Monthly Archives: November 2019

    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, June. 28, 2019. Osaka Japan (SPA)

    BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States is the world’s biggest source of instability and its politicians are going around the world baselessly smearing China, the Chinese government’s top diplomat said on Saturday in a stinging attack at a G20 meeting in Japan

    Relations between the world’s two largest economies have nose-dived amid a bitter trade war – which they are trying to resolve – and arguments over human rights, Hong Kong and U.S. support for Chinese-claimed Taiwan.

    Meeting Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok on the sidelines of a G20 foreign ministers meeting in the Japanese city of Nagoya, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi did not hold back in his criticism of the United States.

    “The United States is broadly engaged in unilateralism and protectionism, and is damaging multilateralism and the multilateral trading system. It has already become the world’s biggest destabilizing factor,” China’s Foreign Ministry cited Wang as saying.

    The United States has, for political purposes, used the machine of state to suppress legitimate Chinese businesses and has groundlessly laid charges against them, which is an act of bullying, he added.

    “Certain U.S. politicians have smeared China everywhere in the world, but have not produced any evidence.”

    The United States has also used its domestic law to “crudely interfere” in China’s internal affairs, trying to damage “one country, two systems” and Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, he added.

    China was incensed this week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills to back protesters in Hong Kong and send a warning to China about human rights, with President Donald Trump expected to sign them into law, despite delicate trade talks with Beijing.

    China runs Hong Kong under a “one country, two systems” model whereby the territory enjoys freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China like a free press, though many people in Hong Kong fear Beijing is eroding this. The government denies that.

    Wang said that China’s development and growth was an inevitable trend of history that no force could stop.

    “There is no way out for the zero-sum games of the United States. Only win-win cooperation between China and the United States is the right path.”

    Reporting by Cate Cadell; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ros Russell

     

       In our current topsy-turvy political environment, major groundbreaking news can be both explosive and completely unsurprising. Such is the case with CNN’s scoop that Rep. Devin Nunes was an integral part of the conspiracy to get Ukraine to smear Joe Biden

      A lawyer for an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani tells CNN that his client is willing to tell Congress about meetings the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee had in Vienna last year with a former Ukrainian prosecutor to discuss digging up dirt on Joe Biden.

      The attorney, Joseph A. Bondy, represents Lev Parnas, the recently indicted Soviet-born American who worked with Giuliani to push claims of Democratic corruption in Ukraine. Bondy said that Parnas was told directly by the former Ukrainian official that he met last year in Vienna with Rep. Devin Nunes.

      Let’s just back up a bit and recap where we are, based on everything we’ve learned from the witnesses at the impeachment inquiry and from reporting in the media. As a key tenet of its pro-democracy initiatives to strengthen Kyiv’s resilience against both corruption and Russian aggression, the Obama Administration (led by Joe Biden) pushed Ukraine to oust a prosecutor (Victor Shokin) for not pursuing corruption cases aggressively enough. Moscow, for its part, ran a massive interference campaign against the Clinton Campaign and the DNC in order to help Trump get elected, including electronic burglary and theft of documents exponentially dwarfing the scale of the Watergate crimes. Not content with their success there, they then muddied the waters: they sowed the conspiracy theory, which has now become popular within the Trump Administration, the Republican Party, and right-wing media, that the real culprits were the DNC itself and officials in Ukraine. The Trump Administration bought into this Russian propaganda effort so deeply–whether unwittingly or intentionally–that they made it a key aspect of their foreign policy.

      Concomitant with that, the Republican political apparatus also saw an opportunity to accuse Joe Biden, a possible opponent for President Trump in the 2020 election, of corruption related to his son Hunter’s position with a Ukrainian gas company. The end result of that obsession? An impeachment inquiry to ascertain whether President Trump illegally leveraged foreign aid to Ukraine as a bribe to secure Ukrainian interference in American politics.

      That’s what we knew so far. What we didn’t know is that Ranking Member Nunes—who was supposedly acting simply as Trump’s main defender in Congress during the inquiry—was allegedly an active participant in the scheme, and, while he was still Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, tried to work with the very same corrupt prosecutor opposed by the Obama Administration in order to secure a politically motivated attack on Joe Biden. In short, Nunes used his official position as the Chairman of a Congressional Committee on Intelligence to pressure a foreign government into peddling a false conspiracy theory backed by Russia to obfuscate its crimes against the American people, their government, and the norms of democracy itself.

      The entire Republican establishment, in both the Administration and in Congress, has swallowed this Kremlin propaganda hook, line, and sinker. Perhaps they actually believe it. Or perhaps they realize that Trump’s level of corruption and self-dealing is so spectacular that the only way to defend it is through cynical whataboutism: muddy the waters by announcing that a likely rival has also being investigated for corruption. It wouldn’t be the first time they’re run this playbook: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, then the House majority leader, said the quiet part out loud to Sean Hannity regarding the political nature of the Benghazi investigation into Secretary Clinton, and they likely see a similar investigation into Joe Biden as something that could have a similar effect and save Trump’s chances in 2020. And it works because the American press is all to willing to comply with the charade in the interest of seeming balanced and anti-partisan.

      If you’re the Democrats, what do you do now? The first and most obvious step is to insinst that Devin Nunes ought not to be Ranking Member of HPSCI, and should be subject to whatever ethics inquiries are appropriate for this situation. The second would be to put the brakes on the desire to wrap up the impeachment inquiry as soon as possible and figure out just how deep into the Republican establishment the Ukraine conspiracy narrative goes.

      It sounds like a paranoid fever dream, but it seems increasingly like the truth: the entire Republican Party has bought into propaganda produced by Russia in order to blame its crimes on a long-suffering nation-state with whom it is at war, and manufacture false dirt on a political opponent in order to keep themselves in power. This has been ongoing for years, and not just in the Oval Office but among some of the highest-ranking Republicans in Congress. The rot runs very deep, indeed.

      [Note: this post was co-written with Dante Atkins, a former Congressional staffer]

       

      Come join our team! The New York State Department of Civil Service has announced that the next exam for University Police Officer 1 will he held on February 1, 2020.

       

      Come Learn About the Job

      University Police Officers will be there to explain the application process as well as the pay and benefits that come with the position.

      There are two sessions planned:

      November 23, 2019 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

      December 7, 2019 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

       

      Both sessions will take place at the UB EOC at 465 Washington St, Buffalo, New York 14203.

      The entrance exam for University Police will be given by NYS Civil Service on February 1, 2020. The UB Educational Opportunity Center will be partnering with the University Police to host test preparation classes in January. In order to take advantage of these prep classes you must first sign up for the exam. EOC test specialists will be attending the information sessions in order to help candidates sign up for the exam.

      What We Do

      A University Police Officer at UB is responsible for the detection and prevention of crime, and the enforcement of state and local laws, rule and regulations in a diverse educational environment throughout the University at Buffalo’s three campuses.

      Officers are part of the educational process and teach on such topics as crime prevention, drug awareness, sexual assault and traffic safety. They develop and maintain a positive relationship with students, faculty and staff in order to ensure the safety and cooperation of the entire campus community.

      Qualifications

      In order to qualify for the civil service exam to become a University Police Officer, all candidates must possess a minimum of 60 college credits; this educational requirement is a higher standard than many municipal or county law enforcement agencies. Many officers in University Police possess Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degrees.

      Following the written test, candidates who scored high enough to be reachable must pass a standardized physical test that involves pushups, sit-ups, and a 1.5 mile run. Following the physical agility testing, candidates advancing must clear psychological and medical screening. In addition, substantial background testing/checking takes place, including fingerprinting.

      Requirements

      On or before February 1, 2020, you must have successfully completed 60 semester credit hours of college-level study.

      If you expect to meet the educational requirements by June 30, 2020, you can be admitted to the written test but you cannot be considered for appointment until you submit proof of successful completion of the educational requirements to the appointing State University of New York campus.

      SUBSTITUTION

      – Either –

      Two years of active military service with an honorable discharge may be substituted for 30 of the 60 college semester credit hours; indicate dates and branch of service in the experience portion of the application

      – Or –

      Successful completion of a New York State Municipal Police Training Council approved Pre-Employment Training Program and eligibility to complete the second phase of such training program that has not lapsed may be substituted for 30 of the 60 college semester credit hours; please indicate the school attended and the date of completion in the license/certification portion of the application.

      University Police Officer 1 (Various Language Proficiencies): Candidates who are proficient in a language other than English and are interested in using that skill as a University Police Officer 1 should apply for the “Various Language Proficiencies” option. Campuses currently have University Police Officer 1 (Spanish Language) positions and may establish additional language positions. The Various Language Proficiencies eligible lists will be used to fill all University Police Officer 1 language positions. You will inform the State University of New York campus of your specific language proficiencies upon receiving a canvass letter from the campus. Before you can be offered an appointment, you will be required to pass a performance test to demonstrate your language proficiency.

      Important: As the processing fee is non-refundable, verify that you entered the correct examination number and title on your online or paper application prior to submitting. If you apply online, you should immediately review your email confirmation notice to verify that you applied for the correct examination. If you do not receive a confirmation number after submitting your online application, your application was NOT received by the Department of Civil Service. No late applications will be accepted after the filing deadline has passed.

      1. University Police Officers are public officers under state law. At appointment you must be resident of New York State and at least 20 years old. You cannot have passed your 35th birthday on the date of the written test. However, time spent on military duty or on terminal leave, not exceeding a total of six years, shall be subtracted from your age if you have passed your 35th birthday.
      2. New York State Residency and United States Citizenship: Although not required for taking the test, you must be a citizen of the United States at the time of appointment. If appointed, you must maintain New York State residency pursuant to the Public Officers Law.
      3. As stated in Section 58 of the Civil Service Law, at the time of appointment, you must have a high school diploma, high school equivalency diploma issued by a recognized educational authority, or a USAFI GED high school level diploma.
      4. You must possess a valid license to operate a motor vehicle in New York State at the time of appointment and continuously thereafter.

      Physical/Medical Requirements: Your physical and medical condition will be evaluated to ensure that you are able to satisfactorily perform the duties of this position with or without reasonable accommodation. The physical/medical standards include but are not limited to: uncorrected distant acuity not less than 20/100 in each eye; corrected distant visual acuity better than or equal to 20/30 (Snellen) in each eye. Candidates must also have satisfactory color vision perception. Failure to meet the standards may result in your disqualification. A complete statement of the physical and medical standards is available at: http://www.cs.ny.gov/ehs/forms.cfm. A medical examination will be required prior to appointment, and you are responsible for payment of the clinical laboratory test fee. Appointees to this position may be required to undergo periodic medical examinations to reassess their ability to perform the essential duties of the position. Eligibles will be called to the physical/medical screening in score order as needed to fill existing and anticipated vacancies.

      Agility: A physical agility performance test consisting of a distance run, sit-ups, and push-ups must be successfully completed. Copies of the agility standards and details may be obtained by writing to the Office of University Police, State University of New York, State University Plaza, Albany, NY 12246. If you are not subsequently selected for appointment, a record of successful completion of the agility test will be maintained by Systems Administration of the State University of New York, and is valid for one year from the date taken.

      Drug Testing: Prior to appointment, you will be required to participate in a drug screening test and are responsible for the clinical lab fee. Failure to meet the standards may result in your disqualification.

      Psychological Evaluation: Prior to appointment, you will be required to participate in a psychological evaluation to determine your fitness to perform the essential duties of the position. Failure to meet the standards may result in your disqualification.

      Investigative Screening: Because of the nature of the position there is a background investigation, including, but not limited to: education, military, employment, credit, drug use and criminal records. Applicants must authorize access to these records. This investigation may include interviews of family, neighbors, associates and others. Derogatory information will be evaluated and may result in disqualification. A complete background check will be required, including a fingerprint check with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services and the FBI. You will be responsible for payment of the required fees. All convictions must be reported. Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor, or any falsified or omitted information, may bar appointment or result in removal after appointment, depending upon the relationship of the violation or omission to the duties of the position. You must be legally eligible to carry a firearm and must range qualify in firearms operation after appointment.

      Tattoo Policy: Eligibles must comply with State University of New York University Police Officer policy which requires all members to present a neat and professional appearance at all times. Tattoos, brands, body piercings and other body art shall not be visible while a member is in uniform or other business attire. The uniform includes a short sleeve shirt open at the front of the neck.

      Training: Within one year of initial appointment you must successfully complete a designated police basic training course in order to be certified as a police officer and retained in this position. The position is subject to a probationary period of between 52 and 78 weeks.

      Your final score must be 70 or higher in order to pass. Rank on the eligible list will be determined after adding any wartime veterans’ and Civil Service Law Section 85-a credits to your final passing score.

      Training

      Upon successful completion of the selection process, recruits begin training at a Basic School for Police Officers. Recruits will receive training in such areas as:

      • Criminal Procedure Law
      • Penal Law
      • Investigation Procedures
      • Report Writing
      • Vehicle and Traffic Law
      • Accident Investigation
      • Emergency Medical Services
      • Emergency Vehicle Operations
      • Communications
      • Firearms Training
      • Community Relations
      • Crime Prevention
      • Physical Fitness/Wellness
      • Defensive Tactics
      • Supervised Field Training
      • Police Functions

       

      Pay and Benefits

      • The current starting rate for a University Police Officer is $50,610.
      • University Police Officers are enrolled in the NYS Police and Fire retirement system.
      • Health insurance provided through the NYSHIP’s Empire Plan.
      • Officers accrue 20 paid vacation days their first year and accruals increase with each year of service.

      Apply Today!

      You can apply for the civil service exam today! Go to the New York State Civil Service web page at https://www.cs.ny.gov/examannouncements/announcements/oc/26-816.cfm to apply now. Applications must be recieved by Civil Service by 12/18/2019.

      See Us In Action

        “Todas aquellas situaciones que de alguna manera puedan traer preocupaciones en la ciudadanía, nosotros la vamos a ver con mucha rigurosidad”, expresó la primera ejecutiva

        La gobernadora Wanda Vázquez Garced le solicitó a los legisladores que escuchen al pueblo y que no violenten derechos adquiridos al momento de atender las controvertibles medidas del Código Civil y el Código Electoral.

        “Lo que le he pedido tanto a Cámara (de Representantes) como Senado es que, obviamente, escuchen al pueblo, que no se vulneren derechos adquiridos y todas aquellas situaciones que de alguna manera puedan traer preocupaciones en la ciudadanía, nosotros la vamos a ver con mucha rigurosidad”, expresó la primera ejecutiva durante una conferencia de prensa realizada tras inaugurar el Centro de Manejo de Tránsito, en el peaje de Caguas Norte.

        Aceptó, de paso, que no ha evaluado las controvertibles medidas que han ganado oposición de diversos sectores, principalmente de la minoría política y la comunidad Lgbttq+.

        “Nosotros vamos a esperar que la Asamblea Legislativa tome acción de estas piezas legislativas… Yo prefiero que ellos aprueben el proyecto y entonces lo examinamos. ¿De qué vale que yo me adelante a hacer un examen de la legislación y después cambie?”, manifestó.

        Se espera que, a este cierre de sesión, la Legislatura solo apruebe el Código Electoral. El Código Civil se aplazó en su aprobación ante las múltiples quejas que ha recibido, incluyendo el cantante boricua Ricky Martin.

        Por otro lado, la gobernadora informó que estaría nombrando al próximo secretario o secretaria del Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales previo al inicio de la nueva sesión legislativa, programada para enero.

        La exsecretaria de la agencia, Tania Vázquez, renunció a principios de mes tras revelarse que había en la agencia una investigación en curso de las autoridades federales por supuestas irregularidades en la otorgación de contratos.

         

         

          WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. diplomat said on Wednesday that “everyone was in the loop” about a Trump administration effort to get Ukraine to carry out investigations that might ultimately benefit U.S. President Donald Trump, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

          Testifying before the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said he “followed the president’s orders” to work with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who in turn was pushing Ukraine to carry out two probes that could aid Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

          Sondland’s appearance was significant in that it suggested that a wider array of top U.S. officials than previously known was aware of the pressure campaign against Ukraine, even though his comments prompted carefully worded denials.

          A wealthy hotelier and Trump political donor, Sondland gave sworn testimony on the fourth day of public hearings in the inquiry.

          The probe could lead the Democratic-led House of Representatives to approve formal charges against Trump – called articles of impeachment – that would be sent to the Republican-controlled Senate for a trial on whether to remove him from office. Few Republican senators have broken with Trump.

          While Democrats said the envoy’s testimony had strengthened their case to impeach Trump, the White House and the president himself said it had exonerated him.

          “I think it was fantastic. I think they have to end it now,” Trump told reporters of the impeachment inquiry.

          White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement: “Though much of today’s testimony by Ambassador Sondland was related to his presumptions and beliefs, rather than hard facts, he testified to the fact that President Trump never told him that a White House meeting or the aid to Ukraine was tied to receiving a public statement from (Ukrainian) President (Volodymyr) Zelenskiy,”

          ‘IT WAS NO SECRET’

          Sondland said he emailed officials including Pompeo, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Energy Secretary Rick Perry on July 19 that the new Ukrainian president was ready to assure Trump he would “run a fully transparent investigation” and “turn over every stone.”

          “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret,” Sondland said of the email he sent ahead of the July 25 telephone call between Trump and Zelenskiy that triggered the impeachment inquiry.

          The inquiry is focusing on Trump’s request in the call that Zelenskiy investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival; his son Hunter Biden, who had served on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma; and an unsubstantiated theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election that brought Trump to office.

          It is also examining whether Trump may have withheld $391 million in security aid to help Ukraine fight Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine as a way of pressuring Kiev to undertake the investigations.

          Federal law prohibits candidates from accepting foreign help in an election.

          Biden is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the November 2020 presidential election. Trump has accused Biden of corruption without offering evidence. Biden has denied any wrongdoing.

          BREAKING A LOGJAM?

          Democrats accuse Trump of abusing his power by using the security aid and an offer to Zelenskiy of a prestigious visit to the White House as leverage to pressure a vulnerable U.S. ally to dig up dirt on domestic political rivals.

          Sondland portrayed himself as a reluctant participant in the pressure on Ukraine and argued that he had kept his superiors at the State Department and White House abreast of his efforts.

          The envoy quoted from an Aug. 22 email to Pompeo about his effort to get Zelenskiy to commit to undertake investigations, suggesting that might be a way to break the “logjam” over security aid as well as a Zelenskiy-Trump meeting.

          Describing a group meeting he attended with Pence before the latter’s Sept. 1 meeting with Zelenskiy, Sondland said he had told Pence “that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations.”

          In his testimony, Sondland said Pence had listened to his comments and nodded but did not reply.

          Aides to Pompeo and Pence issued denials.

          “The vice president never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations,” Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said in a statement.

          “Gordon (Sondland) never told Secretary Pompeo that he believed the President was linking aid to investigations of political opponents. Any suggestion to the contrary is flat out false,” said State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.

          ‘PRESIDENT’S ORDERS’

          Sondland described Trump in May telling him along with Perry and then-U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker to work with Giuliani – the former New York mayor who held no U.S. government job – on Ukraine policy.

          “We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president’s orders,” Sondland said.

          The efforts by Giuliani to get Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens “were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit” for the Ukrainian leader, Sondland said, using a Latin term meaning to exchange a favor for another favor.

          Trump has said he did nothing wrong in the Ukraine matter and specifically denied any quid pro quo.

          Republicans defended Trump by pointing to a statement by Sondland that he was presuming the security aid for Ukraine was tied to investigations, but that no one had actually told him that.

          “This all is based on presumptions that turned out to be wrong,” Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, wrote on Twitter. “Why is this impeachment circus still going on?”

          Asked in Brussels about Sondland’s testimony that he was in the loop, Pompeo told reporters: “I didn’t see the testimony.”

          Sondland, tapped as Trump’s EU envoy after he donated $1 million to the president’s inauguration, said Trump told him on Sept. 9 there was no quid pro quo in the requests to Ukraine but that Zelenskiy should “do the right thing.”

          The envoy also said Trump never told him directly the aid to Ukraine was conditioned on Kiev announcing investigations.

          Sondland also said he eventually concluded that, absent any credible explanation for the aid suspension, the money would only flow when “there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma, as Mr. Giuliani had demanded.”

          At the end of Sondland’s roughly six hours of testimony, Democrat Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee leading the inquiry, said he thought Trump “was the one who decided whether a meeting would happen, whether aid would be lifted, not anyone who worked for him.”

          At the opening of a second hearing on Wednesday, where Undersecretary of State David Hale and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper testified, Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the panel, described the inquiry as “an impeachment in search of a crime.”

          Cooper testified that Ukrainian officials may have known that Washington was withholding military aid as early as July 25, undercutting a Republican defense of the president’s actions that they did not learn this until later.

          Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Andy Sullivan; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Susan Cornwell, Karen Freifeld, David Morgan, Andy Sullivan and Susan Heavey in Washington and Humeyra Pamuk in Brussels; Writing by Alistair Bell and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Will Dunham, Peter Cooney and Sonya Hepinstall

           

            FILE PHOTO: Oil pump jacks at sunset near Midland, Texas, U.S., August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jessica Lutz/File Photo

            SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices retreated on Thursday as a spat over Hong Kong added to worries of a delay in any U.S.-China trade deal, after posting steep gains in the previous session on bullish U.S. crude inventory data

            The trade war between the world’s two biggest economies has dominated the outlook for future oil demand, and trade experts have warned the completion of a “phase one” U.S.-China trade deal could slip into next year.

            Brent crude futures LCOc1 fell 25 cents, or 0.4%, to $62.15 a barrel by 0138 GMT. The international benchmark rose 2.5% on Wednesday.

            West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 dropped 20 cents, or 0.4%, to $56.81 per barrel. U.S. crude closed up 3.4% in the previous session.

            “The trade talks are driving prices. I think you can draw a straight line vector between the price of oil and sentiment around trade,” said Stephen Innes, market strategist at AxiTrader.

            “I view the (U.S.-China) deal as massive. A trade deal would allow held-back business investment decisions to move forward and possibly turn around the faltering momentum in Indian oil import demand, which could soak up a large portion of the supply glut.”

            Among the latest trade row hurdles, China condemned a U.S. Senate bill aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong, while U.S. President Donald Trump said he is inclined to raise tariffs on Chinese imports if a trade deal is not reached.

            A big drawdown of crude stocks at the U.S. delivery hub of Cushing, Oklahoma, however, propelled oil prices higher on Wednesday.

            Crude stocks at the Cushing fell by 2.3 million barrels, while U.S. crude inventories rose by 1.4 million barrels in the week to Nov. 15, compared with expectations for an increase of 1.5 million barrels, data from the Energy Information Administration showed.

            Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia and OPEC have ‘a common goal’ of keeping the oil market balanced and predictable, and Moscow will continue cooperation under the global supply curbs deal.

            The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meets on Dec. 5 in Vienna, followed by talks with a group of other exporters, including Russia, known as OPEC+.

            Reporting by Koustav Samanta; editing by Richard Pullin

             

              LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince Andrew stepped down from public duties on Wednesday, saying the controversy surrounding his “ill-judged” association with late U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein had caused major disruption to the royal family’s work

              Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son, denies an allegation that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl procured for him by his friend Epstein, who killed himself in a U.S. prison in August while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

              The scandal has escalated since Andrew did an interview with BBC TV, aired on Saturday. The interview has drawn widespread criticism in the media, where many have said his explanations were unsatisfactory, while lawyers for Epstein’s victims said the prince showed little sympathy for those abused.

              As the story dominated news headlines for a fourth day and a slew of businesses distanced themselves from organizations and charities associated with the prince, he said he would step down from public life for the time being and speak to police about Epstein.

              “It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family’s work,” he said in a statement issued by Buckingham Palace.

              “Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission,” said Andrew, 59, whose official title is the Duke of York.

              “Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.”

              Andrew’s conduct has overshadowed much of the political campaigning for Britain’s parliamentary election on Dec. 12.

              In a televised debate on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the monarchy was “beyond reproach” while opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the institution “needs a bit of improvement” and that there were questions to be answered.

              THE FAVORITE

              Andrew, widely reputed to be the favorite of the queen’s three sons, has been under scrutiny over his friendship with Epstein for several years.

              Now eighth-in-line to the throne, he quit as Britain’s roving trade ambassador in 2011 after being lambasted for his links to the financier following Epstein’s jailing in 2008 for child sex offences.

              Then in 2015, one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, said she was forced to have sex with Andrew in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island between 1999 and 2002, when she says Epstein kept her as a “sex slave”.

              In his BBC interview, Andrew categorically denied the sex claims and gave a series of explanations as to why her account was not true.

              He said her account of meeting him sweating and dancing almost two decades ago at a London nightclub before having sex with him could not be true, noting that he suffered from a medical condition that stopped him perspiring.

              He also said that on the night he was alleged to have met her he was at home with his family after visiting a Pizza Express restaurant in the commuter town of Woking with his daughter Beatrice.

              The explanations provoked derision and ridicule in newspapers and social media.

              He also told the BBC he had met Epstein in 1999 but his private secretary had written to the Times newspaper in 2011 saying they were introduced in the early 1990s.

              Rather than drawing a line under the accusations, the interview has led to more questions and businesses pulling out of supporting his charities and Pitch@Palace scheme to help young tech entrepreneurs.

              BT, one of Britain’s oldest companies and its largest broadband provider, told a scheme that helps develop digital skills to drop Andrew as its patron if it wanted to maintain BT’s support.

              “I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein,” Andrew said in his latest statement. “His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathize with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.”

              FROM HELICOPTER PILOT TO “AIRMILES ANDY”

              As a young man, Andrew was one of the most popular royals, acclaimed by the British press for his active service as a helicopter pilot during the 1982 Falklands War and earning the nickname “”Randy Andy” for his courting of glamorous girlfriends.

              He turned heads when he dated U.S. actress Koo Stark, who had appeared in a soft-porn film.

              But, the once second-in-line to the throne dropped in the public’s affection and as he slipped down the line of succession, he was dubbed “Airmiles Andy” over accusations of a lavish jetset playboy lifestyle, funded by the taxpayer.

              His 1986 marriage to flame-haired Sarah Ferguson, which was hailed as a breath of fresh air to the monarchy, ended in divorce a decade later but she remains one of his strongest supporters.

              “Andrew is a true+real gentleman and is stoically steadfast to not only his duty but also his kindness + goodness,” she wrote on Twitter on Friday.

              Royal commentators say Andrew has always been fiercely protective of his royal status, insisting that his daughters Eugenie and Beatrice were princesses, a contrast to the children of his elder sister Anne who have no title.

              Eugenie’s wedding last October took place at Windsor Castle, drawing media criticism over the estimated 2 million pound ($2.6 million) security bill borne by taxpayers.

              Queen Elizabeth, who was celebrating her 72nd wedding anniversary with husband Prince Philip on Wednesday, appeared at a reception to present the naturalist David Attenborough with an award but made no comment about Andrew.

              Dickie Arbiter, the monarch’s former press secretary, said Andrew’s decision was inevitable.

              “He really had no choice, he’d gone into that interview on the belief probably it was crisis management, but he created more of a crisis than managing it,” Arbiter told Sky News.

              “I’m sorry to say he’s arrogant enough to believe his own myth that he could get away with it, and he didn’t get away with it. I think the queen is very frustrated. At 93, she doesn’t need this.”

              Editing by Guy Faulconbridge, Philippa Fletcher and Rosalba O’Brien

               

                SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (AP) — A boy described as bright, quiet and “normal” pulled a gun from his backpack on his 16th birthday and opened fire at his high school before saving the last bullet for himself, authorities said.

                The shooting that killed two teenagers and wounded three others Thursday at Saugus High School in a Los Angeles suburb took just 16 seconds and left the attacker hospitalized in critical condition with a head wound, authorities said.

                Investigators searched the boy’s home as they sought a motive for the attack, which seemed to target students at random, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Captain Kent Wegener said

                Someone posted a message under a pseudonym on an Instagram account that was reported as possibly belonging to the boy, authorities said. The message said: “Saugus, have fun at school tomorrow.”

                “However, the account has yet to be authenticated,” a Sheriff’s Department statement said.

                It wasn’t clear when the message was posted or by whom, Wegener said. It was deleted after the shootings, either by a hacker or someone who had access to the account, he added.

                Authorities said the teenager apparently acted alone. There was no indication that he was affiliated with a group or ideology, said Paul Delacourt, the agent in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.

                Gunfire erupted at about 7:30 a.m. as students were “milling around” and greeting each other in an outdoor quad area, Wegener said. Surveillance video showed the shooter standing still while “everyone is active around him.”

                “He just fires from where he is. He doesn’t chase anybody. He doesn’t move,” Wegener said.

                The suspect appeared to fire at whoever was in front of him. He had no known connection to those he shot, Wegener said.

                Video showed the last thing the assailant did was shoot himself with the final bullet in the .45-caliber handgun, Wegener said. The weapon was empty when it was recovered.

                A 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy died.

                Two girls, ages 14 and 15, were each in good condition after being treated for gunshot wounds at a hospital.

                A 14-year-old boy was treated and released from another hospital, authorities said.

                Shauna Orandi, 16, was in her Spanish class when she heard four gunshots and a student burst into the room saying he’d seen the shooter.

                “My worst nightmare actually came true,” she said. “This is it. I’m gonna die.”

                She was later escorted from the school and reunited with her father in a nearby park.

                At a Thursday evening vigil, Lea Reas said her nephew, a 14-year-old freshman, saw his friend shot to death before he ran from the gunfire and was pulled into a room by a teacher.

                “At first he thought it was a graze” but later was told his friend had died, she said.

                “He lost it,” she said.

                Reas also said her 15-year-old cousin was walking onto the campus when she heard the gunshots that she said sounded “like a balloon” popping and saw the gunman.

                She and her friends ran to a house across the street for safety, Reas said.

                “It’s something no kid should deal with,” she said.

                A sheriff’s detective and two off-duty police officers from Los Angeles and Inglewood who had dropped off children at the school ran to the shooting within moments and provided first aid, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.

                Police have not publicly identified the suspect because he’s a minor. The Associated Press determined his identity based on property records for his home and interviews with three of his friends.

                The boy lived with his mother in a modest home on a leafy street in Santa Clarita, a Los Angeles suburb of about 210,000 people known for good schools, safe streets and relatively affordable housing.

                He was a smart, quiet boy who played chess and had been active in a local Boy Scout troop, acquaintances said.

                He seemed like “one of those normal kids,” according to a student in his physics class.

                One girl who knew him for years said he wasn’t bullied and had a girlfriend.

                The teen’s father died two years ago. An online obituary said he loved big-game hunting. In 2015, the father had been arrested amid a domestic dispute with the boy’s mother but no charges were filed.

                The Sheriff’s Department hadn’t been called to the home recently and there was no indication of “turmoil” there, Wegener said.

                Saugus High has no metal detectors but it has a dozen security cameras and a fence with a limited number of gates.

                Security is provided by one unarmed sheriff’s deputy and nine “campus supervisors” who act as guards, said Collyn Nielson, chief administrative officer for the William S. Hart Union High School District, which cancelled classes for Friday.

                All district schools hold lockdown drills three times a year, including two in the fall that have already occurred, Nielson said.

                “In speaking with staff and hearing reports, students reported they knew what to do and immediately went into lockdown mode,” he said.

                 

                 

                BUFFALO, N.Y. — Reports from Rome that Bishop Malone could be resigning in the next few days were greeted Thursday with relief from an advocate for sexual abuse victims — even if Bishop Malone is now denying the report.

                “The people of Buffalo, especially the survivors of sexual abuse, should be rejoicing today and hoping and praying that what we’re hearing out of Rome is true,” Robert Hoatson of the Road to Recovery survivors group said at a news conference. “[We hope] that Bishop Richard Malone may never, ever return to Buffalo, New York, except to move his belongings somewhere else.”

                Wednesday’s report, from Rome correspondent Christopher Lamb of The Tablet newspaper, said Malone’s resignation was “imminent” due in large part to a recently completed Vatican investigation that he said paints a damaging portrait of Malone’s management of the diocese.

                “You know, when the chief shepherd of the diocese is not leading the flock or is actually causing damage, then there is a problem,” Lamb said. “And I think the Vatican is seeing that.”

                But that report was refuted Thursday when Christopher Altieri, Rome bureau chief for the Catholic Herald, tracked down the bishop on the streets in Rome.

                “When I looked up, there were Bishop Malone and Bishop Grosz,” Altieri said in a phone interview. “So I walked over to them and greeted them and asked Bishop Malone if there’s any truth to the rumor that he had submitted his resignation. He told me that was absolutely false. And then said, ‘Thank you very much, that’s the end of our conversation,’ and went on his way.”

                Lamb said he suspected Malone was being encouraged to resign, since he had been “quite belligerent” in the past about remaining as Buffalo bishop. Pope Francis, of course, would have to accept Malone’s resignation, or could simply remove the bishop if he refuses to resign.

                Hoatson doubted the pope would refuse the bishop’s resignation should he offer it, for fear of the pope himself being seen as “complicit” in the Buffalo controversy.

                “No, he can’t do that,” Hoatson said. “He’s got to make a change.”

                Hoatson said the removal or resignation of the bishop while he and other New York State bishops meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican would send a signal to abuse survivors that their voices are finally being heard.

                With resignation, “the healing of the victims is assisted,” Hoatson said. “And people in the pews now can say, ‘Well at least we have a man who will tell us the truth.’ This man has done just the opposite, time after time after time.”

                Diocesan spokeswoman Kathy Spangler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

                Procedure aside, the attention of the American church is now focused on the actions of bishops like Malone.

                “At some point, there has to be a reckoning, and the church’s house will be clean,” Altieri said. “But the question is whether it will be churchmen or Caesar who do the cleaning.”

                Hoatson agreed.

                “This is the next layer of outing, of exposition that we’re going to see in our church,” Hoatson said. “And that’s the hierarchy. We’re finally getting to the heart of the matter. When you bury the truth…The truth will eventually come out. And it has… and here we are.”

                  A ritmo de salsa, bolero, baladas y rock da inicio la ceremonia de entrega, animada por Ricky Martin.

                  Cinco artistas puertorriqueños acumularon cinco premios Latin Grammy, al anunciarse antes del inicio de la gala y transmisión del espectáculo que Pedro Capó y Farruko comparten el gramófono por la categoría Mejor fusión/interpretación urbana.

                  Del mismo modo, Kany García ganó el de Álbum de cantautor por su producción “Contra la corriente”. Kany se llevó un segundo premio en la categoría de Mejor vídeo en formato corto por el vídeo de “Banana papaya” junto a René Pérez. Por su parte, “Monte sagrado”, de Draco, fue seleccionado como el major álbum de rock.

                  Luego, en plena transmisión, Pedro Capó pudo celebrar de lo lindo cuando “Calma” fue reconocida como la Canción del año, uno de los tres premios más importantes de la noche (junto al de Grabación y Álbum del año). Capó, quien celebraba su cumpleaños 39 justamente ayer, agradeció y dedicó el premio a los colegas con los que competía, así como a sus hijos y a Puerto Rico.

                  La gala de esta noche abrió con una presentación que honró a leyendas latinas de la música ya fallecidas en distintos géneros. Al ritmo de “La vida es un carnaval”, de Celia Cruz, Olga Tañón y Milly Quezada abrieron el espectáculo antes de que poco después se les uniera la brasileña Anitta. A estas les siguió un tributo a Juan Gabriel a cargo de Carlos Rivera, Camila y Leonel García con “Querida”. A Joan Sebastian le rindieron honores Calibre 50, Prince Royce y Natalia Jiménez con la interpretación de “Secretos de amor”. Finalmente, el rock se hizo sentir con la guitarra de Draco, quien junto a Beto Cuevas y Fito Páez cantó “Música ligera”, de Gustavo Ceratti.

                  El trío preparó el camino para la entrada de Ricky Martin, quien concluyó la interpretación de la canción y dio inicio formal a la ceremonia de entrega. El boricua agradeció la oportunidad de estar nuevamente sobre el escenario de estos premios, que pisó precisamente hace 20 años, tiempo de existencia que celebran. Ricky presentó a sus compañeras en la animación de la gala, Roselyn Sánchez y Paz Vega.

                  “Esta entrega llega con muchas expectativas precisamente producto de la celebración de 20 años”, dijo Gabriel Abaroa Jr., presidente de la Academia Latina de la Grabación, en un correo electrónico a The Associated Press. “El programa dará plataforma a música representativa del año inmediato anterior, además de recordar veinte años de experiencias musicales, todo alrededor de la palabra legado”.

                  En este sentido destacó la actuación prevista de los Vicente Fernández, Alejandro Fernandez y Alex Fernández, tres generaciones de una misma familia de intérpretes mexicanos que compartirán por primera vez un mismo escenario.

                  También por primera vez Ricky Martin condujo la ceremonia de los Latin Grammy, acompañado por las actrices Roselyn Sánchez y Paz Vega. El superastro puertorriqueño presentó además su más reciente sencillo, “Cántalo”, creado con Residente y Bad Bunny a partir de sonidos de los archivos de la Fania.

                  Juanes, la Persona del Año del 2019, interpretó un popurrí de sus éxitos tras haber sido homenajeado por sus pares en la víspera en un concierto benéfico. También actuarán Alejandro Sanz, Luis Fonsi, Rosalía Farruko, Ozuna, Alicia Keys y Miguel, entre otros.

                  Sanz encabezó la lista de nominados con ocho menciones, entre ellas dos a canción del año y dos a grabación del año, por “Mi persona favorita” con Camila Cabello y “No tengo nada”. Su compatriota Rosalía le sigue con cinco. Ambos compiten por el premio al álbum del año junto con Fonsi, Succar, Rubén Blades, Sebastián Yatra, Paula Arenas, Andrés Calamaro, Fonseca y Ximena Sariñana.

                  El codiciado honor al mejor nuevo artista se lo llevó la cantante venezolana Nella.

                  Ninguno de los superastros del reggaetón y el trap, como J Balvin, Bad Bunny, Ozuna, Daddy Yankee, Maluma o Nicky Jam, fueron nominados en las categorías principales.

                  La academia fue criticada por desairar a estos artistas, que dominan las listas de popularidad, han llenado estadios como el Madison Square Garden y suman millones de vistas en YouTube, en especial al incluir 10 nominados en los cuatro rubros principales (grabación del año, canción del año, álbum del año y mejor nuevo artista).

                  Cuando las nominaciones se anunciaron en septiembre, Balvin publicó una foto del logotipo del Grammy tachado con una gran “X” roja en Instagram y la leyenda “Sin reggaetón no hay Latin Grammy”. Sin embargo, el cantante colombiano sí recibió dos nominaciones, ambas a mejor canción urbana, por “Con altura” con Rosalía, y “Caliente” con De La Ghetto. Su nuevo álbum con Bad Bunny, “Oasis”, no era elegible este año.

                  Para esta edición se tomaron en cuenta canciones y discos lanzados entre el 1 de junio del 2018 y el 31 de mayo del 2019.

                  La mayoría de los premios _ 39 de 50 _ se entregaron en la llamada Premiere, una ceremonia no televisada que puede seguirse en la página de Facebook de los Latin Grammy.

                  La gala central de los Latin Grammy se transmitió en vivo por Univision desde el MGM Grand Garden Arena de Las Vegas.

                  Lista de ganadores:

                  —Grabación del año: “Mi persona favorita”, Alejandro Sanz con Camila Cabello.

                  —Álbum del año: “El mal querer”, Rosalía.

                  —Canción del año: “Calma”, Pedro Capó.

                  —Mejor nuevo artista: Nella.

                  POP

                  —Mejor álbum vocal pop contemporáneo: “El mal querer”, Rosalía.

                  —Mejor álbum vocal pop tradicional: “Agustín”, Fonseca.

                  —Mejor canción pop: “Mi persona favorita”, Camila Cabello y Alejandro Sanz.

                  URBANA

                  —Mejor fusión/interpretación urbana: “Calma (remix)”, Pedro Capó y Farruko.

                  —Mejor álbum de música urbana: “X 100Pre”, Bad Bunny.

                  —Mejor canción urbana: “Con altura”, Rosalía y J Balvin con El Guincho.

                  ROCK

                  —Mejor álbum de rock: “Monte Sagrado”, Draco Rosa.

                  —Mejor álbum pop/rock: “Cargar la suerte”, Andrés Calamaro.

                  —Mejor canción de rock: “Verdades afiladas”, Andrés Calamaro y German Wiedemer, compositores.

                  ALTERNATIVA

                  —Mejor álbum de música alternativa: “Norma”, Mon Laferte.

                  —Mejor canción alternativa: “Tócamela”, Los Amigos Invisibles.

                  TROPICAL

                  —Mejor álbum de salsa: “Más de mí”, Tony Succar.

                  —Mejor álbum de cumbia/vallenato: “Yo me llamo cumbia”, Puerto Candelaria & Juancho Valencia.

                  —Mejor álbum tropical tradicional: “Andrés Cepeda Big Band (en vivo)”, Andrés Cepeda.

                  —Mejor álbum contemporáneo/fusión tropical: “Literal”, Juan Luis Guerra 4.40

                  —Mejor canción tropical: “Kitipun”, Juan Luis Guerra.

                  CANTAUTOR

                  —Mejor álbum cantautor: “Contra el viento”, Kany García.

                  REGIONAL MEXICANA

                  —Mejor álbum de música ranchera/mariachi: “Ahora”, Christian Nodal.

                  —Mejor álbum de música banda: “A través del vaso”, Banda Los Sebastianes.

                  —Mejor álbum de música tejana: “Colores”, Elida Reyna y Avante.

                  —Mejor álbum de música norteña: “Percepción”, Intocable.

                  —Mejor canción regional mexicana: “No te contaron mal”, Christian Nodal.

                  INSTRUMENTAL

                  —Mejor álbum instrumental: “Balance”, Gustavo Casenave.

                  TRADICIONAL

                  —Mejor álbum folklórico: “Tiempo al tiempo”, Luis Enrique + C4 Trio

                  —Mejor álbum de tango: “Revolucionario”, Quinteto Astor Piazzolla.

                  JAZZ

                  —Mejor álbum de jazz latino/jazz: “Jazz Batá 2”, Chucho Valdés.

                  CRISTIANA

                  —Mejor álbum cristiano (en español): “Todo pasa”, Juan Delgado.

                  —Mejor álbum cristiano (en portugués): “Guarda Meu Coração”, Delino Marçal.

                  LENGUA PORTUGUESA

                  —Mejor álbum pop contemporáneo en lengua portuguesa: “O Tempo É Agora”, Anavitoria.

                  —Mejor álbum de rock o música alternativa en lengua portuguesa: “O Futuro Não Demora”, BaianaSystem.

                  —Mejor álbum de samba/pagode: “Mart’nália Canta Vinicius De Moraes”, Mart’nália.

                  —Mejor álbum de música popular brasileña: “Ok Ok Ok”, Gilberto Gil.

                  —Mejor álbum de música sertaneja: “Em Todos Os Cantos”, Marilia Mendonça.

                  —Mejor álbum de música de raíces en lengua portuguesa: “Hermeto Pascoal E Sua Visão Original Do Forró”, Hermeto Pascoal.

                  —Canción en lengua portuguesa: “Desconstrução”, Tiago Iorc.

                  NIÑOS

                  —Mejor álbum de música latina para niños: “Buenos Diaz”, The Lucky Band

                  CLÁSICA

                  —Mejor álbum de música clásica: “Regreso”, Samuel Torres & La Nueva Filarmonía; Ricardo Jaramillo, director; Danilo Álvarez, Ricardo Jaramillo y Samuel Torres, productores.

                  ARREGLO

                  —Mejor arreglo: “Sirena”, Rodner Padilla, arreglista (Luis Enrique + C4 Trio)

                  DISEÑO DE EMPAQUE

                  —Mejor diseño de empaque: “El mal querer”, Man Mourentan & Tamara Pérez, directores de arte (Rosalía)

                  PRODUCCIÓN

                  —Mejor ingeniería de grabación para un álbum: “El mal querer”, El Guincho & Brian Hernández, ingenieros; Jaycen Joshua, mezclador; Chris Athens, ingeniero de mastering (Rosalía).

                  —Productor del año: Tony Succar.

                  VIDEO

                  —Mejor video musical versión corta: “Banana Papaya”, Kany García y Residente.

                  —Mejor video musical versión larga: “Lo que fui es lo que soy”, Alejandro Sanz.

                   

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