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Trump isn’t pleased a South Korean film won best-picture Oscar

President Donald Trump bemoaned this year’s Academy Award winner for best picture, “Parasite,” on Thursday because it’s a South Korean film.

“How bad were the Academy Awards this year, did you see? ‘And the winner is … a movie from South Korea,’ ” Trump said, impersonating an announcer, at a rally in Colorado.
“What the hell was that all about? We’ve got enough problems with South Korea with trade, on top of it they give them the best movie of the year?” he asked.
Parasite was the first foreign language movie to win best picture at the Academy Awards. It also won awards for directing and original screenplay.
Trump, however, wasn’t impressed. He seemed more interested in American films that had been made more than 70 years ago.
“I’m looking for like, let’s get ‘Gone with the Wind’ — can we get like ‘Gone with the Wind’ back, please? ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ so many great movies,” he continued.
Trump said he didn’t know if “Parasite” was good. “I thought it was best foreign film, best foreign movie — no, it was the best. Did this ever happen before?” he asked
Neon, the American distributor of “Parasite,” responded to Trump’s criticism on Twitter.
“Understandable, he can’t read,” the company wrote.
Trump also wasn’t a fan of Brad Pitt, whose speech, when he received the award for best supporting actor, veered into politics when he mentioned John Bolton’s absence from the President’s Senate impeachment trial.
“I was never a big fan of his,” Trump said. “He got up, said a little wise-guy statement. Little wise guy, he’s a little wise guy.”
Pitt had joked during his acceptance speech about how the Senate voted against allowing witnesses during the trial, which had wrapped up the prior week.
“They told me I only had 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week,” Pitt said. “I’m thinking maybe Quentin (Tarantino) does a movie about it and in the end the adults do the right thing.”

Film fans gear up for Nollywood-Bollywood crossover

The Nigerian star of upcoming movie Namaste Wahala has told fans that filming has wrapped ahead of its release on 24 April.

Ini Dima-Okojie plays opposite Indian actor Ruslaan Mumtaz in a “love story that cuts across the cultures of two countries”.

News of the upcoming film has delighted and amused fans:

“Nollywood featuring Bollywood? This is about to be the most dramatic, over-exaggerated movie ever made,” Twitter user Official Gracie said


“The name alone wants me to watch it. Namaste [means] peace. Wahala [means] trouble/problem. Gotta watch it with some Chicken Biryani and Jollof Rice for the culture(s),” said Jerome Antwin-Lewis


“A Nollybollywood romance called Namaste Wahala is exactly the type of film this world needs. I cannot wait to see it,” Ronke Lawal tweeted

OkayAfrica points out that this isn’t the first Nollywood-Bollywood crossover – that distinction belongs to the 2017 film J.U.D.E. , it says.

Nigeria and India boast two of the world’s biggest film industries – each year generating an estimated $800m (£620m)

and $2.6bn respectively


Barclays CEO Jes Staley under investigation over links with Jeffrey Epstein

The American chief executive of Barclays (BCS), Jes Staley, is being investigated by British regulators over his relationship with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, the bank said in a statement on Thursday.

“The relationship between Mr Staley and Mr Epstein was the subject of an enquiry from the Financial Conduct Authority to which the Company responded,” Barclays said. “The FCA … subsequently commenced an investigation, which is ongoing, into Mr Staley’s characterization to the company of his relationship with Mr Epstein and the subsequent description of that relationship in the company’s response to the FCA.”
The FCA and another UK regulator, the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority, confirmed in a statement that they are investigating the Barclays CEO.
Staley has been running the bank since late 2015. Prior to that he worked for more than 30 years at JPMorgan (JPM), where he served as head of its investment banking division.
In its statement, Barclays said Staley had developed a professional relationship earlier in his career with Epstein, who died in jail last year while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. The bank said Staley had told the board that he had had no contact with Epstein since becoming Barclays CEO in December 2015.
“Based on a review, conducted with the support of external counsel, of the information available to us and representations made by Mr Staley, the board … believes that Mr Staley has been sufficiently transparent with the company as regards the nature and extent of his relationship with Mr Epstein. Accordingly, Mr Staley retains the full confidence of the board, and is being unanimously recommended for re-election at the Annual General Meeting.”

Lawrence Ray: US student’s dad charged for sex trafficking

A man accused of abusing his daughter’s university roommates has been arrested in the US and charged with extortion, sex trafficking and forced labour.

Prosecutors say Lawrence “Larry” Ray extorted some $1m (£771,000) from students at New York’s Sarah Lawrence College, abusing them “emotionally, physically, and sexually”.

The charges were prompted by a story in New York magazine, which detailed the alleged workings of Mr Ray’s “cult”.

Mr Ray, 60, has denied the allegations.

He was arrested on Tuesday in the state of New Jersey.

“For the better part of the last decade, we allege there was no limit to the abuse Ray’s victims received, and there is no way of knowing the amount of damage he may have caused them in the years to come,” said FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney.

What are the accusations?

According to New York magazine, the abuse started when Mr Ray showed up at his daughter’s university in 2010, after being released from prison, where he had been serving time on charges related to a custody dispute.

The publication said his daughter described him to friends as a “truth-teller” who had been unjustly imprisoned. A former FBI informant, Mr Ray had been a close associate of former New York police chief Bernard Kerik. The pair fell out and Mr Ray cooperated with authorities in a high-profile corruption case against Kerik.

Mr Ray moved into his daughter’s dormitory, where prosecutors say he presented himself as a father-figure and began conducting “therapy” sessions.

During the sessions, he allegedly learned intimate details about the students’ private lives and mental health struggles. He alienated several of them from their parents, persuading some to move into a Manhattan apartment and convincing them that they were “broken” and needed his help.

After gaining their trust, prosecutors say Mr Ray subjected his victims to interrogation sessions in which he falsely accused them of harming him by attempting to poison him or damage his property. He allegedly demanded confessions, using tactics including sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and physical violence.

On one occasion, after accusing a male victim of damaging his property, Mr Ray brandished a knife and threatened to dismember the victim with it, forcing a false confession, the indictment says.

He is accused of using the false confessions to extort money, which the victims attempted to pay by draining their parents’ savings and opening credit lines, among other means. Authorities say he collected more than $500,000 from one woman after forcing her into prostitution, while several were forced to perform unpaid labour.

In total, he is accused of extorting about $1m from at least five victims.

Authorities say he laundered the proceeds of his crimes through an internet domain business.

Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said: “College is supposed to be a time of self-discovery and new-found independence. But as alleged, Lawrence Ray exploited that vulnerable time in his victims’ lives through a course of conduct that shocks the conscience”.

Mr Ray has denied the charges, claiming they are the result of a conspiracy against him.

In a statement reported by US media, Sarah Lawrence College described the charges as “serious, wide-ranging, disturbing, and upsetting”.

It said it launched an internal investigation after the New York magazine story was published, which it said “did not substantiate those specific claims”.

Roger Stone: Prosecutors quit Trump ally case over sentence dispute

Four US prosecutors working on the case of Roger Stone – a convicted former advisor to US President Donald Trump – have quit.

Their decision comes after the Justice Department said it planned to reduce the amount of prison time it would seek for the president’s longtime ally.

Stone was found guilty on seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.

The prosecutors had recommended a sentence of seven to nine years.

In a tweet, Mr Trump had called the recommendation “very horrible and unfair”.

Hours after Mr Trump’s tweet, the Justice Department said it would lower the amount of prison time it would seek for Stone.

The department claimed the decision was made on Monday night, before Mr Trump’s tweet. Mr Trump told reporters he did not speak to the Justice Department about it.

Who is Roger Stone?

He is a veteran Republican political consultant and friend to the president. He famously has a tattoo of former president Richard Nixon on his back.

Stone was convicted in November of obstructing an investigation by the House Intelligence Committee into Russian interference in the 2016 election

He was found to have lied to investigators under oath and attempted to block the testimony of a witness who would have exposed his dishonesty.

Why have the prosecutors resigned?

Federal prosecutors in Washington recommended to a judge on Monday that Stone should face seven to nine years in jail for trying to thwart the investigation.

The president swiftly voiced his opposition in a tweet.

Later on Tuesday, a Justice Department official, who had just joined the case, called the recommendation “excessive and unwarranted” in a new court filing. None of the previous four prosecutors signed it.

A senior Justice Department official called the timing of Mr Trump’s tweet an “inconvenient coincidence”.

The four prosecutors – Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Michael Marando and Jonathan Kravis – then withdrew from the case. Mr Kravis then revealed be was quitting as a federal prosecutor altogether.

Stone is due to be sentenced on 20 February.

What has the reaction been?

“The president seems to think the entire Justice Department is just his personal lawsuit to prosecute his enemies and help his friends,” Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, told reporters.

Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who chairs the House committee, said any intervention by the president would have been “a blatant abuse of power”.

“Doing so would send an unmistakable message that President Trump will protect those who lie to Congress to cover up his own misconduct and that the attorney general will join him in that effort,” he said in a statement.

Dramatic deposition rocks Trump’s impeachment defense

Democrats may have just unearthed their smoking gun and the quid pro quo in one fell swoop after the most consequential and dramatic turn yet in their impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump.

On yet another mind-bending day in a presidency that is carving one of the most turbulent passages in US political history, Trump’s plight and that of his GOP defenders markedly darkened.
The top US diplomat in Ukraine notified House investigators that he was told that the release of military aid to Kiev would depend on a pledge to probe the 2016 election and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, leads Trump by 10 points in a hypothetical 2020 general election matchup.
The deposition by Bill Taylor on Tuesday appears to directly refute the President’s claim that there was no quid pro quo in his dealings with the former Soviet state.
Taylor’s testimony bolsters a whistleblower report and a transcript of Trump’s notorious July 25 call with Ukraine’s President that shows he asked for a “favor” in return for badly needed aid as Ukraine fights Russia.
It makes it far more difficult for the GOP to defend the President on the facts of the case, as they have emerged from days of testimony inside the closed impeachment inquiry.
And the new testimony may increasingly force the President’s supporters into a fallback argument: that what he did was inappropriate but falls short of the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors needed for impeachment.
Democrats argued that Taylor’s testimony was the most shocking revelation yet from their monthlong impeachment investigation — which is likely to get more complicated as a result.
“This testimony is a sea change. I think it could accelerate matters,” said Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts.
Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York said there was clear evidence of a quid pro quo manifested in Trump’s pressure on Ukraine.
“It’s out there, so read the text of the statement,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Carrie Cordero, a CNN legal analyst and former senior Justice Department and intelligence community official, described Taylor’s testimony as “an incredibly big deal.”
“Bill Taylor clearly articulated in the way that we have most clearly understood at this point the exchange that was on the table,” Cordero said on “Erin Burnett OutFront.”

White House slams ‘radical bureaucrats’

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and says the Democrats are attempting to impeach him because they can’t win the 2020 election. His legal team accuses Democrats of running an illegitimate process that is unfair to the President.
But another day of devastating disclosures on Capitol Hill helps explain Trump’s increasingly explosive behavior, which saw him compare his own sense of victimization to African Americans who were lynched in the darkest moments of the nation’s past.
The White House did not challenge Taylor’s testimony directly, instead choosing to attack the constitutionally sound Democratic process and to conjure up a new conspiracy theory.
“President Trump has done nothing wrong — this is a coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham in a statement.
More on the impeachment inquiry from CN
Taylor, one of the “radical, unelected bureaucrats” in the President’s sights, is a highly regarded career official who was directly appointed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and is a veteran of the Republican George W. Bush administration.
As Trump fumed in the White House, Republicans wrestled with how to cope with the latest avalanche of disclosures.
His most loyal defenders insisted that Taylor’s testimony changed nothing. “I’ve been in there 10 hours, I can assure you there’s no quid pro quo,” said Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina defended Trump’s use of the term “lynching.”
“This is a sham. This is a joke,” he said.
“So yeah this is a lynching, in every sense. This is un-American,” he added.
But other, more moderate Republicans publicly expressed disquiet over the new testimony, which provided new texture on Trump’s back-channel Ukraine policy shop involving his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and several personal appointees.
“The question that we’re going to be answering here is: Does this reach a level of impeachment or is it a disagreement on policy?” said Republican Rep. Will Hurd of Texas.
Hurd was asked on CNN’s “The Situation Room” whether withholding nearly $400 million in aid to coerce Ukraine into investigating Trump’s political opponents was impeachable conduct.
“I think that would reach a level that we should be considering,” Hurd said.
Republican Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida said he was concerned by the Taylor deposition. “Does it rise to the level of an impeachable offense? I don’t know.”

Boris Johnson can’t celebrate his Brexit win for long

Boris Johnson has taken the first step up his Brexit mountain. If he’s careless, he could be buried under an avalanche.

As he travels back to London from Brussels, the British Prime Minister has good reason to feel upbeat. He was told he’d never get a new Brexit deal and that his plans to replace the Irish border backstop were a non-starter. Yet, as his swaggering senior advisers were keen to point out to journalists here in Brussels, he’s proved everyone wrong.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that he might have kicked off a chain of events that could bring his time as Prime Minister to a premature end. He now faces what will be two of the most painful days of his career back in London.
On Friday, Johnson will have to convince lawmakers across the political divide that they should back his new Brexit deal.
It’s a tough ask. The main opposition Labour Party hates the deal, and wants to negotiate its own one and then put that deal to a public referendum. Other opposition parties want to scrap Brexit altogether. His supposed allies in the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party have rubbished his plan and said they won’t support it. And even some hardline Brexiteer members of his own Conservative party are looking shaky.
It’s easy to see why. Johnson’s new deal looks a hell of a lot like Theresa May’s hated deal. In reality, pretty much all that Johnson has done is remove one part of the Withdrawal Agreement — the Irish backstop — and replace it with something much more complicated. And Johnson, it mustn’t be forgotten, voted against May’s deal — twice. His resignation from May’s cabinet over her Brexit plans began the backlash that ultimately ended her premiership.
His reasons for voting against May were numerous and extended well beyond the backstop. And now he, Boris Johnson, must look the Brexiteers he led in the eye and say that his deal is worth £39 billion (about $50 million) where May’s was worth nothing.
That’s Friday. On Saturday, the rubber meets the road, when Johnson will bring his deal before Parliament for a special weekend sitting. He will have to spend the day sat in Parliament listening to his deal be criticized from all corners of the House of Commons. As Johnson’s time at his first, and possibly last, summit as leader of an EU member state came to an end, he told media that he hoped when his “colleagues in parliament study this agreement, they will want to vote for it on Saturday.”
Right now, the numbers are not there for Johnson. Generous predictions currently give him a narrow loss. But if everything falls apart for him in the next 48 hours, it could be a crushing defeat.
If that happens, he will be legally obliged to request an extension to Article 50 and delay Brexit — the one thing he promised he’d never do. At that point, it’s very likely that the gradual slide towards the inevitable general election speeds up. Once the extension has been granted, both Johnson and his opponents will be chomping at the bit to get on the campaign trail. Johnson will point at his enemies and say that they stole Brexit. They will shout back that he is a failure.

All set for first all-female spacewalk: NASA

American space program NASA plans to carry out the first all-female spacewalk this week, it said Tuesday.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will venture outside the International Space Station either Thursday or Friday to replace a power controller unit that failed over the weekend.

‘‘There are a lot of people that derive motivation from inspiring stories of people that look like them,’‘ Koch said when asked about the significance of women making strides in the space program

‘‘What we are doing now shows all the work that went in for the decades prior, all the women that worked to get us where we are today. It’s really nice to see how far we have come,’‘ Meir said.

Breaking sexism barriers

The first such mission was supposed to take place in March but had to be cancelled because the space agency had only one medium-sized suit at the time, with a male-female combination performing the required task at a later date.

Traditionally male-dominated NASA’s failure to be adequately prepared was denounced in some quarters as evidence of implicit sexism.

What’s the mission?

The new date was announced by administrator Jim Bridenstine in a tweet, while a blog post detailed the job at hand: swapping out a faulty Battery Charge/Discharge Unit (BCDU) with a new one.

The station is out of direct sunlight for much of its orbit and therefore needs batteries, and the BCDUs regulate the amount of charge that goes into them.

The ISS currently has six crew members: Americans Koch, Meir, and Andrew Morgan; Russians Alexander Skvotsov and Oleg Skripochka, and Italian Luca Parmitano.

Spacewalks last several hours and are frequently needed to perform maintenance on the complex, the first part of which was launched into space by Russia in 1998.

White House scrambles to slow impeachment

The White House is launching a new effort to slow the speeding Democratic impeachment push, but its noncooperation strategy is being constantly thwarted by a daily stream of explosive secrets being spilled behind closed doors on Capitol Hill.

Current and former officials are painting an ever more damning picture of a wider than originally perceived scheme by President Donald Trump and his crew to pressure Ukraine that they warned could amount to a trampling of US law.
Vice President Mike Pence launched a new effort Tuesday to bolster White House hopes of stalling the House inquiry long enough for Trump to turn public opinion against it. He refused to turn over documents related to Trump’s now notorious call with the President of Ukraine on July 25.
But White House officials are becoming increasingly frustrated at revelations from the closed-door hearings. Given that there is no presidential counsel in the room, they struggle to frame a defense, learning about almost daily bombshells only from news reports, CNN reported on Tuesday.
And the possibility that former national security adviser John Bolton — who may have little incentive to shield the President who recently ousted him — could soon be called to testify will do little to ease the impression among White House officials that they are flying blind.
Fresh testimony in recent days has elevated the crisis for Trump. It has appeared to expose an off-the-books effort to perform an end run around US foreign policy officials with political appointees that predated his notorious phone call with the President of Ukraine in which he sought dirt on his possible 2020 foe Joe Biden.
On Monday, former senior White House Russia aide Fiona Hill testified that she had tried to raise the alarm about possibly illegal activity — and had been encouraged to do so by Bolton.
A senior State Department official, George Kent, testified Tuesday that he’d been told by a supervisor to lie low after complaining about Rudy Giuliani’s meddling in Ukraine, according to Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who sits on the House Oversight Committee.
More peril looms for the White House on Thursday, when Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, is expected to tell lawmakers that a text he sent to a colleague insisting there was no quid pro quo offered to Ukraine was dictated by the President himself.
The most worrying development so far this week for the Trump team is that Hill’s stunning mention of Bolton raises the possibility that a possibly disgruntled former national security adviser, who was forced out under a cloud, may have an incentive to offer testimony that could damage his former boss.
Trump’s rather worn defense of his actions exemplifies the depth of his problem. The Ukraine story has outpaced the President’s attacks on a whistleblower who first exposed the story and his defense of his “perfect” call with Ukraine’s President. Trump’s allies are bemoaning what they say is a lack of due process in the Democratic impeachment investigation — but they often seem unable to effectively parry the damaging tidbits leaking out of depositions.

Trump’s defense is beginning to look insufficient

The President stuck to generalities on Tuesday.
“We just hit the greatest economy we’ve ever had. ‘Let’s impeach the President’ — isn’t that a good idea?” Trump said during an event with the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.
“I wouldn’t worry about it, fellas. I wouldn’t worry about it,” the President told several senators in the audience, referring to impeachment — raising questions as to whether he understands the seriousness of his plight.
Democrats are expressing deep satisfaction with the pace of their three-week-old investigation so far.
And in a sign that GOP attacks on their process are not yet biting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that she had no plans yet to bow to demands for a vote formally authorizing the impeachment proceedings.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff laid claim to “dramatic progress” Tuesday in digging out the truth about Trump’s call with President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25.
And Democratic presidential candidates — in a grave moment at the start of their latest debate in Ohio — reflected polls showing growing public support for investigating the President.
Former Vice President Joe Biden blasted Trump as “the most corrupt” President “in modern history and all of our history.”

Impeachment could lead to a first in the 2020 election

President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly shattered political tradition, may find himself in another unprecedented circumstance in 2020: He could become the first president ever to be impeached by the House and then seek another term in the next election.

That unique prospect could scramble the electoral calculations next year for both parties.
  • For Trump, an impeachment confrontation that highlights the aspects of his presidency that most concern swing voters — from his volatility to his willingness to skirt if not smash legal constraints — could force him further toward a 2020 strategy centered on maximizing turnout among his core supporters.
  • For Democrats, a bitter impeachment fight that divides Congress and the country almost entirely among party lines could upset one of the key underlying assumptions driving the competition for the party’s presidential nomination: While most Democratic primary voters appear focused primarily on finding the nominee they believe will most effectively take the fight to Trump, a searing impeachment struggle could create more public demand for a candidate who pledges to bring the country together, some operatives in both parties believe.
As impeachment proceeds, the division in the country “is going to go into the stratosphere,” predicts Charles Coughlin, a veteran Republican political strategist based in Phoenix. “Which I think creates an opportunity for a candidate … to fill that narrative: We have to start talking about what brings us together and not what pushes us apart. I think there will be giant pieces of room in the electorate, both Republican and Democratic, to articulate that notion.”
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