Tag Archives: Politics

E-Cigarette Regulations Survive Industry’s Legal Challenge

U.S. rules for marketing e-cigarettes withstood a legal challenge by a maker of the devices and an industry group.

A federal appeals court in Washington on Tuesday upheld regulations by the Food and Drug Administration, stating that “e-cigarettes are indisputably highly addictive and pose health risks, especially to youth, that are not well understood.”

Nicupure Labs LLC and the Right to be Smoke Free Coalition argued that the FDA’s Tobacco Control Act rules on the marketing of new tobacco products should not be applied to e-cigarettes. The court said the rules were rational and not arbitrary.


Turkey Turned Into ‘Middle-Earth’ Under Erdogan, Opposition Says

Turkish politics is having another run-in with the inhabitants of “Middle-earth.”

Meral Aksener, leader of the opposition Iyi Party, has invoked British author J.R.R. Tolkien and his epic fantasy novel “the Lord of the Rings” in rounding on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s almost absolute grip on power.

“The Ring is the executive presidency,” Anadolu Agency cited Aksener as saying on Tuesday in Ankara, referring to Turkey’s presidential system of governance that’s been widely criticized for weakening the state’s separation of powers since it was introduced last year.

Aksener also likened Erdogan’s son-in-law, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, to Gollum — Tolkien’s fictional character who was corrupted by the power of the Ring. Big construction companies, meanwhile, are the Nazgul, the wraiths who obtained immortality as servants of the main antagonist in the saga, she said.

In 2016, a court found a family doctor guilty of insulting Erdogan via a social media post that appeared to compare him to Gollum. The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson weighed in on that case, saying that the pictures posted were rather those of the character’s alter-ego, Sméagol.

Erdogan pursues “absolute power,” while Turkey is on the brink of an abyss, Aksener said, reflecting the joint opposition’s repeated condemnation of his authoritarian rule.

Her nationalist Iyi Parti commands 39 lawmakers out of 589 in total. The party won almost 10% of votes in the 2018 general election.


Labour: Dossier indicates NHS ‘up for sale’ in US trade deal

The U.K.’s Labour Party has obtained unredacted documents detailing talks between the U.S. and U.K. that indicate the National Health Service is on the table in trade talks with Washington, party leader Jeremy Corbyn said Wednesday.

This charge comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during his first debate with Corbyn on November 19 that allegations of secret meetings to put the NHS under review in a U.S. trade deal were an “absolute invention.”

Speaking at a press conference, Corbyn said the 451 pages of documents reveal six rounds of negotiations from July 2017 until just a few months ago. Taken together, this amounts to “evidence” that under Boris Johnson, the NHS “is on the table and will be up for sale,” Corbyn added.

“The election is now a fight for our National Health Service,” declared Corbyn.

The NHS has been a key battleground ahead of the December 12 election, with a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary airing claims that there have been talks between the U.S. and U.K. trade officials on drug pricing. 

Corbyn said the documents expose detail of these discussions, and that they refute the Conservative Party’s denial that U.S. corporations want to force up medicine prices. Those negotiations have advanced even further, said Corbyn, with initial discussions on lengthening patents already completed. 

Reading from the document, Corbyn said it noted: “Everything is included unless something is specifically excluded,” and that the U.S. wants “total market access as the baseline assumption.”

In a tweet just prior to Corbyn’s announcement, Johnson wrote: “Our NHS will not be on the table for any trade negotiations. We’re protecting and strengthening our NHS with more investment and an Australian style, points-based immigration system.”


Zimbabwe Central Bank Reverses Policy and Halves Key Rate to 35%

Explore what’s moving the global economy in the new season of the Stephanomics podcast. Subscribe via Apple Podcast, Spotify or Pocket Cast.

Zimbabwe’s central bank halved its key interest rate to 35%, joining the finance ministry in efforts to revive an economy hobbled by years of mismanagement.

The decision reverses a move by the southern African nation’s newly formed Monetary Policy Committee in September that raised the rate from 50%. It follows the unveiling last week of the 2020 budget which shows a planned surge in spending for next year.

The rate was cut as the MPC “emphasized the need for the bank to put in place measures to fund the productive sectors of the economy by redirecting excess liquidity in the financial system,” Governor John Mangudya said in a statement.

While the moves by the monetary and fiscal authorities seek to boost the economy that’s forecast to contract this year, it could drive up price growth in a nation that a decade ago had to abandon its own currency due to hyperinflation that reached an estimated 500 billion %. The government dropped a one-to-one peg of its quasi currency to the dollar in February and later outlawed the use of foreign exchange. Since then, the currency has lost almost 94% of its value against the greenback.

The worst regional drought in almost 40 years hit food supplies and left about half of Zimbabwe’s 14 million people without reliable access to enough to eat, further driving up costs.

Despite a spike in the monthly inflation rate to 38.8% in October, the central bank says the outlook for price growth is positive. While the country stopped releasing annual figures in August, the rate is 440%, according to John Robertson, an independent economist in Harare.

“The inflation rate itself says the interest rate should be set a lot higher,” Robertson said. “It’s a whole collection of imbalances and the interest rate is one of them.”

The October inflation increase was “due to shocks caused by mainly adjustments of electricity and fuel prices,” Mangudya said. The position on interest rates will be reviewed at future MPC meetings, he said. The panel will convene again on Nov. 29.


Trump considering testifying in House impeachment probe

U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday he is “strongly” considering testifying in the House of Representatives’ ongoing impeachment investigation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered Trump the opportunity to testify under oath during an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday morning television program.

Trump, Pelosi said, “could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants if he wants.”

“If he has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it,” Pelosi said. “He has every opportunity to present his case.”

Saying he is weighing her offer, Trump continued to lash out at the impeachment probe and Pelosi, whom he dubs “Nervous Nancy,” calling the House’s investigation a “phony Impeachment Witch Hunt.”

“Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets.

The Democrat-led impeachment process is investigating whether Trump abused the power of his office in seeking to have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky open corruption probes into Democratic challenger Joe Biden on hitherto uncorroborated claims of corruption, as well as the hold-up of some $400 million in congressionally-appropriated military aid.

Trump has denied wrongdoing as the process has gathered steam and moved into the public arena with nationally-televised hearings of senior diplomats and officials.

Three witnesses, including the U.S.’s ousted top diplomat to Ukraine — Marie Yovanovitch, testified last week.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Monday found some 70% of Americans think Trump’s request to a foreign leader to open the probe into Biden and his son, Hunter, was wrong.

Moreover, the poll indicated that a majority of Americans — 51% — now believe the president should be impeached and removed from office. The poll did note that just over 20% of respondents said they had been following the process closely.


Trump says he will consider testifying in impeachment inquiry

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said he might be willing to testify in the impeachment inquiry “even though I did nothing wrong,” although House Democrats leading the investigation have not publicly called him as a witness.

“Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!” Trump tweeted.


Iranian FM criticizes India for “giving in” to U.S. anti-Iran sanction pressures

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Saturday that India has succumbed to the U.S. pressures over sanctions against Iran.

India has put itself “on the receiving end” of the U.S. “bullying,” giving in to U.S. illegal sanctions and ending oil imports from Iran, Zarif was quoted as saying by Press TV.

The bilateral ties would not be affected by U.S. bans, he said, adding that however, “we expected our friends to be more resilient vis-a-vis U.S. pressures.”

India was Iran’s second largest oil customer, importing 457,000 barrels of oil a day before the U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal in May 2018.

India stopped importing oil from Iran in May 2019 after the White House terminated sanctions waivers for major buyers of crude from Iran.

Zarif stressed that despite U.S. pressures, Iran “will continue to sell its oil and countries will continue to buy it.”


Zero evidence of any wrongdoing by President Donald Trump in impeachment hearing: White House

he White House on Friday said that “zero evidence” of any wrongdoing by President Donald Trump was presented at the impeachment hearing by a Congressional panel, asserting that the former US envoy to Ukraine deposed that she was unaware of any criminal activity involving the president.

“The second public hearing of Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Schiff’s impeachment charade was as useless and inconsequential as the first. Zero evidence of any wrongdoing by the president was presented,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said after the conclusion of the second public hearing on impeachment against Donald Trump.

Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the House-initiated impeachment hearing against Donald Trump.

Referring to her testimony, Grisham said that Yovanovitch deposed under oath that she was unaware of any criminal activity involving President Donald Trump.

“She was not on the July 25 phone call and had no knowledge about the pause on aid to Ukraine. It is difficult to imagine a greater waste of time than today’s hearing, and yet unfortunately, we expect more of the same partisan political theater next week from House Democrats,” Grisham said.

On Friday, Yovanovitch was the third witness to appear before the House Committee headed by Congressman Adam Schiff in the Democrat’s impeachment against Trump.

The public hearing of the probe kicked off on Wednesday as William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, testified for more than five hours before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she advocated the US position that the rule of law should prevail, and Ukrainian law enforcement prosecutors and judges should stop wielding their power selectively as a political weapon against their adversaries and start dealing with all consistently and according to law.

“Untrue are unsourced allegations that I told unidentified embassy employees or Ukrainian officials that President Trump’s orders should be ignored because he was going to be impeached or for any other reason. I did not and I would not say such a thing. Such statements would be inconsistent with my training as a foreign service officer and my role as an ambassador,” she said.

The previous Obama administration, she said, did not ask her to help the Clinton campaign or harm the Trump campaign, she said.

“Nor had I taken any such steps if they had. The partisanship of this type is not compatible with the role of a career foreign service officer,” she said.

The former diplomat said that she never met Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice-President Joe Biden, nor she had any direct or indirect conversations with him.

“And although I have met former Vice-President Biden several times over the course of our many years in government service, neither he nor the previous administration ever raised the issue of either Burisma or Hunter Biden with me,” she said.

Responding to questions, Yovanovitch said that fighting corruption in Ukraine was a key element of US policy.

“It was important, and it was actually stated in our policy and in our strategy. It was important because corruption was undermining the integrity of the governance system in Ukraine. And as I noted in my statement, countries that have leaders that are honest and trustworthy make better partners for us,” she said.

“Countries, where there is a level playing field for our US business, makes it easier for our companies to do business there, to trade and to profit in those countries. And what had been happening since the Soviet Union — and this is very much a Soviet legacy — is that corrupt interests were undermining not only the governance, but also the economy of Ukraine. We see enormous potential in Ukraine and would like to have a more capable, more trustworthy partner there,” the former US diplomat said, during her testimony that lasted for more than five and half hours.

Following the testimony, Congressman Schiff said that this is a story about “an effort to coerce, condition, or bribe a foreign country into doing the dirty work of the president, investigations of his political rival, by conditioning US taxpayer money, by conditioning a meeting that President Zelensky desperately wanted and needed to establish that relationship with the most powerful patron of Ukraine, the United States of America.

“The fact that they failed in this solicitation of bribery doesn’t make it any less bribery. It doesn’t make it any less immoral or corrupt. It just means it was unsuccessful,” he said.


Impeachment Inquiry Cheat Sheet: Marie Yovanovitch’s Past Testimony

The House Intelligence Committee will call former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch to testify on Friday in the second public hearing as part of the “impeachment inquiry” against President Donald Trump.

President Trump removed Yovanovitch from her post in May, after what critics called a “political hit job” against her.

No one has ever suggested it was illegal for Trump to do so: ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president. There is nothing remotely impeachable in her firing. Curiously, newly-elected President Volodymyr Zelensky also told Trump that he had lost confidence in Yovanovitch.

However, Democrats will allege that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was acting at the time as the president’s personal attorney, fed Trump bad information about her that came from the media, relying on Ukrainian sources pursuing their own personal and political agendas.

Yovanovitch also enjoys a great deal of sympathy and respect, especially from senior members of the State Department. Her testimony is going to be used to paint Giuliani in the worst possible light — and thereby tarnish the president’s request, partly encouraged by Giuliani, to have Ukraine to commit to particular investigations.

Key Democratic Talking Points

1. Yovanovitch was fired after Giuliani met former Prosecutor General Yuriy Letsenko, who told John Solomon, writing in The Hill in March, that she gave him a list of people not to prosecute and urged him not to prosecute the George Soros-backed Anti-Corruption Action Centre (AntAC). She recalled a conversation with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan: “I said, ‘What have I done wrong?’ And he said, ‘You’ve done nothing wrong.’”

  • What Democrats aren’t telling you: Zelensky told Trump: “It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.” Asked if she urged Letsenko “not to prosecute” individuals or entities, she responded, “Conversations about, ‘You need to be sure that, you know, there is a real case that is not politically motivated, that this isn’t just harassment and pressure — so those conversations, you know, certainty took place.”

2. Yovanovitch is a non-partisan foreign service veteran who was shocked when U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland allegedly suggested she tweet support for President Trump as a way of dispelling rumors. “It was advice that I did not see how I could implement in my role as an Ambassador, and as a Foreign Service Officer.”

  • What Democrats aren’t telling you: Fox News reported last week that Yovanovitch may have given the House Intelligence Committee false information when she testified that she did not respond to a request from a Democratic staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “However, emails obtained by Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” showed that in fact, Yovanovitch had responded to Carey’s initial Aug. 14 email, writing that she “would love to reconnect and look forward to chatting with you,” Fox News reported. Republicans have been concerned about potential coordination between Democratic committee staff in Congress and potential “whistleblowers” or witnesses as they attempt to impeach President Trump.

3. Yovanovitch was concerned that “Giuliani was involved in activities that may be at odds with U.S. policy.” Like other career diplomats, she was uncomfortable with an informal channel outside the normal bureaucratic structure.

  • What Democrats aren’t telling you: Yovanovitch testified in her closed-door deposition that because of “President Trump’s decision to provide lethal weapons” to Ukraine, “our policy actually got stronger over the three last three years.” She also confirmed that the foreign aid that had been held up over the summer did not include the Javelin anti-tank missiles that had made the biggest difference and in which Ukraine was most interested. And she testified that Trump and the diplomats “shared” deep concern about corruption in Ukraine.


‘Swing-gate’ TD Maria Bailey expected to be taken off General Election ticket

TD Maria Bailey is expected to be taken off the General Election ticket in Dun Laoghaire following a meeting of Fine Gael’s national executive council.

The meeting at the party’s headquarters on Thursday evening is expected to act on the wishes of the constituency membership.

Fine Gael members in Dun Laoghaire carried a motion asking party HQ to urgently review the General Election ticket in Ms Bailey’s constituency two weeks ago.

That meeting heard that the party had taken a knock in the opinion polls following the controversy regarding Ms Bailey.

The Dun Laoghaire TD has been under scrutiny since her compensation case for falling off a swing at the Dean Hotel in Dublin in 2015 came to light earlier this year.

Ms Bailey was demoted following an internal review which found that she “overstated” the extent of her injuries.

Court documents lodged as part of Ms Bailey’s case stated that she could not run for three months after her fall but she took part in a 10km race three weeks after the incident.

In an RTE radio interview in May, she said the swing had not been properly supervised at the time of her fall.

Ms Bailey has since withdrawn proceedings she filed against the Dean Hotel and was demoted by being removed as chairwoman of the Oireachtas Housing Committee.

Party headquarters could now potentially replace Ms Bailey with newly elected councillor Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, who represents Killiney-Shankill on Dun Laoghaire County Council.

Another newly elected local councillor, Lorraine Hall, has also been cited as a potential replacement for Ms Bailey on the ticket.

Ms Bailey, Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor and councillor Barry Ward were selected last year to contest the general election for Fine Gael in the four-seat constituency.

Any move by the council to remove Ms Bailey from the ticket would have to have the approval of Irish Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and the party’s director of elections, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.