SDF Chief: ‘Washington Has Sufficient Leverage to Mediate a Sustainable Peace Between US and Turkey’

The commander-in-chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi, said that he wants the United States to “acknowledge” the role it can play in finding a political solution, and in helping to reach a sustainable peace between Turkey and Kurdish-led forces in Syria.

“But we do want the United States to acknowledge its important role in achieving a political solution for Syria. We are sure that Washington has sufficient leverage to mediate a sustainable peace between us and Turkey,” said Abdi in an “argument” published in The Foreign Policy on Oct. 13.

Abdi is leading the 70,000 strong SDF that, according to him, “fought against jihadi extremism, ethnic hatred, and the oppression of women since 2015.”

Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), gather on the outskirts of the town of al-Shadadi, in Hasakeh Province, northeastern Syria, on Feb. 19, 2016. (Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)

He said ISIS terrorists came from all over the world, and he told his soldiers to fight them because they “looted” their villages, “killed” their children, and “enslaved” their women. He said the SDF lost 11,000 soldiers while fighting against ISIS terrorists.

Abdi said after the Kurdish-led Syrian forces aligned with the United States, it withdrew its military fortification from the border with Turkey.

“Turkey would never attack us so long as the U.S. government was true to its word with us. We are now standing with our chests bare to face the Turkish knives,” he said.

Immediately after the United States withdrew its forces from northeast Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched Operation Peace Spring (OPS) on Oct. 9 against ISIS terrorist forces, including; SDF-led forces; the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), and the People’s Protection Unit (YPG).

Turkey said Operation Peace Spring is needed to create a safe zone for millions of Syrian refugees.

Turkish soldiers and Turkey-backed Syrian fighters gather on the northern outskirts of the Syrian city of Manbij near the Turkish border on Oct. 14, 2019, as Turkey and its allies continue their assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria. (Zein Al Rifai/AFP via Getty Images)

Abdi wrote in his “argument” that SDF could understand and sympathize with the decision of the United States to withdraw, and President Donald Trump has been talking about it for long.

“Fathers want to see their children laughing on their laps. Lovers want to hear the voices of their partners whispering to them. Everyone wants to go back to their homes,” he said.

The general, however, said that the United States could play a role in finding a political solution for Syria and help in building sustainable peace between Turkey and Syria.

On Sunday, the Turkish Defense Ministry reported that the PKK/YPG controlled town of Rasalayn was captured and 415 “PKK/YPG militants were eliminated” since the beginning of the operation, according to a  situation report released by the Turkish think tank, Edam.

Robin Fleming, a researcher at Rojava Information Center based in Qamishli, Syria, told The Epoch Times on Friday that the Turkish attack has led to a humanitarian crisis.

“The conditions of the civilians are reaching the level of a humanitarian disaster with the estimated number of displaced civilians between 60,000 and 100,000. Our team on the ground has seen families with all their possessions in the back of a truck; people walking on foot—taking only what they can carry with their hands—all rushing to leave the cities in the face of attack,” she said.

Smoke billows from the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain on October 12, 2019, as Turkey and its allies continued their assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria. (Nazeer Al-Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

‘We Believe in Democracy’

Abdi said SDF aligned itself with the United States because of its core belief in the principles of democracy.

“We are disappointed and frustrated by the current crisis. Our people are under attack, and their safety is our paramount concern. Two questions remain: How can we best protect our people? And is the United States still our ally?” he said.

In an earlier message posted on Twitter on Friday, Abdi had requested the United States to prevent Turkey from using the airspace for the attack.

“Our war would last for more than a year if the U.S. is unable to lay a peaceful solution with Turkey. We ask it to prevent Turkey from using the airspace, as we can defend ourselves,” he said.

His Friday’s message came a day after Trump said he could mediate between Turkey and Kurdish-led forces.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks after getting a briefing from senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House on Oct. 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Trump spoke about the pull-out of U.S. troops in northeastern Syria. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

“We have one of three choices: Send in thousands of troops and win Militarily, hit Turkey very hard financially and with sanctions, or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds!” Trump said on Thursday.

In his writeup in The Foreign Policy, Abdi said that the threat of ISIS still exists because many terrorists still exist in “sleeper cells” waiting to wage an insurgency.

“We know that we would have to make painful compromises with Moscow and Bashar al-Assad if we go down the road of working with them. But if we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people,” he said.

In another message on Twitter on Friday, the general had said that the SDF doesn’t regret its relationship with the United States.

“We are disappointed, and Mr. Trump is working to reconcile us with Turkey. Our condition for dialogue is a ceasefire, but @POTUS is not doing enough,” he wrote.

Trump said in a statement issued on Monday that he will impose sanctions on any Turkish officials—whether current or former—who are linked to Turkey’s actions in northern Syria.

The President mentioned that the United States would immediately halt negotiations with Turkey over a $100 billion trade deal that was being hammered out between the two countries.

“This order will enable the United States to impose powerful additional sanctions on those who may be involved in—serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire, preventing displaced persons from returning home, forcibly repatriating refugees, or threatening the peace, security, or stability in Syria. The order will authorize a broad range of consequences, including financial sanctions, the blocking of property, and barring entry into the United States,” Trump said.

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Author: Venus Upadhayaya

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Report: 5 Virginia Universities Discriminate Against Asian-Americans in Admissions

Five public universities in Virginia racially discriminate against would-be students, particularly Asian Americans, in the admissions process, according to a study by the Center for Equal Opportunity.

The Falls Church, Virginia-based Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) describes itself on its website as “the nation’s only conservative think tank devoted to issues of race and ethnicity.” CEO works “to promote a colorblind society.”

Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, told The Epoch Times he was surprised by the results of the study.

“I would have thought that those schools would have learned their lessons from the 1960s,” he said in an interview.

CEO research fellow Althea Nagai compiled the study that examines admissions practices at the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (known as Virginia Tech), James Madison University, and George Mason University.

Among the report’s significant findings were that race is a “large factor” in admissions at the University of Virginia (UVA) and William and Mary, but less so at the other three schools studied, the report states.

UVA and William and Mary admitted black applicants at higher rates than whites and Asian Americans, which suggests the use of racial and ethnic preferences, the report states. William and Mary also admitted Hispanics at a higher rate than Asian Americans and whites.

The opposite was the case at Virginia Tech, James Madison, and George Mason, where Asian Americans and whites were admitted at a higher rate, according to the report. At the same time, all five schools gave preference to white applicants over Asian American applicants.

The test scores of blacks and Hispanics admitted to UVA and William and Mary were significantly lower than those of white and Asian American students who were admitted, the study also found.

“When statistically controlling for grades and test scores, along with gender, legacy status, and residency, our analysis showed the largest probability of admissions granted to blacks over whites at UVA and WM, while Hispanic chances of admissions were somewhat smaller at these schools,” according to CEO.

Virginia Tech gave only a slight preference to black applicants, and George Mason gave a slight preference to whites over blacks and Hispanics, the study indicates. Statistical analyses showed that significant preferences were given to in-state over out-of-state applicants at UVA and William and Mary, although not as large as the preferences bestowed on black applicants.

SAT scores were generally lower for admitted black and Hispanic students, compared to whites and Asian Americans, the report indicates.

For example, the gap in SAT scores between blacks and whites was huge—180 points at UVA and 190 points at William and Mary. The black-to-white gap in SAT scores was less substantial at Virginia Tech (100), James Madison (90), and George Mason (100).

While conservatives have long opposed using race as a criterion in school admissions, saying doing so is unfair, liberals argue it is necessary on social-justice grounds.

In the 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger, the high court found that race may be used as a factor in college and university admissions but only if its use is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest, such as creating a racially diverse student body which, a theory holds, benefits students. Explicit racial quotas were deemed unconstitutional, as was using race as an excuse to provide a kind of compensatory justice to make up for slavery and discrimination against blacks.

UVA and William and Mary don’t appear to have narrowly tailored their racial-preference system, von Spakovsky said.

“The state legislature could ban the schools from doing so,” he said, adding he isn’t certain if the political will exists in Richmond to accomplish such a ban.

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Author: Matthew Vadum

China’s Latest Trade Data Reveal Economic Trouble Ahead, as Future of US-China Trade Talks Remains Unclear

The Chinese regime released its latest trade data on Oct. 14, showing that imports and exports fell in September, as a further sign of China’s economic woes.

Economists analyzed that the recent trade data indicates China’s economy is facing weak domestic demand and a tough export environment.

On the same day, government officials refused to talk about the “phase one” U.S.-China trade deal announced at the White House last Friday, in which U.S. President Donald Trump said China had agreed to import more American agricultural products.

Trade Data

China’s General Administration of Customs held a press conference at the cabinet-like State Council on Oct. 14. Li Kuiwen, spokesperson for the customs agency, shared China’s trade data in September as well as U.S.-China trade data in the first three quarters of 2019.

China’s total trade in September reached 2.78 trillion yuan ($393 billion), among which exports were 1.53 trillion yuan ($216 billion), representing a 0.7 percent decrease from August. Imports were 1.25 trillion yuan ($177 billion), a 6.2 percent drop from August.

Total bilateral trade between the United States and China in the first three quarters of 2019 reached  $402.66 billion, a 14.8 percent decrease compared to the same period last year. China exported to the United States $312 billion, which is 10.7 percent lower than the figure last year. Imports from the United States was $90.66 billion, 26.4 percent less than the figure last year.

The U.S.-China trade dispute was set off in March 2018 after the United States imposed punitive tariffs on Chinese imports, after which the Chinese regime enacted tit-for-tat duties.

Li said that the Chinese regime tried to promote trade by twice increasing the tax refund rate for Chinese businesses to export products overseas, and twice decreasing value-added tax (VAT) rates on imported products. But he did not provide further details about the tax policies.

China’s Economy

China exported less and imported less in September, matching economists’ predictions for the Chinese economy.

Zhang Yi, chief economist at Beijing Zhonghai Shengrong Capital Management, said in September: “Exports are still weak even in the face of substantial yuan currency depreciation, indicating that sluggish external demand is the most important factor affecting exports this year.”

He also told Reuters in July: “Overall, imports and exports are declining quarter by quarter, and weak foreign demand will be the biggest challenge in the second half of this year.”

Tang Jianwei, chief researcher at the Financial Research Center of China’s Bank of Communications, said in June: “Imports are solidly driven by domestic needs.” Tang said that the trend of imports falling means China’s domestic needs are also falling—the source of China’s economic woes.

Hu Xiaoyue, principal macroeconomic analyst at Shanghai Securities, told Reuters on Oct. 14 that China’s economy also relies heavily on exports, especially being one of the world’s key manufacturing hubs. As exports have continued to fall, this does not bode well for the economy.

This is taking into account that export figures for the coming months may be higher because Chinese firms are seeking to export more before the United States plans tariff hikes on Oct. 15 and Dec. 15, said Liu Yaxin, macroeconomic analyst at China Merchants Securities.

Trade Deal

But Trump announced last Friday that as part of a “phase one” trade deal, the United States has agreed to postpone a scheduled tariff hike on Oct. 15. In exchange, China would import $40 billion to $50 billion worth of American agricultural products. The deal also covered currency, financial services, and some aspects of intellectual property protections.

However, when reporters asked Li about the Chinese commitment, Li evaded answering and said: “For specific information, please ask the relevant government departments.”

Geng Shuang, spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, also refused to answer during an Oct. 14 daily press briefing. Reporters asked him to confirm that China would buy $50 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products annually and whether China believes this deal would be sealed, given that negotiations have broken down before.

Geng responded by repeating the words from a brief news report by Chinese state-run media Xinhua, then said: “We hope the U.S. side can walk together with the Chinese side to approach each other… and promote the healthy and stable development of bilateral economic and trade relations.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg, citing two anonymous insiders, reported on Oct. 14 that Beijing “wants to hold more talks” to hammer out the details of the “phase one” trade deal. In addition, China wants Trump to also scrap the scheduled tariff hike in December.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told media on Oct. 14 that the U.S. administration could proceed with the December tariffs if the phase one deal is not finalized by then.

Mnuchin also said more trade negotiations at various levels would take place over the coming weeks, including a phone call between himself, Lighthizer, and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, and talks between Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Author: Nicole Hao

Interstellar Interloper Is a Comet Resembling Those in Our Solar System

The second interstellar object ever spotted passing through the solar system is a comet that appears quite like those formed in our neighborhood of the cosmos, providing fresh evidence that other planetary systems may be very similar to our own.

Astronomers on Monday provided some of the first details about the comet now hurtling toward the sun, saying it has a solid nucleus with a radius of about six-tenths of a mile (1 km), a cloud-like structure of dust and gas emitted by the nucleus, the telltale tail of a comet and a reddish color.

First detected in August by an amateur astronomer named Gennady Borisov, it is called 2I/Borisov. The only previous interstellar visitor discovered in our solar system was a cigar-shaped rocky object called ‘Oumuamua found in 2017.

The comet was studied using telescopes in Hawaii and Spain.

“Its properties determined so far—morphology, color, estimated size—are remarkably similar to the native solar system comets. This is important because it shows that comets exist in interstellar space, confirming long-standing predictions, and it tells us that comets similar to the ones we know from this solar system also form around other stars,” said astronomer Michal Drahus of Jagiellonian University in Poland.

Both 2I/Borisov and ‘Oumuamua formed in other planetary systems and were ejected by gravitational perturbations into interstellar space as orphans wandering the cosmos.

“Our Solar System is regularly visited by escapees from other planetary systems, and it has always been this way. It’s just that we haven’t been able to detect them until recently,” Drahus said.

The speed of 2I/Borisov and the nature of its orbital path demonstrated that it did not originate in our solar system, Jagiellonian University astronomer Piotr Guzik said. Guzik added that he expects that within a decade or so a space probe will be sent from Earth to visit an interstellar object.

“I think this is the most important and transformative moment for planetary astronomy since the discovery of the first exoplanets (planets in other star systems) in the early 1990s and a milestone for astronomy in general. Interstellar minor bodies are this long-sought bridge between other planetary systems and our own solar system. I like to think of them as miniature exoplanets in our own cosmic backyard,” Drahus said.

The comet is expected to reach its closest point to the Sun on Dec. 8 and its closest point to the Earth soon thereafter, coming within about 186 million miles (300 million km) of our planet. By way of comparison, the moon orbits about 240,000 miles (386,000 km) from Earth.

The research was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

By Will Dunham

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Author: Reuters

Jim Jordan Denounces ‘Secretive Impeachment Proceedings’ After Matt Gaetz Was Kicked out of Hearing

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has denounced the secretive nature of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) impeachment inquiry proceedings after Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was denied entry into a closed-door deposition on Monday, Oct. 14.

Gaetz, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said House Democrats kicked him out of the closed-door deposition of Fiona Hill. Hill is the former special assistant to President Donald Trump and the National Security Council senior director for European and Russian Affairs. The Democrats reason—Gaetz is not a member of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees—who are leading the impeachment probe, according to a CNN reporter.

The judiciary committee has historically handled impeachment inquiries but has not been directly involved in the probe against Trump.

Jordan reacted to the news on Twitter, questioning Schiff’s intentions in refusing a congress member from participating in the proceedings.

“@RepAdamSchiff is conducting his secretive impeachment proceedings in the basement of the Capitol, and now he’s kicked @mattgaetz out of today’s deposition,” Jordan wrote.

“This testimony should be available to every member of Congress and every single American. What is Schiff hiding?”

Similarly, other Republicans shared similar sentiments over the lack of transparency of the proceedings.

“Why are Democrats holding a private impeachment investigation? If there was proof of wrongdoing, wouldn’t they want to expose that to the American people?” President of Turning Point USA Charlie Kirk wrote.

After he was kicked out of the hearing, Gaetz told reporters that not being a part of the panels leading the inquiry should not prevent him from participating in the proceedings.

“I appeared just to participate, just to observe as a member of Congress, as a member of the Judiciary Committee. Traditionally the Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over impeachment. If Adam Schiff and House Democrats were so proud of their work, they would be willing to show it,” he said.

“Why is Adam Schiff trying to run a kangaroo court? Why is he continuing to limit access to evidence, limit access even from members of Congress?” he added.

Trump and House Republicans have repeatedly criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats for the way the inquiry was launched and for the lack of transparency in the inquiry process. Pelosi announced the investigation based on media reports about the whistleblower and before reviewing the transcript of the call between Trump and Ukraine that prompted the impeachment inquiry.

Meanwhile, Republicans have repeatedly called for Schiff to release the transcripts of the depositions to the public. Schiff said Sunday that having witnesses appear behind closed doors would prevent them from knowing what other witnesses said.

“We want to make sure that we meet the needs of the investigation and not give the president or his legal minions the opportunity to tailor their testimony and in some cases, fabricate testimony to suit their interests,” Schiff said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

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Author: Janita Kan

3 Economists Who Study Poverty Win Nobel Prize

STOCKHOLM—Two researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a third from Harvard University won the 2019 Nobel Prize in economics on Monday. The award was for their groundbreaking research into what works, and what does not, in the fight to reduce global poverty.

The award went to MIT’s Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, and Harvard’s Michael Kremer. The 46-year-old Duflo is the youngest person ever to win the prize and only the second woman, after Elinor Ostrom in 2009.

The three winners, who have worked together, revolutionized developmental economics by pioneering field experiments that generate practical insights into how poor people respond to education, health care, and other programs meant to lift them out of poverty.

“Without spending some time understanding the intricacies of the lives of the poor and why they make the choices they make … it is impossible to design the right approach,” Duflo told a news conference held by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awarded the prize.

Their work in rural Kenya and India, for instance, found that providing more textbooks, school meals, and teachers didn’t do much to help students learn more.

Making the schoolwork more relevant to students, working closely with the neediest students, and holding teachers accountable—by putting them on short-term contracts, for example—were more effective in countries where teachers often don not bother showing up for work. The winners’ recommended program of remedial tutoring is now benefiting 5 million Indian children, the academy said.

Kremer and others found that providing free health care makes a big difference. Only 18 percent of parents gave their children de-worming pills for parasitic infections when they had to pay for them, even though the heavily subsidized price was less than $1. But 75 percent gave their kids the pills when they were free. The World Health Organization now recommends that the medicine be distributed for free in areas with high rates of parasitic worm infections.

Banerjee, Duflo, and others found that mobile vaccination clinics in India dramatically increased the immunization rates compared to traditional health centers that often went unstaffed. The immunization rate rose further if parents received a bag of lentils as a bonus for vaccinating their children.

Banerjee and Duflo, who are married, also found that microcredit programs, which provide small loans to encourage poor people to start businesses, did little to help the poor in the Indian city of Hyderabad; studies in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Morocco, Mexico, and Mongolia produced similar results.

Despite enormous progress, global poverty remains a huge challenge, the academy noted. More than 700 million people live in extreme poverty. Five million children die before age 5, often from diseases that can be prevented or cured easily and inexpensively. Half the world’s children leave school without basic literacy and mathematical skills.

Duflo and Banerjee told a news conference at MIT they were not sure how to react when the Nobel committee woke them with the news of their win.

Duflo said that when the phone rang, she answered and was told it was an important call from Sweden.

She said her response was: “Well, since you’ve now woken me up, go ahead.”

Banerjee said the Nobel committee asked about getting one of them on a conference call, but “they said they wanted a woman, and I didn’t qualify,”—so he went back to bed.

Colleagues applauded the three winners.

“Well deserved!” tweeted French economist Thomas Piketty, author of a bestselling book on inequality.

“Fantastic decision!!” Max Roser, a University of Oxford researcher who founded the Our World in Data project, wrote on Twitter. “Even after two centuries of progress against global poverty, I think it is clearly one of the very biggest problems in the world today.”

Duflo said receiving the Nobel was “incredibly humbling” while noting that the profession is not always welcoming for women.

“Showing that it is possible for a woman to succeed and be recognized for success, I hope is going to inspire many, many other women to continue working and many other men to give them the respect that they deserve,” she said.

On a practical matter, Duflo told reporters that she and Banerjee, who have two young children, are like any other married couple trying to juggle kids and work.

Their children “believe they are the center of the universe, and they don’t accept kitchen table conversation” about weighty matters like economics, she said. That means the couple sneak in shop talk while they are cooking meals or walking to work.

Banerjee’s mother, Nirmala Banerjee, also an economist, told news channel NDTV in India that the prize was unexpected.

“He has been trying to get economics away from the theoretical part, but using theory to understand the world as it is,” she said from her home in Kolkata. “The way it works, the way poverty is, the way people handle poverty.”

Nirmala Banerjee, the mother of Abhijit Banerjee, interacts with media after Nobel Prize in economics was awarded Monday to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for pioneering new ways to alleviate global poverty. (Bikas Das/AP)

Banerjee frequently returns to India to contribute to the work of the Poverty Action Lab, an international research center he and Duflo co-founded in 2003. “This is huge for us,” Shobhini Mukerji, the South Asia branch’s executive director, told The Associated Press from New Delhi. “India is where the seeds were sown for their research.”

Banerjee this year advised India’s opposition party ahead of national elections in May about offering financial aid to the poor. He has also criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government about alleged political interference in statistical data and over a program to take cash out of the economy.

Modi congratulated Banerjee in a post on Twitter.

Only a few other married couples have won a Nobel—notably Marie and Pierre Curie, who took half of the physics prize in 1903.

Officially known as the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, the award wasn’t created by the prize founder but by the Swedish central bank in 1968, with the first winner selected a year later.

With the glory comes a $918,000 cash award, a gold medal, and a diploma.

Last week, six Nobel prizes were given in medicine, physics, and chemistry plus two literary awards and the Peace Prize.

All but the winner of the Peace Prize receive their awards on Dec. 10—the anniversary of Nobel’s 1896 death—in Stockholm. The winner of the Peace Prize gets the award in Oslo, Norway.

By Paul Wiseman, Aleksandar Ljubojevic and Steve LeBlanc Associated Press

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Author: The Associated Press

Chinese Tech Giant Tencent Resumes NBA Broadcast Despite Hong Kong Row

Chinese tech giant Tencent quietly live-streamed two NBA preseason games, a week after a controversy involving a tweet about the Hong Kong protests prompted all official Chinese sponsors of the league to suspend ties. 

Tencent on the morning of Oct. 14 streamed two games: one between the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls in Toronto, and another between Israel’s Maccabi Haifa and Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis. 

Just a week ago, the tech giant suspended broadcast of Houston Rockets’ games after the team’s general executive Daryl Morey expressed support for the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement in a tweet that was swiftly deleted.  

The tweet ignited an uproar in China, where the ongoing protests are seen as a direct challenge to the mainland regime’s sovereignty. Houston Rockets’ and NBA’s Chinese business partners cut ties as a result, while the team’s sneakers and other merchandise were pulled from several Nike and NBA stores in major Chinese cities. 

The NBA flagship retail store is seen in Beijing, China, on Oct. 9, 2019. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Tencent later announced it would halt the broadcast of NBA preseason games that took place in China last week. China’s state broadcaster CCTV also pulled the broadcast of those games.  

The internet giant has the exclusive rights to stream the NBA in China, and is the league’s largest digital partner outside the United States. The two had just signed a deal worth $1.5 billion in July extending their partnership for another five years.    

The current broadcast schedule on Tencent showed that all live-streaming of NBA games will resume on Oct. 23. Houston Rockets’ games were not on the schedule list.

About 490 million people watched last season’s NBA games on Tencent platform, according to the NBA

A man walks past an advertisement for scheduled exhibition games in China between the LA Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, at the National Basketball Association (NBA) store in Beijing on Oct. 9, 2019. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

When asked about the resumption of NBA streaming on Tencent, a foreign ministry spokesperson said at a press conference on Monday that they “generally do not comment on the business behaviors of companies,” but stressed that “sports exchange has played a positive role in China-US relations and friendship.”

Tencent was blased on China’s popular microblogging site Weibo, with many nationalistic Chinese netizens decrying the move as an act of “betrayal.”  

“Seems like the patriotism is short-lived,” a user wrote. 

The move came amid efforts by the Chinese regime to reign in the crisis over concerns that its heated reaction against the NBA could harm its image abroad, the New York Times reported. 

Meanwhile in the United States, the NBA faced mounting condemnation over its initial disavowal of Morey’s tweet. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver later defended Morey’s right to express his views on Hong Kong, adding that it isn’t up to the league to regulate what players, employees, and team owners say. 

Ten bipartisan U.S. lawmakers wrote to Silver on Oct. 10 expressing concern over the NBA “equivocating” on free speech during the saga. They also urged the league it to suspend its activities in China while the Chinese boycotts against the NBA and the Houston Rockets are still in place.  

“Unless American businesses aggressively confront this intimidation campaign, the Chinese government will increasingly punish free speech outside China’s borders,” the joint letter (pdf) read.

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Author: Eva Fu

Trump to Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Officials for Incursion Into Syria

President Donald Trump said that he will impose sanctions on any Turkish officials—whether current or former—who are linked to Turkey’s actions in northern Syria.

Trump said on Monday that he will issue an executive order soon authorizing the sanctions, calling Turkey’s actions in Syria “destabilizing.”

Trump said steel tariffs will jump back to 50 percent.

He also said the United States will immediately halt negotiations with Turkey over a $100 billion trade deal that was being hammered out between the two countries.

“This order will enable the United States to impose powerful additional sanctions on those who may be involved in serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire, preventing displaced persons from returning home, forcibly repatriating refugees, or threatening the peace, security, or stability in Syria. The order will authorize a broad range of consequences, including financial sanctions, the blocking of property, and barring entry into the United States,” Trump said.

Trump said the United States and its partners “liberated 100 percent of ISIS’s ruthless territorial caliphate” and “Turkey must not put these gains in jeopardy,” adding that, “Turkey must also prioritize the protection of civilians, particularly vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities in northeast Syria.”

Turkey’s offense in Syria “is endangering civilians and threatening peace, security, and stability in the region,” the president said.

“I have been perfectly clear with President Erdogan: Turkey’s action is precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes. Turkey must ensure the safety of civilians … and is now, or may be in the future, responsible for the ongoing detention of ISIS terrorists in the region,” Trump added. “Unfortunately, Turkey does not appear to be mitigating the humanitarian effects of its invasion.”

Trump’s announcement of sanctions came after the White House announced on Oct. 6 the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria.

The next day, Trump said America was initially supposed to be in Syria for one month.

“We stayed and got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight,” he said. After defeating ISIS, the United States tried to get European countries to take responsibility for nationals that were fighting for ISIS, but the countries refused.

The Kurds, which assisted the United States, are enemies of Turkey and the United States was holding off both sides, according to Trump.

“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN,” he said.

He later warned that he would “totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey” if the country did anything untoward.

Trump said in his announcement on Monday: “The United States will aggressively use economic sanctions to target those who enable, facilitate, and finance these heinous acts in Syria. I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path.”

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Author: Zachary Stieber

Fox News Chief Reveals Who Will Replace Shepard Smith After Departure

Following the sudden departure of Shepard Smith, Fox News revealed who will replace him during the 3 p.m. time slot.

Variety reported Monday that Bret Baier, Shannon Bream, Bill Hemmer, Brit Hume, John Roberts, and Chris Wallace will be among those rotating into his old spot. Other Fox reporters will also be involved.

Jay Wallace, the president and executive editor of Fox News, confirmed the news to Variety.

“This is going to remain a solid news hour, with our best news stars,” Wallace told the publication. “Journalism is a huge part of the mandate here.”

Trace Gallagher, who is based in Los Angeles, is the first to appear in Smith’s spot, the report said.

“It was a tough day for a lot of people here,” Wallace, who spent time as Smith’s producer, told the outlet.

Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace in a file photo. Kelly no longer works for Fox News. (Paul Sancya/AP Photo)

“The thing about this place, there is a camaraderie, a ‘us against the world’ mentality,” he added. “These are more like familial bonds as opposed to just passing, transactional relationships. That’s why it hit so hard with a lot of people.”

Wallace suggested that an external candidate might take Smith’s timeslot in the future.

Smith stunned the broadcasting world and his colleagues on Friday when he announced he would part ways with Fox. He had spent the past 23 years there.

“Together with my colleagues we’ve written a first draft of history and endeavored to deliver it to you, while speaking truth to power, without fear or favor with context and perspective,” Smith told viewers on the show.

“This is my last newscast here. Thank you for watching today and over the decades,” the 55-year-old anchor remarked. “It’s been an honor and my pleasure. Even in our currently polarized nation, it’s my hope that the facts will win the day, that the truth will always matter, and that journalism and journalists will thrive.”

Fox News stars, including top-rated Sean Hannity, weighed in on the announcement.

“I’ve always said there is nobody better at breaking news than Shep Smith. He has always done great things and I know he will continue to do so. Looking forward to seeing Shep crush it in whatever he does next,” Hannity wrote.

“I first worked with Shep on my first assignment at Fox News almost 23 years ago. It was a total shock today to find out he’s leaving,” Fox News anchor Bret Baier also wrote on Twitter. “He anchored breaking news -fast-moving events —better than anyone. I wish him well in whatever lies ahead.”

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Author: Jack Phillips

Trump’s Former Russia Advisor Testifies in Democrat-Run Impeachment Inquiry

President Donald Trump’s former Russia adviser testified behind closed doors on Oct. 14 as part of the Democrat-run impeachment inquiry focused on the president’s request for Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Fiona Hill, former senior director for European and Russian Affairs on Trump’s National Security Council, arrived at the U.S. Capitol on Monday morning. She walked past reporters and did not make a comment. Hill may provide information to lawmakers about the Trump administration’s reassignment of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

On Oct. 11, Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she was reassigned based on “unfounded and false claims.” The events surrounding Yovanovitch’s removal are part of a whistleblower complaint which triggered the impeachment inquiry.

The whistleblower, who remains anonymous, alleged that Trump’s request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a July 25 call may have amounted to a violation of campaign finance law. The Justice Department determined no further action was necessary after reviewing the complaint.

Trump’s request echoed reporting by The New York Times, The Hill, and investigative journalist Peter Schweizer, which questioned Hunter Biden’s position on the board of directors of a major Ukrainian gas firm, Burisma. Joe Biden bragged early last year about forcing the firing of a top Ukrainian prosecutor by withholding $1 billion in loan guarantees.

Ukraine eventually remove the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin. In a sworn statement to a European court, Shokin said he was fired due to pressure from Biden because he refused to drop the Burisma investigation.

On Oct. 13, Hunter Biden’s lawyer confirmed that his client held a paid position on the Burisma board for five years. Biden also promised to not do any work for foreign companies if his father was elected.

In another development, Trey Gowdy, a former Republican congressman who on Oct. 9 announced that he was joining Trump’s impeachment legal team, will no longer be doing so, at least for now, according to Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the impeachment inquiry before the White House released a copy of the transcript of the call between Trump and Zelensky. A plain reading of the transcript shows no obvious evidence of a quid pro quo. Democrats have nonetheless alleged, without evidence, that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure Zelensky. The Ukrainian president has said he did not feel pressured on the call with Trump.

Republican congressman Matt Gaetz, an outspoken defender of Trump, was asked to leave the closed session about an hour into Hill’s testimony. Gaetz is not a member of any of the three House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry and Gaetz told reporters the House parliamentarian said he could not attend.

“Chairman Schiff and the radical democrats are now active participants in the coup. To exclude Members of Congress from hearings confirms the American people’s suspicions: this is not a legitimate ‘impeachment inquiry’—it is a charade,” Gaetz wrote on Twitter.

Lawmakers this week are returning from a two-week recess, with testimony from current and former administration officials on the schedule. Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is expected to testify on Oct. 17. Sondland appears in the whistleblower complaint alongside Kurt Volcker, the U.S. special representative for Ukraine. Volcker told lawmakers there was no quid pro quo involved in Trump’s request to Zelensky.

Sondland is expected to be asked why he relayed from Trump to other diplomats that the president said no “quid pro quos” connecting the Biden investigation with the U.S. aid. Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning a favor for a favor.

Trump has denied wrongdoing. As talks continue over whether the whistleblower from within the U.S. intelligence community who prompted the inquiry will testify, the president weighed in on Twitter, demanding that the person testify and that the individual’s identity be revealed.

The White House informed House Democrats that it will not cooperate with the inquiry unless Pelosi holds a vote to formally initiate impeachment proceedings.

The House Intelligence Committee also is scheduled this week to hear from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent and State Department Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl, a top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Author: Ivan Pentchoukov