What has America come to?

Cartoon by Dario Castillejos

'What has America come to?': Democrats push for inquiry after 7-year-old Guatemalan girl dies in Border Patrol custody

NBC: Democrats called for a swift investigation after federal immigration authorities confirmed on Thursday that a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock hours after being taken into custody by the U.S. Border Patrol last week.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said on Twitter Thursday evening that he will be demanding "immediate answers to this tragedy" from Department of Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen, who is slated to testify before the House Judiciary Committee next week.

Nadler, who is currently the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, is expected to be its chair when the new Congress convenes in January.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the girl and her father were part of a group of 163 people who approached U.S. agents to turn themselves in at the border. They were then taken into custody around 10 p.m. on Dec. 6 in New Mexico.

Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that more than eight hours later, the child began having seizures. Emergency respondents recorded a body temperature of 105.7 degrees and, according to The Washington Post, the girl apparently had not eaten or drunk water for several days.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the story "shocks the conscience" and said he will be "demanding answers."

"This senseless tragic death shocks the conscience. Immediate investigation must shine a spotlight on people & practices responsible," Blumenthal said on Twitter Friday.

"Why did the Commissioner of Customs & Border Protection keep this little girl’s death secret until after he testified before me & Senate Judiciary Committee this week? I will be demanding answers," Blumenthal continued.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who also sits on the House Judiciary Committee, also called for an investigation, and said Congress should cut off funds to agencies where children die in custody.

Nielsen "has this on her hands," Jayapal said on Twitter, adding that if "'border security' means detaining 7 year old children and letting them die in OUR custody, SHAME ON US. No more money without accountability."

The DHS secretary told Fox News on Friday that the migrant girl's death is “a very sad example of the dangers of this journey,” and stressed that the girl's family "chose to cross illegally."

In a statement on Friday, the agency offered condolences to girl's family, but echoed Nielsen's remarks about the hazards of crossing the border.

"Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and the best efforts of the medical team treating the child, we were unable to stop this tragedy from occurring. Once again, we are begging parents to not put themselves or their children at risk attempting to enter illegally. Please present yourselves at a port of entry and seek to enter legally and safely," a spokesperson said.

New Brexit Coin Design

Iranian Bobby Sands

About the death of Iranian political prisoner from hunger strike



Christmas attack

Cartoon by Stephane Peray

French attack suspect had crime record since 13

AP: French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner says that the suspect in the deadly attack on the Christmas market in Strasbourg has had a long criminal record, with his first conviction at the age of 13.

Castaner said that at age 10 the suspect “already had behavior that fell under penal law.”

The minister was addressing parliamentarians on Wednesday, a day after the suspect, identified as Cherif Chekatt, 29, sprayed gunfire around the Christmas market in the eastern city, killing two, leaving a third person brain dead and injuring 12 others.

Chekatt was still on the run, with hundreds of police and soldiers seeking him in a massive manhunt.

Authorities said earlier that Chekatt had more than two dozen convictions, mostly in France but also in Switzerland and Germany. They said that Chekatt had been flagged for extremism and under watch.

British politics

Christmas Ayatollah style

Reza Reesh

Guarding democracy

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

US Senate urged to guard democracy as Mueller probe nears end

Financial Times: Several dozen former Democratic and Republican senators have urged the Senate to be a “zealous guardian” of US democracy as special counsel Robert Mueller moved towards completing the Russia investigation.

The 44 retired senators — who included Democrats such as Tom Daschle, Max Baucus and John Kerry, and Republicans such as William Cohen and Chuck Hagel — said the US was “entering a dangerous period” as the country faced challenges to the rule of law, its constitution, government institutions and national security.

While the senators did not mention Donald Trump, they urged that “partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest” in a letter that indirectly referred to criticism of the president’s attack on institutions. They said the US was “entering a dangerous period” as Mr Mueller moved towards ending his probe and the House of Representatives, which will revert to Democratic control in January, started investigations into Mr Trump.

“At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defence of our democracy. Today is once again such a time,” the senators wrote.

The letter, published in the Washington Post, came just three days after prosecutors in New York made clear they believed that Mr Trump had told Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, to make payments to two women — porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal — to silence them ahead of the 2016 election. Both women said they had sexual relationships with Mr Trump many years ago when he was married.

Mr Trump on Monday repeated his mantra that the Russia investigation was a “witch-hunt” orchestrated by Democrats. He said Democrats were focusing on a “simple private transaction” and saying it was a campaign contribution because they could not find a smoking gun. “Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced,” he tweeted. “WITCH HUNT!”

The president lashed out after Democrats suggested that he had been complicit in the felony Mr Cohen was charged with committing. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat who will chair the House judiciary committee from January, said Mr Trump had committed “impeachable offences”. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who will become chair of the House intelligence committee, said it was conceivable that Mr Trump would go to jail.

“There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office the justice department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time,” Mr Schiff told CBS News.

John Thune, the South Dakota senator who will become the number two Republican in the Senate in January, on Monday said he expected that the Southern District of New York and the Mueller team would eventually come out with “a lot more”.

“What they’re implying there, obviously, is something I assume at some point the president will have an opportunity to respond to,” Mr Thune said in reference to the claims that Mr Trump ordered his former lawyer to make hush-money payments to the two women who accused him of affairs.

James Comey, the former FBI director, on Sunday said “all of us should use every breath we have to make sure the lies stop on January 20 2021”. Mr Trump’s decision to fire Mr Comey, who was overseeing the Russia probe, led to the appointment of Mr Mueller as special counsel.

The increased scrutiny of Mr Trump comes as he looks for a new chief of staff following his announcement that John Kelly, a retired general, would leave the position this year. Mr Trump’s top choice for the critical role — Nick Ayers who serves as chief of staff to vice-president Mike Pence — turned down the job.

Mr Trump is considering several candidates who include Mick Mulvaney, the top White House budget official, and Mark Meadows, a North Carolina lawmaker who belongs to the ultra-conservative House freedom caucus.

Terrorism; vicious circle

Shahrikh Heydari

Khashoggi murder solved

Cartoon by Patrick Chappatte

The Wooing of Jared Kushner: How the Saudis Got a Friend in the White House

The New York Times: Senior American officials were worried. Since the early months of the Trump administration, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, had been having private, informal conversations with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son of Saudi Arabia’s king.

Given Mr. Kushner’s political inexperience, the private exchanges could make him susceptible to Saudi manipulation, said three former senior American officials. In an effort to tighten practices at the White House, a new chief of staff tried to reimpose longstanding procedures stipulating that National Security Council staff members should participate in all calls with foreign leaders.

But even with the restrictions in place, Mr. Kushner, 37, and Prince Mohammed, 33, kept chatting, according to three former White House officials and two others briefed by the Saudi royal court. In fact, they said, the two men were on a first-name basis, calling each other Jared and Mohammed in text messages and phone calls.

The exchanges continued even after the Oct. 2 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was ambushed and dismembered by Saudi agents, according to two former senior American officials and the two people briefed by the Saudis.

As the killing set off a firestorm around the world and American intelligence agencies concluded that it was ordered by Prince Mohammed, Mr. Kushner became the prince’s most important defender inside the White House, people familiar with its internal deliberations say.

Mr. Kushner’s support for Prince Mohammed in the moment of crisis is a striking demonstration of a singular bond that has helped draw President Trump into an embrace of Saudi Arabia as one of his most important international allies.

But the ties between Mr. Kushner and Prince Mohammed did not happen on their own. The prince and his advisers, eager to enlist American support for his hawkish policies in the region and for his own consolidation of power, cultivated the relationship with Mr. Kushner for more than two years, according to documents, emails and text messages reviewed by The New York Times.

A delegation of Saudis close to the prince visited the United States as early as the month Mr. Trump was elected, the documents show, and brought back a report identifying Mr. Kushner as a crucial focal point in the courtship of the new administration. He brought to the job scant knowledge about the region, a transactional mind-set and an intense focus on reaching a deal with the Palestinians that met Israel’s demands, the delegation noted.

Even then, before the inauguration, the Saudis were trying to position themselves as essential allies who could help the Trump administration fulfill its campaign pledges. In addition to offering to help resolve the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, the Saudis offered hundreds of billions of dollars in deals to buy American weapons and invest in American infrastructure. Mr. Trump later announced versions of some of these items with great fanfare when he made his first foreign trip: to an Arab-Islamic summit in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. The Saudis had extended that invitation during the delegation’s November 2016 visit.

“The inner circle is predominantly deal makers who lack familiarity with political customs and deep institutions, and they support Jared Kushner,” the Saudi delegation wrote of the incoming administration in a slide presentation obtained by the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, which provided it to The Times. Several Americans who spoke with the delegation confirmed the slide presentation’s accounts of the discussions.

The courtship of Mr. Kushner appears to have worked.

Only a few months after Mr. Trump moved into the White House, Mr. Kushner was inquiring about the Saudi royal succession process and whether the United States could influence it, raising fears among senior officials that he sought to help Prince Mohammed, who was not yet the crown prince, vault ahead in the line for the throne, two former senior White House officials said. American diplomats and intelligence officials feared that the Trump administration might be seen as playing favorites in the delicate internal politics of the Saudi royal family, the officials said.

(After publication, a senior White House official said in a statement: “Implications that Jared inquired about the possibility of influencing the Saudi royal succession process are false.”)

By March, Mr. Kushner helped usher Prince Mohammed into a formal lunch with Mr. Trump in a state dining room at the White House, capitalizing on a last minute cancellation by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany because of a snowstorm >>>

Prosecuting Huawei Executive

Cartoon by Arcadio Esquivel

Prosecuting the Chinese Huawei executive is an idiotic way to hold China in check

by Zachary Karabell

The Washington Post: The U.S.-China relationship seemed to improve last week at the G-20 summit in Argentina, where President Trump announced that he’d reached an important agreement with President Xi Jinping. Then, an ominous development: American authorities asked Canada to arrest the CFO of one of China’s largest technologies companies for alleged sanctions fraud and violations of U.S. export controls. Meng Wanzhou isn’t just a top leader at Huawei, which makes phones and other gadgets; she is also the daughter of the company’s founder and chairman, which makes her arrest somewhat like the Chinese arresting the daughter of Steve Jobs if she helped run Apple. It would be an understatement to say that Beijing did not react well: It demanded her release and accused the U.S. government of violating the rights of a Chinese citizen.

The timing could hardly be worse, and from what can be told, it reflects the overall chaos of the Trump administration. National Security Advisor John Bolton claimed that he was informed of the pending arrest by the Justice Department but did not pass that information to the president. That no one in the White House considered the implications of her arrest on the tenuous trade truce between China and the U.S. is itself rather astonishing.

The case against Huawei and its executives may be legitimate under U.S. law, but it is nonetheless a hideous political mistake. Perhaps Huawei used American-made components in equipment it sold to Iran, violating U.S. sanctions. But even in less ambiguous cases, there is always such a thing as prosecutorial discretion. Not every case that can be brought should be brought, and not every case should be prosecuted to the full letter of the law. In international cases, that is doubly true. If the U.S. wants to respond to China’s rise and manage the changing role of the United States in the international system, it could hardly have picked a dumber tactic.

Huawei is not exactly a noble avatar of social responsibility. Since at least 2016, when Obama was still president, the Commerce Department has been investigating Huawei for export violations to Iran and North Korea. In the spring of 2017, the Treasury Department opened its own inquiry.

Even before that, though, Huawei operated on the margins of legality. In 2003, Cisco sued it for copying some of the code used in its routers. (Huawei admitted as much before the trial and promised to stop.) In 2012, a House committee named the company as a potential threat to U.S. national security because of its ties to the Chinese government, its legacy of intellectual property theft and its ability to embed spyware in its phones. The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have already blocked Huawei from being part of the initial build-out of the next generation 5G telecom networks.

Even if everything alleged is correct, however, the quest against Huawei is a ridiculous overreach — predicated on an assumption that the U.S. can dictate how foreign competitors conduct business. Yes, the company has deep ties with the Chinese Communist Party, though it’s worth mulling whether those are any more pernicious than the close bonds that connect defense contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed with the Pentagon.

More important, global supply chains are now deeply interconnected and touch multiple countries and numerous companies. Samsung, for instance, is the second largest cellphone provider in Iran, behind Huawei, while the Swedish telecom company Ericsson has been selling Iran equipment even under the sanctions. Those companies may have done a better job not using American components for products sold to those countries, though with the complexity of global component sourcing, it is unlikely that no American intellectual property has been used by Iranian consumers. Yet U.S. prosecutors are not trying to curtail the work of those mega-technology giants, or aggressively investigating where every component originated.

Samsung and Ericsson, of course, are domiciled in countries that are American allies, whereas Huawei is tightly connected to what is now being seen by many as a prime American adversary. The initial reaction in China, judging by the social media flow and some interviews, is that the Americans are using their legal system to advance political interests in an ongoing contest with China.

There is a long and debated legacy on how far American laws extend. On the one hand, the Supreme Court has recognized a “presumption against extraterritoriality,” which holds that U.S. laws should not be enforced outside the United States. On the other, there are statutes such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which punishes bribery by foreign entities. Sanctions occupy a zone of their own, whereby the U.S. government has acted against other countries by threatening foreign companies that do business with them, if they also do business in the U.S. To the degree that the United States has enjoyed dominant economic power relative to any one country that might object, it has been able to use law enforcement as one tool among many to achieve policy objectives.

That works, however, primarily where there are stark power imbalances, which is clearly not the case with China. Arresting the No. 2 executive of one of the world’s largest technology companies is an ineffective way to achieve policy aims – and a very effective way to complicate negotiations that matter rather more. It’s one thing to ban Huawei’s 5G components from the U.S. market, a defensible response to a perceived threat. That’s an unassailable invocation of American sovereignty (which would still carry a steep economic and political cost).

It’s something else entirely to arrest a very senior executive and potentially try her for evading U.S. export controls. Using law enforcement against individuals for corporate actions of this sort risks backfiring spectacularly. It is easily painted as a crude attempt by the Trump administration to put pressure on Beijing in the upcoming trade negotiations, even if that is not the actual intent. It exposes American executives to potential retaliation in China and abroad in a tit-for-tat that will chill an already frosty business climate, with direct effects on the domestic American economy and markets. And it may succeed only in pushing technology even further into national camps that compete and develop their own protocols, which appears to be happening with the evolution of artificial intelligence. We can hope to win that competition, but it will prove costlier than the mutual dependence that defined much of the past two decades.