Trump’s hostility towards media has a purpose, U.N. human rights expert says


GENEVA (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media are part of a global trend of hostility to freedom of speech and damage the U.S. public interest, a U.N. human rights expert said on Friday.

David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on the freedom of expression, said Trump’s attacks, such as a Feb. 17 tweet listing news outlets that he considered “the enemy of the American People”, were not without purpose.

“They have concrete aims: to intimidate reporters into certain kinds of coverage, or clarify for his favoured outlets what coverage he desires, or plant the seeds of doubt about news stories (such as the Russia investigation led by Robert Mueller).”

The president’s broadsides also served to silence criticism of his policies and to undermine the public’s right to know what the government was doing with their tax dollars, he said.

“The primary victim of Trump’s campaign against independent news is the American public. He may see it as valuable politically, but it’s wrong, and it risks doing long-term damage to a core value,” Kaye wrote in an article published on the Just Security online forum.

“When we tie together the jeremiads and rhetoric with what the Trump administration is doing in other governing spaces, the practice of attacking the press becomes clearer as policy than solely reckless rant.”

Kaye’s analysis of Trump’s attacks on the media comes two days after U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein raised the question of whether Trump’s remarks amounted to an incitement to attack journalists.

“President Trump’s statements are indeed reckless, but they are consistent with a troubling trend of hostility toward open and honest government,” Kaye wrote. “And sadly, from the global perspective, it’s part of a general trend of hostility to freedom of expression, online and off.”

Freedom of the press existed, Kaye said, because the public had a right to information. He referred to an Aug. 4 press conference where Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanded that the “culture of leaking must stop”.

Sessions’ intent was not only to deter sources and whistleblowers but “to deprive the public of stories of the highest public interest” about the administration, Kaye said.

He said Trump was a “regular purveyor” of fake news, defined as “intentionally fraudulent information given to the public”, and his administration operated as if it had something to hide.

Reporting by Tom Miles, editing by Larry King

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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Sudan president pardons, frees rights activist – family


KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has pardoned and released a prominent human rights activists who had been jailed since last year on spying and other charges, his family said.

The release of Mudawi Ibrahim Adam came after a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump’s aid administrator to Sudan and before an October deadline when the administration will decide whether to permanently lift 20-year-old sanctions.

“He is home after a presidential amnesty and he seems in good health,” his wife Sabah told Reuters late on Tuesday.

International rights groups had often called for the release of Ibrahim Adam, who they said had faced the death penalty on false charges since his arrest in December.

USAID chief Mark Green had met with Sudanese authorities this week as part of a fact-finding mission to assess whether Khartoum was meeting conditions to lift sanctions on Sudan.

Just before leaving office, former U.S. President Barack Obama temporarily eased penalties against Sudan, suspending a trade embargo, unfreezing assets and removing sanctions.

In July, the Trump administration postponed for three months a decision on whether to remove the restrictions full-time – allowing it until Oct. 12 to make a decision.

U.S. officials have said limited steps to ease sanctions are meant to recognise progress in Sudan, particularly moves to reduce internal conflict and increase cooperation with Washington in the war against terrorism.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Michael Perry

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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U.N.’s Guterres sees no pressure from Yemen coalition on child rights report


DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Nations faces “no pressure” from a Saudi-led coalition over a draft U.N. report on child deaths in Yemen, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday, amid rising concern over civilian casualties from the alliance’s air raids.

Speaking to Reuters on a visit to Kuwait, Guterres added that in any case no pressure could sway his eventual decision whether or not to return the Saudi-led coalition to a child rights blacklist annexed to the report.

It will be up to Guterres to make that determination. The coalition was briefly added last year and then removed by then-U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon pending a review.

At the time, Ban accused Saudi Arabia of exerting “unacceptable” undue pressure after sources told Reuters that Riyadh threatened to cut its funding of U.N. programmes. Saudi Arabia denied threatening Ban.

Asked whether he faced any pressure from Saudi Arabia or the coalition it leads in Yemen’s civil war, Guterres replied: “We are not facing any pressure and we consider that no pressure would lead to anything, but we are not having any pressure.”

“There is a technical work being conducted, and in the end, that will be presented to me and I will take the decision according to what I will feel is the right thing to do.”

The draft report on children and armed conflict, which still has to be approved by Guterres and is subject to change, blamed the Saudi-led coalition for more than 680 child casualties and three-quarters of the attacks on schools and hospitals in Yemen.

The coalition had been named on the blacklist last year after an earlier U.N. report blamed it for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen in 2015.

Saudi Arabia’s U.N. mission said on Aug. 16 there was no justification for putting the coalition on the list. It declined to comment on the findings in the draft report for 2016.


On Friday a coalition raid on Sanaa killed at least 12 people, including six children, an incident the coalition blamed on an unspecified technical error. The International Committee of the Red Cross called the deaths outrageous.

Guterres, speaking after talks with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, added the world body was trying to create the conditions for Hodeidah port and Sanaa airport to be used for deliveries of humanitarian relief.

Rights groups have accused the coalition of denying or excessively delaying entry to vessels carrying aid to Hodeidah and have urged the coalition to allow civilian traffic to land at the airport in Yemen’s capital Sanaa.

Guterres said both places needed to be operate fully, saying Yemeni people were “suffering in such a terrible way.”

Yemen’s war, which has killed more than 10,000 people, pits the internationally recognised government, backed by Saudi Arabia and its allies, against the Houthi movement and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Guterres, describing major aid donor Kuwait as an extremely reliable partner for peace, expressed support for Kuwaiti mediation in a dispute between Qatar and four Arab states.

Saudi Arabia and three allies imposed sanctions on Qatar accusing it of backing terrorism – charges Doha denies.

Editing by William Maclean and David Evans

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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‘God Wave Trilogy’: Stone Village Lands Film, TV Rights to Book


Scott Steindorff and Dylan Russell of Stone Village Films have acquired the film and TV rights to Patrick Hemstreet’s “The God Wave Trilogy,” with plans to turn the books into a series of movies.

The producers paid six figures for the option. The first novel was published last year and the second — “The God Peak” — was released this week in which a team of neuroscientists must face the consequences of playing God when the superhumans they’ve created threaten to annihilate humanity.

“I’ve been studying the neuroscience for this book during research I’ve been doing on substance abuse recovery for the past couple years,” Steindorff said. “When I saw how true and accurate the science was in this fiction novel, I was blow away to see the human potential and spiritual element that Patrick has tapped into. I’m inspired to bring this story to big screens.”

Producers are meeting with directors and writers. Hemstreet, who used to be a Navy medic, will executive produce the movies.

Steindorff and Russell just completed a docu-series for Netflix called “Fire Chasers” with a new docu-series called “Substance Abuse” starting production in September. The company is also developing adaptations of B.A. Paris’ thriller “Behind Closed Doors” and Vladimir Nabokov’s “Laughter in the Dark.”

Steindorff and Russell are veteran producers with credits on “The Lincoln Lawyer,” “Jane Got a Gun,” and “Love in the Time of Cholera.”

The deal was negotiated by Kim Yau, Dana Spector, and Jonathan Schwartz at Paradigm; publishing agents Emma Parry and Molly Steinblatt at Janklow & Nesbit on behalf of the author; and Steindorff and Russell from Stone Village.


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Pope says migrants’ rights should override national security concerns


VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis urged political leaders on Monday to defend migrants, saying their safety should take precedence over national security concerns and that they should not be subjected to collective deportations.

His challenge to politicians, made in a comprehensive position paper on migrants and refugees, again appeared to put him at odds with the restrictive policies of a number of governments dealing with growing popular anti-immigrant sentiment.

“Solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience – from departure through journey to arrival and return,” he said in a message ahead of the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Calling for “broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally,” he said the human rights and dignity of all migrants had to be respected regardless of their legal status.

“The principle of the centrality of the human person … obliges us to always prioritise personal safety over national security,” he said.

This appeared to be a reference to fears voiced in many European countries that refugees inflows could lead to security problems in their host countries. He said it was necessary “to ensure that agents in charge of border control are properly trained.”

He called for “alternative solutions to detention” for illegal immigrants and said “collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions”.

FILE PHOTO – Pope Francis make his speech during his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican, August 20, 2017.Alessandro Bianchi

Francis said migrants should be seen as “a true resource for the communities that welcome them” and be given freedom of movement, access to means of communication, access to justice and everyday rights such as opening a bank account.

Francis, an Argentine who has made defence of migrants a major plank of his papacy, has criticised anti-immigrant stands by national leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump. Last year, Francis condemned then-candidate Trump’s intention to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

Migrant children deserved particular protection, the pope said. They “must be spared any form of detention related to migratory status,” guaranteed access to primary and secondary education and have the right to remain when they come of age.

Francis’s message immediately drew the ire of the right-wing Northern League party in Italy because it implicitly supported a controversial law proposal that would grant citizenship to children who are born in Italy of immigrant parents.

“The universal right to a nationality should be recognised and duly certified for all children at birth,” the pope said.

Northern League leader Matteo Salvini responded: “If he wants to apply it in his state, the Vatican, he can go right ahead.”

World leaders are due to commit their countries to two global compacts, one on refugees and the other on migrants, by the end of 2018 under the auspices of the United Nations.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Richard Balmforth


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Juan Pablo Ternicier’s ‘Sapo’ and Chilean Filmmaker Rights of Passage



Courtesy: Juan Pablo Terciner

SANTIAGO DE CHILE — “Sapo”, translated to English, literally means “Toad.” In Chile the term is used to refer to private civilians who secretly worked with the country’s fascist government from outside during Pinochet’s dictatorship. In English we might use the title “rat.”

The film is a back and forth journey through the life of fictional TV journalist Jeremías Gallardo. The story is revealed as a series of memories recalled by Gallardo while driving from the state’s most famous prison in Valparaiso, where he has just watched a government-sanctioned firing squad execution of two prisoners, to Santiago de Chile, where he is missing the birth of his child to cover the event.

“Sapo” marks a shift for Chilean post-production company Plataforma Digital, as they move into feature production, alongside fellow Chilean first-timers Pausa and France’s Zapik Films. Domestic distribution is being handled by Storyboard Media.

The film stars Chilean cinema veteran Fernando Gómez Rovira (“Taxi for Three”) alongside Eduardo Paxeco, who featured in 2008’s Goya winner for best foreign Spanish-language film, “The Good Life.”

Directed and written by Juan Pablo Tercenier, “03:34 Terremoto en Chile,” the film represents what he considers to be a right of passage for Chilean filmmakers who were born or lived during Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship. According to Tercenier, making a film about the period is an inevitability for anyone who lived through those years. He went into detail about his theory, and the film itself, in a conversation with Variety.

Sapo” is based on real events: Can you talk about how carefully you adhered to a particular story, or group of stories?

Our film is based on many true stories, not one specific story. It’s a collection. I changes the names of characters because the film is about the institution of “sapos.” A “sapo” gave people up and often those people died. It was important to me that people saw that.

A lot of people are still around today who lived through the events which inspired the film. Where did you go to get your stories you drew from?

At first my stepfather. He was a political prisoner so he witnessed a lot of “sapos.” He saw many of his friends betrayed. He told me of a time he was against a wall and a masked man walked in and shot the man next to him. I interviewed many people who had similar stories, who experienced torture. I heard stories of people who became “sapos” as a means of upward social mobility. They saw opportunity in these circumstances.

Many of these events took place at the prison in Valparaiso. Were you able to shoot on site?

Yes! The context of the execution in the film is the beginning of our protagonist’s journey, so his trip from Valparaiso to Santiago shows his introspection. Throughout his trip he reconstructs the events of his past, and the recent history of the country. It was also important to me to show the relationship of this important news station, and what Jeremías was willing to do in exchange for access from the government. He was in a privileged position to cover the executions.

Your film uses time to slowly reveal the story but in a non-chronological way. Why did you want to tell the story like that?

For me, this is how memories are rebuilt. This was a way to access the character without judgment, I leave that responsibility up to the viewers. I wanted to portray the human condition in a time of crisis. The dictatorship changed the spirit of Chileans and I wanted to show that. I think that this change still resonates today. So this is a period film but it also portrays a brutal side of us that we must continue to recognize.

Chilean filmmaking is experiencing a generational shift. Can you talk a bit about this new generation and how it has been affected by the political climate in Chile?

I was born into a dictatorship, but for me this is a way of moving onto other things. I have only made two films but this is the first I wrote. It’s a movie that I had to do before I was going to be able to make others. I feel that for those born during the dictatorship it is an inevitable topic to discuss. But a lot of directors in my generation delve into other issues. They make love stories and comedies. There are many voices in this generation of Chilean cinema. But we all relate to that period and we are inevitably marked by it.

What does the future look like for the film?

The film is still new, so that is why we are at SANFIC this year. It is starting its international circuit. Domestically, Storyboard is distributing and we are currently looking for international.


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Dick Gregory, comedian and civil rights activist, dies


Dick Gregory, the comedian and activist and who broke racial barriers in the 1960s and used his humor to spread messages of social justice and nutritional health, has died. He was 84.

Gregory died late Saturday in Washington, D.C. after being hospitalized for about a week, his son Christian Gregory told The Associated Press. He had suffered a severe bacterial infection.

As one of the first black standup comedians to find success with white audiences, in the early 1960s, Gregory rose from an impoverished childhood in St. Louis to win a college track scholarship and become a celebrated satirist who deftly commented upon racial divisions at the dawn of the civil rights movement.

“Where else in the world but America,” he joked, “could I have lived in the worst neighborhoods, attended the worst schools, rode in the back of the bus, and get paid $5,000 a week just for talking about it?”

Gregory’s sharp commentary soon led him into civil rights activism, where his ability to woo audiences through humor helped bring national attention to fledgling efforts at integration and social equality for blacks.

Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey tweeted, “Dick Gregory’s unflinching honesty & courage, inspired us to fight, live, laugh & love despite it all.” A tweet by actress/comedian Whoopi Goldberg said, “About being black in America Dick Gregory has passed away, Condolences to his family and to us who won’t have his insight 2 lean on R.I.P”

Gregory briefly sought political office, running unsuccessfully for mayor of Chicago in 1966 and U.S. president in 1968, when he got 200,000 votes as the Peace and Freedom party candidate. In the late ’60s, he befriended John Lennon and was among the voices heard on Lennon’s anti-war anthem “Give Peace a Chance,” recorded in the Montreal hotel room where Lennon and Yoko Ono were staging a “bed-in” for peace.

An admirer of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., Gregory embraced nonviolence and became a vegetarian and marathon runner.

He preached about the transformative powers of prayer and good health. Once an overweight smoker and drinker, he became a trim, energetic proponent of liquid meals and raw food diets. In the late 1980s, he developed and distributed products for the popular Slim-Safe Bahamian Diet.

When diagnosed with lymphoma in 2000, he fought it with herbs, exercise and vitamins. It went in remission a few years later.

He took a break from performing in comedy clubs, saying the alcohol and smoke in the clubs were unhealthy and focused on lecturing and writing more than a dozen books, including an autobiography and a memoir.

Gregory went without solid food for weeks to draw attention to a wide range of causes, including Middle East peace, American hostages in Iran, animal rights, police brutality, the Equal Rights Amendment for women and to support pop singer Michael Jackson when he was charged with sexual molestation in 2004.

“We thought I was going to be a great athlete, and we were wrong, and I thought I was going to be a great entertainer, and that wasn’t it either. I’m going to be an American Citizen. First class,” he once said.

Richard Claxton Gregory was born in 1932, the second of six children. His father abandoned the family, leaving his mother poor and struggling. Though the family often went without food or electricity, Gregory’s intellect and hard work quickly earned him honors, and he attended the mostly white Southern Illinois University.

“In high school I was fighting being broke and on relief,” he wrote in his 1963 book. “But in college, I was fighting being Negro.”

He started winning talent contests for his comedy, which he continued in the Army. After he was discharged, he struggled to break into the standup circuit in Chicago, working odd jobs as a postal clerk and car washer to survive. His breakthrough came in 1961, when he was asked to fill in for another comedian at Chicago’s Playboy Club. His audience, mostly white Southern businessmen, heckled him with racist gibes, but he stuck it out for hours and left them howling.

That job was supposed to be a one-night gig, but lasted two months — and landed him a profile in Time magazine and a spot on “The Tonight Show.”

Vogue magazine, in February 1962, likened him to Will Rogers and Fred Allen: “bright and funny and topical … (with) a way of making the editorials in The New York Times seem the cinch stuff from which smash night-club routines are rightfully made.” ”I’ve got to go up there as an individual first, a Negro second,” he said in Phil Berger’s book, “The Last Laugh: The World of Stand-up Comics.” ”I’ve got to be a colored funny man, not a funny colored man.”

His political passions were never far from his mind — and they hurt his comedy career. The nation was grappling with the civil rights movement, and it was not at all clear that racial integration could be achieved. At protest marches, he was repeatedly beaten and jailed.

He remained active on the comedy scene until recently, when he fell ill and canceled an August 9 show in San Jose, California, followed by an August 15 appearance in Atlanta. On social media, he wrote that he felt energized by the messages from his well-wishers, and said he was looking to get back on stage because he had a lot to say about the racial tension brought on by the gathering of hate groups in Virginia.

“We have so much work still to be done, the ugly reality on the news this weekend proves just that,” he wrote.

He is survived by his wife, Lillian, and 10 children.


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