January 04, 2020

White House Refuses to Release 20 Emails About Ukraine Aid Freeze
WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration disclosed on Friday that there were 20 emails between a top aide to President Donald Trump's acting chief of staff and a colleague at the White House's Office of Management and Budget discussing the freeze of a congressionally mandated military aid package for Ukraine.But in response to a court order that it swiftly process those pages in response to a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, lawsuit filed by The New York Times, the Office of Management and Budget delivered a terse letter saying it would not turn over any of the 40 pages of emails -- not even with redactions."All 20 documents are being withheld in full," wrote Dionne Hardy, the office's Freedom of Information Act officer.The Times' information act request sought email messages between Robert Blair, a top aide to Trump's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and Michael Duffey, an official in the White House's Office of Management and Budget who was in charge of handling the process for releasing $391 million in weapons and security assistance Congress had appropriated to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression.In her letter, Hardy cited exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act for correspondence involving the president's staff and internal policy deliberations, suggesting that the disclosure of this material would "inhibit the frank and candid exchange of views that is necessary for effective government decision-making."David McCraw, a lawyer for The Times, said the newspaper would challenge the blanket withholding of the documents and would ask the judge overseeing the lawsuit, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, to approve an expedited schedule for briefs and arguments given the urgent public interest in learning more about the dispute.The heart of the accusation against Trump is that he abused his official powers, including withholding a promised White House meeting and congressionally mandated military aid, in an attempt to coerce Ukraine's president into announcing investigations that could deliver personal political benefits to Trump.In October, the Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee had also subpoenaed the Office of Management and Budget for all Ukraine-related documents, but the White House refused to produce them. It also instructed several key current and former officials with inside knowledge of the episode not to testify.Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, has portrayed Blair and Duffey as two of the four key witnesses he believes the Senate should call in Trump's impeachment trial, along with Mulvaney and John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader, has expressed opposition to calling witnesses and again criticized the House investigation on Friday.The Trump administration's move to withhold all the emails in full -- not even disclosing the dates they were sent, or the shape of paragraphs covered by black lines -- is a step beyond its heavy censorship of a related set of emails it released in response to another Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Center for Public Integrity.The documents released to the center consisted of about 300 pages of emails between the Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon about the Ukraine aid package. While the officially released version was heavily redacted -- and the center is contesting the censorship in further litigation -- the visible portions showed, among other things, that Pentagon officials had worried that holding the funds could be an illegal impoundment.A report Thursday by the legal policy website Just Security added fuel to the controversy by revealing what was under some, but not all, of the deletions. The website said it had been shown some of the emails in unredacted form, including an Aug. 30 message from Duffey to a Pentagon budget official stating that there was "clear direction from POTUS" -- an acronym referring to the president of the United States -- "to continue to hold" the Ukraine military aid.The Times separately reported this week that Blair warned Mulvaney to "expect Congress to become unhinged" if the White House went ahead with the hold on the aid.Earlier Friday, Schumer went to the Senate floor to praise the reporting by The Times, the Center for Public Integrity and Just Security as an additional reason for the Senate, as part of Trump's trial, to seek documents and testimony that the White House had blocked impeachment investigators from obtaining."What constituted clear direction?" Schumer asked. "Did he get an order from the president, or did someone like Mr. Mulvaney get an order from the president passed on to Mr. Duffey? Was there discussion among officials about covering up for the president in delay of military assistance? These are questions that can only be answered by examination of the documentary evidence and by the testimony of key Trump administration officials under oath in a Senate trial."At least four collections of emails have now been released, or shared with reporters, detailing correspondence between White House officials and their counterparts at the Office of Management and Budget or the Defense Department.These exchanges show growing tension between the White House and the Pentagon as Defense Department officials questioned if they would be able to spend all of the military aid before the deadline on Sept. 30.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 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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