February 12, 2020

Barr agrees to testify to Congress amid growing outrage over Roger Stone case
* Attorney general to go before House judiciary committee * Democrats warn of ‘a crisis in the rule of law in America’William Barr, the US attorney general, has agreed to testify before a congressional committee over alleged political interference at the justice department, Democrats said, as they warned of “a crisis in the rule of law in America”.Washington is reeling from aftershocks of the department’s unusual decision to overrule career prosecutors and seek a lighter prison sentence for the political operative Roger Stone, a longtime friend of the US president. The entire prosecution team resigned in protest.On Wednesday, Democrats on the House judiciary committee wrote to Barr confirming that he had agreed to testify at a hearing on 31 March. Chairman Jerry Nadler wrote in the letter that the attorney general should expect to be asked about recent steps that “raise grave questions” over his leadership of the justice department.These include, Nadler said, “the decision to overrule your career prosecutors and significantly reduce the recommended sentence for Roger Stone, who has been convicted for lying under oath, at the apparent request of the president – a decision that led to all four prosecutors handling the case to withdraw from the proceedings in protest”.Stone, 67, a political operative and self-described dirty trickster, was convicted last November of lying to Congress, witness tampering and impeding the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. On Monday, prosecutors requested that he serve seven to nine years behind bars. But Trump issued a late-night objection via Twitter, stating: “Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”Hours later, a new memo from the justice department cut the proposed sentence, offering Stone’s “advanced age, health, personal circumstances and lack of criminal history” as mitigating circumstances. Media reports suggested Barr had personally intervened.All four lawyers that prosecuted Stone abruptly quit the case, with one leaving the justice department altogether. On Wednesday, the White House insisted that Trump had not meddled, but on Twitter the president brazenly praised Barr for “taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought”.Later, speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump thanked justice department officials for trimming the sentencing recommendation. He declined to say whether he would pardon Stone. “They treated Roger Stone very badly,” he said.But Chuck Schumer, the Democrat minority leader in the Senate, sounded the alarm about an unprecedented threat to the independence of the legal system.“We are witnessing a crisis in the rule of law in America – unlike one we have ever seen before,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “It is a crisis of President Trump’s making. But it was enabled and emboldened by every Senate Republican who was too afraid to stand up to him and say the simple word ‘no’, when the vast majority of them knew that that was the right thing to do.”Trump was acquitted by the Republican majority in the Senate in his impeachment trial last week and immediately began a purge of officials who testified about his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival – fuelling Democrats’ fears that he would feel further emboldened, unleashed and able to act with impunity.Two days after his acquittal, Schumer noted, Trump retaliated by firing members of his administration who testified in the impeachment inquiry, including Lt Col Alexander Vindman and Ambassador Gordon Sondland. He even dismissed Vindman’s brother. “How vindictive, how petty, how nasty,” Schumer said.On Tuesday Trump withdrew the nomination of Jessie Liu, a former US attorney in Washington whose office prosecuted Stone, for a new post in the treasury department. But it was the Stone case that prompted Schumer to call for an emergency Senate judiciary committee hearing, where Barr would potentially be obliged to testify, and an investigation by the department’s inspector general, an external watchdog.“The president is claiming that rigging the rules is perfectly legitimate – he claims an ‘absolute right’ to order the justice department to do anything he wants,” he said. “And the president has as his attorney general an enabler – and that’s a kind word – who actually supports this view.”Schumer added: “We are seeing the behavior of a man who has contempt for the rule of law beginning to try out the new, unrestrained power conferred on him by 52 Republican senators … Left to his own devices, President Trump would turn America into a banana republic, where the dictator can do whatever he wants and the justice department is the president’s law firm, not a defender of the rule of law.”The sentiments were echoed by Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state who was defeated by Trump in the 2016 presidential election. She tweeted: “Trump is using the powers of the presidency like a tyrant – now, to reward accomplices and go after witnesses who dared to speak against him. This should concern and anger us all.” Eric Holder, who served as Barack Obama’s attorney general, wrote on Twitter: “Do not underestimate the danger of this situation. This affects the rule of law and respect for it. Unprecedented.”Yet most Senate Republicans, all but one of whom voted in Trump’s favour in the impeachment trial, again held the line. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina told reporters: “I’m not disturbed about it at all. If you read the reports, this action began on Monday night before the president’s tweets, so I’ve got to take them at their word.”However, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who had claimed Trump would learn his “lesson” from impeachment, struck a note of dissent. “The president should not have gotten involved,” she told the Reuters news agency.Stone is scheduled to be sentenced by the US district judge Amy Berman Jackson on 20 February. Jackson on Wednesday declined to grant Stone’s request for a new trial.Barr last year cleared the president of obstruction of justice even when the special counsel Robert Mueller had pointedly declined to do so after the Russia investigation.
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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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