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After 6 years, refugee writer tastes freedom in New Zealand
By NICK PERRY | Wed, November 20, 2019 12:36 EST
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — For the first time in six years, Behrouz Boochani feels like a free man. When he arrived in New Zealand last week, he simply wanted to smoke a cigarette and take a long walk down the street. Instead of feeling like he is always running, a new feeling has overtaken him: He’s survived.
A refugee from Iran, Boochani was held against his will at Australia’s notorious offshore immigration camp on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea from 2013 until he was recently moved to the capital, Port Moresby. But even now, the 36-year-old’s future remains uncertain.
He arrived in New Zealand on a temporary one-month visa to speak at a literary festival.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Boochani said he had no interest in returning to Papua New Guinea, but wouldn’t be drawn on whether he’d seek asylum in New Zealand, pursue a claim to U.S. asylum or do something else. Any decision he makes is likely to have implications for international diplomatic relations.
“I’m really focused on my work here right now. I don’t want to think about those things, or ruin my concentration. I don’t want to politicize things,” Boochani said. “I’m a free man. I want to focus on this festival.”
An ethnic Kurd and journalist, Boochani fled from the Iranian regime, eventually making his way by boat to Australia’s Christmas Island. But his escape was not to freedom but instead to a hellish existence on a tropical island.
On Manus, he helped shine a light on the plight of hundreds of asylum seekers by writing about his experiences on a smuggled phone and posting to social media.
He documented unsanitary conditions, hunger strikes and violence, as well as deaths caused by medical neglect and suicide. He says he felt a responsibility to film and write, to challenge the system and expose what was going on. It gave him some catharsis.
He eventually used his phone to write a book, sending snippets in Farsi to a translator over WhatsApp. Called “No Friend But the Mountains,” the book this year won a prestigious Australian award, the Victorian Prize for Literature.
But Boochani couldn’t collect his award or the prize money of 125,000 Australian dollars ($85,000) in person. He was still confined to Manus.
Australia refuses to resettle any asylum seekers who try to reach its shores by boat. It has paid Papua New Guinea and the small island nation of Nauru to house them in camps that human rights groups say are draconian.
President Donald Trump in 2017 reluctantly agreed to uphold a deal struck by his predecessor, Barack Obama, to resettle hundreds of the refugees in the U.S., including Boochani, but the process has moved slowly.
Boochani says he continues to have mixed feelings about Australia.
“A big part of Australian society supported us, and fought against the system, so it’s hard to make a judgment,” he said. “It was very important that the people of Australia become aware of what the government had done. They have done a crime under the name of Australia.”
His anger at Australian politicians came out in a tweet last week after the opposition Labor Party said it welcomed news that Boochani had been able to leave Papua New Guinea.
“Such a rediclilius and unacceptable statement by Labor Party,” Boochani wrote in imperfect English. “You exiled me to Manus and you have supported this exile policy for years. I don’t need you to welcome resttlement for me in a third country.”
In contrast, Boochani says he’s been impressed with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, particularly the compassionate way she handled the aftermath of a March attack by a gunman who killed 51 Muslim worshippers.
Boochani is due to speak at the Word Christchurch festival on Nov. 29. But should he seek asylum in New Zealand, it could create problems for Ardern and her relationship with Australia. Ardern says she wasn’t told by officials or her immigration minister that Boochani was coming and would have liked a heads-up.
Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has vowed that Boochani will never be allowed to enter Australia, even if New Zealand ends up granting him asylum.
New Zealand lawmaker Golriz Ghahraman, who is also an Iranian refugee, met Boochani when he arrived at Auckland Airport.
“He just had a huge smile on his face, and I said welcome to him in Farsi, and he acknowledged that I was of Kurdish heritage as well and we were really happy to see each other,” she said. “And he was just exhausted and really happy.”
Thinking about his future, Boochani says he’ll continue advocating for the refugees and asylum seekers who remain stuck on Papua New Guinea.
“I will try to establish a new life. A simple life,” he said. “Attending events, sharing my story, and helping those who remain, who need support, who need freedom. I’m here to share my story.”

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Ruling backs asylum seekers at border prior to policy shift
By ELLIOT SPAGAT 09:53 EST
SAN DIEGO (AP) — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a partial ban on asylum does not apply to anyone who appeared at an official U.S. border crossing before the policy was announced in July, a decision that may affect thousands of people.
The Trump administration announced July 16 that it would deny asylum to anyone who traveled through another country without applying there first. The ban was on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court decided Sept. 11 that it could take effect during a legal challenge.
Immigrant advocates went to court on behalf of migrants who heeded instructions of the U.S. government and waited at official crossings to request asylum, rather than cross the border illegally.
The advocates said the administration engaged in an “immoral bait-and-switch” against those immigrants by imposing the ban after they arrived at the border crossing.
U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant ruled in their favor Tuesday, saying anyone who appeared at a U.S. border crossing with Mexico before July 16 would be exempt from the ban.
“(These) asylum seekers understood their access to asylum in the United States to be premised on their willingness to wait in Mexico,” Bashant wrote. “In reliance on this representation by the U.S. Government, they did so. The Government — in a shift that can be considered, at best, misleading, and at worst, duplicitous — now seeks to change course.”
Faced with a surge in asylum-seeking families last year, the U.S. said there wasn’t enough processing capacity at official crossings and began telling people to wait in Mexico to claim asylum. The practice, known as “metering,” has left many waiting months.
The number of names on waiting lists in 11 Mexican border cities totaled nearly 21,400 this month, according to a survey by the Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas, Austin and the Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies at the University of California, San Diego.
In Tijuana, the waiting list hovers below 9,000 names. People whose names were getting called last week said they had been waiting in Mexico for five months.
The U.S. does not manage the waiting lists, spawning haphazard systems that vary by city. Over time, they have been overseen by Mexican federal, state and local officials, Mexican migrant shelters and immigrants themselves.
The lack of U.S. control or centralized management of the lists makes it difficult to know how many asylum seekers will benefit from Tuesday’s ruling. Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimate it is in the thousands.
Neither the Justice nor Homeland Security Departments responded to requests for comment.
Groups representing asylum seekers applauded the ruling.
“These asylum seekers have a deep commitment to following our laws in seeking protection, and we are relieved to see that their decision to follow our government’s instructions to wait in Mexico will not prejudice their chances for relief,” said Erika Pinheiro, director of litigation and policy at Al Otro Lado, which was represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Center for Constitutional Rights, and American Immigration Council.

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UK Conservatives under fire for Twitter deception in debate
By DANICA KIRKA and JILL LAWLESS | 12:03 EST
LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Conservative Party was accused Wednesday of trying to deceive voters by changing the name of its press office Twitter account to “factcheckUK” during a televised election debate, raising concerns that political parties’ online trickery is undermining democracy.
Rebranding its account to resemble a neutral fact-checker, complete with a big check mark, the party posted tweets supporting Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his debate with opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. It later reverted to the name “CCHQ Press” and restored the party logo to its profile.
Organizations that combat political misinformation cried foul.
“It was misleading and it was inappropriate,” Will Moy, chief executive of the London-based fact-checking website Full Fact, told The Associated Press. “It’s not what we can see a serious political party doing.’’
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended the party’s actions, saying the Twitter account was clearly linked to the Conservatives and asserting that voters would not be perturbed by “the social media cut and thrust.”
“We make no apology for having an instant rebuttal to all the nonsense and lies put out,” Raab told the BBC.
Twitter said in a statement that it had “global rules in place that prohibit behavior that can mislead people.” The company pledged to take “decisive corrective action” if there were any more attempts “to mislead people by editing verified profile information,” but did not censure the Tories for their account switch.
The manipulation of the account during a high-profile event put the rise of digital campaigning squarely in the public eye. All political parties are devoting much of their campaign spending to the digital realm as they battle to win the U.K.’s Dec. 12 election, bypassing strict laws that govern communication on radio and television.
Despite parliamentary reports urging new regulations to combat misinformation or regulate the way digital ads target voters, British officials have made no significant changes to laws governing online ads, social media and election disinformation.
In a reflection of the confusion, the Electoral Commission, which regulates campaign finances, issued a statement warning that “voters are entitled to transparency and integrity from campaigners in the lead-up to an election.’’ Critically, however, it pointed out that it doesn’t have “a role in regulating election campaign content.’’
With the absence of law, campaigns have been pushing the boundaries to get attention.
The Conservative Party was embroiled in controversy earlier this month when it posted a video on social media containing a misleading edit of a television interview with senior Labour figure Keir Starmer. The video had been altered to show Starmer failing to answer a question about Brexit when, in fact, he responded quickly. The Conservative Party chairman described the doctored video as lighthearted satire.
The Conservative Party is trying to raise its online game in this election after being outperformed by Labour during the last campaign in 2017, when the opposition party exceeded expectations and the Tories stumbled.
The Conservatives have hired New Zealanders Sean Topham and Ben Guerin to oversee digital strategy and Australian Isaac Levido as overall campaign director. All three have worked with Lynton Crosby, an Australian political strategist who has long ties with the U.K. Conservatives.
The trio have been credited with helping Australia’s Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison pull off a surprise election victory in May, partly with high-volume, emotion-tweaking social media activity.
“The particular emotions that we need to unlock are arousal emotions, we’re talking anger, excitement, pride, fear,” Guerin told a center-right political conference after the election.
He said winning “the battle of the thumbs” required frequent posts and varied means — videos, memes and more — to drive home the same core message.
“It’s an arms race for who can dominate the news feed,” he said.
In their first TV debate of the election on Tuesday, Johnson and Corbyn attacked each other’s policies on Brexit, health care and the economy.
But the debate likely failed to answer the question that has dogged the campaign: Who can voters trust? The two leaders sidestepped tricky questions about their own policies in the hourlong encounter and drew derisive laughter from the studio audience at several points.
Both Johnson and Corbyn are trying to overcome a mountain of mistrust as they try to win over a Brexit-weary electorate.
Johnson is under fire for failing to deliver on his often-repeated vow that Britain would leave the European Union on Oct. 31. Audience members laughed when he urged voters, “Look what I have said I’m going to do as a politician and look what I’ve delivered.”
Corbyn, a stolid socialist, is accused by critics of promoting high-tax policies and of failing to clamp down on anti-Semitism within his party. His refusal to say which side he would be on in a Brexit referendum was met with hoots of laughter when he suggested his position was perfectly clear.
The laughter underscored the importance of being transparent, according to Camilla Winlo, director of consultancy services at data protection and privacy consultancy DQM GRC.
Manipulating accounts as the Conservatives did could backfire if a candidate is trying to build trust with the electorate, she said.
“You can try to pull the wool over people’s eyes … but you will get pulled up on it,’’ she told the AP.
The danger of such manipulation is that cynicism will override the democratic process, Moy said.
“Sadly, we know that four out of five people don’t trust politicians to tell the truth,” he said. “There is a danger that politicians will live down to those low expectations.
“If everyone is cynical, why aim for the trust you aren’t getting?”
___
Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

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N. Korea snubs US move to postpone military drill with South
By HYUNG-JIN KIM | Tue, November 19, 2019 02:30 EST
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Tuesday it won’t consider a recent U.S. decision to postpone a joint military exercise with South Korea a major concession that can bring it back to nuclear talks.
Senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol said the U.S. must completely scrap that military drill and abandon its hostility against his country if it wants to see the resumption of the nuclear negotiations.
Kim’s comments were the first direct response to an announcement Sunday by U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and his South Korean counterpart that the allies have indefinitely postponed the annual Vigilant Ace training in an “act of goodwill” toward North Korea. The moves were regarded as an effort to convince North Korea to revive the nuclear talks that largely have stalled since the February collapse of a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“The U.S. tries to make a good impression as if it contributes to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, describing the suspension (of the aerial drill) as ‘consideration for and concession’ to someone,” Kim Yong Chol said in a statement carried by state media. “But we demand that the U.S. quit the drill or stop it once and for all.”
North Korea wants the United States to lift international sanctions on it, provide security guarantees and make other concessions in return for abandoning its advancing nuclear arsenal. The February summit in Vietnam, the second such meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un, fell apart after Trump rejected Kim’s demand for sweeping sanctions relief in exchange of dismantling his main complex to produce nuclear ingredients, a limited disarmament step.
The two leaders held an impromptu, brief meeting at the Korean border in late June and agreed to restart diplomacy. In early October, their nuclear negotiators eventually resumed talks in Sweden, but the meeting failed to report progress.
North Korea said last week the U.S. recently proposed via an unidentified third country its offer to meet again in December. North Korea still said differences between the two countries won’t be addressed with minor concessions like establishing a liaison office between the countries or formally declaring the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Kim Myong Gil, roving ambassador at the North’s Foreign Ministry, disclosed Tuesday it was Sweden which conveyed the U.S. dialogue proposal. He said North Korea wants the U.S. not to go through a third country to offer talks and Sweden not to try to mediate in North Korea-U.S. diplomacy.
“It is not for lack of communication channel or mediator that (North Korea)-U.S. negotiations have not yet been held,” Kim said. “The Swedish side would be well-advised to properly understand the situation and behave itself.”
After the announcement on the drill’s postponement, Trump in a tweet urged Kim Jong Un “act quickly, get the deal done,” saying “See you soon!”
But senior North Korean Foreign Ministry adviser Kim Kye Gwan said Monday his country has no interest in giving Trump further meetings to brag about unless it gets something substantial in return.
In his Tuesday statement, Kim Yong Chol also accused the U.S. of trying to buy time as a North Korea-set deadline for Washington to work out new proposals by year’s end is approaching.
“The U.S. should not dream of the negotiations for denuclearization before dropping its hostile policy toward” North Korea, he said.
Kim Yong Chol is one of Kim Jong Un’s close associates who led nuclear diplomacy with the U.S. and travelled to Washington twice before the failed February summit.

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PG&E boss says it wasn’t fully ready for California outages
By ADAM BEAM | Mon, November 18, 2019 10:39 EST
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The head of Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. told angry California lawmakers Monday that the nation’s largest electric utility wasn’t fully prepared for the effects of its unprecedented outages last month even as it plans to shut off power to more than half a million people again this week to prevent wildfires.
Lawmakers wanted answers from Bill Johnson and executives from the state’s other two investor-owned utilities about the shutoffs last month that caused life-saving medication to spoil, businesses to lose money and communications networks to go dark.
PG&E CEO Bill Johnson blamed his company’s poor response to the blackouts affecting millions of people partly on a sense of complacency after a much smaller outage went well earlier this year.
“We weren’t as well prepared as we thought, and we needed to give a little more attention — a lot more attention — to impacts after we shut the power off,” Johnson said. “I do think as things went on, we got better at each one of these.”
Lawmakers were skeptical, venting residents’ pent-up frustration at the company that is trying to emerge from bankruptcy after its outdated equipment has sparked devastating wildfires in recent years.
Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener said he believed PG&E had “forfeited its right to operate as an investor-owned utility.”
State Sen. Bill Dodd told Johnson that an Oct. 9 shutoff was “a big ‘screw you’ to your customers.”
“That has really created among the Legislature and among your customers a real trust issue,” Dodd said.
Meanwhile, people in Northern California were bracing for more outages. PG&E has started notifying customers in parts of 22 counties that it may turn off electricity Wednesday because of strong winds that could spark wildfires.
The blackout is expected to affect 660,000 people in the San Francisco suburbs, Sierra Nevada foothills, wine country and elsewhere.
Johnson said PG&E has struggled to respond to the growing threat of wildfires over its coverage area of more than 70,000 square miles (181,299 square kilometers). In 2012, he said less than 15% of its power lines traversed areas at high risk for wildfires. Just seven years later, that’s grown to more than 50%.
The state’s two other investor-owned utilities — San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison — also have turned off power this year. But their shutoffs have affected far fewer people and been much shorter.
Caroline Winn, San Diego Gas & Electric chief operating officer, said the company’s power outages have averaged about 24 hours, in part because it has upgraded its equipment to more narrowly tailor shutoffs.
Johnson told lawmakers that PG&E has spent $30 billion over the last 10 years improving its electrical network. He also said the company recently inspected its vast network of power lines and other equipment for repairs and replacement. The company has plans to install “microgrids,” or backup power sources, for isolated areas to help keep power running during a shutoff.
“We do not expect an annual repeat of what we went through this October,” Johnson said. “That just cannot happen again.”
But lawmakers were skeptical. Democratic Sen. Bill Monning noted the company is facing potential damages of up to $30 billion for a series of wildfires in 2017 and 2018, including the most devastating wildfire in state history that destroyed roughly 19,000 buildings and killed 85 people.
Monning said PG&E has not buried its power lines in fire-prone areas to “save money for shareholders.” He did note that if the company decided to bury one-quarter of its power lines in wildfire-prone areas, it would cost roughly $15 billion.
“I think you will see us undergrounding considerably more of our system,” Johnson said. “Not so much because of the liability, but because it’s the right thing to do given the circumstances.”
Preemptive power shutoffs are not new to California, but the scope of those by PG&E this year have been unprecedented. The company has more than 5 million customers in Northern California.
Lawmakers have set a June 30 deadline for PG&E to emerge from bankruptcy or else forfeit participation in a fund designed to help cover damages from future wildfires. But negotiations have bogged down as shareholders and creditors battle in bankruptcy court over the future of the company.
A federal bankruptcy judge has appointed a mediator to try to resolve the case. But Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has threatened to intervene if the company can’t reach an agreement by June 30, including a potential state takeover.

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News Analysis:Did Google chief really mean 'all information'?

News Analysis:Did Google chief really mean ‘all information’?

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Two Welcome Headlines

Tom Wicker lauds coverage in Wall St Journal, Nov 28, and US News & World Report, Dec 5, on unemployment among blacks and black youths

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THE NEW MOLOTOV

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In Trump’s Early Days, News Media Finds Competing Narratives

For readers and viewers devouring news about the administration, the choice of narratives has become starker.

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NBA Top 10 Plays of the Night | November 20, 2019

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Arizona man guilty of making ammo sold to Las Vegas shooter
By KEN RITTER | 04:09 EST
LAS VEGAS (AP) — An Arizona man pleaded guilty Tuesday in a U.S. court in Nevada to illegally manufacturing tracer and armor-piercing bullets found in a hotel room where a gunman carried out the Las Vegas Strip massacre two years ago.
Douglas Haig, 57, was not accused of a direct role in the Oct. 1, 2017, shooting that killed 58 people and injured more than 850 at an open-air music festival. Prosecutors never alleged that he had advance knowledge of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
“Doug had no indication whatsoever about Stephen Paddock’s plans,” defense attorney Marc Victor said, invoking the name of the shooter during a prepared statement outside U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. Haig declined to comment.
“Doug was absolutely devastated when he learned of the tragedy” and that he previously sold ammunition to Paddock, Victor said.
Haig acknowledged before U.S. District Judge James Mahan that he had no license to disassemble, remanufacture and reload bullets at his home workshop in Mesa, Arizona. He used the business name Specialized Military Ammunition during sales on the internet and at gun shows around the country.
Haig closed the business permanently following an FBI raid less than three weeks after the shooting, Victor said. As a convicted felon, Haig now cannot possess weapons or ammunition.
The plea avoided a trial that had been scheduled to begin next month. If convicted, Haig could have faced up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His plea agreement could get him about two years at sentencing Feb. 19. Victor said he’ll seek probation.
Victor argued that as the only person to face a criminal charge following the shooting, Haig could not be fairly judged by a jury drawn from the trauma-scarred Las Vegas community.
Victor lost bids to get the judge to dismiss the case; move the trial to Phoenix or Reno; draw jurors from throughout Nevada; and for the judge to hear the case from the bench himself instead of convening a jury.
Haig, an aerospace engineer, acknowledged publicly in 2018 that he sold 720 rounds of tracer ammunition to Paddock in the weeks before the massacre. Tracers illuminate the path of fired bullets.
Haig said he hadn’t noticed anything suspicious about Paddock during the exchange at his home. A criminal complaint filed in Phoenix said Haig told investigators that Paddock went to his car to get gloves and put them on before accepting the purchase.
Authorities said Haig’s fingerprints were found on unfired bullets in the high-rise hotel suite from which Paddock spent more than 10 minutes firing more than 1,000 rounds into the open-air concert crowd before killing himself.
Ammunition in the room also bore tool marks consistent with Haig’s reloading equipment, prosecutors said, and Haig’s address was on a box that police found near Paddock’s body. Authorities have not said if ammunition made by Haig was used in the shooting.
Police and the FBI determined that Paddock, a 64-year-old retired accountant and high-stakes video poker player, meticulously planned the attack and acted alone.
Police reported finding 23 assault-style weapons and a handgun in the suite, including 14 equipped with bump stocks that allow for rapid firing like an automatic rifle.
Investigators theorized that Paddock may have sought notoriety but said they never determined a clear motive.
Prosecutor Patrick Burns filed documents to let the government keep thousands of bullets and casings seized from Haig’s home, and hundreds of pounds of ammunition components.
Haig’s plea came four days after the death of a Southern California woman who was paralyzed by a spinal wound while fleeing with 22,000 other attendees of the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
The San Bernardino County sheriff’’s office said Kimberly Gervais, 57, of Mira Loma died at a nursing facility in Redlands. The cause of her death was not immediately attributed to her injury.

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Official: Oregon lags in socially conscious investing
By ANDREW SELSKY | Tue, November 19, 2019 02:32 EST
TIGARD, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s state employee pension fund is invested in an Israeli company whose smartphone spyware has been used against dissidents, human rights defenders and journalists by repressive regimes. It’s also invested in two prison companies that run immigrant detention facilities, even though Oregon pioneered statewide sanctuary status.
Investors around the globe are increasingly incorporating social values like climate change and human rights in deciding where to put their money. Asset managers in the United States consider such criteria across $11.6 trillion in assets, representing roughly $1 out of every $4 under professional management, according to a 2018 survey by the U.S. Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.
Oregon’s situation shows the practice remains aspirational in even some liberal states, while others have made strides.
A new initiative in New York, for instance, allows its state employee pension plan, with $210 billion in assets, to divest from coal and other sectors with climate considerations. New York also decided in July to sell nearly $10 million in pension investments in GEO Group and CoreCivic, two prison companies that operate immigrant detention facilities in California, Florida, Texas and New Mexico.
GEO Group and Core Civic also were among 217 companies that California pension fund managers removed from an index fund as they sought to mitigate risks, fund spokeswoman Megan White said in an email.
But $2 million in Oregon’s pension fund remains invested in the two companies as part of an index fund, according to the Oregon State Treasury.
“Does this mean (we) are insensitive to and/or unconcerned with the various social and political challenges? No,” Treasurer Tobias Read’s office said in a statement.
Read’s staffers insisted only the index provider can determine what’s added or dropped from the index and that if Oregon officials intervene, the pension fund would incur costs that violate the “paramount objective” of making money.
Some residents, including Portland attorney Pamela Quinlan, have advocated for divestment. Quinlan wrote to Read on Oct. 30, saying nothing prevents officials from shedding the prison stocks.
“I feel that owning these stocks is an insult to many Oregonians, and an insult to our values as Oregonians,” she said in a telephone interview.
Quinlan also warned Read that if one of the several top Democratic presidential candidates who want to eliminate private prisons wins the White House, the stocks could become worthless. The Obama administration ordered the Federal Bureau of Prisons to phase out private prisons in 2016, but the Trump administration reversed that decision.
Meanwhile, Oregon’s pension fund has a $233 million investment in Novalpina Capital that, along with partners, recently bought a majority share of NSO Group, the Israeli spyware company.
The seeds for Oregon’s current NSO Group involvement were planted at Oregon treasury offices in a nondescript office park in the Portland suburb of Tigard.
Stephen Peel and Stefan Kowski, two founding Novalpina Capital partners, showed up in November 2017 to make a pitch to the Oregon Investment Council, which oversees the state’s $77 billion pension fund.
Newly created, the London-based private equity firm was seeking $1.1 billion for its debut fund. Private equity investments go into companies that are not publicly traded on a stock exchange.
Peel described the Novalpina partners’ experience in Europe and explained their strategies, according to an audiotape of the meeting posted on treasury’s website.
“As investors, we assume we have to be contrarian,” Peel told the council. “We have to find deals that other people don’t see or don’t want to do for various reasons.”
After Peel and Kowski left, a senior investment officer who had investigated Novalpina recommended a $233 million commitment. The council unanimously voted yes.
Later, the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation and England’s South Yorkshire Pensions Authority invested $59 million and $33 million respectively.
This year, Novalpina Capital became the focus of controversy when it and the founders of NSO Group acquired a majority stake in the company from another private equity firm, Francisco Partners, that the Oregon pension fund had previously invested in.
Amnesty International and other rights groups wrote to Novalpina Capital, saying NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, which can steal data from smartphones and turn them into eavesdropping devices, targeted at least 24 human rights defenders, journalists and parliamentarians in Mexico; an Amnesty International employee; and a human rights campaigner in the United Arab Emirates.
The spyware also was implicated in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year. NSO Group has said the allegations are unfounded.
Last month, Facebook sued NSO Group for allegedly targeting some 1,400 users of its encrypted messaging service WhatsApp.
It’s unclear whether Novalpina’s founders already intended to invest in NSO Group when they came to Oregon. Novalpina did not respond to a request for comment.
Peel told the human rights groups in a May 15 letter that Novalpina intends to “establish a new benchmark for transparency and respect for human rights in full compliance with the U.N. Guiding Principles.”
“We are determined to do whatever is necessary to ensure that NSO technology is used for the purpose for which it is intended — the prevention of harm to fundamental human rights arising from terrorism and serious crime,” Peel wrote.
But David Kaye, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said NSO Group has not explained how its new policy will improve things for surveillance-harassment victims.
In a telephone interview from Berlin, Likhita Banerji, Amnesty International’s adviser for technology and human rights, called Peel’s letter an “attempt to whitewash violations” and said it’s critical that Oregon and other Novalpina Capital investors respect human rights obligations.
Rukaiyah Adams, chairwoman of the Oregon Investment Council, said she cannot comment on private equity investments but insisted investors have limited say in them once they’re completed.
Private equity has tended to do better for Oregon in the long run, with 14% returns over 10 years compared with 9% for public equity, treasury documents show. About 22% of Oregon’s pension fund is invested in private equity, and 33% in public.
“The story about private assets is, you have one moment of leverage: before you invest,” Adams told The Associated Press. “And so, the challenge in such a big program is exerting influence before we invest. We’re not monkeying around in the day-to-day operations of our private equity partners.”
She said the investment council is moving toward stronger environmental, social and governance standards, known as ESG, and noted the treasury last year hired a staffer to focus on it. But she acknowledged the state has catching up to do.
“I would say that we’re late to the party, frankly,” Adams said.
___
Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

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Border activist says he’d never hide migrants from US agents
By ASTRID GALVAN | 07:46 EST
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A member of a humanitarian aid group whose criminal case has garnered international attention testified Tuesday that neutrality guides his work near the U.S.-Mexico border, denying that he has ever helped migrants hide or told them how to avoid authorities.
That’s what U.S. prosecutors say Scott Warren did when he was arrested in January 2018 by U.S. agents who were staking out a humanitarian aid station in Arizona known as “The Barn,” where two Central American men had been staying for several days.
Prosecutors say Warren harbored them and later gave them instructions on how to evade a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint, an assertion that authorities made based on seeing him motion with his hands.
Warren, a member of the group No More Deaths, says that goes against the group’s training and protocols. He told jurors that he was orienting the men so they wouldn’t get lost in the desert.
It’s the second trial for Warren, 37, after a federal jury in Tucson deadlocked on charges last June, leading to a mistrial. It’s likely that attorneys will begin closing arguments Wednesday.
He said his legal training does not allow him to give directions or rides to migrants he encounters in the desert and that his interest is in saving lives.
“We need to work within the spirit of humanitarian aid and within the confines of the law,” Warren said.
Warren and his supporters say President Donald Trump’s administration has increasingly scrutinized humanitarian groups that leave water in the desert and conduct search and rescue operations when they are asked to help find a missing migrant.
But there was no mention of Trump after the federal judge overseeing the trial approved prosecutors’ request to ban Warren and his defense from mentioning the president.
Legal experts say the request itself is not particularly unique because prosecutors often want to keep the jury focused on the charges but that the judge’s approval shows how polarizing Trump and his immigration policies are.
On the stand, Warren recounted how he began humanitarian aid work shortly after moving to the small town of Ajo for postgraduate research. Warren has a doctorate in geography and teaches high school and college courses.
He walked jurors through his interactions with the migrant men, which began when he found them at The Barn on a Sunday and ended with their arrest on a Wednesday.
Warren said he was surprised to find the men when he arrived to prepare dinner for a group of volunteers who were searching the desert and were expected back soon.
“No, they did not seem like hardened criminals. They seemed like teenage boys, frankly,” Warren said.
Months earlier, Border Patrol agents had launched an investigation into The Barn, a camp used by several aid groups, according to documents released after news outlets sued to obtain them.
The documents show that in April 2017, an anonymous Ajo resident told Border Patrol officials that he suspected members of the group were harboring immigrants there.
About three months later, officials detained members of the group No More Deaths on suspicion of vandalizing a camera at Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, where they regularly left water jugs.
In November 2017, agents interviewed residents who said they had noticed more traffic and littering outside The Barn.
Agents eventually encountered a man who said he had traveled across the desert with two other men who were picked up by a van.
Suspecting they might be at the No More Deaths building, agents began watching it on Jan. 17, 2018, arresting Warren and the two Central American migrants. The men were deported after providing video testimony.
Thousands of immigrants have died crossing the border since the mid-1990s, when increased enforcement pushed many to Arizona’s scorching desert.

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EarthLink – News

Ruling threatens smuggling cases against Marines
By JULIE WATSON | 05:55 EST
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Marine Corps prosecutors were scrambling Tuesday to save numerous cases tied to a human smuggling investigation after a military judge ruled it was illegal for the military to arrest the Marines during a morning battalion formation and accuse them in front of their peers.
Maj. Kendra Motz said prosecutors were meeting at Marine Corps Camp Pendleton to explore their options, but she did not know what they were considering.
The judge, Marine Col. Stephen Keane, gave prosecutors until Nov. 25 to offer a way to remedy the situation.
When ruling Friday, Marine Col. Stephen Keane agreed with defense attorneys who said the command violated the rights of the defendants when they pulled 16 Marines out of a battalion formation of 800 troops at Camp Pendleton on July 25 and accused them of the crimes in front of their unit.
The unit’s leaders called them “a cancer” and “bad Marines,” defense attorneys said.
In the end, only 10 of those in the formation were charged with various crimes ranging from the distribution of LSD, stealing smoke grenades to illegally transporting immigrants to help a smuggling operation, according to charge sheets.
Two Marines were arrested near the U.S.-Mexico border after being stopped by the Border Patrol and found to have immigrants in their car, according to court documents. Another service member was arrested, but not during the formation.
Keane said the public display of the arrests amounted to unlawful command influence. That is when commanders use their positions of power to affect a case and compromise the ability to hold a fair trial.
The judge said that if the prosecution cannot remedy the situation, the court would be left with only one option. Defense attorneys for some of the Marines have asked for charges to be dismissed. They say otherwise it will be difficult to find an impartial jury pool.
“I don’t know how they can un-ring the bell,” said defense attorney Bethany Payton-O’Brien, who is asking that the charges be dismissed against her client, Cpl. Trenton Elliot, 27, citing unlawful command influence.
The Marine Corps filmed the arrests, and part of the video was later obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune.
A battalion commander and a sergeant major can be heard on the video calling the detained “bad Marines” and “a cancer,” Payton-O’Brien said.
“The Marine Corps that day essentially announced to the world that they are guilty,” she said. “How do we now go and defend them?”
The Marine Corps said in a statement after the newspaper reported on the video that it was made to document the arrests “in an unbiased, non-editorialized manner.”
The video is for official use only and would not be released, Motz said. Prosecutors declined to be interviewed, saying they do not comment on pending cases.
The arrests came after two Marines were stopped by the U.S. Border Patrol about 7 miles (11 kilometers) north of the border on July 3. Three Mexican migrants who came into the country illegally were sitting in the back seat of the black BMW driven by one of the Marines, according to the federal complaint.
The three migrants told authorities that they were from Mexico and had agreed to pay $8,000 to be smuggled into the United States, documents say.
U.S. Border Patrol officials say smuggling rings have been luring U.S. troops, police officers, Border Patrol agents and others to work for them as drivers — a crucial component of moving migrants further into the United States once smugglers get them over the border from Mexico.
None of the Marines are accused of bringing immigrants across the border.
Elliot was charged with the illegal transportation of immigrants within the United States, position of drug paraphernalia, and larceny of a government training pistol and small rounds, Payton-O’Brien said.
He was working out a plea deal with prosecutors when defense lawyers obtained the video. When the motion was filed alleging unlawful command influence, the prosecution withdrew from the agreement, Payton-O’Brien said.
The 13 cases are being handled separately. Experts say lawyers representing the 10 Marines arrested during the battalion formation could use the ruling to argue that their cases should be dismissed.
“Having been a judge, I know courts are not eager to dismiss a case. But the law is the law, and if the judge is unsatisfied with the remedies that result from his warning, then he is going to have little choice than to dismiss the charges,” said Gary Solis a former Marine Corps prosecutor and military judge who teaches law at Georgetown University.

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EarthLink – News

Thousands of teachers pack Indiana Statehouse for protest
By TOM DAVIES | 04:08 EST
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Several thousand teachers wearing red surrounded the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday to call for better pay and more respect from the Republican-dominated state government in a protest that closed more than half of the state’s school districts for the day.
The union-organized rally represented Indiana’s biggest such teacher protest amid a wave of educator activism across the country over the past two years.
Teachers chanted, “Fund our schools,” and “Put kids first,” as hundreds of them lined entrances to the Statehouse, many holding handmade signs with sayings such as, “Less Money on Testing, More Money on Students.” Teachers with marching band instruments played “We’re Not Gonna Take It” from the Statehouse steps.
High school math teacher Angela Cooper said she and more than 40 fellow teachers from the Gibson Southern schools near Evansville left about 4:30 a.m. for the rally. She said a top worry is low pay causing many new teachers to leave for other jobs.
“We need to make sure we keep teachers in the classroom,” Cooper said. “They start in the classroom but then they leave because they aren’t paid enough.”
Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill told a few thousand teachers who covered the Statehouse lawn that the Legislature should direct money from the state’s $2 billion in cash reserves toward helping schools.
“The crisis is now, and we need action now,” Gambill said to cheers from the crowd. “The issue is funding, and the state has the money.”
Nearly 300 school districts closed because of the rally, according to teachers unions. It came as legislators gather for organizational meetings ahead of their 2020 session that starts in early January. The unions said more than 15,000 people registered for the rally. Indiana State Police reported at least 5,000 people entered the Statehouse through public entrances, but the agency didn’t estimate how many total were on the grounds.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and leaders of the GOP-dominated Legislature have avoided direct criticism of teachers or school districts for the closings. They seem intent on not antagonizing educators as Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, who lost his reelection bid this month, did in lashing out at teachers who used sick days to rally. However, they said they don’t expect to take action on further boosting school funding until at least 2021.
Other teacher protests were held last year in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona.
While some Indiana protesters chanted, “Red for Ed,” in a Statehouse hallway, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma spoke before lawmakers defending the state budget approved by Republicans in April that boosted base school spending by 2.5% each of the next two years. Holcomb and GOP legislative leaders touted the plan as making strides toward improving teacher pay.
Bosma said lawmakers would take action to prevent the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers and schools after lower scores on the state’s new ILEARN standardized exam taken last spring — one of the top concerns of the teachers unions.
“We get that you’re frustrated,” Bosma said. “We get that you are concerned about issues.”
Teachers didn’t see Holcomb at the Statehouse on Tuesday. His office said he was keeping long-standing plans for traveling to Florida for a conference of the Republican Governors Association, which gave nearly $5.9 million toward Holcomb’s 2016 election campaign.
The governor said he was waiting for a teacher pay commission he appointed in February to make recommendations on increasing salaries by the end of 2020.
Education advocacy groups estimated this year that a 9% funding increase was needed to boost average teacher pay to the midpoint of neighboring states. Republican state schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick has cited a study showing Indiana as the state with the lowest teacher salary increases since 2002.
McCormick, who has split from many fellow Republicans on issues such as the state’s private school voucher program, told cheering teachers that they weren’t “asking for the moon.”
“What a shame that it takes today to get what our kids deserve,” she said.
Joel Schlabach, a teacher at eastern Indiana’s Richmond High School, said politicians have “vilified” educators.
“They think they know better about education than us,” he said. “They don’t trust us to make important decisions about students whose names we know when we’re in the classroom.”

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The top 5 NBA City Edition unis for 2019-20, according to Clinton Yates | The Jump

Clinton Yates joins Rachel Nichols, Zach Lowe and Tracy McGrady to break down the new City Edition uniforms for the 2019-20 NBA season, with the Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets in his top five. They then (3:29) talk about the Washington Wizards, and whether Bradley Beal & Co. are headed in the right direction.
#TheJump #NBA #Sports

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Enable document management with Microsoft 365

Learn how Microsoft 365 drives management of content with the tools in Office. This demo will show you how to enable document management for your organization using Microsoft Teams and Stream.

Learn more: https://aka.ms/sharepoint-contentservices

Edit/Modify Scan Document Paper

In This Video You Will See How You Can Make Changes In Scanned Document.

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How to Design a Good Slide PowerPoint Tutorial | PowerPoint Slide Design

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📖 Tutorial description:
This tutorial will teach you how to design appealing, high quality and on trend for 2016 / 2017 and further PowerPoint slides. PowerPoint no matter which version you use, Powerpoint 2010, Powerpoint 2013 or Powerpoint 2016 has all the same options in terms of design and we should make good use of it to produce high quality slides which people want to watch instead of dull and boring presentation.

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How to record yourself speak in PowerPoint – Record Slide Show ✔

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Screen recording, voice over, video production, these topics were always a struggle within PowerPoint. With this tutorial I would like to show you how it can be easily done, what the Record Slide Show option does, what it allows and how you can use it. You can record your voice, your webcam, yourself to make the presentation speak automatically. This way you can create videos and other interesting things, enjoy this short tip!

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