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Trump fires watchdog who triggered his impeachment

President Donald Trump has fired the inspector general for the intelligence community who handled the whistleblower complaint that triggered his impeachment. Trump informed the Senate intelligence committee on Friday of his decision to fire Michael Atkinson, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press. Trump said in the letter that it is “vital” that he…

Trump fires watchdog who triggered his impeachment

President Donald Trump has fired the inspector general for the intelligence community who handled the whistleblower complaint that triggered his impeachment.
Trump informed the Senate intelligence committee on Friday of his decision to fire Michael Atkinson, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
Trump said in the letter that it is “vital” that he has confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general, and “that is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general”.
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He did not elaborate, except to say that “it is extremely important that we promote the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of federal programs and activities,” and that inspectors general are critical to those goals.
Atkinson was the first to inform Congress about an anonymous whistleblower complaint last year that described Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden and his son. That complaint prompted a House investigation that ultimately resulted in Trump’s impeachment.
In letters to legislators in August and September, Atkinson said he believed the complaint was “urgent” and “credible”.
But the acting Director of National Intelligence at the time, Joseph Maguire, said he did not believe it met the definition of “urgent,” and tried to withhold the complaint from Congress.

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After a firestorm, the White House released the complaint, revealing that Trump had asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a July call to investigate the Bidens. The House launched an inquiry, and three months later voted to impeach Trump. The Republican-led Senate acquitted Trump in February.
Trump said in the letter that he would nominate an individual “who has my full confidence” at a later date.
Democrats reacted swiftly to Atkinson’s removal. The top Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, said it was “unconscionable” that Trump would fire Atkinson amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We should all be deeply disturbed by ongoing attempts to politicise the nation’s intelligence agencies,” Warner said.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff,  who led the House impeachment inquiry, said “the president’s dead of night decision puts our country and national security at even greater risk”.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, from New York, said in a statement that “President Trump fires people for telling the truth”.
Atkinson’s firing is part of a larger shakeup in the intelligence community.
Maguire, the former acting Director of National Intelligence, was also removed and replaced by a Trump loyalist, Richard Grenell. Trump has nominated Texas Representative John Ratcliffe to the permanent position, but the Senate has yet to move on his nomination.
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USPS fires back: Local election boards stuck in outdated, confusing mail-in voting

The U.S. Postal Service, under Democratic fire on its readiness for mail-in voting, says there are big problems on the other end, too. Some local election boards count ballots using outdated procedures as the country prepares for its first mass-mail voting. These boards opted to use excess envelopes, minus bar codes, making it impossible to…

USPS fires back: Local election boards stuck in outdated, confusing mail-in voting

The U.S. Postal Service, under Democratic fire on its readiness for mail-in voting, says there are big problems on the other end, too.

Some local election boards count ballots using outdated procedures as the country prepares for its first mass-mail voting.

These boards opted to use excess envelopes, minus bar codes, making it impossible to track the ballot applications or ballots, the U.S. Postal Service inspector general says in a new report this week.

The IG said that in 2018, 31 million ballots were cast by mail. Only 4 million (13 percent) used mail tracking technology.

The Postal Service, mailers, and election boards are not able to track ballot envelopes that do not have barcodes,” the IG said. “According to Postal Service management, some election boards have chosen to continue using excess stock of ballot envelopes without barcodes and some lack the funding for integrating the use of barcodes in their mailing process.”

The gap comes despite the Postal Service repeatedly telling election boards over the years to make sure pieces can be tracked. USPS also has also been urging canvassing boards to ensure they have the correct addresses for voters to avoid huge numbers of ballots being returned unopened.

Other problems:

Boards are using envelopes that can cause the ballot to be sent back to the voter instead of counted because they contain two addresses.
Boards are planning on sending ballots too close to election day for carriers to meet state deadlines. Officials should mail ballots at least 15 days before Nov. 3, yet 48 states let voters request absentee ballots inside that time span.
There is a muddle of different requirements for post marks. Nearly 30 states have no requirement. The other states have different dates for when the ballot can be counted.
States have no consistent policies for updating voter lists. “This can cause absentee ballots intended for voters to be returned to election officials as undeliverable,” the IG said.
Such was the case in Nevada, where Democrats quickly shifted to an all-mail election and sent hundreds of thousands of ballots off voters lists even if not requested.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation said Nevada’s Clark County opted for actual ballots, not applications, to all listed voters in the state’s June primary.

Las Vegas-centric Clark County, Nevada’s largest, mailed 1.3 million ballots; USPS determined 223,469 were undeliverable. Voters filled out and returned 305,008.

“These numbers show how vote by mail fails,” said PILF President J. Christian Adams.

His group found that in the last four elections, Nevada reported only 5,863 returned undeliverable ballots.

Mr. Adams said developing a workable mass-mail election takes time. States are now trying to cram a totally new system into a few months planning time because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“New proponents of mail balloting don’t often understand how it actually works,” Mr. Adams said. “States like Oregon and Washington spent many years building their mail voting systems and are notably aggressive with voter list maintenance efforts. Pride in their own systems does not somehow transfer across state lines. Nevada, New York, and others are not and will not be ready for November.”

Responding to the USPS report, legal foundation spokesman Logan Churchwell told The Washington Times: “The postal service is correct to note that recipient addresses are out of date. For years, we’ve raised alarm about bloated and outdated voter registration records that, if used as the foundation for a mail ballot election, could be catastrophic. Just like ‘going to war with the army you have,’ we’re doing the same with voter addresses. In 2020, dead people and those holding duplicated registrations will get ballots. “

President Trump took a look at Nevada’s new system and declared it Illegal. His campaign quickly filed a lawsuit in early August.

Nevada will steal an idea from California and allow “ballot harvesting” for the general election. Anyone can collect ballots and bring them to a polling place.

Democrats have accused Postmaster General Louis DeJoy of being in some type of conspiracy to constrain mail-voting

“There are many inaccuracies about my actions that I wish to again correct,” Mr. DeJoy testified at a House hearing last month. “First, I did not direct the removal of blue collection boxes or the removal of mail processing equipment. Second, I did not direct the cutback on hours at any of our postal offices, and finally I did not direct the elimination or any cutback in overtime. I did, however, suspend these practices to remove any misperceptions about our commitment to delivering the nation’s election mail.”

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China fires ‘aircraft-carrier killer’ missile in warning to US |NationalTribune.com

China has fired two missiles, including one dubbed an “aircraft-carrier killer”, into the South China Sea, according to a news report, in a pointed warning to the United States as tensions in the disputed sea lane rise to new levels.  The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Thursday that Beijing fired one intermediate-range ballistic…

China fires ‘aircraft-carrier killer’ missile in warning to US |NationalTribune.com

China has fired two missiles, including one dubbed an “aircraft-carrier killer”, into the South China Sea, according to a news report, in a pointed warning to the United States as tensions in the disputed sea lane rise to new levels. 
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Thursday that Beijing fired one intermediate-range ballistic missile, DF-26B, from Qinghai Province and another medium-range ballistic missile, DF-21D, from Zhejiang Province on Wednesday in response to US aerial activities in a “no-fly zone” area.
In response, Mark Esper, the US defence chief, said China has repeatedly fallen short of promises to abide by international laws, noting that China seems to be flexing its muscles the most in Southeast Asia.
The two missiles were reportedly fired in the direction of the area between Hainan province and the disputed Paracel Islands, the Hong Kong-based publication added, quoting an unnamed source.
According to the paper, a US U-2 spy plane had reportedly entered a Chinese-designated “no-fly zone” on Tuesday without permission during a live-fire naval drill conducted by China in the Bohai Sea off its north coast.
In a social media post, Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, said that the US move “severely disrupted” China’s normal exercises and “training activities.”
Zhao Lijian, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, described the spy plane overflight as “provocative actions” and urged the US to stop. 

The DF-26B missile, which was formally launched earlier this month, is capable of hitting moving targets at sea, making it an “aircraft-carrier killer”, according to the state-owned Global Times.
Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, was previously quoted as saying that the missile can carry conventional or nuclear warheads and is capable of launching precision strikes on land and sea targets.
With its range of 4,500km (2,796 miles), DF-26 can reach the West Pacific and the Indian Ocean, as well as American facilities in Guam, the British island of Diego Garcia and even the Australian city of Darwin. 
‘Within accepted rules’
Meanwhile, the DF-21, has been described as an anti-ship ballistic missile system, also meant for attacking moving ships at sea. 
In July, two US aircraft conducted freedom of navigation exercises and military drills with its allies in the South China Sea, prompting an angry response from Beijing.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity to Reuters, a US official confirmed the firing of the two missiles on Wednesday adding that an assessment was under way to determine the type of missile launched.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, confirmed the U-2 overflight, adding that the activity in the Indo-Pacific region was “within the accepted international rules and regulations governing aircraft flights”.
News of the missile launches come as the US announced that it was blacklisting 24 Chinese companies and targeting individuals it said are part of construction and military actions in the South China Sea, its first such sanctions move against Beijing over the disputed seas.

The US Commerce Department said the two dozen companies played a “role in helping the Chinese military construct and militarize the internationally condemned artificial islands in the South China Sea.”
Separately, the State Department said it would impose visa restrictions on Chinese individuals “responsible for, or complicit in”, such actions and those linked to China’s “use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources”.
In July, Washington said it could sanction Chinese officials and enterprises involved in coercion in the South China Sea after it announced a tougher stance rejecting Beijing’s claims to offshore resources there as “completely unlawful”.
China claims virtually all of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of an area, through which more than $3 trillion of trade passes each year.

#US move severely disrupted China’s normal exercises and training activities, and violated the rules of behavior for air and maritime safety between China-US, as well as relevant international practices. We urge the US to stop such provocative and dangerous actions. https://t.co/RDJoMvh0zW
— Liu Xiaoming (@AmbLiuXiaoMing) August 26, 2020

The US accuses China of militarising the South China Sea and trying to intimidate Asian neighbours who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.
US warships have gone through the area to assert the freedom of access to international waterways, raising fears of confrontation.
A spokesperson for China’s embassy in Washington condemned the US sanctions as “completely unreasonable,” and urged the US to reverse them.
“(South China Sea Islands) is an integral part of China’s territory, and it is fully justified for us to build facilities and deploy necessary defence equipment there,” the spokesperson said.
“The Chinese government has firm determination to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
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Hong Kong University fires prominent democracy activist Benny Tai |NationalTribune.com

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) has fired veteran pro-democracy activist Benny Tai from his tenured position as an associate professor of law, a move he called “the end of academic freedom” in the Chinese-ruled territory. Without mentioning Tai by name, the university said in a statement that it reached the decision “through a proper…

Hong Kong University fires prominent democracy activist Benny Tai |NationalTribune.com

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) has fired veteran pro-democracy activist Benny Tai from his tenured position as an associate professor of law, a move he called “the end of academic freedom” in the Chinese-ruled territory.
Without mentioning Tai by name, the university said in a statement that it reached the decision “through a proper and lengthy process”, but one prominent pro-democracy observer warned on Wednesday that “without a free and independent” group of academic institutions, Hong Kong would “degenerate into a second rate city”.
Tai was a leading figure in Hong Kong’s 2014 “Umbrella” protests, which paralysed the city for 79 days as demonstrators took over major roads to demand greater democracy.
He was sentenced to 16 months in prison last year for two public nuisance offences, but released on bail pending an appeal – a conviction that prompted HKU to begin reviewing his position.
Tuesday’s decision by the governing council reversed an earlier decision by the university senate that there were not enough grounds for a dismissal.

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According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the university council voted 18-2 to remove Tai.
“It marks the end of academic freedom in Hong Kong,” Tai wrote on Facebook. “Academic institutions in Hong Kong cannot protect their members from internal and outside interferences.”
‘Attack on academic freedom’
Tai was also singled out by Beijing officials this month for his role in helping organise an unofficial primary vote for the pro-democracy camp to select candidates for September’s elections to the city legislature.
The officials said the vote was illegal and potentially violated a new, sweeping national security law that many fear will erode freedoms in the semi-autonomous city, including those of the media and academia.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Hong Kong Liaison Office, Beijing’s main representation in the city, harshly criticised Tai saying that his sacking was “just an act of punishing evil, promoting good and conforming to the people’s will”.

Academic tenure used to be a safeguard for freedom. #CCP intervenes the institutions of higher education. Does Xi who follows the creed of Mao who hated the academia? Without free and independent universities #HK degenerates into a 2nd rate city. https://t.co/QH2LTX2z9O
— Jimmy Lai (@JimmyLaiApple) July 29, 2020

The statement said Tai’s words and deeds had “severely intensified social conflicts in Hong Kong and poisoned Hong Kong’s political environment”.
Beijing and the Hong Kong government have said the law will not affect rights and freedoms, and that it is needed to plug security loopholes.
Meanwhile, Nathaniel Lei, the undergraduate representative of the HKU council, told reporters following the vote on Tuesday that the decision “was a blatant trampling” of academic freedom.
Joseph Chan, an HKU politics professor, was also quoted by news reports as saying that the university “sacrificed its reputation” with the move, adding that “it will not be able to hold its head high in the international academic community.”
On Monday, the Hong Kong Baptist University also announced that it was not renewing the contract of outgoing Legislative Council member Shiu Ka-chun, over his role in pro-democracy protests.
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