WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange charged under the Espionage Act

Looking through a prison van window.
Looking through a prison van window.

Image: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP / Getty

By Jack Morse

The U.S. government is going after Julian Assange. Again

The Wikileaks founder and current resident of a London jail cell was charged Thursday under the 102-year-old Espionage Act, with 18 separate counts carrying a possible 170 prison sentence if he’s found guilty. So reports the Washington Post, which notes that federal prosecutors accuse the publisher of encouraging sources to steal classified information. 

“Assange, WikiLeaks affiliates and Manning shared the common objective to subvert lawful restrictions on classified information and to publicly disseminate it,” the New York Times reports the indictment as reading.

According to the indictment, Assange is charged with conspiracy to receive national defense information, obtaining national defense information, disclosure of national defense information, and conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. 

The superseding indictment just unsealed against Julian Assange is exactly what the first indictment wasn’t:

17 of the 18 charges are for violating the Espionage Act, under which there’s never previously been a successful prosecution of a third party (as opposed to the leaker). pic.twitter.com/xobXJpavXU

— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) May 23, 2019

Legal scholars have expressed concern that going after a publisher of classified documents in this way represents a First Amendment threat to all journalists. 

“Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for Wikileaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations,” the ACLU’s Ben Wizner said in an April statement following Assange’s arrest. 

SEE ALSO: Julian Assange arrest: Why free speech advocates are worried

U.S. officials have asked British authorities to extradite Assange. According to the New York Times, the U.S. government has never before charged a journalist with violating the Espionage Act. 

That, like so many things under the Trump administration, just changed. 

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Deadly Syrian strikes as army battles rebel counter-attack

Air raids by Syrian warplanes in the country’s restive northwest killed at least eight civilians, including two children, as troops and rebels battled for a town that has changed hands over the past two weeks.

Thursday’s air raids followed an intensification of fighting in the last rebel-held stronghold in the country after a coalition of armed groups launched a counter-offensive two days earlier aimed at regaining territory lost to government forces.

More than 200,000 people in the region have fled since Syrian and allied Russian forces renewed a military campaign to rid the northwest of various rebel groups. 

Troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad seized control of Kafr Nabuda in Hama province on May 8 but were repelled by rebel fighters on Wednesday.

More than 100 combatants have been killed in the fighting around the town since Tuesday.

Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly the al-Qaeda wing in Syria, alongside other rebels control much of Idlib province as well as slivers of the adjacent Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.

In the Idlib town of Kafr Aweid, air raids on Thursday blew in the facades of buildings, littering their interiors with mounds of rubble, an AFP news agency photographer reported.

A young boy was seen running barefoot from the site of a blast covered in dust – his eyes filled with tears and spatters of blood visible on his feet.

Two young girls were killed in attacks on the town, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said.

It said ground clashes had subsided but government warplanes carried out more than 60 raids on various parts of southern Idlib.

One of the attacks knocked out a health facility in Kfar Oweid village, the Observatory said.

Power station hit 

Rights groups say since the offensive was launched in late April, Syrian and Russian attacks have hit at least 18 health facilities, including five identified to the government by the United Nations. Some of the facilities were targeted twice.

Syrian Electricity Minister Mohammad Zuhair Kharboutly said Thursday that al-Zara power station in Hama province was back online and linked up to the national grid.

Station manager Mostafa Shantout said a drone operated by rebels dropped a number of bombs late Wednesday on the facility. The comments by both officials were carried by the official state news agency SANA.

Naji al-Mustafa, a spokesman for the fighters, denied the fighters targeted the power station. He said the rebels have shelled Hama military airport because it is used to attack their stronghold. 

Journalists attacked 

Separately, a British journalist working with Sky News reported on Thursday that her team was deliberately shelled by Syrian forces. 

“We were spotted by a military drone and then repeatedly shot at with what we believe were 125mm shells probably fired from a T-72 Russian battle tank,” correspondent Alex Crawford said. 

“As we retreated to leave the area, the targeting of us continued,” said the journalist.

This is the moment Sky News’ crew in Idlib was targeted and fired upon by Syrian regime forces.@AlexCrawfordSky says they were attacked with tank shells, as an activist they were travelling with was hit by shrapnel.

Here’s her exclusive report: https://t.co/mh7YcQBMS7 pic.twitter.com/ThrIVgqPkR

— Sky News (@SkyNews) May 23, 2019

She said one of the Sky crew had press markings on his flak jacket, while the other was carrying a clearly visible green medical trauma pack.

“They were all clear violations of the normal standards of operation in a battle zone,” she said.

“Even when we withdrew to the nearby town … some 10km away, the shelling followed us there and continued.”

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‘Extremely stable genius’: Trump defends his mental fitness as he tears into Pelosi


Donald Trump

“She’s not the same person. She’s lost it,” President Donald Trump said of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Thursday called on his top aides to publicly state he was “calm” during the disastrous meeting with Democratic leaders the day before, as he hijacked an event with farmers to air his grievances over Speaker Nancy Pelosi and insist upon his mental fitness.

“I’ve been watching her. I have been watching her for a long period of time. She’s not the same person. She’s lost it,” Trump said of Pelosi during an event at the White House with agriculture industry leaders. Just moments before he announced $16 billion in federal aid to growers hammered by the U.S.-China trade conflict.

Story Continued Below

In a remarkable scene, the president proceeded to name-check senior White House staff and advisers in the Roosevelt Room who he said had attended Wednesday’s scuttled session on infrastructure initiatives with Democratic congressional leaders — which Trump abandoned after declaring that the lawmakers could not simultaneously negotiate legislation while investigating and threatening to impeach him.

“Kellyanne, what was my temperament yesterday?” Trump asked White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

“Very calm. No tamper tantrum,” she replied before criticizing journalists’ coverage of the meeting, which Trump has complained portrayed him as rageful and lacking composure.

“The whole Democrat Party is very messed up. They have never recovered from the great election of 2016 — an election that I think you folks liked very much, right?” Trump said, addressing the farmers flanking his lectern. “Well, Nancy Pelosi was not happy about it, and she is a mess.”

Trump then turned to Mercedes Schlapp, a White House communications aide, and pressed her for an account of the meeting.

“You were very calm and you were very direct, and you sent a very firm message to the speaker and to the Democrats,” Schlapp said.

Next up was Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, who said the president’s conversation with Democrats was “much calmer than some of our trade meetings,” followed by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who described the president’s demeanor as “very calm and straightforward and clear.”

But the greatest praise of the president came from Trump himself, who told reporters: “I’m an extremely stable genius. OK?”

Pelosi hit back at Trump minutes after the event concluded, tweeting: “When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues.”

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NYC subway will soon accept Google Pay at select turnstiles

Bye-bye, card swiping.
Bye-bye, card swiping.

Image: Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

By Sasha Lekach

New York City straphangers, rejoice!

The city’s subway and bus systems are adding new contactless payment readers to select stations, enabling passengers to pay for rides using their smartphones.

Beginning May 31, you’ll be able to purchase a single-use digital MetroCard using Google Pay. The local transportation authority will be rolling out the feature to all Staten Island buses and all subway stations on the 4, 5, and 6 lines between Grand Central and Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center.

In short: You’ll be able to easily buy a ticket and travel between much of Manhattan and Brooklyn without having to buy a physical MetroCard. It’s expected to be a huge deal for visitors and tourists who often struggle to navigate the aging kiosks that sell physical MetroCards.

The effort is part of New York City’s OMNY contactless payment system that will let riders tap their smartphones, wearable devices, or contactless credit or debit card to pay for fares. 

Contactless commuting.

Contactless commuting.

Image: google

In addition to the new payment systems, starting today Google Assistant will be able to give live updates on subway times for all 26 lines and 400 stations. This means you can just ask your smart speaker or Android device, “Hey Google, when’s the next 1 train coming?” or “Hey Google, when’s the next train?” and you’ll get an accurate answer.

SEE ALSO: People keep dropping their AirPods onto subway tracks

To make things even easier, Google Maps will soon begin to incorporate more info about the subway system and show you which stations use Google Pay or other contactless payment systems. It’s a huge boon for all riders — now if we could just get the governor to fix the entire subway system.

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2020 College Football Playoff, Championship Schedule Revealed

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence takes a snap during the first half the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama, Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Although there are still a few more months before the start of the college football season, several programs can already start circling dates for the College Football Playoff.

The college football postseason schedule was announced Thursday, via Derek Volner of ESPN Press Room, featuring full dates for all 35 bowl games covered by ESPN. 

The national semifinals will take place on December 28, the final Saturday of the calendar year instead of the originally scheduled date on New Year’s Eve. The national championship will be on Monday, Jan. 13.

New Year’s Day will once again feature many of the top non-playoff games on the schedule, with the Citrus Bowl, Outback Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl all taking place on January 1. The Orange Bowl will be held on December 30 while the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl will host the semifinals this season.

Full ESPN Bowl List

Dec. 20

Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl at 2 p.m. ET

Frisco Bowl at 7:30 p.m. ET

Dec. 21

Celebration Bowl at 12 p.m. ET

New Mexico Bowl at 2 p.m. ET

Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl at 3:30 p.m. ET

Camellia Bowl at 5:30 p.m. ET

Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl at 7:30 p.m. ET

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at 9 p.m. ET

Dec. 23

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl at 2:30 p.m. ET

Dec. 24

SoFi Hawai’i Bowl at 8 p.m. ET

Dec. 26

Walk-On’s Independence Bowl 4 p.m. ET

Quick Lane Bowl at 8 p.m. ET

Dec. 27

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman 12 p.m. ET

New Era Pinstripe Bowl at 3:20 p.m. ET

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl at 6:45 p.m. ET

Cheez-It Bowl at 10:15 p.m. ET

Dec. 28 

Camping World Bowl at 12 p.m. ET

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at 12 p.m. ET

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at 4 or 8 p.m. ET

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at 4 or 8 p.m. ET

Dec. 30

SERVPRO First Responder Bowl at 12:30 p.m. ET

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at 4 p.m. ET

Capital One Orange Bowl at 8 p.m. ET

Dec. 31

Belk Bowl at 12 p.m. ET

AutoZone Liberty Bowl at 3:45 p.m. ET

Valero Alamo Bowl at 7:30 p.m. ET

Jan. 1

Citrus Bowl at 1 p.m. ET

Outback Bowl at 1 p.m. ET

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual at 5 p.m. ET

Allstate Sugar Bowl at 8:45 p.m. ET

Jan. 2

Birmingham Bowl at 3 p.m. ET

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl at 7 p.m. ET

Jan. 3 

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at 3:30 p.m. ET

Jan. 4

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at 11:30 a.m. ET

Jan. 6

Mobile Alabama Bowl at 7:30 p.m. ET

Jan. 13

College Football Playoff National Championship at 8 p.m. ET

Having the semifinals on a Saturday could potentially allow more viewers to watch the games without the added distraction of New Year’s Eve.

Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to help in the ratings last year as the ratings for both the semifinals and finals were significantly lower than the year before, according to Sports Media Watch.

One potential factor could be that fans were tired of seeing the same teams every year, with Clemson and Alabama battling for a championship for the third time in four years. The two programs also faced each other in the 2017 season but Alabama won in the semifinals before going on to win a title.

The problem is we could potentially see more of the same in 2019 with both the Crimson Tide and Tigers returning their elite quarterbacks in Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence, plus a lot of talent on both sides of the ball.

Of course, we still have a long football season to determine which teams will be competing in the playoffs.

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Iran vows no surrender – even if bombed by ‘enemies’

Iran will not surrender to US pressure and will never abandon its goals even if it is attacked, President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Iran’s top military chief said the standoff between Tehran and Washington was a “clash of wills”, warning any enemy “adventurism” would meet a crushing response, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Tensions are festering between the two countries after Washington sent more military hardware to the Middle East in a show of force against what US officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.

After pulling out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, US President Donald Trump restored punishing American sanctions on Iran last year and tightened them this month, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.

“More than one year after the imposition of these severe sanctions, our people have not bowed to pressures despite facing difficulties in their lives,” Rouhani was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying.

Addressing a ceremony in commemoration of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, he added: “We need resistance so our enemies know that if they bomb our land, and if our children are martyred, wounded or taken as prisoners, we will not give up on our goals for the independence of our country and our pride.”

Iran slams ‘genocidal taunts’ by US, increases uranium stockpiles

‘Crushing response’

Iran’s armed forces chief of staff, Major-General Mohammad Baqeri, also pointed to an Iranian battle victory in the war with Iraq, and said that outcome should be a message that Iran will have a “hard, crushing and obliterating response” for any enemy.

“The confrontation and face-off of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the malicious government of America is the arena for a clash of wills,” Baqeri said.

The war of words between the two arch rivals shows no signs of abating.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”

Acting US defence chief Patrick Shanahan on Thursday confirmed the Pentagon was considering sending additional American troops to the Middle East as one of the ways to bolster protection for US forces there amid the rising tensions with Iran.

“What we’re looking at is: Are there things that we can do to enhance force protection in the Middle East?” Shanahan said. “It may involve sending additional troops.”

But Shanahan denied news reports that plans call for the deployment of as many as 10,000 more American soldiers to the region.

‘Window of opportunity’

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told German envoy Jens Ploetner – who is seeking to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal – that Tehran’s patience was over. He urged the treaty’s remaining signatories to fulfill their commitments after the United States pulled out, the Fars news agency reported on Thursday.

Trump threatens Iran’s ‘end’ if it seeks fight with the US

Britain, France and Germany, which signed the 2015 deal along with the United States, China and Russia, are determined to show they can compensate for last year’s US withdrawal from the deal, protect trade, and still dissuade Tehran from quitting an accord designed to prevent it developing a nuclear bomb.

But Iran’s decision earlier this month to backtrack from some commitments in response to US measures to cripple its economy threatens to unravel the deal, under which Tehran agreed to curbs on its uranium enrichment programme in exchange for the removal of most international sanctions.

“After Iran’s announcement to partly suspend its commitments under the [nuclear deal], there is a window of opportunity for diplomacy to persuade Iran to continue to fully comply,” an unnamed German diplomatic source told Reuters news agency.

Tensions have soared between Iran and the United States since Washington sent more military assets to the Middle East, including an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and Patriot missiles.

The German diplomatic source said: “The situation in the Persian Gulf and the region, and the situation around the Vienna nuclear accord is extremely serious. There is a real risk of escalation… In this situation, dialogue is very important.”

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