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Trump’s asylum deal with Guatemala threatens to plunge country into political crisis, analysts warn

Trump’s asylum deal with Guatemala threatens to plunge country into political crisis, analysts warnIn pressuring Guatemala to accept a deal to absorb vast numbers of asylum-seekers, the Trump administration has embarked on a dramatic and risky strategy to slash the number of Central Americans flooding the US-Mexico border.The accord – which was negotiated in secret and signed at the White House on Friday – could plunge Guatemala’s young democracy into a constitutional crisis, analysts warn.It could also saddle one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries with tens of thousands of Salvadoran and Honduran migrants who would be barred from making their claims in the United States.The agreement is one of the boldest steps yet taken by Donald Trump to stanch the flow of migrants to the US border.It aims to close off the US asylum system to the migrants who have crossed through Guatemala en route to the United States. They would instead have to seek protection in Guatemala.But the agreement is built on a fragile political and legal base.Guatemala’s constitutional court ruled earlier this month that President Jimmy Morales needed approval from the Guatemalan Congress to sign the accord – something he has not received.The Guatemalan president has sharply criticised the court decision, saying on Friday that “as far as we understand, this doesn’t have to go before Congress”.Some analysts said Mr Morales could get around the ruling with his argument that the deal is simply a cooperation agreement, not a treaty. But others note Mr Morales has at times simply shrugged off court rulings he dislikes.“This leaves a legacy we won’t be able to recover from, that the country’s constitution can be flagrantly violated without any kind of reaction or penalty,” said Renzo Rosal, an independent political consultant.The agreement is also likely to be challenged in US courts by opponents who say that Guatemala does not qualify as a “safe” country, because of high levels of violence.Whatever happens with the courts, the agreement has little political support in Guatemala.Mr Morales, who finishes his four-year term in January, is highly unpopular.Among the top Twitter hashtags in Guatemala in recent days has been Jimmyvendepatrias – Jimmy the sellout – as a dig at the country’s leader.Guatemalans were startled by a widely published photo showing their government minister, Enrique Degenhart, signing the agreement as Mr Trump loomed over his shoulder, an image suggesting the Central American country’s submission.On Saturday, hundreds of people demonstrated in front of the presidential palace in Guatemala City to protest the agreement, the Associated Press reported. The protesters carried Guatemalan flags and called for Mr Morales’ resignation.Guatemalan analysts have suggested Mr Morales made the deal with Mr Trump in hopes of winning support from the US government.Mr Morales faces allegations of financial crimes related to his 2015 electoral campaign but has been shielded by presidential immunity, which he loses in January. He says he is innocent.Mr Morales said the agreement would help Guatemala by “putting us in a privileged position” with the country’s top trading partner and most important ally.Guatemala holds a run-off presidential election on 11 August, and both candidates have criticised Mr Morales’ negotiation of such a broad agreement in secret.The accord “is unlikely to be sustainable”, Stephen McFarland, a former US ambassador to Guatemala, wrote in a tweet on the eve of the agreement’s unveiling.“A bitter US ‘win’ would put at risk US goals in democracy and law enforcement with the current and next governments.”While the next Guatemalan government could cancel the agreement, it would face intense pressure from the Trump administration to not do so.Mr Morales’ government signed the pact after Mr Trump threatened severe penalties on Guatemala – tariffs, a travel ban or taxes on the billions of dollars in remittances sent home by migrants in the United States.Kevin McAleenan, the acting Homeland Security secretary, said the administration plans to start the “safe third country” programme with Guatemala in August.Human rights groups, Democratic lawmakers and immigration experts have said Guatemala is too poor and underdeveloped to handle a flood of asylum applicants.Last year, Salvadoran and Honduran migrants filed nearly 58,000 applications for asylum in the United States. That same year, Guatemala received just 259 asylum applications overall.Guatemala is the number one source of irregular migration to the United States, with citizens fleeing poverty, violence, low coffee prices and drought.Eric Schwartz, head of Refugees International and a former top refugee official at the US State Department, said in a statement that the agreement “would represent a grotesque violation of both US law and human decency” and “would put at risk the lives of thousands of Central Americans”.Sonia Lucia Valenzuela, a constitutional law expert in Guatemala, said the Constitutional Court ruling was clear in instructing Mr Morales to send the agreement to Congress but that political pressures could determine what happens next.The migration agreement has been strongly supported by Guatemala’s influential business groups, who had feared US tariffs. But many current and former politicians oppose it.“If the opposition to this accord continues, that’s a sign this will escalate,” she said.Washington Post



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Louisiana officials warn of snakes and other creatures fighting to escape Hurricane Barry floodwaters

Louisiana officials warn of snakes and other creatures fighting to escape Hurricane Barry floodwatersHurricane Barry made landfall Saturday morning in Louisiana. It has since weakened back to a tropical storm, but heavy rains will continue.



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2020 Election Meddling by China, Iran, N. Korea Likely, Administration Officials Warn

2020 Election Meddling by China, Iran, N. Korea Likely, Administration Officials WarnChina’s government finances English-language media outlets in the United States to influence U.S. perceptions on various issues, such as trade, the senior intelligence official told reporters during a briefing on election security. Russia isn’t the only threat to election security going into 2020, as Trump administration officials say they are preparing for meddling from Iran, China, and North Korea. The federal government anticipates that Russia will again meddle in the U.S. election in 2020 through “Russian-controlled or influenced English-language media, false-flag operations, or sympathetic spokespersons,” a senior intelligence official said. China’s government finances English-language media outlets in the United States to influence U.S. perceptions on various issues, such as trade, the senior intelligence official told reporters during a briefing on election security. “No surprise to you: Iran is increasing their use of social media to promote strategic goals and perspectives to the American public,” the official continued. “Its influence campaigns have included denigrating U.S. decisions to leave [the Iran nuclear deal], downplaying the effectiveness of sanctions, and promoting pro-Iranian interests.”Administration officials asked reporters that the conference participants’ names not be used.



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Germany, UK warn Iran over uranium plans as EU urges caution

Germany, UK warn Iran over uranium plans as EU urges cautionGermany and Britain on Monday warned Tehran not to breach uranium stockpile limits set by the 2015 nuclear deal, as the EU’s diplomatic chief dismissed Iranian threats as “political dialectics”. Iran set a 10-day countdown on Monday to exceed the 300-kilogram limit set on its enriched uranium stocks, dealing another blow to the crumbling nuclear accord signed by Tehran and six international powers. The EU has battled to save the agreement since US President Donald Trump withdrew and reimposed sanctions, but Iran said it would step back from exceeding the 300-kg limit on June 27 only if “other parties live up to their commitments”.



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Experts Warn Latest Trump Administration Move on Iran Could Backfire

Experts Warn Latest Trump Administration Move on Iran Could BackfireOfficials within the U.S. State Department, Defense and intelligence warn that the latest move against Iran could backfire.



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'Time is short': Why experts warn Russian meddling detailed in Mueller report could happen again

'Time is short': Why experts warn Russian meddling detailed in Mueller report could happen againThe cyberattacks and other methods the Russians used to meddle in U.S. elections are the latest weapons in their years-long campaign to sow discord.



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Julian Assange's charges are a direct assault on press freedom, experts warn

Julian Assange's charges are a direct assault on press freedom, experts warnParts of the indictment go head-to-head with basic journalistic activities protected by the first amendment, academics say A protester outside Westminster magistrates court in London on 11 April. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images The charge sheet accusing Julian Assange of engaging in criminal theft of US state secrets contains a direct assault on fundamental press freedoms and could have a devastating effect on the basic acts of journalism, leading first amendment scholars and advocacy groups have warned. Prosecutors in the eastern district of Virginia released on Thursday an indictment against the WikiLeaks founder that has been under seal since March 2018. It will now form the basis of the US government’s request for Assange to be extradited from the UK to Alexandria to face trial. Academics and campaigners condemned large chunks of the indictment that they said went head-to-head with basic activities of journalism protected by the first amendment of the US constitution. They said these sections of the charges rang alarm bells that should reverberate around the world. Yochai Benkler, a Harvard law professor who wrote the first major legal study of the legal implications of prosecuting WikiLeaks, said the charge sheet contained some “very dangerous elements that pose significant risk to national security reporting. Sections of the indictment are vastly overbroad and could have a significant chilling effect – they ought to be rejected.” Carrie DeCell, staff attorney with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said the charges “risk having a chill on journalism”. She added that the tone of the indictment and the public release from the Department of Justice that went with it suggested that the US government desired precisely that effect. “Many of the allegations fall absolutely within the first amendment’s protections of journalistic activity. That’s very troubling to us.” Among the phrases contained in the indictment that have provoked an uproar are: “It was part of the conspiracy that Assange encouraged Manning to provide information and records from departments and agencies of the United States.” It is a basic function of journalism to encourage sources to provide information in the public interest on the activities of government. “It was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure of classified records to WikiLeaks.” Protecting the anonymity of sources is the foundation stone of much investigative and national security reporting – without it sources would not be willing to divulge information, and the press would be unable to fulfill its role of holding power to account. “It was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning used the ‘Jabber’ online chat service to collaborate on the acquisition and dissemination of the classified records.” The indictment similarly refers to a dropbox. Both Jabber and Dropbox are communication tools routinely used by journalists working with whistleblowers. A key element of the indictment is a new allegation that Assange actively engaged in helping Manning try to crack a password that allowed the US soldier to gain unauthorized and anonymous access to highly sensitive military computers. At the time, in 2010, Manning was working as an intelligence analyst at a forward operating base outside Baghdad. Experts on freedom of the press and speech were generally more relaxed about that narrow charge, standing on its own, in that it essentially accuses Assange of violating computer hacking laws – specifically the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – in a way that has no first amendment protection. If prosecutors succeed in presenting evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to that effect, it is unlikely to arouse fierce opposition across the board. Bradley P Moss, deputy executive of the James Madison Project, a public-interest group focusing on US intelligence and national security, said he was unflustered by the hacking allegation. “I have no concerns about the broader ramifications for press freedoms, whether in the US or elsewhere. What Julian Assange did is what journalists are trained not to do.” But fears for the chilling impact of the prosecution were rampant. The Center for Constitutional Rights, whose late president Michael Ratner was Assange’s lawyer in the US, warned that the threat posed by the indictment was increased by having a president in the White House hostile to the media. “This is a worrying step on the slippery slope to punishing any journalist the Trump administration chooses to deride as ‘fake news’,” it said. Two advocacy groups working in the field of press freedom also waded in. The Committee to Protect Journalists said the wording of the charges contained “broad legal arguments about journalists soliciting information or interacting with sources that could have chilling consequences for investigative reporting and the publication of information of public interest”. Freedom of the Press Foundation said: “Whether or not you like Assange, the charge against him is a serious press freedom threat and should be vigorously protested by all those who care about the first amendment.”



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Experts warn Midwest flood risk may persist for months

Experts warn Midwest flood risk may persist for monthsST. LOUIS (AP) — Even as floodwaters receded in hard-hit places in in the Midwest, experts warned Saturday that with plenty of snow still left to melt in northern states, the relief may only be temporary.



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As Trump lands in Hanoi, experts warn against hasty peace deal with North Korea

As Trump lands in Hanoi, experts warn against hasty peace deal with North KoreaTRUMP ARRIVES IN HANOI, TALKS WITH KIM TO BEGIN ON WEDNESDAY (1400 GMT) U.S. President Donald Trump has arrived in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi for his second summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. Kim arrived earlier in the day after a two and a half-day train journey from Pyongyang and through China, and then a 170-km (105-mile) road journey from the Vietnamese border to Hanoi. While there is no real expectation that the second meeting between the two will bring a final deal on ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons that threaten the United States, there are some hopes it could lead to a declaration that the 1950-53 Korean War is at last formally over.



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The Latest: UK food retailers warn of price hikes, shortages

The Latest: UK food retailers warn of price hikes, shortagesLONDON (AP) — The Latest on Britain's plans to leave the European Union (all times local):



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