The once-abandoned supplies — which included thousands of sealed cases of water bottles, pallets of food, diapers, baby formula and cots — were distributed on Monday to shelters in communities where powerful earthquakes leveled homes in recent weeks and caused an estimated $110 million in damages, according to government officials.
The unused aid, believed to have been delivered during Hurricane Maria in 2017, was discovered in an abandoned government-operated warehouse in the southwestern city of Ponce over the weekend, sparking a wave of angry protests.
Some residents even gathered outside of the Governor’s Mansion in San Juan to call for the governor’s resignation amid questions over why the aid didn’t make it to those in need earlier.
Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazquez fired the island’s chief of emergency management, Carlos Acevedo, and temporarily called for the National Guard to oversee the agency amid an ongoing investigation into why the aid was left to sit while residents were in need.
“In the last days there have been actions by members of the government that are not acceptable,” Vazquez told reporters Sunday. “I will not permit this type of conduct in my government.”
She also called for the resignation of Family Affairs Secretary Glorimar Andujar and Housing Secretary Fernando Gil after they were unable to provide the information she requested on their agencies’ distribution centers.
They tendered their resignations after the press conference concluded.
“I feel the indignation that the people of the island feel,” she said.
When asked how it was possible she did not know about the existence of the 43,000 square foot warehouse, Vazquez replied: “That’s what the head of agencies are for … to inform the governor.” Vazquez had vowed that all the Ponce warehouse supplies that are not expired would be distributed to the towns that were the hardest hit by the quakes.
Acevedo defended the emergency management agency before his firing in a statement released on Saturday. He said the warehouse had been was inspected after a recent earthquake by a structural engineer who recommended emptying it due to damage suffered.
“It is important to emphasize that no citizen has been denied any of the items found at this place,” the statement said. “At the moment, there is no shortage of any of these articles and they are being distributed to the people who need it; data that can be verified in the shelters and base camps.”
Acevedo said at one point there had been 600 pallets of water, which were distributed to the public when Hurricane Dorian and Hurricane Karen threatened Puerto Rico, but there were about 80 left. The investigation will examine inventory at that warehouse and potentially any others.
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Fourteen Iraqi police officers were among the wounded, AP reported.
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French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a visit at the AstraZeneca factory in Dunkirk, France January 20, 2020. Denis Charlet/Pool via REUTERS
PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday he had a “great discussion” with U.S. President Donald Trump over a digital tax planned by Paris and said the two countries would work together to avoid a rise in tariffs.
Macron and Trump agreed to hold off on a potential tariffs war until the end of 2020, a French diplomatic source said, and continue negotiations at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the digital tax during that period.
“They agreed to give a chance to negotiations until the end of the year,” the source said. “During that time period, there won’t be successive tariffs.”
France decided in July to apply a 3% levy on revenue from digital services earned in France by firms with revenues of more than 25 million euros ($28 million) in France and 750 million euros worldwide. Washington has threatened to impose taxes on French products in response.
French authorities have repeatedly said any international agreement on digital taxation reached within the OECD would immediately supersede the French tax.
The White House said on Monday both Trump and Macron agreed it is important to complete successful negotiations on the digital services tax.
Reporting by Michel Rose, additional reporting by Alexandra Alper in Washington; Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Nick Macfie and Paul Simao
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The memo comes just days ahead of the Senate impeachment trial, during which Republicans are likely to push the theory as they seek to defend President Trump.
The Biden campaign said Trump’s efforts to spread the theory is the reason the president is being impeached and said it would be “malpractice” for journalists to reference the allegations without also saying that they’ve been debunked, according to a copy of the memo obtained by The Hill.
“[Trump’s] objective was to pressure the Ukrainian government into spreading a malicious and conclusively debunked conspiracy theory: that Vice President Biden engaged in wrongdoing when he executed official United States policy to remove a corrupt prosecutor from office,” communications director Kate Bedingfield wrote in a memo to reporters and editors.
Bedingfield, citing fact-checkers and reports from numerous outlets, notes that the theory that Biden sought to fire the prosecutor because his son sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm has been proven false.
She called on journalists to “state clearly and unambiguously that [the claims] have been discredited” in coverage of the ongoing impeachment process.
“It is not sufficient to say the allegations are ‘unsubstantiated’ or that ‘no evidence has emerged to support them.’ Not only is there ‘no evidence’ for Republicans’ main argument against the Vice President — there is a mountain of evidence that actively debunks it. And it is malpractice to ignore that truth,” Bedingfield wrote.
Biden has called out the debunked theory in the months since the impeachment scandal has unfolded, defending his actions as vice president, but the memo is perhaps the campaign’s strongest rebuke yet of the allegations.
It comes as Republicans float the idea of calling Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, to testify as a witness in the Senate trial.
Democrats argue Hunter Biden should not appear as a fact witness as he has no knowledge of the allegations related to Trump’s impeachment.
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Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, has sent a letter requesting that Attorney General William Barr recuse himself from the investigation of Parnas and appoint a special prosecutor, according to a new court filing.
A copy of the letter, dated Monday, was filed on the docket of the federal campaign finance violation case that New York prosecutors have brought against Parnas.
“Given the totality of the circumstances, we believe it is appropriate for you to recuse yourself from the ongoing investigation and pending prosecution of Mr. Parnas,” reads the three-paged letter, which was signed by Joseph Bondy, his defense attorney.
The letter was faxed to Barr days after Parnas spoke publicly for the first time about his role helping Giuliani push Ukrainian officials to investigate former Joe Vice President Biden.
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In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that aired last Wednesday, Parnas alleged that Barr was aware of the effort, now at the center of Trump’s impeachment.
“Mr. Barr had to have known everything,” Parnas said, adding: “Attorney General Barr was basically on the team.”
The Justice Department declined to comment. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York also declined to comment on Bondy’s letter.
Parnas was charged in October with funneling foreign money to U.S. political candidates and campaigns. He has pleaded not guilty.
Parnas and a second man, Igor Fruman, were carrying one-way tickets to Vienna when they were arrested at Dulles International Airport outside Washington on Oct. 9.
An indictment unsealed the next day accused the pair of making illegal straw donations, including $325,000 to a pro-Trump political action committee. Federal prosecutors say the two also engaged in a scheme to force the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
NBC News has previously reported that federal prosecutors in New York briefed Barr about the then-undisclosed case into Parnas when he took office last year.
In his letter to Barr, Parnas’ attorney cites the president’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in July, in which Trump mentioned Barr as a point person for a possible investigation. It also noted a whistleblower’s complaint in August, along with calls for recusal by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the New York City Bar Association.
The letter says federal prosecutors have refused to meet with Parnas and have delayed producing discovery evidence. As a result, Parnas “was rendered unable to comply with a duly-issued congressional subpoena in time for congressional investigators to make complete use of his material or properly assess Mr. Parnas as a potential witness,” the letter says.
Federal prosecutors told the court several months ago that discovery evidence was delayed by issues with getting into Parnas’ phone and that Parnas had received the congressional subpoena before he was arrested.
Tom Winter is a New York-based correspondent covering crime, courts, terrorism and financial fraud on the East Coast for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
Rich Schapiro contributed.
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The coyote had attacked a woman and her dogs hours earlier.
January 20, 2020, 11:17 PM
5 min read
A New Hampshire man killed a coyote with his bare hands after the animal attacked his young child, according to police.
Authorities had received multiple calls regarding a violent coyote Monday morning prior to its encounter with the family, the Kensington Police Department said in a press release.
Around 8:40 a.m., police in Hampton Falls received a report of a coyote attacking a vehicle on Drinkwater Road near on Drinkwater Road, near the boarder of Hampton Falls and Kensington.
The Kensington Police Department received a call about 20 minutes later from a 62-year-old woman who stated that she and her dogs were attacked by a coyote on her porch on Hemlock Road after she opened the sliding door to her home.
In that incident, the dogs retreated into the home, and the coyote attempted to follow them inside, police said. The woman was bitten as she fought to keep the coyote out of her home. She was treated at the hospital, and she and her dogs both received a first round of rabies shots.
Around 11 a,m., the same coyote attacked a family walking on a trail in Exeter, prompting the father of the child to go “into protection mode,” police said.
Kensington police had shared a photo of a coyote chasing a car earlier in the day and warned residents, though it’s not clear if it’s the same one.
Human-coyote encounters in suburban areas are typically rare, even in places where coyotes are found in large numbers, according to the Humane Society. Coyotes are nocturnal, seldom seen during the daytime and are usually scared away by the presence of the human.
Officers from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department have taken the coyote’s body to be tested for rabies.
ABC News’ Darren Reynolds contributed to this report.
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Instead, the sixth in line to the British throne returned to Vancouver Island, where he, Meghan and Archie stayed over the holidays. Meghan returned to the U.K. with Harry after the holidays and then flew back to Canada around the time the couple announced they planned to “step back” as senior members of the royal family.
After more than a week of negotiations, Buckingham Palace announced on Saturday that beginning this spring, Harry and Meghan will no longer use their HRH titles and will be known only as Harry, the Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. The couple and Archie plan to spend the majority of their time living in North America, though they will keep their Frogmore Cottage home in the U.K., for which they will pay rent and all operating costs.
Harry and Meghan will no longer rely on public funds for their royal duties and will no longer travel overseas on behalf of Her Majesty. They are still members of the royal family and will attend family events like Trooping the Colour when invited by the queen, according to a palace source.
Prince Harry is losing his military titles and patronages including Captain General Royal Marines, Honorary Air Commandant Royal Air Force Honington and Small Ships and Diving, Royal Naval Command: Commodore in Chief. It’s a significant loss for a royal who served in Afghanistan during his time in the British Army.
“The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back, is not one I made lightly,” he said. “It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven’t always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.”
“I have grown up feeling support from so many of you, and I watched as you welcomed Meghan with open arms as you saw me find the love and happiness that I had hoped for all my life,” Harry said. “Finally, the second son
of Diana got hitched, hurray!”
“I also know you’ve come to know me well enough over all these years to trust that the woman I chose as my wife upholds the same values as I do. And she does, and she’s the same woman I fell in love with,” he added. “We both do everything we can to fly the flag and carry out our roles for this country with pride.”
“Once Meghan and I were married, we were excited, we were hopeful, and we were here to serve,” Harry said. “For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this.”
“What I want to make clear is we’re not walking away, and we certainly aren’t walking away from you,” Harry said Sunday. “Our hope was to continue serving the queen, the commonwealth and my military associations, but
without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible.”
“I’ve accepted this, knowing that it doesn’t change who I am or how committed I am,” he said. “But I hope that helps you understand what it had to come to, that I would step my family back from all I have ever known, to take a step forward into what I hope can be a more peaceful life.”
“You’ve looked out for me for so long, but the media is a powerful force, and my hope is one day our collective support for each other can be more powerful because this is so much bigger than just us,” Harry said. “It has been our privilege to serve you, and we will continue to lead a life of service.”
“We are taking a leap of faith. Thank you for giving me the courage to take this next step,” he said.
In a moment of levity in his speech, Harry also thanked supporters for the excitement they’ve shown for Archie, whom he said recently saw snow for the first time and “thought it was bloody brilliant.”
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BEIRUT, LEBANON —
Pictures from downtown Beirut Sunday night showed an extraordinary standoff between fed up protesters and riot police protecting a ruling class protesters say is out of touch and slowly losing control of the nation.
At least 114 people were injured, according to the Red Cross and Lebanese Civil Defense teams, with 47 taken to hospitals for treatment. Most of the wounds were from rubber bullets, some in the face and upper body, they say.
Scores of anti-government protesters hurled rocks and water bottles and shot fireworks at security forces, who barricaded themselves behind steel fences in a narrow street leading to the country’s Parliament building. Each side hoping the other would give up and go home, yet no one was willing — just yet — to resort to wholesale destruction.
Amid the turmoil, 24-year-old American freelance journalist Nicholas Frakes from Rancho Cucamonga, California, was arrested by security forces while taking photographs of the clashes.
Lebanon’s state news service announced that Frakes was arrested for allegedly livestreaming rioting in Beirut to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Lebanon is technically still at war with Israel and forbids anyone in Lebanon from doing business with Israeli organizations or visiting Israel.
ABC News was told by a friend, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Dana, that Frakes called her early Monday morning from the Ministry of Defense and said he was being interrogated. Dana told ABC News that Frakes denies the charge and she hadn’t heard from him since that phone call.
This past weekend saw the worst days of violence in Beirut so far in a new, vicious downturn after several months of largely peaceful protesting. Police responded with multiple volleys of tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets, but so far refrained from firing live rounds.
On Sunday afternoon, dozens of protesters moved in close to the barriers, with some trying to climb over. Hundreds more gathered further down in the main street outside the Parliament, some chanting “revolution.”
Lebanon’s protests started in October and lulled briefly over the holidays but are now back with renewed vigor. People filled the streets again last week, burning tires and blocking roads, angry at a political class that they say has steered Lebanon into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Police wielding batons and firing tear gas wounded and arrested dozens over the last few days, while protesters smashed bank facades and destroyed automated cash machines.
The sacking of banks and shopfronts by protesters is a new and disturbing development, and so is what appears to be the heavy-handed response by police; neither had been seen yet on this scale. On Saturday night, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun cranked up the pressure by calling in armed forces to patrol the streets to protect private property and “peaceful” protesters, apparently drawing a line between behavior that will be tolerated and behavior that will not.
Lebanon has been without a working government since Prime Minister Saad Hariri stepped down in October in response to demonstrator demands, yet, little has been done to kick-start new leadership.
The United Nations representative in Lebanon, Jan Kubis, described the past few days of unrest as “vandalism, violence and escalating security incidents, another day of protests notably of young people angry that their demands for decent future are summarily ignored, with growing number of desperate people unable to cope with the economic crisis.”
Those voicing opposition to the ruling elite say their patience is running thin. Despite nearly four months of peaceful demonstration demanding a new reform government, their wishes have not been met.
First, they want early elections and a whole new Parliament made up of educated professionals with no background in politics. The politicians who have ruled the country for the past 30 years, they say, are bloated with corruption and abuse of power. The young people of Lebanon who see little chance of a bright future under the current system want them all removed; the most common chant heard in the streets is, “All means all.”
Secondly, they want massive reforms to outlaw corruption and wipe away a sectarian political power-sharing system that they say fosters backroom deals in favor of transparency and public accountability.
Yet instead of real reform, they say the same politicians appear to be maneuvering behind the scenes to re-position themselves in a new government without losing any power or control.
The driving force behind all of this is a frantic sense that the nation’s economy is teetering so far to complete collapse that it could default at any time. The national currency is losing value, Lebanon’s credit rating is worse than junk, inflation is going up and people are losing jobs.
Lebanon is one of the world’s most indebted countries, with a national debt of $74.5 billion, which is 140% of GDP with a budget balance of -7.4% per year. The situation is getting desperate and there is a growing sense of impending doom.
For the past decade, Lebanon’s banks have sought to attract foreign currency — and U.S. dollars in particular — by offering unusually high interest rates for depositors at an average of 7% or more. In 2016, the last time the country faced a downturn in foreign currency injections, the central bank offered 20% interest on dollar sums deposited in local banks for as little as one year.
It was a sleight of hand financial policy promising big payouts, while in reality all of those invested dollars were secretly rerouted elsewhere — with the help of the central bank — and have now largely disappeared, leaving Lebanon’s shaky economy to completely unravel. A report released in November by Lebanese think tank Triangle called the country’s “decrepit and untenable” financial system “a regulated Ponzi scheme which has benefited the banking sector and left the rest of the Lebanese to foot the bill.”
Without any guidance from the nation’s leaders, the only hope the banks had of surviving was to institute their own strict currency controls by limiting depositor withdrawals to no more than $200 per week.
The big question now is, even if the government somehow delivered early elections and miraculously formed a cabinet made up entirely of professionals without sectarian or political pasts, would they even be able to save the country from economic catastrophe? At this point it doesn’t look likely.
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It’s the latest move in Trump’s crackdown on legal avenues for immigration.
January 20, 2020, 7:16 PM
4 min read
The Trump administration plans to move forward with a new rule aimed at stopping what it calls “birth tourism” — pregnant women traveling to the U.S. to have a “citizen child,” a State Department official confirmed to ABC News Monday.
“This change is intended to address the national security and law enforcement risks associated with birth tourism, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry,” the official said in a statement.
The changes to State Department policy for temporary tourist and business visas are expected to come shortly, the official said. Axios was first to report the administration was moving forward with the rule change.
Trump administration officials have publicly criticized birthright citizenship — a guarantee mandated by the 14th Amendment for anyone born in the country.
Ken Cuccinelli, Trump’s former head of Citizenship and Immigration Services and now the No. 2 at the Department of Homeland Security, said a constitutional amendment would not be required to make changes to birthright citizenship.
“I do not believe you need an amendment to the Constitution,” Cuccinelli told reporters in October. “I think the question is do you need congressional action or can the executive act on their own.”
In a case last year, federal prosecutors indicted 19 for schemes that charged clients thousands of dollars with the promise of getting them to the United States for the purposes of giving birth. The defendants were charged with defrauding their victims and laundering money following a Homeland Security investigation.
But ABC News contributor John Cohen, who served as a senior Homeland Security official under President Obama, said instances of such schemes are rare and should not be considered a high priority national security threat.
Officials have not provided a count of how many tourists travel to the U.S. to give birth, and it’s unclear how the administration plans to enforce the policy change. The State Department did not respond to additional questions about changes to the vetting process for visa applicants.
“They’re embellishing the national security implications dramatically,” Cohen said. “Portraying birth tourism as a top tier national security issue is dishonest.”
Former Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan has called the birthright citizenship a key “driver” of illegal immigration, suggesting it was behind the surge of asylum applicants who arrived at the southern border in 2019.
“They think it’s their golden ticket to come to the United States,” he told Fox News earlier this month.
“If the message we want to send to the rest of the world is: enter this country illegally, have a U.S. citizen child and you’re free to go, then we’re never going to solve the border crisis,” he added.
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Alex Jones traveled around Virginia’s capital in what appeared to be a battle tank and addressed the public through a bullhorn ahead of a gun rights rally.
Thousands of gun rights activists, as well as far-right groups like the Proud Boys, have descended on Richmond, Virginia, gathered for the rally early on Monday, HuffPost reported.
Radio host Jones also appeared to start his day well before the rally was due to begin. He was pictured in the city in a black vehicle bearing the logo for InfoWars, his right-wing conspiracy website.
Video footage live-streamed on Twitter’s Periscope platform on Monday morning showed Jones speaking through a bullhorn, criticizing the Democratic Party and chanting slogans including “America is back.”
“The Democratic Party are a bunch of degenerate, anti-American globalists who want to start a race war in this country and they’re gonna be defeated,” Jones says during the live-stream. “Americans are coming together like never before. America is alert. America is rising.”
He added: “We are here in Virginia at the capital in defiance of the globalist tyranny and their attempts to trigger a civil war.”
“State intelligence analysts have identified threats and violent rhetoric similar to what has been seen before other major events such as Charlottesville,” Northam said last Wednesday, warning that “armed militia groups plan to storm the Capitol.”
A day after Northam’s executive order, the FBI arrested three men in Maryland who authorities say are linked to a violent white supremacist group and were believed to be heading to the rally on Monday.
But Jones maintained that “no one is threatening violence” and accused Northam of trying to “engage in insurrection against the Bill of Rights and Constitution.” Northam’s office has been contacted for comment.
Jones also used his bullhorn to declare that President Donald Trump will be acquitted in his impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.
“The corrupt evil deep state Democrats will not get our First Amendment, they will not get our Second Amendment and they will not get out our president Donald Trump, who will be exonerated in the U.S. Senate as innocent,” Jones added.
The Associated Press reported that thousands of gun rights activists arrived in Richmond hours before the 11 a.m. rally, which happens to coincide with Martin Luther King Day, was set to begin.
They are set to protest plans by the state’s Democratic leadership to pass gun control legislation.
Three gun regulation bills were passed by the Virginia Senate last week, which will prohibit firearm possession in public spaces during certain events, limit monthly handgun purchases and require background checks for firearm transfers.
“Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia. That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away. Republicans will win Virginia in 2020. Thank you Dems!” Trump tweeted.
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