local authorities cracking down on people for “spreading rumors” on the internet about the outbreak.

Chinese state-run media have warned people not to “spread fake information” about the coronavirus, lest they be in violation of China’s Criminal Law.

A provision of that law states that anyone found fabricating and spreading false information on an epidemic, disaster, or police activity, can be sentenced to three to seven years in prison.

Washington-based nonprofit Chinese Human Rights Defenders documented 254 cases of arrests between Jan. 22 and Jan. 28, in which Chinese citizens were punished for “spreading rumors” relating to the virus. The forms of penalty included fines, verbal warnings, and forced confessions.

In a list of 167 cases of people punished for rumor-mongering published by U.S.-based website China Digital Times, the majority of the “offenses” were posts about confirmed or suspected cases in their city or neighborhood. Some included the number of deaths.

For instance, a man in Baoding City, Hebei Province, wrote on his blog: “I truly believe the authorities have not revealed the true number of infected patients. I heard that in a village about 20 kilometers [12.4 miles] from ours, the number of confirmed cases was six on Jan. 26. All were sent to the hospital for quarantine. But I have not seen any official reports that included these six cases.”

He received five days of administrative detention for this posting. Administrative detention refers to the arrest and detention of an individual without trial.

Olivia Li contributed to this report.

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Author: Cathy He, Eva Fu

Halifax Couple Thanks Public a Year After House Fire Claimed Their 7 Children

HALIFAX—The parents of seven children who died in a Halifax house fire a year ago are offering thanks to the public for the love and support they’ve received since the tragedy.

Syrian refugees Ebraheim and Kawthar Barho survived the fire that destroyed their rental home in the Halifax suburb of Spryfield on Feb. 19, 2019.

The couple’s seven children—Ahmad, 14; Rola, 12; Mohamad, nine; Ola, eight; Hala, three; Rana, two and Abdullah, three months—perished inside the home.

“We would like to offer our deepest gratitude to the thousands of Nova Scotians who have shown us their love and support over this past year,” the couple said in a statement released Tuesday through the office of Halifax MP Andy Fillmore. “The loss is immense, and we miss our children every day.”

The Barhos said they managed to find comfort in the kindness of strangers, the courage of first responders, and in the dedication of health−care professionals, as well as “the sense of belonging offered to us by this community.”

“We will keep each and every one of you in our hearts forever,” the letter states.

Ebraheim Barho remains in hospital after sustaining severe burns over much of his body.

In a recent interview with CTV, Dr. Jack Rasmussen, the lead physician in the burn unit at the Halifax Infirmary, said Barho had undergone nearly 15 surgeries over the past year along with hours of physiotherapy and speech therapy.

Meanwhile, investigators in Halifax have yet to identify a cause for the fire.

In an update given last September, investigators said they were only able to determine that the blaze began at the back of the house in the main−floor living room near a couch.

Nothing was found to lead them to believe the fire was suspicious, and they ruled out smoking materials, kitchen activities, and electrical faults as possible causes.

The fire hit the greater Halifax community hard and touched people across the country. More than 2,000 people attended the funeral service for the Barho children in Halifax.

The family, originally from the war−torn Syrian city of Raqqa, arrived in Canada as refugees in September 2017.

They first settled in rural Elmsdale, N.S., about 35 minutes north of Halifax, but eventually moved to Spryfield to take advantage of immigrant services, including English−language training.

The Hants East Assisting Refugees Team also released a statement on Tuesday noting the tragic loss of the seven children but adding that “in difficult times our memories bring comfort.”

“We would like to express our most heartfelt thanks to the many people and organizations who have offered their love and guidance over the last year as we supported Kawthar and Ebraheim,” the group said. “To the thousands of Canadians who were there for us during this devastating time, we are deeply grateful.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2020.



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Author: The Canadian Press

Champagne Campaigns for Security Council in Trudeau’s Place at Caribbean Summit

OTTAWA—Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne wrapped two days of meetings at a summit with Caribbean leaders saying he’s confident he was campaigning among “family” for support for Canada’s election to the United Nations Security Council.

Champagne replaced Justin Trudeau at the Barbados event because the prime minister chose to stay in Canada to address ongoing protests over Indigenous land rights and a B.C. pipeline.

Champagne told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday that his hosts would have preferred to see Trudeau but the close ties between Caribbean countries and Canada stood him in good stead as he pressed for support.

Canada is competing against Norway and Ireland for two temporary seats up for grabs at the UN’s most powerful body.

The secret ballot occurs in June for a two-year term starting in 2021, and while winning political promises is key, there is no guarantee those will transform into actual votes.

Champagne accompanied Trudeau on his recent trip to Africa and a German security summit where they were campaigning for support.

“I leave Bridgetown with a renewed sense of commitment towards the Caribbean. As many of them have said, this is family,” said Champagne.

Many of the leaders of the 15-country bloc known as the Caribbean Community or Caricom have personal connections with Canada, including studying here, he said.

They also view Canada as a strong candidate to “amplify” their regional interests when it comes to climate change and economic issues, he said.

Canada will need at least 128 votes in the 190-plus UN General Assembly but it faces tough competition from both Norway and Ireland, which both spend more on foreign aid and peacekeeping.

Africa is a key bloc with 54 voting countries. Trudeau’s recent trip to Ethiopia and Senegal was meant to address a perception that Canada had forgotten about the fast-growing continent in recent years.

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Author: The Canadian Press

Trump Acknowledges That He Makes AG Barr’s Job Harder

President Donald Trump acknowledged on Tuesday that his social media posts are making Attorney General William Barr’s job harder, but added that social media is very important to the president because it gives him a voice.

The president comments come after Barr issued rare criticism to the president about his Twitter posts in the wake of one of Trump’s posts about the sentencing of former campaign adviser Roger Stone. The Justice Department’s (DOJ) handling of the Stone case has received extensive scrutiny after the department requested a lighter sentence for the Trump associate. Top department officials intervened in the case after deeming the original recommendation of seven to nine years as “excessive.”

Barr said during an interview on Feb. 13 that the president’s public statements and Twitter posts made about the department and pending cases “make it impossible for [him] to do [his] job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”

While responding to a reporter’s question about Barr’s comments, the president agreed with the assessment saying that his social media posts are making Barr’s job harder.

“I do make his job harder. I do agree with that. I think that’s true,” Trump said. “He’s a very straight shooter. We have a great attorney general and he’s working very hard. He’s working against a lot of people that don’t want to see good things happen, in my opinion.”

“But I will say this: Social media for me has been very important because it gives me a voice because I don’t get that voice in the press, in the media. I don’t get that voice. So I’m allowed to have a voice,” he added.

Trump added that he thinks that Barr is still able to do his job with integrity even with the president’s social media posts while also saying that he has “total confidence” in the attorney general.

“He’s a man with great integrity. The attorney general is a man with incredible integrity,” Trump said. “Just so you understand: I chose not to be involved. I’m allowed to be totally involved. I’m actually, I guess the chief law enforcement officer of the country, but I’ve chosen not to be involved.”

Barr has received widespread criticism over his handling of cases related to Trump associates. Over 2,000 former DOJ officials have signed an online letter urging Barr to resign following his intervention in the Stone case. The online letter was organized by Protect Democracy, a nonprofit advocacy group staffed by former government officials, political operatives, and activists who have been opposing Trump’s agenda via legal means.

Similarly, Donald Ayer, the former deputy attorney general under George H. W. Bush, wrote an op-ed published in The Atlantic accusing Barr of acting as the “president’s personal advocate than as an attorney general” and being “un-American.”

Moreover, USA Today reported that a national group of federal judges, the Federal Judges Association, had called an emergency meeting on Monday to address concerns about Barr’s handling of cases related to Trump associates. The association did not return our request to comment and confirm the meeting, which was reported to be scheduled for Wednesday.

Despite the criticism, Republican congressional leaders have offered their support for the attorney general in a joint statement on Tuesday in response to what appears to be Protect Democracy’s online letter.

“Suggestions from outside groups that the attorney general has fallen short of the responsibilities of his office are unfounded,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) wrote.

“The attorney general has shown that he is committed without qualification to securing equal justice under law for all Americans,” the statement said.

“The nation is fortunate that President Trump chose such a strong and selfless public servant to lead the Department of Justice. We expect that, as always, efforts to intimidate the Attorney General will fall woefully short.”

Meanwhile, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox & Friends on Tuesday that the calls for Barr’s resignation did not surprise her. She said that “it’s been proven time and time again. There are obstructionists all across this government who are working against the president.”

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Author: Janita Kan

Chinese Regime Hints of Political Infighting as Leader Xi Jinping Criticizes Officials for Failing to Contain Virus

Chinese leader Xi Jinping recently called out Hubei officials for not following his instructions to stem the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Previously, local officials complained that they were unable to disclose details about the outbreak because the central government did not allow them.

Meanwhile, state-run media published, then quickly deleted, a report about Gao Fu, current director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, being disciplined for violating Party rules.

The media outlet has since published an apology, but the unusual move attracted netizens’ attention.

Analysts saw these are the latest indication that there are Party disputes over how to handle the current outbreak.

There are several factions within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Xi is a leader of one faction, while former leader Jiang Zemin leads another. A number of officials belong to a faction loyal to former leader Hu Jintao. Some insiders have also claimed that premier Li Keqiang is at odds with Xi’s faction in recent years.

Faction Conflicts

Chinese state-run Xinhua recently published a speech by Xi on Feb. 3, addressing the Politburo Standing Committee—the Party’s top decision-making body—on the virus response.

Xi criticized Party leaders in Hubei Province.

“On Jan. 7, I gave my request to prevent the new coronavirus at the Politburo Standing Committee…On Jan. 22, I clearly asked Hubei Province to comprehensively and strictly control people’s movement to the outside,” Xi said, according to the Feb. 15 report.

Wuhan City announced that the city’s public transportation would be suspended indefinitely on Jan. 23.

Xinhua publishing Xi’s speech 12 days after the event is broadly understood as an explanation for why Xi dismissed two top Party officials in Hubei Province—provincial Party secretary Jiang Liangchao and Wuhan Party secretary Ma Guoqiang—on Feb. 13.

Since Jan. 27, Hubei senior officials claimed in public statements that they reported the outbreak to the central government, but Beijing did not allow them to release the data. Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang also said the decision to lock down the city on Jan. 23 was made by him and Ma.

“Who decided to lock down the city to contain the virus’s spread: this is the conflict between Hubei senior officials and Xi,” said U.S.-based China affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan said.

He added that there was another hint of disagreements between central and local authorities: Beijing has asked all provinces except Hubei to reopen their businesses, but each local government has launched different rules.

On Feb. 14, Shanghai residents shared an official notice from different local governments that no non-local people and vehicles are allowed to enter or stay in the city. All the people and vehicles who entered before must leave Shanghai as soon as possible.

Chinese businesses rely on migrant workers. By not allowing non-Shanghai natives to stay in the city, migrant workers are effectively shut out, and most businesses would not be able to operate normally.

On the same day, Beijing requested all people from other areas of China must be quarantined for 14 days before he or she can go to work.

Tang commented that these rules show local governments don’t follow Xi’s orders.

Medical staff members working at the isolation ward of the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province, on Feb. 16, 2020. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Report About Gao Fu

Gao, 58, earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Oxford University in the U.K. in 1994. He studied and worked in the U.K., Canada, and United States for 13 years.

After returning to China via a recruitment program called Hundred Talents Program in 2004, Gao was promoted from university professor to current CDC director; academician at the country’s top research institute, the Chinese Academy of Sciences; and dean of the Savaid Medical School in Beijing.

Gao made several public statements about the COVID-19 outbreak that have later been proven false, angering many Chinese netizens.

On Dec. 31, 2019, Gao said that the new disease “can be controlled and prevented,” and assured the public that it “won’t be transmitted from human to human.”

On Jan. 22, Gao said the evidence collected by medical teams showed that COVID-19 would not infect children and young people easily.

Scientists and Chinese authorities have since confirmed that the disease is contagious, while doctors at a Wuhan hospital confirmed that pregnant mothers may pass the infection to their unborn children, after a newborn tested positive for COVID-19.

Tang analyzed that there is a possibility that Gao could really be investigated as the state-run media initially reported. “It happens frequently that the Chinese Communist Party officials were ‘shuanggui’ [an internal disciplinary process] after some leaked information,” Tang said.

Based on Xi’s speech, the leader had asked officials to prevent the virus on Jan. 7. “Whether Gao followed Xi’s instruction remains a question,” Tang said.

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Author: Nicole Hao