Trump fires State Department inspector general in latest broadside against watchdogs

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick late on Friday, with the ousting leading to heavy criticism from senior Democratic lawmakers, including House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Trump said in a letter to Pelosi that he no longer had confidence in the inspector general’s ability to serve, though he did not give the reason for his loss of confidence.

“This is to advise that I am exercising my power as President to remove from office the Inspector General of the Department of State, effective 30 days from today,” he said.

The letter did not say who would replace Linick, who was appointed to the role in 2013 under the Obama administration and is the latest in a string of government watchdogs to be removed in recent weeks.

However, the U.S. Department of State said that he would be replaced by Stephen Akard, the director of the Office of Foreign Missions.

“On September 11, 2019, Ambassador Akard was confirmed by the Senate, 90-2, to lead the Department’s Office of Foreign Missions and we look forward to him leading the Office of the Inspector General,” a State Department representative told the media.

Democratic lawmakers condemned Linick’s removal, with Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, suggesting it was connected to a probe that the inspector general had opened into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“I have learned that the Office of the Inspector General had opened an investigation into Secretary Pompeo,” Engel said in a statement. Pelosi described Linick’s ousting as an acceleration of a “dangerous pattern of retaliation” from Trump.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last month, Republican President Trump removed a top coronavirus watchdog, Glenn Fine, who was to oversee the government’s COVID-19 financial relief response.

Earlier in May, Trump ousted Christi Grimm, who led the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (OIG) after accusing her of having produced a “fake dossier” on American hospitals suffering shortages on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak.

In April, the president notified Congress that he was firing the inspector general of the U.S. intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, who was involved in triggering an impeachment probe of Trump last year.

Tara Reade wants access to Joe Biden’s Senate records over sex assault claim


Lawyers for Tara Reade, who has come forward to accuse Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her when she worked on his Senate staff in 1993, want her to be able to review the former veep’s records stored at the University of Delaware.

They specifically want access to a request for sexual harassment counseling they said Reade recalls filing with the Office of Senate Fair Employment Practices shortly after the alleged attack, which Biden denies took place.

“We represent Tara Reade and write, pursuant to Delaware’s Right to Inspect Personnel Files Act, to request that Ms. Reade be permitted to inspect any personnel files/documents related to her employment with Vice President Biden as a member of the staff of his United States Senate office,” lawyers for Wigdor LLP wrote to Biden and Laure Bachich Ergin, vice president and general counsel at the University of Delaware, where his records are archived.

“While Biden continues to claim that the sexual assault ‘never happened’ and that he doesn’t even recall Ms. Reade, he steadfastly refuses to search his records currently housed at the University of Delaware,” said Douglas Wigdor, a partner in the firm.

Tara Reade says Biden told her ‘I want to f–k you’ during alleged assault
“If he has nothing to hide, he should immediately consent to our request and permit a search for any records concerning Ms. Reade. If he does not, we will be forced to take next steps to vindicate our client’s rights.”

Biden in a May 1 letter to the university asked that any records regarding Reade be located and released, but none has been forthcoming.

Reade said in a recent interview with Megyn Kelly that Biden pinned her against a wall and said, “I want to f–k you.”

“He had his hands underneath my clothes, and it happened all at once, so when I tell about it, it’s hard because so many things were happening at once, it’s like my brain was trying to catch up to what was happening,” she said.


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Coronavirus a message from God to change ways, two-thirds of American believers say


Almost two-thirds of Americans who believe in God say the coronavirus pandemic is a message from the Almighty telling people to change how they live, according to a new poll.

Those polled who identified as Evangelical Protestants were the most likely to believe strongly that the virus is God warning humanity to change their behavior, the survey from The Associated Press and the University of Chicago Divinity School found.

Some 43 percent of Evangelical Protestants believe the virus is a message, while 28 percent of Catholics and non-Evangelical Protestants also accepted the belief, according to the survey.

Black and Latino respondents were more likely than their white counterparts to believe the pandemic is a sign from above.

Forty-seven percent of black respondents believed strongly it was a message from God, followed by 37 percent of Latinos and 27 percent of white Americans.

A number of people who are not religiously affiliated also believe the virus may actually be a message from a higher power.

“It could be a sign, like ‘hey, get your act together’ – I don’t know,” 52-year-old Lance Dejesus from Pennsylvania told the Associated Press.

“It just seems like everything was going in an OK direction and all of a sudden you get this coronavirus thing that happens, pops out of nowhere,” he added.


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Xinhua condemns visa restriction to Chinese reporters in US


Beijing, May 15 (Prensa Latina) Xinhua news agency on Friday joined the wave of condemnation of the new visa restriction to Chinese reporters in the United States, which it described as a discriminatory and repressive act.

In a communiqué, Xinhua noted that Washington fully exposes the hypocrisy of ‘freedom of the press’, and severely interferes in the work and life of its staff members.

It recalled that Xinhua is widely recognized as an internationally renowned news organization, its journalists have long been strictly following the laws and regulations of the United States and are always committed to reporting US news based on the principle of objectivity, fairness, truthfulness and accuracy.

However, it denounced that the journalists have encountered difficulties deliberately created by the US when applying for visas or returning to their posts after vacations in China.

The news agency called on the US to immediately revoke its wrong decision, stop imposing oppression and restrictions on Xinhua’s offices and its staff members there to guarantee their legitimate rights and interests in news reporting.


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‘No Chinese wanted’: Chef slammed for ‘racist’ reopening announcement


‘No Chinese wanted’: Chef slammed for ‘racist’ reopening announcement
By Natalie O’NeillMay 15, 2020 | 5:31pm
Chef Jean-Claude Bourgueil stands in his kitchen during a press conference for the 40th anniversary of his restaurant.

Chef Jean-Claude Bourgueil stands in his kitchen during a press conference for the 40th anniversary of his restaurant.Alamy Stock Photo
The chef of a well-known German restaurant stirred up outrage when he announced his eatery’s reopening by declaring, “No Chinese wanted,” according to a report.

Jean-Claude Bourgueil, a renowned cook at the French eatery Im Schiffchen in Düsseldorf, made the controversial comment on Facebook after the business was shuttered for months during the country’s coronavirus lockdown.

“We start on Friday, but only with our bistro. No Chinese wanted!!!” the 73-year-old chef wrote on Wednesday, according to dw.com.

But the cook quickly found himself in hot water, with observers blasting the comment as “racist” and “sickening.”

“Im Schiffchen should be ashamed,” one critic fumed. “What Jean Claude Bourgueil said is just sickening. A wimp and liar.”

Bourgueil later apologized, calling it a “thoughtless statement” that he “formulated completely wrong.” He claimed the remark was not in reference to Chinese people, but rather the “dictators” and “strongmen” in the country.

Owner/chef Jean-Claude Bourgueil of the “Im Schiffchen” restaurant has posted on his personal facebook page “We start on Friday, but first with our new bistro! Chinese not wanted!”. the page has now been scrubbed of the offending post.

Owner/chef Jean-Claude Bourgueil of the “Im Schiffchen” restaurant has posted on his personal facebook page “We start on Friday, but first with our new bistro! Chinese not wanted!”. the page has now been scrubbed of the offending post.jean.c.bourgueil
“I am a child of the French revolution and detest all dictators in this world. Dictators that oppress their citizens and punish people with death,” he posted in a statement, according to the paper.

“People of nine different nationalities work at our restaurant. My wife is Asian and I myself am a foreigner in this land,” it continued. “Rest assured, I can be accused of many things, but certainly not racism and I do not tolerate it.”

The restaurant’s Facebook now page appears to be disabled and could not be accessed as of Friday afternoon.

Asian people in Germany and across the world have faced widespread discrimination due to the spread of the coronavirus, which is believed to have first emerged in Wuhan, China.


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Cuba signs deal with UN financial agency


Rome, May 15 (Prensa Latina) The Cuban permanent representative to international organizations headquartered in this capital, Jose Carlos Rodriguez, signed this Friday a financing deal with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The Cooperative Agroforestry Development Project (PRODECAFE) between Cuba and the UN agency aims to contribute to the sustainable development of Cuba’s agroforestry sector, to strengthen food security and improve the living conditions of rural families.

A press release from Cuba’s embassy in Italy indicates that the project’s target group is made up of around 17,000 producers, their families and the staff (men, women, youth and adults), with nearly 300 agroforestry units comprising cooperatives of Credit and Services, of Agricultural Production and Basic Units of Cooperative Production.

All of them specialized in the production of coffee and cocoa, whose best productions are in the eastern provinces of Granma, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo.

The press release indicates that food security and nutrition are declared as ‘key goals of national security and a key element of the country’s economic and social policy.’

The total estimated cost of the project between Cuba and IFAD, for a period of six years from 2020 (with contingencies included) amounts to 63.65 million dollars.


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