Monday, September 24, 2018

PRESS RELEASE: PM Warns Of Need For International Unity In Face Of Increasing Threats

Prime Minister Theresa May to call for the international community to come together to prevent the erosion of norms around a range of threats.

British Prime Minister Theresa May

FROM: The Prime Minister's Office

Prime Minister Theresa May will use her platform at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) this week to call for the international community to come together to prevent the erosion of norms around a range of threats whether from malign states, weapons of mass destruction or chemical weapons.

In particular, the PM will warn that the red line around the use of chemical weapons use is being undermined – and that steps need to be taken to re-establish it.

Speaking at the UN Security Council on Wednesday, the PM will set out how UK leadership has had a positive impact but that the international community needs to redouble its efforts.

Ahead of the meeting the PM said:

As we meet in the UN Security Council this week, the red lines around the use of chemical weapons are being eroded.

The Syrian regime has repeatedly used these appalling weapons against its own people while the Russian state has deployed them on UK streets.

Attacks such as Salisbury and Ghouta are despicable in their own right, but they are also a threat to the wider international system. Each time we fail to challenge the use or development of weapons of mass destruction, it erodes the framework of treaties we have built up so painstakingly over the past few decades.

The UK has, in recent months, played a leading role alongside our allies in reinforcing these longstanding, global norms. UK, US and French airstrikes in April degraded Syrian chemical weapons capability and demonstrated our collective resolve. And in June, the international community empowered the OPCW to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

We worked closely with our allies on a co-ordinated response to Russia’s use of chemical weapons in Salisbury, resulting in 28 countries as well as NATO joining us in expelling a total of over 150 Russian intelligence officers: the largest collective expulsion ever.

But the international community needs to do more together - both to prevent future chemical weapons use and to ensure those who use them are held to account, but also to tackle the range of other threats to global security, including the proliferation of WMD.

The intervention will be the first time in five years that a UK Prime Minister has used the platform of the UN Security Council to speak about the importance of preventing the spread of chemical and nuclear weapons, as well as other weapons of mass destruction. It reflects the UK’s commitment to tackling the unacceptable use of chemical weapons following the abhorrent attack in Salisbury, and the attack in Syria by the Russian-backed Asad regime.

Her intervention will come on the second day of a busy two-day programme in New York, during which, she will demonstrate the UK’s leading role in, and commitment to, the UN by:
opening the Bloomberg Business Forum with an address to CEOs, in which she will make the case for capitalism and free markets, while recognising the need to make the system work for everyone
laying the foundations for the UK’s leading role on climate resilience at the 2019 UN Climate Summit building on the UK’s pioneering work on girls’ education by co-hosting an event with France, Canada and a number of Global South partners, including Kenya, to accelerate progress on the global campaign to ensure all girls can access 12 years of quality education and learning by 2030
delivering a keynote address to the General Assembly

Today the PM will call on the international community to invest in Africa, in order to unlock the potential of a generation on the continent.

She will join Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda to convene investors, businesses and young African business leaders. The leaders of Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Sierra Leone are also expected to attend.

Philanthropist Bill Gates, who shares the PM’s vision for investment in Africa, is also expected to speak at the event.

The PM will challenge attendees to invest in Africa to create more of the jobs that transform individual lives as well as economies, lift people out of poverty and enable countries to move to a future beyond aid.

The Prime Minister will also hold a number of bilateral meetings with world leaders during her time in New York.

Mandela’s Widow Urges World: Put Egos Aside And End Violence

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, left, United Nations General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa, center, and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres attend the unveiling ceremony of the Nelson Mandela Statue which was presented as a gift from the Republic of South Africa, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, at United Nations headquarters. (Angela Weiss/Pool Photo via AP)


— Nelson Mandela’s widow challenged world leaders celebrating his life on Monday to put their egos and partisan politics aside and honor his legacy by ending the “senseless violence” plaguing too much of the world.

“History will judge you should you stagnate too long in inaction,” Graca Machel told a U.N. “peace summit” commemorating the 100th anniversary of Mandela’s birth. “Humankind will hold you accountable should you allow suffering to continue on your watch.”

With peace a scarce commodity, Machel’s challenge was echoed by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other leaders who acknowledged the world is far from achieving Mandela’s ideals which also include human rights and global cooperation.

“Today, with human rights under growing pressure around the world, we would be well served by reflecting on the example of this outstanding man,” Guterres said. “We need to face the forces that threaten us with the wisdom, courage and fortitude that Nelson Mandela embodied.”

The tributes to Mandela began with a rare U.N. honor — the unveiling of a $1.8 million statue of the South African anti-apartheid campaigner who became the world’s most famous political prisoner, played a key role in ending white-minority rule, and became president in the country’s first democratic election. The statue is a gift to the United Nations from South Africa.

His arms are outstretched in the statue, as if to embrace people everywhere. But after the cover was pulled off, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, with help from Guterres, placed a small South African flag in his lapel.

The day-long summit, with nearly 160 scheduled speakers, set the stage for Tuesday’s opening of the General Assembly’s annual meeting of world leaders, where conflicts from Syria to South Sudan, rising unilateralism, and tackling a warming planet and growing inequality are among issues expected to be in the spotlight.

With a bang of the gavel by General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, the leaders on Monday adopted a political declaration resolving “to move beyond words” to promote peace and prevent, contain and end conflicts. “Dialogue is key, and courage is needed to take the first steps to build trust and gain momentum,” it said.

Garces said Mandela “represents a light of hope for a world still torn apart by conflicts and suffering.”

Like others, she warned of the rise of populism and unilateralism and its threat to the 193-member United Nations.

“Drifting away from multilateralism means jeopardizing the future of our species and our planet,” Garces said. “The world needs a social contract based on shared responsibility, and the only forum that we have to achieve this global compact is the United Nations.”

The appeal for collective action to tackle the world’s many conflicts, hotspots and challenges is being tested by the “America First” agenda of U.S. President Donald Trump and populist governments in Italy, Hungary, Austria and elsewhere as well as Britain’s impending divorce from the European Union.

Addressing the Mandela event, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani never mentioned the United States — which has accused Tehran of promoting international terrorism, a charge it vehemently denies.

But Rouhani appeared to be taking aim at Trump and his pledge to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border when he said Mandela was a model for the “historical reality that great statesmen tend to build bridges instead of walls.”

Alluding to the Trump administration, Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez said recent announcements about military expenditures are “alarming” and are pushing the world into a new arms race “to the detriment of the enormous resources that are needed to build a world of peace.”

South Africa’s Ramaphosa said his country’s “deepest hope” is that the summit, “in the name of one of our greatest exemplars of humanity, serves as a new dawn for the United Nations.”

“We hope we will rediscover the strength of will to save successive generations from war, and to overcome the hatred of our past and the narrow interests that blind us to the vision of a common future that is peaceful and prosperous,” he said. “We hope we will prove ourselves worthy as the bearers of the legacy of Nelson Mandela.”

AP FACT CHECK: Trump Wrong On Judges, ‘Plummeting’ Poverty

In this Sept. 19, 2017 file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters. Trump will be joined by other populist leaders at the 73rd General Assembly, including Poland’s President Andrej Duda and Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte along with the foreign ministers of Hungary and Austria. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)


— As the midterm elections draw near, President Donald Trump’s tendency to declare his campaign promises fulfilled when they aren’t has come into starker relief.

He insists poverty in the U.S. is “plummeting,” even though the number of poor people has barely declined under his watch and income inequality is climbing.

Jousting with Democrats in advance of the November midterms, Trump also declares a premature victory from his tariffs by pointing to a manufacturing renaissance that has yet to be and boasts of promises kept on “full” funding for improvements at the Department of Veterans Affairs. In fact, long-term financing for a key VA health care program remains uncertain.

On judges, Trump’s comments about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser betrayed a misunderstanding of how FBI investigations work. And his claim to be in the league of George Washington when it comes to placing judges on the federal bench is refuted by the record.

A look at some of the rhetoric over the past week from Trump and members of Congress:


TRUMP: “Poverty is plummeting.” — rally Thursday in Las Vegas.

THE FACTS: He’s overstating it.

The poverty rate dropped only modestly under Trump’s watch, to 12.3 percent in 2017 from 12.7 percent in 2016. At the same time, nearly 40 million Americans remained poor by the Census Bureau’s count, statistically unchanged from 2016.

Wealthier Americans, meanwhile, pulled farther ahead last year. Even steady growth over the previous eight years hasn’t been enough to counter long-running trends to greater economic inequality. Income growth was strongest for the richest 5 percent of households, rising 3 percent to $237,034. For the poorest one-fifth of the population, incomes rose just 0.5 percent.

As a result, the wealthiest 5 percent received 3.9 times the income earned by the median U.S. household. That’s the highest on record, dating back to 1967.

It’s true that in the last three years, the poverty rate has dropped steadily by 2.5 percentage points, from a recent peak of 14.8 percent in 2014. The biggest chunk of that drop occurred from 2014 to 2016, during the Obama administration.

The Census Bureau also considers the impact of various government assistance programs on reducing the ranks of the poor. The agency found that the food stamp program, formally known as SNAP, lifted 3.4 million people out of poverty. Rental subsidies did the same for 2.9 million. Trump and House Republican leaders have proposed cuts in those programs.


TRUMP: “Just today I signed a new bill fully funding Veterans Choice for our great veterans.” — rally Friday in Springfield, Missouri.

TRUMP: “Promises Kept for our GREAT Veterans!” — tweet Friday.

TRUMP: “We are delivering the resources needed to fully implement crucial VA reforms ... to deliver for our great veterans.” — remarks Friday in North Las Vegas, Nevada.

THE FACTS: He isn’t telling the full story. The private-sector health-care program lacks a long-term source of government funding that could put it or other domestic programs subject to budget caps at risk of major shortfalls next year.

Trump signed legislation in June to expand the Veterans Choice program as an alternative to medical care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The new program will give veterans wider access to private-sector physicians outside the VA if they must endure lengthy wait times or the treatment wasn’t what they had expected. The government-paid program is projected to face escalating costs, including a $1 billion shortfall next summer.

A bipartisan group of senators had sought to address long-term funding by adding new money to cover the private care program, but the White House opposed that as “anathema to responsible spending.” It maintained that added costs should be paid for by cutting other domestic programs, including possibly some at VA.

Congress included in the VA spending bill a one-year money fix for the expanded Choice program, putting aside discussion until next year on how to pay its estimated added costs of $8 billion next fall and $9 billion in 2020. Trump signed that bill last week.

The Choice program has already involved high levels of spending, leading to two unexpected budget shortfalls during Trump’s first year in office.


TRUMP, on Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party in the 1980s: “The radical left lawyers want the FBI to get involved NOW. Why didn’t someone call the FBI 36 years ago?” — tweet Friday.

THE FACTS: The FBI would not have been the number to call. The behavior alleged by Ford is not a federal crime but one that might have been investigated by local authorities if reported. She said he pinned her on a bed and tried taking off her clothes during a high school party in Maryland in the 1980s; Kavanaugh denies the allegations.

Democrats want the FBI to get involved now because the bureau conducts background checks on presidential nominees. The FBI background check of Kavanaugh was completed before the allegations emerged. Democrats and various advocates, not just “radical left lawyers,” want the FBI to reopen its investigation in light of the accusation. The FBI can only do so if the White House requests that step.

Trump is trying to cast suspicion on Ford’s credibility by questioning why the then-teenager “or her loving parents” did not go to the police “if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says,” as he put it in another tweet. It has long been the norm for sexual assaults to go unreported to authorities.

A Justice Department report estimated that from 1992 to 2000, slightly more than one-third of rapes or attempted rapes were reported to police, only 26 percent of sexual assaults and less than 10 percent on college campuses.

TRUMP, on Democratic calls for the FBI to reopen its background investigation: “Well, it would seem that the FBI really doesn’t do that. They’ve investigated about six times before, and it seems that they don’t do that.” — remarks Wednesday.

DEMOCRATIC SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN of California: “Fact check: The FBI can investigate Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegations as part of its background investigation - that is their job. To say otherwise is FALSE. It investigated Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas. It should investigate this too.” — tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Neither Trump nor Feinstein is entirely correct.

Only the White House can order the FBI to look into the claim as part of Kavanaugh’s background investigation because Ford is not accusing Kavanaugh of a federal crime.

The FBI could interview Ford, Kavanaugh and others about the allegation if Trump asked the bureau to reopen its background investigation. But Trump said the FBI has already done its work.

Each side’s take on the propriety of a reopened FBI probe has political calculations. Republicans are seeking to wrap up Kavanaugh’s confirmation quickly while they are still in control of the Senate, and Democrats view it as more advantageous to delay a vote until after the November elections, when they hope to gain a majority.

As for Feinstein’s point that the FBI investigated Hill’s accusations against Thomas, that’s true but it was because Republican President George H.W. Bush asked the bureau to do so. On Sunday, Democrats renewed their request for Trump to direct a FBI investigation of Ford’s claims.


TRUMP: “I don’t think we’ve ever had an economy like this.” — remarks Wednesday on White House’s South Lawn.

THE FACTS: The president is correct as far as that statement goes, but not entirely in the favorable ways he suggests.

It is true that the U.S. economy is relatively healthy with solid hiring gains and a strong stock market. Growth got an adrenaline boost this year because of the deficit-financed tax cuts that Trump signed into law last year. But economic growth has hardly ascended to a new peak. The 4.2 percent annual growth in the second quarter was bested twice, as recently as 2014 under President Barack Obama.

Instead, what makes the U.S. economy unique under Trump are major trends that aren’t very positive:

—Never has the U.S. economy been involved in a trade conflict equal to the magnitude of its current showdown with China. The tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and China’s retaliations have opened up a battle between the world’s two largest economies that could last for weeks or decades, according to trade experts.

—Never has the federal deficit been set to climb so high during a period of economic stability. When Trump cut taxes last year, he piled on roughly $1.5 trillion of debt over the next decade. Additional spending in his budget only added to the imbalance. Publicly held government debt will be equal in size to the entire U.S. gross domestic product in 2028, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That’s the most since 1946, when the United States was coming out of World War II and the Great Depression.

—Income inequality has worsened. Someone in the top 5 percent of earners makes 3.86 times more than the median U.S. household with an income of $61,372, according to the Census Bureau. That is the highest gap ever tracked by Census data going back 50 years. In 1967, the top 5 percent earned 2.66 times the median.

These forces have helped lead the economy into seemingly unprecedented territory under Trump.


TRUMP: “We’ll have more judges put on than any other president other than one. Do you know who the one is? George Washington. Percentage wise.” ″You know I have 145 (judges nominated), plus hopefully two Supreme Court judges. And that’s assuming nobody leaves the bench which they will over the next period of time.” ″I often say, ‘Who has highest percentage of federal judges.’ They say, ‘You do.’ I’ll say, ‘No, no. I got killed.’ They said, ‘George Washington’ ... because he appointed a hundred percent of the judges.” — interview released Wednesday with Hill TV.

THE FACTS: Not so fast. His claim of appointing more judges than any other president except for perhaps Washington is highly questionable, according to an analysis of judicial appointment data conducted for The Associated Press.

So far Trump has appointed 68 judges who have been confirmed to the federal courts. That translates to about 8 percent of the total federal judgeships at the 20-month mark in his presidency. That lags at least four previous presidents in terms of both raw numbers and percentages, said Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and expert on judicial appointments.

Wheeler, a former deputy director of the Federal Judicial Center, crunched historical data from the center and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. He found that Trump trails Republican presidents George W. Bush (77) and Ronald Reagan (78), as well as Democrats Bill Clinton (85) and John F. Kennedy (109) at comparable points in their presidencies.

Wheeler also put together a ranking based on the number of appointees in 20 months as a percentage of “authorized judgeships,” or the total seats created by Congress. Trump lagged at least 17 other presidents, including Washington, who as the first president appointed 100 percent of the federal judges. At the 20-month mark, for instance, Kennedy appointees occupied roughly 27 percent of the judicial seats then authorized by Congress, far higher than Trump’s 8 percent.

Trump appears to be including in his cited figure those he has nominated to the federal bench, but who have not yet been confirmed.

Even when accounting for that, Trump’s total of confirmed judges and current nominees represents 16 percent of the total judgeships. Kennedy and Grover Cleveland reached higher percentages based on their confirmed judges alone.

“It’s hard to comprehend what President Trump exactly meant by his statement,” Wheeler told the AP. “He does have a strong record so far in appointments to the U.S. Court of Appeals — 20 months in, Trump appointees occupy 15 percent of authorized circuit judgeships — but on that score he still trails Kennedy and Eisenhower, and Grover Cleveland, for that matter.”


TRUMP: “Tariffs have put the U.S. in a very strong bargaining position, with Billions of Dollars, and Jobs, flowing into our Country - and yet cost increases have thus far been almost unnoticeable. If countries will not make fair deals with us, they will be ‘Tariffed!’” — tweet Sept. 17.

THE FACTS: In trade talks with China, Canada and Mexico, it’s not entirely clear how much of an advantage the United States has gained from the tariffs. The import taxes imposed on steel and aluminum have been pressure points. So are the tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, with the president suggesting he’s prepared to tax an additional $467 billion of imports from China. But Americans have to see a final deal with Canada or China to assess whether these taxes are delivering a better bargain.

Still, have tariffs brought in billions of dollars and jobs without increasing inflation?

Yes, the tariffs have brought in slightly more revenue. It’s hard to know if they’ve helped create jobs. And the companies closest to the tariffs say that, yes, inflation is a risk.

In theory, the tariffs should add money to federal coffers. The 25 percent tax the Trump administration slapped on $50 billion of Chinese imports should raise $12.5 billion if the flow of goods continues without interruption.

And even though many tariffs haven’t been in place long enough to determine whether they’re helping draw in significantly more revenue, the Treasury Department said there has been a $5.4 billion jump in the collection of customs and duties so far this fiscal year. Some of this increase is due to more imports. But customs and duties account for just 1.2 percent of federal revenues, so any increase from tariffs does little to address the ballooning budget deficit.

The U.S. economy was adding jobs before the tariffs were announced, and it has been adding jobs since. It’s hard to know at this stage how the tariffs have influenced the pace of job creation, since any analysis would need to consider the whole of the nine-year expansion and the stimulus from Trump’s deficit-funded tax cut.

TRUMP: “Our Steel Industry is the talk of the World. It has been given new life, and is thriving. Billions of Dollars is being spent on new plants all around the country!” — tweet Sept. 17.

THE FACTS: Trump has certainly helped steelmakers, but so far it’s not the dramatic turnaround that he portrays.

Analysts at Citibank said this month that steel companies have approved more than $3 billion in investment following the tariffs. Some steel mills have restarted closed mills and added new capacity.

Manufacturers focused on primary metals have added 7,100 workers in the past 12 months for a total of 381,700 jobs, according to the Labor Department. But that total still lags the 402,600 jobs with primary metal manufacturers at the end of 2014. A stronger dollar and lower oil prices hurt the demand for steel products, causing production and employment to fall. And Trump is a long way from the more than 450,000 jobs in this sector at the start of 2008.

More importantly, steel is a modest component of U.S. job growth. Primary metals represented just 0.3 percent of the 2.33 million job gains in the past year.

Associated Press writers Josh Boak and Christopher Rugaber contributed to this report.

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Mandela: A life of Soaring Symbolism, Now Harnessed By UN

In this July 22, 2007, file photo, Nelson Mandela gestures during the 5th annual Nelson Mandela Lecture at the Linder Auditorium in Johannesburg, South Africa. The United Nations is seeking to harness the soaring symbolism of Mandela, whose South African journey from anti-apartheid leader to prisoner to president to global statesman is one of the 20th century’s great stories of struggle, sacrifice and reconciliation. The unveiling of a statue of Mandela, born 100 years ago, with arms outstretched at the U.N. building in New York on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, opens a peace summit at the General Assembly. (AP Photo, File)

In this July 22, 2007 file photo, Nelson Mandela and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan arrive together at the 5th annual Nelson Mandela Lecture at the Linder Auditorium in Johannesburg, South Africa. The United Nations is seeking to harness the soaring symbolism of Mandela, whose South African journey from anti-apartheid leader to prisoner to president to global statesman is one of the 20th century’s great stories of struggle, sacrifice and reconciliation. The unveiling of a statue of Mandela, born 100 years ago, with arms outstretched at the U.N. building in New York on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, opens a peace summit at the General Assembly. (AP Photo, File)


— Nelson Mandela’s South African journey from anti-apartheid leader to prisoner to president to global statesman — the “Long Walk to Freedom” of his autobiography title — is one of the 20th century’s great stories of struggle, sacrifice and reconciliation. Now the United Nations is seeking to harness its soaring symbolism.

The unveiling of a statue of Mandela, born 100 years ago, with arms outstretched at the U.N. building in New York on Monday opens a peace summit at the General Assembly, where world leaders will once again address the planet’s pressing problems: war, poverty, disease, migration and climate change. They’ll do so amid a massive security operation in a city where Mandela was welcomed by exultant crowds in 1990, a few months after he walked out of a South African jail, ending 27 years of imprisonment under the country’s white minority government.

“South Africa will be free,” Mandela said during that visit, and indeed, he became the country’s first black president in its first multi-racial elections four years later. His death in 2013 at age 95 brought a global outpouring of grief and tributes.

But there is something of a distinction between the main global perception of Mandela — the moral colossus whose resolve and generosity of spirit, tactical as well as genuine, inspired people in Colombia, Northern Ireland and other places struggling with seemingly intractable conflicts — and a growing body of opinion at home that he and his party were too quick to accommodate South Africa’s white minority, which lost political control but still dominates industry in one of the world’s most economically unequal societies.

Despite South Africa’s sense of unfinished business, it is a country enormously proud of the tall, charismatic orator with a broad smile and ironclad principles whose image and words were banned by his former captors, rendering him virtually invisible to the outside for decades. Mandela’s universality means that he also belongs to the world, which has wrestled with a fresh set of economic and political ruptures of late.

In July, former U.S. president Barack Obama traveled to Johannesburg and spoke about how Mandela, by offering the possibility of “moral transformation,” means as much to the globe as he does to South Africa.

“At the outset, his struggle was particular to this place, to his homeland — a fight to end apartheid, a fight to ensure lasting political and social and economic equality for its disenfranchised non-white citizens,” Obama said. “But through his sacrifice and unwavering leadership and, perhaps most of all, through his moral example, Mandela and the movement he led would come to signify something larger.”

The United Nations is declaring 2019-2028 as the “Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace,” and a declaration being adopted at Monday’s peace summit identifies the personal qualities that made him a transcendent humanitarian — “humility, forgiveness and compassion” — and connects them with U.N. goals, including disarmament, human rights and poverty alleviation.

It also warns of “challenges to the primacy of multilateralism,” a catch-all term that could refer to trade disputes between the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump and other countries, or the European Union’s Brexit challenge, or other pressures testing the idea of shared values on which the U.N. was founded after World War II.

The declaration’s signatories recognize “that the world has changed significantly since the founding of the United Nations, and acknowledge that global peace eludes us to this day,” it says. But the tone is hopeful — “we must make the impossible possible” — and the document singles out South Africa for praise, remembering the country’s dismantling of its nuclear weapons program toward the end of apartheid and Mandela’s appeal for the “total elimination of nuclear weapons.”

Mandela’s plea is no closer to reality, and other elements of his legacy are under threat. In 2016, South Africa said it was withdrawing from the International Criminal Court, though a South African court later ruled against the move to pull out of the Hague-based tribunal, which was launched in 2002 and pursues perpetrators of the world’s atrocities. Mandela had been a strong advocate for the court’s creation.

The shine has come off the “rainbow nation” that was internationally admired in its early post-apartheid years during Mandela’s presidency. South Africa struggles with fallout from allegedly massive corruption under former president Jacob Zuma, and a contentious debate about land reform reflects the frustrations of many in the black majority who think their country has let them down since they got the right to vote.

Still, it has one of the biggest economies in Africa, as well as a relatively robust judicial system and civil society.

“For all our shortcomings and simmering tensions, our country was truly inspirational, and it still is. In recent years it had become harder to sell the South African miracle, as our detractors would point to rampant corruption, cronyism, and the masses who are yet to share in the dividends of peace,” Shannon Ebrahim, foreign editor for the Independent Media Group in South Africa, wrote in a column.

The U.N.’s honoring of Mandela, Ebrahim said, again gives South Africans a chance to inspire the world.

Monday is also a public holiday in South Africa, Heritage Day, introduced when Mandela was president to celebrate the country’s cultural diversity.

According to accounts, Mandela wanted to be seen as a normal human being with both flaws and virtues, and not as an icon or legend. In 2007, he spoke at the dedication of a statue in his likeness opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, and his talk about the symbolism, not the man, seems equally apt for the new statue at the United Nations.

“We trust that the statue will be a reminder of heroes and heroines past,” Mandela said, “as well as an inspiration for continuing struggles against injustice.”

Christopher Torchia on Twitter:

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Senate Democrats Investigate A New Allegation Of Sexual Misconduct, From Brett Kavanaugh’s College Years

Deborah Ramirez, a Yale classmate of Brett Kavanaugh’s, has described a dormitory party gone awry and a drunken incident that she wants the F.B.I. to investigate. Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for The New Yorker



Senate Republicans press for a swift vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Senate Democrats are investigating a new allegation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh. The claim dates to the 1983-84 academic school year, when Kavanaugh was a freshman at Yale University. The offices of at least four Democratic senators have received information about the allegation, and at least two have begun investigating it. Senior Republican staffers also learned of the allegation last week and, in conversations with The New Yorker, expressed concern about its potential impact on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Soon after, Senate Republicans issued renewed calls to accelerate the timing of a committee vote. The Democratic Senate offices reviewing the allegations believe that they merit further investigation. “This is another serious, credible, and disturbing allegation against Brett Kavanaugh. It should be fully investigated,” Senator Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, said. An aide in one of the other Senate offices added, “These allegations seem credible, and we’re taking them very seriously. If established, they’re clearly disqualifying.”

The woman at the center of the story, Deborah Ramirez, who is fifty-three, attended Yale with Kavanaugh, where she studied sociology and psychology. Later, she spent years working for an organization that supports victims of domestic violence. The New Yorker contacted Ramirez after learning of her possible involvement in an incident involving Kavanaugh. The allegation was conveyed to Democratic senators by a civil-rights lawyer. For Ramirez, the sudden attention has been unwelcome, and prompted difficult choices. She was at first hesitant to speak publicly, partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident. In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty. After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away. Ramirez is now calling for the F.B.I. to investigate Kavanaugh’s role in the incident. “I would think an F.B.I. investigation would be warranted,” she said.

In a statement, Kavanaugh wrote, “This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name—and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building—against these last-minute allegations.”

The White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec said the Administration stood by Kavanaugh. “This 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man. This claim is denied by all who were said to be present and is wholly inconsistent with what many women and men who knew Judge Kavanaugh at the time in college say. The White House stands firmly behind Judge Kavanaugh.”

Ramirez said that, when both she and Kavanaugh were freshmen at Yale, she was invited by a friend on the women’s soccer team to a dorm-room party. She recalled that the party took place in a suite at Lawrance Hall, in the part of Yale known as Old Campus, and that a small group of students decided to play a drinking game together. “We were sitting in a circle,” she said. “People would pick who drank.” Ramirez was chosen repeatedly, she said, and quickly became inebriated. At one point, she said, a male student pointed a gag plastic penis in her direction. Later, she said, she was on the floor, foggy and slurring her words, as that male student and another stood nearby. (Ramirez identified the two male onlookers, but, at her request, The New Yorker is not naming them.)

A third male student then exposed himself to her. “I remember a penis being in front of my face,” she said. “I knew that’s not what I wanted, even in that state of mind.” She recalled remarking, “That’s not a real penis,” and the other students laughing at her confusion and taunting her, one encouraging her to “kiss it.” She said that she pushed the person away, touching it in the process. Ramirez, who was raised a devout Catholic, in Connecticut, said that she was shaken. “I wasn’t going to touch a penis until I was married,” she said. “I was embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated.” She remembers Kavanaugh standing to her right and laughing, pulling up his pants. “Brett was laughing,” she said. “I can still see his face, and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants.” She recalled another male student shouting about the incident. “Somebody yelled down the hall, ‘Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face,’ ” she said. “It was his full name. I don’t think it was just ‘Brett.’ And I remember hearing and being mortified that this was out there.”

Ramirez acknowledged that there are significant gaps in her memories of the evening, and that, if she ever presents her story to the F.B.I. or members of the Senate, she will inevitably be pressed on her motivation for coming forward after so many years, and questioned about her memory, given her drinking at the party.

And yet, after several days of considering the matter carefully, she said, “I’m confident about the pants coming up, and I’m confident about Brett being there.” Ramirez said that what has stayed with her most forcefully is the memory of laughter at her expense from Kavanaugh and the other students. “It was kind of a joke,” she recalled. “And now it’s clear to me it wasn’t a joke.”

By his freshman year, Kavanaugh was eighteen, and legally an adult. During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh swore under oath that as a legal adult he had never “committed any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature.”

The New Yorker has not confirmed with other eyewitnesses that Kavanaugh was present at the party. The magazine contacted several dozen classmates of Ramirez and Kavanaugh regarding the incident. Many did not respond to interview requests; others declined to comment, or said they did not attend or remember the party. A classmate of Ramirez’s, who declined to be identified because of the partisan battle over Kavanaugh’s nomination, said that another student told him about the incident either on the night of the party or in the next day or two. The classmate said that he is “one-hundred-per-cent sure” that he was told at the time that Kavanaugh was the student who exposed himself to Ramirez. He independently recalled many of the same details offered by Ramirez, including that a male student had encouraged Kavanaugh as he exposed himself. The classmate, like Ramirez, recalled that the party took place in a common room on the first floor in Entryway B of Lawrance Hall, during their freshman year. “I’ve known this all along,” he said. “It’s been on my mind all these years when his name came up. It was a big deal.” The story stayed with him, he said, because it was disturbing and seemed outside the bounds of typically acceptable behavior, even during heavy drinking at parties on campus. The classmate said that he had been shocked, but not necessarily surprised, because the social group to which Kavanaugh belonged often drank to excess. He recalled Kavanaugh as “relatively shy” until he drank, at which point he said that Kavanaugh could become “aggressive and even belligerent.”

Another classmate, Richard Oh, an emergency-room doctor in California, recalled overhearing, soon after the party, a female student tearfully recounting to another student an incident at a party involving a gag with a fake penis, followed by a male student exposing himself. Oh is not certain of the identity of the female student. Ramirez told her mother and sister about an upsetting incident at the time, but did not describe the details to either due to her embarrassment.

Mark Krasberg, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico who was also a member of Kavanaugh and Ramirez’s class at Yale, said Kavanaugh’s college behavior had become a topic of discussion among former Yale students soon after Kavanaugh’s nomination. In one e-mail that Krasberg received in September, the classmate who recalled hearing about the incident with Ramirez alluded to the allegation and wrote that it “would qualify as a sexual assault,” he speculated, “if it’s true.”

One of the male classmates who Ramirez said egged on Kavanaugh denied any memory of the party. “I don’t think Brett would flash himself to Debbie, or anyone, for that matter,” he said. Asked why he thought Ramirez was making the allegation, he responded, “I have no idea.” The other male classmate who Ramirez said was involved in the incident commented, “I have zero recollection.”

In a statement, two of those male classmates who Ramirez alleged were involved in the incident, the wife of a third male student she said was involved, and three other classmates, Dino Ewing, Louisa Garry, and Dan Murphy, disputed Ramirez’s account of events: “We were the people closest to Brett Kavanaugh during his first year at Yale. He was a roommate to some of us, and we spent a great deal of time with him, including in the dorm where this incident allegedly took place. Some of us were also friends with Debbie Ramirez during and after her time at Yale. We can say with confidence that if the incident Debbie alleges ever occurred, we would have seen or heard about it—and we did not. The behavior she describes would be completely out of character for Brett. In addition, some of us knew Debbie long after Yale, and she never described this incident until Brett’s Supreme Court nomination was pending. Editors from the New Yorker contacted some of us because we are the people who would know the truth, and we told them that we never saw or heard about this.”

The former friend who was married to the male classmate alleged to be involved, and who signed the statement, said of Ramirez, “This is a woman I was best friends with. We shared intimate details of our lives. And I was never told this story by her, or by anyone else. It never came up. I didn’t see it; I never heard of it happening.” She said she hadn’t spoken with Ramirez for about ten years, but that the two women had been close all through college, and Kavanaugh had remained part of what she called their “larger social circle.” In an initial conversation with The New Yorker, she suggested that Ramirez may have been politically motivated. Later, she said that she did not know if this was the case.

Ramirez is a registered Democrat, but said that her decision to speak out was not politically motivated and, regarding her views, that she “works toward human rights, social justice, and social change.” Ramirez said that she felt “disappointed and betrayed” by the statements from classmates questioning her allegation, “because I clearly remember people in the room whose names are on this letter.”

Several other classmates said that they believed Ramirez to be credible and honest, and vouched for her integrity. James Roche was roommates with Kavanaugh at the time of the alleged incident and is now the C.E.O. of a software company in San Francisco. “Debbie and I became close friends shortly after we both arrived at Yale,” he said. “She stood out as being exceptionally honest and gentle. I cannot imagine her making this up.” He said that he never witnessed Kavanaugh engage in any sexual misconduct, but did recall him being “frequently, incoherently drunk.” He described Ramirez as a vulnerable outsider. “Is it believable that she was alone with a wolfy group of guys who thought it was funny to sexually torment a girl like Debbie? Yeah, definitely. Is it believable that Kavanaugh was one of them? Yes.” Another acquaintance from college, Jennifer Klaus, similarly said that she considered the allegation plausible, adding, “Debbie’s always been a very truthful, kind—almost to the point of being selfless—individual.” A third classmate, who Ramirez thought had attended the party, said that she was not present at the incident. The former student, who asked not to be named, said that she also found Ramirez credible.

Former students described an atmosphere at Yale at the time in which alcohol-fuelled parties often led to behavior similar to that described by Ramirez. “I believe it could have happened,” another classmate who knew both Kavanaugh and Ramirez said. Though she was not aware of Kavanaugh being involved in any specific misconduct, she recalled that heavy drinking was routine and that Ramirez was sometimes victimized and taunted by male students in his social circle. “They were always, like, ‘Debbie’s here!,’ and then they’d get into their ‘Lord of the Flies’ thing,” she said. While at Yale, Kavanaugh became a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, or “DKE,” which several students said was known for its wild and, in the view of some critics, misogynistic parties. Kavanaugh was also a member of an all-male secret society, Truth and Courage, which was popularly known by the nickname “Tit and Clit.”

Ramirez said that she continued to socialize with one of the male classmates who had egged Kavanaugh on during the party during college; she even invited the classmate to her house for Thanksgiving one year, after he told her that he had nowhere to go. She also attended his wedding, years later, as a guest of his wife, and said that she posed for photographs with Kavanaugh, smiling.

Ramirez said that she remained silent about the matter and did not fully confront her memories about it for years because she blamed herself for drinking too much. “It was a story that was known, but it was a story I was embarrassed about,” she said. More recently, she has begun to reassess what happened. “Even if I did drink too much, any person observing it, would they want their daughter, their granddaughter, with a penis in their face, while they’re drinking that much?” she said. “I can say that at fifty-three, but when I was nineteen or twenty I was vulnerable. I didn’t know better.” Reflecting on the incident now, she said she considers Kavanaugh’s male classmates culpable. “They’re accountable for not stopping this,” she said. However, “What Brett did is worse.” She added, “What does it mean, that this person has a role in defining women’s rights in our future?”

As Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings became a national story, the discussions among Ramirez and Kavanaugh’s classmates took on heightened urgency, eventually spreading to news organizations and to the Senate. Senate aides from Ramirez’s home state of Colorado alerted a lawyer, Stanley Garnett, a former Democratic district attorney in Boulder, who currently represents her. Ramirez ultimately decided to begin telling her story publicly, before others did so for her. “I didn’t want any of this,” she said. “But now I have to speak.”

Ramirez said that she hoped her story would support that of Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who has raised an allegation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh that bears several similarities to Ramirez’s claim. Like Ramirez, Ford said that Kavanaugh was involved in sexual misconduct at a party while drunk and egged on by a male friend. In July, she sent a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein alleging that, at a party in the summer of 1982, when she was fifteen and Kavanaugh was seventeen and in high school, Kavanaugh pushed her into a bedroom, locked the door, pinned her to a bed, and covered her mouth to stop her screams as he attempted to pull off her clothes. Details of Ford’s allegation were initially made public by The New Yorker, which did not name her at the time. Subsequently, she disclosed her name in an interview with the Washington Post. In her letter, Ford said that during the incident she feared that Kavanaugh might inadvertently kill her. She alleged that a male friend and Georgetown Prep classmate of Kavanaugh’s, Mark Judge, was present in the room, alternately urging Kavanaugh to “go for it” and to “stop.” Kavanaugh has denied the allegation.

Ford’s allegation has made Judge a potentially pivotal witness for Kavanaugh. Judge told The New Yorker that he had “no recollection” of such an incident. Judge, who is a conservative writer, later gave an interview to The Weekly Standard in which he called Ford’s allegation “just absolutely nuts,” adding, “I never saw Brett act that way.” Asked by the interviewer whether he could remember any “sort of rough-housing with a female student back in high school” that might have been “interpreted differently by parties involved,” Judge told the publication, “I can’t. I can recall a lot of rough-housing with guys.” He added, “I don’t remember any of that stuff going on with girls.”

After seeing Judge’s denial, Elizabeth Rasor, who met Judge at Catholic University and was in a relationship with him for about three years, said that she felt morally obligated to challenge his account that “ ‘no horseplay’ took place at Georgetown Prep with women.” Rasor stressed that “under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t reveal information that was told in confidence,” but, she said, “I can’t stand by and watch him lie.” In an interview with The New Yorker, she said, “Mark told me a very different story.” Rasor recalled that Judge had told her ashamedly of an incident that involved him and other boys taking turns having sex with a drunk woman. Rasor said that Judge seemed to regard it as fully consensual. She said that Judge did not name others involved in the incident, and she has no knowledge that Kavanaugh participated. But Rasor was disturbed by the story and noted that it undercut Judge’s protestations about the sexual innocence of Georgetown Prep. (Barbara Van Gelder, an attorney for Judge, said that he “categorically denies” the account related by Rasor. Van Gelder said that Judge had no further comment.)

Another woman who attended high school in the nineteen-eighties in Montgomery County, Maryland, where Georgetown Prep is located, also refuted Judge’s account of the social scene at the time, sending a letter to Ford’s lawyers saying that she had witnessed boys at parties that included Georgetown Prep students engaging in sexual misconduct. In an interview, the woman, who asked to have her name withheld for fear of political retribution, recalled that male students “would get a female student blind drunk” on what they called “jungle juice”—grain alcohol mixed with Hawaiian Punch—then try to take advantage of her. “It was disgusting,” she said. “They treated women like meat.”

Kavanaugh’s attitude toward women has come to play a central role in his confirmation process. His backers have offered portrayals of his strong support for girls and women. When Kavanaugh accepted Trump’s nomination to the Court at a White House event in July, he and Trump both stressed that he had numerous female law clerks, and that he coached his young daughters’ school basketball teams. During his Senate confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh at one point ushered into the Senate hearing room a large group of school girls whose basketball games he had coached, showcasing his warm and supportive relationships with women. Earlier this month, on the same day The New Yorkerreported details of Ford’s allegation, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee released a letter from sixty-five women defending the nominee. On Monday, CNN reported that the White House has been contacting many of those women again, hoping to present their perspective to the media, perhaps as part of a group news conference.

The very different portrayals of Kavanaugh and his social scene offered by Ford, and now Ramirez, come at a crucial point in the confirmation process. On Friday, the Republican Senator Charles Grassley, of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a public ultimatum to Ford, announcing that he would schedule the committee’s vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation for Monday morning if she did not respond to an invitation to testify by a deadline, set first for Friday night and then for Saturday afternoon. Lawyers for Ford had pushed back, demanding an outside investigation of Ford’s allegation by the F.B.I. before she offered testimony, and said that she needed additional time to prepare. The White House and F.B.I. have declined to pursue that F.B.I. investigation, though Grassley has stated that his office has conducted its own inquiries into the matter. On Sunday, Ford’s lawyer and the committee reached an agreement for her to testify on Thursday.

In a statement, Kavanaugh’s attorneys Beth Wilkinson and Alexandra Walsh wrote, “Judge Kavanaugh fully and honestly answered the Judiciary Committee’s questions over multiple days only to have unsubstantiated allegations come out when a vote on his confirmation was imminent. What matters in situations like these are facts and evidence.” Like Kavanaugh, they said that, on Thursday, “testimony and evidence will confirm what Judge Kavanaugh has made clear all along—that he did not commit the sexual assault Dr. Blasey Ford describes.”

The issue has proved to be politically delicate for the White House. Last week, Vanity Fair reported that White House officials were concerned about additional allegations against Kavanaugh emerging, and cited a source who claimed that Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter and adviser, had urged him to withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination. Trump has defended Kavanaugh in the wake of Ford’s allegations. In a series of tweets on Friday, he sought to undermine her account of events, writing, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.” He described Kavanaugh as “a fine man,” who he wrote was “under assault by radical left wing politicians.”

Ramirez said that witnessing the attempts to discredit Ford had made her frightened to share her own story, which she knew would be attacked due to the gaps in her memory and her level of inebriation at the time. “I’m afraid how this will all come back on me,” she said. Her attorney, Garnett, said that he and Ramirez had not yet decided when and how she would convey the details of her allegation to the Senate Judiciary Committee and whether new counsel would represent her in Washington. “We’re carefully evaluating what the appropriate next steps would be,” he said. They both said that an F.B.I. investigation of the matter was merited. “I do believe an F.B.I. investigation of this kind of character-related information would be appropriate, and would be an effective way to relay the information to the committee,” Garnett said. Of Ramirez, he added, “She’s as careful and credible a witness as I’ve encountered in thirty-six years of practicing law.” Ramirez said that she hoped an investigation could be carried out before the committee voted on Kavanaugh’s nomination. “At least look at it,” she said of her claim. “At least check it out.”

New Allegations Of Sexual Abuse Put The Kavanaugh Nomination Into Chaos

Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh


--Brett M. Kavanaugh’s embattled nomination for the Supreme Court faced further disarray Sunday night after an explosive new account emerged of alleged sexual misconduct when he was in college, putting the White House on the defensive and the judge’s confirmation in fresh doubt.

Caught off guard, the White House and Kavanaugh issued swift denials of the report. Some Republicans on Capitol Hill said they were shell-shocked even as they blamed Democrats for what they described as a political takedown based on scurrilous allegations.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the panel would “attempt to evaluate these new claims” but did not publicly respond to a call by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, to immediately postpone confirmation proceedings until the FBI could investigate.

The new allegations, reported by the New Yorker, date back to Kavanaugh’s freshman year at Yale University, when a classmate named Deborah Ramirez says Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at close range at a drunken dormitory party, forcing her to bat him away.

The White House quickly distributed a vehement denial from Kavanaugh, who last week strongly denied a claim by Christine Blasey Ford, a California professor, that he had sexually assaulted her when they were both high school students in Maryland in the early 1980s.

“This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple,” Kavanaugh said of Ramirez’ account, adding that he would defend himself when he and Ford testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Thursday.

In a separate statement, a White House spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, denounced the latest allegation as a Democratic-inspired effort to “tear down a good man” and said the White House “stands firmly” behind the increasingly controversial nomination.

The claims of abuse have turned Kavanaugh’s once near-certain confirmation into a pitched battle, one of the most consequential such clashes in a generation. It has cast a shadow over the November midterm election, jeopardized President Trump’s vow to cement conservative control of the Supreme Court, and added more fuel to the cultural reckoning that is the #MeToo movement.

The sense of chaos deepened Sunday when Michael Avenatti, the California lawyer who represents porn actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Trump, wrote the Senate committee that he was “aware of significant evidence” of house parties in the early 1980s that Kavanaugh attended where women were “targeted … with alcohol/drugs” and subsequently raped. He offered no evidence.

Feinstein urged the FBI to reopen its investigation and “gather all the facts, interview all the relevant witnesses and ensure the committee receives a full and impartial report.” Several Democrats called on Kavanaugh to withdraw his name from consideration.

Kavanaugh’s fate in the closely divided Senate is almost certain to rest with three moderate Republicans: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona, none of whom weighed in publicly Sunday night. If two of them defect, his confirmation is probably doomed.

Senate Republicans denied knowing about Ramirez’s claims before Sunday, and some said they were stunned by the allegations and the worrying turn the confirmation battle has taken.

The latest controversy erupted only hours after Ford agreed to testify to the Senate committee on Thursday about her claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a drunken party when they were teenagers.

The New Yorker article, carrying the bylines of prize-winning investigative reporters Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, did not name or cite eyewitnesses Ramirez said were present at the Yale party.

Ramirez acknowledged that her own recollections were faulty because she was highly intoxicated during the party. She said she remembered having a penis thrust in her face, seeing Kavanaugh pulling up his pants immediately afterward, and hearing another student shout out what had just happened, calling Kavanaugh by his full name.

Her allegations, if borne out, potentially could carry heavier legal ramifications than the assault described by Ford.

During his Senate confirmation hearings, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) asked Kavanaugh under oath — her usual practice with judicial nominees — whether he had ever committed sexual assault as a legal adult, and he denied it. Kavanaugh was over 18 when he was at Yale.

Earlier Sunday, Ford’s attorneys, after a lengthy phone call with committee staffers, said she would testify to the panel ahead of Kavanaugh — not after, as she had sought — to present their opposing memories of a drunken party more than three decades ago where she says she was nearly raped.

“We’ve made important progress,” Ford’s attorneys Debra S. Katz, Lisa J. Banks and Michael R. Bromwich said in a statement. “Dr. Ford believes it is important for senators to hear directly from her about the sexual assault committed against her. She has agreed to move forward.”

Depending how the confrontation plays out, the Senate showdown could provide the capstone to a painful political drama that has riveted Washington and has threatened to derail Kavanaugh’s expected confirmation to the nation’s highest court.

It still wasn’t clear Sunday who will ask the questions after Ford, a 51-year-old professor at Palo Alto University, takes the oath.

Republicans reportedly want to use an outside female counsel to question Ford and Kavanaugh. All 11 Republicans on the committee are men, and they are anxious to avoid grilling a woman claiming sexual abuse on live TV in the #MeToo era. They also could use staff attorneys, rather than ask the questions themselves.

“We were told no decision has been made on this important issue, even though various senators have been dismissive of her account and should have to shoulder their responsibility to ask her questions,” Ford’s lawyers said.

Ford’s lawyers reportedly have pushed the committee to call other witnesses, including a former FBI agent who conducted a polygraph of Ford, and trauma experts who could testify to her long delay in coming forward.

The committee has decided it will not subpoena Kavanaugh’s classmate, Mark Judge, who Ford has said was in the room during the alleged assault. Judge has said he does not recall the incident.

Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, asserted the panel’s control over the proceedings, saying only its members would decide who to put on the stand, and who would question them.

“The committee determines which witnesses to call, how many witnesses to call, in what order to call them, and who will question them,” Grassley wrote to Ford’s legal team. “These are non-negotiable.”

The White House is wary about Ford’s testimony, nervous that she not only could damage Kavanaugh’s chances for confirmation in the 51-49 Senate, but her account could inspire more women to vote against Republican candidates on Nov. 6.

For Republicans, the questioning of Ford will need to tread a fine line between defending Kavanaugh — who has strongly denied the allegation — while avoiding a spectacle reminiscent of the demeaning verbal attacks 27 years ago, in the same committee, against Anita Hill.

Clarence Thomas was confirmed for the Supreme Court despite Hill’s claims of sexual harassment.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested Sunday that Ford could say little to sway him. Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” he promised a fair hearing but said that “unless there’s something more” to support her accusation, he’s not going to withdraw his support for Kavanaugh.

“What am I supposed to do, go and ruin this guy’s life based on an accusation?” he asked. “I don’t know when it happened, I don’t know where it happened, and everybody named in regard to being there said it didn’t happen. I’m just being honest: Unless there’s something more, no, I’m not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s life over this.”

By contrast, Hirono, the Hawaii Democrat who has emerged as one of Ford’s strongest backers, declared: “I believe her.”

“I put his denial in the context of everything that I know about him in terms of how he approaches his cases,” Hirono said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He’s very outcome-driven; he has a very ideological agenda.”

Democratic leaders renewed their demand for an FBI investigation of Ford’s claims, contending it could be carried out quickly. Republicans have generally backed the White House in saying that reopening an FBI background check on Kavanaugh would be pointless.

“Their [the FBI’s] role in this case is not to determine who is telling the truth,” Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” describing that as the task of the Judiciary Committee.

“I hope that we will get to the truth,” he said.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said on ABC’s “This Week” that he did not feel Ford had been treated well, and that he believed some Republican lawmakers “feel uneasy with the way this has been handled.”

The unexpected blow-up over a nomination that had been expected to sail through the Senate has also posed a challenge for politically ambitious women in the Trump administration, including Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations.

Interviewed on CNN, Haley was careful not to criticize Trump or fellow Republicans, but also said Ford should have her say before the committee.

“What I have said very clearly is: ‘Every accuser always deserves the right to be heard,’” she said. “But at the same time, I think the accused deserves the right to be heard.… The Senate has a huge responsibility here.”

Staff writer Jennifer Haberkorn in Washington contributed to this report.

8:39 p.m.: This article was updated with Michael Avenetti’s letter.

7:39 p.m.: This article was updated with Sen. Feinstein calling for a postponement in proceedings.

6:23 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details of the latest allegation.

5:50 p.m.: This article was updated to reflect the New Yorker article citing a second accuser, and the denials by Kavanaugh and the White House.

This article was originally published at 4:20 p.m.

Taraji P. Henson Opens Up About Seeking Mental Health Treatment



--Taraji P. Henson is opening up her closet for a good cause.

The “Empire” star celebrated the launch of The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, her nonprofit organization, on Saturday by inviting guests to purchase her personal dresses, shoes and purses in a special Los Angeles fundraising event. The foundation, named after Henson’s late father, focuses on erasing the stigma surrounding mental health issues, particularly in the African American community.

The cause is personal to Henson, whose son struggled with mental health after his father was murdered in 2003 and Henson’s father died two years later. When she started looking for a psychiatrist for her son, wanting “someone that he could trust, someone that looks like him and could understand his struggle,” she said it was very difficult because “they wouldn’t be African American and it wouldn’t get anything accomplished because he felt guilty for the things he was saying.”

“It was like looking for a unicorn, and the reason that happens is because we don’t talk about it in our community; it’s taboo, it’s looked upon as a weakness or we’re demonized for expressing rage for traumas we’ve been through,” Henson told Variety. “I have a lot of white friends and that’s what got me going. They say, ‘You don’t talk to anybody? Girl, I’m going to see my shrink every Thursday at 3 o’clock.’ So I was like why don’t we do that in our community?”

The star also pointed out the need for the cause to have a famous face attached, as she said there’s “the misconception about celebrities that we have it all together and we’re perfect and we’re not. Our kids aren’t perfect, we’re suffering and struggling just like the regular person and money doesn’t help. I thank God I can pay for the psychiatry bill but it doesn’t necessarily take away the problems.”

Later on in her speech inside the event, Henson revealed that she has also sought mental health treatment and sees a psychiatrist herself.

“I’m here to tell you that when they tell cut and the cameras go away, I go home to real problems just like everybody else,” she said, adding that she wanted to be open about her struggles so “people go, “Oh wow she’s going through it? Well I’m alright then.”

The money raised from the event, dubbed Taraji’s Boutique of Hope, marked the foundation’s first mission: bringing art to the bathrooms of inner city schools to help combat depression, bullying and suicide. Henson explains that this initiative — a partnership with artist Cierra Lynn — is because school bathrooms are “where fights happened, jumps, that’s where you got bullied because the teachers weren’t in there, so I thought that was a great thing to do to flip it. You go there to get your head together and instead of seeing hate stuff or whatever madness kids put in there, we decided to turn it into art.”

Jenifer Lewis, Lisa Vidal and John Singleton were also in attendance at the event, with Lewis joking that she and Henson are close friends because Lewis was the “original Cookie,” the character Henson plays on “Empire.” The “Black-ish” star, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 25 years ago, said that fighting against the stigma of mental illness has become an important cause for her.

“We are as sick as our secrets and it’s time for people to come together, to reach out to those who are hiding in dark rooms, reach out to those who are afraid to take the next step, reach out to those who want to be better and don’t know how to,” Lewis said.

Lewis, who recently made headlines for wearing a Nike sweatshirt to the Primetime Emmys in support of Colin Kaepernick, added that the cause seems especially relevant after having just seen Michael Moore’s most recent documentary, “Fehrenheit 11/9,” which she urged “every soul on the planet to go and see.”

“If you don’t register to vote after a movie like that then you are not human. We all need to come together right now and not let the Republican administration alter reality,” Lewis told Variety. “Molestation is wrong, attempted rape is wrong, I don’t care how you lay it down. It doesn’t matter if you’re 15 or 93, if someone touches you inappropriately, you have been touched inappropriately for the rest of your life.”

In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Lewis added that “there has to be a reckoning at some point,” and shared the message, “these are not dark times, these are awakening times, so wake the f— up.”

Iran Fears Plot By US And Its Gulf Allies As Pressure Grows

In nthis photo released by official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani, center, leaves for New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018. On Saturday, the same day Arab separatists killed at least 25 people in an attack targeting a military parade in Iran, Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, declared that the government would be toppled. Iran fears that America and its Gulf Arab allies are plotting to tear the Islamic Republic apart. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)


— On the same day Arab separatists killed at least 25 people in an attack targeting a military parade in southwestern Iran, President Donald Trump’s lawyer mounted a stage in New York to declare that the government would be toppled.

“I don’t know when we’re going to overthrow them. It could be in a few days, months or a couple of years, but it’s going to happen,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Saturday. “They are going to be overthrown. The people of Iran obviously have had enough.”

For Iran’s Shiite theocracy, comments like these only fuel fears that America and its Gulf Arab allies are plotting to tear the Islamic Republic apart.

Those threats so far haven’t led to a military confrontation or violence, but the risk is rising.

“Undoubtedly the Islamic Republic of Iran will not ignore this crime. It is absolutely clear for us who did that, what group they are and with whom they are affiliated,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned before leaving for New York for the United Nations General Assembly. “All of those small mercenary countries that we see in this region are backed by America. It is Americans who instigate them and provide them with necessary means to commit these crimes.”

Rouhani is a relative moderate who was elected twice on promises to improve relations with West, and who signed the 2015 nuclear agreement. At the U.N. General Assembly that year, he declared that “a new chapter had started in Iran’s relations with the world.”

“For the first time, two sides rather than negotiating peace after war, engaged in dialogue and understanding before the eruption of conflict.”

An eruption now seems more likely. What changed in the meantime seems to be the politics of the region and the U.S. While America’s Sunni Gulf Arab allies in the region criticized the nuclear deal, many later acknowledged that it did what it was designed to do.

Iran limited its enrichment of uranium, making it virtually impossible for it to quickly develop nuclear weapons, something the government insists it has never sought. In exchange, some international sanctions were lifted, allowing Iran to rejoin the global financial system and sell its crude oil to American allies.

Over time, however, Gulf states adopted an increasingly harder tone with Iran. Officials in Tehran point to comments by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, now next in line to the throne in Iran’s Mideast archrival.

“We know we are a main target of Iran,” Prince Mohammed said in a 2017 interview, shortly before becoming crown prince. “We are not waiting until there becomes a battle in Saudi Arabia, so we will work so that it becomes a battle for them in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.”

He did not elaborate, though the kingdom and its allies were mired then as they are now — in a war in Yemen against Iran-aligned Shiite rebels. While Iran denies arming the rebels, known as Houthis, U.N. investigators, analysts and Western nations all say Tehran supplies weapons ranging from assault rifles to the ballistic missiles, which have been fired deep into Saudi territory.

After Prince Mohammed’s comments last year, Saudi-aligned satellite news channels began playing up stories about Iranian opposition and exile groups. They also began publicizing the nighttime pipeline attacks by Arab separatists in Khuzestan, Iran’s oil-rich southwestern province, which Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein tried to seize in his 1980s war with Iran.

Those separatists claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack in Ahvaz, Khuzestan’s capital, which struck one of many parades in the country marking the start of the 1980s war. Iranian officials, who blame the separatists for the attack, say the militants wore military uniforms and hid their weapons along the parade route ahead of time — showing a level of sophistication previously unseen by the separatists.

There has been no direct evidence linking the separatists to Saudi Arabia. However, Iranian officials have seized on the fact the separatists immediately made their claim of responsibility on a Saudi-linked, Farsi-language satellite news channel based in Britain.

The United States has meanwhile been ramping up pressure on Iran since Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement in May, restoring crippling sanctions and voicing support for anti-government protests fueled by economic woes.

The Trump administration has said its actions aren’t aimed at toppling Iran’s government. But in the meantime, Giuliani has continued speaking before meetings of an exiled Iranian opposition group. Before being appointed national security adviser earlier this year, John Bolton gave impassioned speeches calling for regime change.

“The declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran,” Bolton told Iranian exiles in July 2017. “The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change, and therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself.

He added, to cheers: “And that’s why before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran.”

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at . His work can be found at .

US Seeks To Curtail Green Cards For Immigrants On Public Aid

In this Dec. 10, 2015, file photo, pedestrians crossing from Mexico into the United States at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry wait in line in San Diego. The Trump administration is proposing rules that could deny green cards to immigrants if they use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers and other forms of public assistance. The Department of Homeland Security said Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, that current and past receipt of certain public benefits above thresholds will be considered “a heavily weighed negative factor” in granting green cards as well as temporary visas. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)


— The Trump administration on Saturday proposed rules that could deny green cards to immigrants if they use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers and other forms of public assistance.

Federal law already requires those seeking green cards and to prove they will not be a burden — or “public charge” — but the new rules detail a broad range of programs that could disqualify them.

The Department of Homeland Security said current and past receipt of certain public benefits above thresholds would be considered “a heavily weighed negative factor” in granting green cards as well as temporary stays.

The proposal “will clearly define long-standing law to ensure that those seeking to enter and remain in the United States either temporarily or permanently can support themselves financially and will not be reliant on public benefits,” the department said.

The 447-page proposal published on the department’s website will appear in the Federal Register “in the coming weeks,” triggering a 60-day public comment period before it takes effect.

Coming less than seven weeks before midterm elections, the announcement could help galvanize voters who have backed or opposed Trump’s broad crackdown on legal and illegal immigration.

Immigrant advocacy groups said people may avoid or withdraw from public aid programs even at the risk of losing shelter and suffering deteriorating health because they worry they will be denied visas.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said the proposal was “an inhumane attack on the health and wellbeing of so many families and communities across the country.”

“How you contribute to your community — and not what you look like or the contents of your wallet — should be what matters most,” she said. “This proposed rule does the opposite and makes clear that the Trump administration continues to prioritize money over family unity by ensuring that only the wealthiest can afford to build a future in this country.”

Potentially disqualifying benefits include Medicare Part D prescription drugs, Medicaid with some exceptions for emergency services and disability services related to education, food stamps and Section 8 housing vouchers.

At UN, Unrepentant Trump Set To Rattle Foes, Friends Alike

In this Sept. 19, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. When Trump makes his second address to the United Nations _ and wields the Security Council gavel for the first time _ he will face leaders of a global order he upended in the last 12 months by pulling out of the Iran deal, embracing Russia and alienating longtime Western allies over trade and defense spending. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)


— President Donald Trump is poised to redouble his commitment to “America First” on the most global of stages this week.

In the sequel to his stormy U.N. debut, Trump will stress his dedication to the primacy of U.S. interests while competing with Western allies for an advantage on trade and shining a spotlight on the threat that he says Iran poses to the Middle East and beyond.

One year after Trump stood at the rostrum of the U.N. General Assembly and derided North Korea’s Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man,” the push to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula is a work in progress, although fears of war have given way to hopes for rapprochement.

Scores of world leaders, even those representing America’s closest friends, remain wary of Trump. In the 12 months since his last visit to the U.N., the president has jolted the global status quo by pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, starting trade conflicts with China and the West and embracing Russia’s Vladimir Putin even as the investigation into the U.S. president’s ties to Moscow moves closer to the Oval Office.

Long critical of the United Nations, Trump delivered a warning shot ahead of his arrival by declaring that the world body had “not lived up to” its potential.

“It’s always been surprising to me that more things aren’t resolved,” Trump said in a weekend video message, “because you have all of these countries getting together in one location but it doesn’t seem to get there. I think it will.”

If there is a throughline to the still-evolving Trump doctrine on foreign policy, it is that the president will not subordinate American interests on the world stage, whether for economic, military or political gain.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters in a preview of Trump’s visit, that the president’s focus “will be very much on the United States,” its role and the relations it wants to build.

“He is looking forward to talking about foreign policy successes the United States has had over the past year and where we’re going to go from here,” she said. “He wants to talk about protecting U.S. sovereignty,” while building relationships with nations that “share those values.”

In his four-day visit to New York, Trump will deliver major speeches and met with representatives of a world order that he has so often upended in the past year. Like a year ago, North Korea’s nuclear threat will hover over the gathering, though its shadow may appear somewhat less ominous.

The nuclear threat was sure to be on the agenda at Trump’s first meeting, a dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Manhattan on Sunday night. Abe stands first among world leaders in cultivating a close relationship with the president through displays of flattery that he has used to advance his efforts to influence the unpredictable American leader.

On Monday afternoon, Trump planned to sit down with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who comes bearing a personal message to Trump from North Korea’s Kim after their inter-Korean talks last week. Trump and Moon were expected to sign a new version of the U.S.-South Korean trade agreement, one of Trump’s first successes in his effort to renegotiate trade deals on more favorable terms for the U.S.

Even so, some U.S. officials worry that South Korea’s eagerness to restore relations with the North could reduce sanctions pressure on Kim’s government, hampering efforts to negotiate a nuclear accord.

“We have our eyes wide open,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “There is a long ways to go to get Chairman Kim to live up to the commitment that he made to President Trump and, indeed, to the demands of the world in the U.N. Security Council resolutions to get him to fully denuclearize.”

Trump’s address to the General Assembly comes Tuesday, and on Wednesday he will for the first time chair the Security Council, with the stated topic of non-proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The subject initially was to have been Iran, but that could have allowed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to attend, creating a potentially awkward situation for the U.S. leader.

Aides say the president will also use the session to discuss North Korea and other proliferation issues. While Trump is not seeking a meeting with Rouhani, he is open to talking with the Iranian leader if Rouhani requests one, administration officials said.

In meetings with European leaders as well as during the Security Council session, Trump plans to try to make the case that global companies are cutting ties with Iran ahead of the reimposition in five weeks of tough sanctions against Tehran. The penalties are a result of Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Trump at the time cited Iran’s role as a malign force in the region, particularly its support of terrorist groups, but also its involvement in Syria. U.S. officials say their priority for the region now is removing Iranian forces from Syria.

Trump is also expected to deliver a fresh warning to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad that the use of chemical weapons against civilians in the major rebel stronghold of Idlib would have serious repercussions. Britain and France are actively planning a military response should Assad use chemical weapons again, according to U.S. officials.

“I think he’s got a couple major possibilities really to help illuminate for the American people what America’s place in the world,” national security adviser John Bolton told Fox News Channel’s ’Sunday Morning Futures,” previewing Trump’s U.N. appearance.

Bolton, like Pompeo, is part of a far more hawkish national security team than the one that surrounded Trump a year ago.

Meetings on the sidelines of the General Assembly often come in rapid succession, a wearying test for even the most experienced foreign policy team. Trump has a robust schedule during his stay in New York, including meetings with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, French President Emmanuel Macron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

But while some world leaders are still reeling from Trump’s deference to Putin in their summer Helsinki summit, there will not be an encore in New York: The Russian president is not expected to attend the proceedings.

Miller reported from Washington.

Follow Lemire on Twitter at and Miller at

Timeline: Shell's Operations In Nigeria

A view shows the Bonny oil terminal in the Niger delta which is operated by Royal Dutch Shell in Port Harcourt, Nigeria August 1, 2018. Picture taken August 1, 2018. To match Insight NIGERIA-SECURITY REUTERS/Ron Bousso 

LONDON (REUTERS) - Royal Dutch Shell pioneered Nigeria’s oil and gas industry and remains a major investor in the West African country. But over the decades it has come under fire over spills in the Delta region and struggles with oil theft, corruption and oil-fueled violence.

Following are some of the highlights of Shell’s history in Nigeria:

1936 - The Royal Dutch Shell Group establishes a Nigerian venture with the precursor company of BP Plc. The first shipment of oil from Nigeria takes place in 1958.

April 1973 - Nigerian government takes a stake in the venture. Over the coming years, the government increases its stake and BP exits.

1979 - The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) is established, incorporating assets of the older Shell-BP consortium. Over time, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation comes to own 55 percent, Shell owns 30 percent, France’s Total owns 10 percent and Italy’s Eni 5 percent. Shell remains the operator.

1990 - The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), led by firebrand environmental rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, starts campaigning for a fairer share of oil wealth for the Ogoni people living on oil fields and compensation for environmental damage.

January 1993 - MOSOP organises protests of around 300,000 Ogoni people against Shell and oil pollution. Nigeria’s military government occupies the region.

April 1993 - Shell forms Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo), which signs Production Sharing Contracts to develop offshore oil and gas interests.

1993 - Shell ceases production in Ogoniland.

November 1995 - Saro-Wiwa and eight other MOSOP leaders are executed by Sani Abacha’s military government on alleged murder charges, to worldwide horror. Nigeria is suspended from the Commonwealth.

Late 1990s - Over time, Shell’s focus shifts to offshore exploration, where it enjoys better margins and fewer threats of attack by militants.

October 2003 - SPDC pumps more than 1 million barrels of oil per day.

2005 - Shell starts production at the giant Bonga offshore field.

2006 - Militant group MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) emerges and begins to attack Shell facilities. Like MOSOP it seeks a great share of oil wealth for the Delta’s people and remediation for oil spills. SPDC pump stations and platforms in Niger delta are attacked and production falls.

2008 - Two large spills, a result of operational faults, hit the community of Bodo in Ogoniland in the Niger Delta. Tens of thousands of barrels of oil are spilt.

January 2010 - SPDC sells some onshore fields and says it is no longer looking to Nigeria for growth.

April 2011 - Shell and Italy’s Eni acquire oil production licence (OPL) 245, a large offshore field, for $1.1 billion from local company Malabu.

August 2011 - A U.N. report criticises Shell and the Nigerian government for contributing to 50 years of pollution in Ogoniland which it says needs the world’s largest oil clean-up, costing an initial $1 billion and taking up to 30 years.

March 2012 - A group of 11,000 Nigerians from Bodo, Ogoniland, launch a suit against Shell at the London High Court, seeking tens of millions of dollars in compensation for the 2008 oil spills.

January 2013 - A Dutch court rules that Shell could be held partially responsible for pollution in the Niger Delta, saying the company should have prevented sabotage at one of its facilities. Four Nigerians and Friends of the Earth filed the suit originally in 2008 in the Netherlands.

January 2015 - Shell accepts liability for the Bodo spills, agreeing to pay 55 million pounds ($83 million at the time) to Bodo villagers and to clean up their lands and waterways.

May 2018 - Court case against Shell and Eni over the 2011 OPL 245 acquisition starts in Milan. Nine current and former executives and contractors, including ENI Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi, are accused by Italian prosecutors of paying bribes to secure the license.

Reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall