Denied tools for his defense, Assange remains resilient ahead of ‘epic’ extradition battle – Pilger

Julian Assange is in high spirits despite being deprived the materials he needs for his defense, veteran journalist John Pilger has reported, adding that Assange’s upcoming extradition hearing will be a battle for democracy.

Pilger tweeted out a status update after visiting the WikiLeaks co-founder in Belmarsh Prison.

“Denied the tools to prepare his defence against extradition to America, [Assange’s] resilience endures,” he wrote, stating that Assange’s upcoming court hearing will being an “epic fight… the fight of democracy.”

@johnpilger I saw Julian #Assange today in Belmarsh prison. Denied the tools to prepare his defence against extradition to America, his resilience endures. On Monday he appears at Westminster Magistrates Court where his epic fight begins. It's the fight of democracy. Join us.

Pilger has been a tireless advocate for Assange, visiting him in prison multiple times and making appearances at rallies demanding the journalist’s release.

Assange will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday as he battles to stop his extradition to the United States.

In the US, Assange is charged with possession and dissemination of classified information. If found guilty, he could receive up to 175 years in prison. The journalist has been in Washington’s crosshairs for more than a decade, after WikiLeaks published a video showing the US military attacking journalists and civilians in Iraq in July 2007.

Assange’s treatment at the hands of UK authorities and other parties involved in his imprisonment was condemned by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer in October. According to Melzer, the WikiLeaks co-founder has been subjected to “psychological torture” and his right to due process has been “systematically violated.”

Also on Assange subjected to torture & violations of due process rights – UN envoy
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Brexit deal has been struck - Johnson and Juncker announce 'fair and balanced' agreement

UK and EU negotiators have finally agreed a Brexit deal and will now be put to the 27 leaders of the European Union to sign off. However critically, Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) say they oppose the agreement.

President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker announced on Wednesday morning via Twitter that a “fair and balanced agreement” had been struck between the two sides. “I recommend that #EUCO endorses this deal,” he added.

                          Where there is a will, there is a #deal - we have one!

UK PM Boris Johnson also took to social media to reveal that a “great new deal that takes back control” had been brokered and urged the UK parliament to sign it off on Saturday when MPs convene to debate the agreement.

It’s not all good news though as the DUP, Johnson’s key allies who support his minority Tory government have responded by insisting that their opposition to the deal, as it stands, “hasn’t changed.” 

In a statement published on social media earlier on Wednesday morning DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: “As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues and there is a lack of clarity on VAT.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also criticized the new UK-EU Brexit deal, claiming that it was a “sell out” agreement that “won’t bring the country together and should be rejected.”  

“The best way to get Brexit sorted is to give the people the final say in a public vote,” he added.

Johnson needs 320 UK lawmakers to back the deal to see it pass through the House of Commons, and so with the DUP and Labour looking like they’ll reject such a proposition, it appears he could struggle to get the required numbers.

It’s gearing up to be a highly momentous day in the UK parliament on Saturday, if as expected, MPs convene to debate and vote on the deal. It would be the first Saturday sitting since 1982, when Argentina invaded the Falklands Islands, and only the third since World War II.

Also on Crawling to freedom? Boris Johnson compares Brexit to tunnel escape from ‘The Shawshank Redemption’




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New Cuban rum brand Black Tears launches into UK market

The Island Rum Company celebrates the launch of its new Cuban rum brand Black Tears into the UK market. The brand has announced it as ‘the first dry spiced Cuban rum made available to consumers worldwide’.

The rum producer was established in 2012 and has intended to combine local Cuban influence with international beverage industry experience to effectively showcase its products globally.

Black Tears is distilled from molasses and sourced from four mills in the province of Ciego de Avila near Cuba’s northern coast. Its ‘authentic’ blend is made up of coffee, cacao and ají dulce, a variety of small sweet peppers.

The spiced rum supposedly sets itself apart from others on the market through its low sugar content and bittersweet flavour, as opposed to sweet vanilla-based rums that have previously dominated. Its production process has earned Black Tears the Vigia seal of high-quality rum.

As well as its signature serve which incorporates Black Tears with tonic, ice, an orange slice and habanero pepper, the brand offers a range of long drink and cocktail recipes.

According to a recent report by Persistence Market Research, the global rum market is expected to make a compound annual growth rate of 2.2% during 2018-2026 with consumers responding well to the increasing amount of new product launches in the rum market.

  • Published in Cuba

Boris Johnson Threatens To Purge UK Lawmakers Against No-Deal Brexit

London: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson raised the stakes Monday in a pivotal week of the Brexit saga by threatening to purge ruling party lawmakers who try to block a no-deal divorce with the EU.

The warning came as heavyweights from the governing Conservatives such as former finance minister Philip Hammond plotted a way to keep the premier from taking Britain out of the European Union on October 31 without an agreement.

Johnson insists he must keep the chaotic option open to try to persuade Brussels to relent at the last moment and agree a better economic deal for Britain.

He poured more oil on the political fire by deciding last week to suspend parliament -- a legal but highly contentious manoeuvre -- for more than a month.

As a result, pro-European lawmakers will have just days to try to tie Johnson's hands and avoid a painful split from Brussels when they return from their summer break on Tuesday.

"It would be entirely unreasonable for MPs, having rejected the previous deal three times, to attempt to bind the hands of the PM as he seeks to negotiate a deal they can support," the prime minister's spokesman told reporters.

A Downing Street source told AFP that Johnson will be meeting his cabinet later on Monday.

"Last chance"

Johnson has upturned political traditions and inflamed passions on both sides of the Brexit chasm since taking over from Theresa May in July.

His strategy of counter-punching his domestic opponents and playing a game of chicken with Brussels has helped his flagging party to shoot back up to the top of opinion polls.

But he enjoys a majority of just one in parliament -- a margin that has prompted many to assume that he wants Brexit to happen by any means possible and then to hold a general election.

"Tomorrow's possible vote is an expression of confidence in the government's negotiating position to secure a deal and will be treated as such," the Downing Street source said.

Trying to stop Johnson will be tricky for MPs like Hammond and pro-European lawmakers from opposition parties who each have their own political interests in mind.

Their first step on Tuesday will see them try to seize power from the government over what legislation is put up for a vote.

Success would then see them draft -- and pass -- legislation by next week that obliges Johnson to secure a Brexit extension at an October 17-18 EU summit.

Almost two dozen moderate Conservatives have backed similar attempts in the past.

They will be relying on support of the main opposition Labour Party and pro-EU lawmakers from the Scottish National Party and the resurgent Liberal Democrats.

"We must come together to stop no-deal," Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told his supporters outside the northern city of Manchester.

"This week could be our last chance."

Secret report

Johnson has staked his leadership on a promise to get Brexit -- already delayed twice due to parliamentary resistence -- done at any cost next month.

His government unfurled a formal "get ready for Brexit" campaign Monday that included a website advising EU and UK nationals on how to deal with potential problems such as their phones not working abroad.

Both Brussels and London now view a no-deal end to the four-decade partnership as the most likely outcome.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier wrote in The Sunday Telegraph that the current agreement's most contentious element -- a so-called backstop to keep the Northern Irish border open in all post-Brexit circumstances -- was "the maximum amount of flexibility that the EU can offer".

Johnson's insistence that there were other solutions -- including one involving high-tech border technology -- was punctured further by the leak of a UK government report showing that none of them worked.

"It is evident that every facilitation has concerns and issues related to them," The Guardian quoted the August 28 dossier as saying.

The report added that its findings should be kept private "given (its) potential negative impacts on the renegotiation with the EU".

Corbyn accused Johnson of "hijacking" the results of the original 2016 Brexit referendum.

He said Labour could back a vote of no-confidence in Johnson's government if lawmakers' last-ditch legislative manoeuvre fails.

"The vote of no confidence is very much there on the table," said Corbyn. "It's not an either or. Both options are absolutely there."

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‘An outrage and threat to our democracy’: Corbyn slams Johnson’s parliament suspension pre-Brexit

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was “appalled” at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s request to Britain’s queen for a suspension of parliament in the weeks leading up to the UK’s EU withdrawal.

“If Johnson has confidence in his plans he should put them to the people in a general election or a public vote,” Corbyn said, following Wednesday’s flurry of Brexit developments. The opposition leader added that Johnson was attempting to “avoid scrutiny” of his Brexit plans.

Also on Johnson's Brexit strategy? Govt asks Queen to suspend Parliament, PM denies foul play...

Corbyn was expected to call for an emergency debate in parliament next week to pave the way for opposition MPs to introduce legislation to prevent a no-deal Brexit, but Johnson’s proroguing request outmaneuvered him. 

For his part, Johnson denies claims that he was wilfully circumventing parliamentary protocol with the request to suspend parliament, though many opposition MPs claim the move is tantamount to staging a coup.

Also on MPs accuse Johnson of ‘attempted coup’ by requesting parliament suspension before Brexit...

Corbyn said that when parliament meets again next week, “the first thing we’ll do is attempt legislation to prevent what [Johnson] is doing, and secondly to challenge him in a motion of no confidence.”

He also accused the prime minister of wanting to run "head-long into the arms of Donald Trump."

He has reportedly written to the Queen about Johnson's request to suspend parliament and asked the monarch for a meeting on the issue.

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Citing Princess Diana, Elton John Slams UK Media For Royal Family News

London: The notoriously intrusive British press won't leave the Duke and Duchess of Sussex alone and Sir Elton John has had enough.

In a series of tweets posted on Monday, the superstar singer, a longtime friend of Diana, Princess of Wales, sprang to the defense of Meghan and Harry, writing that he was "deeply distressed" by "distorted and malicious" media coverage of the royal couple's recent trip with baby Archie to Nice in France.

He wrote that he felt it was his duty to "protect" the young family from the media given his closeness with Diana and accused the press of contributing to her "untimely death."

"Prince Harry's Mother, Diana Princess Of Wales was one of my dearest friends. I feel a profound sense of obligation to protect Harry and his family from the unnecessary press intrusion that contributed to Diana's untimely death," he tweeted.

Diana was killed in Paris during a high-speed car chase in 1997. At the time, seven photographers were charged with manslaughter - although the charges were eventually dropped. Elton John performed the song "Candle In The Wind" at her funeral.

The young couple's recent travels and modes of transportation have been heavily scrutinized in the press. In recent days, blurred images snapped of the family disembarking a private aircraft were widely circulated online as Britain's Sun newspaper ran a story with the headline: "DUMBO JET: Eco-warriors' Meghan Markle and Prince Harry fly on private jet again to France after gas-guzzling Ibiza trip."

"Meghan Markle cradles three-month-old Archie as she and Prince Harry land in south of France after their THIRD private jet jaunt of the summer" wrote the Daily Mail, adding that the couple's trip "made an estimated seven times more emissions per person than commercial jet."

In his flurry of tweets, Elton defended the couple's use of a private aircraft, saying that he was the one who paid for the jet.

"After a hectic year continuing their hard work and dedication to charity, David and I wanted the young family to have a private holiday inside the safety and tranquility of our home. To maintain a high level of much-needed protection, we provided them with a private jet flight."

The singer also addressed reports that the couple's lavish lifestyle was further damaging the environment: "To support Prince Harry's commitment to the environment, we ensured their flight was carbon neutral, by making the appropriate contribution to Carbon Footprint," he added.

Wrapping up his defiant attack on the press, the star called on the tabloids to "cease these relentless and untrue assassinations on their character."

For Britain's tabloid press, stories about Meghan have been particularly brutal in recent years - so much so that in 2016, Prince Harry issued an unusually fierce statement in which he condemned the racist and sexist media coverage of his then-girlfriend and expressed concern for her safety.

In 2017, the Sun apologized over its 2016 story headlined, "Harry's girl on Pornhub." In 2016, the Daily Mail ran the headline: "Harry's girl is (almost) straight outta Compton" focusing on the Los Angeles neighborhood of her mother, Doria.

Last month, Meghan guest-edited British Vogue. But, despite her efforts to be positive and profile women who are "forces for change," the media and online trolls once again pounced on an opportunity to critique her. Some demanded to know why she hadn't included the queen as one of the women she admires, while the Sun pondered how the Duchess had found time to guest-edit the magazine but was seemingly too busy to meet with President Donald Trump during his state visit to Britain.

  • Published in Culture

British MP Karen Lee opposes the US blockade of Cuba

On 1 July 2019, Cubans in the UK wrote to MP Karen Lee, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cuba, to demand that the British government oppose the implementation of Title III of the United State’s legislation, the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which enables US courts to enact legal claims against third parties dealing with Cuban entities. This jeopardises all British interests in Cuba, and affects Cubans in Britain. Below we publish Lee’s response.

Dear Mr Acosta,

Thank you for your letter of 1st July regarding the US Blockade on Cuba.

The UK has long opposed the US embargo on Cuba and Karen shares your concerns about the US Administrations intensification of the blockade by ending the suspension on the Title Ill of the Helms-Burton Act on May 2nd 2019.

I am also aware that every president, Democrat and Republican, has waived this part of the Act on a six-monthly basis since it was passed in 1996. I am extremely concerned that the implementation of Title Ill represents an act of economic warfare in an attempt to worsen relations between the two countries.

Prior to the implementation of Title Ill, I raised my concerns with the International Trade Department and Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I specifically referenced the negative effect the legislation will have on thousands of European Companies who trade with Cuba and the restrictions it places on Cuba's export market.

I was reassured by the responding minister, Alan Duncan MP, who asserted that the government views the embargo's extraterritorial effects as illegal and that UK and EU businesses should not abide by it. The UK government has raised its concerns via the UK's Washington Embassy and the US's London Embassy, as well as in coordination with the European Union. The UK Government has committed to continuing to call on the US to reapply the waiver of Title Ill in accordance with the 1998 EU-US Memorandum of Understanding.

As Chair of the APPG on Cuba, I will continue to vigilantly monitor developments and actions taken by the UK and US governments. I work closely with the Cuban Embassy in London and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and rest assured that I will continue to oppose the implementation of Title Ill and lobby the government to ensure the UK maintains its obligations under international law.

Please let me know if you would like to discuss any of these issues further.

Kind regards,
Karen Lee MP

karen lee

  • Published in Cuba

British Beverage Giant Diageo to Market Cuban Rum

British beverage giant Diageo Plc signed a joint venture deal with state-run Cuba Ron SA on Monday to market Santiago de Cuba Rum, in defiance of U.S. efforts to dissuade investment in Cuba.

The new 50-50 venture, Ron Santiago SA, will have exclusive international rights to the premium brand, considered the best by local residents along with Havana Club, which is marketed by French firm Pernod Ricard under a similar arrangement signed in the 1990s.

The agreement comes at a time when the United States is ramping up sanctions on Cuba and trying to thwart foreign investment there.

The Trump administration in May allowed Title III of the 1996 Helms Burton Act to take effect, enabling U.S. citizens to bring lawsuits against foreign companies profiting from property taken from them after Cuba’s 1959 revolution. It had been suspended by President Donald Trump’s predecessors. The Santiago distillery and related properties were reportedly nationalized.

Cuban rum is banned in the United States, but popular throughout Europe and other parts of the world.

"Cuban rum represents 9% of retail sales of premium rum worldwide," a news release from the new company said.

Regarding the implementation of the long-dormant section of the Helms-Burton Act, Luca Cesarano, general director of the new joint venture, said he was confident the company would not be affected.

Cesarano said a subsidiary of Diageo with no ties to the United States was the partner and no company personnel who work with or in the United States were involved in the project or would be in the future.

"Neither the subsidiary of Diageo which is the partner, nor the venture, will interact with any Diageo entity or person that interacts with the United States," he said at a Havana news conference.

  • Published in Cuba
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