January 08, 2020

Lawmakers Fume About Trump Admin’s Lack of Iran Explanation After ‘Insulting’ Briefing
A day after Iranian ballistic missiles hit Iraqi bases used by U.S. forces, the Trump administration’s first briefings on Iran for legislators went so poorly that even its allies walked out saying that the White House was losing congressional support.At a moment when the Middle East is asking if the U.S. and Iran can avoid confrontation, senators and representatives said that briefings from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire were risible in their lack of detail concerning core concerns, including the intelligence behind killing Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and the future course of U.S. strategy against Tehran. Meanwhile, briefers also raised concerns that U.S. forces in Iraq could face heightened threats from Iran-allied Shiite militias in the wake of Soleimani’s death. Sen. Mike Lee, a libertarian-leaning Utah Republican who rarely breaks with Trump, exited the Senate’s briefing calling it “the worst briefing on a military issue” he’s seen in nine years in Congress. It was “insulting,” Lee said—so much so that he will now support a measure to curb Trump’s authority to wage war in Iran after hinting a day before that he’d vote.“They had to leave after 75 minutes, while they’re in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public,” Lee said. “I find that absolutely insane. I think it’s unacceptable.”One Senate Democratic source read in on the meeting said Pompeo acted like “Benghazi Mike” in the briefing—a reference to Pompeo’s incendiary performance as a congressman during the 2015 Benghazi hearings—and was often defensive when faced with tough questions about the intelligence that led to the killing of Soleimani.At least one Republican came to the briefers’ defense and blamed Democrats for causing the chaos. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the briefers made a compelling case. In response to Democrats’ assertions that it was vague, he responded: “They don’t want specifics. I was really disappointed at their behavior in there.”Iran Fires Missiles at Base Housing U.S. Troops as ‘Vengeance’ for Soleimani KillingHouse Democrats, meanwhile, said they had anticipated some stonewalling in their briefing. In the caucus meeting Wednesday morning, members sought advice from former undersecretary of state Wendy Sherman about how to press the Trump administration officials for details on what led to the Soleimani strike, according to a source in the room. Sherman warned that the House would likely get the runaround, that source said.“It was disappointing,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, adding that “there was acrimony” in the room. Still, Quigley cautioned that anyone expecting much out of the briefing probably “had unreasonable expectations going in.” Legislators’ bitterness over the briefing recalled the Obama administration’s 2013 briefing on Syria that made it clear Congress would not let Obama bomb Iranian ally Bashar al-Assad. “There were many times when many members tried to ask for more detail on any intelligence, any threat assessments, and really, there was nothing that we heard there that you don’t know,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). Briefers wouldn’t go into specifics, and members were visibly frustrated. “People were basically yelling at them to give an answer,” an attendee said. Other attendees said “yelling” overstated the reaction, though participants made audible noises indicating dissatisfaction. Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, told reporters that the first question to briefers on the House side concerned the legal basis for the strike. As national security adviser Robert O’Brien said on Friday, Justice Department officials told legislators the authority flowed from the 2002 congressional authorization to topple Saddam Hussein’s former regime, the legal wellspring of the 2003-2011 invasion and occupation. Sources also said the briefers invoked Trump’s Article II authority as commander-in-chief—which will rely on the pre-strike threat being an imminent one, if Congress grows more assertive in insisting on its war powers. Over the past five days, the Trump administration has backed off its assertions that killing Soleimani was intended to foil an “imminent” attack. Jayapal said there was “no raw evidence” provided of any imminent pre-strike threat. “I went into this briefing looking for something specific to back up the claim that there was an impending threat against Americans or American interests. Speaking for myself, I’m nowhere close to convinced that this is a real thing,” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA).Just as dissatisfying to legislators in attendance was a minimal indication of where U.S. strategy against Iran goes next. While both Iran and Trump have indicated they want to avoid wider conflict, Trump on Wednesday morning placed additional economic sanctions on Iran, intensifying a punitive strategy that has yet to change Iran’s behavior. One member who spoke with The Daily Beast also said Pompeo reiterated his assurances that he is willing to talk with the Iranians anytime and anywhere, and will travel for a potential meeting–something the Iranians have neither sought nor accepted. There was also a back-and-forth with briefers about Iranian retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. “What are our top priorities with Iran? That's a pretty fundamental piece of the puzzle,” said a person in the room. “You're gonna have a strategy. I mean, we can have a debate about whether [the administration] is on the same page with the details, but they can't even get on the same page with the top line priorities.” “I didn't learn anything new. And that's too bad because they had an opportunity to really educate us,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), an intelligence committee member. U.S. intelligence officials have also expressed concerns that Soleimani’s death could mean Iraqi Shiite militias pose a greater threat to American troops—even as Trump administration officials have said the killing left the world more secure.The officials highlighted their concerns in congressional briefings. In one of those briefings, according to a congressional source with knowledge of the comments, an official indicated that Soleimani was somewhat of a check on the Shiite militias, and that no one else carries the same weight to keep them from operating without a strategy–and from potentially targeting American forces.Three additional sources familiar with classified briefings on tensions in the region confirmed that U.S. intelligence officials have highlighted concerns about heightened threats to U.S. troops in Iraq from Shiite militias in the wake of Soleimani’s death. Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, has also echoed those concerns.“I am far more concerned about the danger of Shiite militias, especially because of the killing of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, which has gotten far less attention but may lead to additional reprisals against our people there,” he told The Daily Beast.In contrast, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently declared that “the world is a safer place” because Soleimani is dead. And Vice President Mike Pence told CBS News that U.S. intelligence shows Iran has asked militias not to target American troops. \-- with reporting from Erin Banco
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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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