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Ecuador gets UN praise for freedom of expression as Assange remains gagged in embassy limbo

A UN official praised Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno for his treatment of journalists despite the..

A UN official praised Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno for his treatment of journalists despite the fact that the leader is said to be preparing to hand over WikiLeaks Julian Assange to the governments persecuting him.

UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye commended Ecuador and Moreno for supposedly promoting freedom of speech – the same Moreno that recently cut off communications to fugitive whistleblower Julian Assange and has been mulling handing him over to the UK and the US to be tried as a spy.

Assange, the co-founder of WikiLeaks, was granted political asylum by Morenos predecessor Rafael Correa in 2012 and became an Ecuadorian citizen in December 2017. In order to hand Assange over, Moreno would have to strip him of that citizenship first, as Ecuadors extradition treaty with the UK precludes turning over its own citizens.

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Morenos government invited Kaye to meet Ecuadorian authorities, journalists, academics, and civil society groups during a recent visit. The UN official was briefed on “ongoing legal and policy changes” instituted by Moreno, who has taken a hard right turn from the government of his predecessor Correa, most notably in resuming military cooperation with the US.

Kayes fulsome praise for the Moreno government rang especially hollow where he discussed whistleblowing and the internet: “He also urged strong promotion for independent journalism and the safety of journalists […] including by developing strong whistleblower protections for both public officials and private employees; and several steps to improve the rights people in Ecuador enjoy online.”

Assange is famous for developing WikiLeaks as a secure, anonymous platform for whistleblowers. His supporters were outraged when Moreno revoked his internet access earlier this year, leaving him completely cut off from the outside world. Moreno has maintained that he will respect Assanges asylum as long as the journalist doesnt engage in “political activity,” but he remains incommunicado despite this promise.

By inviting Kaye to visit Ecuador, Moreno may hope to preempt some of the international outrage that would result from sending an Ecuadorian citizen off to possibly spend decades in prison for doing journalistic work. Assange, after all, merely published information that he was given by whistleblowers, as journalists have for hundreds of years. Such acts are protected by US and UK law. But since some of that information concerned the shady conduct of American diplomats, military, and spies, Washington treats Assange as an enemy of the state. And once the UK has custody of Assange, it is assumed he will be transferred to the US.

Assange is not the only Ecuadorian who Moreno has betrayed. Correa himself, who gave Moreno his blessing as his successor, was forced to flee to Belgium earlier this year after what he claims was a politically motivated prosecution for the alleged 2012 kidnapping of a political opponent. Correa turned on his protege after Moreno proposed a constitutional referendum that would have barred Correa from running for office again, and Moreno – whom he now calls a “wolf in sheeps clothing” – has since overturned many of his predecessors reforms.

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‘Definite man-eater’: 4.6m great white shark caught in nets off Maroubra

A 4.65-metre great white shark has been found dead in the nets at Sydney's Maroubra Beach, the ..

A 4.65-metre great white shark has been found dead in the nets at Sydney's Maroubra Beach, the NSW Government has confirmed.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) said the dead shark was removed from the nets this morning by contractors during a routine check.

Shark scientists have completed an autopsy.

Images of the shark in the net were shared on Facebook and Instagram.

Adam Cree, from Blue Reef Fishing Charters, saw the situation unfold this morning and said it was the biggest shark he had seen.

"This morning I witnessed a boat checking the shark nets of Maroubra beach," he said.

"They looked like they were struggling to get something up.

"It was big. The biggest shark I've ever seen, and I've been running charters off Sydney for 20 years.

"We catch small sharks on a regular basis but not to that scale. That was definitely a man-eater, no question about it." (more…)

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Long live Europe? Macron says only Franco-German union may stop global chaos

French President Emmanuel Macron has embarked on a charm offensive at the German parliament, hailing..

French President Emmanuel Macron has embarked on a charm offensive at the German parliament, hailing cooperation between Paris and Berlin as a protective force against global chaos and foes beyond Europes borders.

France and Germany are facing the task of making Europe more “resilient” in these times of a renewed rise of nationalism and “opening a new chapter in European history,” Macron told German MPs on Sunday, adding that the two countries “owe this to Europe.” He then apparently decided to think big, proclaiming that “Europe and the Franco-German pair within it” have to do no less than “not let the world slip into chaos.”

And to do that the French leader suggested quite a traditional recipe, saying that “Europe must be stronger” as well as more independent and sovereign, while European nations have to actually give up on quite significant parts of their own sovereignty.

“Each of us has to share their decision-making powers, [harmonize] foreign policy, immigration and development policy as well as [share] an increasing part of the budget and even tax revenues in the spirit of community,” he told the German parliament.

To apparently justify such sacrifices, Macron said that “there are powers that attempt to pit us against each other,” presumably meaning all those outside the European borders, including Russia, China and even Europes longstanding ally the USA. The French president seemed to be particularly eager to throw off Washingtons oversight over its European allies as he once again promoted his idea of a European Army, which should, according to him, become a symbol of a united continent.

“Europe would never live up to its true role until it assumes full responsibility for its own affairs,” the president said, adding that it would otherwise continue to “play a subordinate role in world politics.” He also said that Paris and Berlin have a particular responsibility to help Europe gain “necessary sovereignty.” “Long live the Franco-German friendship. Long live Europe,” he declared.

While repeatedly calling on Europe to take more of this responsibility for its own defense and security, Macron was also quite open about the prospects of this project of his, saying that “this fight is not won and … will never be won.”

Both Macron and Chancellor Merkel repeatedly vowed to “reform” the stagnating European Union while constantly calling for European cohesion and unity.
Other countries, however, seem to be moving the other direction, with a number of eurosceptics coming to power.

The EU remains pretty-much divided on such issues as immigration, and Macron himself found staunch opponents to his immigration policies in Italys Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Hungarys Prime Minister Viktor Orban. (more…)

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Ukraines far-right mob use tear gas, assault transgender parade in Kiev (PHOTO, VIDEO)

Ultra-nationalist mobsters thwarted a transgender parade in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, spraying tea..

Ultra-nationalist mobsters thwarted a transgender parade in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, spraying tear gas at participants and brawling with riot police who apparently failed to protect the gathering, local media reported.

Ukrainian LGBT activists planned to march through downtown Kiev on Sunday, but the event – intended to commemorate transgender victims of hate crime – never took place. As people began to gather outside one of the citys metro stations, they were confronted by far-right radicals, who had previously threatened to target the parade.

At one point, a nationalist mobster used pepper spray on the LGBT crowd, injuring two people, according to local media.

The standoff became more violent when the radicals began throwing smoke bombs at the activists. The attackers were also heard yelling nationalist slogans such as “Glory to the nation, death to the enemies,” and “Ukraine above all.”

There was a large police presence at the event, but when the situation became more tense, the security forces seemed incapable of separating the two groups.

The event in support of transgender people coincided with a massive counter-demonstration organized by radicals in central Kiev. In the middle of the far-right rally, an unknown assailant attacked a reporter from Ukraines NewsOne outlet, spitting in the mans face live on air.

In a separate incident last September, a female NewsOne reporter was hit in the face in Kiev, while reporting on another right-wing protest.

But the radicals didnt only target the Ukrainian media; foreign journalists were also attacked. Canadian reporter Michael Colborne said on Twitter that he was punched in the face and had his glasses smashed by the far-right mob, who told him to “go back to my own country." (more…)

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