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White House Discussing Renewing License for Chevron to Operate in Venezuela

The Trump administration is discussing whether to renew a license allowing Chevron to continue operating in Venezuela despite U.S. sanctions on the country’s oil sector, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Tuesday.

The waiver issued by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control will expire on July 27.

“It is under discussion,” Kudlow said. “I don’t know about the license. That will be determined in the future. It’s under discussion right now,” he said.

Kudlow heaped praise on Chevron, calling it a “fabulous” energy company with an “illustrious tradition” in Venezuela.

Trump Twitter Ruling Highlights Larger Problem

A U.S. court ruling that it is unconstitutional for President Donald Trump to block critics on Twitter has reignited criticism of politicians who ban detractors from their social media accounts. 

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York ruled unanimously Tuesday that because Trump’s Twitter account is a “public forum,” he can’t block users who disagree with him. Since the earliest days of his administration, Trump has used Twitter to make on-the-fly policy, lash out at his critics and voice his opinion on virtually every subject. To many, his Twitter page has become the face of his presidency. 

“The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” Judge Barrington Parker wrote on behalf of the panel. 

Lesson for politicians

While Parker stressed the ruling does not extend to all social media accounts operated by public officials, First Amendment advocates said the decision nonetheless serves as a lesson to politicians who block critics from “private” social media accounts that often double as communication platforms with the public. There are at least a half-dozen other lawsuits pending against U.S. politicians, from county officials to governors, who have sought to silence their critics on social media. 

“We hope that as a result of this decision, public officials will take note and recognize that they need to be able to withstand criticism from their constituents,” said Carrie DeCell, a staff attorney with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which two years ago filed the lawsuit that led to Tuesday’s ruling. 

Esha Bhandari, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed similar lawsuits against public officials, said the ruling should remind politicians that “blocking critics from an official social media account is unconstitutional.” 

“Social media is the new town hall — once an official opens either up to the public, they can’t selectively exclude those whose views they disagree with,” Bhandari said. 

Trump has nearly 62 million followers on Twitter. His tweets are widely shared, sometimes hundreds of thousands of times, generating both deep praise and harsh criticism — all out on a free-for-all, no-holds-barred platform.

FILE – White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino listens to President Donald Trump speak during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House, Feb. 15, 2019.

Despite the freewheeling nature of his Twitter page, Trump, who runs the account with the help of his social media director, Dan Scavino, is known to have banned several dozen followers in recent years. 

The lawsuit was brought in July 2017 on behalf of seven followers blocked by Trump and centered on whether the First Amendment applied to @realDonaldTrump Twitter account. 

Government lawyers representing Trump argued in court that it did not because Trump’s account was “private” and that he used it exclusively as “a vehicle for his own speech.”

But lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that the account is for all practical purposes a “public forum” and that Trump violated the seven individuals’ First Amendment rights by banning them from his page. 

Both a district court in May 2018 and the appeals court on Tuesday agreed with the plaintiffs. After the district court ruling, all seven plaintiffs were quietly unblocked from Trump’s Twitter account. In addition, the Knight Institute asked for the unblocking of 20 to 30 others who had been banned by Trump. Most of those, too, were unblocked, DeCell said.

Trump is not the only politician sued over blocking social media critics. The ACLU is suing officials in Kentucky, Maine, Maryland and Virginia on behalf of constituents who were blocked on social media. In addition, it has sent letters to politicians in Nebraska and New York to unblock users or face lawsuits.

Demanding to be unbanned

In April, the New York Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Republican Congressman and Trump ally Peter King demanding that he “unban” dozens of constituents on Facebook.

FILE – Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., arrives for a classified briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2019.

King had argued that he had the right to block people from the “Congressman Peter King” Facebook page because it was a campaign account, and not one used for his congressional work. But the ACLU countered, “King wrapped the page in the trappings of his office and used it as a tool of governance.”

In response, King in May created a new, official Facebook page that will not ban users based on their views while continuing to use his original page for campaign purposes.

“We are pleased that the congressman agreed to launch a new Facebook page that will serve as his official government account from which he will not block users,” said Antony Gemmell, a staff attorney at the NYCLU.”Similar to [Tuesday’s] ruling on the president blocking people from his Twitter account, the congressman cannot block people from his official government Facebook page simply because he disagrees with their opinions.” 

The Justice Department said it was “disappointed” with the appeals court’s decision and was “exploring possible next steps.” 

“As we argued, President Trump’s decision to block users from his personal Twitter account does not violate the First Amendment,” DOJ spokesperson Kelly Laco said.

Hans von Spakovsky, a legal affairs fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the appeals court made “a very basic mistake of law and a basic factual mistake” and that the Justice Department should appeal the decision.

“The First Amendment only applies in a public forum such as a public park,” von Spakovsky said. “But Twitter is not a public forum. Twitter is a private company.”

Українські журналістки отримали премію за відвагу від Міжнародного жіночого медіафонду

Журналістка «Громадського» Анастасія Станко і керівниця незалежної розслідувальної агенції «Слідство.Інфо» Анна Бабінець отримали нагороду за відвагу від Міжнародного жіночого медіафонду (The International Women’s Media Foundation, IWMF).

Як йдеться в повідомленні на сайті організації, нагорода демонструє, що «жінки-журналістки не збираються відступати, їх не можна змусити замовкнути, і вони заслуговують на визнання за їхню силу, попри труднощі».

«Премією відзначають сміливих журналісток, які висвітлюють табуйовані теми, працюють у ворожому щодо жінок середовищі й розповідають «важку правду», – йдеться в повідомленні.

За даними організації, від 1990 року премію отримали понад 100 жінок із 56 країн світу.


П’ятеро військових постраждали через обстріли на Донбасі 9 липня – штаб ООС

Четверо українських військових були поранені, один зазнав бойового травмування 9 липня на Донбасі, повідомляє штаб операції Об’єднаних сил.

За повідомленням, від початку цієї доби підтримувані Росією бойовики 12 разів порушували перемир’я на Донбасі, зокрема, застосовували заборонені Мінськими угодами артилерійські системи калібру 122 мм і міномети калібру 82 мм, а також гранатомети різних систем, озброєння БМП, великокаліберні кулемети і стрілецьку зброю.

«На обстріли з боку збройних формувань Російської Федерації наші підрозділи дали адекватну відповідь», – йдеться в повідомленні.

Підтримувані Росією угруповання «ДНР» і «ЛНР» зведених даних про обстріли 9 липня не дають.

Збройний конфлікт на Донбасі триває від 2014 року після російської окупації Криму. Україна і Захід звинувачують Росію у збройній підтримці бойовиків. Кремль відкидає ці звинувачення і заявляє, що на Донбасі можуть перебувати хіба що російські «добровольці».

Унаслідок бойових дій, за оцінками ООН станом на 31 грудня 2018 року, загинули від 12 тисяч 800 до 13 тисяч людей.

Перемир’я, про які домовлялися на засіданнях Тристоронньої контактної групи в Мінську, порушувалися практично відразу. При цьому сторони заперечують свою вину в цих порушеннях і звинувачують противників у провокаціях.


Корабель. Репортаж із артилерійських стрільб на морі під час «Сі Бриз-2019»

У цьогорічних навчаннях «Сі Бриз-2019», крім військових України і США, беруть участь військовослужбовці ще 17 країн

Зеленський 10 липня відвідає ЧАЕС

Президент України Володимир Зеленський збирається 10 липня відвідає Чорнобильську атомну електростанцію. Про це повідомила прес-секретар Зеленського Юлія Мендель.

«10 липня ДСП «Чорнобильська АЕС» прийме в експлуатацію нову арку над зруйнованим четвертим реактором, у заходах візьме участь президент Володимир Зеленський, але 10-кілометрову зону через це не перекриватимуть», – мовиться у повідомленні.

В Управлінні державної охорони підтвердили, що ніяких додаткових заходів здійснювати не будуть.

«Завтра, як і у будь-який інший день, всі туристичні об’єкти працюватимуть у звичайному робочому режимі, а іноземні та українські туристи матимуть змогу відвідати екскурсійні маршрути в Чорнобильській зоні встановленим порядком», – зазначили в УДО.

Migrants in Libya: Homeless, Detained But Determined

Governments and international organizations around the world have condemned last week’s bombing of a migrant detention center in Libya that killed more than fifty civilians and wounded at least 130.  The horrific incident, however, has not deterred desperate migrants who still want to make the dangerous trip to Europe.  VOA’s Heather Murdock is in Tripoli with this report.

Indonesian Woman Convicted of Recording Boss’ Sexual Advances Seeks Presidential Amnesty

The widely-publicized case of Baiq Nuril Maknun, the 41-year-old school bookkeeper sentenced to six months in prison for recording sexually-suggestive phone calls she received from the principal at her school, has gained traction after the Indonesian government indicated a willingness to grant her amnesty – which would eliminate any traces of wrongdoing from her part.

After a meeting in Jakarta with Nuril and her counsel on Monday, Indonesia’s Law and Human Rights Minister, Yasonna Laoly, told reporters an amnesty could be announced after Indonesia’s newly-elected president, Joko Widodo, through the state secretariat, discusses the legal proceedings with the House of Representatives. One of Nuril’s lawyers, Joko Jumadi, confirmed to VOA that they will meet with the House of Representatives Wednesday.
“I think it sounds to me like a green light,” he said. “We are optimistic. We have to be.”

Several law experts were also invited to the meeting, one of whom was Bivitri Susanti who confirmed to VOA that the president was indicated to have favored amnesty. Last week, Joko told reporters in Manado, a city on Sulawesi island, that though he would not intervene with the Supreme Court ruling, he advised that Nuril and her counsel apply for amnesty.

Talk of granting Nuril amnesty followed a controversial rejection of Nuril’s appeal from Indonesia’s Supreme Court last week – one that upheld her prison stay and a $35,000 (500 million rupiahs) fine.

Case history

Nuril’s case began in 2012, when Muslim (who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name), the newly-minted principal of her school in Mataram, called her repeatedly. In the phone calls, he used sexually inappropriate language and even went as far as to tell her about his own affair with his own treasurer. As word spread suggesting Nuril and Muslim had indeed embarked on an affair, Nuril determined to disprove the rumor to her colleagues by recording the call.
Learning of the recordings, Muslim reported Nuril to the police, citing a clause in Indonesia’s controversial electronic information and transactions law that presides over defamation. Deemed innocent by the local court (though she still went to prison during the investigation) in 2017, the prosecutors took it up with the Supreme Court who later convicted Nuril of defamation in 2018 and sentenced her to a six-month jail time.

Indonesia’s Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly talks to journalists with Baiq Nuril Maknun, a school bookkeeper who was jailed after she tried to report sexual harassment, in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 8, 2019.

Her case has sparked outrage from activists and rights organizations. An online crowd-funding campaign has also been set up to help with Nuril’s fine (she would have to serve an additional three months in prison if she fails to pay the fine).

“From the very beginning, law enforcers have sided with versions of the story from the principal,” Usman Hamid, head of the Indonesia chapter of Amnesty International, told VOA. “They should be protecting Nuril as a victim, not brand her as a [convict].”

Nuril’s case reignited discussions on sexual assault cases. Joko, Nuril’s lawyer, told VOA that the Supreme Court ruling against his client set a “terrible precedent for future reports from sexual assault victims.” Her case came after Indonesia was embroiled in the discourse around the passing of the anti-sexual violence bill, which faced opposition from religious groups.

Amnesty v. clemency

Another potential legal means for Nuril is through clemency, though law expert Bivitri said that it would be unlikely. “Clemency is usually provided to people embroiled in extraordinary cases, say people sentenced to death or for life,” she said.
Amnesty, she said, would be the best way forward. “If the president grants Nuril amnesty, then it could prove that the government protects its citizens while honoring the judicial proceedings.” She added that amnesty would erase her criminal record. In contrast, the granting of clemency would mean that Nuril agreed that she was in the wrong and that she would ask for the leniency of her punishment.

“We don’t see any criminal wrongdoing here from her part,” Usman of Amnesty International said.

Indonesia’s former presidents have previously granted amnesty. In 1959, then president Sukarno granted amnesty and abolition to the people involved in the rebel group D.I/T.I.I. Kahar Muzzakar in South Sulawesi. In 2005, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono granted amnesty to the separatist movement in Aceh, Gerakan Aceh Merdeka.

“Joko could use this argument: for the sake of peace and humanity,” Usman said, before adding that history shows that amnesty has also been granted to individuals.