December 24, 2019

Durham Surprises Even Allies With Statement on FBIs Trump Case
WASHINGTON -- Whether investigating charges of torture by the CIA, rolling up an organized crime network or prosecuting crooked government officials, John H. Durham, the veteran federal prosecutor named by Attorney General William Barr to investigate the origins of the Russia inquiry, burnished his reputation for impartiality over the years by keeping his mouth closed about his work.At the height of the Boston mob prosecution that made his name, he not only rebuffed a local newspaper's interview request, but he also told his office not to release his resume or photo.That wall of silence cracked this month when Durham, serving in the most politically charged role of his career, released an extraordinary statement questioning one key element of an overlapping investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz.Horowitz had found that the FBI acted appropriately in opening the inquiry in 2016 into whether the Trump campaign wittingly or unwittingly helped Russia influence the election in Donald Trump's favor. In response, Durham, whose report is not expected to be complete for months, released a caveat-laden rebuttal: "Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report's conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened."The statement seemed to support comments made half an hour earlier by Barr, who assailed what he called "an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign," based "on the thinnest of suspicions." Durham's decision to go public in such a politically polarized environment surprised people who have worked with him. They found it out of character for him to intervene in such a high-profile way in an open case."It's fair to characterize what John did as unusual in terms of his past practice and I don't know what the rationale was," said Kevin J. O'Connor, a former U.S. attorney for Connecticut who supervised Durham for several years in the early 2000s. "But I know John well enough to know that he did it because he -- not the AG or anyone else -- thought he had an obligation to."Others have been less willing to give Durham the benefit of the doubt, and it is clear he has placed his reputation for impartiality on the line by accepting this latest assignment.Durham's decision to speak out seemed to supply political fuel to Trump, who has repeatedly blasted the Russia inquiry as a "hoax" and a "witch hunt." At a campaign rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the day after Barr and Durham issued their statements, Trump called FBI agents involved in the Russia inquiry "scum.""I look forward to Bull Durham's report -- that's the one I look forward to," added Trump, who appointed Durham as the U.S. attorney for Connecticut in 2017.The inspector general's report makes no substantive reference to Durham's investigation. But before the report's release, Durham got into a sharp dispute with Horowitz's team over a footnote in a draft of the report that seemed to imply that Durham agreed with all of Horowitz's conclusions, which he did not, according to people familiar with the matter. The footnote did not appear in the final version of the report.A former Justice Department investigator who knows both Barr and Durham, a Republican, said that while the men were aware of each other's professional reputations, they are in no way close. Barr, who was unfamiliar with Durham's recent work, made quiet inquiries before appointing him to lead the investigation, this person said.The potential explosiveness of Durham's mission was further underscored by the disclosure that he was examining the role of John O. Brennan, the former CIA director, in how the intelligence community assessed Russia's 2016 election interference.Durham is known in New England's close-knit law enforcement community for working long days on his cases, and providing sought-after guidance on others'.Wearing gunmetal-frame glasses and a drooping goatee, he rises early and dresses in the dark, often mismatching his suit jackets and pants. His reputation for discretion, on top of a long record of successful high-profile prosecutions, are among the reasons he has been a go-to person when Washington -- under Republicans and Democrats alike -- needs someone to handle sensitive tasks.O'Connor, who was associate attorney general in 2008, was among those who recommended Durham lead an inquiry into the CIA's destruction in 2005 of videotapes depicting the torture of two operatives of al-Qaida.That investigation, started under an administration that had supported the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, continued into the Obama administration, which brought a very different agenda to the issue. After President Barack Obama took office, Durham's brief was expanded to include a criminal investigation into the CIA's role in the deaths of two detainees overseas, based on allegations of mistreatment by their interrogators.Durham completed the torture investigation in 2012. The Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric Holder, declined to prosecute anyone, saying that "the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt."John A. Rizzo, the CIA's former acting general counsel, was questioned for more than eight hours in the investigation.Durham "didn't personally question me, but he did the agency people who had contemporaneous knowledge of the plan to destroy the tapes, and he was very tough with them," Rizzo, who retired from the CIA in 2009, said in an interview.Despite the political uproar at the time, "there were no leaks and he certainly didn't issue any public statements," Rizzo recalled. "I just don't see him bending to political pressure, so I was surprised he made a statement here."Those who know him portray Durham as the consummate straight arrow who is unlikely to have bowed to pressure from Barr or anyone else in his current assignment. Durham declined to be interviewed for this article."He believes in four things: his family, his profession, his religion and the Boston Red Sox," said Hugh F. Keefe, a Connecticut defense lawyer who says Durham is so by the book, he once asked Keefe whether he had reported a free Red Sox ticket to the IRS. "If anyone thinks they can lead him like a horse to water, they're mistaken."Last year, Durham, a staunch Catholic, delivered rare public remarks at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut.The topic was his prosecution of John Connolly Jr., an FBI agent jailed for racketeering, obstruction of justice and murder stemming from his collaboration with Boston's notorious Winter Hill gang, led by James (Whitey) Bulger, an FBI informant.In a preface to his presentation, Durham said, "It is as important for the system for prosecutors to protect the secrecy of proceedings, not because we want them to be secret, but because we're not always right." He added: "Maybe accusations that are lodged against somebody are untrue. And again, we can destroy the person or persons if that information gets out."Durham was born in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, and received his law degree at the University of Connecticut in 1975. After a stint providing free legal advice to the Crow Indian tribe as part of what is now AmeriCorps, he worked as an assistant state's attorney in Connecticut until 1982, when he began a 35-year career as an assistant U.S. attorney, serving in a range of roles leading organized crime and public corruption prosecutions.He won 119 convictions from 1983 to 1989, including against associates of the Genovese, Gambino and Patriarca crime families, and provided evidence instrumental in convicting the Gambino boss John Gotti in New York.In 1989, fishermen found the body of William (The Wild Guy) Grasso, the Patriarca state boss from New Haven, Connecticut, dead of a gunshot wound in weeds near the Connecticut River.Durham, who colleagues said "could hear grass grow" on surveillance recordings, led a prosecution that linked mobsters in Connecticut and Rhode Island, even unveiling the first recorded mob-induction ceremony. Durham secured a raft of racketeering convictions against men linked to Grasso's murder, gutting the Providence, Rhode Island, based Patriarca mob. His doggedness, even after a note with his home address on it was found in a mobster-occupied Hartford, Connecticut, jail cell, earned him the nickname "Bull."In 1999, Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Durham to lead an investigation into corrupt links, rumored for years, between FBI agents and their criminal informants in Boston. Prosecutions of Bulger and his accomplice Stephen (the Rifleman) Flemmi uncovered a relationship with FBI agents, a retired Massachusetts state trooper and others, in which the mobsters exchanged cases of wine, a stolen two-carat diamond ring, and money for "the keys to the kingdom of all organized crime information in Boston," Durham told the college audience last year.In late 2000, he uncovered government memos indicating that FBI officials were involved in framing four men for the 1965 murder of a mobster, to protect a hit man who was one of the bureau's informants, a scheme likely known to the bureau's director at the time, J. Edgar Hoover. Durham alerted defense lawyers. Two of the four men had died in prison, but the surviving two were released, and the government paid a $100 million civil judgment in the case.Durham and his team worked amid speculation that the Justice Department would pull the plug on what was becoming a deeply embarrassing prosecution. In 2000, a colleague told The Boston Herald that Durham would rather "pull an Archibald Cox" and resign than submit to pressure.In a Washington Post op-ed this month, Holder cautioned Durham, whom he said he has been proud to know for at least a decade, about joining Barr in disputing the inspector general's findings. "Anyone in Durham's shoes would do well to remember that, in dealing with this administration, many reputations have been irrevocably lost," he wrote.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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