Al Jazeera – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has told a London court he will fight extradition to the United States where he faces trial for one of the largest compromises of classified information in history.
Asked at a hearing at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court whether he agreed to be extradited to the US, Assange, appearing via a video link from a British prison, said he did not wish to surrender to extradition for doing what he called “journalism that has won many awards”.
Al Jazeera – A day after the United Nations added Masood Azhar, the leader of a Pakistan-based armed group, to its list of “global terrorists”, India said it will seek the downgrading of Pakistan on the global “terrorism financing” list.
Sputnik – The crisis in Venezuela escalated this week after opposition leader Juan Guaido announced the start of the “final phase” of the operation to overthrow the Maduro government and called on the country’s military to join the opposition.
US officials have conflicting opinions on how to handle the Venezuelan crisis, with at least one heated exchange taking place last week between members of National Security Advisor John Bolton’s staff and the Pentagon on the supposed lack of military options.
Speaking to the Washington Post, unnamed officials recalled a clash between Bolton’s staff and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul J. Selva, with members of the Bolton camp repeatedly interrupting Selva during a briefing in which the general, speaking for the military, advised against escalating the situation in the Latin American country.
Activist Post – As self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaidó attempted to stage a military coup in Venezuela, the country’s U.N. ambassador declared President Nicolás Maduro victorious and called the United States a “rogue nation.”
The turbulent situation that has been unfolding in Venezuela for the last few years reached new heights on Tuesday as opposition leader and self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaidó attempted to wrangle power away from Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in what many are calling an attempted coup. Early Tuesday morning, Guaidó gave a press conference declaring that he has the support of the Venezuelan people and military, and demanded that Maduro step down. Guaidó also called on Venezuelans to take to the streets and call for an end to Maduro’s reign as president.
During the day’s events, cameras caught armored vehicles, reportedly belonging to the Bolivian military, running into crowds of protesters. Human Rights Watch (HRW) tweeted that 25 peopled were detained and dozens were wounded. HRW also noted that Venezuelan authorities shut down two international television channels and censored one radio station. “The regime should know that it will be held accountable for these abuses,” tweeted José Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director of HRW’s America Division.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s U.N. ambassador Samuel Moncada held a press conference stating that President Maduro has “defeated” opposition leader Juan Guaidó and his supporters. Moncada stated “the country is right now in a situation of perfect normality.” Moncada criticized U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for not supporting Maduro’s government against Guaidó.
Moncada also attacked the United States for what he said was another example of their interventionist policies, singling out President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their support of Guaidó. “This is one of the most strange and weird situations we are in now, which the superpower of the world is the main rogue state going around, without care, destroying countries, invading countries, and threatening with the use of force,” Moncada stated.
The Ambassador to the UN also noted that the United States’ use of sanctions amounts to an act of war and only hurts the Venezuelan people. “Sanctions kill, as simple as that. Sanctions are criminal sanctions, are weapons of mass destruction. You don’t see the smoke, but you see the effect, you see the deleterious effect of killing and suffering,” Moncada said. “The sanctions use banks sanction, sanctions use ships, sanctions use insurance companies, and financial blockades. They cannot just say that they are concerned about liberty or freedom or the children in Venezuela, and then exercise a ghastly, nasty policy of calculated cruelty. They are acting like torturers, it is a collective punishment.”
Indeed, the Washington D.C.-based Center for Economic Policy Research published a report last week which determined that U.S. sanctions against Venezuela were likely responsible for 40,000 deaths in 2017-2018.
The harsh reality is that Maduro is by no means a perfect leader and his support of censoring media, use of the military to suppress protests (whether engineered or authentic), his suppression of the opposition, and other despicable acts do need to be called out. However, Ambassador Moncada is also correct that the United States does act as an imperialist “rogue” nation, using force on any nation that does not follow the Western Imperialist agenda. Unfortunately, it seems that the Venezuelan people are caught between a leader who is unpopular in some circles and an even more unpopular self-proclaimed “Interim President” with multiple connections to the Western Empire.
Of course, if our readers are unaware of these connections, it is because the corporate media (CNN, WaPo, The Hill, and others) have been running non-stop coverage of why Guaidó should be accepted as the leader of Venezuela while ignoring any bit of evidence that the “uprising” might be less than genuine.
Despite the round-the-clock support of Guaidó, on April 13 The Grayzone exclusively reported that a who’s who of Trump advisors, right-wing Latin American officials, and Venezuelan opposition figures met to discuss “Assessing the Use of Military Force in Venezuela.” The meeting was hosted on April 10 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank. This meeting included current and former State Department, National Intelligence Council, and National Security Council officials, along with Admiral Kurt Tidd, who was until recently the commander of the US Naval Forces Southern Command, overseeing operations in Central and South America.
The truth is that the Western Empire has been attempting to use Guaidó to install a puppet government in Venezuela. There is also evidence that the U.S. government and its intelligence agencies have attempted to take advantage of electricity blackouts in order to dethrone Maduro. In addition, there are a number of corporations and special interests who stand to benefit from the overthrow of Maduro and the crowning of Guaidó.
BBC – Scientists found cocaine in freshwater shrimps when testing rivers for chemicals, a study said.
Researchers at King’s College London, in collaboration with the University of Suffolk, tested 15 different locations across Suffolk.
Their report said cocaine was found in all samples tested. Other illicit drugs, such as ketamine, were also widespread in the shrimp.
The researchers said it was a “surprising” finding.
Professor Nic Bury, from the University of Suffolk, said: “Whether the presence of cocaine in aquatic animals is an issue for Suffolk, or more widespread an occurrence in the UK and abroad, awaits further research.
“Environmental health has attracted much attention from the public due to challenges associated with climate change and microplastic pollution.
“However, the impact of ‘invisible’ chemical pollution (such as drugs) on wildlife health needs more focus in the UK.”
U.S. News, Politics & Government
NBC – The White House on Wednesday asked Congress for an additional $4.5 billion in emergency funding for the southern border.
None of the money being requested would be for construction of President Donald Trump’s long-promised border wall, according to a senior administration official who requested anonymity to be able to discuss the details of the request.
Rather, the official said, the requested funds would be to deal with “the immediate humanitarian crisis.”
That includes $3.3 billion for humanitarian assistance, such as food, clothing, diapers, transportation, bed space and increased shelter capacity for unaccompanied minors; $1.1 billion for operations and support to respond to the crisis at the border (including investigations related to smuggling); and another $178 million for additional support related to personnel and other resources.
AP – Amid a battlefield stalemate in Afghanistan , the U.S. military has stopped releasing information often cited to measure progress in America’s longest war, calling it of little value in fighting the Taliban insurgency.
The move fits a trend of less information being released about the war in recent years, often at the insistence of the Afghan government, which had previously stopped the U.S. military from disclosing the number of Afghans killed in battle as well as overall attrition within the Afghan army.
The latest clampdown also aligns with President Donald Trump’s complaint that the U.S. gives away too much war information, although there is no evidence that this had any influence on the latest decision.
Reuters – The Democratic chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee said on Wednesday an agreement had been reached to have Special Counsel Robert Mueller testify to Congress on his probe into Russian election interference and possible attempts by the President Donald Trump to impede the probe.
Representative Jerry Nadler told reporters the agreement was for Mueller to testify sometime in May, but that a specific date had yet to be agreed upon.
Activist Post – CBS News released a propaganda segment on Monday featuring New York Times tech reporter Cecilia Kang where they suggested the US government could do an end-run around the First Amendment through strict “regulations” in order to suppress “hate speech” and “misinformation” online.
Both the CBS News host and NYT reporter Cecilia Kang said the US should look to countries like Australia, New Zealand, Germany and India — which do not have free speech — as models for suppressing free speech on the Internet.
CBS News suggests we might want to look to the UK and Australia for speech laws. pic.twitter.com/apMxvtW5xm
— zyntrax (@zyntrax) April 29, 2019
As I reported in November 2018, the New York Times editorial board wrote a propaganda piece comparing right-wingers to jihadists and demanded authoritarian censorship of the Internet to stop the spread of “toxic ideas.”
The New York Times last year hired virulent anti-white racist Sarah Jeong in August 2018 as their lead technology writer and made her a member of their editorial board.
WND – Jacob Sullivan, who was Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff while she was U.S. secretary of state, has confirmed under oath that both he and Clinton used her private, unsecure and unapproved email system for official government business.
It’s not that that’s been a secret.
But the statement was made in a deposition for a lawsuit by government watchdog Judicial Watch.
The organization has been fighting for years to uncover the truth about Clinton’s mishandling of classified information, which former FBI Director James Comey thought unworthy of prosecution despite concluding she had been “extremely careless.”
“A federal court wants answers on the Clinton email scandal and Mr. Sullivan is one of many witnesses Judicial Watch will question under oath,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is shameful that the Justice and State Departments continue to try to protect Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration on the email scandal.”
U.S District Court Judge Royce Lamberth has ordered Obama administration senior State Department officials, lawyers and Clinton aides, as well as E.W. Priestap, assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division, to be deposed or answer written questions under oath.
The court found Clinton’s mishandling of classified information “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”
The watchdog previously released Priestap’s statement that the FBI found Clinton email records in the executive office of the Obama White House.
Judicial Watch said its questions centered on whether Clinton “intentionally attempted to evade the Freedom of Information Act by using a non-government email system and whether the State Department adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request.”
“Sullivan admitted that he had used his personal Gmail account at times for State Department business but denied that he had sent classified information to Secretary Clinton’s unsecured personal system,” the organization said.
AZ Central – Attorney General Bill Barr and a team of Justice Department investigators are reviewing the dossier compiled by a former British spy that contained unverified information about Donald Trump while he was running for president in 2016.
Barr made the disclosure during his closely watched appearance Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. During his five hours of testimony about his handling of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference, Mueller defended himself from accusations by Democrats that he misled them — and the American public — on the team’s findings.
The so-called Steele dossier, a compilation of memos written by former spy Christopher Steele, came up a couple of times during Barr’s testimony.
Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and John Cornyn, R-Texas, asked whether the dossier was part of a campaign by the Russians to spread disinformation and sow dissension to undermine the election.
“How do we know that the Steele dossier is not itself evidence of a Russian disinformation campaign, knowing what we know now,” Cornyn asked Barr.
“… Can we state with confidence that the Steele dossier was not part of the Russian disinformation campaign?”
Barr responded, “No, I can’t state that with confidence, and that is one of the areas that I’m reviewing. I’m concerned about it. And I don’t think it’s entirely speculative.”
Miami Herald – After about seven hours of angry, sometimes deeply painful debate about race and gun violence that spanned two days, the Florida House passed a bill Wednesday that would allow classroom teachers to be armed, expanding a program lawmakers created last year after the Parkland shooting.
The debate reached emotional heights that had Democrats shouting or tearing up as black lawmakers delved into details about their personal experiences with racism and their deep-seated fears about minority children being targeted by teachers who have guns.
The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who expressed early support for it. For teachers and other staff to be armed, school districts must opt-in to the so-called “Guardian program,” which allows teachers and other staff to volunteer to carry a gun on campus after undergoing screening and training by a local sheriff’s office.
The Miami-Dade County school district has agreements with local agencies to staff every school with a sworn officer. Voters in November overwhelmingly approved a property tax hike that provided funding to hire more officers for the district’s own police department to staff schools.
Economy & Business
SHFTPlan – The food crisis could be upon us, as farmers in the United States report that income has plummetted. If farmers can no longer afford to grow the food we all buy in the stores, expect not only a major price hike on the food that is available but a shortage of whole foods as well.
The personal income of farmers in the U.S. declined by an annualized $11.8 billion between January and March, the biggest 1st quarter drop in 3 years, Bloomberg reported, citing Commerce Department data released Monday. The drop in income is being driven primarily by the fallout from President Trump’s trade disputes, a nosedive in commodity prices, and record flooding in the Midwest. As a result, farmer bankruptcies in the Midwest have shot up to levels the U.S. hasn’t seen for approximately a decade.
This makes the prospect of a food crisis very real. Although reports from the government claim that progress in the trade war can be described as “cautiously optimistic,” little can be done for the farmers already struggling. According to a report by Axios, America’s farmers are living through the worst economic crisis in almost 30 years and there is no end in sight.
Government interference in the food market is having a much heavier effect on farmers than it has on others. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes, rural America is being “undermined by powerful economic forces that nobody knows how to stop.” The booming economy the mainstream media continues to relentlessly drone on about isn’t touching all corners of the country, and farmers, in particular, are facing a very different economic reality than the economic growth and low unemployment rate that Americans are experiencing elsewhere.
Wisconsin, where dairy farms closed at a rate of two per day last year, has been hit particularly hard by the “booming economy.” The state’s dairy industry accounts for half of Wisconsin’s “critical agricultural sector … generates $43.4 billion a year in economic activity … and supports 413,500 jobs or 11.9% of the state’s employment,” according to the Wisconsin Policy Forum. That’s a large segment of jobs, and that means, deviation in farming could soon spill over and affect every single one of us.
Sustainable Pulse – Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann was dealt a blow Friday at the German chemical giant’s annual general meeting, amid tensions over last year’s decision to buy US seeds and pesticides maker Monsanto, as disgruntled shareholders voted against management.At the AGM in Bonn, 55.5 percent voted against the management board, led by embattled CEO Werner Baumann, with just 44.5 percent of shareholders in favour – a huge drop down from 97 percent support last year.
Around 500 protesters gathered outside the Bonn conference centre with placards mocking Bayer’s corporate motto “science for a better life” or calling to “stop glyphosate”, the Monsanto-made herbicide at the centre of the group’s woes.
Inside, investors were fuming.
“Bayer has choked on Monsanto,” said Ingo Speich of Deka bank. “The company risks being taken over and dismantled.”
Mark Tuemmler of investors’ federation DSW said 2018 was “a nightmare for shareholders”.
Bayer’s share price fell last year by around 40 percent following its $63 billion takeover of Monsanto in June — the biggest in German history.Last year’s share price plunge was driven by the first of two jury rulings so far that have awarded plaintiffs — cancer patients who had been exposed to glyphosate over long periods — $80 million each.
Baumann complained that such decisions had been based on a 2015 finding by World Health Organization arm IARC that glyphosate “probably” causes cancer.
“We remain convinced of the safety of glyphosate,” the CEO said, recalling regulators worldwide found no new evidence that the pesticide causes cancer in reviews prompted by the IARC judgement.
In the two cases already heard, “we remain optimistic that the next higher courts will reach different verdicts,” the CEO added, calling for “decisions based on scientific analysis — and not on emotions”.
The business case for the merger remained as strong as ever, he assured investors, with the merged companies now operating “leading businesses in chemical and biological crop protection, in conventional and biotech seed, and also in digital farming”.
Energy & Environment
Al Jazeera – Nearly 800,000 people in India‘s eastern coastal districts have been evacuated in the face of a major cyclone packing winds of up to 200 kilometres an hour, officials said on Thursday.
Tropical Cyclone Fani, brewing in the Bay of Bengal some 450km offshore and moving westwards, is expected to make landfall on Friday afternoon near the Hindu holy town of Puri.
A state relief department official told AFP news agency that 780,000 people were moved to safer places overnight from at least 13 districts of Odisha state that will bear the brunt of the powerful cyclone.
“More people are being moved to safer places,” an official from the department told AFP news agency on Thursday.
Wtop – Maine has banned single-use food and drink containers made from polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, becoming the first state to do so.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill, which takes effect in 2021, into law Tuesday.
Environmental groups have sought such bans amid rising public awareness of throwaway plastic that accumulates in the oceans, but the Natural Resources Council of Maine said that Maine is the first state to enact a ban.
Similar legislation passed Maryland’s Legislature in April, but it’s unclear whether that state’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, will sign it.
Oregon, Vermont and Connecticut are also considering banning the containers, and dozens of communities from Berkeley, California, to New York City have already passed their own bans, some of which date back to the late 1980s. Several companies such as Dunkin’ and McDonald’s have also pledged to or have already eliminated foam cups.
In December, European Union officials agreed to ban some single-use plastics, such as polystyrene food and beverage containers, in an effort to curb marine pollution.
Science & Technology
Wired – Alaska has the slowest average internet connections in the US. That’s in part because it can be hard to connect some of the state’s remote communities to modern internet infrastructure. But it’s also because the state’s only connections to the global internet run through four submarine cables, along with slower satellite and wireless connections. There’s no terrestrial fiber-optic connection from Alaska to Canada or the contiguous US.
But that’s changing. On Wednesday, MTA, a cooperatively owned telco with about 30,000 customers, announced the construction of a new 100-terabit-per-second fiber-optic line between North Pole, near Fairbanks, and Alcan Border, where it will connect with Canadian carriers, and ultimately the Lower 48. MTA CEO Michael Burke says construction has already begun and is expected to be complete next year.
Burke says the cable will be buried along roughly 270 miles of the Alaska highway, which will make the project relatively simple because the highway is maintained year-round. “We’ll have easy access to operate and maintain that cable,” he says.
Wired – Twenty years ago, you had about a 1 in 6 billion chance of knowing someone who’d had their DNA sequenced. Today, almost every American can name someone who’s had some form of genetic testing.
The rise of DNA data has legal experts increasingly concerned that the United States is not effectively protecting consumers from the many privacy risks that now loom before them. “What in heaven’s name is the law in genomics? That is not that easy to answer,” Susan M. Wolf told an audience gathered last Thursday at the University of Minnesota, where Wolf is a professor of law and health policy. “We’ve got 50 states. We’ve got multiple federal agencies involved.” The patchwork of laws means that in practice genetic anonymity is almost never guaranteed. But the legal landscape is so fractured that to fix this situation, the first issue is to resolve what rules apply to what data.
So Wolf and dozens of other lawyers, doctors, and others in the DNA testing world have spent the past three years assembling a searchable public database of every federal and state law, regulation, official guidance, and professional standard that currently regulates the field of genomics. The project, called LawSeq, is also assessing the field’s biggest legal challenges and seeking a consensus about how policymakers should think about a DNA-rich future. The project, funded by $2 million from the National Institutes of Health, tackles other aspects of genetic data law, but it was the discussion of privacy that dominated the group’s third and final conference in Minneapolis last week, which coincided with the one-year anniversary of the Golden State Killer arrest, using DNA evidence.
“In the US we have taken to protecting genetic information separately rather than using more general privacy laws, and most of the people who’ve looked at it have concluded that’s a really bad idea,” said Mark Rothstein, a law professor at Brandeis and the director of the University of Louisville’s Institute for Bioethics, Health Policy and Law. By contrast, the European Union has designated DNA as personal data and made collecting it presumptively illegal under its recent consumer protections overhaul. In the United States, different laws regulate genetic data depending on where it is and what it’s being used for. “It’s basically a shortcut, because legislators here don’t want to enact broad legislation,” Rothstein said.
Mercola – Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are similar in structure to natural hormones such as the female sex hormone estrogen, the male sex hormone androgen, and thyroid hormones.
EDCs interfere with development, reproduction, neurological functioning, metabolism, satiety and your immune system function, and much more, and for many of these chemicals, there may be no safe level of exposure.
12 of the worst and most widely used EDCs are: BPA, dioxin, atrazine, phthalates, perchlorate, fire retardants, lead, mercury, arsenic, PFCs, organophosphate pesticides and glycol ethers.
10 common routes of exposure include personal care products, drinking water, canned and packaged foods, conventionally grown produce and CAFO meat, poultry and dairy products, high-mercury fish, plastic and nonstick kitchenware, cleaning products, household dust, office products and cash register receipts.
Suggestions for how to avoid or limit exposure are included.
Newsmax – Many Americans use prescription sleep meds such as Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata to get good shut-eye. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday slapped a tough new warning label on this class of drugs, due to dangers from daytime drowsiness the day after their use.
The move was spurred by 66 cases in which patients engaged in what are called “complex sleep behaviors” after taking the insomnia medications.
In 20 cases, behaviors ended up being fatal. Causes of death ranged from carbon monoxide poisoning, drowning, falls, hypothermia or motor vehicle collisions (with the patient driving), and apparent suicide, the FDA said.
Forty-six other reports involved serious but nonfatal injuries among people who took prescription sleep meds and then engaged in sleepwalking, sleep driving and other activities while not fully awake, the agency said in a statement.
While no one was killed in those reports, injuries included accidental overdoses, falls, burns, near-drowning, exposure to extreme cold temperatures resulting in limb loss or near death, self-injuries such as gunshot wounds, and even apparent suicide attempts.
As a result, the FDA is ordering new boxed warnings — the most prominent type of label warning — on eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata) and zolpidem (Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar, Intermezzo and Zolpimist).
“This warning is likely to affect a lot of people, as millions take hypnotics — sleep aids — at least occasionally,” said Dr. Steven Feinsilver, who directs the Center for Sleep Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Another expert said the warning was needed.