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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, arrested in London. US seek extradition

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The United States has requested the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 47, British police said, after they arrested him at the Ecuadorean embassy in London on Thursday.

The founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange was found guilty of skipping bail in the U.K. on Thursday, and faces likely extradition to the U.S., after a dramatic day that began with his arrest at the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he had been under diplomatic protections since 2012.

U.K. police confirmed on Thursday that he was arrested “on behalf of the United States authorities” as well as on U.K. charges of “failing to surrender without reasonable excuse.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said that he faces up to five years in prison on charges of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” related to the 2010 leak of hundreds of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables.

Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum on Thursday morning, inviting police officers with a warrant for his arrest into the Central London embassy. Assange first barged past officers shouting “this is unlawful, I’m not leaving,” according to prosecutors, before being handcuffed and bundled into a police van. Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno cited Assange’s bad behavior in the embassy as one reason for allowing U.K. police to arrest Assange.

At trial later that afternoon, a U.K. district judge found Assange guilty of skipping bail — a charge for which he had been wanted since 2012 — calling him “a narcissist who cannot see beyond his own selfish interest.”

Assange could be sentenced to up to a year in prison in the U.K. but may be extradited to the U.S. before serving time. “Papers for the extradition proceedings have to be circled within 65 days,” Assange’s barrister Liam Walker told TIME.

Assange, 47, received diplomatic asylum from Ecuador after breaching bail in the U.K. during an investigation into sexual assault allegations in Sweden. Sweden has since rescinded its arrest warrant for Assange, though the case is not closed.

The WikiLeaks founder shot to prominence in 2010 when his site published a cache of leaks from the U.S. military provided by former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, including videos showing U.S. troops allegedly killing civilians. Assange has argued that he could be arrested by the U.S. if he were arrested in the U.K. or extradited to Sweden.

U.S. prosecutors allege that that Assange helped Manning crack a password to access a government network on Department of Defense computers. Manning then downloaded classified records and sent them to Wikileaks.

“Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log on to the computers under a username that did not belong to her,” the U.S. attorney’s office said. “Such a deceptive measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to determine the source of the illegal disclosures.”

At one point, Manning told Assange, “after this upload, that’s all I really have got left,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“Curious eyes never run dry in my experience,” Assange responded, prosecutors said.

In a video posted to Twitter Thursday, the Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno criticized Assange’s “discourteous and aggressive” behavior in the embassy, saying it had “led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable.” Moreno took office as President in May 2017, replacing Rafael Correa, who had extended asylum to Assange.

“He particularly violated the norm of not interfering in the internal affairs of other states,” Moreno said. Assange had been accused by Ecuador of endangering its standing on the international stage by continuing to participate in releasing leaks on WikiLeaks from the embassy. “The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit,” Moreno said.

Ecuador said Thursday that officials had received a guarantee from the U.K. that Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face the death penalty, according to Reuters.

WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee in 2016 played a role in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Prosecutors said Russian hackers had passed those emails to WikiLeaks in order to disrupt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

In December 2018, the U.N. criticized what it called the U.K.’s “arbitrary deprivation of liberty” of Assange. “States that are based upon and promote the rule of law do not like to be confronted with their own violations of the law, that is understandable,” a U.N. panel of experts on arbitrary detention said.

“The only ground remaining for Mr. Assange’s continued deprivation of liberty is a bail violation in the UK, which is, objectively, a minor offense that cannot post facto justify the more than 6 years confinement that he has been subjected to since he sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador.”

After Assange’s arrest, Prime Minister Theresa May thanked the Metropolitan Police and said that Assange’s apprehension proved that in the U.K., “no one is above the law.”

Assange was appearing in court on Thursday.

Police were invited into the embassy on Thursday morning by the Ecuadorean ambassador, police said.

TIME

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World News

Trump launches re-election bid

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US President Donald Trump formally launched his 2020 re-election campaign on Tuesday in front of a large crowd in Orlando, Florida.

US President Donald Trump

“We are going to keep making America great again and then we will indeed keep America great,” Trump said as he attacked his opponents and the media.

“We are going to keep it better than ever before and that is why I stand before you tonight to officially launch my campaign for a second term as president of the United States,” Trump told the crowd at an arena in Orlando.

The announcement comes amid calls for impeachment, continuing congressional probes into his presidency and administration and deepening divisions over his hardline immigration policies. But Trump’s speech also comes as the economy continues to grow and the Republican president maintains deep support among his base.

Although Tuesday’s speech is being billed as the official beginning of Trump’s 2020 bid, the businessman-turned-politician filed the paperwork officially announcing his bid within hours of his inauguration on January 20, 2017. He has since held campaign-style rallies throughout the United States.

On Tuesday, Trump’s attacks against socialism and his doubling down on conservative stances on nationalism, abortion, family, the judiciary and guns were positively received by the loyalist crowd, who often erupted in “USA” and “Make America Great” chants throughout the event.
Two-and-a-half years into his tenure, Trump sees plenty of positive factors, led by a growing economy with low unemployment.

“If the economy stays strong, he is very likely to get re-elected,” said Trump confidant Newt Gingrich, a former Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives.

Trump touted the economy throughout Tuesday’s speech, saying “it’s soaring to incredible new heights”.

The US president also received a large round of applause when he brought his tax cuts, saying, “we’ve done so much … with the biggest tax cut in history.”

But according to an Associated Press fact check, Trump’s tax cuts are nowhere close to the biggest in US history.

It’s a $1.5 trillion tax cut over 10 years. As a share of the total economy, a tax cut of that size ranks 12th, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Former President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 cut is the biggest, followed by the 1945 rollback of taxes that financed World War II.

Despite the packed crowd at the Orlando arena on Tuesday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, coupled with a presidential style marked by name-calling and eye-popping tweets, has undermined some Americans’ confidence in Trump before the November 2020 election.

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Lifestyle

Vatican contemplating married men as priests

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The Vatican has formally opened debate on letting married men be ordained as priests in remote parts of the Amazon where priests are so few that Catholics can go weeks or months without attending a Mass.

Pope Francis

The call for study on the proposal was contained in the working document, released on Monday, for an October meeting of South American bishops on the Amazon.

The document, prepared by the Vatican based on input from the region, affirmed that celibacy is a gift for the Catholic Church.

But it suggested officials study “the possibility of priestly ordination for older men, preferably indigenous and respected and accepted by their communities, even if they have stable families, for the region’s most remote areas”.

The idea of ordaining so-called “viri probati” – married men of proven virtue – has been around for decades to cope with a priest shortage and decline in vocations overall.

But it has drawn fresh attention under Pope Francis, history’s first Latin American pope, thanks to his familiarity with the challenges facing the Amazon church.

The October 6-27 meeting on the sacramental and environmental needs of the Amazon will draw bishops from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

Brazil’s bishops have long pushed for the Church to consider ordaining viri probati to minister in remote parts of the Amazon where by some estimates there is one priest for every 10,000 Catholics.

The celibacy question has been a mainstay in Catholic debate given it is a discipline, not a doctrine, and therefore can change.

The Church has had the tradition since the 11th century, imposed in part to spare the Church the financial burdens of providing for large families and to ensure that any assets of the priest would pass to the Church, not his heirs.

Proponents of a relaxation of the rule say more men would consider a vocation to the priesthood if they could marry, a surefire fix to the decline in priests globally.

Opponents say relaxing the rule for the Amazon will certainly fuel calls for it to be relaxed elsewhere.

Already, married men can be ordained in the Eastern rite Catholic Church and married men who convert from Protestant churches can be Catholic priests.

In addition to ordaining married men, the document called for the synod to identify “the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women”.

It said women, who already play important roles in indigenous communities, must be guaranteed leadership roles.

But it stopped short of recommending debate on whether women could be ordained as deacons.

One of the organisers, Monsignor Fabio Fabene, said the female diaconate was essentially off the table since Francis has recently determined that the issue needs further discussion.

Overall, the synod bishops are expected to debate a host of measures to better minister to indigenous and migrant communities in the Amazon amid deforestation and exploitative industries and competition for souls from Pentecostal churches, which are more present in the region with indigenous, local leaders.

The Vatican’s working document acknowledged this competition, saying the Catholic Church must transition from being a church that merely visits vast regions to one that has a full-time presence with ministries, liturgies, sacraments and social services.

It called for a Church that has a more indigenous face, with local songs, dance, costumes and the Bible translated into various languages.

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Politics

Nigerian ambassador to UN elected as its 74th general assembly president

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Members of the United Nations General Assembly have chosen the Nigerian ambassador to the world body as its next president.

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande

They elected Tijjani Muhammad-Bande by acclamation Tuesday to preside over the 74th U.N. session for one year, starting in September.

He’s the second Nigerian president of the 193-member General Assembly. Joseph Nanven Garba was president during the 1989-1990 session.

Muhammad-Bande succeeds Maria Fernanda Espinosa of Ecuador.

He told General Assembly members that when they convene in September, priorities will include climate change, universal health coverage, gender equality and the eradication of poverty and hunger.

The 61-year-old diplomat was born in Zagga, in northwest Nigeria, and has a master’s degree in political science from Boston University and a Ph.D. in the same field from the University of Toronto.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has applauded the emergence of Prof. Tijjani Muhammad – Bande, as the President of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly.

The ministry’s Acting Spokesperson, Mr Friday Akpan, in a statement in Abuja said the election is a positive development and demonstrates the confidence in Nigeria’s ability to pilot the affairs of the revered global institution.

Muhammad-Bande, the sole candidate for the position, was elected through acclamation at the 87th plenary meeting of the Assembly in New York.

”Prof. Muhammad-Bande is the second Nigerian to occupy the position.

”Maj.- Gen. Joseph Garba (Rtd) was the President of the 44th session of the United Nations General Assembly between 1989 and 1990,” he said.

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World News

Trump turns his radar on Mexico

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President Donald Trump said he would impose a 5% tariff on Mexican goods until that country stops immigrants from entering the U.S. illegally – brandishing a weapon used against a widening group of countries and perhaps jeopardizing a new North American trade agreement.

TOPSHOT – US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before departing the White House for the G7 summit in Washington, DC, on June 8, 2018. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

The tariff would take effect June 10, “until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our country, STOP,” Trump said in a Twitter post-Thursday night.

He warned the levy “would gradually increase until the illegal immigration problem is remedied at which time the tariff will be removed.”

The tariffs could rise as high as 25% on Oct. 1, Trump said in a statement released by the White House.
The move, which has major implications for American automakers and other companies with production south of the border and the U.S. economy as a whole, represents Trump’s latest expansion of his trade wars.
It comes just days after he removed steel tariffs on Mexico that had caused retaliation against U.S. farm products.

Jesus Seade, Mexico’s undersecretary of foreign relations for North America, told reporters in Mexico City on Thursday at a previously scheduled event that the country won’t retaliate before discussing the matter with the U.S.

But the tariff threat, he added, “if turned into reality, would be extremely serious.”

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