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Critics Skewer Venezuelan President Over Feast as Country Starves

Videos of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro feasting on steaks at an upscale restaurant have sparked worldwide outrage on behalf of the poverty-stricken people of his country.

One video show celebrity chef Nusret Gokce, also known as “Salt Bae,” carving meat for the president and his wife, Cilia Flores, at the Nusr-Et restaurant in Istanbul, where each cut of meat can cost hundreds of dollars.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio slammed the chef who was filmed with the “dictator,” who was shown eating “a five-star gourmet meal, smoking fine cigars while the people of Venezuela are literally starving.”

“It’s an outrage, disgusting … this is a man starving human beings and [Salt Bae] is celebrating him as some sort of hero – I got pissed,” Rubio told the Miami Herald on Tuesday.

“I don’t know who this weirdo #Saltbae is, but the guy he is so proud to host is not the President of #Venezuela. He is actually the overweight dictator of a nation where 30% of the people eat only once a day & infants are suffering from malnutrition,” Rubio tweeted Tuesday.

The senator also tweeted the address and phone number of the chef’s restaurant in Miami, which is home to scores of Venzeulan-Americans and Cuban-Americans who despise the socialist leader.

Opposition leader Julio Borges, who lives in exile in Colombia, tweeted: “While Venezuelans suffer and die of hunger, Nicolas Maduro and Cilia Flores have a good time in one of the most expensive restaurants in the world, all with money stolen from the Venezuelan people.”

The once-wealthy oil-producing nation has been in an economic crisis for the past five years. The turmoil has left many Venezuelans struggling to find food and medicine and driven masses to flee to other South American countries.

According to the United Nations, more than 2 million Venezuelans have fled since 2014.

A  Meganalisis poll published in the Miami Herald last month found more then 30 percent of Venezuelans say they only ate one meal a day, nearly the same number report eating “nothing or close to nothing” at least one day a week and a staggering 78 percent said they had trouble finding enough food.

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Mexico’s Next Anti-money Laundering Czar Vows Action After ‘Shameful’ Odebrecht

Mexico’s incoming financial intelligence chief said it was “shameful” how little had been done about bribes that Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht executives said were paid to secure Mexican public works contracts, and vowed to reexamine the case once in office.

Santiago Nieto will head the finance ministry’s Financial Intelligence Unit, which analyzes suspicious financial records, once the new leftist government takes office on Dec. 1. He said in an interview last week that the unit had been misused for political ends, without elaborating.

“It’s shameful that Mexico and Venezuela are the only countries in Latin America that haven’t sanctioned anyone,” he said of the Odebrecht case, which is at the heart of Brazil’s Lava Jato, or Car Wash, corruption investigation that has reverberated across the region in recent years.

“In the case of Odebrecht, and in any other case, the first thing we would have to do is review what there is in the Financial Intelligence Unit related to the case,” he said. Nieto does not yet have access to files and records kept by the unit.

In Brazil, Odebrecht executives admitted to paying bribes within Mexico. Prosecutors in Mexico have said they are probing business between the Brazilian conglomerate and state oil company Pemex.

Pemex has declined to comment on issues related to Odebrecht, citing the ongoing investigation. The office of Mexico’s attorney general, the finance ministry and the Financial Intelligence Unit all declined to comment for this story. Odebrecht acknowledged receipt of an emailed request for comment, but did not respond further.

Anger at widespread corruption scandals, including the alleged bribes from Odebrecht, a lucrative house deal involving the family of President Enrique Pena Nieto, and hundreds of millions of dollars siphoned from government coffers through fake contracts, helped leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador win a landslide presidential victory in July.

Lopez Obrador pledged in his manifesto to clamp down on financial crime, and tighten money laundering, banking and tax regulations. He has given few details of how he will achieve this, but promises to set an example of probity from the presidency.

Tasked with helping to prevent and fight money laundering and terrorism financing, the financial intelligence unit receives and analyzes information that it should then pass on to prosecutors to investigate and construct a case.

A former lead prosecutor for electoral crimes, Nieto was dismissed in 2017 on the grounds that he broke a code of conduct when he gave an interview about his investigation into Odebrecht bribery during the 2012 presidential campaign.

Nieto has admitted his mistake, but denies breaking rules or revealing sensitive information. He said his firing was illegal.

Last month, two incoming administration officials told Reuters that Odebrecht may be blocked from participating in public works projects under the new government.

Odebrecht responded that wrongdoing at the company should not be used to impose sanctions against it in Mexico.

Corrupt System?

Nieto said he would press for more information sharing between federal departments that investigate tax, electoral and organized crime, and investigate possible corruption within the system.

“I have the impression that there is a factor of internal corruption,” he said, without providing specifics.

The Financial Action Task Force, an international organization that sets global standards for fighting illicit finance, said earlier this year that in Mexico “financial intelligence does not often lead to investigations of money laundering, underlying crimes, and terrorist financing.”

Following the report, Mexico’s finance ministry and the attorney general’s office issued a joint statement recognizing shortcomings and promising to improve efforts.

However, the Mexican government seized just 871 million pesos ($46.3 million) and $14.7 million between September 2017 and June 2018, and began just one criminal proceeding, according to official statistics.

Nieto, who called the outcomes “terrible,” pointed to the financial intelligence unit and attorney general’s office as the two “bottlenecks” holding back cases.

“It is a matter of impunity, a complicit government, and a lack of political will to fight corruption,” Nieto said.

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When the Music’s Over: Cities Suffer as Venues Fall to Developers

When Pearl Jam led 50,000 people in a chant of “Save the Showbox” in a Seattle stadium last month, the rockers confronted a question facing many cities: When do the cultural costs of a property boom become too high?

The Showbox is an 1,100-person venue across the street from Pike Place Market, Seattle’s top tourist attraction. It opened in 1939 and has hosted acts from Duke Ellington to Prince, as well as the hometown grunge pioneers Pearl Jam.

The venue now risks becoming the latest casualty of the Pacific Northwest city’s real estate rush – and many in the community are saying enough is enough.

“Today one of our great cathedrals is at risk of being leveled,” said Ben Gibbard, lead singer of indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie, at a Seattle City Council hearing in August. “It’s not just a music venue, but a cornerstone of our cultural heritage. We cannot allow this vital piece of our rapidly changing city to be snuffed out.”

Historic venues are being crushed by real estate development in cities across Britain and the United States.

London has lost 35 percent of its independent music venues since 2007, according to the mayor’s office.

In 2014, The New York Observer documented eight significant music venues the city lost over the previous decade, beginning with punk icon venue CBGB and ending with the Roseland Ballroom, another pre-World War II concert hall.

Experts say that the trend affects more than just music fans, bands, and others in the industry.

“Music venues are an early canary in the coal mine,” said Shain Shapiro, head of Sound Diplomacy, a Britain-based consultancy firm on music in cities.

“It’s not just about developing our music industry and providing a great night out,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from London. “It improves the quality of life in increasingly denser and denser cities.”

Music or Housing

Interventions by city governments to save historic venues are rare, but the past few years have seen a few – usually in response to public pressure.

Fans of the Showbox were outraged in July when the Onni Group, a real estate developer headquartered in neighboring Vancouver, Canada, filed plans to build a 44-story building where the venue now sits.

A “Save the Showbox” online petition has garnered about 100,000 signatures. They include members of R.E.M., Jamie xx, The English Beat, and other musicians who have performed there.

Supporters packed the city hall hearing in August waving “Save the Showbox” signs.

Last month, the municipal government approved an extension of the Pike Place Market Historic District’s boundaries to incorporate the Showbox, which will be valid for 10 months.

The legislative move means additional scrutiny will apply to any proposed real estate development on the site, even though it is zoned to accommodate a 44-story building.

In response, the owners of the building housing the Showbox filed a $40 million lawsuit against the city of Seattle earlier this month.

The lawsuit noted that halting the project would mean losing $5 million in fees from the developer, which would go towards funding affordable housing.

Showbox supporters argue that the amount of money raised by the project would be paltry and could come from elsewhere.

“What we would be losing culturally is far more valuable than the amount of money that would go toward affordable housing,” Gibbard said in an interview.

City council member Lorena Gonzalez said she intends to submit a plan this month to permanently protect the building housing The Showbox.

Onni Group, the developer, did not reply to a request for comment.

Legal Protection

Authorities in Britain have acted to preserve some well-loved venues, as well as spurring the growth of new ones.

Under British law, developers must sign “Section 106 agreements” before gaining permission to proceed with projects.

Shapiro of Sound Diplomacy said that local governments have leveraged the law to push developers into incorporating live music spaces into their plans.

He pointed to Vicarage Field, a new shopping center in the London district of Barking that will host a music venue.

In Cardiff, Shapiro said, a public outcry last year saved a haven for Welsh-language music called Clwb Ifor Bach.

Developers planned plan to build flats in the live music district, but the City of Cardiff Council eventually purchased the land parcel and leased it to the venue.

“Clwb Ifor Bach is one of the best examples of a direct action that a council has taken,” Shapiro said.

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European Nations Plan to Use More Hydrogen for Energy Needs

Dozens of European countries are backing a plan to increase the use of hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels to cut the continent’s carbon emissions.


Energy officials from 25 countries pledged Tuesday to increase research into hydrogen technology and accelerate its everyday use to power factories, drive cars and heat homes.


The proposal, which was included in a non-binding agreement signed in Linz, Austria, includes the idea of using existing gas grids to distribute hydrogen produced with renewable energy.


The idea of a “hydrogen economy,” where fuels that release greenhouse gases are replaced with hydrogen, has been around for decades. Yet uptake on the concept has been slow so far, compared with some other technologies.


Advocates of hydrogen say it can solve the problem caused by fluctuating supplies of wind, solar, hydro and other renewable energies. By converting electricity generated from those sources into hydrogen, the energy can be stored in large tanks and released again when needed.


Electric vehicles can also use hydrogen to generate power on board, allowing manufacturers to overcome the range restrictions of existing batteries. Hydrogen vehicles can be refueled in a fraction of the time it takes to recharge a battery-powered vehicle.


On Monday the world’s first commuter train service using a prototype hydrogen-powered train began in northern Germany.


The European Union’s top climate and energy official said hydrogen could help the bloc meet its obligations to cut carbon emissions under the 2015 Paris accord. Miguel Arias Canete told reporters it could also contribute to the continent’s energy security by reducing imports of natural gas, much of which currently comes from Russia and countries outside of Europe.


Kirsten Westphal, an energy expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said encouraging the use of hydrogen as a means of storing and transporting energy makes sense, but added the overall goal for should be reducing fossil fuels rather than pushing a particular energy alternative.

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German Spymaster Ousted Over Anti-Migrant Violence

The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency has been transferred from his job just weeks after he made remarks that appeared to downplay anti-migrant violence.

Hans-Georg Maassen has been embroiled in a controversy since anti-migrant protests began in the eastern German city of Chemnitz in late August. A video was uploaded on social media that appeared to show far-right protesters chasing a man while shouting xenophobic slogans.

Maassen told the Bild newspaper in September that the video might be “false information.” He also said his agency had found no evidence that foreigners were being “hunted” in the city streets. His remarks contradicted those of Prime Minister Angela Merkel, who had condemned the attacks based on the video.

Maassen’s comments caused an uproar among the members of Merkel’s coalition government, with most calling for resignation or termination.

However, the far-right Alternative for Germany party praised Maassen and used his comments to further attack Merkel’s “completely failed asylum policy.”

Merkel’s interior minister and rival, Horst Seehofer, also backed Maassen.

On Tuesday, Merkel’s government announced that Maassen would be relieved of his duties at the intelligence agency and be made deputy interior minister under Seehofer.

It is not clear who will replace Maassen as intelligence chief.

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Hungary’s Orban Warms to Putin Over Nuclear Deal

Russia has reiterated its commitment to investing tens of billions of dollars in Hungary’s energy sector, despite the ongoing European sanctions against Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin backed the deal Tuesday after hosting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the Kremlin.

Orban said his country’s relationship with Russia was of great importance.

“I am very glad that over the last years we have had balanced, predictable relations,” he told Putin.

Hungary’s European Union partners see relations with Russia very differently and the bloc has enacted a raft of sanctions against Moscow following its 2014 forceful annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Orban’s visit to Moscow was primarily about economic ties, said Ian Bond of the London-based Center for European Reform.

“Hungary is one of the most dependent countries in Europe on Russia for its energy supplies. Not just for its gas — and I think it gets about three-quarters of its gas from Russia — but also because more than half of its electricity comes from nuclear plants, and 100 percent of the fuel for those nuclear plants comes from Russia. So it’s very easy for the Russians to remind the Hungarians that a cold winter is coming if they want to exercise political leverage,” Bond told VOA in an interview.

After private talks at the Kremlin, Putin reiterated Russia’s commitment to investing in Hungary through its state-owned nuclear giant.

“Rosatom will start constructing two new energy units at the Paks nuclear power plant in the nearest future,” he told reporters.

The Paks nuclear project has caused alarm in Brussels, noted analyst Ian Bond.

“Hungary is taking out a large Russian loan to cover the cost of it. This is something which … the European Commission resisted and tried to block. Eventually, the commission grudgingly cleared the deal, but it’s now running into delays, cost overruns and the like.”

As Hungary warms to Moscow, relations with Brussels are increasingly icy. EU lawmakers voted last week to initiate Article 7 punitive measures against Budapest for flouting the bloc’s treaties on the rule of law.

While Hungary has repeatedly spoken out against sanctions on Russia, so far Orban has resisted voting against the measures in the European Council, a move that would in effect veto them.

“But it may be that as part of thumbing his nose at the rest of Europe now that he faces sanctions over the rule of law, that he may decide that he can actually afford to block the sanctions on Russia the next time they come up for renewal,” Bond said.

For now, it seems the Hungarian leader is not ready to take such a dramatic step, despite such close relations with Moscow.

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У Києві представили «Білу книгу» підтримки ветеранів бойових дій та їхніх родин

Консорціум неурядових організацій представив у Києві 18 вересня аналітичну збірку «Біла книга: аналіз системи державної підтримки ветеранів та їх родин в Україні». Зібрані у ній пропозиції, рекомендації, наробки програм автори найближчим часом обіцяють передати на розгляд урядові.

«Біла книга» – це опис напрацювань та пропозицій громадських організацій та спілок ветеранів бойових дій до уряду, щоб створити єдину систему державної допомоги ветеранам та членам їхніх родин, повідомила керівник неурядової організації «Юридична сотня» та Проектного офісу зі створення міністерства у справах ветеранів Леся Василенко. За її словами, над концепцією міністерства та над «Білою книгою» працювали представники більш як 100 громадських, волонтерських, ветеранських організацій з усіх регіонів України.

«Ми пропонуємо створити єдину інформаційно-аналітичну систему соціальної підтримки та комунікацій «е-ветеран», складовою якої буде електронна база даних ветеранів. Також ми вважаємо, що держава має забезпечити соціальну та професійну адаптацію ветеранів, відновлення їхнього фізичного та психічного здоров’я тощо», – наголосила Василенко, коментуючи для Радіо Свобода питання щодо напрямків «ветеранської» державної політики.

«Юридична сотня», низка ветеранських організацій вважають, що влада не має гаяти час і повинна створити міністерство у справах ветеранів як єдиний державний орган, який працюватиме з учасниками бойових дій та їхніми родинами. Рішення про створення такого міністерства Верховна Рада України ухвалила 27 лютого 2018 року.

14 березня парламентський комітет у справах ветеранів, учасників бойових дій, учасників АТО та людей з інвалідністю проголосував за створення міжвідомчої робочої групи для напрацювання пропозицій щодо утворення міністерства у справах ветеранів.

За даними Єдиного державного автоматизованого реєстру осіб, які мають право на пільги, станом на 1 січня 2018 року кількість ветеранів війни в Україні перевищила 1 мільйон осіб, повідомила Василенко.

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China Prepares Retaliation for $200 Billion in US Tariffs

China says it has no choice but to retaliate to U.S. President Donald Trump’s 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, risking a further escalation of trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.


In a brief statement posted online Tuesday, China’s Commerce Ministry said, “To protect its legitimate rights and interests and order in international free trade, China is left with no choice but to retaliate simultaneously.”


The statement did not say how China might respond. China has previously said it would respond with a list of tariffs that includes products from liquified natural gas to aircraft.  On Monday, the Communist Party backed Global Times newspaper warned that if Trump went ahead with the tariffs, China would not just play defense.


At about the same time the Commerce Ministry statement was released, a research director for North America and the Pacific at the Commerce Ministry also delivered a commentary on China’s state-run CCTV news network.


The official said the latest round of tariffs have brought uncertainty to ongoing efforts for representatives from both countries to meet again and hold trade talks.


“Under the party’s strong central leadership, China has the resolve and confidence to press ahead and use deeper reforms and deeper opening up as well as the development of our domestic market to counter United States unilateralism,” Li Wei said.


Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily briefing Tuesday in Beijing that talks are the only correct way to resolve the issue and accused the United States of being insincere.  Last week, the United States extended an invitation to China’s top negotiator, Liu He, to resume talks later this month in Washington.


“As for what measures China may take in response, that will be announced at an appropriate time,” Geng said.


The $200 billion in U.S. tariffs go into effect in less than a week, on September 24, leaving the two sides little time to sit down.


On Monday, President Trump warned, in a statement announcing his move, if China retaliates against U.S. farmers or other industries, Washington “will immediately pursue phase three, which is tariffs on approximately $267 billion in additional imports.”

The additional $267 billion in tariffs is expected to cover all Chinese imports to the United States.

American and European businesses operating in China say that if Washington presses ahead with more and more tariffs, it is likely to only add to the challenges businesses are already facing.


According to surveys conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and the European Chamber of Commerce, trade tensions are already hitting and hurting supply chains of foreign businesses.  Some companies have begun to move manufacturing away from China and the United States to avoid the impact of growing trade tensions, the European Chamber said.


European Chamber President Mats Harborn said engagement on the part of Washington and Beijing is the answer.


He said that what the United States is doing now is “economic madness” that risks creating a vicious cycle for business that could have an impact in China and elsewhere.  But the root of the trade dispute is that China’s reform is lagging behind its development, creating a “reform deficit.”


“Closing the reform gap will create better private companies in China, foreign companies,” Harborn said.  “And reducing the reform deficit should also help reduce tensions in the ongoing trade war.”


In its annual position paper on European business in China, the chamber lists 828 recommendations for Chinese authorities to address that deficit.


One of the key hurdles both private Chinese enterprises and foreign companies face is the dominant position state owned enterprises (SOEs) enjoy.  State owned enterprises account for around 30 percent of the economy and yet enjoy nearly 70 percent of all financing, the report said.


Unfair trade practices and the way SOEs contribute to an unbalanced playing field in China are key elements of the investigation the Trump administration carried out prior to launching its first round of tariffs.


But how far China is willing to go to change is uncertain.  Later this month, a meeting on SOEs will be held that many are expecting will be an indicator of the future course China’s Communist Party leaders plan to chart.


“We hear that there is a move to make the SOEs stronger, bigger and better,” Harborn said.  “Such ambitions are hindering the further opening and development of the vibrant private Chinese sector.”


If reform of SOEs is not on the agenda at the meeting, that would be seen as a clear provocation, given the current climate, he said. 





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Почався судовий розгляд скарги Седлецької

В Апеляційному суді Києва почалося слухання скарги головного редактора програми «Схеми» Наталки Седлецької. Скарга стосується ухвали суду, якою ГПУ надано доступ до даних з телефону журналістки з липня 2016 року по листопад 2017-го. Наталка Седлецька просить суд скасувати ухвалу.

Суд має визначитися, чи відкривати судове провадження у скарзі Седлецької, чи відхилити його.​

Засідання мало відбутися 14 вересня, однак його перенесли, оскільки до суду не надійшли матеріали справи з суду першої інстанції.

​11 вересня адвокати Наталки Седлецької подали апеляційну скаргу на рішення Печерського районного суду Києва від 27 серпня 2018 року про дозвіл слідчим ГПУ отримати від провайдера інформацію з телефону головного редактора програми журналістських розслідувань програми «Схеми» Наталки Седлецької.

В ухвалі йдеться про надання доступу слідства до дзвінків і смс-повідомлень журналістки з липня 2016-го по листопад 2017 року і до даних про місце розташування її телефону протягом цих 17 місяців.

Читайте також: «Луценко переконує, що не просив інших даних з телефонів журналісток, крім дати їхнього перебування біля НАБУ​»

Радіо Свобода висловило обурення цією ухвалою. Редакція програми «Схеми» виступила із заявою, в якій засудила тиск на Наталку Седлецьку. Слідом із заявами про наступ на свободу слова і засудженням порушеного права журналістів на захист джерел виступили колеги по цеху, українські та міжнародні організації, серед яких, зокрема, «Репортери без кордонів», нью-йоркський «Комітет із захисту журналістів», Європейська комісія, Парламентська асамблея Ради Європи.

5 вересня журналістка Крістіна Бердинських повідомила, що суд надав Генеральній прокуратурі України доступ до інформації і з її телефону.

У Генпрокуратурі запевняють, що дані з телефонів журналісток необхідні слідству для розслідування «за фактами можливого розголошення директором Національного антикорупційного бюро України Артемом Ситником відомостей, що становлять державну таємницю».

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В США відбулася 70-а церемонія вручення «Еммі»

У Сполучених Штатах ввечері 17 вересня пройшла церемонія вручення премії «Еммі», яку вручають за досягнення у телевізійній індустрії.

Найкращою драмою на телебаченні визнали серіал «Гра престолів» – телевізійну адаптацію серії романів Джорджа Мартіна «Пісня льоду й полум’я». Наразі вийшло вже вісім сезонів фентезі-саги, восьмий має з’явитися в ефірі у 2019 році.

Серед інших нагород, які виборола «Гра престолів», – відзнака за найкращу другорядну роль Пітера Дінклейджа, що грає в серіалі Тиріона Ланністера.

Найкращим актором головної драматичної ролі за версією журі став Метью Різ, який зіграв Філіпа Дженінгса у серіалі «Американці». Аналогічну жіночу нагороду отримала Клер Фой за роль молодої королеви Єлизавети ІІ в серіалі «Корона».

Найкращим комедійним серіалом визнали «Неймовірну місіс Мейзел», а Рейчел Броснаген, що зіграла Міріам Мейзел, дістала нагороду за найкращу головну роль у жанрі. Найкращим виконавцем головної ролі в комедійному жанрі визнали Білла Гейдера за роль Баррі в однойменному серіалі.

Премія «Еммі» вважається телевізійним еквівалентом премій «Оскара» для кіно, «Тоні» – для театрів і «Греммі» у світі музики. Її вручають у Лос-Анджелесі, штат Каліфорнія, у США з 1949 року.