Longtime US Congressman John Lewis Says He Has Cancer

Democratic congressman John Lewis, an icon in the fight for civil rights, announced Sunday he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. “I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now,” Lewis said in a statement. “So I’ve decided to do what I know to do and what I have always done: I am going to fight and jeep fighting…we still have many bridges to cross,” Lewis said he is “clear-eyed” about the prognosis and that his doctors tell him he has a fighting chance. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted that “generations of Americans” have Lewis in their thoughts and prayers, saying she knows he will be well. The 79-year-old Lewis has represented the 5th Congressional District in Georgia since 1986 and has been a stalwart for liberal causes and human rights. But Lewis is best known has a tireless fighter for civil rights — he marched with Martin Luther King in the early 1960s, sat down at segregated lunch counters, and was the victim of police nightsticks and billy clubs, suffering from a fractured skull. Lewis was an original Freedom Rider, traveling on busses across the south as part of the battle for integration.   …

‘Star Wars’ Stays Aloft to Again Top North American Box Office

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” stayed on a strong glide path in North American theaters, taking in an estimated $73.6 million for the three-day weekend, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations reported Sunday. The Disney film, marketed as a grand finale of the nine-film “Skywalker Saga,” has had mixed reviews and was down considerably from last weekend’s lofty $177.4 million opening. But it has compiled a strong domestic total of $364.5 million. It again maintained a big lead over the No. 2 film, Sony’s “Jumanji: The Next Level,” an action sequel starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart, which had $34.4 million in North American ticket sales for the Friday-through-Sunday period. In third for the second straight week was Disney’s “Frozen II,” at $17 million. The animated musical film has Broadway star Idina Menzel voicing Queen Elsa in her latest adventures. Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel “Little Women” has been brought to the screen many times — no fewer than seven, by Variety’s count — but the new version from director Greta Gerwig has drawn strong reviews and netted $16.2 million to place fourth in its debut this weekend. The film stars Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Timothee Chalamet, Emma Watson and Laura Dern, in the story of the joys and struggles of four sisters during the US Civil War. In fifth was new Fox/Disney release “Spies in Disguise,” at $13.4 million. The animated children’s film features the voices of Will Smith and Tom Holland. Rounding out the top 10 were: …

Polish PM Condemns Putin for World War II ‘Lies’

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Sunday condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for blaming Poland for the outbreak of World War II, saying Moscow was lying to deflect attention from recent failures. Poland’s foreign ministry had already summoned the Russian ambassador in protest on Friday, recalling that the war began with a Soviet-German alliance and that Poland lost around six million citizens in the conflict. “President Putin has lied about Poland on numerous occasions, and he has always done it deliberately,” Morawiecki said in a statement. “This usually happens when Russian authorities feel international pressure related to their activities…. In recent weeks Russia has suffered several significant defeats,” he added. As examples, Morawiecki mentioned that the European Union had prolonged sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea, Russian athletes were suspended for four years for doping, and Russia “failed in its attempt to take complete control over Belarus.” FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow, Russia Dec. 19, 2019. “I consider President Putin’s words as an attempt to cover up these problems. The Russian leader is well aware that his accusations have nothing to do with reality — and that in Poland there are no monuments of Hitler or Stalin,” Morawiecki said. “Such monuments stood here only when they were erected by the aggressors and perpetrators — the Third Reich and Soviet Russia.” Ahead of the German invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to …

Israel to Withhold $43 Million of Palestinian Tax Funds

The Israeli Security Cabinet on Sunday voted to withhold $43 million of tax funds from the Palestinians, saying the money has been used to promote violence, Israeli media reported. The sum represents funds that Israel says the Palestinians have used to pay the families of Palestinians who have been jailed or killed as a result of attacking Israel, according to various reports. Israel says the so-called Martyrs’ Fund rewards violence. The Palestinians say the payments are needed to help vulnerable families who have been affected by violence and Israeli occupation. Under past agreements, Israel collects customs and other taxes on behalf of the Palestinians and transfers the money to the Palestinian Authority. These monthly transfers, about $170 million, are a key source of funding for the budget of the authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israel last year passed a law deducting parts of these transfers that it said were supporting militants’ families. Sunday’s decision was a continuation of that policy. In February, after Israel withheld $140 million, the Palestinians said they would reject all transfers to protest the Israeli policy. But six months later, with the Palestinian Authority in a deep financial crisis, the sides worked out a deal to resume most of the transfers. Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi denounced the latest Israeli move, calling it a “blatant act of theft and political extortion.” “This is a clear violation of Palestinian rights and signed agreements as well as a criminal act of collective punishment exacted for …

After Somalia Truck Bombing, US Airstrikes Target Militants

U.S. military officials say three airstrikes conducted Sunday against al-Shabab militants in Somalia have killed four militants. The officials say the airstrikes in coordination with the Somali government targeted al-Shabab militants responsible for terrorist acts against innocent Somali citizens. The airstrikes came a day after a truck bombing in Somalia’s capital killed at least 78 people. While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing, Somalia’s president has blamed the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab. Wounded Victims of Somali Truck Bomb Attack Airlifted to Turkey The aircraft also brought doctors to help treat the some 125 people injured in Saturday’s blast, which happened when a vehicle packed with explosives detonated at a busy security checkpoint U.S. Africa Command says an initial assessment concluded that two airstrikes killed two militants and destroyed two vehicles in Qunyo Barrow, and that one airstrike killed two militants in Caliyoow Barrow. In a statement Sunday, the director of operations for U.S. Africa Command, Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, says al-Shabaab is “a global menace and their sights are set on exporting violence regionally and eventually attacking the U.S. homeland.”   …

У Відні продовжились переговори з «Газпромом» про транзит – Макогон

Українсько-російські переговори про газовий транзит з 1 січня наступного року продовжились у Відні, повідомив у фейсбуці керівник «Оператора газотранспортної системи» Сергій Макогон. «Починаємо наступний день перемовин. Мета – фіналізувати всі договори», – написав він. Очільник Міненерго Росії Олександр Новак в коментарі російським ЗМІ 25 грудня також висловив сподівання, що угода про транзит газу буде підписана в ці вихідні. 20 грудня представники України, Росії, Євросоюзу, а також компанії «Оператор газотранспортної системи України», «Нафтогазу» та російського «Газпрому» попередньо домовилися зберегти транзит, натомість українська енергетична компанія відмовилася від інших позовів проти російського монополіста. Серед найважливіших домовленостей сторін: «Газпром» погодився до 29 грудня виплатити «Нафтогазу» 2,9 мільярда доларів, як це передбачає рішення Стокгольмського арбітражу від лютого 2018 року; сторони відкликають всі позови, за якими наразі немає ухвалених рішень, в тому числі – позов «Нафтогазу» до російської енергетичної корпорації на 12,2 мільярда доларів та на 1,33 мільярда кубічних метрів газу; з активів та майна «Газпрому» знімають арешти, сторони відмовляються від претензій в майбутньому щодо претензій у зв’язку з контрактами на постачання та транзит газу від 19 січня 2009 року; після виконання цих умов – «Газпром» та «Нафтогаз» укладають договір про транзит газу через Україну​. 27 грудня уряд схвалив підписання мирової угоди з «Газпромом». …

Коболєв про переговори з «Газпромом»: узгоджених текстів угод станом на зараз нема

Глава «Нафтогазу» Андрій Коболєв заявив ввечері 28 грудня, що остаточно узгоджених текстів угод з «Газпромом» щодо транзиту газу немає. «Останні декілька днів наша команда працювала з росіянами над узгодженням текстів угод на виконання підписаного в Мінську протоколу. Зрозуміло, що боротьба йде за кожну кому. Є певний прогрес, але узгоджених текстів угод станом на зараз нема», – зазначив він. Коболєв уточнив, що сторони обговорюють міжоператорську угоду, договір про організацію транзиту, мирову угоду між «Нафтогазом» та «Газпромом». «Ще трохи про теми, про які цих перемовинах не йдеться: судові позови щодо захоплення наших активів в Криму; обов’язковість прямих закупівель у Газпрома (ця тема озвучувалася росіянами восени, а зараз виключена); штрафи АМКУ; «борг Януковича» та інші не-газові питання», – розповів Коболєв.   20 грудня представники України, Росії, Євросоюзу, а також компанії «Оператор газотранспортної системи України», «Нафтогазу» та російського «Газпрому» попередньо домовилися зберегти транзит, натомість українська енергетична компанія відмовилася від інших позовів проти російського монополіста. Серед найважливіших домовленостей сторін: «Газпром» погодився до 29 грудня виплатити «Нафтогазу» 2,9 мільярда доларів, як це передбачає рішення Стокгольмського арбітражу від лютого 2018 року; сторони відкликають всі позови, за якими наразі немає ухвалених рішень, в тому числі – позов «Нафтогазу» до російської енергетичної корпорації на 12,2 мільярда доларів та на 1,33 мільярда кубічних метрів газу; з активів та майна «Газпрому» знімають арешти, сторони відмовляються від претензій в майбутньому щодо претензій у зв’язку з контрактами на постачання та транзит газу від 19 січня 2009 року; після виконання цих умов – «Газпром» та «Нафтогаз» укладають договір про транзит газу через Україну​. 27 грудня уряд …

US Mass Killings Hit New High in 2019; Most Were Shootings

The first one occurred 19 days into the new year when a man used an ax to kill four family members, including his infant daughter. Five months later, 12 people were killed in a workplace shooting in Virginia. Twenty-two more died at a Walmart in El Paso in August.    A database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University shows that there were more mass killings in 2019 than in any other year dating to at least the 1970s, punctuated by a chilling succession of deadly rampages during the summer.    In all, there were 41 mass killings, defined as when four or more people are killed, excluding the perpetrator. Of those, 33 were mass shootings. More than 210 people were killed.    Most of the mass killings barely became national news, failing to resonate among the general public because they didn’t spill into public places like massacres in El Paso and Odessa, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Jersey City, New Jersey.    Most of the killings involved people who knew each other — family disputes, drug or gang violence, or people with beefs who directed their anger at co-workers or relatives.  FILE – Family and friends watch as the casket of Virginia Beach shooting victim Katherine Nixon is wheeled to a hearse after a funeral service at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Virginia Beach, Va., June 6, 2019. In many cases, what set off the perpetrator remains a mystery.    That’s the case with the very first mass killing of 2019, when a …

Trump Retweets Post Naming Alleged Whistleblower

President Donald Trump retweeted a post that included the alleged name of the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment by the House.  Just before midnight Friday, Trump retweeted a message from Twitter user @Surfermom77, an account that claims to be a woman named Sophia who lives in California. The account shows some indications of automation, including an unusually high amount of activity and profile pictures featuring stock images from the internet.  By Saturday morning, the post seemed to have disappeared on many users’ feeds, suggesting Trump had deleted it, though it could still be found in other ways, including on a website that logs every presidential tweet. The retweet then reappeared Saturday night. Twitter told The Associated Press that an outage with one of its systems caused tweets on some accounts, including Trump’s, to be visible to some but not others. Trump has repeatedly backed efforts to unmask the whistleblower. But his Friday night retweet marks the first time he has directly sent the alleged name into the Twitter feed of his 68 million followers. Unmasking the whistleblower, who works in the intelligence field, could violate federal protection laws that have historically been supported by both parties.  Phone conversation  The whistleblower filed a complaint in August about one of Trump’s telephone conversations with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and other dealings with the Eastern European nation. The complaint prompted House Democrats to launch a probe that ended with Trump’s impeachment earlier this month. The matter now heads to …

North Korea Starts Key Meeting but Offers No Details on ‘New Way’ 

North Korea began a closely watched ruling party meeting led by Kim Jong Un, state media reported Sunday, amid signs Pyongyang is set to announce a firmer stance toward the United States.    Kim is widely expected in the next week to announce the details of his “new way” for North Korea, following the expiration of its self-imposed end-of-year deadline for the U.S. to offer a better proposal in stalled nuclear talks.    State media coverage of the Workers’ Party of Korea meeting offered few hints about the country’s direction.    The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) mentioned an “anti-imperialist” stance and the building up of national defense but gave no other details.    “The plenary meeting goes on,” KCNA said, apparently indicating a multiday meeting.   Talks boycotted North Korea has boycotted nuclear talks for months and recently threatened to resume long-range missile and nuclear tests. An official said earlier this month that denuclearization was off the negotiating table.    Those threats — mostly made by lower-level officials — were widely seen as an attempt to increase pressure on the U.S. ahead of North Korea’s deadline.  North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the 5th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea in this undated photo released Dec. 28, 2019, by the Korean Central News Agency. Kim’s annual New Year’s speech is expected to offer much firmer evidence of the country’s direction in 2020. In his speech last year, he warned of a “new way” if the talks didn’t progress.    …